Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year a Day Early

Just wanted to pop in and wish you all a very Happy 2008. Sorry these past 2 weeks have been so dull around here, but come Wednesday I'm back to work on a regular basis and due to this I'll very likely be back to posting on my regular 5 days a week schedule.

So be careful driving tonight, be careful eating and drinking as we all know what champagne can do, and have a great night all. Not sure what the hell the wife and I are doing just yet, but post-holidays the money is tight so something tells me whatever it is will involve a TV and a DVD player... here's hoping something exciting happens instead.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Very Merry Weekend

I hope everyone around the intertubes had as good of a Christmas as I did. Sorry for not posting a warning that I'd be MIA for the past 5 days, but once the break from work and school settled in, I barely touched my PC, much less my blog.

Saw Sweeney Todd on Saturday while out and about with the wife, and can heartily recommend it to any fan of musicals, gore, Depp, or otherwise. I also snagged a total of 3 new games for the 360 over the long break: NBA 2K8, Crackdown, and the glorious Mass Effect. Each of which is a hearty "Hell Yes!" purchase, and I thank all of those nice folks who commented with other purchasing ideas. I'm definitely going to be referring to those lists over the next few months. Every spring, though I usually hate the turn-based combat, I get the itch for a good old-fashioned J-RPG, so Blue Dragon will be in the rotation come March or so. Thanks for reminding me of that one. The rest will all likely get gobbled up too... a bevy of wisdom you lot are.

Spent Monday with the In-Laws, which was a nice relaxing time spent watching movies and eating home-made pizza. 28 Weeks Later is "meh", by the way. Nowhere near as riveting as the 1st. Then spent Christmas day with my family, since my dad and step-mom were in town for the first time ever as we usually go out their way for the holidays. Now that us kids are grown though, it has become readily apparent that it's easier for them to come our way since we're all in Ohio anyway.

Their arrival was followed by a massive mixed-family party at my brother's house which ended up being a lot of food, fun, and drunk people to laugh with. I stayed sober myself, which I am grateful for as I always get severely dehydrated the day after, regardless of how much water I cap the night off with. Good times.

I spent most of yesterday then working on my first client's design project and when it was completed, I found myself whiling away the hours with Mass Effect. Never has an RPG drawn me in like this one. BioWare, with this release, I think really has proven that games are just as viable of an artform for storytelling as film. I can't wait to see how the rest of it unfolds.

Anyway, I need to get some work done, but if I get caught up and things are slow you might get some nice detailed impressions from me on some of my purchases (as if you care). Oh! Less than two more weeks until Pirates opens up for the pre-orderers. I'm looking forward to getting into that one and seeing how it's shaped up over the past couple months I've been away from the game. Here's hoping it's enough to pull me away from my new toy at least for a while. I'm still on the fence between it and TR as to which one I'll keep as my active sub. TR is still fun, though I haven't played it since before my break as most of my game-time has gone into fiddling with the 360... too bad there's no rest XP in that one, hehe.

Cheers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ruminations on Future Xbox Purchases

So, as any obsessed gamer would do, now that I have my Xbox 360 I've been thinking about my purchase schedule and debating just what it is I want the most on the system. The good part about getting a system two years after launch is that a lot of the great titles from the 1st year or even just months ago are on sale for half-price or even less if they're used.

For the past two months I've been dying to try Mass Effect, and while I still want it, now that I have my Xbox I find myself thinking, "Wouldn't it be wiser to get two games for the price of one now that many are $30 or less?" So here's what I'm thinking. First chance I have (barring unforeseen expenses) it will behoove me to pick up Crackdown and Saints Row but not before I get NBA 2K8 (I think).

Crackdown can be found for as little as $20 and Saints Row is $30 brand new. NBA 2K8 however is still full price... but I feel a real need for a sports game for the 1st time in years, so I'm going to have to bite the bullet on that one.

For those of you who have had your Xbox 360s for a while, are there any other games from the past that I should be taking a gander at? I'm having trouble processing all the possibilities of this system now that I have one.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Conan: Not "Age Of", Just Conan

The barbarism is high in this one.
You'll have to forgive me if I talk a lot about my 360 and its games over the next few weeks, but I write about what I'm playing and for a bit here I'm going to be exclusively experimenting with my Xbox.

So I spent some time last night trying out both Oblivion and Conan on the 360, and when my wife went to bed around 10pm, I found myself putting off sleep by slaying things in Nihilistic's "Conan". Sure it's a lesser-grade God of War... but dang is it fun nonetheless. I'm not usually one to say violence alone can make a game, but in Conan (for those who've read the books) it goes a LONG way.

The voice of the titular character is voiced by none other than Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, and even though the one-liners and dialog of cutscenese is cheesey, it's done in a way to remind you of those BMUPs like Final Fight. There's nothing more smile-enducing for a fan of those games than when Conan lops off a guy's arms and then gives a diatribe about doing it. And because of the hero's move set you'll be hearing a lot of said chatty-Conan.

Based on simple button-combos, the moves range from baseball swinging a guy's head off to (I'm serious) piledriving an enemy so hard into the ground that his head bursts. The coolest tricks though come from parrying by pressing the L trigger at just the right time and then pressing the indicated button when instructed. Nothing like blocking an attack with your shield, then lifting the guy with it and slicing him in half in mid-air. It's not gross, it's hilarious in the same way the fight scenes of Kill Bill tickle the funny bone. It goes way past obscene and into chuckle-inducing spurts of blood. But maybe I'm just screwed up. What I'm saying is that it's violent, like you'd expect from the subject matter, but like an episode of South Park and not like scenes from Schindler's List.

Boss fights are absolutely fantastic as well, at least so far. There's a fight spanning nearly an entire level with a giant sand-dragon across rooftops and up statues that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and ended with a very triumphant cut scene thanks for my hard work. Is it as good as God of War? I don't think so. Like True Crime: Streets of LA a few years back, it's a fun knock off, but no match for its true Master.

I'm not sure how long the adventure lasts, but most estimates put it around 8 hours or so, so a purchase I would avoid and rather rent it over a long weekend for some gratuitous poops and giggles. The downsides of the game come in 2 key little faults.

1.) Some enemies block far too many of your attacks and force you to block and wait for them to finish their onslaught. Seems good on paper, but plays like crap in a game that's all about attacking.

2.) You can be going balls out with two swords of fury against an enemy and in the middle of your swing they will interrupt you with a weak slice of their puny Stygian arm. And when you try to do the same to them, you find that you can't and instead Conan acts like a baby and flails about as they drill you with their attacks. I suppose this is thrown in to help balance the difficulty, but man... just make it so that their attacks do more damage and immobilize the player less. Losing control of your character is never fun in any game.

Other than these two little niggles, I'd say Conan is a success in its execution. It's a very fun action game that gives you enough to do and to look forward to in order to keep the action from becoming stale. If you're a die-hard action game fan, I'd say buy it. But if you're a little pickier like me, rent it, beat it, and remember it fondly after you return it to Gamefly. Fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Xbox 360: Bildo's New Hawtness

I received my Xbox 360 ordered through Dell by way of the store my work goes through just yesterday (can't beat tax free and shipping free). I stayed home (I'm a geek, like I said) so I could play all afternoon and all night and not have to run out to Middleburg Heights to get the damn thing after work, which is way out of my way.

Same as it ever was, this one day I could sleep in I found myself up around 7:30am and after failing to go back to sleep I was out of bet by about 8am. With plenty of time to kill, on break from my college classes for the holidays, and with nothing but Xbox on my mind I couldn't focus on any other game. So I did what any 20-something dork would do... I watched the original Star Wars Trilogy. Good times indeed. Did you know that Return of the Jedi was code-named Blue Harvest in order to avoid property owners that were charging an arm and a leg for the use of their lots? That explains the title of this years Family Guy spoof. Never knew that. Now, where was I?

Oh yes, my Xbox 360. It is GLORIOUS. It feels like forever since I had a console that was so gaming focused (love the Wii though I do, it feels like more of a toy than a gaming console to me, yes I know I blaspheme), and thus it's almost like I'm entering a gaming Renaissance. I'd played one a number of times before, but there's nothing like getting a new toy you know?

So anyway I ended up waiting until about 2:30pm before the DHL guy showed up. Jeebus rest his soul, the dude must be busier than crap this week so I thank him for being the deliverer of Joy for Bildo.

I got the system set up in no time at all, the only thing was that I had to swap places with it and the Wii. Since the 360 runs hotter I wanted it out in the open, and the Wii instead now rests inside of the entertainment center. The 360's less sleek looking sure, but at least I don't run the risk of it overheating this way.

Packed in the console came copies of both Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (which I've played before on the Wii) and Forza Motorsport 2 (a sim-racing game akin to Gran Turismo). I totally expected to be mildly pleased at best with the titles, given my lack of true interest in racing sims and my already extensive experience with Marvel. Lo and behold the difference highly upgraded graphics made for Marvel, and the difference sheer brilliance of customization and absolutely superb controls made for Forza. Wii Sports is great for a tech demo type of pack in... but these two games are by far the better freebie when it comes to pack-ins.

Marvel plays just as fun as it did before if not better than the Wii counterpart, and what's more... it just looks better. Shiny things and lots of explosions FTW. The same could be said about Forza's visuals. Not the explosions part, but the quality rather is through the roof. I guess, despite spending time with the 360 before I never realized just how much it (or the PS3 even) smacks the ever-living-crap out of Nintendo's more modest piece of hardware. I cannot wait to get NBA 2K8 and Mass Effect to see even better visuals on this thing, but until I can grab those two gems, my friend Brendon is lending me Oblivion and Conan to mess around with as well.

Oblivion and I have a long history together on the PC already, but I'm looking forward nonetheless to seeing it in action on the 360. What a difference a couch, a 32 Low-Def TV (obviously going to have to upgrade this now), and a console controller can make. And as for Conan... who doesn't want to play around with razor sharp swords and hack peoples' limbs off? It's a God of War clone, sure... but I just want to cause some mayhem.

I don't see any "bad sides" to the purchase yet, other than the fact that I have to have my cable guy come out and re-work the way our home network is set up so I can get on Xbox Live and partake in all the fun there. I'd do it myself, but he's got the actual cable going all the way upstairs through the ceiling and I don't want to screw with it. I'll let the professional break things so it's not my fault.

In all, I'm very excited to have finally jumped into the higher-horsepower Next-Gen of gaming, and look forward to going back and playing the titles I've missed (Saint's Row, Gears of War, Bioshock, etc) as well as the ones still to come (GTA IV, Too Human, Battlefield: Bad Company, Last Remnant, etc).

Cheers, you lot! And thanks Satan Santa for being so kind.

Mythos Sees a New Big Patch...

And those who signed up for beta but DID NOT get in before October 31st will need to re-register their e-mail address for a chance at the successor to FATE and Diablo 2.

Here's a summation of the more prominant additions, and I can't say I've had time to check it out yet but I plan to this weekend and over the Holiday so I'll report back on it sometime next week hopefully.
FEATURES
* Guilds have been added! Speak to the Guildmaster in Tulin's Hope to start one at a cost of 5 Gold.
* Hardcore Mode has been added, for extra challenge! In Hardcore, when you die - your character is gone forever, so be careful!
* Elite Mode has been added. In Elite mode, monsters are faster, more aggressive, and tougher. Champions appear more often. You can only sell items for half of regular price.
- Note that Elite and Hardcore players cannot party or trade with players who do not match their setup, to preserve the economies of these different play styles.
* Re-specs are now allowed (although not in Hardcore or Elite mode) - speak to a Skillmaster in Stonehill or Tulin's hope. Re-specs are free from level 1 through 5, and above that, cost starts at 1 Gold and increases from there. There is a maximum of 3 re-specs beyond level 5
* Quests are now Trackable - check them in your log to view them onscreen at all times
* Maximum Questlog size increased to 8 quests.
* Hardware Mouse Cursors! This should make mouse response lightning fast. Hooray!
* Achievements system has been added - complete goals to earn equippable achievements that give you extra bonuses! Unlock a new achievement slot every 10 levels
* Emotes - there is an emote button above the chat pane that will show you the options
* Zivia's Puzzle Box!
* Party Finder – post your party and description and meet some new friends! You can also post yourself as looking for group to the list.
* Ignore List is now account-based and actually saves.


CONTENT ADDITIONS
* Mossy Gothic Tileset.
* Sand Temple Tileset.
* Goblin City Tileset.
* 2 New Boss Battles.
* Many new monsters.
* New monster spawn layouts for Zone 2 that are much improved.
* New Gadgeteer Dusters and Mage gear – including non-robe Mage gear..
* Tulin's Hope has guard patrols.
* Lots of new uniques! Some of our forum-goers might recognize a few of these...
* New socketable gemstones.
* New level decorations and breakables in zone 2 outdoors.
* Lots of new sounds.
* Many particle updates.
* A few new quests

TUNING
* Leveling rate improved - monsters now give about 30-35% more XP.
* Monsters about 15% tougher.
* Rifle damage nerfed past level 7 or so - it was pretty excessive.
* Partied players now get 100% credit for each monster kill.
* Quest XP balanced where it was ridiculously low (or oddly high).
There's tons of fixes and tuning changes also, but these are the biggies. Remember, go re-sign up for the beta if you haven't received your e-mail invite yet. The database for the applications had to be wiped before the launch of Hellgate: London, so all those who didn't get an invite before Halloween need to re-apply. Get crackin'!

Thinking Geek

I was talking to a friend of mine this past weekend (Hi Doug!) and he brought up a solid point in regards to how I seem on my blog and how he knows me to be in real life. He stated that from the blog, if he only knew me from my words here, that he'd think I did nothing all day but play games and that I spent way more time on them than was normal. But in reality, he knows that my blog is more a representation of how I wish I could be.

I wish I could stay at home all day, soak up all the games in the world, and report back here and call that my living. But alas... it can't be so. In actuality I play anywhere from 10 to 15 hours between all games during your average week. On lazy weekends or holiday weekends, I can probably squeak in that extra 5 hours to bring me on par with your average gamer (according to the Nielsen ratings), and that's still less than the 28 hours your average american spends watching TV each week (it should make all hardcore gamers feel good that we spend less time devoted to our hobby than the viewers of Survivor do partaking in theirs).

Rather, what's striking about my gaming habits these days is just how much time outside of playing I spend reading up on the industry, checking for news repeatedly throughout the day as one would check stock prices or CNN for other news, and in general thinking about games as an entertainment and art medium. Then it dawned on me, I may be even more of a geek than I was as a teenager. Sure I have less time to devote to the actual gaming, but at work and even sometimes at home I spend inordinate amounts of time researching this little passion of mine.

One anonymous commenter recently asked why I don't talk more about Pirates of the Burning Sea now that it's in beta, and aside from not playing it out of choice due to wanting the game to seem fresh at launch, I also find myself without the time between Tabula Rasa (which is for real not beta anymore) and now my Xbox 360 (which I got yesterday, w00t!) and not to mention work, school, and in general remembering I have a wife too (love you, honey).

Life's busy, and I find myself with less and less time to really play games these days... but I'll be damned if I ever stop thinking about them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Snowman Cometh...

It's Sunday night in Ohio, around 7pm... and the snow hasn't stopped falling since early this afternoon. Around 8 inches it seems, maybe more. Nothing cataclysmic, but for the 1st snow of the season, it's pretty hefty. Needless to say, driving to Target to do some X-Mas shopping was an adventure.

Bought the wife some iPod portable speakers for her desk at work, in exchange for her solemn oath that I can have my Xbox 360 as soon as it arrives. Once I find out the tracking info, whatever day it's due to hit my doorstep I'll likely be sick... cough, cough.

While we were at Target, I meandered over to the 360 display and had myself some quality time with NBA 2K8. You might not think it by reading this blog, or looking at the sexy devil in the upper left corner of this page, but in my junior and senior high school years, I was one heck of a basketball player. No prodigy, but I was 6'3", 220lbs and I had the soft touch of Larry Nance to boot and wasn't too poky for a big guy either. Not 1 or 2 spot material, more like a short power forward. And though over the years, I play less and less and care little about the NBA or collegiate ball... I simply cannot resist the draw of a solid NBA video game. And solid is about the best word to describe NBA 2K8.

I didn't want to leave the kiosk, let alone the store. Looks like I can add one game to a growing list of titles that call to me. Might be the 1st sports game in about 3 years I like. Huzzah!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Age of Conan Interview from Mondes Persistants

Just wanted to draw some attention to this article from a French website that was reposted on the VN. My brain's still a bit fried this week, but the prospect of playing this on my 360 has me squealing with childlike glee on the inside. Read on, if you have even a passing interest in AoC (and yes I realize it's over 3 months away, but I wanted to share so sue me).

Mondes Persistants - Funcom Q&A

Answered by Erling Ellingsen

How is the beta going? I heard you had 3 level of beta, from internal to general. Could you tell us how it works and what are the benefits of this system?

We actually have two different betas, so to speak. We have the general beta and the technical beta. The general beta is up and running all the time (unless the servers are down for a patch or for some sort of maintenance) and in this beta we want people to test the actual gameplay and report bugs relevant to the gameplay and their experience. The technical beta is something we do sporadically, testing certain features for a limited time (often just a few hours), usually to stress test different systems and for the developers to get numbers they need in relation to that.

The beta process is doing very well right now, and we're gathering some very important data. For the developers, getting immediate feedback on what they create, is absolutely invaluable.

What big issues is the team working on right now?

That would be simply polishing the different features, the different content and so on. Often we go back and tweak different features based on the tester's feedback, such as the combat system that we have been working on a lot based on the feedback we have received. We receive all sorts of different feedback from the testers – from hardware specific matters to gameplay specific matters – and we constantly evaluate this feedback and act on that. It's a very dynamic process right now.

You just accepted a new wave of beta tester in Age of Conan. Are you going to shorten the time between these waves or people who missed it can expect a long wait for the next one?

Unfortunately I can't comment on how many we will let in, when we will let them in or how often we will let them in. Rest assured that we are bringing more and more people in now, and we're doing it more and more often, and the numbers are steadily growing based on our needs. Remember that beta testing is a development tool, and we only invite what is necessary to get the results we need.

Players controlled cities - How do you choose where you’ll build your city?

Cities can be built on what we call “resource and gathering” areas. These are regions of the game world particularly set up for crafting and guild social life. As a guild you basically go into such an area and find a location that is available (represented by an object on the ground that you can interact with). Some areas might be already claimed by another guild, of course. These regions of the game are instanced so that we will have as many copies as needed based on how many guilds want to build a city. All guilds able to do it can get their own city. The battlekeeps, though, is much more exclusive.

Is it still planned that cities will be attacked by PvE Monsters if they’re not cleared from the surrounding?

These areas are teeming with life, both benign and malign. Your city will often find itself in the situation where you will want to kill enemies in its proximity, often to gather the resources you need to further advance your city. It's a great way to gather resources and to make sure the proximity of your city is safe from monsters and humanoids that want to do your guild members harm.

Will you be able to get help from mercenaries (non-guilded players)?

The mercenary system is reserved for the player-versus-player part of the game, where guilds can build or capture battlekeeps in the so-called Border Kingdom. This is where other guilds can try and capture your battlekeep and you will have to defend it with all the resources you have. Even if you are doing the actual attack on a battlekeep, you will be able to recruit other players to fight for your cause. This is also a great way for other players to jump right into the action.

Any details on the buildings that will be available for players to build?

There is a variety of different buildings that you can put in your player city and they all give you different benefits. The basic ones are, of course, the city walls that will provide structure and safety. You will also be able to build things such as the Alchemist's tower, the blacksmith, and many more. Building something requires a certain amount of resources such as wood and iron, and this must be collected by the players themselves in the area surrounding the player city. Building a structure requires someone skilled in the arts of architecture.

On full PvP servers, is it possible that these Cities are attacked by other players?

We actually separate the player cities from the player-versus-player environment. Other players will not be able to attack your city. This is something we decided on very early in the development, as we wanted guilds who are not necessarily interested in player-versus-player warfare to still experience the joy of building a settlement where they can go about their merry ways and engage in various social activities. On the other side of the spectrum you will find the battlekeeps, very similar to player made cities, that other players can and will try and take from you. Battlekeeps and player made cities are constructed in entirely different parts of the world.

Will throwing weapons be any use at all except than being a “pulling tool”?

Absolutely, we are putting a lot of effort into ranged combat altogether. Throwing knives, daggers, axes and so on is a big part of this, and they will have significant use in the game. Ranged combat in general is very different from other massive online games, in that you for instance can go into first person mode and actually aim using a crosshair. Doing it from this perspective actually increases the range you can throw in. You can also use the directional combat system and try to hit your enemy from different directions, such as the head, upper-right part of the body and so on.

Will there be a horsemanship skill?

Yes and no. It depends on how you define it. Basically your character gains a feat allowing you to use a mount once you reach a certain level. There may be many stages of advancement within the arts of mounted combat, though! We're putting a lot of work into this feature.

Will mounted combat use its own set of skills/combo or your class combo will works the same way?

Mounted combat is similar to combat on foot, and it has its disadvantages and its advantages. Most of the time you will not be able to use any combos while mounted, though you can attack in other different ways than you would be able to on foot. The directions are also limited, so for instance if you're mounted on a horse, you will only be able to strike in a few different directions. You can use both ranged weapons and magic while mounted, but here also there are limitations. We're also putting a lot of focus on momentum. Picking up speed and striking your opponent as you pass him or her will cause much more damage than if you were simply standing still while attacking them.

Will there be different type of horses?

There are many different kinds of mounts, and often there are variations of each! For instance, you can acquire many different types of horses such as the quick, but unarmored ones, or the slower ones that may have more armor on them. You can also acquire mammoths and even rhinos, and these offer even more ways to fight and protect yourself. When mounted on a mammoth, for instance, your attacks will actually be done through the mount itself where the mammoth will attack your target using the tusks and the trunk. These beasts can even destroy entire buildings! You will also see that different mounts operate differently, almost like different cars do in “Grand Theft Auto”. For instance, the mammoth can be slow to pick up speed and hard to turn!

Ok, so we don’t know much about crafting except there will be quest to go from one tier to the other. What could you tell us more?

We are quite deliberately keeping crafting under wraps as we want to save something for closer to release! But we can say a few things, of course. You have many different tradeskills such as gem-cutting, weapon-smithing, architecture and potion-making. You start a tradeskill by finding the relevant trainer who will set you out upon a series of quests. Progression within crafting is more or less entirely based on questing. You will often have to use various tools when crafting, one example being a sewing kit for specific types of armor and clothing.

How many different kind of resources do you think of including in the game?

Absolutely. You will find many different types of minerals, types of wood, potion ingredients and so on. Different ingredients may be required in different items, and using some ingredients as opposed to other ones may enhance the potency of the item you are creating. We also have a gem system where you can put different types of gems into weapons and armor, to make them more potent.

Gathering these will be an active/online thing or a passive/offline mechanic?

It is very much an active thing where you will need to go into the game world and acquire them. You will find resource nodes in many different areas and these must be gathered. You also have resource nodes in the Border Kingdom where guilds can fight over the right to own them and tap them. You will also need to gather resources for use in building cities and battlekeeps, so often you will see entire guilds organizing huge “gathering runs” in order to bring resources into the guilds.

Can spellweaving be described as the combos for magic user?

In one way, yes, but it is fundamentally different. Spellweaving is the act of combining different spells that can be combined to create different results. Spellweaving can be a dangerous thing to do, and if you overdo it you might end up with negative side-effects.

How rare & important is the spellweaving in AoC ? Is it something you always do or do you keep it for big occasion? Are the risks great enough?

It's not something you always do, but it's more or less up to your playing style. Spells can be cast in the more traditional manner by simply clicking on them to executing them, and you are not required to use the spellweaving system. I would say it's something you do when you are a more advanced spellcaster or when you want a certain type of result that you can't get with normal spellcasting.

Will there be spellweaving asking for more than one spell caster?

We're playing around with different things here, and we want to keep this under wraps for the time being. Rest assured, however, that we have some really cool things up our sleeves!

Santa Claws Contacted My Wife...

I was worried he'd try to seek revenge upon me, but apparently he's quite happy with the nuggets of his spouse I've been sending him. So much so, that my Xbox 360 Pro Bundle with Forza2 and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance packaged in is now ordered and on its way to my door within the next week or so.

Yes Virginia, there is a Fat Bastard Claus.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Slow Week

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday to anyone who stopped by. It's a busy week at work and with school, and therefore a slow week in my gaming world (IE- my head). I've been playing TR, made it to 21, I've conquered some more instances, made a ton of cash on the Surplus, and am about ready to head to the planet Arieki (sp?) for my first adventures there. All in a couple of hours worth of play this week. Gotta love those casual-friendly games.

For now, I invite you to watch this 1st mini-episode of Sam's Home from the effed up mind of Jason Jordan. Super Deluxe is a great place to head for irreverent humor when you need it. Check it out... isn't Sam just adorable?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quick New Patch in TR Notes...

The Surplus (AH) rules.

The new damage changes to weapons, despite the bitching you'll see from people who think loot that isn't all the same is a bad thing, is awesome. My blue Polarity Gun rules now, and the bug with the repair cost being driven up is already fixed so I didn't experience that shocker.

The Christmas hat is pointless but cool, like all holiday stuff in these games.

The re-spec that came in the patch afforded me some points back from Leech Gun to pump Firearms and Polarity Gun up to 5 each... I rule. I miss decay though... going to have to maybe put a pump into that.

Portable wormholes (Town Portals a la Diablo) are awesome, only further cutting down travel time. Just make sure you're safe when you go to use one, and they don't work in instances to get you out and back to a base.

Oh, and did I mention the Surplus rules? FINALLY the game has an economy of sorts. Can't wait until more rare and special items are added. :)

More on all this tomorrow probably.

G'night!

Last (maybe) TR Post for the Day

It turns out as I was typing that TR Future Preview up, the patch was being put up on the live servers. The game's still down (okay with me, I'm stuck at work), but with it comes the long-awaited Auction House system, portable wormholes (think Town Portals in Diablo) weapon rarity re-workings, a host of class changes, and even some Holiday Cheer.

Check out the full patch notes if you care at RGTR.com. Now's the perfect time to try the game, now that an economy will be present. So get out there and look for a trial key, or head to Amazon to get the game for 20 bucks! You can even get the CE for 30! Or at least you could last week... meh, go check. Work won't allow me.

More thoughts on this patch tomorrow after I've had a chance to check out the changes.

Cheers!

PAUs, Command Opportunities, and other "Coming Soon Things" in Tabula Rasa

As I browse the forums I am actually able to reach here at work, specifically the ones dedicated to Tabula Rasa, I see the same worry and complaint brought up time and time again. Past the 30th level and all the way to the cap of 50, there isn't much of a "carrot" for players. At least that's what I'm reading and I can see what they mean.

In TR, the way the leveling and skills are set up, you're not guaranteed a new skill or even a new level of a skill with every level. You might have to wait 2 or 3 levels before you can get that 5th rank of Polarity Gun for instance. Couple this with the fact that leveling from 30 and up can be a painfully slow process for some due to a lack of upper level content, and you have the exact recipe to make people get bored and stop playing.

There are additions coming though within the next three months that can hopefully keep people playing, at least to the level cap, while a more concrete form of end-game material is worked on. From what I understand, both of the following additions are scheduled to go live by late January, early February. Whether that's soon enough is neither here nor there, I'm not here to speculate on that aspect. I'd rather just bring to light a couple of additional "carrots" that are coming at the beginning of the new year. I could be wrong on the date, so don't hold me to it. We know how nebulous MMO target dates are anyway.

The first order of mid-high level TR improvement is what the development team is calling Personal Armor Units or PAUs. Think of these as a mount of sorts, only with combat abilities. They will be attainable at level 40, and there will be one for each of the level 30 class branches, so 8 in total. They'll be somehow akin to the theme of each class as well. For instance a Guardian will have a hulking tank of a PAU while a Sniper might have a more speedy and frail ranged attacking PAU. It's still unclear how these will really function, but we can likely assume that they'll be far more powerful than an AFS soldier alone, and likely not useable all the time. Hopefully they won't be a once an hour type skill, but more of a high consumable rate thing that a player will need money to use if they wish to place a restraint on its usage.

The second and higher of the planned carrots is something called Command Opportunities. These will be useable at level 50. From what you can read at sites like TenTonHammer, the idea is to give the player a squad of friendly NPCs to have at their exposure for both tough instances and for PvP aid. They're going to be able to be ordered around, but to what extent we don't yet know. We also don't know just how useful they'll be, though the developers say it should help out those players who like to duo or solo but desire a bit more help on some missions.

Also out in the clouded future, hopefully sooner rather than later, Massively has reported that soon Clans will be able to further extend the purpose of Clan Warfare (only prominent form of PvP currently), by allowing them to capture and fight over Control Points. These are essentially alternate bases that are fought over between the players and the Bane right now, and soon added into the mix will be Clan Warfare. The idea I guess is to make some benefits of the economy added to the Clan who controls a CP in order to make the undertaking lucrative. It's a bit silly still to have the last remnants of mankind in-fighting, but let's face it... in a game lik TR PvP is a perfect fit. It could use a lot more fleshing out.

On top of all these things, the team is constantly working on new story missions and instances, loot is being rebalanced to matter a little more so that you'll actually care what you have on your load-out, and every 3 months or so RG and team want to put out a major content update much akin to CoH's long-running practice. And to go one step further, they also plan on releasing a boxed expansion with a new planet and whatnot every year in the fall, like SOE does for EQ2.

In all, I'd say the future is bright if it can deliver on all of these plans. I'm greatly looking forward to a few of the upcoming MMOs, but I can definitely say that I'll always be watching TR and likely subbing and resubbing to it just as I have to so many games over the past few years. It's rough around the edges, but next year I wouldn't be surprised if this little gem is shining brightly like EVE does or CoH, off in the peripheral holding its own and with a hugely loyal fanbase.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Golden Compass Mini-Review

My wife and I went to see "The Golden Compass" over the weekend. I'm a huge fan of Pullman's novels, so I was eager to see this one translated to film despite the middling reviews that I've seen. It seems to have divided the critics. Some love it, others hate it, and the majority sit somewhere in between. After having the whole weekend to dwell on the movie adaptation, I have to say that there's truth to all the bad reviews that I've read, but also I have to say that the film's well worth a viewing by fans of the books and by lovers of fantasy alike. I'll try to explain without spoiling anything about the movie should you lot decide to go and see it.

One of the chief concerns among the mediocre reviews is that the film feels rushed and that there's not enough explanation of Lyra's (the main protagonist) world. Big hearty agreement here. Had I not read the novels, I can imagine I would feel lost while watching the pic. My wife knew enough of the novels through my own clamoring about them to get by, but someone with no prior knowledge of Jordan College, the Magisterium and Daemons is going to feel lost, and the film never really tries to put enough information to the viewers to get across all the intricacies that are found in the book. This would be fine if you were translating a plain as vanilla setting, but since we're talking a fantasy world in Golden Compass, there deserved to be enough info to explain all the little peculiarities. Instead, a unknowing viewer is going to feel more lost than exciting by the Ice Bears, Witches and Gobblers.

And another issue I had with the film is that the ending of the 1st book is not in the film. For those familiar with the trilogy, the ending of the 1st book was a total shocking cliff-hanger than had you dying to see what happened to poor Lyra next. Yet in the pic, akin to Jackson's ending of The Two Towers, we're left with a more optimistic view of the book's ending with only a little foreshadowing of what's to come. Sure, it gives the film a happy ending that's likely been decided necessary by the studio executives, but in cutting out the last two chapters of the 1st book, the film loses it's main edge: that being a children's novel/film that deals with heavy subject matter in a way that doesn't placate.

I think the reasoning behind this is that the movie doesn't have an automatic sequel coming, like Jackson's films did or the Narnia pictures. TGC needs to do well enough to recoup expenses, or we'll likely never see the 2nd and 3rd book, and I think it would be a horrible shame if that happened really, since the last two books are where Pullman goes very heavily into his anti-Magisterium work, and where his message of free will really takes shape. It's a beautifully crafted philosophical piece of fiction, much more for adults than children, and I'd hate to see less than stellar reviews lead to less than stellar ticket sales... and ultimately no sequels.

My only hope is that the 2nd film is made and begins with the last two chapters of the 1st book, and also lets itself explain more of Lyra's world. For the 1st time in a while, I feel that 2 hours simply wasn't enough time to cram what was needed to be crammed into the film adaptation. Another half hour of exploration and explanation I think would have gone a long way towards making the film less rushed feeling.

Anyway, here's where I'm going with this. The Golden Compass is a good, but hurried adaptation of its source material. Fans of the books will like it, fans of fantasy will like it, but others taking their children to see it might feel lost, and left wondering what the thing was all about. If I can offer any advice, it's to immediately read the last two chapters of the book once the movie's over. It'll make everything a bit more clear. There are other things that are changed and omitted for brevity's sake, but by far the most negligent omission is that of the ending.

Here's hoping it doesn't utterly fail and we see the next two books on screen. It deserves to be completed.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Metal

I'm not a huge metal fan. I don't know the ins and outs of the genre. But I know when I like what I hear. I dig Power Metal. I dig DragonForce. Behold: Operation Ground and Pound. The full song's much longer than this, and you lose some of the solos, but still... you'll get the gist. Talk about some crazy f**king guitar work...

Santa Comes to a Realization...

The Fat Bastard replied to me again. It seems we're coming to an understanding. Here's what he wrote:
Dear Bildo.

It's a sad state of affairs when you confuse your wife's toe with your Meat of the Month delivery, alas, I'm guilty of making that very mistake. On a happier note, sauteed with some onions, mushrooms and gravy, the little digit...Ho ho ho! Who am I kidding? You and I both know there's nothing little about my wife! Her BIG toe (was it her 'big' toe?) was absolutely delicious! My wife has never tasted so good! Let's make a deal. You just might find an Xbox 360 in your stocking this Christmas if you can keep those tasty treats coming.

Merry Christmas,
Santa Claws.

P.S. Thanks for the word of advice about the reindeer. I'll give them some of Santa's special eggnog tonight before showing them how much I love them.
The understanding I previously referred to, is that apparently he loves to eat his wife as much as I love to cut her to pieces*.

Here then, is my reply to you, Loafing Child Stalker.

Dearest Hannibal Claws,

I am ever so glad to discover that you've found some use for your wife's chubby little digit. Lord knows what else she's good for. I shall acquiesce to your request and send more tasty little nuggets of spousal goodness just as soon as I am able. The trouble you see, is that I am unsure where the old hag has gotten to.

During one of my rituals of worship to the Metal (Tenacious D FTW), the bitty seems to have escaped. She can't have gotten far, and I'm sure if I lay a trail of Elfin Fudge cookies she'll make her way back happily. When she does, rest assured that I'll lop a few of those piggies off and FedEx them just as quick as I can.

I am very glad that we've come to a agreeable stance on this whole issue. It'll be very nice to have my Wii60 complete this year. The only thing that troubles me about the whole ordeal, is that your missus seems to enjoy it when I loose her toes from their home. I am not quite sure what to think of this, other than the fact that she must be a freak in bed. Not that I'm going to find out, mind you, as I'd be fairly uncertain where to... um, place myself. Not sure what's a nook or a cranny, and what's a gully hole if you catch my drift.

Anyway, I must go lay the trap for her.

With greatest satisfaction and happiness,

Bildo


*For the love of all that is pure in this world, please readers understand I am joking on these posts. Just a bit of fun for Christmas in a different way than you might be used to.

The Thrill of Combat

As you may have guessed, I've been playing Tabula Rasa more than any other game lately, even the sublime Super Mario Galaxy. There's nothing like a fresh MMO to keep my attention.

I managed to creep into level 19 last night, finish up all the quests and instances in the Wilderness to gain a couple of new titles, and also get some stuff that was eluding me done in the Palisades. All in all, it was a productive night for about 1 hour's work. The draw of TR is two-fold for me.

Fold One - I can log in, play for as short as 15 minutes, and log out feeling like I gained a good chunk of experience and wrapped up some quests in a very short amount of time. That's absolutely necessary to me these days, and it's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to Pirates so much.

Fold Two - It's just plain fun to fight things in Tabula Rasa. There's no other way to put it. Combat, while still about dice rolls, stats, and and level underneath the hood is far more interesting in Tabula Rasa than in your more traditional fare like World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, Dark Age of Camelot, and all the other games that we've known and paid homage to over the years.

The very first online game I played was not a MUD. It was not EQ1. It wasn't UO. it was a Gamecube game called Phantasy Star Online. Basically it was Diablo in an anime style, with one caveat. The combat was more action oriented, based on combos, blocking, spells, and lots of cool weapons. It was a shallow as all heck game, but man was the fighting fun back then. I'm a young guy, but this was in maybe my 2nd or 3rd year of high school, right around the 2000 mark.

After the introduction to the fun of playing a game online with other folks, I started looking into EQ (which my friends were addicted to). I tried it... a lot. Several times even. But I could NOT get into it for the life of me, and for no other reason than the fact that combat was absolutely boring compared to the button-mashing that was PSO.

I tried UO. I tried DAoC. I tried whatever it was my friends were getting into, but the same thing stopped me from liking them all. The combat was slow-paced, not very interactive, and therefore ultimately boring. Grouping made it more tolerable, but even back then I had more of a tendency to solo when I was able and that's when I just couldn't take it, especially with all the downtime of those older games.

Things started looking up with AC2 in 2004. For while it was more of the same set-up, it was faster paced and in general more exciting than your average MMO's combat system. And then WoW came out. Fights were 30 seconds a piece, the downtime was next to none on nearly all accounts. It was as if someone had made a combat system for me, knowing that I just didn't gel with the more tedious earlier games. I was raised a console-gamer, so I was used to more character manipulation, quicker action, and in general more visceral fighting. WoW, for whatever other faults it may have, was like MMO-Combat on speed and a dose of crack. It was blazing fast compared to the competition.

Still, there were several classes whose playstyles didn't mesh. I stuck to my warrior, my hunter, and my rogue for the simple fact that each of them required a lot of action to and manipulation to play. It kept me interested.

Now, let's skip ahead a few years. I can still play more traditionally based combat games like LotRO, PotBS and WoW. But I'd be lying if I said that any of the three's combat systems were what I liked most about the games. They have their strong points, especially in the case of PotBS' ship-based battles. You can't beat Pirates with a stick when it comes to that. I love the Age of Sail/Sid Meier's Pirates! type combat.

But by and far I still prefer the more action-oriented (say console-esque if you must) type of combat. Most folks, myself included, don't play MMOs for the combat. We play them for all the other aspects, and the combat is the main means of how we reach said aspects. But what if a game could actually bring truly fun and visceral combat to the table, and successfully break away from the action-bar and target-highlighting model that's been used for nigh a decade? I'm even excluding TR here since that's still somewhat in this realm of design.

Will that game be Age of Conan? Spellborn? We know it won't be WAR. Age of Conan is being developed primarily for the PC, but with the Xbox 360 also strongly in mind. Will it herald in a new type of combat for MMORPGs? Or will it simply be a nice idea that's pulled off badly? We don't have long to wait I suppose, if it hits its March 25th target date.

But I know one thing is certain for me... I'm ready for something new. Tabula Rasa has shown that to me. It's not you Trad-MMO, it's me. I need something new and exciting. I'm not ready to settle. Maybe we can be still be friends with benefits, you know, until something I'm really looking for comes a long...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Diddling of Franchises

I love Gabe and Tycho. Really I do. I want to have like, ten thousand of their babies*. Check out this strip, commenting on the recent Activision/Blizzard merge. An executive of this newly formed mega-company actually said what is in the first frame. Absolutely priceless.

Thanks to Kill Ten Rats for the heads up. I had to re-post it.

* = Joke concerning a line from American Beauty and in no way intended to be truthful, but if Gabe or Tycho propositioned us...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Yarps and Narps

(Aside: I hope someone got the "Hot Fuzz" reference in the title...)

It's now been a couple of days since the NDA dropped, and I'm sure you've all read dozens of beta overviews, reviews, previews, and whatnot. I won't bore you with an epic diatribe on the intracacies of the game. I'm simply going to to go over some positives and some negatives as I see them, and then leave the whole thing open for discussion. Feel free to comment on anything you read.

~~~For Every Yarp a Narp~~~

Yarp - Sea combat, while slow and deliberately slow is an Age of Sail fan's wet dream. It'll be hard for me to get used to it when I'm playing PotBS again every day after spending a lot of time in TR, but there's something sublime in sailing a ship with read winds, and firing your broadsides at just the opportune moment. It's more strategic, even if it seems a big more methodical, than any combat I've played in an MMO.

Narp - Avatar combat, while very cool on paper, comes off clunky and unpolished. It's in a far better state today than it was back in August, but there's still work to be done. It's just not very exciting, and in a herd of enemies it can be more confusing and frustrating than fun.

---

Yarp - Character Customization is fantastic. It's not quite as broad as creating your own hero or villain in CoX, but it's pretty damn close. Everything from hats to boot buckles can be tweaked and colored until your heart's content. Make your pirate the Dread Pirate Roberts if you must, or go for something more akin to Bozo the clown (though I understand the ability to make neon freaks has been turned downa a lot, thank Jeebus).

Narp - I was really hoping I'd be able to make my pirate a fat slovenly fellow. The inability to choose different body types is one of the ways PotBS does not equal CoX in character customization choices. Not a deal breaker by any means, but still... I really wanted to be a fat, filthy pig of a pirate. At least for a bit.

---

Yarp - The ease of short-spurt play is phenomenal. While PotBS' heavy reliance on sailing mechanics will immediatel turn some off because not everyone wants to be a sailor, I can't stress enough about the fact that anyone who fancies themself as someone without a lot of time but still a lover of MMOs should take a look at PotBS. The way the game's missions are instanced (again a la CoX), the relatively short time it takes to level, the travel times between ports being quick but not too quick... it all spells out a casual player affair.

What's more is that because of level having no real play into combat dice rolls, it's also a casual PvP player's dream. You can be level 20 taking on a 50 and you CAN hope to compete. No more spending all day every day just to get gear that allows you some small semblance of chance at beating your opponent. Not on the Burning Sea.

Narp - While the instancing lends itself well to private encounters and running missions for shorter play sessions, it can become quite the detractor. If there was any one thing I disliked the most about PotBS, it would be the heavy instancing. There's just so much of it. When you want to do a mission you're wisked off to a private instance for you and/or your party. When you encounter an enemy on the open sea, private instance for that too. When you engage in the big Port Battles? Instance. It all makes sense to keep things balanced and also to split up the 3 segments of the game they've created (crafting, sailing, and avatar combat), but it often seems to be more in the way than helpful. You certainly will notice the loading screens even if they're fairly quick.

---

Yarp - One more Yarp and Narp for now. The economy is fantastic. Crafting and Economic nuts are going to eat this title up for sure. I've never been a fan of crafting in most games, because in most games it's a fruitless side-game. In PotBS, it's equal to sailing as the number one draw for playing. Most everything available for purchase will be created and comissioned by the players, from ores to sails to cattle and even entire ships. What's more is that to get the best prices a player has to be willing to sail sometimes into PvP territory, or a trader will have to do the same to take advantage of the best selling spots.

Guess who's going to be offering his Piratical services to protect aspiring merchants?

Narp - The downside, and only downside I can see, to crafting is that it's a bit daunting at 1st to come to grips with. This isn't WoW or even EQ2. You won't be node hunting in PotBS. Instead you'll be given 10 plots of land to disperse across the seas, and it'll be up to you how you distribute these 10 plots. Do you need just 1 warehouse for storage? 3? How about goods production? Do you want to make just the smaller pieces, or do you want to work up enough funds to become a full-time ship-maker and just use some other plots for making money? Oh, and where's the best place to find the resource I need? Where should I sell my ore? Should I risk passing through Tortuga to get Port Royal?

Hell, who am I kidding... that type of though is what makes the economy so good. But I can see why some might dislike it and prefer the simpler "collect materials, make goods, sell goods" approach. I'd much rather have PotBS' system though, because it feels more like a game (READ: fun) than a chore.

---

There's more to touch on still, but it's lunch time. I'll write up more Yarps and Narps as I think of them. Please feel free to comment on these if the mood strikes.

Cheers!

Bildo

Dear Santa Claws...

I'd like to draw your attention to a response I received from the Fat Man yesterday after my open letter to him:
Dear Bildo.

Pleae try to remember that I'm Santa Claws. I know if you've been naughty or nice, and I know where you live, and despite the extra pounds I've put on these past few centuries I'm still capable of squeezing down your chimney (or any other available rooftop duct) sneaking into your room while you sleep, and plucking out your eyes. Oh, you'll get your Xbox 360 alright, but I hope you can play Halo 3 by sound alone, you lucky, little boy.

Now release the portly lass I call my wife, and nobody gets hurt.

Sincerely,
S.C. aka The Fat Man.
I would like to take some time today to respond. This may get a bit graphic, so reader beware. Let's hope the pudgy bastard is reading...

Dear Obese and Grossly Flatulent Excuse for a Man,

I do hope your previous letter was in jest. For you see, I found it rather funny. Comical in that you think I could take it seriously. I do not sleep this time of year, for the fear that your lard-tacular arse will eat me while I snooze. And I certainly shan't be without protection. I know your weakness, and I am not talking about the animal porn, either. I'll give you a hint... I wouldn't drink the milk if I were you, though I know how hard you find it to ignore the treats all the sheep leave for you, you diabetic prick.

I have enclosed one of the sausage links your wife calls a toe. Please don't eat it, you chunky monkey. Put it in some ice up there, since there's miles of it and save it for the poor woman. Provided you bring me my 360 and leave me and my family in safety and unharmed, you will see her again.

Without a hint of insincerity,

Bildo

PS: Oh, and please stop sleeping with the reindeer at night. I can hear their cries of pain even in Ohio. It does upset your lady, as well. At least be quieter about it.

PPS: I was kidding about that last part, but if I at all worried you... you're a sick, sick man. I mean really... gross, dude.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The NDA Debacle

So, I was browsing the VN forums today when I came across that rare post that stings. For it was directed at me. The NDA to Pirates lifted yesterday, but not until about 1130am PST. I was unaware of this.

Instead, I came into work around 8am, and as I made my way through the morning I stumbled across Tobold's blog and his Beta Review of PotBS. Admittedly an unwise choice in hindsight, I took this to mean that the NDA had indeed been lifted. I don't have access to MOST sites here at work. I can get to the VN boards, but I can't log in. I can't check PotBS' website, or pretty much anything gaming related. Even Keen's blog has been blocked to me now, thanks to the folks here thinking a gaming news site must mean I am playing games at work too... but that's neither here nor there.

The fact is that I couldn't find out about the NDA dropping by any means other than the few blogs I can visit while at work. My mistake certainly for trusting them as indicators of some official announcement. I own up to that for sure.

I didn't review it myself, in fact I still haven't. But apparently by way of association I may now branded as a bad beta tester for linking to sites who did (albeit accidentally) break the NDA themselves. This was not my intention. My sole intention was to get more great words out about PotBS, which Tobold and Potshot have covered in spades.

There are many things that could be said about their early reviews. We could all debate all day that they should have checked the website for an official announcement before posting their reviews. In fact, I'd say they should have too.

But that's not what I'm concerned about right now, frankly. I just want it known that I never broke the NDA nor did I intend to. I hope no one, and I mean NO ONE, thinks I would.

Age of Conan and Mounted Combat

I know I said I'd wait to talk about an upcoming game until it was at least 3 months away, but I can't help it. This feature of Age of Conan sounded way too cool when I read it. Reposted from the Vault Network boards...
Rush into battle mounted on furious mammoths, or speed across rolling plains on horseback. It’s time we took a deeper look at mounted combat in Age of Conan!

In a game where bloody, brutal and action oriented combat is held in such high regard, it seemed only natural for us at Funcom to make mounted combat equally as exhilarating. That meant going far beyond what other massive online games have done earlier.

Including mounted combat in Age of Conan is actually a significant step forward for the whole genre. Usually, mounts in these types of games are only used for getting from one place to another as quickly as possible, and not at all for doing damage.

But in Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures the value of a mount will extend far beyond being just a means of transportation. Whereas other massive online games will force you to dismount when fighting, Age of Conan allows you to stampede into battle mounted on anything from ferocious killer rhinos to noble steeds!

When we set out to design the mount system we knew we had to do two things: create a certain feeling of depth and excitement, in addition to making it balanced and fair.

Freedom of choice...

When you finally reach the required level to own and operate a mount in Age of Conan, there is a wide range of choices for you to make before you head out and buy one – and it goes well beyond just choosing what color you want it to be!

In addition to choosing what type of mount you want (horse, mammoth, rhino and so on), you also need to choose between different variations of that mount.

Each different type of mount has its own advantages and disadvantages. While the mammoth moves slowly, turns slowly and may be difficult to control, it can take a huge amount of beating. The horse, however, tends to be quick and easy to maneuver, but it will never stand up to the same amount of damage that the mammoth can take.

There are also variations of each different mounts. Some horses are quicker than others, while others rely more on heavy armor. What you choose to go for not only depends on how much money you have, it also depends on how you want to actually play the game!

Becoming one with your mount...

Heroic tales of Hyborian adventurers, who went through hell and came out on the other side with their trusted steed loyally by their side, are many and plentiful in the world of Conan. Becoming one with your mount is a necessary key to success.

When riding into battle on a mount in Age of Conan you will gain various bonuses depending on the mount you’re using. If you’re using a mammoth, for instance, you will get a solid health bonus that will benefit you in battle. But remember, should you get killed while mounted your mount will die with you – and vice versa!

The control system has been designed in such a way that your mount really feels like an extension of your own character, from the way it moves to the way some of them fights.

“Some mounts have a certain acceleration rate, such as the mammoth,” explains Svein Erik Jenset, one of the designers on Age of Conan. “Riding forward on the mammoth you will actually see that its speed increases slowly, and when you tell it to stop it will not stop right away – it will start to slow down before it eventually stops.”

Another case when you and your mount becomes one is while fighting. If you’re riding a horse you will actually have to swing your weapon yourself, trying to make impact. If you’re riding a mammoth on the other hand, it’s the mammoth that will do the fighting as it thrusts its giant tusks at the enemy!

Machine of death...

Fighting while mounted is an art that can be challenging to master in Age of Conan. For instance, in order to maximize your damage output you need to actually ride quickly past your enemy and then hit – the faster you go the more damage you will do! Of course, this also requires you to know exactly when to let your sword go or you’ll miss completely.

If you miss you will have to turn, and if you’re going fast you have to turn in a wide arc. And if you’re riding a mammoth even turning on the spot may take some time!

There is a variety of weapons (such as lances) you can use while mounted, and you can even cast spells and shoot with ranged weapons such as various bow types, but there are also certain limitations in terms of which combos and what spells you can use.

“You will have to evaluate each situation and see if it’s best ride into the battle or do it on foot,” says Gaute Godager, game director for Age of Conan. “Some mounts are really good camp breakers, while others can be used to actually crush entire buildings!”
AoC has been on my radar for a while, but I've always been wary of how it will actually play. Still, the sheer scope of new things they're trying to deliver on has me enticed. If this feature, the combo-centric combat, and the siege warfare all play out well... Age of Conan could be a big breath of fresh air for the Fantasy MMO. A really big heaping gust of fresh air.

I'll be watching it closer and closer as we near their launch date of March 25th. 2008 is looking to be a good year for these games... that is if they all come out on time finally.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Some News, Some Screens, and Some X-mas Wishes

Big news this weekend, reported on best at Kotaku (simply because I dig the mix of humor and real news reporting), Blizzard's parent company Vivendi and Activision are merging. Activision Blizzard they shall henceforth be called... what a horrid name. I like BlizzVision or Activendizard or Blizzactivendi better. Anything but what they're calling it.

Also worth noting is that apprently Evel Knievel is dead at 69. I'm surprised he lived that long knowing what he did for a living. Here's hoping he's somewhere else doing something crazy right now.

Next up on my list of little things to blog about, here's a couple of screens (front and back) of Johnny Bildo: Sapper of the 17th Rank, Allied Sentient Forces. The gun on my back is called a Polarity Rifle... and rules all. It sends out this stream of electric energy, not unlike a tesla coil, and when I release the trigger it lets loose a big heaping pulse at the end of the stream causing massive damage against the enemy I have targeted.

The downside is that there are annoying little wildlife who are immune to its electric energy. For them, I revert back to my rifle or my shotgun. But more often than not, the Polarity Rifle is my baby. As you can see from the info on the left, I'm about 20 hours into the game, which is pretty good for progression. 20 hours = 17 levels. Not bad. I haven't even been "trying". I just go around do missions, kill things, and have fun. I had a boring and empty Sunday (thank Jeebus) so I was able to get in 4 hours worth of playing throughout the day, in about 45 minute chunks here and there.





And lastly, I'd like to write an open letter to Santa.

Dear Fat Man,

Please let my wife get a nice Christmas bonus so that I might get my Xbox 360, thus completing my Wii60 Entertainment Center. If you comply, I will not kill your wife. She is well, but she could stand to lose a few pounds. Perhaps I shall start with her chubby little feet. Then again, should I receive my Christmas wish I will let her be, and you can have your lovely back. Do act wisely, sir.

Regards,

Bildo

UPDATED: PotBS NDA Gone - Tobold Opens the Floodgates

I was going to write a nice long, succinct review of this game... but now I feel that doing so would be unneccessary. Tobold's gone and written a review that pretty much covers all the bases, and I can't say I disagree with much on it. I'll still write an opinion-piece of my own, but for now lest you all go hungry head on over to Tobold's and read his extremely in-depth write-up.

This is a game to watch boys and girls, and one I'll be playing come launch... what more reason to pre-order do you need? Keep an eye out for my own thoughts later. Go read Tobold's thoughts for now. You heard me, go on, GET!

Cheers!

Edit: Darren pointed out that P0tsh0t also has his own thoughts up and they're equally awesome. Head there too!

Edit 2: Apparently the NDA is not officially gone just yet. But it was announced that it would be today, hence some folks jumping the gun. I'm cut off from the gaming world while at work, so you could have fooled me.

Edit 3: Woops, now it is. Commence Beta Reviews.

Edit 4: It looks like MeanKeenLurikeen (Keen to his fans) waited patiently for the official word. You read his Beta review right HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Caves of Donn

I got another hour or so of TR in last night, and managed to try out another one of their instances. Don't worry, I'll make this one shorter than the last.

The Caves of Donn are located a bit north and west of Memory Tree Hill, which is at the heart of the Concordia Wilderness. I was greeted upon entry with another briefing video which I'll be sure to post here late. It's sitting at home on my hard-drive as I write this. Very cool stuff. Reminds me of the movies during the Book quests in LotRO, a welcome development that both MMOs have wrought on the industry. More story in my MMO = BETTER.

This one was a lot smaller than the Pravus Research Facility. Basically, here's the gist: Reports of distress from the Caves have been coming in from the Foreans. Turns out there are some ruins in the area that the Foreans claim are touched by the Eloh (race of sentient beings whose knowledge and eventual betrayal by the Thrax and their own started this whole mess). There are Eloh artifacts, objects of great power, scattered about the Caves of Donn and comes down to me to get them before the Bane (collective name for the Thrax and all malevolent species that engage in warfare against the AFS) do.

Balls to the wall, a few NPCs and I made my way around the map (at least until the NPC kick the bucket and I'm solo), looking for these artifacts, collecting any Logos I find, and also helping out a group of Foreans who were cornered in one of the caves by the Bane. I escorted them to safety, and then finally my map was lit up with the location of the main artifacts I was looking for.

The Caves had me on a fairly linear path, but it branches and weaves so much that you don't feel like you're being led along. Not until you backtrack when running from a horde of enemies anyway. And run I did. You see the Caves are more on my level than Pravus was. I was 12 and the mobs were all 11 and 12 too. Lots of elites and whatnot to boot. Still, I only died once when I couldn't take out a shield drone fast enough and the Bane hiding under the shields knocked me back and wiped out my health before I could get up.

The second time against this group, I whipped out my EMP rifle, crouched from about 65 meters away and laid into the damned drone. It was down for the count before the group got within reach of me and then it was a simple matter of watching my shields as my shotgun peppered the Bane out of existence. Felt very badass after that. I retrieved all 3 of the Eloh Artifacts, read the records left behind of their betrayal at the hands of their own, and made my way out of the instance.

Another job well done in about an hour's time. Oh yeah, I was solo too. God bless instance-scaling. More please.

Cheers, you lot.

PS- Hit 13 last night too, 2 more levels until this Specialist becomes a Sapper and clones himself off again in case Sapper isn't the way for me. Cloning FTW.

She *CAN* Do It Captain

There was a reason I wasn't reporting the whole STO affair that's going around the interwebs right now. That reason was the "news" reporting the demise of Perpetual was speculative at best, and there was no real official word from the company.

Turns out we all got panicked for no reason, at least for now.

Massively has the story, and here's a snippet:
Star Trek Online's Executive Producer Daron Stinett addressed panicked fans, saying that not all is as it seems. We have the lowdown here for you. The heart of the matter: it appears that STO has not been canceled or nerfed after all --at least not to the degree that we feared. That said, here's the full story so far.

With regards to the SEC report, Stinett said: "That report relates to a transaction that took place a while back. And while I can't get into details right now, I want to assure the community that the entire Star Trek team is still here working hard and eagerly anticipating our chance to finally share our big plans." So, it looks like WarCry's Razor may have been close to the truth.

Stinett also said that the team is "in the process of finding a formal publisher, which involves conversations with a variety of parties." Additionally, he said that the rumors of a paradigm shift in the business model are greatly exaggerated, and that the game is not locked into anything in that area until Perpetual works it out with a publisher (once it finds one).

Stinett is considering business models other than the tradition $15/mo approach, though. "I personally think MMOs need to be a better deal," he said. "We are discussing this issue internally. Unfortunately the discussion leaked and the characterization is incorrect."
Okay, it's more than a snippet, but just in case you want it all head here.

It looks like the dreams of a Star Trek Online that doesn't completely suck are still alive, but I still wouldn't hold my breath until we know more.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Proof Positive that PhotoShop is Cool

It's fun what you can do with PS. It really is. How cool do I look now?

Pirates Pre-Order Attained and Boarding-Party I Be In

I was going to mention this in today's mammoth post, but when it became the monstrosity I decided it'd be better to give it its own place.

I finally found my Pre-Order box for Pirates of the Burning Sea. I had pre-ordered it when I picked up Tabula Rasa Monday, even though they still hadn't received their copies in store. It seems they were just a week behind the curve though, as they got them in Tuesday.

After hearing stories that some boxes were missing Pre-Order keys, or the soundtrack or both, I opened mine right there when they gave it to me to be sure. All systems are go, and all hands are on deck. Come January 7th, it'll be a Pirate's life for me.

Which brings me to the other purpose of this post. A while back, Flying Labs announced a unique approach to community interaction, called the Boarding Party. basically, the BP will serve as the connection between the players and the Devs when the forums themselves just don't cut it. In turn, a lot of BP members may also be the folks you see organizing Real-Life events, spreading the word, and in general making sure the public hears about this wonderful game.

I cannot get into specifics on the game just yet, as the NDA still applies, but I can tell you that I am now officially a member of the Boarding Party, and whether I'm still playing TR or not come January, you can bet I'll be covering Pirates extensively here with my usual fare of impressions, stories, etc. Now, not only because I'll be playing it, but because I have purpose! I am a BPM (Boarding Party Member)!

If anyone around here is looking forward to this game as I am, Theresa Pudenz of Flying Lab would like me to give you all this link...

BOARDING PARTY INFO AND SIGN-UP

Head on over there and sign up yourselves if you're looking to be part of something new and different in the MMO-Space!

The Soloability of Instances in Tabula Rasa

Like I was hoping to, I had some time last night to try out my 1st instance in Tabula Rasa. I started writing this a just a general impressions of my time in the first instance of TR, but as I went along it morphed into a near entire play by play of my time spent in the Pravus Research Facility last night. It made that much of an impression on me. It's been a while since I had so much fun running solo in an MMO, and especially in an instance. Not since Van Cleef and the Deadmines have I felt so involved in something "epic". LONG post ahead, so reader beware. :)

Of course I didn't go into said instance until after I had completed some other nagging quests around the Concordia Wilderness. Namely, I was tasked with taking out some named mobs and gunning down some hefty duty Predator-class Bane ships, getting a Forean's codex back from a giant armor-plated Xanx beast, and taking out the Three Devils (3 Bane officers) so I could collect a certain plant from around the lake they patrolled and save the Corman people from a form of Malaria.

All in an evening's work. I did these three quests with the help of some nice folks I met while working my way to each of the quests sites, at least I did the latter two with groups. The big Xanx (sort of spider-like giant monstrosities) wasn't so much a hard hitter as it was a pain in the arse to bring down as a Specialist. You see Specialists are one of the two branches you choose at level 5. The other is Soldier. Both can perform extremely well and last long in combat, but the soldiers have the edge in combat, while we specialists have the edge in survivability and supporting skills.

So anyway the Xanx was a tough mother to take out, due to extremely potent shielding/armor. The best way to drop those down on an "elite" mob like this is to use an EMP chain-gun (soldiers only) or a nice big ol' EMP bomb. The trouble with using a bomb against a Xanx is that they're meant for melee combat. At range or on the move around them, they're harmless, but to use a bomb you need to get in close and personal. Luckily, before I had to take the risk of getting in on the big bastardo a few fellow AFS folks joined me and we took it down with minimal fuss. My radial shield regeneration tool kept my Soldier friends alive, and she was dropped within a minute. We specialists definitely are valuable in that respect. I can dish out the damage and keep myself a live, but it's nice to know that what I lack in pure fire-power I more than make up for in keeping my less resourceful friends alive.

We proceeded to move east across the Wilderness and took out the Three Devils. Again, the strategy was get in drop an EMP bomb where they're huddled firing shots into you, and watch the little f**kers go BOOM! Shields gone, they were ripe for the picking. After this quest, my groupmates went their separate ways, and I went hunting for some Predators.

The night before, I had attempted to take out these buggers. Predators are big roving ships that look like an evil version of Boba Fett's mode of transport. They hunt in packs, are deadly from close range, move quickly, and are extremely potent when they self-destruct near death. My 1st attempt at taking them out was ill-advised. I had read that EMP damage did the best against them, but didn't realize they were so deadly up close, so I ran in with my only EMP gun at the time... a shotgun, thinking if I stayed behind them I'd be fine. Wrong. Within seconds I was dead.

So last night I tried a different tactic. I followed the road I had seen them on last and came across the same group of three harrassing the local Xanx population. From behind a bunch of sandbags, I crouched and whipped out my regular physical damage rifle. Taking them out from range was my only chance, and staying far away at the same time. Waited for my sights to get bead on one of the bastards, and pulled the trigger. 300 points of damage per shot, the shields dropped, then its health dropped... before he could even close in on me he was on the ground in pieces. There were still two more to worry about though. Back-peddling and keeping my range, I took them out bit by bit until they both were huddled messes of refuse on the road. Job well done.

Those more middling tasks complete (albeit exciting as they were, and I did save the Corman people from a plague), I had bigger fish to fry. There was something rotten going on at the Pravus Reasearch Facility, the dead being brought back to life as machines by the Bane... and I needed to check it out.

One of the cool things, and there are many, about TR's instances is that they scale. If you bring one guy in there and then go in later with five, you'll notice a big difference in mob density and strength. This takes a page right out of the old CoH playbook. So as a solo adventurer, I can stand a chance on my own in said instance, so long as I play wisely, take my time, and maybe put a level or two between you and the average mob.

In short, instances in TR aren't built or designed like instances in WoW. They're much more akin to CoH or Auto Assault, and I mean that in a good way. These aren't places you go to farm loot or grind reputation, these are places you go for a more story-oriented experience, and after this 1st one I'm inclined to say they're better because of this simple fact. The instances in WoW, EQ2, or any other game that handles them traditionally are certainly story-oriented, but due to the nature of them, that they're meant to be repeated ad nauseum in order to attain certain loot pieces, they loose their shine for most players rather quickly.

In TR, their function primarily is story 1st, experience for gaining a level 2nd, and private hunting if you want to get away from fellow players 3rd. This is not to say good loot can't be found, but rather that it's not meant to be the draw and instead you're left with a place that's built for the story, for the experience (not xp, but actual experience), and because it doesn't beg to be returned to over and over, the players shouldn't end up dreading the sight of "LFM: Pravus Research" in general chat. I dug the choice in Auto Assault, one of that game's main shining points, and I dig it here.

So anyway, let's get to how it played and how I fared.

As Private Hudson has already mentioned on his blog, the instances are much like mini-zones. The maps (M key) look the same, only smaller, and there's even usually a friendly town where you can buy ammo, medical supplies, and where you'll rez upon death. Very cool. It's private too as I mentioned, so you can feel free to act as dumb as you want inside of them. For some good screens and video, check out Hudson's site linked above, as I once again forgot to make use of FRAPs as I was playing... doh! Also cool to note, is that when entering an instance, a short descriptive cinematic made out to look like a military personnel video plays to give you the run down on the area and what's going on, and why you're there.

The instance starts you off right in a nice cosy, familiar Forean town, where I was tasked with meeting up with one of the Forean women. She told me about how the Bane are using some technology or another to change the bodies of the dead, both Forean and Human, into Machina... reanimated robotic dead. She asked me to find out what the source of this horror was and to destroy it. With that knowledge and goal I set off to see my commanding officer who also tasked me to head up to the front lines and to do what I could to aid the AFS in the fight.'

I grabbed some ammo and made sure my armor and other equipment was in top condition and headed up the hill, out of the Forean village, and into the pits of a hell I had not expected. Gone were the green canopies of the Concordia Wilderness, replaced with the black refuse the Bane leave behind wherever hey go. Red, fleshlike organisms wrapped themselves around what remained of the harborage, and smoke clouded what should have been a clear blue sky. Unnatural is the best word to describe it.

A small contingent of troops stood wary at the edge of the Forean hold, and as I approached Bane dropships hovered into view, dropping soldiers, both alive and machine into the fray. We slaughtered them, leaving no living thing with breath, nor dead thing with unnatural life. It was hectic, but hardly deadly. Definitely the benefit of having more experience under my belt than the average enemy deployed there. On average I was 2 levels higher than them.

I made my wat east and north, following my natural line of sight and coming upon the Captain I was told to aid at the front lines. He thanked me for my work on the earlier fight, and sent me on my way. There was still the matter of these Machina to figure out after all. As I continued my winding path east, to where my radar system told me I'd find some clue as to where these beings were being constructed, dropship after dropship flew in, trying to impede my path, but I was no rube, ripe for the slaughter. My blood and body would not become one of the poor wretches I was forced to mow down to make my mission a success.

Mortars even tried to take me out, but with the aid of an EMP pulse rifle, and the distance of about 60 meters, they were but scrap metal mosquitoes to me. The hard part didn't come until I came over a hill to find a mass of about 20 Bane soldiers, and 10 more Machina horrors. Shotgun time, baby. With crafty use of my shield regeneration tool, and plenty of cartridges pumped into my shotgun, I slowly tore down the shields and eventually the lives of the Bane that assaulted me. As I said... nothing would stop me from seeing my duty done.

In the distance, once the bodies of my foes lay around me, I spied a predator hovering about, hoping to find some reason to engage. I gave it a reason... about 400 damage per shot from my Laser rifle worth of a reason. Death was swift for that one. I then took out a hovering spotlight so as to not set off an alarm, and made my way towards the entrance of the main Bane facility, where I assumed I'd find the source of the Machina. I killed the two door guards, took the one's keypass, and went into the rabbit-hole.

Down dark, shadowed corridors of the facility, I crept as silently as I could. For a moment I wished I was a stealth operative, but only for a moment... the enemy inside this place was much less worrisome than those several dozen outside on guard. One by one, I rifled my way through their ranks, through locked doors thanks to a handy keypass, and all around the facility in search of some clue as to what was making the Machina. Finally I came to a window that looked out upon a massive central chamber, pistons pumped, gasses spewed, wretching noises were echoing throughout... and Machina came out of small portals like toys on an assembly line. Now... how was I supposed to get in there and put an end to the whole thing?

I continued searching around the place, came to a few dead ends with locked chests at their edges. Being a Specialist came in handy here. I whipped out my Cypher tool and unlocked them (think Rogue's lockpicking skill) and made away with some ammo and some crafting schematics. Finally, after a few more hallways explored and more Bane killed, I came to the entrance to that central chamber.

Immediately I was spotted by two Bane guards, and after dispatching them with my laser rifle, I took in the situation. Dozens, if not hundreds of Machina per minute were being produced by this thing, all of them making their way out of the facility via teleporters, presumably off to some war-torn destination or another to reap havoc upon what used to be their people. At the center of the massive machine was a large green fuel-cell. That would be my area of demolition. That was my target.

On the opposite side of the large room, I could see a commanding Bane officer and his cronies, standing vigilant guard at what looked to be the best way out for me after I took out this Machine. So before I started going kablooey on the Machina-maker, I decided to say hello to my Thrax (one species of the Bane) friends. I used my rifle to pull their leader and then worked on the lesser helpers as they rushed to my position. Using a ramp for cover I popped in and out on either side, using my shotgun to work down the remaining lesser soldiers. Then it was just me and the Captain left. One EMP bomb and a few dozen rounds of power cells later El Capitan was down for the count.

I stood atop the ramp I had just used for cover and fired about 10 rounds into the heart of the machine, with a loud fizzle and a lot of pop... the Machina-maker was no more. I'm sure there will be more where it came from, but for now, I'd certainly put a thorn in their side.

Nylla, the Forean with whom I'd spoken before going on my mission came just in time to congratulate me... good thing I didn't need her help. She told me that she was leaving her position in her tribe, and joining the AFS. She said she knows now what drives us Humans, and what we aim to do she wants to be a part of... namely, taking the fight to the Bane and teaching them not to f**k with the wrong kind of people.

I made my way out of the vacant facility, out of the area and went to see Nylla's superior at Memory Tree Hill. He told me he believed that Nylla made a righteous choice. That maybe it was time all Foreans began to place trust and do more to aide the AFS. He also pondered whether or not I and my fellow Humans were the chosen people the Eloh, great givers of knowledge, had spoken of so long ago as the bringers of hope to Foreas.

I hope we are. For our sake, for theirs, for my own... and the rest of all free life's.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Ethical Choices of Tabula Rasa

I managed to sneak in an hour or so of Tabula Rasa late yesterday evening. I was dying all day to play it, always a good sign I guess, but had some things I needed to do around the house before I could get to the fun stuff. But finally around 930pm I was able to log in to Foreas and get to some Bane killing. Little did I know that what awaited me was a question of Johnny Bildo's morals rather than his accuracy with a rifle.

I was stocking up on ammo at the Landing Zone Outpost when I saw a blip on my radar that denoted an eager NPC was nearby, ready to ask me to go whack some foozle no doubt. I did my clickity-click thing to him and lo and behold, this dude wanted me to deliver some drugs to a few of his "clients" across the Concordia Wilderness. Just moments ago the good doctor of LZ Outpost was telling me about some missing medpaks from the lockers there. Her idea was that the base commander was stealing them himself because he seemed paranoid and over-worried about said drugs. Turns out the drug of choice among AFS recruits is a powdered form of the medpak goodies, which the dealer assured me was more safe than trusty old caffeine.

Anyway, for the moment I chose to help the dealer out. He needed money, and with my knowledge of what things were like in WWII and Korea and worse, Vietnam, I figured the soldiers could use a little help relaxing. On my way out of the base towards the first contact, I ran into the base's commander, who of course proceeded to question me about the missing drugs. I gave him no answer then, and talked once more to the dealer. He pleaded for me not to rat him out, that just as the soldiers needed the drugs, he needed the money.

I sauntered back to the Commander, and the choice was mine. Err on the side of the law and hand the stolen goods over to the Outpost Personnel, or err on the side of righteousness and give some roughed-up soldiers a (from what I know) harmless chemical drug?

I gave the Commander some excuse or another, and went on my way to the delivery points. Each soldier was more greatful than the next, and though one seemed more of an addict than I would have expected... I still felt good about my choice. Call me a liberal all you want, but in the war those guys are waging, they need all the chill time they can get.

This is just the 1st example of one of the many quests Garriott and crew claim are present in Tabula Rasa that challenge the player to act on moral grounds, with perhaps some gray area between choices. As far as I know, these quests have no real lasting impression on the story arc you follow or your character, but I'll be damned if they aren't more intriguing than your basic go here and kill this or get that. Totally dig them. Bring on more, please.

Now tonight... tonight I aim to go to my 1st TR instance. I never did one in beta, due to both time and the simple fact that I knew if I got the game, I wouldn't want those spoiled for me. So I'm definitely looking forward to whichever one I go to. Here's hoping I can get it together.

Something Different...

The following conversation took place between my friend Brendon and I via e-mail yesterday afternoon as the work day waned. Minimal editing (mostly to make us look a little less moronic) has taken place. Feel free to chime in if our debate at all sparks a thought in your brains (mmmm, brains).

LET THE DEBATE BEGIN!

Brendon: Ugh... it is hot in this room... and I am fading fast...

Bildo: I’m writing a very long post about the faults in gameplay and design of TR that should be ready soon if you want to know the still present “bad sides” of the game.

Brendon: I was wondering when you were going to get to that. You think you will continue playing after your trial is up?

Bildo: Very likely, right now. We’ll see how the game goes in the later levels. That’s the question mark right now. I can see myself playing for a few months or more if the soloability holds up. It’s really quite fun.

Brendon: You need some good old fashioned single player games. I am surprised that you aren’t burned out of the MMO thing yet. It doesn’t matter which one you play, the ultimate goal is to grind 70 or 80 levels to get to the level cap and then “brag” about how leet your character looks.

Bildo: Not for me. Not for many. For me, I just like being part of a “world”, having people to chat with or play with while playing, and having huge open places to explore. It’s not about the levels, the gear, or the destination, it’s about the adventure, the exploration, the quests, and the good people you can meet.

Perhaps we look at them differently. I’m more MMO-minded than single-player minded, though I still relish a really solid single-player game. I have 37 more stars to get in Mario still, and a butt load of the Witcher to finish. Finding time outside of the weekend is hard though, and even then it can be.

Brendon: If I had a close group of friends to play an MMO I might feel differently, but at the moment I don’t so I don’t enjoy partying with complete strangers online. I don’t like strangers in real life so why would I like them online?

For me, the idea that the single player game (KOTOR, Mass Effect, Final Fantasies) are made specifically for the enjoyment of that single person playing the game. I don’t have to worry about a company making my game easier because little Bobby has a problem with the 5th boss in the game. Or I don’t have to worry about a gay/lesbian guild in my game and whether or not that offends anyone (doesn’t offend me, actually I think it was kind of funny). Point is the game is tailored for my enjoyment and my enjoyment only.

I like awesome looking gear and all that but at the expense of 7 or 8 days in real time. That is a freakin' long time to sit at a computer. On top of it you have to pay a fee every month. I don’t really care about the money part, it's just the time sink. I haven’t had a Saturday that I just wanted to sit down and play an MMO for 4 or 5 hours. Maybe I have grown out of MMO’s, I don’t know...

Bildo: I don’t think it’s “grown out” of MMOs, as that implies you’re “better than MMO fans” like myself. I know you didn’t mean that, but you see my point. Pick words wisely.

A better way to put it maybe is that you don’t get the most for you money out of them. You prefer offline games. Nothing wrong with that. I love MMOs, and could honestly not imagine only doing offline ones now that I’ve gotten hooked. There’s more for ME personally in MMO than what I can get from an offline game, just as you see the things you mentioned as faults, I see them as strengths oddly.

For instance when you say, "I don’t have to worry about a company making my game easier because little Bobby has a problem with the 5th boss in the game..." I like this dynamic. Not the easy boss or little Bobby thing, but the idea that the game’s always being changed. I love it. WoW today is a far different and better beast than WoW of 2004.

When you say, "Or I don’t have to worry about a gay/lesbian guild in my game and if it offends anyone (doesn’t offend me, actually I think it was kind of funny)." I like this too. I love the people aspect of MMOs. In general I’m a solo-er. But I love watching people. People, not persons, fascinate me. Their actions, the mob mentality. MMOs really are like little worlds because of this.

When you say, "I like awesome looking gear and all that but at the expense of 7 or 8 days in real time. That is a freakin long time to sit at a computer. On top of it you have to pay a fee every month. Funny thing is that I don’t care about the money part, its just the time sink."

Really, It’s all in the way you play. If you’re playing to “get to the end” or to “get the best gear because I have to”, that’s what you’ll feel like. That’s the main gamer mentality, because that’s what we’re told about games since Mario. The goal is the end, the best, the highest score. Once you can see past this, and see that it’s not what the game’s about, then you’ll likely enjoy MMOs more.

Of course, there are those who define themselves by their online accomplishments, and to them games become jobs. I did that when I started WoW, I got caught up in the loot-wars. Never again. It made me someone I didn’t like, caring only about the game and not really about anything else. Much prefer playing for fun 1st, for rewards later. The gameplay should be fun, not just the loot aspect. If it’s not fun to you, then definitely get out while you can.

LotRO was boring after a while, AA was too, WoW can be though it seems to last longer in spurts than most for me. EQ2 gets boring to me as it loses focus between 20 and 50, and so on and so forth. But with each MMO I’ve played, even SWG's NGE I’ve had enough fun that I can say I’d justify their purchase. But I’ve never been one to play a game I don’t think is fun, so when it loses that part I stop, take a break or whatever and come back if the curiosity ever rises. I like game-hopping really.

Different breeds you and I.

Brendon: Actually... I did pick my words wisely... I meant what I said. I don’t see myself as “better”, but I do have other things taking up my life (not that I want them to take up my time). Spending that much time on a game is impossible for me.

I did it before and it caused a lot of tension between me and the wifey and to put it simply, a game isn’t worth it. Not FFXI, not WoW, and not any new game that has come out. Please be level headed and tell me with a straight face what your level 70character is worth in reality... Does it matter to me as a friend that you have a level 70 character? Nope. My respect and admiration for you comes from the things that you do in real life.

I am not putting down anyone that plays MMO’s (although it's fun putting you down, kidding). I am just at a time in my life that I can't play games for those long spurts anymore. I do miss my FFXI for (gasp) my friends and guild there but I will be damned if I waste weeks of my life just to say I made it to level 40.

Dammit, I’m a geek too I just have to take care of my family... ugh.

Bildo: Begud the wonder Hunter? (Referring to the what's a 70 worth question.) Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Again, I didn’t play him to 70 in a day. In fact it took me quite a few months to get him to 60, and then even more months, and some unsubscribing and resubbing to get him to 70. I don’t play hardcore. I think hardcore. I talk about them, blog about them, etc. Because I love it. Like some sports geeks, they’re my main hobby. But I have school, a wife, family, a house to take care of, and work 40 hours a week. 1-2 hours of gaming is my average, and very rarely 4 on the weekends. There’s virtually no difference in our playtimes. Just I can get mine in one set chunk while you have to touch and go or grab early before the evening sets in and dinner comes.

If you think that I, who currently spend 10 hours on school a week, 40 at work, another 5 to 10 on projects for design, and more time still (weekends included) spending time with my wife, if you think I spend tons of time playing MMOs these days I’ve mislead you. They’re my main game, yes. I honestly spend more time writing about them and talking about them on blogs than I do playing them, and that’s because I’m here (work) when I do that.

Though like you, my 1st real cross into MMO world was an addiction. Lasted all of 6 months when I realized that I was scheduling raids and dungeons… ick.

Brendon: I guess I was a bit mislead then. I thought you played more. It must have been your non-stop talk of MMO’s that fooled me. LOL

To be honest Bill, I am a bit “jealous” that I don’t have a high level character in WoW. I really do want to get that high but for some reason I just can’t sit down and do it. I want the kick ass armor for my Pallie and a cool weapon and shield but in the end I just start thinking, god…I need more bite size chunks of play time and an MMO usually doesn’t allow for that. Maybe I need to level my Pallie some more since this patch went in.

Another problem that I have is that I feel alone. The only time I really have fun is when I play with friends. Even if I am in a guild full of people, we rarely do anything as a group.

Bildo: Hmm… what you need is either an MMO that plays like GW in terms of time investment (low), but plays like wow in gameplay (awesome), but has an easier identifiable group of people for you to play with. You need, in other words, the perfect working man’s MMO. LOL. WoW is close, and honestly you’d like it more if we could find a guild that had more people on and focused on grouping, but you ARE behind the curve. So finding people to play with won’t happen easily now until you’re closer to 70. That’s the fault of leaving before capping, I guess, in any MMO. Hard to "catch up".

Which was also led to be the initial level grind being a pain in the 40s (where you’re stuck), and then the end-game being far less than attractive back in Vanilla WoW. Sadly, I don’t think our playtimes gel enough to get you to 70 before something like Conan comes out and makes us both get it. Maybe we’ll be better when we can both start fresh on a launch day for some new game. Maybe then you’ll see that you can play casually like any other game and still get satisfied by the experience. It's not about the desination, so much as the journey.

Oh, and by the way I might be publishing this discussion on my blog, as it’s a good view point from two similar people on opposite sides of the fence.

Brendon: That’s cool. I hope people don’t think I am an ass... I am a hardcore gamer through and through but as I am getting older my thoughts are changing on my gaming habits.

Bildo: I’m not sure it’s even your thoughts, so much as it’s a matter of the time you have. You’re right when you say that for your grouping-oriented playstyle it’s hard to find an MMO that’s casual enough to let you progress in the fashion you want. Here’s hoping War or Conan or SOMETHING is shiny enough to get us both at the same time and then we really can keep playing with static characters even if it's only once or twice a week with them.

See, we’re not different as you think. I like to solo more than group, and you have more fun grouping over solo-ing. Fair enough. I’ll always group with you on static characters... but that doesn’t change the fact we can’t really get on the same page schedule-wise and game wise. But at least you can see that just because I spend a lot of time talking MMO, doesn't mean I get to spend a lot of time playing. We're all busy, we just have to pick the leisure that's right for us. Maybe my approach allows that, and yours doesn't.

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And that concludes this round of Bildo & Brendon: The Debates. Chime in if it pleases you.