Monday, December 31, 2007

Tag: 2008 Predictions for 2008

I am going to try something here, in the manor of chain-blogging. I'm not sure if that is what it is called, but here's the idea: I will make some predictions for 2008 and then pass it on to another person. That person will then make up the next set of predictions before passing it on. The goal? 2008 predictions by the end of all the tagging.

The rules are simple: no limit on the number of predictions per person, tagged bloggers can elect to pass, and links to the before and after predictions in relation to the current blogger. I will try my best to tally the score and see how many we get.

Scorecard:

Me - 10
Grimwell - 11

Total = 21

My Predictions:

1. 2008 will be a year of announcements for MMOs. 38 studios, Bioware, Zenimax, Red 5, and many other studios will all announce their MMO projects. Some will come out of left field, while others will just confirm current rumors.

2. 2008 will be a year of launches for delayed games. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Age of Conan, and Pirates of the Burning Sea will all finally launch. WAR will be the only big success in the group.

3. 2008 will NOT be a year for micro-transaction or RMT based games. RMT and micro-transactions will take another hit as WAR launches and proves the monthly subscription model is still king of the hill for revenue. RMT and micro-transactions will turn a profit, but only in accounting terms. The model will barely break-even in economic terms.

4. 2008 will be a year of web-games. Already popular web-games will continue to grow. New web-games will launch. None of them will challenge the revenue generation of monthly subscription or box sale titles. All will be susceptible to any sort of web 2.0 wrinkles.

5. 2008 will not be a good year for Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). SOE is closing out 2007 in grand fashion: developer scandals, buyout rumors, and reportedly falling subscriptions. Two of which, the buyout and falling subscriptions, have been denied repeatedly. Tack this onto SOE's shift in revenue models and 2008 doesn't look pretty. Grimwell, I await your response :)

6. 2008 will be a Dark year. Dark Age of Camelot will feel increasing pressure this year as WAR launches and replaces the Realm vs. Realm gameplay model with a newer and fresher version.

7. 2008 will be a Cold year. Wrath of the Lich King, World of Warcraft's second expansion, will launch late in the year. It will be successful, but will fall short of the success of The Burning Crusade. China will not see the expansion until 2009.

8. 2008 will be a year of MMO podcasting. MMO podcasting has picked up over the last couple of years, but 2008 will bring it into the limelight as more commercially driven entities enter the market. Unfortunately, popularity will remain in the hands of the "weekend warriors", not the commercially driven podcasts.

9. 2008 will be a year of lawyering. From the RIAA chasing grandmas with MP3s to IGE's potential criminal investigation, 2008 will be an unprecedented year for lawyers entering the online-circus. Expect to see some major court cases develop over the year, but don't expect them to finish before the year is out.

10. 2008 will not be a good year for Gax-Online. This is a personal pick. The dog and pony show holding up Gax-Online will finally realize they have become what they've always chastised, sending them into a cataclysmic tailspin. Or, they'll sell out the second someone offers them half a donut and a cup'o'joe.

Tag: Grimwell, Ethic at Kill Ten Rats, and Tobold. Oh, and Mr. Freeman.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some Team Fortress 2 Ownage

I've had some good luck playing Team Fortress 2 since I was kicked off one of my favorite servers the other night. On my new servers of choice I am quickly becoming known as "that guy", because I play very upfront on a server that likes to play "lets set up a camp and farm these newbs". As these screenshots show, my play style usually prevails.

TF2

TF2

A couple notes:

1. I prefer to play on 32 player servers for the map ctf_2fort. It provides more action and prevents a lot of the quick wins from occurring. On the other maps, I prefer to stick to 24 player servers. ctf_2fort is the only map that I feel comfortably holds 32 players.

2. Instant-spawn sure beats waiting twenty seconds between deaths, but it sort of defeats the purpose of capture-the-point maps.

3. I try to mix up the classes I play. I usually run as a medic for a few minutes to start a match and get a feel for where people are playing. I then focus on playing an engineer offensively, which can really piss people off, while mixing in a few rounds as the other classes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kicked?

It amazes me what can get a player kicked off a gaming server in Team Fortress 2. However, the situation that ended my Team Fortress 2 night early, will never amaze me.

I play on a server run by a "gaming community" fairly regularly and the rules are simple: no cussing or abusive language, no bashing "community" members, and no firing through the starting gates. I have no problem with these and never will, but I decided to break one of them anyways. I called this "gaming community" out for the bunch of unskilled noobs that they are.

Honestly, I was having the worst round of my Team Fortress 2 career, but that was a byproduct of what was really happening on the server. The situation was simple. The "gaming community" had all of their regular members join the same side, team up, and destroy the opponent.

Not so bad right? It is their server, their time, and they have a right to play together. I can go play elsewhere. Yes, I agree.

But, when I called them out for stacking the teams and that it is sad that their "gaming community" would stack teams against random public players, I was kicked. No cuss words, no dirty language, just a straight out call to balance the teams.

To me, a split would have been obvious and may actually show someone that my "gaming community" can do more than just steamroll a random group of players. 10 out of 12 (12 on each team) players were community members on one team. That is easily enough to win every round within seconds without even trying. It is a simple "run to point A, then to point B" (on a capture the point map). However, it is also enough to divide equally amongst the two teams and provide a fair game.

But, fuck everything I just said. I am just whining. Bitching up my latest storm. Fuck me for thinking that sportsmanship has a place in a competitive game.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas! I hope everyone got what they wanted.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why Is It So Hard To Believe?

Is it really that hard to believe that SOE could possibly have been sold to an Indian gaming company? I am going to present some ideas that should make people think twice about SOE's denial.

Prior mergers and moves:


1. EA scooped up Bioware out of nowhere.

2. Blizzard and Activision merged out of the blue.

3. Mythic denied any buyouts. A month later they became EA Mythic.

4. SOE and Sigil repeatedly denied Vanguard being bought out, before SOE promptly bought the rights to Vanguard.

Items of note in the current SOE buyout rumors:

1. Smedley first denied the buyout by posting on a 3rd-party site, EQ2flames. No, he did not choose his own blog, the official EQ2 website, or filter the information through his community managers. Nope, he posted a denial on the most prolific Everquest 2 rumor-mongering website on the net.

2. The parent company of SOE, Sony Pictures, has been all but quiet on the matter so far. A denial from them would put this to rest quickly. Is it so hard to believe that Sony Pictures may have tried to keep this under wraps until after the holidays?

3. The "rumor" post was spread across several reliable, multi-national news agencies. Also, it spread quickly through several financial-related outlets.

4. SOE hired a former IGE bigwig to head up international relations. He just so happened to have recently visited India. Of course, this lends credibility to the idea that SOE may be working on a deal in India, not necessarily being sold.

5. The reported sales price of $300 million is questionable if the reported revenue of SOE is $150 million yearly. However, this wouldn't be the first case of an online-based company being bought for significantly more or less than their current revenue value.

6. Lastly, if the recent report on MMORPG subscriptions holds any weight, most of SOE's online games have been bleeding subscriptions.


Yes, I like to stir the pot.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Breaking: SOE bought out?

Having done a fair share of research for my Economics courses, via The Economic Times website, I was quite surprised to see news about Sony Online Entertainment pop up (via Virgin Worlds).

Apparantly, Zapak Digital entertainment, an India-based online gaming company, is set to buy out Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) for around $300 million.
This acquisition is in line with the future plans of Zapak Digital, which is planning to enter the gaming space in China by early next year. “This makes perfect sense for us, as around 80% of content in the gaming industry is manufactured internationally. Buying out Sony, will not only give us access but also expand our reach in the global market,” said a senior Zapak Official.
Now, lets all put on our tinfoil hats for this next quote.
The major expenses in the gaming industry is on content and marketing, and Zapak aims to reduce the cost of publishing a game by buying out those studios and relocating them to India
If that reads correctly, SOE may be moved to India? Now wouldn't that be a Christmas gift for all involved!

UPDATE: John Smedley, as always, denies everything.
This story is completely false. We aren't for sale

No idea who made this up. We are in discussions with various companies in India about bringing our games to this growing market but that's it. We aren't for sale.

Smed

Friday, December 21, 2007

That Perfect Gift

Getting that perfect gift for a significant other is hard. Really hard. However, when that gift is found, and a little effort is put into kicking it up a notch, the feeling is awesome.

No, I won't share who this gift is for or what it is (they can wait until Christmas), but rest assured I feel like I just scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Going Gordon Freeman

Dear Criminals,

My Top 10 MMOs

Via F13. (read the rules if you are going to post your own top 10). Now onto my list, with some explanations following each choice.

1. World of Warcraft - Millions, yes millions, of subscribers. Penetration into non-gaming media on a large scale. To me, there is no argument against WoW being #1.
2. Ultima Online - Developed before there was a real market, didn't copy anyone, and remains a unique experience. Oh, and player housing!
3. Star Wars Galaxies - Included for POTENTIAL. This was billed as the first game with the POTENTIAL to attract a million players. Sadly, it proved there are no sure things in this market.
4. Guild Wars - First mainstream title to go completely against the grain of the subscription model. Proved that it can be done, but more importantly, it can be sustained in the long run.
5. Dark Age of Camelot - Showed that timing and smooth launches are equitable to success in the market. Plus, DAoC proved that the little guy can get it done with a smart plan.
6. WWII Online - MMOFPS? Yes.
7. EVE Online - Another POTENTIAL inclusion. The game itself isn't spectacular, but the design behind it is begging to be turned into something great.
8. Lord of the Rings Online - I compare LotRO directly to Star Wars Galaxies. There are no sure things, even when the developers play it extremely safe. Lower than expected, only because THERE IS NO FUCKING MAGIC IN LORD OF THE RINGS TURBINE!
9. Everquest - Only mentioned for being brave enough to bring 3D graphics into the genre.
10. MUD 1 - The literal "birth of online gaming" can not go unmentioned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not Forever Away

The development team behind Duke Nukem Forever, the poster child for vapourware, will supposedly be releasing a teaser trailer tomorrow.
Developer 3D Realms has publically stated on their official forums that a teaser video for Duke Nukem Forever (in development since 1997) is expected to release tomorrow.

As series co-creator George Broussard put it, "After seeing the teaser we thought it was something we should share with all of you and while it's just a teaser, rest assured more is coming." He went on, "Tomorrow, Wednesday the 19th, around noon CST, we will release the first teaser trailer from Duke Nukem Forever."
And all I have to say to that is: I've got balls of steel.

UPDATE: They were serious.

Monday, December 17, 2007

StarTrek.com Shuts Down

I'm a Star Wars fan, but I've enjoyed my fair share of Trek over the years. Unfortunately the glory days of Trek are gone and CBS has deemed the StarTrek.com website unworthy.
Goodbye from the STARTREK.COM Team

Sadly, we must report that CBS Interactive organization is being restructured, and the production team that brings you the STARTREK.COM site has been eliminated. Effective immediately.

We don't know the ultimate fate of this site, which has served millions of Star Trek fans for the last thirteen years.

If you have comments, please send them to editor @ startrek.com - we hope someone at CBS will read them.

Thank you for your loyal fandom over the years. It has been a pleasure to serve you.
Oh well, I never actually visited the site. However, in the day and age of EVERYTHING.COM, I find it weird to be talking about a major Sci-Fi .com shutting it's doors. Honestly, can it be that hard to make StarTrek.com into a profitable venture?

I Could, but I'm Tired

It simply isn't worth the effort. SOE caught red-handed.

Yes, I'm letting this one pass by.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Perfect Day

The Green Bay Packers won.
The Dallas Cowboys lost.

Oh, and I received my grades for the Fall semester. Another perfect 4.0. Once again, for the sports fans, that is a 4.0 cumulative GPA over four semesters.

The best part of this 4.0 is my Micro-Economics grade, which was hovering towards a high B, low A at the end of the semester. I needed a near-perfect score on my final exam to come away with an A overall. Fortunately, I owned the test like a fat chick on a twinkie.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Mythos Update

Mythos has just pushed another great update out the beta door.
FEATURES
* Guilds have been added! Speak to the Guildmaster in Tulin's Hope to start one at a cost of 5 Gold.

* Hardcore Mode has been added, for extra challenge! In Hardcore, when you die - your character is gone forever, so be careful!

* Elite Mode has been added. In Elite mode, monsters are faster, more aggressive, and tougher. Champions appear more often. You can only sell items for half of regular price.

- Note that Elite and Hardcore players cannot party or trade with players who do not match their setup, to preserve the economies of these different play styles.

* Re-specs are now allowed (although not in Hardcore or Elite mode) - speak to a Skillmaster in Stonehill or Tulin's hope. Re-specs are free from level 1 through 5, and above that, cost starts at 1 Gold and increases from there. There is a maximum of 3 re-specs beyond level 5

* Quests are now Trackable - check them in your log to view them onscreen at all times

* Maximum Questlog size increased to 8 quests.

* Hardware Mouse Cursors! This should make mouse response lightning fast. Hooray!

* Achievements system has been added - complete goals to earn equippable achievements that give you extra bonuses! Unlock a new achievement slot every 10 levels

* Emotes - there is an emote button above the chat pane that will show you the options

* Zivia's Puzzle Box!

* Party Finder – post your party and description and meet some new friends! You can also post yourself as looking for group to the list.

* Ignore List is now account-based and actually saves.
There is a bunch of other, smaller improvements as well.

Speaking of hardcore, Grimwell has started a Hardcore Challenge. Now, as mentioned in my comments on his site, I will probably be starting a hardcore adventure in World of Warcraft. However, with this update to Mythos, I am probably going to shift my plan of attack. I would much rather be part of a real hardcore mode than a self-policed hardcore mode. Plus, I want to get some more Mythos time under my belt!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CCP Tries To Explain Themselves: Fails

Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, EVE Online Software Group's director, has a lengthy post trying to explain the Best Bug Ever.
Shortly after releasing EVE Online: Trinity at 22:04 GMT on Wednesday, 5 December, we started receiving reports that the Classic to Premium graphics content upgrade was causing problems to players by deleting the file C:\boot.ini, which is a Windows system startup file. In some cases the computer was not able to recover on the next startup and would not start until the file had been fixed. In this dev blog I want to tell you how this happened.
He goes on to answer a few questions.
Why doesn't Windows protect its system startup files?
That's a good question, one that I have asked myself in these last few days and wish I knew the answer. But of course I'm not going to blame Microsoft for our mistake. Windows doesn't protect those files and therefore software developers must take care not to touch them. We should have been more careful.
I have to take offense to this answer. The question that needed to be asked: why was a file named the same as a critical Windows system file knowing full-well that EVE Online (like most games) will be played and PATCHED on an account with administrative privileges?

This could of been Linux and an fstab file with the same outcome; a PC that doesn't boot correctly. It baffles me that someone this high up in the company would even attempt to answer this question and state "I'm not going to blame Microsoft". I'm sorry, Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, but it sure sounds like you are saying part of the blame goes to Microsoft.

Of course the answer to why the file was named boot.ini:
The answer is really "legacy"; it has been like that since 2001 when the file was introduced on the server and later migrated over to the client in 2002, so this file has been with us for over 6 years. We are reviewing all filenames and changing the name of any file that conflicts with Windows.
Or as I like to call it: lazy-assedness.

Reading through the comments, many EVE Online players are giving CCP props for full disclosure. Unfortunately, CCP really doesn't have a choice at this point in EVE Online's life with all the other drama that has swirled around the game.

The entire post details a breakdown of the most basic principals that guide any software project, from a Hello World! to Google. And I can't believe they DON'T have a single machine setup in their testing environment that mirrors what someone would be using at home (Windows XP installed on a single drive, game being played and patched on an administrator account).

All told, in the end, 215 users seem to have been affected. That is 215 too many.

Exams Are Done

I have finished my last exam for the semester. I can now play games again. I know everyone is dieing to know if I kept my 4.0 GPA, but I won't know until sometime later this month. It will be close, but Micro-Economics may have played the role of spoiler.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not always perfect.

Monday, December 10, 2007

500,000

The Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) beta sign-up counter reached the half-million mark today and with the talk lately of "beta invites as an advertisement" I wanted to make sure one of 2008's most anticipated titles doesn't get left out of the mix.

However, unlike the Lord of the Rings Online 1,000,000 beta invites, WAR only tracks actual sign-ups, not "e-mail addresses we have in a database somewhere".

Don't get me wrong, the counter is a pure marketing move on EA Mythic's part, but it is the sort of marketing that is somewhat truthful. WAR has a huge following already and EA Mythic has no need to bolster the hype by "stretching" the numbers.

The question that remains, is how many testers are in the beta currently, and how many more will be let in when the beta restarts in late December? Age of Conan recently dropped the bomb that they had invited 10,000 players, out of 100,000+ sign-ups, but as this article questions: how many are actually online and playing? Those are the numbers many of us would actually care about.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

OMG Parenting

Recently, Dr. Phil attacked the problem of MMORPG addiction in teenagers. Surprisingly, he hits the nail on the head to solve the problem. Instead of blaming the game, he correctly points out that the parents need to control the situation and their child.
Dr. Phil is baffled. "Four hours a day? It's ridiculous!" he says. "Mom, you've got to step up and shut this down. Once she's at a point where she can play the game instead of being absorbed in the game, then perhaps, she can attempt to go back to it."
Holding parents responsible for what they let their children do is great and all, but the really important question I want to ask is: does this mean the mainstream media is shifting away from the "blame the games" mentality?

Friday, December 07, 2007

My Head Hurts

This is about the most random blog post I've ever found. So random, that it makes my head hurt, but in a good way. And it all starts with a time machine:
So I invented a time machine in the year 1962, and I went back in time to kill this guy that caused the world to end in 1984.

And I was just about to take my shot when this second Time Traveller Guy suddenly showed up on the roof next to me and asked me to stop.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tabula Rasa: Why all the delays?

If anyone plays Tabula Rasa and wonders where their subscription payment goes, this video may just hold the key. Or maybe it will help us understand why Tabula Rasa was delayed so long. Either way, opening a beer will never be the same.



What do you expect from someone who requires that their name comes before a game's title? All we need is for Mr. Garriott to show up on MTV to show off his crib...

...oh snap!

Best Bug Ever

The latest EVE Online patch seems to have come with a wonderful side effect for Windows XP users.
After a large number of PCs stopped working following installation of the new Trinity patch for Eve Online, developers CCP were able to confirm that the patch deletes the boot.ini file from Windows XP machines. What this means is that XP users who downloaded and applied the patch within the first few hours (the patch has now been taken down) cannot reboot their PC.
This, along with other FUBAR moments from CCP, really speaks to a poor quality assurance process and a lacking sense that any of the management at CCP has control over the EVE Online project.

Secondly, I don't understand how there are not safeguards in place to prevent such a disaster from going live? The split-second a programmer typed "delete boot.ini", warning bells should have gone off that the code needed to be triple-checked for accuracy. More cowbell maybe?

Fortunately, the problem is easily fixed for the tech savvy. However, knowing that the most addicted EVE players were probably the first to download and install the patch, I have to wonder how many of them ran out to the nearest PC hardware store to start swapping out parts. Actually, I LOL in real life just thinking about that, because at one point in my life I may have done the same thing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Passing On Pirates

I am officially passing on the Pirates of the Burning Seas beta. I have recieved an invite to beta and was graciously asked to participate in a fairly significant manner as either the PvP or Economic representative on the official Boarding Party, a collection of player advocates that helps promote the game and funnel community issues to the developers. Unfortunately, I have final exams incoming followed by a marathon of work to get done if I want to actually enjoy my time off over the holiday break.

From all accounts, with the NDA being dropped, Pirates of the Burning Sea is shaping up to be a good, but lacking overall game. The consensus seems to be: avatar combat and leveling sucks, PvP and the economy are sweet, and the British are over-powered. Pretty much what I expected out of the game.

It is a bit disconcerting that the game has been delayed a long time due Flying Lab's decision to finish their implementation of avatar combat. Originally, the game was planned to be ship based only, with the ability to move an avatar through the port towns. However, that all changed and now there seems to be a fairly grindy, land-based aspect to the game that I've yet to read a good thing about.

In the end, PotBS is the wrong game, at the wrong time for me. Had it released already, I would no doubt be playing it. But now, I have my sights set on Warhammer Online. In the interim, World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, and Call of Duty 4 should hold me over until I get my chance at WAR.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blizzard and Activision Merge

Big news today: Blizzard and Activision Announce Merger.
Activision and Blizzard have said they will form "the world's most profitable games business" in a deal worth $18.8bn
This could mean a lot, but most likely this is just an "on paper" company. I am guessing that each company will stay seperate and produce their own titles in the same manor as they have been doing. Some resources will be brought together, but I can't see any major changes out of this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Damn

If, before last night's Packers vs Cowboys game, someone told me that Brett Favre was going to have a career-worst passer rating and not finish the game, I would of laughed until every last cow in Wisconsin came strolling through my front door. Ouch, I better get the barn ready.

Sparing comments and excuses for the Packers poor performance last night, I want to touch on what Brett Favre has meant to me as a Packers fan. Brett Favre has been the quarterback for Green Bay for almost as long as I have watched them play. Sure, I was old enough to remember and I saw some of the other quarterbacks before Favre, but my "fan memory" doesn't seem to kick in until Brett Favre.

To me, watching a Green Bay Packers game, is watching a Brett Favre game. That is an experience I hope every NFL fan gets to experience with their favorite team at some point. Even after two interceptions, some horrible decisions, and a lackluster start, I didn't think Favre wouldn't be finishing the game. However, the injury to his throwing elbow ended up knocking him out of the game

Now, if someone told me that, with several key defensive injuries and NO BRETT FAVRE, that the Packers would of turned a potential blowout into a close game, I would of laughed as well. However, that is exactly the show Green Bay put on last night. Sure, there was a lot of sloppy play on defense and offense, but Green Bay is a young team and truly facing its first really big game. I expected this sort of play.

What I did not expect, was Green Bay to tighten up and play well down the stretch. Even in a loss, they told the Cowboys that they better play a hell of a lot better next time, because it is doubtful the Packers are going to be sitting three of their best players (KGB, Woodson, and Favre).

Oh, and it's doubtful the referees will bail them out and gift wrap the game next time these two teams meet. I hate to get into arguments about referees in the NFL, because I think they do a good job, but last night was a bit disappointing for one reason. On two crucial plays, one at the beginning of the game and the other at the end, one referee CALLED THE PLAYS CORRECTLY only to be overridden by another referee that SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN INVOLVED IN THE CALL!

Anyways, good teams don't let games come down to two or three plays and the Packers will need to clean up the sloppy play if they wish to make a statement at the end of this year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My wife owned me, or was it Mass Effect?

Last night, while watching TV with my wife, a commercial for Mass Effect came on. Midway through the commercial, I remarked; "Oooh, another game I need to get."

A moment after my lips closed, a female in the commercial spoke: "Reqeust denied." With that, my wife looked over at me and smiled. We both busted out laughing.

My wife and I are fairly well off on the money train, but new game purchases are always a touchy subject. With my recent glut of purchases (Call of Duty 4, Dark Age of Camelot resub, The Orange Box), and the need to pay up for some more World of Warcraft time, this "request" was only a joke. Yet, the joke seemed to be on me.

Ah well, fate is a bitch sometimes.

NOTE: I don't own an Xbox 360 and really don't have plans to get Mass Effect. So, honey, if you are reading this, CALM DOWN :) I'll be home for dinner later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Arena Cheating

World of Warcraft is set to enter Arena Season 3 after today's downtime. With the new season comes new, rank-restricted arena gear and a personal ranking system, both of which are meant to fight rampant arena "exploitation" from the first two seasons. Sadly, the new season also brings new cheats.

Win trading, the process by which top teams farm another high ranking team, seems to be the new flavor and pretty much cements the high ranking of the team involved. It is easily disguised as normal play and only in the worst cases is it probable that the teams will get caught.

Fortunately, Blizzard seems to be on the case. However, this gives me no faith in the arena system as a viable end-game activity. Before win trading, it was top teams selling spots for gold. The point is, if it isn't one thing, it'll be another and that is enough evidence to me that Blizzard has failed on yet another PvP system. Like the Honor System, it will only be a matter of time before the current arena system is scrapped and replaced.

In my eyes, there are a couple things that would have contained these arena problems to simply arenas and not the entire game. First off, arena gear should of been restricted to use only inside arenas or become severely less powerful outside of arenas. If certain trinkets and out-of-arena gear were going to be restricted inside arenas, it only makes sense that arena gear could have been restricted outside of the arena.

It is a bad sign when the arena rewards are referred to as "welfare epics". Sadly, the epic arena gear turned out to be superior to a lot of raid level gear and quickly became the easiest way to gear up for end game raiding content.

I am not averse to easy to attain epic gear. However, I am against any system that becomes the "path of least resistance" for the opposite aspect of the game. PvP arenas became the preferred method for PvE players, and in my book, that is bad design. I know there is a lot that can be argued over raid loot affecting PvP, but I don't want to get into that aspect. I stand firmly on the concept of separate PvP and PvE reward systems.

Secondly, the arenas should have been about prestige, renown, and good ole' bragging rights. This entails rewards such as special titles, unique mounts, displayable trophies, etc. Arenas should have never gotten involved with rewarding epic gear, because it immediately dashes the illusion of fair play. When teams enter an arena, it should be the group build, player skill, and strategy that determines the winner, not fucking gear (most likely earned through questionable means).

Gear level, in arenas, should always be equal and that would have been easily accomplished through arena-restricted gear. Unfortunately, the system can not be changed and it would be unthinkable for Blizzard to remove all the gear already attained by players. The only hope is a change with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

In the end, this s just another set of reasons why there is no rush for me to get to 70. Arena's are not competitive, will never be, and are no longer my goal. Battlegrounds, which have always been objective-based, provide a better challenge and allow every class and level of player to participate in a meaningful way.

Now, if Blizzard would just put the same effort into Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Eye of the Storm, that they put into Alterac Valley, the battlegrounds would be golden!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm a Shaman

Hello, I'm Heartless and I'm a Shaman. I'm a conduit of the ancient forces of nature. You are no doubt wondering, "Hey Heartless, how do I hurl bolts of lightning?". Simple, get World of Warcraft dog. You can be anyone you want. I'm Heartless and I'm a Shaman. What's your game?

Now just replace Heartless with William Shatner, throw in some WoW footage, and you would no doubt have a pretty kick ass commercial. Don't worry, Blizzard is way ahead of you.

Oh, and the debate is settled. It is pronounced sh"ah"man, not sh"ay"man. Owned, by Captain Kirk no less.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Numb3rs

0 - Number of active days left on my Dark Age of Camelot subscription.

1 - The average number of walls a bullet goes through before killing me in Call of Duty 4.

2 - Number of kills I achieved in my first Call of Duty 4 multi-player match. Sadly, I also suffered 32 deaths.

3 - Number of days until my birthday, Thanksgiving, and the next Green Bay Packers game.

20 - Number of deaths I suffer on average in a CoD4 match.

47 - Number of kills I average in an a CoD4 match.

50 - Number of Arathi Basin and Alterac Valley tokens I need in able to purchase arena season one gear for my Shaman in WoW when season three starts later this month.

70 - The level I need to reach in WoW before I can use arena season one gear. I'm currently level 66.

2,637 - Number of points I've scored in Team Fortress 2.

65,250 - The amount of honor needed to attain an entire set of season one arena armor for my Shaman in World of Warcraft.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Showdown: World of Warcraft vs. Dark Age of Camelot

William requested that I discuss some of things that made me turn away from Dark Age of Camelot and return to World of Warcraft. However, I want to stress that I did not quit DAoC because of WoW's new 2.3 patch. I quit DAoC because of real life time restraints. I just so happen to have access to my WoW account for the time being and play it casually (very casually).

I want to start this showdown with the one thing I strongly feel that DAoC has cornered the market on, something that WoW has struggled with: PvP. In DAoC, PvP is called Realm vs Realm (RvR). That is a term that can only be found in a Mythic game. Seriously, they trademarked the term.

Semantics aside, RvR is DAoC's form of PvP. RvR pits three realms of players against each other for control of castles and relics. Frontiers are the zones where the castles and relics are located. Open PvP can occur anywhere in the frontiers and there is no shortage of castles and towers to fight over. Both the castles and relics can be captured by opposing forces. This gives real weight to RvR, both for the individual and the entire realm.

WoW on the other hand, focuses on instanced PvP battlegrounds and more recently arenas, both of which have little impact on anything other than the players involved. Since launch, Blizzard has tried several different approaches towards their PvP systems and through numerous rebuilds and tweaks, PvP has simply become a secondary issue taking a backseat to the more popular PvE side of things. That is OK, because WoW's PvE is great and Blizzard should focus on it while letting players bash in each other's heads every once and a while.

The distinguishing trait between the two games PvP, is that DAoC has focused on providing that RvR experience to every single level of play. There are now level-restricted battlegrounds and dungeons for every level range in the game. Players can level from start to finish doing only RvR battlegrounds or dungeons. DAoC knew what people enjoyed and highlighted it. Their only fault is a side-tracked PvE themed expansion that became the bane of DAoC RvR enthusiasts everywhere. Fortunately, Mythic learned their lesson and were able to set the wheels in motion to keep the game afloat.

WoW has tried desperately to fix their PvP, and after dozens of changes the system is still fairly focused on just doing instanced PvP as fast and as often as humanly possible for epic gear. WoW's PvP is still enjoyable, but it holds no weight and is nothing more than a "my l33t sauce is hotter than your l33t sauce". With that said, Blizzard has started tossing around more open world, objective based PvP that shows promise. DAoC does PvP right, with meaning and reason behind it. Hopefully, Mythic will showcase this in their next title: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

With the PvP topic discussed, I will throw down a bullet list of what WoW has done so much better than DAoC, and then we can discuss them.
  • WoW's UI, both in modifiability and out-of-the-box functionality.
  • WoW's control scheme is unmatched in the MMORPG industry and should be the starting point for any game. I can not stress how important this is.
  • WoW's quest system trumps the shambled mess that is DAoC's quest system.
  • Leveling is actually faster in DAoC these days, but WoW does it with style and without the grind.
There are some other bells and whistles, but those are the four things that have drawn my back into WoW time after time after time. Oh, and sexy elves.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Return Is Over

I chose a really bad time to get nostalgic about Dark Age of Camelot. Between real life and kick ass new games like Call of Duty 4, I have very little time to dedicate to an MMORPG. Especially one that is six years old and fairly set in it's ways.

I enjoyed the thirty or so hours I put into the game over the last month, but I ended up at the same conclusion I did a few years ago: the genre needs to improve. The genre has grown up and new games do some very basic things very well. Things that DAoC has not improved on over the last six years.

World of Warcraft's controls have honestly spoiled me and I can not seem to adjust backwards to the heavy-handed systems of DAoC. Also, the flexibility of WoW's UI mods trumps any of the custom UI packages available for DAoC. There are tons of other items that I've grown used to and playing DAoC again just made me wish for WoW. There is so much to be said for the little things that WoW managed to get right.

But I don't want to make this a WoW is better than DAoC post. DAoC was the game back in the day and I do not regret the three years I invested into it. In my humble opinion, Realm vs. Realm is still an amazing concept and extremely well implemented throughout DAoC. It is just sad to know that the rest of the game aged like rotten cheese.

Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Digital Distribution Woes

Digital distribution is the the future for gaming. Ten years from now, players won't go to a store to buy their games, they will just download them. The process will be simple, clean, and help to cut the rising cost of games.

Unfortunately, if the Call of Duty 4 launch via Steam is any indication, digital distribution has a long ways to go. The Steam launch has been littered with show-stopping bugs and regional pricing differences, not to mention being launched nearly a week after the box versions hit store shelves. All of this for a game that has Game of the Year written all over it, and that is saying a lot in a period seeing the launch of a ton of AAA games.

The first issue with the Steam launch, as mentioned, was the fact that it was released a week later than the box version. While this is fine for players like myself, who had no plans to jump in at launch, it is a sore spot for many players that have become fond of Steam and other digital distribution solutions.

Tagged onto the week delay, the actual decryption files didn't get released on Steam until midday on Nov 12th (the release date). Most Steam users had expected a 12:01 AM launch, but it was not to be, and many angry gamers spent several hours waiting for the game to be released. Is it a bit much to expect midnight launches via Steam? Maybe, but Valve has shown the ability to do it with their major titles, and I see no reason why that can't carry it over for third-party titles.

The next issue with the launch made me glad to be an American, because the game only cost me $49.95 + tax. Unfortunately, Europeans were stuck with a $69.95 price tag, which did not include VAT. In total, Call of Duty 4 costs almost $80 for Europeans. Again, for a game that has been in stores for $49.95 and that they were getting a week late. There has been no explanation from Activision, the game's publisher, as to the price hike for Europeans using Steam.

NOTE: Prices on Steam are set by the publisher, not Valve.

Thirdly, once the game did become available, a plethora of bugs infested the launch. Pre-loading, the process of downloading the digital game files prior to launch, ended up short for a ton of players. Personally, my download finished 320 Mb short. So, instead of launching right into the game, many players were forced to validate their installation files and download a large portion of the game.

On top of this, there have been many other ugly bugs that have reared their head since the 12th. I will write up a more in-depth post later with details on how I fixed several of them, along with links to appropriate support articles. Needless to say, there are a lot of issues. Issues, that were not present in the boxed version.

With all of this said, the game in question is still probably one of the best games to launch this year. The single-player is short, but no one will be arguing that it isn't the most intense six hours of your gaming life. Yes, it is that damn good. On top of the wonderful single-player, the multi-player is set to challenge Halo 3, if not destroy it in terms of player minutes per month. On Xfire, CoD4 single-player and multi-player combined, are already challenging World of Warcraft as the most played game. Of course, that figure is not counting the players playing via Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Call of Duty 4 is huge and it just barely missed the boat in regards to digital distribution.

Monday, November 12, 2007

They Really Do Exist

My all time favorite M&M's commercial is the one where the Red and Yellow M&M meet Santa. Upon seeing each other, Santa and the M&M's exclaim: "They really do exist!", before promptly fainting. I LOL in real life every time I see it.

Today, as a gamer, I had the same sort of moment when I came across a story on Digg.com about Fedora Core 8's Game Spin, which just so happens to be the gaming-based operating system I was talking about in my last post. Following it further, I discovered that there were plenty of gaming-related Linux distributions. As the title of this post says, they really do exist!

Unfortunately, my elation was quickly dashed as I realized these were not truly gaming-based operating systems. They were simply Linux distributions with a bunch of freeware games tossed in. The kind of freeware/shareware games that my dad used to buy me when I was ten. Sure, some of them are a bit more polished than the old classics of my youth, but most of them are not and seem to be included in the packages simply to increase the total count they can advertise.

This is not the sort of operating system package I had envisioned when I first heard about the Fedora 8 "re-spin" idea. Nor, is it even really anything special. Anyone with a Linux install could just as easily build this package of games for their system free of charge.

Even with my hopes dashed, I did find some glimmer of hope. A very important part of newer Linux distributions, automated package managers (sort of like Windows Update for Linux), has crossed over to provide updates for many of the included games. This fairly simple idea, central management of all your games updates, could and should be the centerpiece of a gaming-based operating system.

Also, free games are never a bad idea and it makes complete sense for any interested Linux-gamer to probably operate off this Fedora 8 spin off. While it didn't turn out to be what was expected, it is still a start. A baby needs to crawl before it can walk.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Game, The Operating System?

A while back I talked about Linux gaming on Radeon based video cards. In the process, I asked how cool it would be if gamers had the choice of an operating system that was completely dedicated to gaming. Grimwell, Everquest 2's community manager, was very receptive of the idea and I imagine he is not the only one (UPDATE: Jeff Freeman is interested as well).

Amazingly enough, Fedora Core 8, a Linux distribution from Red Hat Inc., is poised to do something that may just make the Game Operating System a reality. Quoting a c|net news article:
...a curious feature of the new version 8, released Thursday, is the ability to strip out the Fedora identity altogether.

The reason: Red Hat wants Fedora to be a foundation for those who want to build their own Linux products on a Fedora foundation.
Further down, this little gem was dropped.
The ability to "re-spin" Fedora is attracting some interest. Among the Fedora-based variations that will be available are one for gaming, one for designing microprocessors, and one for programmers.
That is correct, a gaming based operating system. How fucking cool is that? That is all the information I have found so far, but I am going to keep on digging.

While Linux gaming isn't going to explode overnight because of this, it absolutely lays the groundwork for future incarnations and more attention from game developers.

OLPC Gets It's Game On

One Laptop Per Child, an MIT driven project to deliver $100 laptops to children accross the world, has received a generous donation from EA: the original SimCity! OLPC now has a certifiable big-name game as part of its package.
Electronic Arts will donate the original SimCity city-building game to each computer in the non-profit One Laptop Per Child humanitarian initiative, which designs, manufactures and distributes inexpensive laptops to children around the world with the goal of giving every child in the world access to modern education.
Having done a fairly exhaustive project involving OLPC, I feel attached to any bit of news I hear about it. I never thought that I would be reporting on gaming-related news for the OLPC! I support the project 100% and want to take a moment to talk about it.

OLPC is not here to simply deliever cheap laptops. The laptops have a purpose and a guiding principal. Constructionism, a philosophy of education in which children learn by doing and making, really sets the OLPC project apart from other cheap laptop projects. There are plenty of other companies setting out to prove they can make cheaper laptops. OLPC will always have them beat because of their philosophy, instead of just trying to make the cheapest laptop possible.

Currently, the laptop does cost more than $100 to produce, but the $100 tagline still sticks with the project. It is a goal and I fully believe they can achieve it. However, staying under $300 will still be a great accomplishment. After all, in a world where gamers throw down $500 for the latest video card, I can't help but stop and admire what OLPC has done and will continue to do.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Elder Scrolls Online Confirmed (Not Really)

Elder Scrolls Online has been confirmed.
Bethesda's very own Pete Hines has confirmed that yes, an MMORPG installment of the wildly popular Elder Scrolls series is on the way. In the announcement, Hines also stated that the company had already put $300 million into the project
Of course this announcement was followed by the proclamation that World of Warcraft now has a contender to deal with. I guess Knights of the Old Republic Online and Warhammer Online don't count? I'm actually quite amazed by this rhetoric.

Am I the only person that has played the Elder Scrolls series of games and said to myself: "This is a lot of fun, but wouldn't work in an MMORPG."? The Elder Scroll games are great single-player fun, but outside of the character system I can't think of one thing that would translate to an MMORPG at all.

Part of the magic behind the Elder Scroll titles has been the ability to be the hero of the world, not one of many heroes which is the case with MMORPGs.
I think there are just a few too many people waiting on the "next big thing".

By the way, I'm just kidding. The confirmation was never true and has been officially denied.
Update: It seems that the original story which Jim sourced in this article jumped to more than a few conclusions. We just got off of the phone with Bethesda's Manager of PR and Marketing Erin Losi, who wanted to clarify a few things.

For one, Bethesda has not announced or confirmed that an Elder Scrolls MMO is in the works.
Oh well, who would of guessed that Destructoid would jump to conclusions and post a catchy title to spam around the Internet? Certainly not me.

Team Fortress 2 Final Thoughts

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Jeff Freeman
requested that I wrap up my thoughts on Team Fortress 2. So, here are my final thoughts.

Over the course of seven years of first person gaming, I have not found a game as inviting and friendly as Team Fortress 2. From the art direction, to the class-based system, TF2 has a very low barrier for entry. At the same time it maintains a competitive edge for skilled gamers offering a variety of ways to succeed.

The maps, weapons, and game modes are all well done and complete. Nothing feels like it was left unfinished, which unfortunately is not the case with many games that launch these days. That gives TF2 a feeling of being complete, which makes it a pleasure to play.

Aside from some debates on things such as critical hits, the community around TF2 has received the game well. It is a clear winner in the "teamwork FPS" category and is a shining example of what can be done when developers take the time to make a new game instead of an updated game.

Sure, TF2 is not Team Fortress: Source, and there is a ton of differences compared to Team Fortress Classic, but it delivers a solid experience that should do the Team Fortress name proud.

Players looking for a game that is easy to learn and rewards team players, need look no further than Team Fortress 2.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another EA Studio Down

Another EA studio bites the dust.
EA Chicago has gone down for the count. I can exclusively report that EA is closing the studio effective immediately. Word is that EA is working hard to place many of the 150+ employees at its other studios around the world. What does this mean for the future of the Def Jam fighting franchise and the forthcoming Marvel fighting game? I'm still looking into that, but it sure seems like those games won't be coming anytime soon.
This doesn't mean very much for the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning fans, but it is another sign that change is occurring within EA. How all of the recent changes fit together is unknown officially, but it is definitely leaning towards the idea that EA has maybe grown a little too big for it's own good. Which, may be the best sign of all, as EA begins to specialize a bit more and produce a higher quality product. EA has franchises that have kept the company going, and where they don't have great game franchises, they are buying studios that do.

Hopefully they are buying and shutting down studios for the right reasons, and not just to perform a major manpower shuffle while snagging all the new intellectual properties that come with companies like BioWare and Mythic.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Return

I am officially dubbing my return to Dark Age of Camelot, The Return: Heartless Pwns Noobs. This morning I ran into the newbie RvR dungeon, Demon's Breach, and proceeded to lay waste upon the scum of Albion. Then I killed a lurikeen. Yes, they really do exist. I killed so many newbs that I gained two levels! What!? Players can gain levels by killing people? The ability to gain experience from killing other players is one of my favorite aspects of DAoC, and it is even greater now, netting almost three times the normal experience rate.

However, I did all of this without playing the class I had originally planned and researched for. My initial character was going to be a Norse Warrior, but I quickly found out they are slow to level, constantly out of endurance, and pretty much no fun for a returning player. Also, Warrior's are expensive to get started. So, I chose to play a Kobold Bonedancer. Let the LOLs begin.

The Bonedancer is a very strong class for someone that solos a lot. The more I thought about it, the more I justified to myself that it was the right thing to do, regardless of the fact that Bonedancers are an easy-mode class. I don't care! I am here to have fun and kick ass. Not only does a Bonedancer allow me to do both, but it also allows me to easily farm to support other characters like my Warrior.

One of the coolest things I discovered during The Return, was the fact that players can receive their first horse at level ten by simply completing a "go get the saddle" quest. Before I knew it, both my characters were galloping across East Svealand wasting away precious grinding time.

I am having a ton of throw away fun, and that folks, is the reason I returned to DAoC.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What EVE Could Do to Bring Back Players

I hold no reservations about EVE Online. It is a very well designed game, albeit owned by an otherwise poorly run company named CCP. EVE is like a good wine, aging well and accruing value with every passing year. If that sounds conflicted, it is. I am still conflicted over the game.

I enjoyed my time playing EVE, but the game is inherently punishing towards it's newer players. Also, I spent more time researching things outside of the game, than I did playing. My first character was completely gimped and without a delete and restart I would have spent months catching up. I stopped playing, but kept paying to advance my skills. Eventually my two cents kicked in and I canceled my subscription. Just in time fortunately, as my corporation's leader decided to dump the corporation in classic EVE form: by stealing all the ISK, kicking all the members, and stealing every last BPO and ship possible.

So, what spurs me to post about EVE today? First off, CCP, invited Richard Bartle to speak at a recent panel for the EVE Fan Faire. Bartle told them that their plan to democratise the player to company interactions would fail.
The panel I was on this morning is now over. As insulting your hosts go, I think I did well (sigh).

Basically, CCP (the EVE Online developers) want to democratise their virtual world because they have so many players that they're being overwhelmed by suggestions for ways to change or improve their virtual world. They want a council of players to put the best ideas to them, with the council-members decided by popular vote. I told them that this wouldn't work because CCP still had the final say (they're gods, not a government), so the players actually had no new powers at all. However, using the word "democracy" would give them the impression they did have power, so it would all end in tears when they discovered that they didn't.
That sums up my opinion on the matter fairly well. Honestly, the whole move smells of marketing to save face for numerous past misgivings. CCP needs to concentrate on improving the experience it provides to the average player, not spin political mumbo jumbo with a few hardcore elite.

The second news item that brings me to EVE: patch notes. No, I'm not going to break down all the notes. I just wanted to point out the inclusion of both a Linux and Mac client for the game. Other than that, nothing of interest for any ex-EVE players looking for a reason to come back.

However, that is the reason I am here. There is a couple changes that would definitely make me reconsider coming back at some point.

1. With an account that is 6-months or older, allow players to set skills to train without paying a monthly subscription. This will allow interested players to return down the line without having to worry that they will be years behind in training. ISK will still be a limiting factor in how much of an impact these players can have by themselves.

For some evidence that this would work, we just need to look back at the five day period where all accounts were reopened. Several of my friends reopened their accounts just to set a long skill to train with the plan of someday playing again.

2. Allow skill training to be automated. When I was playing, nothing sucked worse than losing time because you could not log in to set a new skill to train. EVE needs a skill template system where players can load a template from a website and have their training automatically set itself. I don't believe any current EVE player would argue that this would not be a benefit to the game.

Unfortunately, CCP seems far too wrapped up in political bullshit and graphical updates to care.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions - Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

I want to take a moment to clear something up about Team Fortress 2. There is no I in team. Games are won or lost by the actions of the team. Teams that don't want to defend control points, lose. Teams that want to play defensive classes while on offense, get trapped. Teams that constantly steal ammo packs during setup, thus delaying the upgrade of sentry guns, get run over by early rushes. Teams that play together and support each other, win.

These team mechanics can be both aggravating and rewarding. Even the best solo players can have a screaming fit if their team is not working together. Nothing they can do themselves can make up for a half-dozen or more other players doing nothing. A good player could have an instant kill switch for anything on their screen, but without a team watching their back they will make little difference in the end.

However, a good player can instantly lift a sub par team that is at least trying to work together. A couple good players can almost make a team themselves with the proper classes and strategy. I can't wait to see how more organized clans and teams start doing in tournament level play.

Over all the other aspects of TF2, this is the aspect that sells the game. TF2 would be "just another game" if the developers had submitted to repeated pressure to make each class more "solo friendly". The biggest war was won when the developers stated strongly that grenades for every class were not going to be part of TF2. Grenades would have turned each and every class into a potential powerhouse, capable of soloing any situation. Without the grenades, classes now have to work together to form a team. There are other examples, but the grenades issue was the most apparent in beta and in comparisons to Team Fortress Classic.

Teamwork sells the game.

Final Thoughts

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Over

Halloween has come and gone. For the most part, I stayed away from any in-game related Halloween madness. I was particularly burned out on World of Warcraft, so I never paid the headless horseman a visit (however, we did watch Sleepy Hollow tonight). I'm still in newbie mode in Dark Ages of Camelot, so nothing special there.

And here at the homestead, the witches, princesses, Jedi, mummies, Sponge Bobs, Supermans, Batmans, Spidermans, giant raisins, robots, and mutants are all gone. The candy dish is empty. Tomorrow, I'll pack up the skull candles, spiderwebs, and gravestones.

The good news? Halloween is only a year away!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chuck Norris vs. The Dragon Raid

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New in Linux: Graphic Card Drivers

AMD has decided to start supporting their ATI line of graphics cards with Linux-based drivers.
Video card giant AMD announced the release of new Linux drivers for its popular line of video cards today. The new drivers, Linux Catalyst 7.10, provide updates and features for desktop effects and gaming.

The new drivers provide support for AIGLX and ATI GPUs, enabling performance improvements for OpenGL games including the Quake and Doom lines. The improvements also offer support for enhanced graphic effects for supported distributions.
This is one moderate step in the right direction for Linux gaming. Graphic card support is the sore spot and hurdle that Linux gaming needs to clear. Hopefully, other companies will follow suit and give Linux users even more hardware options.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online: Game of the Year?

Apparently Lord of the Rings Online has been voted Game of the Year.
(Drum roll). The PC Game of the Year 2007 - sponsored by PC Gamer, has been awarded to Turbine's Tolkien-powered MMO The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

And the hobbits rejoiced.

Lord of the Rings Online beat off WoW, Football Manager 2007, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to grab the gong. We've have a feeling this is going to generate some interesting and no doubt highly enlightening discussion in the comments below...
Funny thing is, LotRO didn't win the Online Game of the Year award. World of Warcraft won that award. I guess we can all figure out what category the LotRO fanboys voted in. In my opinion, the people that voted for WoW, did so in the correct category, instead of trying to cheese it to a win in an overall category. So, LotRO scrapes out a trophy to throw up on the wall next to their four million characters created plaque. I wonder who is getting fired over this one?

Back Into the Dark

I'm heading back into the dark; Dark Age of Camelot that is. While Team Fortress 2 has my action gaming covered, I need a new game to replace World of Warcraft for a bit. It is nothing that WoW has done, but I am just tired and can't force myself to login lately. It is probably my fault, because I really needed that fifth epic mount and the brewfest quests were fun. Well, fun for a day. But it doesn't matter, I have my epic Brewfest Riding Ram!

So, I reinstalled Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) today and resubscribed my account. I decided that I'm going to give the Classic servers another shot. After all, the Classic server cluster fixes pretty much every complaint I've ever had about DAoC. No more buff bots. No more Trials of Atlantis, which means no Master Levels or Artifacts.

Of course, there is a couple expansion packs I need to catch up on. Darkness Rising and the Labyrinth of the Minotaur have both launched since I last played, and there appears to be a ton of stuff to do in both. For example, Darkness Rising has mounts, and we all know how much I love collecting my mounts!

For those interested, here are my plans:

Server: Gareth (Bossiney Cluster)
Realm: Midgard
Class: Skald or Warrior

If you play and want to hook up, just let me know and maybe we can get in on some newbie Realm vs. Realm. Oh, did I mention players can almost level completely from Realm vs. Realm now? Awesome. And, experience gain is doubled in the original world and dungeon zones! Leveling like this makes WoW look like a grind.

PS. Please give me plats.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where's My Tin Foil?

It is very hard for me not to run out and buy some new tin foil to fashion a very stylish hat out of.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Call of Duty 4 Demo Impressions

I had a chance today to play the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare single-player demo and I was very impressed. The CoD4 demo is truly how all demos should be: fun, intense, and satisfying within itself. So many demos come out these days with a short, pitiful glimpse at what the game offers. Fortunately, this is not the case with CoD4's demo.

The entire Call of Duty series is noted as having some of the best single-player FPS action to date. So far, CoD4 is shaping up to be no different and it's not World War II this time around! CoD4 is set in modern times, hence the Modern Warfare subtitle.

The demo starts the player off in a Middle-eastern setting on a mission to secure a damaged tank. Along for the ride is an entire squad of U.S. Marines. The action starts immediately, and when I say immediately, I mean it. There is literally no time for a player to check their weapon load-out or control schemes before the squad leader is barking out orders to move forward and suppress the enemy's fire.

It doesn't take long to realize that CoD4 emphasizes action and fast game-play over complicated strategy. This forces the player into a "don't think, just react" mode, and that can be uncomfortable at first. My best advice: learn how to duck for cover, because the intense action is what makes this game so fucking great. There is no shame in hiding for a minute to assess and advance on the situation presented.

As the mission progresses, players get a taste for some of the tools available in the full version, such as night vision, vehicles, and a gadzillion different weapons (yes, gadzillion is a made-up word, but it sounds fitting). It is very refreshing to play a demo where I didn't feel the available weapons were restricted in anyway. Every few steps, there was another new weapon to be found.

And the best part of the demo is the fact that it has a verifiable conclusion. Players definitely reach a point at which they can say; "I did something here and I'm glad its finished." I can not wait for the full version of this game, and all of this based on the single-player alone. We haven't even touched the multiplayer yet!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sorry Hellgate

It wasn't bad enough that the recently released Hellgate: London demo sucked, but EA has once again gone and tried to make a buck off of unsuspecting gamers.
...people installing the newly released Hellgate: London demo have noticed that the game includes adware, advertising that is integrated into software. Here's the pertinent section of the license you have to agree to abide by once Hellgate is installed onto your system:

The Software incorporates technology of Massive Incorporated ("Massive") that enables in-game advertising, and the display of other similar in-game objects, which are uploaded temporarily to your personal computer or game console and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Massive may collect your Internet protocol address and other basic anonymous information, and will use this information for the general purposes of transmitting and measuring in-game advertising.
This is the exact reason I did not buy Battlefield 2142 from EA. This is another reason I will never buy, own, or care about Hellgate: London. Don't get me wrong, the recent Hellgate demo didn't exactly win me over, but it didn't completely kill my interest in the game either. However, the coffin is closed now.

Vote with your wallet gamers, say no to Hellgate: London.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mythos Update

The beta for Mythos, Flagship Studio's free-to-play sudo-MMORPG, has a massive update incoming today.
As many of you already know, we'll be taking down the servers at 1:30 to install a new build. You will automatically patch when you log in, so don't worry about re-downloading or anything. This patch fixes many of the inevitable little bugs that cropped up with the huge update. Changelists are posted in the forums so check it out if you're curious as to what's changed. Our downtime should be short - under an hour.
Included in the update is an entirely new hub town and adventure zone, essentially doubling the size of the current Mythos universe. With this comes new levels, a revamped skill system, and tons of new items. I should have some updated impressions within the next few days.

My initial impressions of Mythos can be found here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions - Part III

Part I
Part II

It is ironic to me that Team Fortress came from a primarily "non-team" oriented period of game development. Plus, it came in the form of a non-commercial mod. Now, Team Fortress 2 comes in with a storm of other professionally developed team-based shooters such as Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. It really shows how the FPS market has changed. Team-based games are far more accessible, as previously shown in my impressions, and that accessibility leads to a great game.

One of the key factors in accessibility is feedback to a player. Any game needs to be able to clearly and efficiently inform a player of what is, has, and will be occuring. After playing the Enemy Territory: Quake Wars demo for a while, I had to bring it's accessibility into question. In ET:QW, it was never very obvious what needed to be done or how players were supposed to go about doing it. Not so in TF2.

Every goal is clearly identified in TF2, and while it may take some players a few tries to learn the maps, it is never tough to understand what the goal is. This is all layered into as few game modes as possible, with as few paths to victory as needed. To put it bluntly; TF2 is simple to understand.

My biggest complaint with ET:QW was the state of confusion I was always in and it is fairly apparent which team-based shooter I am currently playing. TF2 and ET:QW both do many things right, but where TF2 really sells itself is in its communication to the player.

When a player dies in TF2, the feedback is immediate. A quick and clear death camera zooms in and displays the player who took them out. The player instantly receives feedback, that hey, a Sniper can shoot them when they run out into the open. Or that going toe to toe with a Heavy, healed by a Medic, may not be and advisable move in the future.

Another form of feedback in TF2 plays right into the graphical style of the various classes. It is very easy, at first glance, to identify what class a player is and take the appropriate actions. A common example; "Hey that's a Heavy, I better find some cover." It is no different than playing Super Mario Bros and deciding a course of action when confronted by a simple Turtle or an incarnation of Bowser himself. Due to the significant difference in appearance, the reaction is immediate.

Part IV
Final Thoughts

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions - Part II

Part I

I left off my initial impressions of Team Fortress 2 stating how there is a class for every type of gamer. However, good players are good players, and can succeed with almost any class. It comes down to learning what advantages a class has and then leveraging them against the weaknesses of an opponent. Overall, twitch skill is important, but isn't going to make a single player unstoppable.

The reason twitch skill will never be top dog in TF2 is for the simple reason that certain classes just won't beat other classes on the grounds of gun play alone. A fast-moving scout is not going to outrun or out gun a properly placed engineer turret. No matter how slow the engineer's reflexes are, the turret takes over the shooting, and that allows a strategic thinker to thrive as an engineer. There are plenty of other examples, but I'll let everyone discover them on their own while playing.

The maps in TF2 are wonderfully imagined and share the same feel as the characters. Like the graphical style, the maps tend to poke fun at the FPS genre in whole. There are massive neon signs with huge arrows pointing towards the next control point. Huge stop signs mark doors that are inaccessible during the current round. A large floating red or blue marker clearly defines a control points status.

So far, the maps have felt very balanced. I have never gone into a game dreading the map I was playing on. Some players in the community are disappointed with the number of maps, but if all the maps remain balanced it is a win in my book. I would much prefer a smaller number of balanced, fun maps.

Certain strategies work well on some maps, like an all-out Scout rush on cp_granary, but for every strategy there is a counter. Being on the receiving end of a scout rush can be maddening, as the match is often over before players begin fighting, but that is where team play comes in. If your team doesn't want to work together, then coordinated tactics like a scout rush will win the day.

Unfortunately, a scout rush is a lot easier to coordinate than a defense against it, which can cause problems for players just looking for fun on a public server. So, the developers do need to take care that some tactics don't become too effective or too easily employed. Just to note, a good engineer or pyro can be a nightmare for a scout rush. Well, that is, until the rest of the scout's team shows up.

Part III
Part IV
Final Thoughts

Monday, October 15, 2007

Linux Updates

Trying to keep up with relevant Linux news is tough, as most of it is just a dog and pony show for the top distributions. Most of that news turns out to be a battle between which camp can come up with a more retarded name for their Linux package (Ubuntu I'm looking at you).

However, we have a very positive Linux gaming tidbit to cover today. BeyondUnreal has a short e-mail confirming Linux client and server files for the already-in-demo-stage Unreal Tournament 3.
Heh, thanks. The dedicated server should be along very soon, but the Linux client won't be here tonight, for those waiting for it. I have set up a mailing list for UT3 linux and mac discussion, and I'll be announcing things there when they become available. Send a blank email to ut3-subscribe@icculus.org to join the list. Thanks, --ryan.
I love this sort of news!

On the non-gaming front, Linux and the Mac OS may both be susceptible to a flaw that Windows is currently in the process of patching. Instead of trying to do the tech dance, I'll just quote the relevant information:
In fact, Nathan McFeters, one of the researchers who has been studying the problem most closely says he hopes to present more details on how other Unix-based operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X may also be susceptible to what are known as URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) protocol handler flaws at the Toorcon hacking conference, being held next week in San Diego.
Well that is all I have for right now, so please enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions

I normally try to post my initial impressions of a game as soon as I am done playing it for the first few times. I am pretty good about getting into a play, post, play, post rhythm.

However, for Team Fortress 2 I have been fairly silent with my initial impressions. Why? Because it is such a great game that I don't want to waste a single second blogging instead of playing! I do have a few minutes now, so without further ado, my first impressions of Team Fortress 2.

The first thing any player will note about TF2 is the graphical styling. It is stylized and cartoonish in nature, but that is what makes it so great. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun (a curiously refreshing gaming opinion site), Valve developer Charlie Brown stated:
Funny stuff just happens. So when we started, we knew what kind of weapons we wanted, we knew the physics, we knew we had really fast movements speeds and not all our weapons were realistic, and so it was pretty easy to see during testing that these funny moments happened way more frequently than they did in our other games. That was one of the reasons we chose this art style in the first place. We said, let’s just embrace the exaggerated funny things that happen. We used that to our advantage.
With over the top graphical stylings, comes over to top gameplay. Gameplay is definitely where TF2 shines. At the base, it is a class based shooter that attempts to meld several unique play styles into a team setting. Every class has a job to perform and in most cases, when that job isn't performed, the team knows it.

The best part of the class system is that there is a class for every level of gamer. Players do not need to be twitch gaming superstars to have fun or be competitive in TF2. I have friends from every corner of the gaming universe playing this game and they all are finding a class that fits them.

Not being able to shoot straight makes a player find other avenues for success and in TF2 that often leads to a better team player. This is a refreshing change of pace from the pinpoint click fests found in other FPS games. The point I want to emphasis is that TF2 is not a shooter for shooters, it is a shooter for everyone.

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Final Thoughts

Thursday, October 11, 2007

EA Purchases Bioware

Holy fuck, EA To Acquire BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios.
REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced an agreement with Elevation Partners to acquire VG Holding Corp. -- the owner of both BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios. This acquisition gives EA a strong competitive position in key genres in interactive entertainment: action, adventure and role-playing games. The two studios have been recognized for creating some of the highest-quality games in the industry.

BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios have ten franchises under development, including six wholly owned games. BioWare Corp. is currently developing the highly anticipated Mass Effect, which will be published by Microsoft in November, and is in the early development stages of a massively multiplayer online game. Pandemic Studios is redefining open-world games with its upcoming Mercenaries 2: World in Flames™ and Saboteur™, in addition to several unannounced projects.
This one is completely out of left field. This really makes me want to run and grab that tinfoil hat I tossed in the closet. The main question I have, did EA buy them for their upcoming online games or for their ass-kicking single-player games?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Orange Box

The Orange Box, from Valve, deserves all the 10/10 reviews that Halo 3 paid to get. IGN only gave it a 9.5/10.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Tomorrow

Valve has confirmed that the Orange Box will be available tomorrow in stores and that pre-purchasers through Steam will have the game unlocked "shortly after midnight" Pacific Time on October 10.

The most interesting part of this package for me is Team Fortress 2 (TF2). The game is already receiving rave reviews. The pre-order beta was so successful that it flat-out crashed Steam, Valve's digital distribution and community software. The gaming news industry may still be ogling over Halo 3, but Team Fortress 2 is where the real multiplayer FPS action will be found this year.

FPS games are just better on the PC. Period. No discussion needed. If you want proof, plug the best Xbox Halo players into a PC through a Microsoft Xbox Controller and watch an average PC gamer, with keyboard and mouse, wipe the floor with them. Computers gave birth to the FPS, and console gamers damn well better remember to respect their elders.

Anyways, I will hopefully be playing tomorrow with my pre-order. If you will be getting the game, lets hook up and frag out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Hate People

I absolutely hate people that try and argue that World of Warcraft's Player vs. Player (PvP) is balanced. It is not, will never be, and can never be. Why can it never be? Gear, levels, and most of all because it is a class based system revolving around the heal, damage, and tank trinity.

It is inevitable anytime that I have a bad day in World of Warcraft that I get into an argument about its PvP balance. The conversations almost always end in the infamous quote: "lrn2play". Translated, it means "Learn to play your class better."

Well, I play a Shaman and have played one since the late stages of WoW's beta. I play my shaman better than most and have continually topped DPS and kill charts in game to the amazement of supposed "top DPS" classes. I do all of this without conforming to the "flavor of the month" Shaman builds or gear setups. I do it because I know what works for me as a player and build accordingly.

Today, the "lrn2play" phrase was thrown out by someone claiming to have a level 70 Shaman. According to them, shamans are a good class and shamans like me just need to "lrn2play". To top it off, the player was actually playing a Mage at the time, and said that anytime I want a lesson about Shamans just let them know.

This threw me over the edge, because I have more time on my Shaman than most people have playing World of Warcraft. I played a Shaman before this certain player even knew World of Warcraft existed. Sure, I'm not level 70, but that is because I don't chase expansions and levels on a hardcore pace anymore. However, level should NEVER be taken as an indication of a player's skill.

Getting back to WoW's PvP balance, I just want to state that I fully feel that WoW has turned into the most unbalanced PvP game on the market. There is no game that has worse class balance. No, not even Dark Ages of Camelot was/is this bad. DAoC had a single major class imbalance and only for a brief period. WoW has had a class balance issue since day one and has done nothing to improve it, and Blizzard couldn't improve it even if they wanted too.

WoW is a gear driven game at max level. It is a level driven game until that point. Thrown into the mix is the fact that it is a class based game. So, WoW's issues start to appear as certain classes scale better with gear (Warriors) and other classes have almost no reliance on gear at all (Warlocks). Warriors, for example, are powder puffs until they are sufficiently geared. On the other hand, warlocks are a terror regardless of their gear level and just become more insane the farther they climb.

These are very base examples, but this is a rant and I don't feel like going deeper. Anyone that plays WoW knows these two examples are spot on and the only people that argue otherwise are Warriors and Warlocks.

This is getting long, so let me sum it up. By observing the results of Arena matches, any player can determine which classes are overpowered. On top of this, any player and most definitely Blizzard should be able to realize the overpowered combination of classes and skills. But all of this is mute data, because World of Warcraft will never change from a gear centric game and therefore can never hope for a semblance of PvP class balance. Without an "end" to gear levels there can never be a point to start balancing.

Blizzard will continue to tweak classes here and there. Sometimes it will improve a class. Sometimes it will not. Eventually, it will lead to a class becoming overpowered and maybe that is the best thing that can happen to World of Warcraft. Instead of having a few dominating classes and skills, WoW can have a 100% insanely overpowered epeen fest that ends fights even faster than the current average of 30 seconds.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Turbine Fires Jeff Anderson?

News from Warcry:
Turbine has undergone a corporate shake-up, according to sources within the company and some quiet edits to their own website. The official company page now lists Jim Crowley as President and CEO, removing all mention of Jeff Anderson.
I guess that is what Mr. Anderson gets for basically lying about Lord of the Rings Online's massive subscription numbers and LotRO's complete and utter dominance over that other MMORPG. I don't know much about Jeff Anderson and I don't care too. Turbine was blessed to work with two of the most important fantasy IPs in history, Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings. Having played both games, it is my opinion that they failed and someone has to pay.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Steam Community Group Formed

I have gone ahead and created a Steam Community Group entitled Heartless Gamer. If you have a Steam account feel free to go over and join up so we can keep tabs on each other.

This is mainly a test to evaluate the value and functionality of a Steam Community Group. I have bigger ideas than just this group, but I need to start somewhere.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tabula Rasa Delayed

Bad news for any Tabula Rasa fans, it is being delayed; again. The plan now is to launch Tabula Rasa at the end of October to pre-order customers and a live launch on November 2.

The development team wants some more time to test a recent overhaul of the crafting system and give beta testers the chance to test out the new high level areas. In any case, it means another delay added onto a long list of delays that have kept Tabula Rasa out of gamer's hands.

Personally, this kills any chance I would be interested in playing the title. Team Fortress 2 is almost officially here (it is in pre-order beta atm) and if a certain other beta invitation ever goes through I will have another MMOG to play around in. Sorry, Tabula Rasa. Wrong place, wrong time, and a complete failure to turn me on.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Media Does Not Understand Gaming

The mainstream media does not understand gaming and it is truly sad when they try. Click here or view below for proof.


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