Thursday, December 31, 2009

In The Year 2010, Heartless' Predictions

Its nearly 2010 and without further hesitation, here are my predictions:

1. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will be sold or shut down by EA.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic will NOT launch this year.

3. Already launched MMOGs, not named World of Warcraft, will have a rough year.

4. Newer, quality F2P games will storm the market and one will challenge WoW for the mainstream playerbase.

5. WoW will remain the king cash cow as the subscription model continues its dominance.


6. Digital distribution will start being taken seriously by market analysts as Steam proves the platform's power on the PC market.

7. Digital distribution will quietly replace boxed sales completely for PC games.

BONUS REAL LIFE PREDICTION: A political uprising will shock the world and the mainstream media will only find out about it after checking their Twitter accounts.  Three days later, they will realize it was simply a mis-spelled #hashtag and re-purposed Youtube videos.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heartless_ Game Review: Borderlands

Borderlands, from Gearbox software, blends FPS with RPG and tickles the loot center in every gamer’s brain. Borderlands is a good game, but misses greatness in every single category. Fortunately, there is a shitload of guns to make up for it.

Borderlands the RPG

Borderlands has all the makings for a great RPG: interesting characters, progression, and a story. Unfortunately, Borderlands is the king of “almost”.

The characters, like Dr Zed, come with great introduction scenes, but are quickly limited to dialogue boxes only. Other NPCs stand still, not moving, and often blend so well into the scenery that players walk by without noticing them. The only characters that stand out are the R2-D2 inspired robots nicknamed "claptraps" and some random chick that appears on screen to provide dribbles of information throughout the player's journey.

The story is fun to think about, but is not a draw for the game. It ends abruptly and does not make use of the characters or game world very well. The world itself will often make a better story than what is being sold by the random chick that pops up on the screen. The pieces are there, but the story is never put together firmly.

Character progression is handled via talent trees where players can specialize their skills in various weapons and skills. It's a well rounded, but average system. Each character recieves their unique class skill at level 5. After that, there were not any milestones that made me feel like I was achieving an important step in my characters life. Weapon skills are raised by using various weapon types

The loot is really the only RPG staple that stands out in Borderlands. It randomizes the look, stats, and effects of each weapon. With any randomized system, there is a lot of junk that is worthless, but getting a rare weapon is a treat. Getting to use that weapon to take down a giant mammoth-like Rakk Hive is icing on the cake.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Ten

The final day of my return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning ended with a resounding thud as my bright wizard ate dirt for the thousandth time at the hands of a Choppa.  To some, the last ten days may seem like an excuse for me to bitch about a game I once supported wholeheartedly.  I want to say up front that I wanted to give WAR a fair shake, even if I didn't have plans on returning to a subscription.   Unfortunately, at the end of the day, WAR is still the same sub-par game I left months ago, even if it has a new zone and better technical performance.

The new positives begin with the endless trial.  This has brought new blood into the game and the newbie zones were hopping.  Whether this is translating into subscriptions is unknown.  My fear is that the experience in a well populated tier 1 zone leaves an impression that can not be held up by tier's 2 and 3.  Players that come off the free endless trial may become bored quickly as the population hits rock bottom once outside of the trial zones.  My suggestion would be to extend the free trial all the way to the end of tier 3.  Yes, that's a lot of game for free, but tier 2 and 3 are a general waste of resources as it is.  Allowing trial players into these tiers will spice life up a bit and give them a glimpse of what the end game of WAR offers in tier 4.

The new positives end with the Land of the Dead.  As I stated, LotD is the model which all tier 4 zones should follow in WAR.  The concept of separate RvR lakes does not work and actively hurts WAR's community as players do not mingle across play styles.  If the principals of LotD (minus the gating mechanic) were to be applied across all tier 4 zones, WAR would be a better game.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Nine (Set pieces)

My ninth day and disapointment in my return to WAR can be summed up by this picture:

That is a tank sitting in the Empire starting zone of Nordland.  It hasn't moved in almost two years (and not a spot of rust anywhere!). 

After-Christmas Sales For Gamers

Update: 14 Jan, 2010 - Removed post and links as the sales are over.

Friday, December 25, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day 8 (Live Events)

Merry Christmas!  For my eighth day of WAR I'm going to talk about Live Events.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Seven (PvE)

For my seventh day of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning I did some PvE.

One of my first posts about WAR on this blog was about the importance of PvE:
WAR, without PvE, is just a mess waiting to happen.
I took a lot of flack for suggesting that WAR needed PvE.  WAR was going to be the ultimate RvR game, pitting throngs of players against each other in epic battles.  PvE was only a momentary distraction!  How wrong those people were.  It is suicide to attempt to push out a triple-A game that focuses solely on PvP-oriented conflict.  The player base is NOT there to support a game of WAR's budget size with only PvP.  Plus, with only PvP minded players, the battlefield becomes very stale, very quickly.

Ranting aside, WAR does have a good amount of cooperative PvE (I'm not talking about solo content today).  The end game features dungeons and loot progression.  The early game features a few dungeons and plenty of public quests.  Both ends of the spectrum benefit from an open grouping system that allows players to find groups on the fly in their current area.

With my time limited, I was not able to get into any dungeon groups on my rank 40 Ironbreaker.  I logged into my level 8 White Lion and journeyed to Nordland and Norsca to enjoy some public quests.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TIP: How to move Steam games to another drive in Windows 7/Vista/XP

With the Steam holiday sale blitzing everyone's wallets, there are plenty of people trying to find hard drive space to store all of their new games (seriously, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for only $1.99, Mirror's Edge for $4.99).

One of the quirks with Steam is that it only allows users to install games to the same drive that Steam resides on.  For many, that is their main C: drive, which often fills up quickly.  I will detail the process used to move 3rd party games to another drive.  This will be for Windows 7 and Vista (Windows XP users click here).

10 Days of WAR: Day Six (Crafting)

I was inspired by the furious pace of Santa's elves to meet the Christmas demand and for my sixth day of WAR I crafted.  The crafting in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has always intrigued me.  The concepts are solid, but the execution was lacking at launch. The basic premise is that most monsters and player kills would result in crafting components.  Crafted items are mostly consumable items.  There wasn't traditional blacksmithing or weapon making: there was apothecary for potions, talisman making, and cultivation (which is a gathering skill, but I consider it a craft).

Often times crafting far outpaced a character's progression in WAR due to the mismatch of ingredient levels to a player's level.  The result was often piles and piles of crafted items that were unusable for several levels.  This was not only frustrating, but also impossible to avoid unless a player ignored crafting until they were max level.  To highlight this issue, I created this screenshot a long time ago:


As can be seen, level 30-32 ingredients resulted in level 38 potions for a character that was level 30.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unlimited Free Trials are the New MMO Hotness (Age of Conan, Champions Online, Warhammer Online, and more!)

Apparently I missed the memo.  Free trials with unlimited playtime, but level and gameplay restrictions, are popping up everywhere.

Age of Conan - LINK
Details:  Unlimited playtime. Players can play up to level 20, but only if registered for the trial before Jan 1st, 2010.  Trading and player chat limited.

Champions Online - LINK  
Details: Unlimited playtime. New players can create an account and play the beginning zone of Champions Online for as long as they want.

Warhammer Online - LINK
Details: Unlimited playtime. Players are restricted to the Tier 1 Empire vs Chaos zones, but can access all scenarios.  Trading and player chat limited.

Alganon - LINK
Details: Unlimited playtime. No leveling or zone restrictions, but trial characters are deleted after 30 days and must be re-rolled.  Limited skill progression and limited chat options.

10 Days of WAR: Day Five, Metaplace shutdown

For Day Five of my return to WAR, I took a break.  However, to fill space, I want to talk about the Metaplace shutdown that was announced yesterday:
Today we have unfortunate news to share with the Metaplace community. We will be closing down our service on January 1, 2010 at 11:59pm Pacific. The official announcement is here and copied below, and you can read a FAQ guide here. We will be having a goodbye celebration party on January 1st at 12:00noon Pacific Time.
I'm conflicted on what to think. On one hand I don't see how the product could ever generate revenue, but on the other hand I could see it had potential. In the end, the first was proven correct and the latter will be left to our imaginations.

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Four

Day four of my return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was spent in Tier 1 scenarios.  As I stated on Day Three, tier 1 is my favorite part of WAR.  Also, I commented that the limitless trial was one of the best things going for WAR. Unfortunately, after last night, my mind has been slightly changed.

I've never had a problem with instanced content and it fits well in WAR.  Instanced scenarios offer quick and easy action and offer varied challenges. However, I was not having much fun playing last night.

My problems with scenarios in WAR are two fold: teams are rarely balanced and some scenarios aren't worth playing.  Unfortunately, both of these are worsened by the limitless trial.  This came as an unwelcome shock to my plans to play the limitless trial in the future.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Three

For Day Three of my 10-day return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, I ventured back into tier 1 to see how the new limitless trial was working out.  I rolled the one Order class I haven't played: the dwarf slayer.  Instead of starting in the dwarf lands, I was transplanted in the Empire starting area of Nordland.  This is meant to make sure that new players are concentrated into a single zone, allowing for the key features of WAR to shine (PQs, RvR, lairs).

I took a screenshot of a new item, the Rune of Transport, that describes exactly what it is all about:


Not only does it highlight the new combined starting area, it also makes a statement about the way the player density in WAR has been heading: down. However, the new starting area is good for WAR and it helps tremendously to hide the player density issues of the later tiers.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day Two

Day two of my journey back into Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning landed me in the Land of the Dead.

After checking out the map of the zone I noticed that the Public Quest (PQ) markers showed how many players were present and participating. The PQ nearest the starting area was one short of the recommended group size, so I joined in the fun. The first monster I attacked, a giant condor, didn't fall over dead as I had expected. Instead it took flight with me in it's claws and headed up to the mountainside to deposit me in it's nest! I was shocked: MMOG monsters are supposed to die and give me loot, not try and feed me to their children!

Completing this PQ reminded me why I had such high hopes for WAR. PQs are brilliant and fun when enough players are present. Unfortunately since Order just unlocked access to the LotD zone, only the PQ nearest the warcamp had any players participating.

Referencing back to Day One, there are no PQs in any of the tier 4 RvR lakes, which is a damn shame considering that is where Mythic encourages players to spend their time.  Again, it frustrates me that NOTHING has been done to the RvR lakes to encourage players to visit outside of a zerg keep or objective fight.  Also, to highlight the poor design decisions, keeps and battlefield objectives reward increased experience/influence gain in zones where there is NO FUCKING CONTENT! 

I refuse to use the term zone for the RvR areas, as they are one-dimensional lakes.  Players returning to WAR to jump into the tier 4 RvR action are going to find the same sub-par game they left in the first place.  Anyways, back to LotD.

After a few runs of the PQ, I decided to see the rest of the zone. What I found next, blew my fucking mind:


Friday, December 18, 2009

10 Days of WAR: Day One

I started my holiday-inspired return to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning by logging into my level 40/ RR 35 Ironbreaker on Badlands. The first order of business was restoring my UI. WAR's default UI serves its purpose, but there are a few things my minimalist gamer brain needs: clean unit frames, consolidated info bars, and easily customized hotbars.

Rebuilding a lost UI can be aggravating, but for WAR, there is a great tool available from Curse for management and automatic updates/installs of most UI elements. I highly recommend the Curse Client.

For clean unit frames, I settled with Pure. Hotbars are managed via Vertigo. Info bars are kept organized with Warboard. The rest: Phantom, Squared, and MOTH.



 


After thirty minutes of  UI customization, I was ready to helicopter on out to the Tier 4 RvR lakes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

10 Days of WAR

I've run the gambit of thoughts on WAR, my final verdict after months of play was that WAR had pockets of greatness, but the overall design was poor. Also, some technical and stability issues arose directly related to poor design that really aggravated me. However, since quitting, I've wanted to go back. So, I've decided to take advantage of the re-enlistment campaign for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

With that will come the following list of nifty gifts:

I have no honest plans to resubscribe because I lack the time to make $14.95 a month a justifiable expense.  However, stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcome to the new Heartlessgamer.com

Enjoy!

Update:  Lost some bottom padding under posts, but cant figure out how to fix it :P Ah well, nothing major. That tricksy padding was trumped by some margin-top with a new class :P

Monday, December 14, 2009

Team Fortress 2 - Crafting

The upcoming Team Fortress 2 update is getting more interesting by the day.  A new crafting webpage has appeared as part of the update, with a promising opening:
For years you have been able to create weapons with your bare hands, using raw steel, in real life. What if we were to tell you there’s now a way to SIMULATE that in-game?
Apparently this will run off of blueprints where various items can be combined to create the item you want. A screen shot of the crafting screen is below:



Valve never ceases to amaze me with the updates for TF2.

Update: Also found http://www.teamfortress.com/war/saxtonhale/poopyjoe.htm

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Economy of FREE

FREE, 29 holiday song downloads on Amazon. You clicked.  I know you did.  It's ok, I'll wait for you to get Silent Night playing in the background before you come back to read this post.  FREE is hard to resist, especially with no strings attached.  FREE is also worth money, because out of the hundreds of people that download a FREE song, some will end up buying one.

Gamasutra has some hard numbers: 58% Of PlaySpan Users Buy Goods From Free-To-Play Games
And not only did free-to-play games see the highest purchase penetration among users, they also generated the most money on a per-user basis. The average user's expenditure on publisher-sold free-to-play digital goods over the course of 12 months was $75, compared to $60 for MMOs, and $50 for social network games.
F2P games, with micro transactions, serve all levels of investment from players. There is no barrier to entry because its free to play, increasing the potential audience. Those willing to spend very little, can still access the game, earning money from a market segment that the subscription model misses. Those willing to pay more are allowed to do so and are not capped at their monthly subscription cost. Both end up supporting the ability for free riders to hitch on at no cost.  A free rider being just another sales opportunity.

World of Warcraft has forever cemented the subscription model as valid. F2P games are quickly validating micro-transactions.  This is not an argument that F2P is better than the subscription model. It shows that the F2P model is working and that those people screaming about $10 horses are falling behind the times. Also, it shows that advertising can be done with the product, not flashy Mr T commercials (as epic as they are).  That's a win for the customer as we get a free game to play, no strings attached.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Allods Online: Fatigue is pretty smart

The fatigue system in Allods Online is pretty smart.  Players have a fatigue pool that is filled every time they gain experience.  Fatigue is gained on a 1 to 1 basis to experience and is displayed as the blue portion of the experience bar. At any time, fatigue can be turned in at an innkeeper for experience (also on a 1:1 basis).  The fatigue pool is limited and only so much can be gained in a single day.

This is not immediately obvious, but when fatigue is maxed out, a player is effectively cut to 50% of their normal experience gain.  However, Allods does this in a very smart way which I agree wholeheartedly with.


Site Updates Incoming, Need Your Eyeballs (and browsers)

My new template is nearing completion and can be viewed at http://test.heartlessgamer.com. Please check it out and let me know if it appears that something is not working. Currently built to run best in Firefox 3+, but no known issues with IE8 or Google Chrome.

A live version using this template can be viewed at http://reviews.heartlessgamer.com. The rest of my sites will be moved this weekend pending any disasters discovered today.

General comments on the design are welcome.
Thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Multiplaying.net Site of the Week

Multiplaying.net has picked Heartlessgamer.com as their site of the week.

Thanks!

DISQUS comments fixed! Yay!

@DISQUS has helped me identify and remove the offending java script that was causing comments to fail on heartlessgamer.com. Everyone should be able to post without issue now, guest or not.

Please give them a try below.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Micro-transactions and Battlefield Heroes Beta

EA Dice made some unpopular changes to the pricing model in the free-to-play (F2P), but supported by micro-transactions Battlefield: Heroes. Ars Technica has an article with the basics:
You could buy certain items to give yourself an edge, sure, but it was just as easy to earn in-game Valor Points (VP) to purchase weapons and widgets for use in the game. Many gamers did just this, earning VP in their regular gaming session without ever paying a dime. Others made a few purchases here and there to round out their items.
With micro-transactions all the rage right now, this has created a shit-storm around the blog-o-sphere. I find myself having to step in and defend the unpopular view.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Heartlessgamer.com Giveaway: Allods Online Beta Keys


Sorry, ALL KEYS ARE GONE
!

I will update this post if I receive any more keys.

On Monetizing MMO Blogs

Recently, I asked for some feedback on the site, as well as opinions on MMO bloggers monetizing their blogs.

First, I run advertisements in three forms on this blog currently: in-line text ads, search traffic only ads, and referral links. The first two are powered by Chitika and pay per click. The referral links are to Amazon.com and pay a percentage of any purchases made via that link.

What do you need the money for?

The biggest question that people ask me is what I do with the money I earn. The blog is free to host on Google's Blogger, so there are no web costs (outside of an annual $10 domain registration fee). And it's pretty obvious I don't make my living doing this.

I use the money to pay for some of my gaming. When my blog was more popular (my traffic is down 50%+ this year), I made enough for a monthly subscription to an MMO. Recently, I have used it to micro-transact in games like Battlefield Heroes and Domain of Heroes.

However, since I've not played a subscription game in a while, I have pocketed a good amount of the money made (actually its sitting in my Paypal account). My most recent game purchases have been covered by bonuses I've gotten from work.

The Amazon.com referral links pay out via Amazon gift certificates. When I earn enough for my first gift certificate there, I will purchase more games, books, and movies to write about on this blog.

For the most part, the money earned here can be viewed as an investment back into the blog. However, it still leaves me sitting on a pile of cash that I haven't spent and I am going to work out a percentage to donate to Child's Play (my favorite charity). Going forward, charity will have a lot to do with the money made here after my minimal new web costs are covered (I am bringing some new stuff online in the near future).

Feedback

Surprisingly, most people that left feedback were fine with bloggers monetizing their blogs as long as it wasn't intrusive or contradicting(for example, gold seller ads when I am against gold selling). Chitika has been good about running legit advertisements, but they rarely match search ads to anything my readers would be interested in.

The Amazon.com referral links are more targeted. If I talk about a game, I will usually link to the games page on Amazon. If I review a book or movie, I will also link to Amazon. Or when Amazon runs deals like $3 in FREE MP3s, I will link to the promotional page and collect referrals as people cash in the free codes. This is hit or miss, but is the least intrusive of all advertising and the most honest.

With the feedback gathered, I think I am going to move towards straight Amazon.com referral-based advertising and be more open about my links. Along with the charitable giving, I am hoping this honesty will spur some purchases!

Lastly, I am going to take down the in-line text ads, as well as the search based ads from Chitika on the main page. I'm always open to advertising opportunities, so some form of automated advertising may return in the future.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

DISQUS fix, need testers

Update: 4 Dec, 2009 - Thanks for the help so far. If you are seeing "There was an error with your submission. Please make sure you are actually logged in." as a guest, I am working on it.
I have worked with @DISQUS to resolve some issues with DISQUS comments on the site. I am trying to find out from people that have been having problems if it is any better. So if everyone could please try and leave a comment here for testing, it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Initial Impressions: Allods Online (beta 2)


Allods Online looks like World of Warcraft. It also feels and plays like WoW. This is a compliment, because Allods Online is a good, fun game to play

Allods Online is an upcoming free-to-play (F2P), but supported by micro-transactions game from gPotato and Astrum Nival. It entered closed beta 2 yesterday and I was able to put a couple hours into it.

As with WoW, Allods is divided into two factions: Empire and League. Both sides offer similar classes, albeit named differently based on race. At this point, I am unsure how much of a difference between factions the classes enjoy.

I chose to go with an Arisen Occultist (which is of the Psionicist archetype, Empire faction). The Arisen are an undead-like, mechanical race. They are Allods' version of WoW's undead, as almost everyone in game alludes to.

I guess I should cover that up front. Everyone in game won't shut up about WoW this and WoW that, but its understandable as it happens in all new MMOGs. Even in ones that aren't anything like WoW. This is a deal killer for some and has others quickly searching for the chat options to kill general chat. Personally, I just ignore it.

Back to my Occultist. This caster class works on a mental link mechanic whereby all my attacks against the linked target have some sort of benefit. I can then terminate that link, dealing a significant portion of damage. At first the mechanic is confusing as there are hidden benefits not immediately explained that reduce cast time and offer additional attacks (a DoT, stun, and an extra nuke). After a few levels, I am cruising with this guy.

User Interface (UI)

The UI for Allods is familiar to anyone that has played a diku-inspired MMOG in the last decade. It most closely resembles WoW's and again that is a compliment. Many games try, but fail to emulate some of WoW's better features such as the UI. There are hotbars, menus, a quest tracker, and a familiar looking character info pane.


The only missing item is a minimap, but the larger world map works well. I have not investigated whether a minimap is even available.

Combat

A lot of previews have stated that combat in Allods is slow, but in my experience the speed felt right. It was also smooth and enjoyable. Responsiveness is a bit off at times, but that could be related to the server debugging going on.

Technical

There is only one US server and it had a rough start. At first no one could connect and then after a couple hours it crashed and a login queue was put into place. This morning I did not encounter a queue and was able to play without issue.

I am able to run the game at maximum settings without a hitch (quadcore CPU, Nvidia GTX 260 graphics card, 4Gb RAM, Windows 7 Pro x64). My only graphical complaint is that the viewing distance is tiny, but this is the same complaint I have with WoW's limited viewing distance. In crowded areas, to save on performance, only so much is loaded, which often leads to moments where you think the way ahead is clear only to move five feet and find out there are 10 people standing there instead.

Little Things


There are little things that separate Allods from WoW and other MMOGs.

An immediately noticeable and welcome feature is how rest experience works. Instead of accruing rest exp while logged out, players gain fatigue while fighting/completing quests. This fatigue can be traded in at innkeepers for experience. I am unsure if excess fatigue negatively affects a player or not.

Death is handled via a purgatory mechanic. Upon death players are banished to a small zone with other dead players. They are given the choice to wait a short period of time for a free resurrection or pay with experience debt for an immediate revival. There are also consumable items available in game that can be used to escape purgatory unscathed.

There are some fairly unique classes and races in the game. The Gibberlings race features three small furry avatars that act as one. Summoner classes have non-standard pets, such as the Orc's pet Gnome. Also the associated class for the archetypes are named different for each faction, giving a hint of uniqueness.

With these minor differences, there are some significant ones such as Astral Ships that will be revealed in the later levels of Allods Online. Beta 2 is capped at level 20 and limited to certain zones.

Conclusion

I'm being fairly positive in this initial impressions post because Allods came out of left field and surprised me. As I started with, Allods is a good game. The WoW comparisons are endless, but that's a good thing. Other F2P games like Runes of Magic made me want to go back and play WoW. Allods, so far, has made me want to log back in and play Allods. This game may be the F2P equivalent to WoW I've been looking for.


My Allods Online photo album is available via Flickr.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Nov 2009: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

Previous months: Oct 2009, Sept 2009

Check out the "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" Google Spreadsheet.


Commentary:

November was a fairly simple month for me. Left 4 Dead 2 launched and then December was here before I knew it. As my only gaming purchase, L4D2 set me back $45 (and would have been only $34 had I not waited so long and went in on a 4-pack with friends).

Before I get to L4D2, I want to mention that I did play some other games this month. I finished my first playthrough of Borderlands and am working on a review of the game as I play through it a second time. Its a good game, not great and misses on just about every category. Fortunately, there is a shitload of guns to make up for it.

Also, I took advantage of the six free months for Pirates of the Burning Seas. I like the game, but it was just a bad month to get started...

... because Left 4 Dead 2 took up the majority of my time! I posted my initial impressions and I'm still amazed by this game. Its tons of fun and improves on the game in almost every category. My only complaint is that the new survivors are not as "awesome" as the first four. I miss Bill.

Conclusion:

Free MMOs, that aren't normally free, are awesome, even if I don't have a lot of time to play them. Steam continues to prove its value with another pre-order special and on-time release with a preload of the game.

Upcoming changes:

I started using Xfire again this month and that is going to change these monthly What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying posts for the better as I get more granular data on how long I'm playing each game. Expect a new, more detailed spreadsheet next month. This is part of a move towards changes in how I want to run this blog (or is this a website now?).

Hurry, Get an Allods Online Beta Key!

Allods Online hits beta 2 today.
Gala-Net, Inc., a leading free-to-play online game publisher, announced today their second Closed Beta Test (CBT) for Allods Online in the North American market. The second CBT will run from December 1st through December 15th and will enhance the user experience with brand new content.
To get a key, follow one of the below links:

I have keys available!

MMORPG.com
Massively

Ocean Water Moved By The Moon

Someone has invited you to preview Google Wave!

Google Wave is a new online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Learn more at wave.google.com.

This is still an early preview of Google Wave, so you may run into some bumps along the way but we look forward to your feedback.
Makes me think of this article: Google Wave: we came, we saw, we played D&D.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Heartlessgamer.com needs YOUR feedback!

Update: THANKS for the great responses so far! Those of you with DISQUS commenting problems, I am working directly with DISQUS on them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Allods Online: A Look at Astral Ships

More amazing insight into the features of the upcoming Allods Online. Today I came across this link detailing Astral PvP, mainly focused on the role of Astral ships:
Exploring the Astral

At the start of the development of Allods Online, a special Core Design Team that included Alexander Mishulin, Creative Director of the game, was responsible for all the important Game Design decisions.

During the meetings, the team’s vision of the Astral was discussed at length. Initially, its main purpose was to allow players to embark on deep and exciting adventures of exploration. Fairly quickly, the conversations moved to how great it would be if Astral Ships had cannons, could hold treasure and participate in massive battles. The idea caught on, and soon the decision to include Astral warfare in the game was made. The next step was to create a prototype to make sure that the ideas that they had in those meetings were possible in the game, with gameplay as the team had initially wished.

The result of this prototype was amazing, so the development team started work on incorporating Astral battles into Allods Online.

According to the game lore, many years have passed since the times of “Evil Islands”, the third game in the Rage of Mages series. It was conceived that both the Kanian and Xadaganians had performed a great technical leap in the years between the two games. The Sarnaut World Bible stipulated that travel between allods was only possible through portals controlled by the Great Mages, but by the time of Allods Online, the inhabitants had discovered the secret of Astral travel for both exploration and warfare.

The Ultimate Gameplay

The team had a lot of big and small changes as they evolved their concept from a prototype to a full 3D ship. They wanted to make sure that there was a wide range of strategies available to players, and allow new strategies to emerge as players populated the world. On the first tests of the prototype, the game featured only combat with no boarding. The battle ships lacked open spaces and featured lots of small rooms, packed with corners and curves. This meant that players who favoured ranged abilities were unable to use them.

For example, Mages could not use Fireball spells as the different barrels and barriers blocked their line of sight through to their opponent, and opponents could avoid magical attacks very easily. The team played through the prototypes and came up with a novel solution: players would be able to cast a spell in advance before chasing their opponent down and hitting them with it. This feature stayed with the game throughout development and can now be found in the game.

While having a lot of fun playing with the game, the developers added new improvements into the Astral battles almost daily. These test sessions were crucial to polish and improve this key component of Allods Online’s gameplay. The team quickly found out that fighting on these big battleships was very different to fighting on small boats.

Another feature to evolve during these sessions was the appearance of roles on the ship, missing from the early prototypes. A result of this was the appearance of the role of a Navigator, a single player who can see almost everything that is happening around the ship and who dictates the course that the ship should take through the Astral. Features such as the ability to turn the ship 180o were added, and then special abilities that could be used during combat. The role of a repairman who initially stood in the centre of the ship in prototypes was given to a team of goblins.

As always in game development, the prototype proved to be a key component of the development process, allowing the developers to make a unique style of gameplay that would allow the game to stand out from its competitors. And as the developers are all gamers, it meant that they were being as critical as any other player could be to develop a perfect balance. What else could they ask for?
Explorer or Pirate?

Having your own ship in the Allods Online universe opens up a wide range of opportunities to players. Firstly, it allows an utterly different type of gameplay experience to that which can be experienced on the ground. Players can be a pirate, an explorer discovering new allods that hold precious treasures or can fight or retreat from huge and powerful monsters that inhabit the strange and changing substance called the Astral. All players need to do is to get their player to the right level with their characters, gather friends, start building their ship and embark on adventures across the Astral.

The Astral is a dynamic, changing substance that appears to have a life of its own. This means that any travel away from the security of an allod is very random, with lots of exploration available. Players who find a way through to one place using a certain course should keep in mind that they may never get back to the same location by following the same course.

When players unlock Astral battleships, they can travel in rather safe zones, fighting small demons and discovering small allods. As their fighting skills develop and their ships improve, players will soon realize that they are ready to embark on far more dangerous adventures and explore the far Astral. There they will encounter huge monsters that hold useful trophies, find unknown islands and have the opportunity to fight other ships. Once their ship is packed with treasure, they need to set back home. The return trip can be as eventful as the journey, as a booty-laden ship is an attractive target for pirates that are hidden among the conduits that connect the Astral.

Players have lots of choice to get back home. They can set off in a random and unknown direction, and risk getting lost and losing their ship with all the treasures in its hold. They can engage pirates and defeat them in battle, or try their luck and see if they can sneak past the pirates. Risk is an important part of the Sarnaut world.

A task for everyone

From the early sessions as the developers worked on Astral Ships, they quickly decided to implement roles for different players who would play on board. However, it was not clear how these roles would be distributed between the crew of the ship. As time went by, the developers decided that roles should not depend on character classes, and went as far to make sure that players could choose their role on the fly in the heat of battle.

Each ship has an energy reactor that converts energy captured by the ships sails from the Astral to all the components of the ship: its engine, protective shields, cannons and the powerful mana-torpedoes.

A crew member needs to take on the role of the ship’s captain. Any player can take this role, so it Is not confined to the ship’s owner. Players will need to decide this amongst them, and the person they choose will receive a special Navigator’s Visor to allow them to see the space around the ship, and to forsee threats that could emerge from the Astral close to them. Then there is the helmsman who decides the course that the ship will take. For combat, several players on the battle deck use cannons or torpedoes. When the ship gets damaged, a player in charge of repair should make good use of the goblin repairmen that populate the ship, setting them to work on damaged areas.

If they are boarded, the ship’s deck turns into a real PvP area. The ship is surrounded with a special protective sphere, all the ships components are turned off and players participate in a fierce battle for control of the treasure located in the ships hold. It doesn’t matter what role players have in this situation, every crew member is required to fight off the threat.

Looking for high level Carpenters, PST

Astral ships are a very important and useful gameplay element in Allods Online. Pretty much every player will want to own a ship, sooner or later. It’s not an easy thing though, as owning a ship requires co-operation, an investment of time, and in-game money. After reaching a certain level, players can get a specific quest that reveals the secret processes involved in building a ship.

Astral ships are complex devices, so the process of building them takes a lot of time. There are ways to speed up the process by completing sub quests that reward you with useful materials. The next quest in the line will involve a group of high level players going through a dungeon. A small time investment in ship building each day can lead to a ship being built in a third of the normal time. Players can also watch the ship being build in the hangar bar and see if grow bit by bit. This hangar can be entered by going to the Astral Academy, which also contains a dock for parking your ship, and a repair shipyard.

The Astral Academy is always packed with explorers, customers, traders and NPC characters in charge of the Astral quests. It is the ideal place to meet other players looking for Astral adventures, Astral storytellers and a place to find out the latest intel on pirates.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Maneuvering an Astral Ship is not a simple task; various mechanisms are involved in the process and many important devices need to be co-ordinated to ensure that players go where they want to go. A successful trip requires co-ordination by all of those on board. The Navigator’s device will show all the threats around the ships environment for several kilometers. Teleporting pads allow players to board enemy ships and transfer to the hangar bay while shields located on each side of the ship protect it from damage. The captain’s visor also allows players to scan an enemy ship and let the crew see the status of their ship.

The main weapons on a ship are the cannons, which can be loaded with several types of magical ammunition. Some can be used to break through the shields, others will inflict damage on the ships hill, while others will break devices on the enemy ship. In addition to the firepower available with the cannons, torpedoes are located at the front of the ship and allow players to shoot straight ahead.

But most importantly, the heart of a ship is its energy reactor. A crew who does not protect this at all costs, all the time will have a hefty repair bill and have their Astral adventures curtailed if this is damaged. You have been warned.
Pretty cool stuff. Can't wait for the beta on Dec 1st.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Allods Online Tips

Ever since my days as the "#1 Warhammer Online fan", I've tried to stay away from official media sources for games. It's not that they fool me, its that they no longer feel like they are directed towards me. I have moved towards relying on bloggers who I follow on a regular basis. Bloggers who may get a bit too excited about games at times, but consistently put down solid information as though they are talking to a group of friends.

Keen and Graev and friends are busy at work putting together some information on Allods Online:
There are so few places to find quality info about the game that I figured a thread with interesting tidbits of info could go a long way. Feel free to post any information you find that you feel would be interesting and informative for people wanting to learn more about Allods Online.
I commend them for the effort, as Allods Online is starting to pique my interest (I just received a closed beta key via MMOCrunch).

The following Allods tidbit has me drooling:
At lvl 23 you WILL(no exceptions if you wanna lvl) be sent to Holy Lands. In Holy Lands you get to quest with the opposing faction and most quests involve killing their soldiers/players or taking over strategic points or sabotaging their stuff.

One of the first places you will be sent to is Spider Hill.

Atop the hill is a place of power that gives you a 10min buff if you stand on it. Thats ofc is a good thing to have. On either side of the hill are Liga and Imperia camps.

Let me tell you something. When I got to that Hill….I had the most fun I have ever had in the game. PvPing with Imperia was wicked fun.

Alas, it didnt last too long. After about an hour of awesome combat a lvl 40 Imperia Mage came over and ruined everything(that [I Am A Potty Mouth]!).

But in conclusion: Yes you will be sent to a place where you quest and PvP at same time.
This sounds like a really neat idea. Generally PvP has been introduced to MMOG players with on/off switches, rarely with motivation or consistency. World of Warcraft has PvE vs PvP servers and then instanced battlegrounds. Warhammer Online throws players at each other from the get go, but in zones full of NOTHING or an instanced scenario.

Whats outlined above for Allods Online seems to be a much more natural progression (albeit forced) into the PvP conflict. Also, the free-2-play aspect of the game could play into this as those that pay up could possibly have a huge edge in PvP.

I'm very interested to get going in Allods Online come December 1st.

#BlackFriday: Games

Update: 28 Nov, 2009 - Removed links as Black Friday is over. Cyber Monday is next!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Borderlands Playthrough 1 Complete

I just finished my first playthrough of Borderlands. It will take a few days, but I do plan a fairly in depth review. To put it simply, I don't complete many single-player games, so for me to finish this game says something.

For anyone that has played the game, the ending is weak and I'm not talking about the story part. For the fight, all I had to do was stand there and fire. The damn thing never hit me and then it dropped only basic weapons. Totally robs any cool points for all the hard work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Aion May Be A Grind, But It Looks Good Doing It

Aion has released a "vision of the future" video and it looks fucking amazing.



Aion may get booed out of the stadium for being a grind, but everything I've seen about Aion makes it look like a great game. If this video is any indication of what's to come, I will still stick by my statement that Aion is the ! of Diku. Player housing? Epic (and I'm not talking Star Wars: The Old Republic epic here) battles? Cannons? Looks good to me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dragon Age Respecs

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has posted a "hack" to go ahead and reset a character's settings in Dragon Age: Origins. Better yet is this mod that accomplishes the same thing:
Of note: using the toolset may fuck up your game. Instead, use the really well-done and non-buggy Raven respec mod: http://social.bioware.com/project/469/ It refunds all talent/spell, skill and stat points, even taking into account those gained from a certain quest or from manuals.
But, here's my opinion. Why is this not a part of the basic game? Its 2009, haven't game developers learned that players hate to be locked down to choices that could potentially turn out terribly?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Initial Impressions: Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 does the word sequel justice and delivers everything that was great about the original while adding to the experience in its own unique way. Left 4 Dead 2 is bigger, better, and badder. For some players, it is probably too much. For others, like myself, its exactly what we were looking for.

The immediate difference between the two are the main characters and the campaigns. The new characters and settings have no cross over to the original other than they exist within the same zombie apocalypse. The new characters are not as immediately lovable as the original, but they grow throughout the game. However, the campaigns are pure genius.

L4D1 had fairly mundane campaign settings and outside of one interesting moment on the tarmac at the airport, the game was all about the zombie killing. L4D2, building on epic moments, has included some great show stoppers. One level will have the survivors lighting up a stage at an abandoned rock concert to signal a chopper, while another will have the survivors retreading old paths now flooded by recent storms.

The brilliant part is that its not just the climaxes to the levels. Throughout each, there are a ton of great moments. However, words can not do these campaigns justice. They have to be played to be understood (or for a close runner-up experience for the Dark Carnival campaign, go watch Zombieland).

Also included are new weapons, the obvious additions being melee weapons. After a few hours of L4D2, its hard to think back to a swarming-zombie moment where I didn't have a katana or chainsaw sitting in reserve for that unfortunate moment when my ammo runs out. Sticking with movie references, see Shaun of the Dead for the importance of melee weapons during the zombie apocalypse.

With new campaigns, also comes new gameplay modes. In addition to the classic VS., co-op, and survival, a couple new game modes join the fray:

Scavenge: This is a VS. mode where the survivors have to collect gas cans to fill a generator while the Infected players attempt to stop them. The teams swap each round and the team with the most emptied cans wins.

Realism: This game mode will quickly have players hoping that a real zombie apocalypse doesn't occur anytime soon. There is no returning from death in this mode and everything is hidden from view (no glowing lines pointing out the ammo stack). This mode makes hardcore look carebear.



With the VS. game modes, come new infected, outlined below:

Charger: A hard charging brute that can grab and pound a survivor into the ground. A very much needed "speed" addition to the Infected team.

Jockey: An annoyingly small son of a bitch who can jump onto a survivor and control their movement. There is nothing like walking a survivor out the window of a 30 story building.

Spitter:
A much needed, closet-camper punisher, the spitter lays down a pool of acid spittle that damages all survivors in its area of effect. The spitter is what L4D1 needed.

Boomette: A female version of the Boomer from L4D1.

There is no doubt that VS. mode in L4D2 heavily favors the Infected side. Fortunately, this is a good move. It adds bragging rights to finishing a campaign as the survivors and this time around the scoreboard actually feels like a competition. I never paid attention to the VS. score in L4D1, but since almost every L4D2 VS. match comes down to a few points, I constantly keep an eye on my progress trying to run a few more feet when all hope is lost (the farther a team makes it as survivors, the more points they get).

My only complaints with L4D2 so far are outside of the actual game. Some servers seem to suffer horrendous lag, even when they were able to run L4D1 without a hitch. Secondly, the matchmaking doesn't seem to have improved much as many of the games don't fill with players or in the case of VS. games, the sides become lopsided. The fix, as always, is to play with friends.

I plan to spend many hours playing L4D2, probably more than I spent with the original. At some point, I want to see the new infected and weapons integrated fully into the original campaigns and have everything accessible from launching a single version of L4D. I'm ashamed that I even thought about not playing this game. Its fucking awesome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 unlocked on Steam

But I have to go to work :(

Saturday, November 14, 2009

5 Years of Change

As a gaming geek, I can't imagine my day to day life without World of Warcraft or Firefox. A little over five years ago, neither one existed. This month, both celebrate five happy years of existence.
Five years ago today, Mozilla announced the official release of Firefox 1.0. The open source Web browser has come a very long way since then and has achieved a level of popularity that few would have imagined possible.
Its amazing how things come in twos on the Internet, this quote paralleling with WoW perfectly. Five years ago, NO ONE imagined the level of success that WoW has achieved. MMOGs went from communities of thousands, to millions in one giant leap.

With WoW's five year anniversary coming up later this month, The Escapist is running an interview with Rob Pardo:
World of Warcraft turns five this month, and we sat down with Blizzard VP of Game Design Rob Pardo to chat about the biggest triumphs and biggest mistakes of the mega-MMORPG, and why he's not worried that their new MMOG will kill it.
The full interview is worth the read. It covers the casual vs. hardcore debate, without pulling any punches, which is quite amazing coming straight from a game developers mouth. Its not often we see questions like this levied in an interview:
If you weren't a designer, but a hardcore WoW raider, do you think you would think the game was too "casual" these days?

Quite possibly. I have this theory that, when you're a really elite hardcore gamer, what you really want - what drives you - is that sense of competition; really having that gap between you and the less skilled, and more casual. That's what drives you, and that's not different no matter what game you're playing: WoW, Counterstrike, Warcraft III, games like that. You strive to make the gap as big as possible.
My commentary can't do the interview justice. Catch the full transcript here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mighty Big Teacup: Modern Warfare 2 Sells 4.7 Million Copies in 24

I guess Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 is sitting in a pretty big teacup. The game sold 4.7 million copies within the first 24 hours, which is flat-out insane.
"MW2" sold 4.7 million copies and racked up $335 million dollars in sales in the US and UK alone when the eagerly anticipated title made its worldwide debut this week, according to publisher Activision.
I am not one of the 4.7 million, but I'm wondering if I should be. Since WAR launched, I've been wrong about pretty much ever game I've followed.

I thought Spore was to be the greatest game ever. I didn't even buy it and good thing, because it got tore up in reviews.

I thought Free Realms was trash. Millions of users later, I think I was wrong.

I thought Borderlands was going to be great, a true Diablo with guns. Its a good game, but not great and NOT a Diablo with guns.

I thought Dragon Age: Origins was try too hard to be cool. After EVERYONE told me I was crazy and EVERYONE I know was playing the game, I kind of wish I had a copy.

However, with all of this said, I still don't think most of the games on this list are worth the $50 - $70 price tags for new copies. Borderlands, which cost me $35, was the only purchase that presents value to me.

Gah, ending this post now. I fail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day: Pirates of the Burning Sea FREE For 6 Months

While Flying Labs Software did not make this announcement on veteran's day, I wanted to talk about it:
Military personnel that can verify their status through a .mil e-mail address will be able to partake in an interesting promotion announced by Flying Lab Software this week. The promotion offers six months of Pirates of the Burning Sea to military personnel, however, in order to continue playing after the free six months you will still have to purchase a copy of the game.
I've run the full gambit of decisions on Pirates of the Burning Seas. From almost joining their core audience as a player community liaison to the announcement of SOE publishing the game crushing my dreams, eventually I decided to skip the game's launch.

It turned out that the launch did not go so well and the game was quickly written off as a niche "failure". In my opinion, the game is right where I anticipated, a niche game with a niche audience. Fortunately, this free offer for military members gives me a proper 6 months to evaluate the game (and at $7 for a copy of the game, I may be tempted to just take the plunge down the road).

I started my journey into the game last night. The download and setup was a breeze, but that is a requirement for me these days. Any hiccups at that stage and I tend to dump any free game in a heartbeat.

Character creation was pretty awesome and I feel I've created a unique French Naval Officer, named Captain Heartless Gamer. With a Captain, a ship, and the tutorial complete, I set out for some adventures. The game can really be broken down into four areas: ships, avatars, economy, and PvP.

As I only played for an hour or so, I've only experienced ship and avatar combat. Ship combat is pretty solid and enjoyable. It can be slow at times, but I suspect it will get better as my ship gets better. Avatar combat is a cheap attempt to introduce a little classic diku-inspired MMO into PotBS. It works, but I wouldn't hold it up as a strong point.

At the end of the day, I'm playing for the open seas, the economy, and eventually some PvP. Good thing I have six months to feel the situation out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The End WAR

Disheartening news has leaked out that a chunk of the recent EA job cutting spree has hit EA Mythic hard:
Mythic laid off 80 people today, which is about 40% of the company and responsible for 90% of the content. According to a friend of mine who left before this happened, they're putting Warhammer into "maintenance mode."

I am not sure if there's been an official announcement, but my friend said that I was free to mention it, because it's surprising it's not out already. (I actually knew about it on Friday but not the numbers.)
There is no hiding it. Many of us (me included) were wrong about WAR. The game has floundered since launch and performed misstep after misstep the entire way. Its only logical that the game's development would be scaled back.

The laundry list of canceled, dieing, or dead MMOGs at the feet of EA is legendary: Earth and Beyond, Motor City Online, The Sims Online, Ultima Online's sequals, etc. It makes one wonder how much the EA merger affected the Mythic office.

Currently, I am part of a company undergoing a similar assimilation by a much larger company and player in our industry. Even with a positive attitude overall in the office, constant commentary from customers about the merger and half-assed quotes from officers of the company easily put people on edge. An environment of mistrust is being born and people rightfully question whether project A or B will exist next week.

In the case of Myhic merging with EA, it should have resulted in a better game. More resources, more manpower, and probably more marketing. However, if the merger created any doubts about the direction of the project, more of everything would have been needed just to keep the ship sailing straight, effectively nullifying any positive gains.

The question now is whether Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is going to be around much longer. Will EA cancel a game that may be costing too much to keep alive or will they dramatically change the way it is managed? Maybe to a point where the game has no chance to do anything other than float on by for a another year before being canceled.

Is there any truth into the "EA = poison" mythos that has been created around MMOG projects they've acquired? Do we need to fear for Star Wars: The Old Republic? IMHO, yes.

Monday, November 09, 2009

This Is Why The Packers Are Losing Games

The Green Bay Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday. They handed one of the worst teams in the NFL a win. The root cause is not lack of talent on the team, but a management and coaching issue. This problem is highlighted by the following:
Tampa, Nov 9 (THAINDIAN NEWS) The Green Bay Packers have put the injured Jason Spitz on reserve and instead filled the spot with wide receiver Biren Ealy according to a reliable source.
With the worst offensive line in NFL history and probably one of the best receiving corps, Packers management has decided to replace an injured offensive lineman with a god damned wide receiver. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy need to go. NOW!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tempest in a Teacup: Modern Warfare 2

Ars Technica is running an article about the trials and tribulations of upcoming military-shooter, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the article, they provide plenty of quotes from the game's developers showing some blatant disrespect for the PC version of the game:
We thought the lack of dedicated servers was bad, but now we can add the lack of console commands, the inability to have a say in who hosts the game, a lengthy pause while the game migrates to a new host if the currently selected host quits, no leaning, no option to record matches, and no way to kick or block trouble players, hackers, or cheaters.

You have to wonder if there are any actual PC gamers working at Infinity Ward, as it will be a challenge to find any member of the PC gaming community that will stand up for any of these omissions, not to mention all of them bundled together. At launch, this will be one of the most locked-down, inflexible, and gamer-unfriendly game ever created.
While the above quote is a bit sensationalist, it does illustrate how frustrated some of the core audience for the CoD franchise have become, particularly on the PC.

Personally, I don't feel the loss of dedicated servers or a restriction to 9vs9 is all that horrible. In the current Modern Warfare game, any game above 9vs9 feels overcrowded or is a blatant cheat server designed to unlock accomplishments and/or gain levels. Secondly, its almost impossible to find two servers running the same rulesets these days. No snipers here, no perks there, this perk not allowed, no airstrikes, etc. It all gets fairly annoying when a player just wants to play the game.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) is not a strict or heavily-leaning PC title. I have no qualms with it being "consolized" in the PC version. We would be having a different discussion if this was Team Fortress 2, a game BORN from the PC platform, and heavily dependent on a customized experience on each server. Modern Warfare 1 was big on the PC, but it truly took over the consoles. It is not surprising to see where Infinity Ward is basing their design.

With that said, IW should accept the fact that the PC gaming industry will probably reflect the "consolization" in their reviews. For example, Borderlands has some fairly obvious console leftovers in the PC version, but its still a good game and uses the same sort of Peer2Peer multiplayer hosting as MW2 will. Most reviews docked Borderlands on the PC for the console leftovers, as they should, but not because they were mad about it!

There's a quote in the Ars Technica comments section that describes the situation best:
This is a tempest in a teacup. Either buy the game or don't. This is not the end of PC gaming as we know it.
My best suggestion is for PC gamers to forget that this is part of the Call of Duty brand. It was originally meant to be called Modern Warfare 2, a somewhat separate product from the Call of Duty series. Move on if dedicated servers and other features are a must. Plenty of PC gamers will do fine without them and play the game without you.

NOTE: IWNet is an interesting move towards Peer2Peer hosting for such a MAJOR multiplayer game release.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

WTF2


What the Favre!

Once upon a time I would have cheered when Favre won a game, but not today. Fortunately, I didn't get to watch this abomination of a game (the highlights were enough to make me break something).

Oct 2009: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

Previous months: Sept 2009
Check out the "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" Google Spreadsheet.



Commentary:

The first note I would like to make is that I moved gaming-related computer hardware to its own line and placed Batman:AA at $0 since it was free with the video card I purchased in September.

I spent October waiting for Borderlands, which released on the 26th. I paid just shy of $34 for the game as part of a Steam 4-pack (splitting the extra copies with friends). I do not feel comfortable paying $50 for new games any longer. The $30-$35 range feels right to me.

I'll be posting more about my thoughts on Borderlands this week.

Next, I spent another $10 on Battlefield Heroes to dress up my Royal Soldier, BrettFavre. The end result:


Heroes still remains a great game, but leveling past 14 seems to be a little bit grindy and I constantly debate whether I should just pay for an experience boost to help get one of my Heroes to level 20+. Fortunately, they gave away a 3-day XP boost to all players for Halloween, so that sated my appetite for faster leveling. Plus, I got to play as a zombie-head for a few days! I'll probably put another $10 into this game at some point to finish up my Heroes' customizations.

I am still working on beating Batman:AA. Its a great game, but with so many games to play, I find it hard to dedicate time to it. I'm only 5% done with the game.

I was fairly quiet in the MMOG department:

I knocked out a few quests on my Sorcerer in DDO:EU, but am still only level 1 and sitting on the starter island. The dungeons can be set to solo, but they truly shine when grouped. I have never had a steady play group, so this may not be the game for me. I'll have to investigate the pick-up group scene a bit more.

I hit level 5 in The Chronicles of Spellborn on my Spellcaster, Favre. I need to determine which class I want to go with from level 5 onwards. Any thoughts out there? Still enjoying the combat system, even if its hard to pick up at first.

On a side note, not listed on the spreadsheet is Killing Floor. I played a bit during the recent Free Weekend on Steam. Its a quasi-pro, but way over the top, Left 4 Dead co-op zombie shooter. Personally, it made me miss Left 4 Dead and with L4D2 right around the corner, I didn't really care for it.

Conclusion:

Free MMOs still reign in my play list. While at heart (ha!) I would like to be a completely Free Gamer, there are too many good games out there that I would miss, Borderlands being one of them. Deals such as the Steam 4-pack give me value and I reward them for that with a purchase on a game I wouldn't have spent $50 for. My purchase and playing decisions remain with value: is the game and the time I will invest worth the costs?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How About You Ask The Pirates?

Ars Technica is running a piece about Borderlands and the fact some players were able to snag a boxed copy of the PC version days before launch only to be greeted by failed authentication attempts preventing them from playing the game.
Borderlands was a highly anticipated release on the PC, but a one-week delay of the PC launch meant that console gamers were able to enjoy the gun-collecting goodness ahead of their PC gaming brethren. A few gamers were lucky enough to find stores that were willing to sell the boxed PC copy of the game before the street date, however, but when they installed the game and tried to play, they found that without the title being authenticated online, the disc and key were worthless.

The problem? They forgot that buying a PC game doesn't involve a product, but a license.
Gearbox big wig, Randy Pitchford, responded:
"I don't know if something can be done to unlock copies for people that somehow get a copy before the street date... I certainly can't do anything about it, but I understand and am sympathetic to the frustration,"
He doesn't know. The man responsible for the game doesn't know if it can be unlocked before its street date. Maybe he should have asked the pirates that were playing Borderlands DAYS before the official street date.

It constantly amazes me the things that Publishers and Developers push off on piracy. Pirates don't buy games. Stopping them does not generate any revenue. There is not a single developer that has proven that piracy hurts their game sales. In some cases it has proven to help sales just as a free copy of a ebook often spurs sales of the hard copy!

Yes, piracy does hurt the bottom line when pirated versions are allowed to negatively affect the community and service built around a game. However, rarely, if ever, does a pirated copy equal a lost sale. That is NOT my opinion, its proven fact. Unfortunately, few companies are willing to admit this.

One time, just one time, I would like to see these companies learn a lesson from piracy. Make the game easily accessible, with no restrictions, and allow players to play as soon as they have their hands on a copy. This makes for happy and repeat customers (an educated person may have noticed that pirates tend to come back again and again to the same hacking communities that put out the best product).

NOTE: I do not pirate games or endorse piracy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Holonet Entry Reveals Jedi Knight Class for The Old Republic

BioWare has announced the next class in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Jedi Knight, on the Holonet page of the SW:ToR official site:
Valiant, Determined, Guardian of Peace

A symbol of hope in dark times, the Jedi Knight stands for the legacy of the Jedi Order—more than twenty-thousand years of protecting the Republic and keeping the peace across the galaxy. Though Jedi Knights have served as generals, guerilla fighters, and warriors for generations, their legendary combat prowess faces its greatest test during this age.

Through years of disciplined training and meditation, the Jedi Knight hones body and mind into perfect harmony. Combining the foresight of the Force with unrivaled reflexes and practiced physical precision, the Knight turns combat into an art form, gracefully executing acrobatic feats in tandem with elegant lightsaber tactics.

A source of inspiration to allies and intimidation to adversaries, the Jedi Knight’s presence is welcome in any confrontation. The Order’s long history of fighting for justice has earned the trust of countless friends and the hate of innumerable enemies. Few, though, are foolish enough to challenge a seasoned Jedi Knight unless they have the skills and technology to even the odds.

Facing the Dark Side

The Jedi’s dark counterparts scored many victories during the war, expanding their Empire, and putting the Republic on the defensive. Since the Treaty of Coruscant, the Sith have consolidated their military might, even while the Jedi have withdrawn to Tython, a move that’s been looked at with suspicion by many of the Republic’s politicians. Nonetheless, the war is far from over, and the Jedi Knight’s resolve remains firm. With unwavering allegiance to the Republic and the light side of the Force, the Jedi Knight fights with valiant determination, wading into the thick of any battle to protect freedom and democracy and hold fast against those who oppose it.

No matter how dire circumstances may become, the Jedi Knight trusts the Force and keeps a cool head. Knowledge and self-control are the critical components of wise decisions, and emotional and mental clarity are an absolute necessity. Maintaining focus allows the Knight to rely on intuition; a right mind leads to right action.

For many, the Jedi Knight is the guardian of a precious dream; a dream of peace, a dream of justice, a dream of a brighter future. The fate of the galaxy depends upon the Knight’s ability to keep this dream alive.
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