Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gamestop Pre-order Details for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

First, Gamestop e-mailed a release date and server-up time announcement for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
“Please Note: Servers will not go live until 10:00am EST on 9/18/08.”
Now, they've emailed details about a pre-order deal that gets players into the thought-to-be only for collector's edition orders Head Start event.
Reserve Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning and receive:

Open Beta Access: Be one of the first players to experience the glory of battle and the thrill of WAR! Open Beta will run from September 3, 2008 at 10am EST until September 12, 2008 at 10am EST. The Open Beta will level capped and content restricted.

Live Game Head Start: Reserve customers will get a 3-day head start on the battlefields of WAR. The Live Game Head Start begins on September 15, 2008 at 10am EST.

Bonus In-Game Items: Equip your characters for the journey to the frontlines with Rittenbach’s Portable Camp and Sentinel’s Amber Band.

Universal Fighting System Battle Deck: The Emperor Karl Franz and Tchar’zanek, dread Champion of Tzeentch, go head-to-head in this exclusive collectible card game deck from Fantasy Flight Games.

ONLINE/IN-STORE PICKUP CUSTOMERS: You will receive a code for the bonus items. Please provide a valid email address at time of purchase.

STORE CUSTOMERS: All bonus items will be available in store at time of reservation. Items available in store week of August 4. Please call ahead to confirm availability.
August 4th shall be very interesting.

Oh, and a card game? Interesting, I thought that was SOE's thing. Oh well.

Word of the Day: Hypocrisy

It would be a sin if Mythic charged players, in the form of a paid expansion, for the four cities and classes removed recently from beta.

It would be a sin if Blizzard charged players, in the form of a paid expansion, for hero classes that have been talked about since beta.

See what I did there? Which statement can be found circulating the MMO blogosphere currently?

Sadly, the MMO blogsphere is in a state of hypocrisy. Loud mouths are shouting off left and right that it would be absolute heresy for Mythic to charge for items perceived to be cut from beta. However, no one, aside from myself, is talking about Blizzard charging for an expansion that will introduce the first epic hero class to World of Warcraft (WoW), something discussed since WoW's beta.

I recently listened to the Shut Up We're Talking (SUWT) #30 podcast where the hosts used some very choice words about the idea that Mythic could charge for the extra classes and cities later in an expansion. Yet, in the same show, the hosts discussed how other, older MMOs need to add "carrots on a stick" to their expansions to actively promote players to buy them and therefore continue playing.

Not to mention, they discuss how MMOs need to be careful to ensure expansions don't become treadmills, continually wiping the previous accomplishments of players out. Yet, the idea that Mythic has the exact content to create a horizontal expansion, which would add to the game without taking away, that they would charge players for is absolutely preposterous to the show hosts.

To all of the SUWT hosts:
"Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins."- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Anyways, moving on. Fortunately, for the WAR faithful, Mythic has come out and stated that they do not intend to release the content in a paid expansion.
Folks,

I would be very, very angry, how’s that?

Now as to my reasoning. First, during the development process of most creative ventures, things get cut and changed. That happens in games, books, films, television, etc. Secondly, for examples, things such as scenes that are cut from a movie are then are put into a “Director’s Cut” or “Special Edition” etc. I don’t think that it is wrong for a filmmaker to cut things out of his/her own film in order to make the film great and then offer them on a special DVD. Now, I wish they would put them on the same DVD as the original film is on but I have no real problem with the practice. While some people may disagree, it is a widespread practice and one that I don’t have any problem with morally, ethically, etc. Making a game, especially an MMO, is no different in that respect. We cut out things, change things, etc. during a development process and when the development process is three years long, well, even more can get cut and changed. However:

We have been talking about these classes and the cities for quite a while. And while I absolutely believe that we have the right, if we so choose, from every ethical, moral and legal perspective to cut them out totally or put them in the game in a paid expansion, that doesn’t mean that we should do that. We’ve always tried to hold ourselves to a higher standard. No, we’re not perfect, yes we make mistakes and yes, yes, yes we are also a business but just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should do something. In this case, what we want to do and what we will try our best to do is to make sure that if/when we bring back those classes and these cities (sorry for the if, don’t read more into it, just being careful) that players will not have to buy them from us as part of a paid expansion but rather just part of the content updates that we did so well for DAoC.

And that’s why I would be very angry because we tried to do something and for some reason(s) we couldn’t make it happen. And that always pisses me off…

Mark
But let me guess, Mark Jacobs just left the door open for Mythic to commit the sin. That's fine. I'm not a hypocrite and have no issues paying for an expansion that would feature the content perceived to be cut from WAR, just as I would have no problem buying Wrath of the Lich King to play the first Hero Class.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Massively Overrated

One quote is all it took to tip my anger against Massively.com:
"With recent news of other games opting to release "on time" with minimal content, we can't help but scratch our heads at this type of situation. It's been asked a million times before, but we'll ask it again: would you rather have a partial game released now, or a complete game released later?"
Other games being specifically Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. They can call me a raging fanboy, and probably will. I am sick of this constant belief that WAR is somehow releasing an unfinished game because some people had promises magically transplanted into their brain.

I think it is due time that I give up reading Massively. Between the gratuitous self-linking and biased news sniping, I would begin to believe Massively a professional news organization.

I apologize to the better Massively.com posters, who take care to post actual news in news postings, not biased snipes based on uneducated guesswork.

Oh, and I'm not the only one. Keen found a pretty wonderful stinker on Massively as well.
“WAR strikes me as WoW mechanics wrapped in different lore plus a couple of new features. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Clearly Blizzard got a lot right with WoW, but it doesn’t do much for those of us looking for that “new” experience again.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Thoughts: His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1)


Title: His Majesty's Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History
Publisher: Del Rey (March 28, 2006)
Quick-Hit Thought: Fast, good read for those interested.

His Majesty's Dragon is the first book in a series by Naomi Novik that injects dragons into the Napoleonic era. The main character, a British Naval captain, finds himself in a pinch when his crew captures a dragon egg in transit to France. Pinched further by the egg hatching and the baby dragon being able to speak, the captain is pressed into harnessing the creature and therefore becoming bonded to it. The story follows the captain, named Laurence, on his transition into the British aerial corps with his extraordinary black dragon, Tremeraire.

The story was compelling to me as I am both a history fan and a member of the Air Force. As a member of the Air Force I picked up on the subtlety levied between the various British military branches, during a time in real history that navies dominated. The British Navy is rigid and structured, where as the aerial corps is often portrayed as open minded.

In the corps, women serve equally as men, subordinates are more likely to protest, and all because the dragons are the most important military tool available in the book's alternate history. This makes for some very fresh reading as Laurence transitions from rigid sea captain to rigid dragon pilot in a less-than-rigid aerial corps. I actually had to laugh a few times in the book at the way aviators are treated versus the ground crews that maintain the dragons, as it is very similar to how pilots and ground crew are treated in my experiences within the Air Force.

The book delights for the history buff as well. I haven't checked the time line of the book against actual events, but all seems to be in order from a cursory glance. The rigid life of the British Navy is well detailed and much thought is put into how the various dragon breeds fit into the period and available technology.

My criticisms of the book start with the action sequences, which are short and not very gripping. The characters are wonderfully built up, but feel fairly forgotten in favor of dragon slashing during battle. Unfortunately, the focus of the books is not on action, but more of how society and the military has formed around the presence of dragons. It is equitable to my experiences with the dragons of the Pern series, where the author spends a lot of time crafting a wonderful dragon-based society instead of detailing the raw damage that the beasts can deploy in battle.

Secondly, time passing is often left up to the classic "Six weeks later" approach. I'm a subscriber to "the journey is just as important as the destination" line of thinking and the book falls down on that point. However, this does make it for quick reading, which is always a plus when enough detail is leveled to ensure graceful flow.

Overall, His Majesty's Dragon is a pleasure to read for history and dragon buffs alike. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who was uninterested in both, but for any casual fans in either area I give a hearty thumbs up.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Movie Ever?

The phrase, "Best Movie Ever", appears thousands of times in the IMDb reviews for the new Batman thriller, The Dark Knight. Fans and critics are gushing praise for this movie, citing mainly the late Heath Ledger's performance as the iconic Joker as justification for the best movie title. However, there are a few questions I have to ask if The Dark Knight is going to be treated as Hollywood perfection.

Be forewarned, SPOILERS ahead!

Question 1: What motivates the Joker? He shows up in the first scene, robbing a mobster-controlled bank. His actions against the mob are never justified in the movie, other than that he wants Gotham to have a better class of criminals. The writer of the movie cited The Killing Joke graphical novel as motivation for this iteration of the Joker, yet I don't see any of that back story coming through.

Question 2: Where is Rachel Dawes' body? It would only make sense that Harvey Dent would want some sort of evidence of her demise before going completely against everything he ever stood for. There was mounting reason for Dent to go Two-face, but his conversation with the Joker in no way sold the flip-flop of character.

Question 3: Is Harvey Dent, aka Two-face dead? He fell a relatively short distance, which didn't seem to kill anyone else during the course of the movie. Actually, Batman specifically planned that height not to kill anyone earlier in the movie! Plus, the conversation Batman and Gordon have leans towards him being shuffled off as a hero, not a dead hero.

Question 4: The police are proven throughout the movie to be completely corrupt. Yet, once the Joker is captured at the end of movie, Batman leaves him tied up to be arrested by the possibly corrupt police force. What makes this even more asinine, is that the Joker just orchestrated an escape from the most secure police stronghold in Gotham, so why the hell is Batman not escorting the Joker off to a privately, Wayne Enterprises funded, holding facility?

Question 5: The Joker easily sends the people of Gotham into a frenzy, who in turn start trying to kill the Wayne Enterprises snitch. Yet, when those same generic citizens are put on a ferry and faced with certain death, they calmly take a vote whether they should blow up or get blown up by some convicted felons? Oh, and since when do super hero movie felons act rationally?

Question 6: Why is a completely out of place piece of technology, the cell phone sonar, added onto the end of the movie? It really ruined the movie for me, and turned a very key situation for Batman from dynamic and unpredictable, to canned and planned.

Question 7: Where did the League of Shadows disappear to from the first movie? Funny how the bad guys always put their eggs into a single, poorly planned basket. Kind of like the Joker's ill-fated ferry demonstration.

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved the movie. I thought it was a great sequel and deserves consideration as one of the better super hero movies. The performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker was phenomenal. His iteration of the Joker will be the definition of movie villain for many years to come. However, I actually think his performance slightly detracted from the movie, because it was so far above other key players.

Two-face, aka Harvey Dent, was the true villain, ironically portrayed hero, of the movie, but was completely trampled by the exceptional Joker played by Ledger. The performance by Ledger led perfectly into the Two-face transformation, but the plot was just not there to capitalize upon it. The new Rachel Dawes basically phoned in her performance, only marginally better than the flat Katie Holmes of Batman Begins. Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine were all solid, as they always are.

Overall, I think there are enough super hero movie traps that The Dark Knight falls into, that it can't be considered for the best movie of all time. The loose ends that scream sequel, the obvious writing off of characters that didn't sign on for the next movie, the use of super-advanced super-technology to save the day, and the complete lack of solid conclusions to any of the character's plot lines all spell good summer blockbuster that is worth the price of admission and a review on my blog.

The Dark Knight is not the best movie ever, not even close, but don't let that stop you from going to see it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Surveys, the Silent Truth

The fall-out from the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning class cuts continues, but Mythic is not sitting idly by. They are staunchly defending their decisions, unlike so many companies that make decisions and tell the community to shut up. The part that amazes me about all of this, is that so much of the change was directed by Mythic's stellar beta feedback systems.

One of the tools being used is surveys, which allow beta testers to provide feedback immediately from inside the beta test, right after an event occurs. A system I hope will make it into launch. I've argued in the past that the feedback mechanisms in beta tests are often lackluster and generic. Most games just put up a forum, e-mail address, and a standard feedback form. All of which are susceptible to the loud minority taking over.

Not so with surveys, and this quote from Mark Jacobs, WAR's top dog, really highlights the power of a good feedback:
I am really disappointed in losing the Choppa. Choppas are great. The Choppa rocks. However, in certain terms, the class wasn’t rocking. It’s so funny, because even on our Beta boards people are saying, "I cannot believe you’re taking it out. I know the feedback wasn’t great on it, I know that it wasn’t exciting, but why are you taking it out?" Well, that’s the whole point! We’re taking it out because we have gotten this kind of feedback, because we know that people aren’t playing them.

This happens all the time on boards. You get a small percentage of the population acting like they speak for the entire population. However, this time, we’ve got the data. We know just how many people were playing the Choppa or the Hammerer. We know just how long they took to level. We have the surveys. We have all this data going in. There was one post on the forums that said, "I know I have provided a lot of hard feedback on the class…" Well, that's the whole point!
Anyone arguing that Mythic is haphazardly, at the last minute, changing key game mechanics is wrong. Mythic is measured and consistent with their changes; with copious amounts of data to back up their decisions publicly. The only lacking aspect has been the rather slow release of information, which should pretty much be done now that Guild Beta is in full swing.

I truly love WAR that much more every time I read interviews from the development team. It is refreshing to see a development team that has been around a while, actually using the knowledge that has been gained through a dozen failed projects, along with the data gained from great in-house feedback mechanisms.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Knights Of The Online Republic

One simple quote has brought the Internet to its collective knees:
“We’ve got two of the most compelling MMOs in the industry in development,” said Riccitiello. The first title, based on the Warhammer property, will launch soon. “And the one that people are dying for us to talk to them about — in partnership with Lucas, coming out of BioWare, which is, I think, quite possibly the most anticipated game, full stop, for the industry at the point when we get closer to telling you about it.”

Does Riccitiello mean the oft rumored Knights of the Old Republic Online? “Yes,” he said.
MMO gaming has NEVER looked better. Anyone that thought that the industry died with World of Warcraft was dead, dead wrong.

Busted Punk

It never fails. Every time I talk up a piece of software, such as Punkbuster becoming part of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), it comes back and kicks me in the balls. Since Mark Jacobs announced that WAR would be using Punkbuster, I've been out on the message boards giving my side of the argument. Punkbuster has never really given me problems, aside from an issue with Quake Wars: Enemy Territory's second demo and a brief stint with a Call of Duty 4 patch. I've dealt with Punkbuster on both the client and server side.

My argument all fell apart when I went to play Call of Duty 4 yesterday.

Punkbuster Failed to Initialize.
Punkbuster Failed to Initialize.
Punkbuster Failed to Initialize.
Punkbuster Failed to Initialize.
You were kicked for PB INIT FAILURE.

No amount of firewall finagling or anti-virus witchery did the trick. All the changes and tweaks suggested by the official Punkbuster support team didn't help. In the end, I was left doing what I always do with computer problems that befuddle me: Google.

A few clicks through Google in search of PB INIT FAILURE fixes and I came across a posting including a download for a new, and supposedly working, PB folder. I downloaded the folder, deleted my old PB folder, and replaced it with the new one. Problem solved. No re-installs, no updating, no nothing. Just a working Punkbuster.

Now I'm curious what Punkbuster support will say about my fix.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happiness Doesn't Last Forever

When I was a child, I remember watching "The Majik Hour", a local Wisconsin TV show featuring Don Majkowski, the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers at the time. I was a bit sad, as Don Majkowski had been injured in a game, and the show was going off the air. Some young quarterback, named Brett Favre, was going to take over as the starter. Seventeen years later, I'm the biggest Brett Favre fan most people will ever meet.

Brett Favre has given the Packers and their fans sixteen great years. Last year, against most predictions, the Packers came within inches of the Super Bowl. So, it was a big surprise that Favre called it quits and retired. However, I don't think many believed that he was actually retiring. The Packers needed an answer from him, and Brett gave them the one that fit the moment: retirement.

The Packers are in a transition period and moves have been made for years to ensure the club could stay a float when Favre did retire. Those moves came to fruition after Favre announced retirement. Up until that point, the Packers team belonged to Brett Favre. Sadly, it is clear that is no longer the case. Favre didn't just retire from the Packers, he retired any claim to leadership within the organization that he had gained over the past two decades.

In the entirety of the Favre retirement saga, Favre NEVER lost the fans. However, as more revelations come to light and Brett fleshes out more of the troubles he has had with the Ted Thompson Packers, Brett is losing ground. Favre is going to be gone at some point no matter what, so it is natural for fans to stick with the team. Too many fans are Packers' fans first, Favre fans second.

Favre has handled his career with grace and tact. He has been a role model, not just for NFL quarterbacks, but for sports stars of all games. But not being happy, and facing the possibility of not playing the game he loves, Brett's hand has been forced. He is going to throw his weight around and try to get what he wants. I don't blame him, but it is not going to look good in the eyes of those that have supported him for so long. They want Favre's legacy to end as honorably as possible, and the current saga is anything but.

I caution Brett Favre. The fans booed you on the way in, they can and will boo you on the way out.

Without the Packers organization and fans, he is going to find the landscape far colder to him than last year's NFC championship game at Lambeau Field. History is a great teacher, and it has taught us that Favre's comeback is going to fail. However, if there is one guy that can make history, it is Favre.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Go Mythic, Go!

Not resting on their laurels, Mythic is firing back against the naysayers claiming that 2/3 of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning's (WAR) content has been cut. They went even as far as putting it all into an Official Capital Cities FAQ.
So you cut 4 of the 6 cities, does this mean I will be enjoying WAR with only 1/3 of its original content?

We did not cut 2/3 of our content; far from it. Before, when our goal was to do six of them, WAR cities were the typical places to go for player services and to just hang out. By focusing all of our energy and effort into two capitals, we have managed to add so much more content than we would have if we had continued pushing to launch all six. Our capital cities are now packed with content and places to explore including: Guild taverns, dungeons, quests, PQs, King encounters, player services, and the most exciting thing of all--now they act as battlegrounds to fight over and protect when under attack. Beyond this, the list goes on and on. WAR now has more content than ever before, and by focusing our efforts we have been able to create a unique experience far beyond our plans when we first set out to make a great game.
Grab a drink and some snacks, this is not a short read.

Also, a great quote out of the FAQ about the platform for future content that Mythic is building.
Do you think you’ll ever revisit the other four capital cities?

Of course! One of the most exciting things about WAR is that while creating a great game for launch, we have also built a solid foundation to expand on for years to come. This foundation has provided us with a perfect canvas for future live content and expansions just as we did for Dark Age of Camelot. We want to see how players handle our first two capital cities worth of content and iterate on that feedback for future cities.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Incomplete, Content

Incomplete

Prior to the Lord of the Rings movies launching, back during filming, word leaked out that the core story was being altered to include a love story between Arogorn and Arwen. Nerd rage ensued, as this was blasphemy to the Lord of the Rings faithful. Peter Jackson, director of the trilogy, eventually made the decision to cut most of the love story that had been added to the script, because it wasn't working out. The love story remained part of the movie, but no where near as involved as it was originally scripted. Guess what, no one screamed that the films were "incomplete". Actually, most people would agree that they were pretty damn good movies, even with just a third of the love story included.

Fast forward to this week's announcements from Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR). People are screaming that what is being left on the cutting room floor will now make the end product "incomplete". Really? Just like the Lord of the Rings movies were left incomplete in the wake of a major plot theme being cut? Peter Jackson had a great saying for the pre-release fans: "Don't worry, it'll be in the Collector's Edition DVDs!". Same as Mark Jacobs saying; "Folks, we'll work on it, and if we get it right, we'll put it in."

Fortunately for WAR fans, an MMO has far more luxury to add in major additions later down the line. However, like movies, MMOs have to come out of the gates swinging to capture an audience before another movie does. There are plenty of people looking for a new movie this year and they will only be satisfied by a movie that makes it to the credits.

Content

It really enrages me to hear people claim that 2/6 of WAR's content will now be missing, so I want to take a few moments to talk about content.

Starting off, capital cities in WAR will be broken down into five different stages and grow with the playerbase. Yes, cities in WAR will level. A major point to this argument is that each new city level will increase the amount of content available to players of BOTH realms, because once captured, enemies gain access to that content as well. In reality, there will actually be ten different capital cities worth of content to explore in WAR. With the announcements, Mythic clarified that they will be adding even more content to the cities now that there is only two, on top of polishing what was already there. How that message is being translated into a loss of 2/6 of the games content is beyond me.

World of Warcraft's guild system is nothing more than a chat channel and a members panel. WAR's guild system will have forty levels, guild standards, a shared guild tavern, guild-claimable keeps, in-game guild calendars, and both of the items mentioned for WoW.

WoW has nine player classes. WAR will have twenty. The "classes are just mirrors of each other in WAR" argument falls flat. If classes were simply mirrors, none of them would be getting cut from release. WAR's classes will have similarities, but all will be unique within themselves, with their own flavor.

WoW's player skill system has three paths available per class, as will WARs. However, in WAR players will be able to gain additional skills from the Tome of Knowledge and Realm vs. Realm ranks.

Oh, and WAR will have the Tome of Knowledge, which Blizzard is trying to match with an achievement system in Wrath of the Lich King. However, we've seen the Tome of Knowledge and it houses ten times the potential of an achievement system being tacked onto an aging game.

WoW has Arena rankings, which followed a failed and abandoned Honor Rank system. WAR will have eighty planned levels of RvR ranks. a system Mythic has perfected over a decade of game development.

WoW has four PvP battlegrounds. WAR will have some as well, rumored to be several more than that available in WoW.

WAR has a Campaign System, culminating in a Capital City siege and capture phase. WoW will have one zone in Wrath of Lich King designed to be an open world siege.

I could go on and continue this vane argument, but what I'm trying to get at, is that we should be standing here and asking if WoW is "complete", because by the measuring stick being leveled at WAR, it sure the hell isn't. It isn't even close. Of course that can't be possible for the Holy Grail of MMOs, so the measuring stick is obviously flawed. I actually agree with that assessment, because the measuring stick is broken. However, as broken as it is, it will be used to measure WAR while WoW sits idly by, immune to the same criticism.

If WAR pulls off what has been SHOWN already, it will be launching on a content platform far more diverse and unified than anything offered by WoW. It will take time to grow that content in quantity, but that is fine when Mythic sticks to quality first. In the end, that approach to quality will keep players interested, just as it has kept players interested in WoW for four years.

What these cuts for WAR tell me is that Mythic is dedicated to sticking to what works and making sure it s done as best as possible, just as Blizzard does. Last I checked, that worked out pretty damn well for Blizzard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning - Told You So!

Sad news, Mythic has announced that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will only feature two capital cities at launch, cut back from the original plan of six.
MMORPG.com has learned that a decision has been made to reduce the number of Capital Cities at launch from six down to two. Altdorf (Empire) and Inevitable City (Chaos) will stand at launch as the Capitals not only of their race, but of their faction as well.

“A number of months ago,” Jacobs began, “we sat down and looked at where we were with our Capital Cities and we looked at what we were doing with Altdorf and Inevitable, we looked at the Greenskin home, the Dwarf home and we went ‘there’s an awful lot to do here and there are some issues‘.”
This will allow the development team to focus on making the two included cities the best they can possibly be. Which is a good thing if you've been following Mythic's immense plans for how cities will operate.
Capital cities are more than just “a place for people to hang out, buy stuff and run around making Chuck Norris jokes,” says Jacobs. He went on to talk about the detailed nature of these cities and how, no matter how good you or your team is, you’re not going to get it 100% correct on your first time around. Starting with two cities will allow the team to learn from their mistakes so that when the other four are incorporated, they will be better and the devs won’t have made the same mistakes six times over.
Secondly, some classes have been cut from the game.
“Four of the classes that we’ve been working on, we just couldn’t get great,” he continued. “We looked at them and we said these careers are just not great… and we tried, and they weren’t coming out well.”

This left them with a decision similar to the one that they were left with for the cities, do they continue and try to get it, or do they shelve them? In the end, after looking at the metric data that they have been collecting throughout the beta process, they saw that there were four careers that just weren’t working for the players.

“We tried,” Jacobs said, “we tried to see if we could make them better and we just couldn’t make them great. So we had a choice. Do we put in some non-great careers just because they are iconic, or we cut them out and put them in post-launch if we can get them right, or do we not put them in at all?”

Classes Cut:

Choppa (Greenskin)
Hammerer (Dwarf)
Blackguard (Dark Elf)
Knight of the Blazing Sun (Empire)
I for one am not surprised. I knew for a long time that the brick wall of information being let out officially was due to something large not being finished and heading towards the chopping block.

I just want to say: told you so.

Anyways, I am still a WAR fanboy. It pains me to say, but the game is in beta, and that always means news like this is around the corner. Amazing what happens when developers stick to their guns, because most developers *cough* Funcom *cough* would just launch with half-assed items that didn't work.

Bravo Mythic for dealing with these issues now instead of after launch!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Perfect Analogy

Sometimes, an analogy fits a point of view perfectly.

Age of Conan is to "The Fantastic Four" as Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is to "The Dark Knight".

Thanks Satarious!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Covering the Gap

Its no big secret that I am desperately waiting for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR). Hopefully, later this year it will launch!

I am hopefully done with World of Warcraft forever, unless WAR epic fails (which I doubt), but I have to bridge the gap until WAR releases. I don't want to buy any new games, and I don't want to get involved in any game that requires too much time investment to advance a character.

That leaves me with the action games I already own. I've never really stopped playing Team Fortress 2 or Call of Duty 4, and I've recently jumped back into Day of Defeat: Source. I am also tempted to reinstall Battlefield 2 and its expansions, as I stopped playing it due to burn out more than from hating the game (though I still hate aircraft whores).

So, that is where I will be for the next few months hopefully. That is, unless a beta invite comes knocking.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Team Fortress 2 Achievements and Unlockables

First the Medic. Then the Pyro. Soon, the Heavy. Team Fortress 2 (TF2), an every-man's FPS, has been making me nostalgic for MMO class nerfs and buffs. Every player is a fan of a certain class. It is their class and they can not wait for it to get "updated". Unfortunately, "updates" for one class, are nerfs for another. This holds true in most class-based MMOs and TF2.

Unlockable Weapons

I was quite excited to hear about unlockable weapons for TF2. The game was great already and this was just icing on the cake. TF2 was a complete game at launch. These unlockables were not used in a "patch the game in later" approach that so many MMO failures use. However, Valve has committed a sin that many MMO developers have, and I am a bit miffed on how the unlockable weapons are being rolled out.

Valve decided that unlockables would be rolled out one class at a time. This is reminiscent of MMOs that often choose to update classes one at a time. As one class gets "updated", the other classes suffer. Fortunately, for TF2, the classes are pretty strong and well-balanced to begin with.

Unfortunately, whatever TF2 class receives an update becomes overplayed and it doesn't take long for the "X is overpowered" cries to begin. When the Pyro, the first offensive class to receive unlocks, update came out, every server was filled with Pyros, all trying to unlock the new weapons. As the zerg of Pyros began upgrading their weapons, many players felt that Pyros were unfairly made overpowered.

I play a lot of TF2 and I strongly feel the new Pyro weapons are not overpowered. The problem is that there are a million Pyros running around and when a player constantly dies to the same new weapon, it feels overpowered. The servers are starting to settle down as most die-hard Pyro players have received their goodies, but it will all start over when the Heavy class is updated.

Achievements

In order to unlock new weapons, players must complete class-specific achievements. Sticking with the over-the-top theme of TF2, the Pyro achievements were a riot. Like the Medic achievements, the majority of the Pyro achievements take actual skill and teamwork to achieve, but an ugly truth hides just under the surface.

The ugly truth is that Valve has no system of official ranked servers and most players simply go to "achievement" servers to cheat. On an achievement server, specifically built for a set of class achievements, it takes a matter of hours to complete all achievements. A feat that would take hundreds of hours in normal play.

To me, this completely invalidates the entire achievement system. Worst of all, the weapon unlocks are directly tied into the achievements system. In order to unlock the new weapons, a player must complete a set number of achievements. Players aren't stupid and achievement servers are big business.

The argument comes up that achievements are a personal goal, but I don't give a damn if a player can say to themselves: "I know I didn't cheat". No one else will care and it won't matter when the player that exploited runs them down with a Level 10 Backburner. Either players cheat, or they suffer at the hands of those that do.

The class updates should be a boon to all players, not just those that cheat. This could easily have been achieved by allowing everyone access to the weapons, completely removing the unlock system. The weapon unlocks should have never been tied to the achievements, as it just promotes the rampant cheating that is occurring.

Valve desperately needed an Official Server system in place prior to these achievements going live. Without a means to control how achievements are gained, there is no merit in any of them. Lack of integrity is wont on the Internet, especially where frags and pwning are concerned.

Its a sad state of affairs for an otherwise great game. The achievements and new weapons themselves are brilliant, but the achievement/unlock system as a whole is just another sad excuse for cheaters to prosper over honest players.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Meh

Meh, Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) gets its own card game. This is something that would of been awesomely cool at launch, but feels completely tacked on now. Plus, Sabaac is the penultimate card game for any Star Wars role-playing game, and no company seems to be willing to touch it. I honestly had wet dreams when it was mentioned that SWG would possibly have Sabaac in game at some point. Sadly it never happened.

I am not going to blast SOE too hard on this one. I am a sucker for card games and the market needs more of them on official online platforms that don't cost an arm and a leg to participate in (I'm looking at you MtG Online).

I've said it before; these sort of projects are the ones I can bear coming out of SOE. I just don't like the tacked on feeling of most of them. Can't one of them be launched on its own platform without a tie-in to a B-rate MMO?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Woot

My all-time favorite console RPG, Chrono Trigger, is headed to the Nintendo DS.

Take that Diablo III.

For posterity's sake: I have played Chrono Trigger DS before, it was called Chrono Trigger SNES.
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