The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Month: February 2008

A Perfect Example of What is Wrong With WoW

This is going to be brief because Scott Jennings (Lum the Mad) over at Broken Toys summarized it better than I could ever hope to.  Suffice it to say that this is yet another case of the tail wagging the dog over in Irvine.

In the interest of full disclosure, the character that I most recently played as my main was a Lock.

In summary, what Blizzard has done is in response to the calls for the Whaaaambulance that Locks are overpowered in Arenas is to propose a paradigm shift in the class.  Been busy itemizing your lock to use STA to build your HP so you could recharge mana and survive longer?  Um, yeah.  Seems like they think you need to be an INT class now.

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Oh, THAT’S What They Mean by World Domination…

One of the interesting things about press releases is how much they don’t tell you.  They rarely tell you the whole story or complete truth.  That’s OK, because at the end of the day, that isn’t their job.  Once in a while you get a press release that has what you might expect, but if you actually read the fine print you get some things that either weren’t said before or not enumerated at the same level.  Then again, it could be that you just straight missed it.

In the press release from 38 Studios that Shwayder re-posted over at Nerfbat, they finally announce the game engine that they are going to use for the upcoming fantasy MMO IP they are developing, code named Copernicus.  They have settled on the BigWorld Technology Suite.  I won’t bore you with the details, since they are just a click away over at Nerfbat.

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Adventures With Windows Home Server

Before you start reading, let me go ahead and tell you that this article is computer related but not specifically gaming related. You’re now free to ignore this is you would like to do so. If you have a lot of things you value on machines on your home network but don’t have a backup, sharing, or disaster recovery plan for your home PC’s then you might want to go ahead and read this and think about implementing it.

For those of you that are computer competent but not computer savvy, let me get on my soap box for a second. If you haven’t had a hard drive fail, you will. Also, remember that there are two kinds of people when it comes to backing up; those who have religion and those who are about to get religion. Forensic data recovery? Definitely an option. One that starts at about $1500 for a damaged hard drive. You might find it easier, less expensive, and more calming to your soul to have plans like these in place. I’ve been sweating this at my house for a little while so I decided to take action.

This past weekend, I re-purposed an older computer (Pentium 4 processor, about a gig of RAM, and some largish hard drives) as a new server for the house. To facilitate this, I decided to use the new Microsoft Home Server OS. This OS is based on Windows Server 2003 so it has a pretty well-tested and well-used core to it.

The reason I decided to do this is simple. We have three machines that we pretty much use every day plus a TiVo, Wii, and XBox 360. Tarkheena and I both have gaming rigs that we play on plus I have a utilitarian machine that also has Photoshop and Office along with a larger second hard drive where I was storing photos, videos, and our digitized music collection. About a year ago, Tark and I sat down with three desktops and our two notebooks at the time and ripped all of the CD’s we own into a directory on that machine. I then duplicated that on another machine for backup. So a few thousand songs, a few thousand photos, screenshots from games that we have played (not including hundreds of EQ screenshots that were on a HDD that failed without backup) and a bunch of other stuff like backups of my Vanguard site and the like are all sitting on these computers in shared folders and duplicated for the most part onto other drives. Duplication and lack of duplication abound. Oh, yeah. The simple reason to do the Home Server? I want data security and I’m tired of managing it myself manually. The Server offers automatic backup and disaster recovery, automatic load-balancing among the drives, a central place of all of our shared files, streaming of media files, plus internet access to both shared files on the server and to our own machines via remote access.

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EQ2 Impressions

We’ve been playing EQ2 for about 3 weeks since we (Tarkheena and I) returned to the game for another go. I thought I’d get some thoughts down here about what I’ve been noticing in the game.

This game feels like a “real” MMO to me. I’m not sure exactly what that means myself. I can tell you that most of the other games I try seem to be missing that elusive something that EQ2 has. The only other live MMO out there that also has this feel for me is WoW.

One of the factors for this is diversity in game play. In most MMO’s there is a very distinct feeling that you should be heading down a certain road. Other gameplay styles don’t seem to be encouraged. I know I’m hung up on crafting, but it’s a perfect example of this. In EQ2, if my eyes are bleary from a few nights of hunting and questing (where ARE those effing Dragoon Lieutenants, anyway?) then I can roll up in front of a forge and make armor for a few hours. It’s wonderful to discover that some of the rare harvests I made can be crafted into usable and lucrative armor pieces. I have also enjoyed setting up my house with furniture and getting a little business going selling from the cork board there. I have not been nearly as successful as Tarkheena has. She had the foresight to go into carpentry which seems to be more lucrative than the armorsmith that I chose.

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Ding, 30!

This isn’t really a personal-progress journal for me, but since I’ve been telling you all a little about what I’ve been playing I thought I’d share that my Arasai Guardian reached level 30 last night.  While I know that level 30 in Everquest 2 isn’t anything uber by any means, I’ve always looked at level 30 as the end of the noob levels.

So here we are (Tarkheena’s Arasai Inquisitor is also level 30 now) at the threshhold of more entertaining content and adventure.   Some of you are going to think that I’m nuts when I say this, but the game play from 1-30 here in EQ2 is quite a bit more satisfying than the comparable levels in WOW. In particular, the ability to craft useful items, collection quests, and player housing combine to add a lot to the game for me and Tark.  WoW actually probably has slightly better questing, and the characters have more, well, character.

If you haven’t given EQ2 a try, or if you tried at launch and were disappointed, I’d encourage you to give it a try.  It’s quite a good MMO.  The game at launch was balky, claustrophobic, and the encounter system was deeply flawed.  All of that has changed.  The game is vastly improved.  I’m not going to be just a shill for this because you all know how I feel about SOE in general and their “don’t get it” factor.  This game is being handled correctly and I think it deserves another look.

Reposted for Irony Value

Scott Jennings is a blogger. His blog, Broken Toys, is one that I have read as long as I have been reading blogs. He recently posted an article about the legal battle going on between Alan Debonneville and Brock Pierce, a couple of the principles at IGE. Here’s where the irony part kicks in.

Pierce, who made a fortune thumbing his nose at legalese and violating the EULAs of pretty much every MMO company out there, has sicced his lawyers on Jennings and have demanded that he remove his article. He’s going to comply today. I wanted to bring these bullying tactics to your attention, so you have some perspective of the kind of people that are running these operations. Keep in mind when you read this, IGE has always been considered one of the CLEANER operations out there.

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I Don’t Want a Microtransaction Funded Game

In everything I do, I try to avoid feeling like I’m being nickel and dimed to death. With the exception of my lightly used cell phone, I don’t have any plans or bills that I pay as I go. Why? I always feel that the company that is doing that is actually hoping I spend more than I wanted to or planned.

Home phone? Vonage (flat rate.) Cable? No PPV. Games? Subscription MMO’s.

Now Microsoft Game Studios announce that they have canceled Marvel Universe, at least in part because they have an insane level of expectation for what a successful MMO’s level should be.  I understand setting high standards and wanting to impact a market with your product, but to look at the landscape and see WOW and all the other games and proclaim that there is “one successful” MMO out there is INSANE. No wonder they can’t get an MMO product out the door. Then it appears that they considered changing the business model, presumably to some sort of MT kind of monetization, but felt like they couldn’t do that with the product.

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“Legitimate RMT” is like “Legitimate Coke Dealer”

SOE and our hero John Smedley have announced that Live Gamer is taking over the RMT (Real Money Trading or Transactions) trading business for SOE. In his article to roll this out to the company’s customers, Smedley recounts the successes and failures of the Station Exchange program and how it has effected RMT within EQ2. In my view, there were three main issues surrounding RMT that he addressed. 1) Customer Service issues that are created by RMT transactions. 2) Farming and farming activities that are detrimental to the game experience for the average player. 3) Criminal activity such as duping, exploiting, account theft, credit card fraud, etc.

Let’s start with the first point. Smedley says that in fact, Station Exchange did reduce the number of customer service complaints regarding RMT. This makes sense as they now had control and were making sure that people got delivery of what they ordered. Assuming that they were competent at their jobs and Exchange, by default it would take care of a lot of those types of problems. I’d call this a small win for them.

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Sandbox Vs. Amusement Park

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on design decisions that different studios have made in the quest to build a popular MMO title.  Let me start by saying this; the purpose of this article is not to describe all of the different types of MMO that could be popular.  It’s mostly about the style, features, and overarching design type and execution that in the end determines what is a Horizons and what is a World of Warcraft as far as subscription numbers are concerned.

I’m going to start by asserting that most MMO fall into one of the “big-two” design philosophies; Amusement Parks and Sandboxes.  I know that there are many gray areas in between, but stay with me on this one.

Over the last several years, I’ve been involved with communities that are asking, if not begging, for a sandbox.  “I want a world that I can live and play in” is often heard.  “I hate Linear Progression” is also heard quite a bit.  When game companies actually deliver a Sandbox, it’s often greeted with complaints about “lack of content” or “emptiness”.  Well, yeah.  Let’s take a look back at a couple of games which might be the best of their “genre” and how they worked out.

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