Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Steampunk Heartless

Great art of a Steampunk Heartless!

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 Black Friday Gaming Deals

Black Friday is here!  Gaming deals are as follows:

The autumn Steam sale has been in progress since Wednesday.
There are some hidden gems outside of the daily and flash sales, use the awesome Steam Game Sales website to find them.

Amazon has had pre-Black Friday deals all week long, but today they are really ramping it up:

Xbox 360 + Kinect bundle for $199
Playstation 3 bundle for $199
Bioware Pack (Mass Effect 1&2, Dragon Age 1&2) for $12.49 total
Borderlands 2 for $29.99 (activates on Steam)

View all of Amazon.com's gaming deals here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be Thankful... Thanksgiving 2012


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guild Wars 2 going no where (and some pics)

Guild Wars 2 is not perfect (actually quite far from it), but it does enough things right to keep me entertained. I am level 26 on my Norn thief, Heartless Foe.  The average level of players according to most polls of MMO veterans is in the 50 to 60 range.  I'm behind; way behind.  And I don't care.  Guild Wars 2 leveling is fast and I've found that I have no reason to rush it because Guild Wars 2 is not going anywhere nor is its content.

As an MMO vet, I should be embarrassed at what happened last night and this morning.  I played for almost three hours between the two and only gained a couple levels.  The entire time I was out and about doing things and having fun.  Before I knew it I had moved onto a new zone, Plains of Ashford, and started in on the "hearts" and various points of interest.  I was cruising along having participated in a few events when it struck me.  This zone was a level 1-15 zone meant for new players.  I was level 25 at the time.

Guild Wars 2 doesn't punish players for being in lower level zones and it levels-down your avatar seamlessly to make the zone still a challenge.  Experience gains from killing monsters is not a large portion in any leveling and the experience gained from the events is generous.  The leveling curve is flat, so whether I level in a lower level zone or a higher one doesn't really matter.  In fact, as the newbie zones start to wind down in activity, there is a fat and happy bonus for killing some of the monsters that haven't been knocked off in a while (I was seeing 40 bonus experience in some cases, 2x what an equal level kill would net in a zone my level).

Even with the game design in mind, I am still a bit shocked how long it took me to even register the fact that the creatures I was slaying were in the single digits for levels.  The loot as well was working out; scaling to somewhat meet my level (albeit about 5 levels low, but still that was 15 levels higher than what I was killing).

Funnier yet is that I came into the zone through a gate from Diessa Plateau and immediately walked into a dynamic event that had spawned veteran (aka hard mode) units that quickly did me in.  A quick re-spawn and I was able to join the fray and see the event to conclusion.  In past MMOs entering a lower level zone meant enabling EZ mode.  Not so in Guild Wars 2.

Guild Wars 2 is refreshing and with no subscription to pay there is no impetus for me to put metal to the grind stone.  I can do what I want, when I want and most of the time feel rewarded for it.  There is more to it than the meager little bit I passed along here.  Tons of tiny little things is really what makes Guild Wars 2 and without these nuances, the game could easily fall flat.  Again, I highly recommend Guild Wars 2 to any MMO veteran.

And picture time:



















Sunday, September 02, 2012

Guild Wars 2 9/1 Status

Another day, another Guild Wars 2 update:

  • Account Security
Read this! If you don't want your account hacked, don't use the same email address and password for Guild Wars 2 that you've used for another game or web site. Hackers have big lists of email addresses and passwords that they've harvested from malware and from security vulnerabilities in other games and web sites, and they're systematically testing Guild Wars 2 looking for matching accounts.
We're doing everything we can to protect you. But to protect you in this case, we have to start with, "the hacker knows this person's account name and password; now how do we keep him from stealing the account?" That's hard to protect against. Don't let it get to that point. Please immediately change your password to a new, strong, unique password that you've never used anywhere else.
  • Hacked Accounts
Our customer support team is prioritizing tickets from customers with hacked accounts or who are otherwise blocked from logging into the game. If your account was hacked, please follow these instructions for submitting a ticket, to make sure that your ticket is correctly prioritized and to make sure you're submitting all the information we need to restore your access.
For hacked accounts, expect a response within 72 hours. As of this writing we're working on tickets submitted August 30. If you submitted a hacked account ticket on August 29 or earlier, and haven't received a response yet, your ticket may not be correctly prioritized. In that case, please submit a new ticket using the above instructions, and in the title write, "Hacked Account - Ticket submitted August 2x - Ticket number xxxxxx-xxxxxx" (fill in the date and ticket number), and we will prioritize your existing (August 29 or earlier) ticket.
  • Reset Password
We're leaving the "reset password" feature disabled for now. If you forgot your password, please contact the customer support team. We're leaving this disabled for now because we believe that a significant number of customers are unaware that hackers have the passwords for their email accounts. If we enable "reset password", a hacker who can get into an email account can use that access to get into the associated Guild Wars 2 game account.
  • Email Authentication
Email authentication is a feature we use to prevent hackers from gaining access to an account even if they know the account name and password.
We suffered an outage of email authentication mails today, preventing players from authorizing logins from new locations. This is now resolved. When you receive an email authentication message, or any other email fromnoreply@guildwars2.com, do not mark the email as spam! If you do, your email provider may prevent you from seeing any future email authentication messages.
  • Parties, Guilds, etc.
We've made significant fixes to parties and guilds. However, you may still see intermittent outages. These outages cause symptoms such as party members not appearing on the map, party members not staying in the same overflow servers as they travel between maps, party members not joining dungeons together, and guild invites not working.
  • Trading Post
We're periodically opening the Trading Post for testing. This morning it was open to all players for six hours. As of this writing, the Trading Post is offline so we can apply further bug fixes and performance improvements.
This morning during testing, some users purchased items and didn't immediately receive them, or sold items and didn't immediately receive the gold. We do have record of these transactions and are working on completing them. Check the "pick up" tab on your commerce panel to see if your transaction has completed.
  • PvP Tournaments
PvP tournaments were temporarily disabled today. We have now restored them.
  • World v. World
World v. World matches are now updating daily. We're running 24-hour matches to balance servers.
  • Worlds
We added three new worlds in Europe on Thursday, and three new worlds in America on Friday, and increased the population limits on all worlds.
  • Overflow
During this initial surge of high concurrency, and especially while most characters are low-level and thus playing in the same starting areas, it's common for players to be directed to overflow servers. If you want to play with a friend, but you're not on the same overflow servers, you can form a party together, then right-click on your friend's portrait in the party list and click "join".
We expect the use of overflow servers to naturally subside as players spread out more through the world.
  • Botting and exploits
It is our policy to permanently ban accounts engaged in botting and exploits, and we're ramping up to do that.
If you discover an exploit in the game, do not exploit it or publicize it, but instead please notify us immediately at this new email address: exploits (at) arena (dot) net. (This email address is for notifying us of emergency exploits. We cannot respond individually to questions sent to this address.)
  • Forums
Our most important priority at the moment is to ensure that the game runs stably and flawlessly. So as to not create additional demand on our infrastructure and on our programming team, we made the decision not to open the forums until the initial mass influx of players has calmed down a bit.
  • Next software updates
We're making non-disruptive changes throughout the day. We'll publish the next back-end server update tonight at midnight Seattle time. The game may be unavailable for approximately 20-60 minutes while we perform this update.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Guild Wars 2 8/31 Status

Arena.net is certainly living up to their communication promise.  Here is the update for today, as copied from Reddit.
submitted  ago by ArenaNetTeam [+2]
This is the current status of the most important issues we're tracking with Guild Wars 2 live service.
This status information is also available on the Guild Wars 2 wiki[1] . Check there for the most recent information.
Account security - Protect your account! We've seen hackers systematically scan email addresses and passwords harvested from other games, web sites, and trojans to see if they match Guild Wars 2 accounts. We've taken steps to protect our players from this, but we need your help too. Make sure that you use a strong, unique password forGuild Wars 2 that you've never used anywhere else. For best security, use a unique email address too, and see ourblog post[2] for more tips.
Email authentication - We now have email authentication enabled for all players who have validated their email addresses. This feature sends an email whenever it detects a login attempt to your account from a location you haven't played from before, asking you to allow or deny the login.
We've learned of an incompatibility between email authentication and older versions of Internet Explorer. We're working on a fix, which we expect to deploy tomorrow.
If you're not receiving account verification emails or account authentication emails, please check your junk/spam folders, and add noreply@guildwars2.com[3] to your safe senders list.
Parties, guilds, etc. - We've made significant fixes to parties and guilds. However, you may still see intermittent outages. These outages cause symptoms such as party members not appearing on the map, party members not staying in the same overflow servers as they travel between maps, and guild invites not working.
Trading Post - Yesterday we opened the Trading Post for a random, rotating 50% of users. After gathering data from yesterday's tests, we applied a number of fixes and performance improvements, and are preparing a larger-scale test today.
Tournament Rewards - We believe we've addressed the problem with tournament chests not appearing. Let us know if you still see any issues with this.
World v. World - We're aware the world v. world matches have not been resetting properly. We're preparing an update to fix this. Once the issue is fixed, we'll start running 24-hour matches to balance servers.
Worlds - We added three new worlds in Europe yesterday, three new worlds in America today, and increased the population limits on all worlds.
Overflow - During this initial surge of high concurrency, and especially while most characters are low-level and thus playing in the same starting areas, it's common for players to be directed to overflow servers. If you want to play with a friend, but you're not on the same overflow servers, you can form a party together, then right-click on your friend's portrait in the party list and click "join".
We expect the use of overflow servers to naturally subside as players spread out more through the world.
Botting - We suspended accounts of 750 players running bots. We're ramping up and will soon apply permanent bans for cases of substantial botting.
Exploits - If you discover an exploit in the game, do not exploit it or publicize it, but instead please notify us immediately at this new email address: exploits (at) arena (dot) net.
Forums - Our most important priority at the moment is to ensure that the game runs stably and flawlessly. So as to not create additional demand on our infrastructure and on our programming team, we made the decision not to open the forums until the initial mass influx of players has calmed down a bit.
Wiki - We increased wiki server capacity to address issues users are seeing. We plan to start posting these updates to the wiki, as long as the wiki can handle the traffic.
Next software updates - We're making non-disruptive changes throughout the day. We'll publish the next back-end server update tonight at midnight Seattle time. The game may be unavailable for approximately 20-60 minutes while we perform this update.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Updates

Arena Net has posted their progress on the Guild Wars 2 launch and planned updates and fixes they have in the pipeline over at Reddit.  Re-posted below:
This is the current status of the most important issues we're tracking with Guild Wars 2 live service.
Account security - We're seeing an uptick in reports of account theft and attempted account theft. We believe hackers are using databases of email addresses and passwords stolen from other games and web sites, and pre-existing trojan horses, to search for matching Guild Wars 2 accounts which they attempt to compromise. To prevent this, we have temporarily disabled the "reset password" feature, and we're working to bring email authentication online. To protect yourself, please ensure that you use a unique password for Guild Wars 2 that you don't use for any other game, email account, forum or web account.
Email authentication - Email authentication is a feature that notifies you if someone tries to log into your account from a location you've never logged in from before. Thus, even if someone guesses your game password, he can't log in unless he also guesses your email account password. You can make email authentication even more secure by using an email provider that supports two-factor authentication, such as Google[1] or Yahoo[2] , and taking advantage of that. We're currently preparing email authentication and intend to deploy it in a phased rollout, starting on Thursday, August 30.
Parties, guilds, etc. - Parties, guilds, and other social features are periodically failing. This causes issues such as party members not appearing on the map, and party members not staying in the same overflow servers as they travel between maps. This happens particularly during times of peak usage. We're working to fix related problems and mitigate this issue with each subsequent update.
Worlds - Many worlds are filling up. We're keeping the number of worlds constrained so that worlds stay well populated even after the initial surge of high concurrency. However, we will add worlds as necessary. As of Wednesday, August 30, all German language worlds are full and all French language worlds are at high usage, so we're adding two new German language worlds and one new French language world.
Overflow worlds - During this initial surge of high concurrency, and especially while many characters are low-level and thus playing in the same starting areas, it's common for players to be directed to overflow maps. If you want to play with a friend, but you’re not on the same overflow map, you can form a party together, then right-click on your friend's portrait in the party list and click "join". Note that this functionality is sometimes intermittently unavailable due to the "parties, guilds, etc." issues noted above.
Trading Post - We're working to bring the Trading Post back online. To help test, we've temporarily made it available to a random 15% of players, while we work to resolve remaining capacity constraints that will allow us to open it to everyone.
In-game mail - We detected a potential abuse of the in-game mail system and have temporarily disabled in-game mail to prevent any such abuse. We'll reenable it soon, hopefully in tonight's update.
Botting - We'll start substantial banning of bots on Wednesday, August 29. Since we're currently seeing widespread casual, unsophisticated botting, we will start with 72-hour bans for first offenses. In the coming days, as we address the casual botting problem, we plan to switch to our normal policy of permanently banning anyone who runs a bot.
Forums - Our most important priority at the moment is to ensure that the game runs stably and flawlessly. So as to not create additional demand on our infrastructure and on our programming team, we made the decision not to open the forums until the initial mass influx of players has calmed down a bit.
Next software updates - The next update of the game server and back-end server software will take place tonight at midnight Seattle time. The game may be unavailable for approximately 20-60 minutes while we perform the update. We expect this update to have fixes for email authentication and in-game mail. Our continued work on the Trading Post is not tied to game updates, so we will continue to test Trading Post updates throughout the day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Initial Impressions

Guild Wars 2 head started on Friday shortly before midnight.  I was able to log in immediately to the Maguuma server and get started on my Norn thief, Heartless Foe, and my Human ranger, Heartless Gamer.  (Heartless Foe is a throwback to my Warrior/Necro character name from Guild Wars 1).  Guild Wars 2 immediately lives up to many of it's expectations by improving and simplifying many MMO tropes, but at the same time there are some core issues that hold it back.

Upon logging in the first enhancement is immediately visible: overflow servers.  This is the first MMO launch in recent memory where the word "login queue" didn't apply.  Instead, extra players are thrown into an instanced server where they can play and progress waiting to join the main server.  The downside is that right now overflow servers make playing with friends difficult, but to me its a better solution than NOT playing the game while watching a login queue.  Playing will always win the war against NOT playing.

As far as the actual game goes; Guild Wars 2 is a brilliant package.  There is a lot to like, from the excellent world/zone maps, "quest" design, and graphics, to the little things such as the collections tab, waypoint system, and emotes.  Without spending too much time droning on about the nuances, suffice to say that Guild Wars 2 listened and executed well in regards to improving on many little annoyances of MMOs.  Anyone that has experienced MMOs for the past several years will be spoiled by Guild Wars 2's feature list.

However, I can't put Guild Wars 2 on too high of a pedestal as there are some problematic core items that have already started nagging on my brain.  First and foremost is the combat which works somewhat well in small scale, but is a complete clusterfuck once more than five people show up.  Worst of all, it clearly seems to have been designed to be a clusterfuck in certain situations.  In the open World vs World PvP map or large public quests (aka dynamic events), the combat is just unintelligible spam.  With spell effect scaling, players will often find themselves subject to invisible attacks and random death.

Guild Wars 2 relies a lot on reflex and action-based combat.  This works great and lets players showcase their skills in small-scale combat, but again it does not work, AT ALL, in large scale confrontation.  There is literally so many area of affect abilities (and one shot death in PvE) being tossed that the dodge mechanic is completely rendered moot.  And the game was designed to bring clusters of players together in small areas to spam the shit out of these abilities.  It is very troubling to me that so much effort was put into this action combat to have it result in a complete button mashing affair when it should shine the most.  Combat is very difficult to follow because of this.

I want to reiterate that outside of combat, Guild Wars 2 has completely won me over.  The features are really that freaking good.  Advancement paths are varied and traditional MMO quests are all but gone.  Players are always encouraged to play together and never are they penalized for helping each other out (seriously, how the fuck has it taken this long to get an MMO where playing together is NOT a penalty!).  The non-combat heavy players will also find they can successfully thrive and reach max level simply through crafting and exploration.  If you can do it in Guild Wars 2, it probably advances the level track (even resource gathering gives experience!).

Another core area of weakness, which Arena Net keeps holding up, is all the voice acting in personal story quests and dungeons.  Instead of traditional MMO quest text boxes, Guild Wars 2 opts for quasi-cut scenes with voice acting (think Mass Effect 1 dialogue).  The problem is the character models are nearly 100% emotionless while the voice actor puts passion into the lines.  It is terrible.. honestly terrible... and I end up clicking skip the end just to red the blurb that will appear on the map (which again, the map is awesome).

Even with the core weaknesses in combat and the story telling, Guild Wars 2 is certainly a refreshing take in the MMO market.  I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in MMOs to check it out.  If anything, it is certainly one of the few games worth the $60 box price and there is no subscription so it is a game that players can continue to come back to at their leisure.  It also features level-up mechanics to bring lower level characters up to level 80 for the World vs World combat (albeit as a lower level character your stats are lower and options limited).

I expect a good healthy run in Guild Wars 2.  Once I reach level 80 down the line I will certainly be spending a good amount of time learning the WvW map, but at this point I think I am going to have to let the "mists" dissipate a bit as it is not fun currently.  Hopefully the WvW areas will change to encourage smaller group skirmishes (Arena Net should start by removing the invisible walls at the bottleneck leading out of the portal keep).

Monday, August 06, 2012

DotA 2 – What I Dislike

In my previous post I detailed some of the items that I liked about DotA 2 and while the game has slowly changed my outlook on its potential, I still have some hesitations. Some of these are not limited to DotA 2 and are concerns I shared about my time with League of Legends.

Asymmetry

The asymmetrical nature of the hero design in DotA 2, as much as I love the idea of it, rarely works out in public match making. As explained in my previous post, there are heroes that have no business being on the field by themselves, but when combined properly they become a force multiplier which really unbalances a match when not countered. Then there are other heroes, such as Ursa or Lycan, that when played well singlehandedly destroy the other team (often referred to as “pubstomping” heroes).

This leads to one-sided games and the more I play DotA 2 the more I realize the public matchmaking games at my level are terribly lop sided. In fact, I went back over my history of recent games and found only a single game that was competitive. All of the other games were steam rolled by one of the teams and were decided within the first 15 minutes.

I must note that this is actually part of the game design for this genre. It is also what gives these games such high skill caps and great competitive scenes that are quickly taking over eSports. However, I can’t help but feel that it really damages the casual scene and in the case of DotA 2, so far, it seems to be a much bigger issue than other games I have played.

In comparison, in my time with League of Legends, I have certainly seen my fair share of lop sided victories and losses. Yet, I have also been involved in far more competitive matches via public match making than I have in DotA 2. Not nearly as often did I feel like a match was a complete wash and in games that were a wash there was the forfeit vote or the dominating team could easily and quickly push to finish the match which brings me to my next two gripes about DotA 2: the length of matches and the lack of a forfeit feature.

Length of Matches

DotA 2 matches last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, more often than not leaning towards the hour mark. Combined with load times and match making time, I would estimate a player averages one game per hour. This is just too long, especially when considering that many of the matches are pretty much determined by the 15-20 minute mark and the rest of the time is spent just waiting for the towers and base to fall. Unlike League of Legends, DotA 2 does not really have anything that speeds up the inevitable push so to avoid leaver penalties many players end up just AFK in the fountains for 30 minutes waiting for the match to be finished.

Forfeit

DotA 2, by its mere design, should have a way to concede a match. Currently the only safe way out of a match is if someone makes the first move and disconnects, allowing all others to drop out without penalty. After the 15 minute mark, a team should be able to call a vote to concede.

Customization Items

This is a minor complaint, but may in the long run be the biggest problem for DotA 2 with its Free 2 Play business model. The customization items for heroes are not distinguishable and I don’t see how they make someone feel unique. Other than looking good on a player’s profile page, I do not see as nearly as successful a market around customization items as there is in Team Fortress 2 (where the customization items affect game play as well as are clearly distinguishable when playing). This may change as more items are added to DotA 2, but to say that I was less than impressed by what was already out there is a massive understatement.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

DotA 2 – What I like

I have put 50 hours into DotA2 now and I am slowly revising my outlook on the game. It will not be as bad off as I predicted. In fact, even in its beta form it has become one of the most played games on Steam. I can’t imagine how big the game will become once it has hit a full on release and anyone with a computer can try it out for free. There are certainly some things to like about DotA2.

Asymmetry

While the DotA map is symmetrical (for the most part), the same cannot be said for the pool of heroes. The 80+ available heroes in DotA2 are varied and unique, with almost none of them working the same. I am a huge fan of asymmetry in game design. Balance is so often forced through symmetry: team A gets uber power 1 so team B gets uber power 1 as well just with a different name and graphic. This is annoying and destroys any chance at something feeling unique within a game. Not the case in DotA 2.

Take for example the support hero Wisp; a shiny ball of energy that has almost zero offensive capabilities, some middling defensive capabilities, and only really excels at supporting a team’s carry. Wisp serves almost no purpose by itself. Now compare Wisp to Phantom Assassin; a hard carry capable of killing enemy players in a single hit and thus is almost single handedly responsible for winning the game. Phantom Assassin can dominate without the help of Wisp. Wisp, when placed against Phantom Assassin, could never win. In a vacuum, those two would be completely broken.

This asymmetry leads to amazing dynamics as neither team can have a copy of the same hero as the other team. Combine Wisp and Phantom Assassin together on the same team and all of a sudden the support + carry combination can easily wreck the other team if the other team failed to pick a counter. And really what the core of DotA2 competitive play comes down to is the counter picking and execution of that counter pick. And at the end of the day, this asymmetry results in a balance in the competitive scene of DotA 2.

To note, this isn’t always the greatest thing and in my next post I will talk a bit about how this is detrimental to the game at times. Even with that in mind, I am still a firm supporter of the asymmetry.

Character

DotA 2 has character and is building in character; from custom announcer packs to the constant quips the heroes give off during the course of a game. I can’t wait for First Blood in every game, hoping it will be a new hero who scores the kill just so I can hear their First Blood quote (for example, Invoker says something to the effect of “First, as I am in all things”). Another example is the hero Gyrocopter who flies around the map in a helicopter-like contraption making helicopter noises with his mouth. It is brilliant. Just as Valve did with Team Fortress 2, they have really cemented the idea of character into DotA2 and with 100+ heroes to eventually have in the game I can only imagine the sort of stuff they will bake in. Now they just need to deliver a “Meet the” video for every hero!

Presentation

I’ve spoken about this before, but DotA2 is as much of an experience as it is a game. The interface and feature set are amazing (without even having everything in the package yet!). Spectating, replays, learning features, etc. DotA2 really strives to deliver the entire package that the MOBA genre seeks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Was Predicted

"The game that shall not be named" is going free 2 play.

To quote my predictions for the year:
3. "the game that shall not be named" will have a tough year, but will survive.  The argument to take the game Free 2 Play will begin around July.
Next time, I'm putting money down in Vegas.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

DOTA2: Single Draft

I've felt lost lately in DOTA2 playing against heroes that I have never seen in a game before.  At the same time I was getting frustrated playing the same heroes over and over because I felt comfortable with them and ending up with completely different results.  One game I will dominate as Viper and the next one I can't even scratch my laning opponent.  To force myself to expand a bit and help learn about the numerous heroes in DOTA2 I have switched to playing Single Draft mode.  Each player is randomly given a choice of three heroes to choose from (one hero per main attribute type: intelligence, agility, or strength).

Since this change I have played games as Phantom Lancer, Nightstalker, Omniknight, and a few others I have almost never seen in pub games before.  I found myself doing well with some such as Phantom Lancer, but not feeling like I really knew why I was doing well.  That forced me to research the heroes a bit and actually learn something (like how to control illusion minions!). 

Out of all the things I've done in DOTA2, this is easily the change that has resulted in the most knowledge gained on my part.  It has also wisened me up to some intricacies of DOTA2 which I can explore more as I find heroes I enjoy playing.  My end goal is to have at least ten heroes I feel comfortable playing in a pub game, which is about where I was with League of Legends (though in LoL I felt like I could far more easily pick up new heroes).

For anyone playing DOTA2, I highly recommend some time in Single Draft mode to open your opportunities to try and learn other heroes.  Its a surprise each time you load up a game and if you care about team composition, single draft's randomness can land you some wonderful learning opportunities.

NOTE: Yes, I understand this makes some players angry as they don't want "scrubs" using Single Draft as a sort of testing bed.  However, the fact that the picks are random, there is always the chance of a team being shafted.  This makes the match all the more fun in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PC Upgrade


My PC died two weeks ago, so its upgrade time:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bJFA
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bJFA/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bJFA/benchmarks/

CPU: AMD FX-6100 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor
Motherboard: ASRock 970 Extreme3 ATX  AM3+ Motherboard  ($84.99 @ Amazon)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory  ($48.99 @ Amazon)
Hard Drive: Samsung 830 Series 256GB 2.5" Solid State Disk
Case: Antec One ATX Mid Tower Case  ($49.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: OCZ 650W ATX12V Power Supply  ($92.65 @ Amazon)
Total: $276.62
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Too Many Assumptions: EU Court Ruling Allows for Re-sale of Used Digital Games by End-Users

There is a stir in the online PC gaming community today over a EU court ruling that allows for the resale of digital licenses.  Read up here.  The important part of the ruling is: "Therefore, even if the licence agreement prohibits a further transfer, the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy."  This is big news.  HUGE news for software copyright.  The immediate Internet conclusion is that Steam or any other digital distribution platform for games will have to allow end users to resell their games for profit.  However, its all being taken too far in regards to digital distribution.  This will not and cannot change anything with digital distribution.

I won't claim to be an expert in copyright law, but I do consider myself a logical thinker.  Thinking this out a bit, I don't see anything in the ruling that forces a digital distribution platform to allow another user access to a game license bought by one of its other users.  The license to a game can be transferred to another user, but access via a digital distribution platform is under a completely different license.  The ruling may force the likes of Steam to allow user account sales, but it does not in any way look like it forces Steam to allow a different user access to a license you've resold.  Theoretically, as you no longer own the license, Steam could deactivate your access to the game while the new owner is forced to procure the game files and installation methods independent of Steam.

In fact, it would be like buying a new game from Walmart and then having a law forcing Walmart to resell that game for the purchaser, deliver it to the new owners house, set it up for them and ensure it is in brand new cloned working order, and then provide all the monies to the original purchaser.  It makes zero sense.  Walmart sold you the game and if you resell it, it is up to you to figure out how to get it to the new owner and its then up to the new owner to have a method to use it.

Oh and there is a little United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling (basically then upheld by the Supreme Court) for Vernor v Autodesk in the good ole' US of A which pretty much puts the kibosh on the reselling of software licenses.

Even if we were in fairy-tale land and the resale of used digital games was allowed, I wouldn't want it.  The sale of used physical copies of games already forced developers into the models we currently have.  Downloadable content (DLC) and the piecemeal sale of games is a direct result of developers looking at ways to get around used game sales.  Every developer now is building or has built online service platforms around their game franchises to lock features behind pay walls.

I much prefer the path the PC gaming industry is actually on: free 2 play (F2P).  Players want to pay for games and are more than willing to happily spend away on games that keep them engaged.  The F2P model allows them to try before they buy and then show the developer in a tangible way what they like about the game.

There is so much doom-casting about the current gaming industry that we are all missing the fact that the PC gaming industry has completely transformed itself over the past two years.  Reselling of digital licenses for digital games would be a huge derailment.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Launches 8-28-2012

Friday, June 08, 2012

Rift is World of Warcraft

Rift may be a completely different game than World of Warcraft, but I will never know.  I've played two hours of Rift and had I not seen the title screen, I would have thought I was playing World of Warcraft.  This is the same thought I had while playing Aion.  The same thought that made me shriek in horror when I finally got to play "the game that shall not be named".  It annoys me that so many games have copied World of Warcraft and not just copied ideas, but cloned wholesale everything about World of Warcraft.  It is so bad that the games are all using the same text color to identify different levels of loot.  The font used looks almost exactly the same.  The icon shapes.  On and on and on this goes.

There has been a long running discussion that World of Warcraft just copied Everquest which just copied DIKU MUD and therefore the current flood of WoW clones is expected.  I disagree with this line of thinking.  Everquest's biggest achievement is that it brought the DIKU MUD to 3D graphics.  Other than that, I would argue Everquest was a pretty terrible game.  World of Warcraft's biggest achievement was that it refined the DIKU model into something that made sense with a massively online game that is beyond a doubt one of the best games ever released.  Secondly, WoW brought MMO to the mainstream.

These other games: Rift, Aion, etc. They are all clones; none of them bringing anything significant to the genre.  They aren't even trying to bring something to the genre.  They are all fighting to carve out a piece of the table scraps of players that Blizzard ends up shoving off the table where they keep the money hats.

Does this make these games bad?  Not really, but after an hour of playing Aion I was done; having decided if I wanted this experience I would just go back to play World of Warcraft.  Rift?  Same story.

Yet, the worst part is each and every game tries to sell itself as though its the "next big thing".  That its ONE THING IT WILL DO DIFFERENTLY is the NEXT PILLAR OF WHAT IS GOOD IN GAMES.  It's annoying.  These developer's need to just shut up and tell gamers that they really liked World of Warcraft and wanted to make a game that emulates it.  I would be far less pissed off about the state of the MMO industry if the big players would just come out and admit they are riding WoW's coattails

Rift is World of Warcraft.  I don't care if the game gets better in the later levels or has some whiz-bang new idea that you get to enjoy at some point.  Give me something different that as soon as I start playing the LAST thing I think of is the other game I played before it.  When I played DOTA 2, I didn't think "oh man, this is League of Legends".  DOTA 2 is it's own game.  It defines itself as something unique.  AND DOTA 2 IS A LITERAL CLONE OF ANOTHER GAME!

Fuck it, Valve make me a god damned MMO already.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Silent on Guild Wars 2

A week doesn't seem to go by without someone buzzing me and asking why I'm so silent on Guild Wars 2.  Some have gone as far as to scream in my general direction that "IT IS EVERYTHING WARHAMMER ONLINE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!!!".  To be honest, and to admit this for the first time publicly, I'm still a little butt hurt over Warhammer Online and it's epic shortcomings.  I've sworn off caring about big-name MMOs until I get my hands on them and the NDAs have dropped.  With that said, I do agree that GW2 is shaping up to be what Warhammer Online should have been, but with so much more going for it.

While I don't believe I ever blindly bought into the hype of Warhammer Online, I am certainly a victim of foolishly believing the game was more finished than it turned out to be.  I still maintain to this day that Warhammer Online put all the pieces together for a great MMO, but forgot to add the glue and nails that would keep it all together.  Band aids could only hold that sinking ship together for so long (surprisingly it's still not Free 2 Play).

Warhammer's failures put GW2's features into perspective.  Simple things such as allowing instant access to end-game PvP zones, PvE content in the PvP zones, and having PvP objectives outside of just killing other players would not mean as much (to me) had it not been for Warhammer Online's complete opposites.  Warhammer Online allows me to smile a little bit inside every time I watch or read a new bit of information about GW2.

Another small area of pleasure is looking at GW2's World vs World (WvW), most directly comparable to Realm vs Realm from Warhammer Online. Unlike Warhammer Online; GW2 took an interesting path to get to its WvW system.  Instead of distinct races/areas dividing the "teams", GW2 simply pits server against server. Each server has the exact same world, characters, and classes that the other servers have.  This instantly strikes a balance and the conflict comes down to numbers and grand strategy to decide the victors.  Throw in a bit of match making to re-balance equally skilled servers together and the forumla looks solid.

Matter of fact, GW2 looks solid as a whole (even in it's beta stage).  And this is why I am silent.  This is why I've stopped clawing to watch every new video or story that is released. I have yet to even pre-order the game. I want as much of GW2 to be fresh to me as possible.  Hopefully that will limit the butt hurt this time around on another promising MMO.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Initial Impressions: Salem

I've gotten about an hour to click around in the Salem beta.  There is something to be said for games that offer no hand holding and require their users to look up a guide just to create a character.  I'm not talking about a guide for figuring out what the best stats are; I'm talking about a guide that explains on what and where to click so the player can even get to the point where they get to make a decision.  Salem is more of an idea than a game currently, but hot damn, what a brilliant idea it is.

The first thought that hit me when starting off in Salem (aside from trying to figure out why someone would want to sell me crickets in Boston) was that Salem is Ultima Online (UO) set in Massachusetts. I was immediately brought back to my early days of UO: no idea what I'm doing, no idea where to go, random wandering in the countryside clicking on every object I can interact with, stumbling over other player's homes and settlements, and a constant fear the next person I see on screen is going to lead to my death at the hands of a murderer.  All of these elements are present in Salem.

The only problem is, unlike UO, there isn't really a clear "this does this and that does that".  UO was a fantasy game and it was easy to piece together that a sword slashed and a fireball was flung.  In Salem, the setting is colonial Boston (aka the New World) and the associated lore may as well be a foreign language.  Salem makes no attempt (that I could find) to explain anything.  A player that is unwilling to venture to the beta forums or a spoiler website is in for a rough experience.

To make matters worse the UI is terrible.  Nothing works as expected outside of the grid-based inventory and character portrait.  Skills aren't explained and accidental clicks result into investment into skills which may or may not be implemented yet.  The mini map does not seem to rotate with the player's positioning and direction making guided travel a lesson in frustration.  Fortunately, the UI is open to modders and there are already some decent UI mods out there (which I've yet to try out).

Add into the mix some bugs such as maple leaves not re-spawning and the inexperienced player is quickly lost on what they are expected to do.  Then Joe Blow shows up and murders them, permanantly killing the player's character.

This all should add up to a giant pile of rage-quit, but for some reason the more I clicked around the more I became intrigued. The overall puzzle of "what the fuck am I supposed to do!" wasn't unraveling, but I found myself setting goals for myself.  For example, I found I could harvest branches which I could then use to build piles of logs which I could then use my tinder box on to start a fire (though the whole build process is a mystery to me).

I'm very curious about Salem now.  With a better UI and some effort invested in explaining the game to players, it has potential.  I'd also add in that Salem is clearly in an alpha stage, not a beta stage.  Its very difficult to test something that doesn't seem to be anywhere near finished.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I am not dead and I am not playing Diablo 3

So quit asking unless you are going to buy me a copy of Diablo 3.

And seriously, as I've tweeted, my garden is taking up a lot of time this year.  Outside of my family, my interests are Green Bay Packers > Gaming > Gardening.  Spring is a busy time for the latter and I've up-scaled my gardening this year (pretend I have like maxed my farming skill in the MMO known as RL).

Saturday, May 05, 2012

DOTA2 vs League of Legends

For a bit of background, I have a few hundred League of Legends games under my level 27 summoner's belt on both the classic (DOTA-like) map and the new Dominion (capture the flag) map.  I have about 20 games under my belt in DOTA 2.  I do not play ranked matches in either game and mainly rely on public match-making via the solo queues.  As fair warning, I am not a DOTA 2 or LoL expert.  These are my observations from the view of a casual player. 

Graphics: 

LoL offers stylized (aka cartoony) graphics which hold up over time.  DOTA 2 features more "realistic" fantasy visuals.  If I had subcategories, I would give DOTA 2 the nod for excellent attack/spell animations.  LoL would get a bonus for it's cleaner graphical play which makes spectating games easier.
Game Client:

DOTA 2's client is a glorious thing to behold.  It is a one stop shop for the digital DOTA 2 consumer featuring games to jump into and spectate, player profiles, news, hero information, and more.  LoL's game client is serviceable, but is split from the actual game.  It is based on Adobe Air which I've found to be less than reliable.  However, Riot Games has continued to improve the LoL client.
User Interface:

The UI of each game is almost the same.  Both work equally well.  I'm a bit disapointed that neither game has opened their UIs up to modders, but I suspect that is in an attempt to keep UI mods from giving unfair advantages.

Customization:

While LoL's user interface is perfectly serviceable and almost identical to that of DOTA 2, there are far, far more customizations that can be made to DOTA 2.  DOTA 2 player's can save their configurations instead of having to set them by hand each game as is needed in LoL.
Map(s) and Game Types:

LoL offers three different maps with three game types to DOTA 2's single map and game type.  One of LoL's maps, The Crystal Scar, offers completely new game play mode with a capture point game type (the other two LoL maps are still Defense of the Ancient (DOTA) ).  Some may say DOTA-like games do not need any more maps, but I would strongly disagree with that after having played many games on The Crystal Scar in LoL.

Heroes:

While I like a lot of LoL's hero designs, I can't help but gawk at DOTA 2 for the sheer audacity with which some of the heroes are designed.  There is completely broken-in-normal-game heroes in DOTA 2 and it's all part of the design.  DOTA 2 features a lot more unique and definitive play mechanics and the attack animations are much better. 

At the same time, LoL has a much better grip on balance for the casual player.  It is much clearer why a player or team is dominating a match with a certain hero.  The hero designs are also much closer to one another making it easier to cross over and play something else.

Items:

I think LoL's items are a) simple to understand and b) in the same shop.  DOTA 2 may have great items, but its daunting for a casual player to keep track of some of the more intrinsic items.  DOTA 2 also has regular and secret shops, with recipes to make items and couriers to bring items from the shops to the players.  This all leads to making DOTA 2's items a very frustrating experience at times.
Overall Game Play:

LoL offers more variety than DOTA 2 in regards to game play experiences.  The multiple maps are the start, but Riot Games has also pushed to open up all aspects of the game for the majority of their heroes.  Jungling is a real possibility with almost any LoL hero these days.  LoL also stepped away from some things such as the secret shop and denying, both of which still don't make much sense to me in DOTA 2.

DOTA 2 is still a very, very solid game.  It's distinct enough to offer a separate play experience from that of LoL.  However, Valve is clearly leaning towards the hardcore players and sticking to the true DOTA experience for DOTA 2. 

From a casual perspective, LoL is the better option.  From a "complete package" perspective, DOTA 2 has the better shot and it's still in BETA!  Interestingly, LoL can fix its "not a complete package" problem where as Valve has all but stated that DOTA 2 isn't going to relent on the design aspects that make it less-than-ideal for casual players.

At the end of the day both games still offer a hell of an experience and both are Free 2 Play.  I recommend anyone interested check out both before making a decision on which one to commit to (well that is if you can get into the DOTA 2 beta).

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The 3 MMOs you ARE NOT paying attention to, but should be

Salem



Features: crafting/building focus, perma-death, open PvP, set in colonial New England (aka The New World), free 2 play, "generations"

The developers have been very clear that this game is about freedom.  They are removing the "grindy" parts of MMOs to get the players to the "end game".  Players logging in on day one are in the "end game" and participating in the community.

With freedom comes consequence.  A prime example is the idea that there will be forests in the game that players can clear.  Clear an entire forest and waste the wood on something, players are out of wood in that area.  This fits right in with the focus of the game's narrative: the New World.  Players will be focused on building and expanding in the new territory and that will open all kinds of avenues for teamwork and competitive play.

The discussion of freedom extends further when you start talking about open PvP and the fact the game will feature perma death.  A player's character can be murdered, never to be seen again, but only if the "murdering" player consciously makes that decision.  Incidental murder will not be possible and being flagged a murderer will  be a very troubling position to be in when you are caught.

This all sounds a bit out there, but the developers have experience in the perma-death, crafting/building MMO realm.  They already run Haven and Hearth, Salem's predecessor that has executed and learned from most of these ideas.

Lastly, Salem is going to be free 2 play (F2P) which should allow for anyone curious to get their feet wet.

Dominus



UPDATE: Apparently I missed the fact that as of Monday, Dominus has shut down due to lack of funding.  This was completely out of the blue for a game that was charging ahead towards a beta and eventual release.


Features: three-faction "realm vs realm" (though legally they cannot call it that), SWG-style gathering

If Star Wars Galaxies and Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) had a love child, it would be Dominus (formerly Prime Online: The Battle for Dominus).

Dominus, based in a SciFi setting, will feature three-faction warfare along with an in depth crafting and exploration system where resources will be unique to an area and be finite (in the fact they could be gathered into extinction).

The game is also being geared towards PvP combat with the three factions battling it out for control of zones and areas similar to DAoC frontiers.  There will also be a bounty system where players can hunt individual targets or live with one foot in the grave by carrying a large bounty on their head.

Dominus also marks the return of Sanya Thomas (now Sanya Weathers), of DAoC fame, back to the MMO community manager standpoint.  If you haven't followed MMOs for a long time, you may have missed the fact she pretty much invented how modern day community management is done for an MMO.

Otherlands




Features: based on Otherlands book series by Tad Williams, SciFi and Fantasy combined (or really any sort of world they want to add as Otherlands is really a metaverse capable of any idea that can be thought up), eDNA system, free 2 play

While Dominus and Salem have received a bit of press and a small mentioning in some notable blogs, Otherlands on the other hand has received almost no attention.  And that's a damn shame because the Otherlands books by Tad Williams are a superb read.  Not to mention the game is shaping up to be an excellent free 2 play MMO experience.

The Otherlands is a meta-verse in which users log in and have experiences in various worlds.  Everything from World War I to swords and sorcery fantasy is covered.  The areas in the game will be varied from the main meta-verse hub to a fantasy world that grew out of a chess board and features a giant floating game of chess happening in the sky (and that description doesn't even come close to doing the area in question justice.  Watch this video to learn more about the chess board zone.)

The important thing to understand is that the zones in the game are "simulations" and therefore are not meant to simulate a "real" world.  Things can be serious or exaggerated and it all fits into the game's lore. Rules in the simulations can be bent and broken, changed, or given context.  Its really a perfect fit for an MMO.

Another neat feature is non-static NPCs.  NPCs will be on life cycles where they actually travel and have things to do.  A fisherman will go to fish, a baker will go to buy flour, etc.

However, the coolest thing going for Otherlands is the idea of eDNA and the MyLand feature.  The basic premise is players will be able to find something in a simulation (aka zone) and take a  copy of it's eDNA which can then be brought back to their MyLand zone to transplant a copy.  Its MMO housing on steroids and this is one MMO where instanced housing zones make complete and logical sense.

If there is any MMO that I'm excited about these days it is Otherlands.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Know your hearts

Friday, April 20, 2012

DOTA 2 will be Free 2 Play

Gabe Newell let slip that DOTA 2 will be free 2 play, but with a twist.
“It’s going to be free-to-play — it’ll have some twists, but that’s the easiest way for people to think about it,” he revealed.

“The issue that we’re struggling with quite a bit is something I’ve kind of talked about before, which is how do you properly value people’s contributions to a community?,” he mentioned when asked about what kind of “twist ” players can expect from the game.

“We’re trying to figure out ways so that people who are more valuable to everybody else [are] recognized and accommodated.

“We all know people where if they’re playing we want to play, and there are other people where if they’re playing we would be on the other side of the planet.

“It’s just a question of coming up with mechanisms that recognize and reward people who are doing things that are valuable to other groups of people,” he added.

He said that the free-to-play model Valve has in mind for DOTA 2 is completely unique and hasn’t been done before.

“When you start thinking about the different games that people play and you try to think about how people can create value or a service in one game and benefit somebody in a different game, you can start to see how the different games sort knit together,” Newell said.

“[You can see] how somebody who really likes Team Fortress 2 (TF2) can still be creating value for somebody who is playing DOTA 2 or Skyrim, or if somebody is a creator in one space how it can translate into another.

“In a sense, think of individual games as instance dungeons of a larger experience, if that makes sense as a concept.”

Thursday, March 29, 2012

DOTA 2 key available

Congrats to aruw3n on winning the prize.
Sorry I don't have one to give out to everyone because I would love to!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The problem with modern MMO PvP

Every ounce of my MMO playing body wants to return to the “golden era” (1998 to 2000) where no one was safe, impact was real, and some of the greatest MMO PvP in history took place in Ultima Online. However, my experience with today’s MMO PvP systems tells me there is no going back. The problem with modern MMO PvP isn’t one of design, but one of choice and era.

When Ultima Online launched in 1997, any player looking to play a graphical MMO had very few choices. UO stood alone for the most part until 1999 when Everquest and Asheron’s Call launched. The choice of game ultimately came down to one of two games: Everquest or Ultima Online. Everquest, offering 3D graphics, required specific hardware to run and it was also a very “game” MMO which focused on killing monsters and obtaining better loot. Ultima Online with a 2D isometric view ran on plenty of mid-range PCs of the day and offered a much more robust offering of features: player housing, crafting, and live events to name a few.

The “golden era” player base, as with today’s players, consisted of every Bartle player-type: killer, achiever, explorer, socializer. While every player is not defined by a single category -- primary killers are still achievers and explorers – those primarily inclined towards one type were going to wind up in a one of the two games. This meant that some of each type were going to mix together in their respective games.

Everquest’s design dictated that it attracted achievers and killers. While exploration was possible and there were chat channels, Everquest lacked the keys to providing an environment for great socialization. So, achievers and killers flocked to Everquest and for the most part anyone playing Everquest could be assumed to be primarily an achiever or killer. Yes, there were still socializers (mostly role players), but by far and large Everquest catered to the achiever or killer mindset.

Ultima Online on the other hand catered almost perfectly to the socializer at the same time offering achievers, killers, and explorers a fulfilling experience. Players in UO were never forced to pick up a weapon and fight. Many UO players made a life for themselves without ever slaying a single beast. I personally know a player that existed within UO without ever once leaving the town of Britain and having almost never picked up a weapon to fight, instead spending his days at the forge talking with players and plying his blacksmithing trade. He was the prime example of how UO allowed primary socializers to exist in an online game. At the time, socializers really had nowhere else to go to find game play that met their needs. UO provided the pen-ultimate socialization experience of it’s day.

Of course, UO also catered to what I like to call the achiever killers: the reds, the player killers, the murderers as some others would have called them. Achiever killers thrive on their destructive ways creating power over their enemies and there is no greater enemy to have than that of a human opponent. Mix this with a tangible feeling of ownership with player housing and eventual player-created cities and the achiever killers found a perfect storm in UO.

Again, players of the golden era had limited choices on what games to play. It is also important to note that these players wanted to play online games. While no one was holding a gun to their head and forcing them to play UO or EQ, there was still a feeling that players were forced to play one of the two most popular MMOs of the time. This lead to player types mixing and competing within game worlds for their own slice of the proverbial pie. Conflict resulted between player types and this was no more evident than what was pre-Trammel UO (aka UO before a safe mirror of the world was created).

The achiever killers in UO loved this. Instead of having to compete against other achiever killers, they could prey on the socializers, explorers, and regular old achievers who inhabited the unforgiving world. Outside of towns, anyone could kill anyone in UO. Upon death, everything the player was carrying at the time could be looted by another player (or sometimes an NPC would swipe an item). UO focused on being a virtual world instead of being a “game that was played online” and there was real risk and reward to the golden era PvP in UO.

While the socializers and non-killer achievers didn’t “love” the fact that they were the sheep that the killer wolf pack fed upon, they couldn’t deny that UO had all the features they wanted. Housing, live events, non-combat oriented game play that meant something to the world; all of these things separated UO from Everquest (and eventually Asheron’s Call). The socializers and achievers of UO were, in a word, stuck like sheep in a field surrounded by wolves. They had to suffer the achiever killers and many left the game because of it.

However, suffer is a bit of a strong word and there were plenty of other factors pushing players away from UO. Also the presence of the “sheep” lead to the rise of what I call the “shepherd”, or better known as the anti-playerkiller (APK). The APKs formed together to defend those that wished to avoid combat and seek justice on those that preyed upon the weak. There wasn’t an ounce of game design or coding put in to make this dynamic system a reality. Players were actually living in a virtual world that featured the full gambit of Bartle player archetypes. Consequence was the true feature of UO and is what made it’s early PvP so unforgettable.

Fast forward to today’s market and I cannot even begin to name all of the AAA titles on the market, let alone all of the underlying B-rate MMOs. However, what I can tell you is that there is a game for every type of player out there. Yet, there is not a single one that recaptures the experience of “golden era” UO.

And therein lays the problem: there is a game for every type of player. No longer are the socializers mixing with the achievers. No longer are the explorers chatting with the killers. The player base is fragmented. It is, so to say, Humpty Dumpty and once it fell down, there was no putting it back together.

Games such as Darkfall and Mortal Online, or server emulation projects such as UO WTF, that promise to bring back that “golden era” are doing nothing more than throwing the achiever killer wolves in a field without any sheep. The wolves turn on each other and quickly realize how boring it gets to fight on equal footing. The dynamic is lost and even the best virtual world fails to bring it back. Before long only the true killers remain and while it certainly can be an enjoyable experience, it is not the magical experience that was to be had in the golden era.

Thus no amount of game design or coding wizardry can bring the magic back. The problem is that the golden era is long gone, yet game developers keep trying to make games that will appeal to every type of player while trying to add a “PvP system” on top of it. This doesn’t work. It can’t work. The market is filled with choice and if a game doesn’t cater directly to the crowd it’s built for, it becomes a generic mess.

I’m still waiting for a true, next generation MMOG to come along; one that focuses on being a virtual world more than just a “game that is played online”. The rest should take care of itself.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Yuck, DCUO PvP


It took me all of about an hour to be bored with DCUO's PvP server.  Within the first few minutes of the journeying through the open world I was being repeatedly ganked by level 20+ characters, with no chance of survival or escape.  After finally getting to the first quest location, I was then repeatedly ganked again.

Yuck.

SOE, 1999 called, they want their PvP system back.

I will have to re-roll on the PvE server to see if the experience is better.  I like the mechanics of the game so far and being able to run at super speed from the moment I set foot into the open world is an amazing feeling.  However, I see myself becoming quickly bored with the "Kill 10 Rats" quest types.  Hopefully the "dungeons" are better.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fix: DCUO gets stuck at "FixTimestamps.exe" on Steam install

I just did battle with and slew the dreaded "FixTimestamps.exe" error when installing the recently crowned MMO of the year, DC Universe Online (DCUO), on Steam.  The steps are as follows:

Step 1:

Cancel the screen that is open in Steam trying to run the FixTimestamps.exe

Step 2:

Navigate to your steamapps folder in the main Steam folder and then open the "dc universe online" folder.
Example path on Windows 7 x64: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\dc universe online

Step 3: 

Open the LaunchPad.exe file and sign into your Station account (register for a new one if you don't have one, it's FREE).

Once logged in, this will launch the DCUO launcher, download any missing updates, and get you ready to play. Once the updates are applied, simply click PLAY.  Launching from within Steam next time will work.

Cause of error:

I am not 100% sure on the cause of the error, but I suspect it has something to do with the recent updates not being applied to the Steam version.  Bypassing the Steam launch let's the client get the updates and finish the install.

Two Phrases: Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning

I'm a Jim Rossignol fan.  He writes some seriously poetic shit in the form of game reviews and news articles. A perfect example is his Wot I Think piece for Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning.  While the entire post is an excellent read, there are really two phrases that distill the essence of what KoAR is:
The key ingredient, however, and the one that overpowers the other flavours, is the industry-bestriding garlic of World Of Warcraft.
...and...
You can sense of the results of committee conclusions in almost all areas of the game.
These really sum up my experiences with the demo and why I didn't pursue buying the game.  38 Studios, let me know when the Amalur MMOG is ready.
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