Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Micro-transactions of The Old Republic

First, Star Wars: The Old Republic has started taking applications for Closed Beta.

Secondly, the Galactic Holofeed blog has dug up some interesting information out of the Terms of Service (ToS) in regards to possible micro-transactions in SW:ToR.
(I) You acknowledge and agree that all items acquired for points during the Game Program are non-refundable and non-tradable.

(K) You acknowledge and agree that BWA reserves the right to change/add/remove points rewarded in the Game store at any time and without warning.

(M) You acknowledge and agree that points acquired during the Game Program cannot be saved up for or used in the commercial version of the Game.
Kill Ten Rats has commentary here.
What are these points that can be traded for items? Earlier in the Terms of Service, they explain that BWA is BioWare Austin, and that “Game Program” refers to the beta test, but the “points” were never explained. Perhaps you get some kind of point-based reward for submitting bugs? I don’t know, but it does sound an awful lot like beta testers will be testing out micro-transactions.
A year or so ago, and I would of have started crying foul right about now, but I'm no longer afraid of micro-transactions. When done properly they can work as a business model. In this case, just like the actual game that will be SW:ToR, we need details and Bioware is sparse (at best) with those.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Player Thoughts on DDO: Eberron Unlimited

When Dungeons and Dragons Online was first released, I was displeased with Turbine’s approach to the game. I wanted an MMOG that recreated the D&D tabletop experience, with real Dungeon Masters and the freedom experienced at the tabletop. I still want that in a MMO D&D “game”. However, Turbine created an MMOG in the D&D Eberron campaign setting with standard MMOG practices (a subscription, faction grinding, etc.). I blinded myself to the unique game that DDO was (and still is). I’ve found myself having to come back and re-evaluate this game, because suddenly I’m finding myself enjoying it (mostly because I’m not paying for it).

I don’t love everything about the game and some of my original gripes are still valid. The DM voice-overs are still distracting and uncomfortable: so much that is said, is already or could be shown. When I walk into a dungeon and see an untouched, rusty lever, I do not need a voice-over to tell me that it “cranks and grinds” when I pull it (especially with the sound effects already going off).

Secondly, the combat still makes my wrists hurt. There is a lot of clicking and button management to operate any character successfully. Every attack or block is a click, all while managing character movement. I am not sure why this is such an issue for me in DDO. I play The Chronicles of Spellborn, with a similar click-to-attack system, without issue. I play tons of FPS games, which are always frantic. My only guess is the way DDO clumps the combat encounters together, forcing a lot of clicking in a small time period. Also, a lack of any sort of “round” timer means a lot of extra clicking is done for nothing. Also, Turbine strings the dungeon sections together with a thousand destructible containers.

Third, character creation is still ripe for confusion and mistakes, but I believe this is a problem with the underlying D&D structure. Character creation has always been a source for trouble and has been ever since I picked up my AD&D 2E books over a decade ago. D&D’s character structure doesn’t fit well into video game form, even more so when MMO is thrown into the picture. Turbine has paired the system down and changed enough to make it work. It’s not great, but it’s functional. Players should not be surprised when their first character winds up as a failed experiment unless it’s well planned out with advice from veteran players.

Another gripe I had was my lack of faith that Turbine could create new content fast enough for the game. At launch, content was limited and the leveling was capped at 10. D&D has never been strictly about leveling, so this gave Turbine room to grow the game. However, early reports showed that only a minority of content was needed to reach level 10, with the leftover content completely worthless to level 10 players.

It is a different story now that DDO has been out long enough for Turbine to release several updates. New free-to-play players have a plethora of content available to purchase and unlock. It’s refreshing to think that spending money on DDO will directly result in a quantifiable experience in game. A player buys Adventure Pack A and plays Adventure Pack A. I never thought I would like it, but as I’ve transitioned to a free-to-play fan, I’ve found it to be a model that makes complete sense.

The decision to spend money, which I have not yet done, is made even easier by how enjoyable the dungeons and areas can be within DDO. The areas do not change from one visit to the next and one visit to a spoiler website can ruin the entire experience, but when approached for the first time with no insider knowledge, the dungeons are absolutely the best in any MMOG I’ve played. This may become a hindrance at higher levels when content MUST be repeated to progress forward, but on the journey to level 20 that most free-to-play players are currently on, it keeps them coming back and wanting to progress. That leads them to spend money and unlock parts of the game they want.

That is important. Turbine needs to make money, especially now that the game is free-to-play. Eventually, the new wave of players is going to chew up what is available. Turbine has already delayed some high end development to focus on the shift to a free-to-play model, so they are behind the curve. If they can keep on top of content and give players a reason to progress, the new business model is golden.

My overall conclusion about DDO is about the same as it originally was. DDO is a great dungeon crawler, but with a sometimes cumbersome combat system and an underlying structure that doesn’t fit well into a video game. The problem of content has been solved and I’m not as angry that Turbine didn’t make the game I wanted. DDO:EU is worth checking out and now that it costs nothing to do so, I’m a much happier gamer to oblige Turbine the chance to sell me something.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

WTF

Seriously, What the Favre!
Twelve seconds away from a 3-0 record to start the season, the 49ers instead left the noisy Metrodome with a brutal defeat when Favre heaved a 32-yard touchdown pass to an obscure wide receiver named Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone with 2 seconds left.

"He made a play. You don't go to the Hall of Fame if you don't make plays," said weary defensive end Justin Smith, who came oh-so-close to Favre on the fateful fling. "He added another to his highlight reel."
I guess the Vikings got what they paid for.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fallen Earth: Niche of a Niche

I didn't want to post about Fallen Earth, but Julie Whitefeather has gone and quoted me:
Do I believe in the post apocalyptic genre? You bet. Despite the fact that Heartless Gamer left me a comment calling it a “niche of a niche” that is still ONE HELL OF A BIG NICHE.
Some clarification is needed. It all begins here with my comments:
FE is just garbage and is a niche of a niche. It will hopefully stick around, because the MMO market needs variety, but it shouldn’t be held up as high as it is currently.
And when I say a niche of a niche, I mean its a sandbox MMO (niche) set in a post apocalyptic setting (niche).
I disagree with Julie that it is a "big" niche, but agree we can that its a niche in any case. The root question is whether a niche game can make it in today's market. Personally, I think it can and I think niche games HAVE to succeed or the market will fall apart.

I didn't want to post about Fallen Earth, because I played it for an hour (maybe) and hated it. The introduction to the game throws the player on rails in a single player instance and then dumps the player into the sandbox. It FUCKING SUCKED and told me NOTHING about the game. Then, being dumped into a sandbox, I was so CONFUSED on what to think that I just quit and uninstalled the game. So, I'm trying to avoid a Eurogamer Darkfall review moment.

Long rant short, I hope Fallen Earth succeeds, because the MMOG genre needs it to, but damn does their intro to the game suck.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Warhammer Expansion: Rise of the Horned Rat

Exciting news today about the first Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning expansion entitled Rise of the Horned Rat.
In the Depths of the Under-Empire a Prophet has risen, claiming to be chosen by the Horned Rat, the devious god of the Skaven people, to lead the Skaven Empire to victory over the surface dwellers. Uniting all the clans under one banner, the Horned One and The Lords of Decay have began the long dreaded invasion of the surface world. The bowls of the Skavenblight growl with the endless hunger of millions while great tunnels open up in all the lands spilling forth legion upon legion of hateful Rat-kin.

In the heart of Skavendom however there are whispers that an impostor leads the Skaven nation and that The Council of Thirteen has plans of their own….

New Race and Faction: Skaven!

Join the newly created Third Faction and fight for the glory of the Horned Rat against both Order and Destruction!

* Brand new Third Faction dramatically changing the landscape of WAR.

* Multiple new and unique classes! Play as the dreaded Plague Monk or walk through the shadows as the deadly Clan Eshin Assassin, and many more!

Five New Cities!

The WAR comes homes with the inclusion of Five new Capitol Cities to seige and defend!

* Explore the mountain Strongholds of Karak-A-Karak and Karak Eight Peaks, current home of the Dwarfs and Bloody Sun Orcs!
* Explore the Ancient High Elf Capitol of Lothern to the mighty “Fist of Malekith” a vast Black Arc and launching point of the Dark Elf Invasion!
* Traverse the dark and twisted Skavenblight, the massive underground Capitol City of the Skaven!
* Brand new Quests, PQs, Dungeons, and secrets to Unlock!

* Each City pairing has it’s own unique City Capture Mechanic and play Style!

Growth System!

Introducing the new Growth system, watch your avatar grow as you advance!

* Brand new growth system! Dwarf beards get longer and Orcs get bigger, something new for every race and class!

* Multiple levels! Don’t want to keep growing? Shut it off and make your avatar look how YOU want it to look!

* A new layer of customization that you can control!

New Classes for Destruction and Order!

Many changes to our existing classes as well as brand new classes for both Order and Destruction!

* Introducing the the Dark Elf Assassin and the Empires own Priest of Morr!

* Minor and Major changes to all existing classes! From minor tweaks to total overhauls!

New and Improved Dye and Trophy Systems!

* Major changes to the Dye and Trophy systems, look how you want to look!

* Dye your Weapons, Shields, and mounts! Dye system expanded!
Brand new Trophy System allows you to place Trophies where YOU want to place them! Dagger on your boots? Skull on your helm? No problem!

* New unique Mount Trophies!

* New Elite Trophies give passive bonuses to Renown, Experience, Influence gain and many more! Only for the the most dedicated, look cool and fight harder!

* Multiple new Dyes with overhauls to existing ones!

* Dozens of new, high res, Trophies to collect and wear, Old Trophies improved!

Massive Overhauls!

Substantial Overhauls to nearly every system in Warhammer:Age of Reckoning!

* From PQ’s, Keeps, loot drops, Ordinance, and Siege weapons major and minor changes are on the way!

* Collecting your sets is now easier then ever, both in PvE and PvP! No boss fight is a wasted experience!

* Cheaper Ordinance and improved Siege Weapon mechanics along with Keep Changes to make Keep sieges more exciting and less Static!

* Massive Changes to how you gain Realm Points, from everything from Keeps and City Sieges to Bo’s and Scenarios!

* Much, much more!

Much Much More!

Experience even more new and modified content in “The Rise of the Horned Rat”!

* Brand new, never before seen, unique class content! From class quests to powerful new weapons and armor!

* Improvements to RvR including new purchasable weapons and armor, improved Crest system, and more rewards for increasing in Realm Rank!

* Much much more!
This is totally fake by the way, but some people are gullible. Whats sad, is the guy who made this up, TOLD EVERYONE IT WAS FAKE.
The primary reason you might not have seen it before is because it’s 100% fan generated content, Mythic is in no way involved. So short of the hand of God none of this will ever be anything more then conception on our website. While we have had one or two ideas picked up in past games, the odds of Mythic picking up an entire expansion from us is very unlikely.

But if the fans and players like it maybe they can apply some pressure once the project is finished, and if the ideas are solid then who knows!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Turbine Targeting Aion Server Queues... With Advertising?

Yes, I run advertisements targeted at search traffic on this blog. Yes, on a blog that costs me NOTHING (other than my time and dignity) to operate.

Looking over my search traffic and targeted advertising (have to keep those fucking gold selling ads in check), I've been getting a lot of Aion keyword searches into the site. The advertising targeted at the Aion keyword is VERY interesting, as shown below:


So, its terribly apparent that Turbine is targeting their keyword, search-based advertising for a completely different game. Now, to be fair, Turbine does also target the DDO keyword with DDO advertisements. However, it always cracks me up to think about how much search-based advertising gets away with. They essentially make money off the brand names and trademarks by selling redirected search attempts to their competitors.

God, I love the Internet.

One Paragraph To Describe Aion

I found this over at Massively:
Aion is the vanilla of MMOs. It does things right but it doesn't do them spectacularly. It targets everyone, but it simultaneously targets no one. It doesn't take risks. It's fun, but it's not endearing or memorable. It simply is.
With all of the launch day hype and coverage flooding in, this single paragraph describes almost all of it. Aion is the ! to the Diku-inspired sentence that Diku MUDs started, EQ brought to paper, and WoW wrote. The model can not be improved any further. New Diku MMOGs are all about polish and execution.
This game is solid. Period. If games could be graded on polish and polish alone, then Aion is one of the most polished games I've come across in a while
Of course they did have a year-long headstart on polish with the Korean launch.
This is, of course, due to the fact that Aion has had a year to work all of these problems out in Korea, and the fact that NCsoft's localization teams have been so absolutely thorough with the game.
Ok, I lied. Three paragraphs to describe Aion. None of them talking about server queues!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scribblenauts Is Here! Scribblenauts Is Here! Scribblenauts Is Here! Scribblenauts Is Here!

Ok, Scribblenauts has been out for a little bit now and I still haven't gotten a chance to buy a copy. However, I wanted to throw a post up to let everyone that hasn't heard of this little gem of game that it is now out and about.

Ars Technica has their review up:
Scribblenauts was the darling of E3, rounding up a hojillion awards—including a Golden Ars—and impressing everyone who stopped by for a demo. It was a game that showed very well, especially with a developer on hand to point out any number of interesting situations. The premise is simple, although it hides an abyssal depth: you are asked to either reach a star, or to fulfill the requirements to earn one. The tools at your disposal? The world.

You can type in or write any word you can think of, and get that item or person to help you in your quest. No dirty words, and no proper nouns, nothing copyrighted—but even without those limitations, you're looking at tens of thousands of items. Type in "pirate" to fight a ninja. Type in "bridge" to cross an expanse, or type in "motorcycle" and "ramp" and jump it. You gain currency by using fewer items, and also by using creative solutions, and you use that currency to unlock new worlds.

There are two types of levels: action levels where you simply have to get to the starite item, using your reflexes as well as your wits; and puzzle, where you are given a one-sentence instruction about what to do. It may say "get rid of the rats," and in that sentence are dozens of possibilities. In fact, you only completely clear out a level by finishing it three times, without using any item more than once. Much harder than it sounds.
I'm working on getting my copy still (hopefully before the weekend). Chances are I will hate the game since I'm hyping it up, but that's life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aion Launches, Has Server Queues

Aion has launched in North America. No, I am not playing and have no plans of playing.

Aion has really long server queues. Anyone that believed that a new, AAA MMOG could launch in this day and age without server queues is ignorant, blind, or just a flat-out newb.

Enjoy waiting in line.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fixed: Punkbuster Error "Disallowed Program/Driver 125120"

This is a quick how-to on fixing the Punkbuster error "Disallowed Program/Driver 125120".
1. Disable all screen overlay features in any running programs.
2. If all screen overlay features are disabled and the problem persists, exit each program with a screen overlay and try again.
3. If FRAPS is installed, exit FRAPS and try again.
If you want the long-winded WHY of this little bug, keep on reading.

This was annoying to track down, as all things Punkbuster are, simply because Even Balance (the developers behind PB) refuse to SHARE with the community what their error codes mean or what may be causing them to kick non-cheating players.

Getting kicked by Punkbuster for "Disallowed Program/Driver 125120" simply means that a program or driver on the computer is trying to overlay something on the game-screen in a way PB does not like. This is a common way for hacks to hook into a game. Instead of interacting with the game, they sit on top of it with an overlay. This has been a common form of hack for years.

Unfortunately, Punkbuster recently made aggressive changes to how they view overlays and thus many programs that legitimately use them are now being seen as potential hacks by Punkbuster. Programs such as FRAPS and EVGA Precision.

Now, FRAPS in particular is having special difficulties. Older versions are flat-out interpreted as hacks by Punkbuster now and running any old FRAPS versions will get a player kicked repeatedly for "Disallowed Program/Driver 125120". Disabling the FRAPS overlay will not work. FRAPS must be shut down anytime a Punkbuster game is running. The FRAPS developer attempted to fix this problem in the current FRAPS version, but as quickly as they did, Even Balance changed Punkbuster to continue the kicking. So, its a tug-o-war between FRAPS and Punkbuster and I don't see FRAPS winning.

Other programs, such as EVGA Precision are in much better shape. Simply disabling the screen overlay features (such as GPU temperature) will fix the issue. This is most likely true for any number of overlay features in many video card manufacturer's software management/monitoring programs.

Unfortunately, for dedicated players of games like Call of Duty 4 or America's Army 3, this means the loss of some great software tools. Fuck Punkbuster. Once upon a time they were decent, but they've become the porta-potty of the anti-cheat world. No one wants to use them, they stink like shit, but unfortunately its the only option.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hickman Explains WAR's Mistakes

In a lengthy article over at Gamasutra, Jeff Hickman explains what he feels are the three downfalls of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
Warhammer's Three Major Mistakes

Despite having a successful MMO in the form of Dark Age of Camelot, Hickman says there were "mistakes we made with Warhammer that we should not have made." He described them as "three things have haunted us for a year with Warhammer," and later acknowledged a lot of effort has been put into dealing with them in patches -- sometimes subtly, as they're fundamental and systemic.
It breaks down to:

1. The game was too easy early on.
2. Since the game was easy, people didn't need to work together and therefore didn't socialize or build communities.
3. The economy of the game was way off.

I will agree with 1 and 3, but I wouldn't lay too much of the game's downfall on those two alone. I think 2 was caused more by how horribly inconsistent the game was instead of the game being too easy. 2 is the symptom, not the cause.

WAR had pockets of greatness, and the article addresses some of the GOOD things about WAR, but overall, those pockets of greatness were not connected in any sensible way. That is why socialization never took off in the game. Nothing ever felt like it was meant to work together. WAR, for the most part, was a series of different games patched together.

I'm done wasting my energy on WAR. The game, at level 40, was laughably bad before I quit. I may return in the future to see what they've done and I'm glad their admitting in public that mistakes were made. I'm very glad they didn't try to blame Wrath of the Lich King again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

News Roundup: SWG Server Closures, 5M Confused Free Realmers, and The MMO Prophet

Unbeknown to everyone, Star Wars Galaxies still had 25 servers running. However, they've decided to close 12 servers:
Sony Online Entertainment has announced and notified Star Wars Galaxies players that the game will be shutting down 12 servers on October 15th. The effected servers are:

* Corbantis
* Europe-Infinity
* Intrepid
* Kauri
* Kettemoor
* Lowca
* Naritus
* Scylla
* Tarquinas
* Tempest
* Valcyn
* Wanderhome
I hate server closures, but secretly love them when they are done for the right reasons. SWG needed to close servers because the playerbase was getting spread too far apart. The consolidated servers will provide a much better player density.

This presents a unique challenge, as SWG allows players to own property. I would hate to be the guy that loses prime real estate right outside of Mos Eisley on Tatooine, but at the same time, I would welcome the potential new business when I find a new plot of land to settle on a more populated server!

Following suit with more SOE-related news: Free Realms *almost* hits 5 million players.
Sony Online Entertainment's free-to-play MMO Free Realms is 'close to' 5 million registered users, revealed Sony Online president John Smedley, speaking in a Gamasutra-attended panel at Comic-Con International San Diego 2009,
We still don't have any revenue figures, and as Facebook and Twitter have taught the Web 2.0 world, big user bases tend to cost A LOT of money and are not necessarily equatable to profits.

I played Free Realms and it was fun for a few days. It wore off quickly and once stripped down, there is nothing in Free Realms for me. Which is apparent, as SOE also announced that 75% of Free Realms players are under 18 years of age and a lot of them can't remember what year they were born or whether the lack of a twig'n'berries between their legs meant M or F:
Additionally, Smedley updated some of the game's demographics, stating 67 percent of players are male and 33 percent are female. "We were shooting for more females, but that's way better than the MMO audience which is [typically only] 15 percent female," says Smedley. He added that Free Realms stats show females outpurchase males by a 30-40 percent margin, and that 51 percent of Free Realms gamers are under 13, with around 75 percent under 18.
At launch, 40 percent of players were hitting Free Realms' registration website, and walking away. SOE found out that the average 10-year-old kid was getting hung up at the birth date field -- kids knew the day and month of their birth, but not the year. And they weren't filling out the "gender" field.
Snark aside, grats to SOE on Free Realms, we need more successes in the MMOG market.

Lastly, Tobold (the MMO Prophet) predicted World of Warcraft: Cataclysm:
Reader Luka is going through my archives from 2003 to now, and sent me a comment about one of my posts I had long forgotten about. It is from October 16, 2008, with comments on WoW patch 3.0 and ends with this paragraph:

MMORPGs are multiplayer games, and much of their attraction comes from the interaction with other players. As the players moved on, a huge part of World of Warcraft just ceased to exist. What is left behind is just an empty stage, and faint memories of the plays that were enacted on that stage. To populate that part of the world again, we'd need a completely different type of expansion: Not 10 more levels added to the endgame, but a cataclysm striking the old world, and changing it. New classes, maybe even new races, and most of the quests and zones of old Azeroth being changed to breathe new life into them. I wonder if we'll ever get such an expansion.

Another Free UT3 Black Weekend

Epic and Steam are at it again, offering a free weekend of play for Unreal Tournament 3 Black.
Play Unreal Tournament 3 FREE this weekend! Visit the UT3 game page to start pre-loading and be ready to play as soon as it starts Thursday at 1:00PM PDT (8:00PM GMT).
For anyone interested, start the pre-load now, its a fairly large download.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DDO: My 28 pt, Newbie Class Build Choices!

I have decided on two Class Builds I want to try in DDO. I've pulled both from this great thread on the DDO forums. In the end, I didn't want to be tied down to a melee character. I wanted some flavor and decided I will play two toons: one melee and one spellcaster. I decided to avoid multi-classing and stuck with two pure builds.

Melee: The Backstab Fighter (Halfling Fighter)
Backstab Fighter
Level 20 Chaotic Good Halfling Male
(20 Fighter)
Hit Points: 322
Spell Points: 0
BAB: 20\20\25\30\30
Fortitude: 16
Reflex: 16
Will: 11

Starting Base Stats
Abilities (Level 1)

=======================
Strength 16
Dexterity 16
Constitution 14
Intelligence 8
Wisdom 8
Charisma 8

Spellcaster: The Generalist (Human Sorcerer)
Generalist
Level 16 True Neutral Human Male
(16 Sorcerer)
Hit Points: 170
Spell Points: 1610
BAB: 8\8\13
Fortitude: 8
Reflex: 4
Will: 9

Starting Base Stats
Abilities (Level 1)

=======================
Strength 10
Dexterity 8
Constitution 16
Intelligence 8
Wisdom 8
Charisma 18

Now all I need to do is figure out a unique name that is NOT taken already! All of my standbys are taken. Damn newbs!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DDO: Class recommendation for a new player?

With the discussion around DDO character builds still swirling, I figured I would ask for input from the general audience about what character I should play? I don't want to waste any time messing with building one myself, so I am sort of looking for a complete 28-point build.

I am a D&D veteran and can understand most of the slang. My current preference in play-style hovers more towards melee classes. I don't need to be top DPS, but DPS is still important. I'd rather have more utility than just outputting DPS. I would like to try avoid Cleric builds, but I am open to anything currently.

Comment away!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Online's Pay Wall: 32 Point Builds

Update: Here are the new-player builds, which are attainable with 28 base stat points.

A character planner tool is available here.
Read below for my bitching:

I have been playing the Free-to-Play (F2P) version of Dungeons and Dragons online for an hour this morning and I've come across a potential deal breaker: 32 point builds. As with any game I venture into, I look for guides and general information on the forums.

For DDO, I came across a great Character Builds forum, but could not figure out HOW to make any of the builds actually listed. All of them included four extra stat points that I did not seem to have access to in the character creator.

Long story short, players have to play with a throw away character, grind to 1750 Favor, and then re-roll a character that then gets 32 (instead of 28) base stat points to allocate. At first, I thought this was a limitation of the F2P model, but I quickly found out its a "feature". Yes, there is a "feature" in DDO that makes a player's first character something they will have to stop playing in order to re-roll a character with sufficient end-game stat points.

To add insult to this injury, Turbine's potential solution is to add the 32 points as a purchasable item in their cash shop.
At this time you still have to earn enough favor to unlock a 32 point build, however we are definitely discussing adding them in the store in the future.
Looking at the forums, this would be a huge hit with players. However, this absolutely disgusts me. Buying races and classes is fine, but paying for what SHOULD BE basic class building features is a game-killer.

However, the wound wasn't deep enough as Turbine pours salt in by forcing players to buy adventure packs to unlock enough quests which will allow a player to achieve enough favor to get the 32 base stat points. Guess what, DDO has a pay wall.

This may be a day one deal breaker for me. I don't want to waste my time on a character that is instantly perceived as weaker than the other players around him. I don't care what the counter-argument is. Bob gets 32. I get 28. That's four points I'm not getting for a character I am going to have to stop using once I've unlocked the next four points.

With all of this said, maybe I am over-reacting, as I've not invested enough time into figuring out the system and what is involved. There is still a bad taste in my mouth and I'm wasting time researching instead of playing.

Here's a tip for Turbine: F2P games fail because they become too fucking confusing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Steal of a Deal: BioWare offers Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for $10 (Steam or Direct2Drive)

Great scoop over at Massively:
BioWare announced at PAX 2009 that they're handing out $10 doses of nostalgia by offering KOTOR downloads for PC through both Direct2Drive and Steam.

Getting back to the MMO angle, there's another 25% off of that for Star Wars: The Old Republic community members who download the game from Direct2Drive.
I'm already downloading.

The Great GAME Purge of 2009

Ardwulf purged the MMOs installed on his PC:
That time has come again, to free my overloaded hard drive of games (MMO and otherwise) and software that I’m not playing, and won’t be, for the foreseeable future.
Since I am no longer MMO-centric, I am going to list my GAME purge of 2009. As a bonus, hard drive space is super valuable to me currently as I am shooting a ton of high def video of little Heartless_.

Action Games

Battlefield Heroes: Staying. Its free-to-play and I've spent a few bucks to customize my heroes. Its easy to get into and offers casual FPS game play.

Team Fortress 2: Staying. Every time I think about removing this game, Valve releases an update that pulls me back in. Also, I still want a damn hat!

Left 4 Dead: Uninstalled. I haven't played in months and the friend I played with from work switched to a night shift and is never online when I am. It was a fun romp while it lasted. Also, as the game was downloaded via Steam, it is a simple 1-click reinstall.

Call of Duty 4: Reinstalled. I want to play through the single-player campaign again, and I have to admit that the CoD4:Modern Warfare 2 videos have me drooling for some CoD4 multi-player action.

Quake Live: Staying. Its contained in a browser plug-in and easy to jump into. I may suck at it, but its completely free and worth keeping around.

MMOGs

The Chronicles of Spellborn: Staying, but only if I can fix it crashing my PC. I purchased a new video card and now when I boot up TCoS, it BSODs my computer. If I can't fix this, I will have to remove the game. I don't want to, but TCoS is frozen in development, so no fixes are likely to come down the line. This is the only game that crashes with my new video card.

Runes of Magic: Uninstalled. Since the WoW Cataclysm announcements, I feel dirty playing RoM. For $15 a month, I could be having a much better experience in WoW. RoM is fun and well developed, but I have five years of WoW bias to fight every time I'm logged in. Plus, the PvP in RoM sucks.

Maple Story: Uninstalled. I said I was going to try the game that 90+ million people have tried, but outside of the card game I've lost interest. The iTCG is out of beta, so it now costs money and I doubt I'll be going back to it anytime soon.

Free Realms: Uninstalled. While some people are treating Free Realms as the next coming of Jesus, I see through its thinly veiled exterior. Its a bunch of mini-games in a world where players can interact with each other. All of the good stuff is locked behind the pay wall. I will only admit that it is well executed and offers a quality experience, but it is nothing special. Kongregate, I'm coming back.

Domain of Heroes: Bookmark deleted. Yes, I spent $10 on this lackluster game and then promptly stopped playing. It was after the $10 that I realized how hopeless the development of the game was. Changes were either slow or completely out of left field. It could be a great and fun game, but the balancing act required seems out of reach for the developers.

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Possible new install. I have to wait and see how the game reviews in its new free-to-play form. I never agreed with the fundamental design of DDO, but it could turn out to be a decent freebie that is worthy of a few hours.

Miscellaneous Games

The Path: Staying. I still haven't unlocked everything in this little gem of an indie-game. Plus, I think if I uninstall the game, strange things start happening in real life.

Metaplace: Staying. I don't know what to think of Metaplace. I don't believe it can be a gaming platform of any kind in its current state, but I'm curious to see where it goes. Plus, it takes up no room on my hard drive, so it makes the decision easier.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Favre, Magician, The Chronicles of Spellborn

I love character creation in MMOs. Even if the system (WoW) is very limiting or expansive (CoX), I love spending time making a character I get to watch for potentially hundreds of hours! I rolled a new toon, Favre the Magician, in The Chronicles of Spellborn and I wanted to show him off:


What about everyone else? Are you proud of your character creations or are you clicking as fast as possible to get to the game?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Dragon*Con FTW!

Dragon*Con is here! Dragon*Con is here! Dragon*Con is here! Dragon*Con is here!

And everyone I work with seems to be there, because its way too busy for a Friday around here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Book Thoughts: The Name of the Wind

Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Trade; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
Quick-Hit Thought: Quality writing, minus a few WTF moments.

I debated how to write this review. Should I review the book, or should I review the reviews of the book? To me, the more interesting option is to approach the reviews, as they influenced my decision to get the book. The reviews for The Name of the Wind are split; some people love it, some people hate it. For some, Patrick Rothfuss, is the next big name in Fantasy. To others, he is a self-centered arrogant jerk. Personally, I fall in the middle and have no opinion on the Mr. Rothfuss himself.

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, we get the following gem from Robin Hobb (an accomplished author himself):
It seems to me that every year there are more books I want to read and less time for me to read them. Because my time is limited, I'm guilty of picking up the books by my favorite authors first, and fitting in new authors only when it's convenient.
Due to a stroke of luck, I've had an advance copy of The Name of the Wind by my bedside for over six months, just waiting for me to open it. Unfortunately, deadlines of my own kept getting in the way. But in a way, it's lucky that I didn't crack this book until just a few days ago. If I'd had this tale to distract me, I'd have been even later getting my work done.

I loathe spoilers, so I'm not going to discuss the plot of this book. I will say it has all the things that I demand of a book. The characters are real, the action is convincing and it has a compelling story to tell.

One of the things I like best about this book is that the magic is absolutely rooted in the book's world. Nothing seems contrived; the consistency is excellent.

The characters are very well realized. That means that when the protagonist does something clever, it's believable. And when he does something youthfully dumb, it rings just as authentically true. Because the characters are real and the magic is true to its own world, I closed this book feeling as if I'd been on a journey with an entertaining new friend, rather than sitting alone looking at words on a page.
This one is well worth some of your precious reading time. I'll wager that the books to follow it will also be.

Robin Hobb
From the peanut gallery, we get:
Like so many here I was suckered into this. Before you buy this book, read all the reviews. Read the honest 1 and 2 star reviews, read the others. Do notice how many reviewers gush praise but don't actually discuss the book. Or how many of the reviews all sound alike? Mention of the main characters, three to five sentences, all proclaiming how this is the best thing ever. Are we really supposed to believe this over the top hype? The funniest, and I mean laugh out loud funny, is the recent review that proclaims "next biggest thing since Tolkien". Or how about the laughable "I hope to be witnessing history on par with Herbert, Tolkien, etc."
I'll admit I bought the book based on the above two reviews. One, because Robin Hobb is a trustworthy review source. Two, because I wanted to know why so many felt the book was overrated.

I tend to agree that the book is overrated. If I rated things in little stars, TNotW would be a 3/5. Its enjoyable and well written, but it lacks the consistency of better novels. The core story is great and I enjoyed the main character Kvothe throughout. What I didn't enjoy was senseless meandering to the side. Situations in which some pretty stupid shit happens; *SPOILER* as stupid as dragons getting high on drugs spurring our hero into action. */SPOILER*

The book is about a man telling another man his life's story. The book starts with the hardened adventurer settled down as a tavern owner, adventures almost long gone. A happy-go-lucky scribe stops by and asks for the hero's story. What ensues will take three books to tell, but this first book covers the entire first day of story telling.

This approach leads to an interesting look into the events that make up the main character's life. As anyone who talks too much about themselves, Kvothe tends to embellish his stories a little bit. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell whether Kvothe is intentionally embellishing them or whether Rothfuss just writes that way. Unfortunately, this spills over (as mentioned above in the spoiler) into some pretty WTF moments.

I would have enjoyed the book a lot more and laughed a bit less at the situations had Rothfuss cut about a hundred or so pages of side story and focused on Kvothe's main storyline at the University (and area around it) and chasing information about the Chadrian. I was really intrigued by the way Kvothe interacted with the Masters at the University and was a bit disappointed when he left to chase ghost stories. I didn't mind that he had left the University, but I was very displeased at the reasons Rothfuss chose to keep him away. At one point, I almost put the book down because I couldn't stop laughing at the situation the characters were in. Seriously, read the above spoiler and tell me it doesn't sound stupid.

I tend to rate things on a 0 to 1 scale. 0, no. 1, yes. In this case, TNotW is a 1, because it is worth reading and deciding if the second book is worthwhile to the reader.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Favre Cracks a Block and maybe a Rib

Brett Favre is in a bit of hot water this morning after throwing a potential career ending crack-back block last in the Vikings vs. Texans preseason game.
The 39-year-old quarterback drew a penalty for an illegal crackback block to the knee of Houston's Eugene Wilson when he lined up wide in the wildcat formation in the third quarter. Wilson was injured on the play, but said he'll be OK.

Favre said he wasn't out to hurt anyone and was simply trying to protect rookie Percy Harvin, who took the snap.
Fortunately for Favre, his coach is taking the blame:
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he hadn't seen the block, but had a lot to say about it.

"I have not spent a lot of time with him blocking in the last 10 days," Childress said. "Nor do I think he has spent any time doing any blocking, but I will in the future if he is going to be at the point of attack. I don't think he did any of this down in Mississippi either. So that one is on me, I will take that one."
Childress should be the one to blame. It was the dumbest formation a Favre-lead offense could ever possibly be in. It would have been ironic justice had Favre been seriously injured on that play. Even as a Favre fan, I cannot defend that block in any shape or form.

And maybe there is justice in the universe as Favre may have a broken rib:
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre says he might have a cracked rib.

Favre told ESPN before Monday night's game at Houston that he hasn't received an official diagnosis but that taking a deep breath caused him some discomfort. He also doesn't plan to wear any kind of special padding, saying "the damage is done."
Its going to be an interesting season. As Terrell Owens once said; "get your popcorn ready".
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