Thursday, September 27, 2007

Away From It All

This is going to get a little deep, so bear with me.

Sometimes, and I think this is obvious to be stating but I'll state it anyway, sometimes we forget what we are. Sometimes we get caught up in what we own, what we're told we want, what life we're shown we should have. We buy our houses, we buy our cars, we have our kids, we grow old, we worry about healthcare, and then we die... a life not entirely wasted, but not entirely lived.

So many people in this world, in our country and in some tiny unmarked village thousands of miles away, spend their entire life's energy doing nothing but what they think they're "supposed" to do. So many people fritter away the hours doing something they loathe. I'm not saying it's easy to abandon a job you hate, when it's what gives you and yours the ability to survive in a world driven by green paper. I'm just saying that above it all, I hope each of us strives to remind ourselves that all of it is for naught in the face of what truly matters... that which makes us happy.

Consider this little ramble then a reminder to all the lost out there, that the wanderlust is not a bad thing. Remember that it's not what you own, it's not what you see, it's not even what you say... it's what you do and what you know that define you. Consider this a reminder to be happy. In whatever way you can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Strip!

I read in the news recently about a man of 72 years who was denied alcohol because he didn't have proof of age. I don't care how good your genes are, at 72 you won't look younger than 21 or anywhere near that age. The person who wouldn't sell this man some wine has no excuse for his sheer idiocy. I'm sure he was worried about his job and all that, but come on... SEVENTY-TWO YEARS OLD.

Anyway, it inspired this little strip. From now on, we'll have 2 series running over at Don't Panik and The Dose. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PotBS: A Social Soloer's Dream?

There's an interesting thread going on over at the PotBS forum in the Vault Network. Basically, it's full of players like myself. People who love online games, but due to some crazy chemical imbalance (I kid, I kid) we are people who love to solo in an Online World. We chat, we group for things often enough, but by and large we prefer to solo a good portion of the time for any number of reasons.

To many old-school players we may seem an anomaly, but rest assured that our way is the way of the future. The solo-er and the MMO is a marriage of sense and cents, my friends. Learn to live with us. Our numbers are many and our money is plentiful. Ahem. Sorry.

Let's skip the crap and show you what Rick Saada of FLS has to say on the subject.
We're trying reasonably hard to accomodate both styles of play. Most of the missions can be done either solo or in a group, and to some extent the enemies you face will scale with the force you bring in to the mission. City of Heroes does a pretty good job with this, and we're following their model in that we'll increase the number and difficulty of the enemies if you come in with a fleet. We also allow you to say "I want more challenge in my missions" and it will scale up the solo difficulty as well.

That said, we're also putting in a "role playing story arc" which is pretty much your character's path to follow solo. You can bring in friends, but it's not required. It's an ongoing mission sequence that runs the gamut from level 1 to 50, with recurring NPC's that can become romantic interests, career rivals, mentors, etc. It's sort of like a single player RPG played out in the midst of the MMO.

For the group lovers, the overall port conquest game will work best with groups. While you can contribute to throwing a port into contention as a solo player, taking on the NPC shipping around a port will often involve engaging multiple ships at once. Depending on what you're sailing this could be hard to do alone.

If you are grouped with friends, there are certainly roles to be played by the smaller ships. "Level" isn't present anywhere in the combat equations, but the ships you can sail are gated by level. The navy doesn't give out 104 gun ships of the line to 1st level players! On the other hand, the smaller ships are more nimble, and can often chase down injured targets, pick at them from a safe location (say off the bow or stern) and the lumbering hulks may not be able to turn quickly enough to devastate them with a broadside.

So we're trying to have something for everyone. I, for one, also like to play solo, and have been having a lot of fun doing it in the beta.

Rick Saada - FLS Dev
So there you have it fellow solo-enthusiasts. What would a Pirate game be if you had to share the limelight with another swashbuckler all the time? I totally dig that I'll sometimes have to bring a friend in PVE, I dig that it'll be more beneficial to fight in numbers for PVP. That makes sense to me. I just want to be able to progress through the game solo from 1 to 50, that's something I expect in any new MMO coming out. On top of that, I'll get a "role-playing story arc" from level 1-50 that can be done entirely solo, making me feel like an actual hero and not a half-assed second cousin of Frodo (I'm looking at your awesomely designed but horribly forced group Epic quests, LotRO).

Thank Jeebus FLS shares the same ideals.

EDIT: Mr. Tynes clarified in the comments, not only can the role-playing storyline be done solo... it MUST BE DONE SOLO. That is a refreshing bit of news, indeed.

PotBS: The Boarding Party

The folks at Flying Lab Software made another announcement yesterday about their upcoming game, Pirates of the Burning Sea. It's called the "Boarding Party" and it's something that very well could be monumental if it comes together as well as Aether and crew are hoping.

The idea, as far as I can tell, is to gather the most enthusiastic and dedicated fans of PotBS and get them directly involved in nurturing the community of the game, both inside the client, and in the "RL", with the goal being to foster one of the most active gaming groups of any MMORPG.

I mean, player-run events, both in-game and out are commonplace today as it is... but imagine how much more in synch with the game they could be if the developers are backing your efforts? Not to mention, members of the Boarding Party may end up helping to shape the design of future expansions onto the main game. It's an enthusiast's dream come true.

So then, did I sign up? You bet your booty (pun intended) I did. One of the things they asked specifically about in the application was your writing and for a sample. So I'm hoping the Boarding Party, should I get in, gives me more and more chances to exercise my writing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nothing Much Going On In the Noggin

I just don't have much to chat about today. I had a crazy busy weekend between hanging with some friends and going to an upstate apple orchard, and there was barely any time to play EQ2.

I did hit level 18, and I'm starting to run out of quests in the Greater Faydark, so I'll know soon enough if the awesomeness of Faydwer continues into Butcherblock Mountains.

Besides that, I've been playing a lot of Hellgate: London, and yet I can't talk about it yet. I've also been daydreaming of what my Pirate will look like in Pirates of the Burning Sea or if I'll end up going Spanish with some friends. I just cannot decide on that one.

So there's my ramble for the day. Nothing interesting. Move along. Nothing to see here. Hope to have something of girth to chat about tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Give Your Players A Way To Do Everything

Kevin over at "The Server is Down" recently started a discussion on the grouping versus solo-ing dynamics in these addictions we're so fond of. He ponders where is the line between too much grouping and too much solo-ing?

Here's what I had to say, as it quickly became an essay. The topic was weighted with the soloability of WoW being an issue for people when they had to start grouping at 70 or re-roll. Anyway, here's my spiel.


WoW was designed with the mindset that at any time a player should be able to progress either solo or in groups. Never needing to feel like they can’t progress while solo, is one of the reasons the game has remained so strong. People with no desire to group, or no patience, or simply no time, can still play and feel part of a world.

I do not think, it will ever be good for a game to go back to the idea of forced grouping (I know that’s now what you’re getting at here, but humor me). Instead, we’re seeing right now a big emphasis on solo-ing which is great… but it’s coming at the cost of grouping because in almost every MMO that allows solo-ing, it’s far more efficient to solo your way through the levels than to group.

The answer? Grouping Incentives. Like Damiano said, give people MORE xp for grouping. Give them bonuses of all different kinds for grouping. Give them titles for joining a certain number of groups, or completing a certain number of quests while grouped.

Also, away from grouping incentives, free up those chains somehow. Too many quests in today’s quest driven MMOs are chained. You do 3 quests, and want help on the 4th, but your friend needs to do the 1st 3 before he can get credit for the 4th, so you’re left to help him catch up 1st. Or worse, you don’t have a friend on, and finding someone to help you get a quest done becomes harder because there are so many different steps to a chain.

I’m not saying let people skip content by jumping in on a chain, but maybe create a “partial share” system, where the player on quest 4 could share the quest with someone’s who already done it, or someone a quest or two behind and that person would then receive partial XP (50%?) when player 1 finishes the quest as long as the two are still grouped.

I’m certain that’s not not about balancing the amounts of group content compared to solo-content. It’s about balancing the incentives for doing either. As a game designer, were someone to allow me to be one, I would never want to limit my players’ ability to accomplish the tasks I set before them. I would always want them to be able to do what they wish, even if I had to work harder at designing a way how. Yes, I’m talking even letting them raid onyxia or take part in epic boss fights without having to be in that uber guild.

Think WAR’s Public Quests and you have an idea where I’m headed. You should never limit your players’ ability to PLAY. Plain and simple. Doing so is just plain bad design. It shows your lack of ability to think of ways to entertain people. Instead, the focus should be on getting everyone involved in EVERYTHING. You as a designer should cater to your players, not the other way around.

So This Is What Raph's Been Stewing...

Behold... The Metaplace.

I think we all sort of thought it'd be something "Web 2.0" oriented, but I honestly didn't expect much more than a revisioned Second Life. This teaches me to doubt the man behind UO and the Original SWG. Though there were problems with those games, there's no denying that their heart was in the right place, and indeed there's no denying that UO is one of the greatest examples of a sandbox MMORPG there ever was or will be. But SWG ended bloodily, and I was worried Raph wouldn't be able to shake what happened over there between SOE, LucasArts, and the community.

If he pulls this one off... all will certainly be forgiven, in my eyes anyway.

Basically what Metaplace could end up being is an endless supply of user-created MMOs and casual games... even full-fledged MMORPGs. With this comes the risk of a giant sea of uninspired crap, but that's besides the point. The point is, for all that crap we'll be ecstatic to get a few diamonds out of the bunch. Look at modding communities, see some of the talent behind those add-ons, and you'll start to see why Raph is so keen on making this tool-set.

If it proves as easily maleable as he and his crew claim, then we're all in for one wild ride. I've got quite a few game ideas in my head that I wish I had the skill to put in action, and Metaplace just might let me realize them.

Here's hoping it's as revolutionary as I hope. Don't forget to head to the site and sign up for the newsletter and alpha while you're there. As they head towards beta, that's going to be the time that makes or breaks the tools and how accessible they are.

Consider my attention grabbed.

Edit: Also, according to Cuppy at her blog, Raph's also designing his "worldy" MMO on the toolset as well. Talk about a gamingasm. I just had one. I'll be back after I change my pants.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Get Into Game Journalism

The Escapist recently posted the transcript of the X-Fire chat they hosted sharing the title of this blog entry. The interviewees were Michael Zenke of Slashdot/Escapist/MMOGNation fame, and Mr. Escapist himself, Russ Pitts.

There's a lot of good advice in the chat, and I just wanted to point it out to all my fellow bloggers. If I was for some strange reason one day given the choice between my two desired "Gaming Industry" jobs (CM or Journalist), it'd wind up being Journalist hands down. I know, that's crazy. Who wants to write their opinions and report news all day for money?

Me. I've always been a writer. A lot of what you see here is just me rambling to get some thoughts off my head and onto e-paper, but the truth is that any type of writing is what I love to do. I'm an artsy kind of guy. I love to cartoon, I love to sing, I love to write, and so on and so forth. But writing is where it all comes back to. It's my crutch. I know I can do it because it's like breathing. I'm seldom without anything to say. Imagine what it would be like to be paid to blog?

I know some would say it could take the joy out of it... but not for me. That would be like saying getting paid to eat or breathe or sleep would take the joy out of those practices. I don't do this just because I like to, I blog because it's part of who I am. It'd simply be an added benefit if I could parlay this hobby into a paying job.


Anyway, here's the link to the chat. If you're hoping to crack your way into games journalism one day, it's some advice to take in seriously.


What Is Hellgate: London?

A poster by the name of Vlad recently commented that he sort of got the impression that Flagship's Hellgate: London is part Resident Evil, and part Duke Nukem. This kind of confusion isn't uncommon concerning Bill Roper's (former lead designer at Blizzard) newest project with his spanking new studio.

As I've stated before, I'm in the beta myself and loving it, so I'll try to clear up any muddled thoughts on what the game is without breaking the NDA. You won't learn anything here you can't read on the official website or in previews across the web, but if you're here and you're wondering, I'll try to put as simply as possible.

So then, what kind of game is Hellgate: London?

Think of Flagship Studios' premier game as the bastard stepchild of Quake and Diablo. Only where most bastard step-children are disliked by their family for being so "different", HG:L shines because of its fresh take on a genre that hasn't advanced much in the past 10 years. It's part hack and slash, part shooter. Part balls-out action and part strategy rpg.

For those worried that an action RPG blended with a shooter will be too twitch for them, Bill Roper said it best in a recent interview with N'Gai Croal,

"If you're playing one of the hunter classes, especially the marksman, you're still going to be playing an action-RPG and still have all those role-playing things like leveling up and items, and skills, and you care about your character level versus monster level and all those things; but it has much more of an FPS feel to it.

Like the mechanics flow more that way because the higher the level you get, depending on what skills you take, there's a lot more concern as to player skill whereas the Templar classes and the Cabalist classes don't really rely on player's skill; your twitch skill specifically. The marksman class very specifically, the higher level you get is more built to have more interest for FPS players because, depending again on the skills that you take, it becomes very dependent on player accuracy; and you get benefits for that."

So worry not, fellow shooter-inept gamers. There are 6 different classes, two of which are hunters, and those are the "FPS Classes". The others rely considerably less on your aiming. This one won't force you to suddenly become a masterful mouse tactician. Hellgate: London, above all else, is an Action-RPG with hefty online support (guilds, auction houses, etc). The best part of the online aspect? It's free right out of the box.

A more devout player can choose to pay $9.99 a month and with this fee they'll receive more storage space, more character slots, and access to the new content the developers will be feeding into the game on a steady basis. You don't ALWAYS have to pay, but if you're loving the game it'd be silly not to pony up 10 bucks for the new content when it hits.

Anyway, I'll stop here before I go into detail over things that are covered by the NDA. Just take it from me, as a gamer with little shooter skills, that the game's a blast. If you're a fan of Diablo, Sacred, Titan Quest, and all those Roguelikes, you'll want to check this one out. It's a fantastic step forward for the genre, and with any luck it'll be a huge success so we can see plenty more from Roper and his crew at FSS.

Check out the interview with Big Bill at Level-Up for more info on the game, the studio, and its smaller title that could, Mythos.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Meet Orialas

Meet Orialas, my new Wood Elf Conjuror. Managed in just over 2 hours time to hit level 11 tonight... holy crap that was quick. :) Well on my way to my 1st Achievement point, and absolutely loving Faydark. Talk about vastly improved quest design and flow as compared to original EQ2. Now it's no wonder Darklight Woods were so great compared to Antonica and the Commonlands.

The real test will be if I get disheartened at 20-ish when I break into Butcherblock Mountains. If it has nearly the kind of questing polish Faydark does, I don't think I will be. Hooray for Echoes of Faydwer! It might actually help me survive my MMO addiction until PotBS hits!

I'm on Antonia Bayle if anyone wants to let a career newbie in their guild. :)

A Bunch of Stuff: EVE, UO, Ryzom, EQ2, Hellgate, a RenFest and More

Busy and Fun Weekend, with lots to say on a Monday. Let's start with my gaming experience.

I've tried, in the past 4 days, Ultima Online, Ryzom, and EVE... and not a one will I be sticking with. 2 hours is about all I need in a game to tell if the mechanics are my kind of thing, or not. It's not that the aforementioned are bad titles, in fact I'd say Ryzom is by far the most underappreciated MMO out there. UO: Kingdom Reborn really does give you that old Ultima feeling if you've been yearning for it (the Black Gate is still on my top 5 games of all time list), and EVE is so deliciously complex that I can't begin to explain it. But ultimately, there were reasons for each I decided not to stick with them.

Ryzom's Reason: Despite the game's very novel take on class-building, crafting, combat, and well... everything, I just feel like it's not the kind of game you'll get the most from with just a month or two of playing. It's one I wish I would have picked up sooner, basically. I'll be keeping it on my Hard Drive, because the free-trial is unlimited time wise, and there's plenty to do with it before I'd need to subscribe.

If you haven't tried Ryzom, and you're bored like me, give it a shot. Play the tutorial missions, and keep an open mind. It does a lot of unique things, and really deserves more attention than it receives.

UO's Reason: New Look = Very Nice. New UI = Also Very Nice. But the gameplay itself still feels archaic in the face of every other game you could play. It's a great game still, but just plain outdated. For my personal goals, I'd be better served finding a way to play Ultima VII on my Windows XP. So, while I enjoyed it, I won't be subscribing.

EVE's Reason: This one, as some posters have stated, is not a short-term game. It's just not the kind of game you can play for a month and feel like it was well-spent. EVE requires dedication. The kind I'm just not willing to give at the moment as I'm waiting for another game with a style more "me" (Pirates). VERY good game, with an excellent engine and incredibly deep skill system... just not for me at this moment in time.


So you're probably thinking I'm just lost without being able to be satisfied, and you'd probably be right in some regard. I really just want to play, for REAL, two of the betas I'm in. One is Hellgate: London, the other I can't name. But both are due out soon, just not soon enough for someone looking for a game to play.

Between beta test sessions, I need something to play that I know will stick, that I know won't be wiped. So, for the umpteenth time, I'm back to EQ2. I bought the All-In-One set, and we'll see if I can't find the level polish that's in Darklight Woods in all the zones added with Echoes of Faydwer. If not, it's likely that in a month I'll be back to WoW, CoH, LotRO, or any other MMO I own but hop to and from.

I'm in a state of flux with my MMOs, and I can't wait until HG:L and that other beta go retail and let me sink my teeth into them without feeling obliged to bug-hunt.

On a Hellgate:London note, the beta starts today for pre-orders, provided you get your code from the store you ordered with. In-store or online, this week you should get a code and will be able to play HG:L for free until October 7th, so hop to it if you want to see how the game's shaping up. All I can say is that it's awesome and you'd do well to drop 5 bucks at your local shop.

Wednesday is "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and that signals a day when we should learn quite a bit about the release of PotBS. I'd stay tuned to on Wednesday if you're as excited for this game as I am.

And lastly, I attended the Ohio Ren Fest this weekend. It was my 1st. It was Pirates weekend. There were lots of great outfits. There were lots of very attractive women (as my wife will even attest to), and the Swordsmen "Dirk and Guido" were the highlight of the day. I'll try to get pictures uploaded sometime this week.

Okay... *breathes*. That's enough for now. Had to get all that out there.

Cheers one and all, and look for me on Antonia Bayle tonight as Phero or perhaps a new character altogether.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Those Pesky 4 Things

Apparently I've opened myself up to lots of MEMEing. Not that I mind. They give me something to post on slow days like today. :)

So here goes, tagged by Keen.

EDIT: Cameron got me, too. Funny part is I commented and told him I'd have mine up tomorrow... yesterday. Oh how the minds of the old 20-somethings forget. Sorry, Cam.

Four jobs I have had in my life (not including current job):

1. Bus Boy
2. Fast Food Cashier and Cook
3. Pizza Delivery Guy
4. Student Employee - Veterans Affairs

Four Movies I have watched over and over:

1. V for Vendetta
2. Anchorman
3. Marie Antoinette
4. The Lord of the Rings

Four places I have lived:

1. Medina, Ohio
2. Medina, Ohio
3. Medina, Ohio
4. Are you getting it yet?

Four Shows I love to watch:

Don't have TV, but I do make a point to mooch off of others or get DVDs for...

1. Heroes
2. Family Guy
3. Arrested Development
4. Weeds

Four Places I have been on vacation:

1. Atlantic Beach, NC
2. New York, New York
3. Good Ole Delaware (not as boring as you'd think)
4. Ocean City, MD

Four of my favorite foods:

1. Cous Cous of any kind.
2. A Good Solid Bean Burrito
3. Bean Curd Seschuan Style from Panda Chinese Restaurant
4. Pretty much any type of pasta.

Four favorite drinks:

1. Diet Sodas of All Makes and Models
2. Smithwick's
3. Chocolate Soy Milk
4. Great Lakes Brewery Elliot Ness Beer

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. Home
2. Ireland, some cottage on a hill
3. London
4. Atlantic Beach, NC or anywhere there's an ocean accesible.

Four People I Command to do This:

1. Heather of Errant Dreams/Thoughts
2. NO ONE!
3. Trinity of
4. Tobold of, well Tobold's.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

EVE Online or Ultima Online

Heather over at Errant Dreams recently picked up EVE Online in a fit of boredom along with her hubby. I tried the game once, but never got too far with it because I was still clinging to the avatar-filled world of Azeroth.

I'm thinking, while I wait for some of this season's biggest games to come out, it's time I gave EVE one more try. Apparently the tutorial's been overhauled a bit, and as it would seem I've come to the point in my MMO career where I'm ready for something more than YAFMMORPG. Pirates of the Burning Sea is still the candidate to take me away from all loved ones this fall, but it's who knows how long from being released, and Hellgate: London is not due out until October 31st... so that leaves me sort of looking for something that's not beta to play now and again.

EVE Online, here I come. I'll download the free trial tonight, probably.

Anyone got any words of wisdom or good newbie resource sites for me?

EDIT: Also on the table? Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn. I know it's old, I know new graphics won't make it look great. But I loved the Black Gate so much that I have to give this a try now. I was not into MMOs when it was in its limelight, so it's time I go give it a try. The connecting factore between this and EVE? Both open worlds with a real choice given to the player. Time to take a look at the other systems out there that don't get all the press like 800 lb gorillas or virtual porn simulators.

Hopefully I'll get some time in with one of the two tonight and let you know my 1st impressions tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Aether and his CM Philosophy

Not much to write about today (aside from Keen's report that Richard Duffek MIGHT no longer be the CM at EAMythic), so here's a great long post from Aether, the Community Manager of Pirates of the Burning Sea.

Anyway, read up my hearties, on the CM Panel he was in at the recent AGDC:

The SOE folks I recruited to participate on the panel were picked because of their work on Community Influencers initiatives. They are actually bringing individuals that both like and dislike their respective aspects of the game together and listening to their concerns. Not just guildmasters and forum stars, but the kinds of people I described in my previous post to this thread. They are doing some very revolutionary things along these lines, and at no small expense. It was very interesting to listen to, and I found myself taking copious notes on their ideas.

What we didn't discuss the reaction our community had to the announcement per se, though did cite the reaction our community had to the SOE agreement and our response, as an example of Flying Lab Software's approach to communication. That included our commitment to addressing concerns outside of our own forums, which is something we do (and well, just check out Rick Saada over at the forums!) on a regular and fruitful basis.

There are other strategies we used to communicate with folks during that time, but I'm typing too much already. Remind me to share them with you another time.

Well, we do this for several reasons. First, I am a firm believer in allowing people an opportunity to vent. I've seen companies take the duck and cover approach, and inevitably their forums transform in tone to something akin to the Wild West. We take the notion of benevolent dictatorship pretty seriously- at the end of the day, this is our house and we set the tone for the discussions had here. The challenge for us is when people choose to vent in every thread across every sub forum on the same issue. Moving those posts into one area allows us to focus our efforts to disseminate information. But let's face it, there is a ton of information on these forums.

It is very easy for people to miss out on important and new information, so concentrating posts with the same concerns/issues/frustrations in one thread allows us to address everyone with the same information, and helps keep other threads (mostly?) focused on other important topics.

Is this a best practice? Yes, absolutely. Is it embraced industry wide? Not so much. Don't get me wrong, I am a staunch supporter of my community manager brethren far and wide. If you've play other MMO's, I guarantee you that I know someone at that company. That might sound as though I'm bragging, I'm not. I'm just saying that we are a social breed, us community types. The point is, that even your best community manager can be stymied by communication policies and practices. I count myself very lucky to work with a CEO who has this level of commitment to the people who are fans of PotBS, it makes my job much easier.

Well, I happen to think that we've got a superlative team of people that make up the FLS community team. Rhaegar, Dani, Marion and Theresa are all much smarter than I am, so their hard work cannot be overlooked as huge part of what makes our community run. We all recognize that there are areas that we can improve, and we take those suggestions largely from PotBS community feedback.

But to be fair, the approach to forum management was already established well before I arrived on the scene. Rusty and friends have been engaging and discussing this game with the community from day one. Lots of companies say they have a 'top down' commitment to community, but I say the proof is in the pudding (ours is delicious, thank you.)

The biggest challenge we have? There just aren't enough hours in the day. We've got some exciting community initiatives of our own to announce here pretty soon, but I don't want to steal Theresa's thunder, so I'm not saying much more. Here's a hint: TLAPD.

Convention season can be very tough, leaving us desperately yearning for more time to interact with our community. The good news is that now we have more time to focus on you and your concerns, and we’ve got a lot of phenomenal things to share with you in the coming weeks. I've been sitting at my own desk for two consecutive days now, and I couldn't be happier.

More to come,

Looks like Theresa Pudenz, the kind lady who came to my blog months ago to answer a few of my questions will be having something to say on TLAPD: Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19th. One week from today. Good Jumping Jeebus, let it be a release date among other things. :) Hell, I'd take a surprise launch too. Ha!

Cheers, folks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Newest Beta is Actually An Alpha...

And it's Hellgate: London.

I can say it's a blast and that I can't wait to buy it. But that's all I can say for now. The EBGames/Gamestop Pre-Order Beta access starts on the 17th supposedly, so maybe then the NDA will drop and I can talk more. Just know there's more than 1 online game on the horizon this fall that's worth picking up.

Cheers, again. Last post for today.

High Nerd

Thanks to Tipa for pointing this little test out. says I'm a High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

That's right, folks. I'm a High Nerd. Bask in my glory.

Weekend Report: Karaoke and a New Game

Not a whole lot to report on this dreary Monday morning. I've already given my thoughts on Tabula Rasa. They patched the beta on Friday, and while the general playability is improved, the combat's still a one-trick pony, and I stand firmly by my statement that it's more of a free-2-play game than one that's worth fifteen clams a month. As one of the creators of Guild Wars said recently, "Make sure when you decide to charge people a monthly fee that you can back the decision up with a reason why."

With so many MMOs on the market these days, and so many decent choices, and so many of them charging $15 a month, you'd better have one hell of a good game, or start thinking about a different pricing model. I'm betting we'd be seeing a lot more positive press if TR was going with a free-2-play or buy-your-time model. At least then, it'd sound more worth the money, and maybe all the scary Auto Assault comparisons would stop.

But I digress. This post is about my weekend.

My weekend was filled with bad rednecks screeching out their favorite pop-country hits and drunken middle-aged women spilling their beers and falling onto a urine soaked floor. In other words, it was hi-freaking-larious.

However, the choice in music the people at this particular establishment chose to sing was grating on me eardrums, especially when only 1 out of every 5 could belt a tune. But, hey, it's karaoke. It's for people to make fools out of themselves with. So I joined the fray. But little known to anyone but my closest of friends, I'm actually a pretty decent vocalist. Not a technical singer by any definition, but I'll be damned if I can't belt out a solid rock song.

For those interested, I opened with Little Richard's "Tutti Fruity" (yes, it worked), followed up with The Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" (I wanted to do "Stuck in a Rut", but the guy only carried top 40 hits it seemed), then again with an oldy ("Superstition" by Stevie Wonder), and lastly capped it off with a little Setzer and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". I really don't like tooting my own horn, but compared to the majority of the evening's other singers, I was Frank Sinatra. Because the rest of the people were so god awful, I owned the room when I went on stage, largely in part to not being drunk, even though I wasn't perfect (the mic was off for the beginning of the Setzer tune thanks to one of the aforementioned drunk women). It was a rush. Definitely have to do that once in a while. If only I could find some people with instrumental inclinations... the Bildo Experience would be born.

Other than that wild evening, I also managed to somehow get another beta invite for another new game. This one's due out fairly soon, and has an announced launch date for this fall, but I don't think I can say what game it is yet, which is pretty silly if you ask me. I'll have to find out if I can say the name of the game... Regardless, just know that unlike TR, and like one of the other betas, I'm completely sold on this game. If it gets nice and polished before release, it'll be one hell of a fun game. I'll post my thoughts on this one just as soon as the NDA is lifted, which for all intents and purposes could be this month.

Also, for some reason or another I got about 4 invites for Gods & Heroes (not the game mentioned above, for real). I'm pretty sure they're a mistake because I already got into this one via a contest on their community site, but I'm going to ask the CMs there if I can give out these extra keys to my readers. I'll announce a new "contest" if they allow it. As for my thoughts on this game, it's also under NDA, but I didn't see anything mentioning I couldn't say I was in the beta, and considering I won the key on the PUBLIC forums for the game, I doubt it's a problem. I'll post thoughts on this one also when the time comes and I'm allowed.

Oh, and there's a new quasi-strip over at Don't Panik. We weren't really hungover, we just didn't have the time to get a full one out. So we figured a cheap gag would be funny enough to make you not notice we didn't put a lot of effort into this week's strip.

Cheers to one and all!

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Thoughts on Tabula Rasa

If you want a really great overview of the game, head to the IGNs, or even Tobold's site. What I'm going to write is my basic impressions and sort of a casual review of what Tabula Rasa is to me, as a person who's been in the beta since it was friends and family Alpha (thanks to the lovely Nomad and Pann for referring me to Cuppajo as a Tester).

As time goes on and more blogging preview sprout up, and more in-depth write ups are written, you're going to see TR get a lot of flack. I tell you this, because even I'm going to give it some. But, above all, realize that this game does do a lot of things new and strives very hard to be different in the gameplay department.

In the end, I'm not sure it warrants a monthly subscription, and I feel it could certainly used another 3-6 months of development time. But with Warhammer, another WoW expansion, Conan, Pirates, Gods & Heroes, Spellborn, and even Hellgate: London all coming out in the next half a year... I can see why both Destination Games and NCsoft want to get this puppy on the radar. I just hope releasing too early doesn't signal another Auto Assault for them. That is my greatest fear for a game that's really something nice to see on the scene, the same way AA was.

So with that said, let's get into my likes and dislikes, and the conclusion at the heart of it all.


- The Upside of Combat -

Because combat is pretty much all TR's about, I'm going to spend a lot of time on that. This is where it's main marvels and problems emerge.

As part game, part experiment, Tabula Rasa tries to blend the FPS controls many twitch gamers are used to with the mechanics and systems of an MMO. On some levels it works marvellously, on others it fails. We'll get to the failures later. Its successes lie in its accessibility. Really, right from the very 1st minutes of gameplay, you're thrust into this war setting. There's no real tangible PvP outside of Guild versus Guild, because the Bane are all computer AI controlled, but there's a ton of them, and they're all over the place, it almost feels like there's no quarter for you and your people. And that, to me, is awesome. Add in the fact that "spawning" is handled by animated ships dropping the Bane down on the planet, and you've got one atmospheric setting

The game's go, go, go, from the start with very easy pick-up controls that anyone who's played a first-person shooter should understand. Mouse movement looks around. W and S are forward and back. A and D are left and right strafe. Left click fires the gun, and right click uses a special ability. It's simple, it's pretty intuitive, and it lends itself to the experiment of blending genres Garriott and crew are trying to accomplish.

- The Downside of Combat -

It's repetitive. Enough said. Most FPS or 3PS games last from about 10 to 20 hours long in terms of their offline story component, some even shorter. By the time the game ends, you're not relying on combat to give you the thrills, but the harrowing fights with the enemies and bosses. So then imagine playing an FPS game, without the excitement of player controlled enemies, that lasts for hundreds of hours. If the typical combat of WoW/EQ2/etc is repetitive to some, than TR's combat will be worse tenfold.

You do get some skills, but in an effort to keep the modus operandi simple, you never have the wealth of options a game like WoW, CoH, EQ2, or any of the more traditional combat systems offer. Instead, it's point, click, hold, mob dead... repeat. For 50 levels.

Added onto this, is something that I'm sure will be debated. The movement and targeting of TR is based on the controls of an FPS, but the actual damage calculations and hit/miss ratios are by the book MMORPG. What I mean is, you don't really aim, like the controls imply. You roll over a target, and it's sticky-targeted. No matter from then on where the mouse goes you won't have to worry about aiming. The hitting and missing then are entirely up to the dicerolls going on behind the shiny graphics.

I understand the goal is to help usher MMORPG players into an FPS type game, and vice versa, but it ends up feeling unwieldy in the end. I'm not a fan of FPS games, but I can't get over the feeling that I'd like TR more if it's combat was more traditional FPS and less traditional MMORPG. It just doesn't feel right after a little while playing it. It's shallow. It tries to be strategic as well by letting you hide behind opbects or crouch down behind a box to get cover, bot often this is busted up by the fact that the enemies' weapons seem capable of firing through anything to reach you. So ultimately, you end up either running around crazily until the target dies, or standing still and hoping you outlast what's targeted.

Like I said, fun and novel at 1st, annoying and shallow after a few hours in. Maybe it can be changed so that sticky-targetting is not on, but the dice rolls would still be there. You could still be aiming directly at the target, see the bullets pass through him... and it'd miss. Not cool, and not designed well, in my book.

- Miscellaneous Things -

This is getting long, so let me toss in a few more likes and dislikes before wrapping it up.

The cloning system, where you can save a character at a certain level before choosing skills or a new class-path is a nice idea. It'll help alt-a-holics from having to do too much grinding to start a new class. Because the classes are tiered like an Asian MMO (start off as plain recruit, then pick either "caster" or "figther", and then even later pick another class, and so on), the cloning system lets you skip earlier levels with an alt and go down that other path.

The thing is, the need for this system could be erased simply by letting players choose their final class from the start. EQ2 tried this system, and ultimately changed it because the playerbase hated the tier class system. It's an unnecessary feature and one that should be gotten rid of before release, but probably won't.

Another cool aspect with another downside is the fact that you have all these different kinds of damage and weapons, and armors, with resistances, etc, and so forth. It's great for a strategist, because you'll want to know what's useful and when, but the downside is... it's not really explained very well to you through the game, and on top of it, with all the different weapon types you have to buy all these different kinds of ammo and keep them stocked, which even after all this beta time, still isn't balanced and ends up far too expensive. Leaving you gimped in combat.

The same can be said of skillpoints. With the tiered class system, skills you have available may become useless later on, so without careful planning you can end up gimping your character, and as far as I can tell there's no respecs in the game, your only option then would be to go back as a clone and try it over.

And lastly, I said the combat is the main feature of the game. It's shallow for the reasons I listed above. Making matters worse is that there's little else to do. Crafting is in, but seems relatively useless, though I understand an overhaul is coming soon to this feature. Also as a game full of ships and vehicles and machines... you're left running around on foot and taking quick teleporters the whole game, even at level 50 when you're the elite of the elite. Vehicles and vehiclular combat can and would add so much more to the dull combat, but who knows if that'll be added ever.

The instances Garriott touts as so revolutionary are cool, and well scripted. But that alone doesn't make me want to pay to play. Which segues into my conclusion...


Ultimately, when it comes down to it, Tabula Rasa is a decent game. I'd even say it's fun, in shorter spurts. But nothing about it feels like it deserves a 15 dollar a month fee. It's all too shallow, and missing the polish that is necessary in the post-WoW days. There are annoyances that would drive me up a wall if I was paying, like the ammo concerns, the tier class-system, and the boring combat. These are things that we as beta tester have been telling the boards for months, but not much has changed in that time, not for the better anyway.

CuppaJo is great and relaying info, and the other NCsoft crew is always polite and on there helping us with problems, but even they can only do so much. What is needed in the beta, and something we haven't had from the start, even in Alpha, has been developer feedback from the folks at Destination Games. Sure Garriott has come on the game and chatted a bit. Recently he even took the time to address some concerns, one of which was that they weren't pushing a release too soon. Then a couple weeks later we have this October 19th date. So now, on top of starting to think Lord Brittish has lost his touch, I'm also starting to think he's a bit full of shite, really.

These are all just opinions, I'm not a professional writer, or a critic. But I simply cannot see myself paying 15 bucks for this game per month. End of story. I'd pay 50 for the box, and then gladly play it like Guild Wars for free when I wanted. Heck, I think I'd even say I'd go so far as to pay for chunks of game time, like 5 bucks for 30 hours or something like that. But it's not the kind of game that draws you in and says to you, "You can't stop playing me until you've done everything you can." In part because after a couple of hours with TR, you feel like you've already seen and done it all. Chalk this one up as being released too early and hope that it doesn't go the way of AA. Because it does have unrealized potential... but then, what game doesn't?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hellgate: London... Pre-Order = Beta

Just one last tidbit for my fellow bloggers before I get to doing some serious work. It seems that anyone who orders Hellgate:London from Gamestop or EBgames, either online or in-store will get access to the beta come September 17th.

If you're wanting to get a look at the game before its Halloween release, head to your local shop and drop 5 dollars and pester them for a pre-order box when they get them in.

Conversely, if you're certain you're going to buy the game you can drop the $50 online and have the beta access code e-mailed to you before the beta access begins on the 17th. Apparently the supplies are limited for the online stores, so get em while they're hot.

Here's hoping it's as fun and frenetic as it looks. I'm dying for a new PC game to tide me over until Pirates.

BioWare's Walton on Making MMOs in a Post-WoW Environment

This is copied and pasted directly from Gamasutra. Very excellent read from a guy who any RPG player (offline or on) should likely respect. For my part, I totally agree with everything he says. I'm a hardcore gamer. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have a blog where I chat about games all the time. But I'm also an adult with limited gaming time these days.

Everything he says, to me, seems like common sense now that WoW's come and showed us the potential of the market, but I'll be damned if it doesn't seem like game developers need reminding sometimes. As hardcore gamers, developers can easily forget that they're goal financially is to get as many people playing their game as possible. Walton's words insist that developers and enthusiasts alike remember that there are a lot more of them than there are of us.

Walton, like Pardo and Morhaime before him, hits the nail on the head when it comes to accessibility and what needs to be done to have a successful MMO post-WoW. Read on.


Gordon Walton, the co-studio director at BioWare, gave a packed beyond capacity speech at GDC Austin. The interest is unsurprising given the topic of the talk, Walton's job working on a new MMO, and the stature of BioWare as a company. And Walton's jocular but insightful speech did not betray the expectations set by the eager crowd.

As everyone now recognizes, World of Warcraft is a towering titan above the MMO industry; its success seems unassailable, but at the same time its success is forcing a lot of developers and publishers to jump onto the MMO bandwagon. Clear lessons can be taken from the game's development, and with the help of quotes from Blizzard's own staff, Walton delineated what he felt were the 12 most crucial... though he ruefully noted there could easily be 60 lessons to learn.

Lesson One

His first point was that although Blizzard were not experts in the genre -- in fact, the company had never shipped an MMO before -- Blizzard learned well from the genre's past. Essentially, Walton posited that taking a critical look at your genre rather than being a fan or having experience developing it is of utmost importance.

Lesson Two

According to Walton, another success of WOW was Blizzard's insistence on keeping system specs low. He railed against developers' addiction to high-powered gaming PCs -- asking the crowd how many replace their rigs every year, every two years, every three. He noted that regular people simply don't replace their boxes that often, and that "there's a lot more real humans than there are us."

As he'd asked for questions during the speech rather than after, someone piped up to ask if the fact that reviewers don't have time to fully appreciate an MMO means that concentrating on graphics -- implying that good press would result -- is the answer. Walton didn't think so. "This is not about getting some more customers -- this the opportunity to get lots more. Like 4-10x more. There is maybe one game a year that drives hardware sales... they get a lot of hype, but look at their numbers. How much do they sell?" He also expressed surprise that Blizzard did a Mac version of the game, seeming unsure if the ROI was there. On that front, no conclusions were drawn.

Lesson Three

"Quality counts." This one was interesting because it sounds so obvious, but as Walton pointed out, in the MMO world... it's not quite the case. "What was consistent about every MMO pre-WOW is that they were buggy as sh*t. They were rough. Even if they were fun, they were rough. They all launched with hundreds, if not thousands, of known bugs. Everyone basically ran out of money and launched their games."

He continued, "I think that quality was a true innovation on Blizzard's part. Nobody had done that before at that level of play. Because they did that, their game stood out night and day above everybody else's games. What's the biggest mistake? What everybody did without exception -- shoving it out the door." He admitted that he was guilty of doing the same thing in the past (we can thus infer that BioWare will not in the future.)

A audience member asked if publishers or venture capitalists new to MMOs would recognize the quality factor. Musing on the question, he talked about human nature: "We fool ourselves into doing things that we know are not right because of the current circumstances... human beings tend to think short-term... the future value of the MMO is immense if you don't blow the launch. [If you launch a bad game] you can look at something and go 'I flushed hundreds of millions.' With "one chance to make a first impression", he posited, "the brand value of an MMO is created within the first week of launch. End of story. You're done the first week... I say a week, but it might even be a day." The implication was clear: get the moneymen on board with the quality equation or suffer. He offered this simple warning: "It's a post-WOW world. You better do that."

Lesson Four

One thing that WOW is frequently recognized for is its solo play. Walton's fourth lesson was: support this, because gamers want it. According to Walton, older games that forced players into groups missed the point: "[the] truth is that people soloed every game to the best they could and when they couldn't anymore, they quit. Embracing solo play that was a true innovation for WOW." It was pointed out that players who hit the level cap are pretty much forced to group in WOW; Walton still felt like the game "feels like it's a level playing field for all people at that level" and thus isn't quite as sinful as it could be. He offered a Blizzard quote on the solo issue -- "We look at soloing as our casual game." Given the weight of the phrase "casual game" in 2007, you can bet the audience was scribbling that one down.

Lesson Five

The next point was another design tip, and became mildly convoluted (like the issue it tackled, ironically.) "Simplify the damn GUI!" Walton exhorted. "MMOs have the worst and most complex GUIs because we have so much sh*t you can do in the game. We want to give players all that stuff!" He judged WOW's interface to be "as simple as it can possibly be and as fun as it can possibly be." An audience member correctly added "...but no simpler." Walton suggested that as hardcore gamers, we forget the painful process of learning interfaces since we did it so long ago -- and to be mindful that gamers come to games much fresher than we do.

At the same time, Walton maintained that a new GUI "had better be 50% better than the current stuff" or players will hate it. An audience member asked about the massive customization and complexity powergamers perpetrate on the WOWinterface. Walton described customization as "a steam release valve" for an audience that can't be satisfied within the bounds of the basic interface. Bringing up another example, Walton cited City of Heroes, another MMO with a strong casual audience. "Conventional wisdom said that their game was missing all these features, but it worked."

Lesson Six

Moving on, Walton wryly noted, "Content sucks. Content takes people to build. You can build systems, but systems suck because we pattern match 'em real quick. Content is custom-crafted things for people to do." He described the concept of the "player horizon" -- a player should not perceive all that she can do from the beginning of the game: something tantalizing has to hang out of reach. "If I can visualize everything that will happen to me by the end by level 3, the game's over." When asked about procedurally generated content, Walton thought it "doesn't work because it's generic and obvious." He thinks gamers will quickly perceive the pattern of how it's generated: "Somebody just changed the names of the NPC and the names of the places I go to get stuff."

Lesson Seven

Another sticking point for many designers (and gamers) is PVP content. Walton thinks strong PVP is essential. He also offered up this thought: besides the core PVP gamers, "a certain percentage of people [exist who] don't know that they want to compete once they have some mastery." But from a developer standpoint, "it's hard to balance PVP and PVE together." Also, "if [developers] don't like PVP it's hard to get behind it" but "the nice thing about having bigger teams is that we have enough diversity [to pursue different tracks]." According to Blizzard's Rob Pardo in a quote Walton presented, PVP was made easier to develop in WOW by the fact that monsters and player characters have very similar damage and HP capacities.

Lesson Eight

"Don't tune for the hardcore." Turning to the audience, Walton asked for a show of hands: "How many of you have shipped an MMO? How many of you remember a discussion about making the game harder to keep people in the game longer?" He dismissed those who had but didn't, and suggested that this stems from "forgetting our object is not to keep people as long as humanly possible, but to provide entertainment." When it comes to grinding, "they will do it, but they will hate you." When he first encountered WOW, he admits thinking that the game would be over in 50 days -- because it's so fast paced. But when its success became apparent, Walton realized something. "I was thinking about crazy people! Crazy people can finish the game in 50 days, but crazy people are not who we should be thinking about.... where's the real market, our real customers? If anything, I think people should make games that level faster than WOW -- that have the right content to hold up."

Lesson Nine

He then suggested something even more controversial -- "Let 'em quit." He warned of making promises for features in patches that would never come to fruition (or do so far down the line the promises don't matter anymore.) "COH taught me this before WOW -- a game that you finished and felt good and you'd re-up." But with other games "they quit because they'd stayed too long... the only way for them to escape was to demonize the game." His personal experience is that he'll drop in and out of WOW at a whim with no ill feeling. However, he didn't think it was relevant that WOW doesn't delete inactive characters -- the "namespace" freed by deleting characters makes them worth deleting. He warned gamers get dissatisfied "if it takes more than three tries before they can have a name that they want."

Lesson 10

Moving on, Walton discussed an issue that comes up in many games -- and one that generated a little debate in the audience. Suggesting you should direct your players' experience of the game, he asked, "Are you Disneyland or are you a sandbox?" Noting "the interesting thing about sandbox games is that they tend to have a ton more griefing" he suggested "an accessible game is directed. You never leave them in a place where they go 'what do I do next?' The vast majority of customers -- particularly when you get out of the hardcore -- need the signposts." He suggested that too many choices are paralyzing. If a player sees 10, he thinks, "I can make nine bad choices!" According to studies Walton has read about the human mind, "If you want people to do well, give them two, no more than four choices."

Here someone pointed out that it makes it easier for a developer to make the choices better. But according to Walton "a common developer mistake is to give people good choice, bad choice, medium choice. They need to all be good choices. People want to feel like things are complex, but they don't really want them complex. You have to give them the illusion of complexity but keep it super-simple." Someone else pointed out that this is at odds with the idea of a virtual world, but it doesn't seem that Walton is interested in the virtual world aspect of MMOs so much as providing an enjoyable experience for gamers. He advised the audience to "think about your quest chains in WOW. Think about how they drug you through stuff, but you didn't feel like you were being drug through stuff. If you make it feel natural, most people will never notice that you're doing it."

Lesson 11

Taking a page from 1980s ads for the board game Othello, Walton suggested that an MMO should be "easy to learn, difficult to master." Warning that again "it's hard to get inside a newbie's shoes... if you overwhelm them with stuff, people will not learn it all. It's not about how deep it is -- it's about how steep that learning curve is. A shallow learning curve lets people move through it at their own speed." He suggested "Nobody's entertained by feeling incompetent. Feeling competent and gaining mastery is a huge part of game fun for people."

Lesson 12

The 12th and final point was perhaps the least immediately practical. Walton praised Blizzard's reputation for consistent quality products -- "brands matter." He asked the crowd "who believes that there's more than three companies who you'll buy their games sight unseen?" Nobody raised their hands. His slightly depressing (if pragmatic) analysis? "You're not going to kick WOW's ass because you don't have a brand that's good enough to do it. Can you be competitive? Maybe."

Questions and Answers

Here, the formal question and answer time began. The first question was: what was the biggest error Blizzard made with WOW? After pondering for a few moments, Walton suggested it might be "not getting experience in database and backend server was their biggest error. The launch was not that nice... backend can kick your butt, can kill your game."

Regarding innovation, which Walton thinks is crucial -- though he was understandably coy about his specific thoughts on where MMOs can or should go -- he suggested that "the places to innovate are endless, but what do players want? Innovations have to be substantially better to be noticeable." Small leaps? Forget it: "Their game has eight classes, my game has 16. Who cares about classes? Do something I've never done before. If nine out of 10 people can't tell it's an innovation, it's not an innovation."

In Conclusion

The thread that tied the talk together was changing the mindset of the developers: it's about understanding that a general audience is not the powergamers. If a game is to be successful with a broader audience, it has to be more fun, more directed, more accessible, and faster-paced. All of these things have been anathema to MMOs thus far, but Walton suggested that WOW threw them into stark relief. In a genre in desperate need of innovation, these words offer hope for a way forward.

Tabula Rasa NDA Lifts Tomorrow

I've been in on this beta for ages and not been able to talk about it (I am allowed to say I'm in it though). I'll try to have my thoughts on the title up early tomorrow.

Also, according to the release date is set as October 19th for sure now, too... thoughts to come on that notion to come as well tomorrow.

As for other games and their NDAs... still no lifting. :( So much to chat about, no right to say anything.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Big Bad Ass with Spiky Hair and Pads

Yes, that's his "OFFICIAL" name. I sketched this guy and scanned him in the other day to get some practice at coloring with the wacom tablet. He's not done obviously, but I think it's coming along pretty well. His face is messed up and slanted, but he was just a rough sketch to practice on. Hopefully future doodles won't be so Sloth-like (Goonies reference, of course).

I'm not sure I'll finish him, because more pressing PC work like school and this weekend's strip are hanging over me, but it's good to see that an amateur artist can get some pretty fun results just effing around with the tablet.

Indeed, it's likely my best purchase since the Wii back in November. Consumerism FTW.

Warhammer and the Tome of Knowledge

Stuck like I am at work with no decent way of avoiding my responsibilities aside from the blogs of my peers, I just caught wind of Keen's recap of Cameron Sorden's TenTonHammer piece on Warhammer's Tome of Knowledge. How's that for a run-on?

Anyway, what the Tome sounds like is a bit of an even more fleshed out Deed Log (formerly LoreBook) from LotRO. By more fleshed out, I don't mean that LotRO's is bad, just that WAR's seems like it's going to be keeping track of even more statistics.

Little tidbits from the interview include things like a title or a reward for dying "hundreds of times before level 10" or "standing in place for a very long time". Basically, the lady behind the Tome's development explained that it's just another place for the more comedic side of the Warhammer Universe to shine through, as well as a serious tracking system for anything and everything your character's accomplished. I do believe you'll even be able to show your friends your Tome in-game, for bragging and whatnot.

The Deed Log is one of my favorite aspects of LotRO. Like CoH's badges, it added just one more layer of style to the game, and it seems like EAMythic's going to be trying to one up them both. In order to do so, in my opinion, they need only make sure their kill-accomplishments aren't too outlandish.

/em shudders at the memory of 400+ kills for deeds in LotRO.

Of course, from what I can gather the Tome won't be so necessary for skill and personalization like the Deed Log is, so even if the number of kills for a reward are high, it shouldn't make someone without the drive feel so bad about not striving to whack 1,000 Glorgborgs.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling. Just stop by Keen's site or even TTH to read the whole thing, eh?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Random 8

Sorry this took me so long, Heather. Here goes...

~ The Rules ~

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself.
3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

Now for my eight... bear with me.

1.) I once sharted when running a 100 meter dash in High School Gym Class. I really shouldn't have had that toaster struedel before 3rd period. The time for my dash came, there was a rumble in my stomach, followed by an explosion in my pants as I pushed from the starting line. I still reckon the blast helped me. After coming in 2nd in the dash, I went inside to exchange my messed boxers for the free and easy life of commando.

If this is TMI, which it certainly is, rest assured you'll probably be less offended as the list goes on. I like to start with a bang in order to draw you in... or in this case push you away.

2.) As a pre-teen I had a secret obsession with musicals. I even owned a VHS copy of CATS. No, I am not gay. Just ask my wife, John. Kidding, kidding. I really still love musicals, just not secretly anymore. As a late teen, or more to the point, past the age of caring what others think of me, I realized my knowledge of musicals and ability to belt my pipes not only attracted women, but made me that "guy who gets all the attention because he's cultured" in my hicktown high school class.

3.) Somewhat tied to number 2, my brother and I once sang the entire score from The Lion King to our dearly departed grandmother. I know, that's just goofy. But I was only 7. My brother was 11. I think he comes off worse here.

4.) Until the 9th grade, I wanted nothing more than to be a professional basketball player. Like all good American youths, I was taught the value of making a shit-ton of money for something that brings no real good into the world. It was either pro-sports, or drug dealing. And as I don't fancy weekend trips to the Dominican, I aspired for l33t greatness along such white basketball stars as John Stockton and Larry Bird. You know, the ones who were so white they were clear. I figured if they could do it, so could I.

5.) Tied to number 4, the dream of basketball stardom ended with a sledding accident in the early parts of Freshman year. I decided it would be a standup idea to stand on the sled as I went downhill, and while I managed to remain erect for the entire descent, when I reached the bottom of the hill my board got stopped on some snowed-over brush, while my body was flung forward. My knee stayed behind however, and a loud popping noise signified the tearing of my ACL, Lateral Ligament, and both minisci. It sucked. Badly.

The curses flowing forth from my mouth caused a father and his son to run home swiftly. Still, it wasn't until the daty after that I realized anything was wrong. I walked on it for the remainder of the day and spent the night at a friend's house, only to find the knee locked solid at a 90 degree angle. The injury kept me at home for about 3 months, where I learned the value of a good book and forgot the desire to be the world's next Jerry West. I turned instead, to the arts.

6.) My wife, now of one year, is also my girlfriend of 7. We're high school sweethearts, and she's still the only human I can truly tolerate on a 24 hour basis. I can only hope this fact remains throughout the rest of my life, our life together.

7.) I'm 50% Irish, 25% Italian, and 25% English. I'm a walking World War. The best part about my heritage? I get the best of all 3 worlds. I'm pale as a ghost with a penchant for beer, I have thick wavy dark brown hair and a love of pasta, and also a dear affection for the written word and things of considerable historical measure.

8.) Lastly, and probably least interestingly, I secretly want to be paid to draw and write for the rest of my life. I'd like nothing more than to be given liberty to doodle and scribble my life away, putting countless thoughts onto paper both as illustration and as essay or fiction. The problem is, I'm certainly not alone. So, if no mighty Stephen Kingsian Paycheck shall ever come my way, I'll resign to simply force those of you who stumble across this webspace to endure the labors of my love.

There. All done. I hope I didn't scare you all away. I'm not going to tag 8 people. Just a handful: Adele Caelia, Darren, Cuppycake, Stormgaard, and of course Keen.

Forgive me if some of you have been tagged for this one already. I'm getting forgetful in my young age.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Still Priming...

It sucks for my readers (all 10 of you), but I'm playing way too much Metroid Prime this long holiday weekend to keep up with what's going on in the World of MMOs. It's a nice break from all my inbox spamming to see if I got any beta invites, or if the betas I am in are having any events soon.

Auto Assault closed its doors for good on the 31st. The Agency, SOE's spy-fare MMO, will be free to play with optional fees for special goods. Pirates of the Burning Sea put out a new DevLog "24x7", classifying the state of the game as what I like to call... "Close, but not quite Gold". Apparently on Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th we should get some real concrete info on the release and other things. Let's see, what else... Guild Wars Eye of the North goes live today. Good for them, but I still can't get into the series... makes me a sad panda. I'm sure there's even more news than that, but you can likely get it somewhere better... like Brent's site.

Mainly, I use this site to ramble on about the games I'm playing, or the things I see in the news, and since Metroid Prime 3 needs to be played, not chatted about, as well as the fact that I've been AFK most of the weekend due to Wii-itis and a wedding to attend, I've got not a whole hell of a lot to talk about.

Oh there is one thing, Paul Barnett, Creative Director of Warhammer Online took a wee bit of time to drop a comment on my 5 upcoming MMOs post from back in July. It's always nice to see that the staff of these games are out there searching the web for talk on blogs. Theresa Pudenz of Flying Lab stopped by when I was 1st all hot and bothered about PotBS, and now Paul has managed to creep on in and leave a comment to mark his territory.

Just thought I'd let that out there as a reminder to all bloggers that the people behind our favorite pastimes do pay attention, at least some of them do. Paul, next time you stop by mate, bring me something to put in that promotional code doohickey at the beta-center, orright? I won't tell, promise. :)

Well, 2 more weeks or so until Pirate Day... maybe then I'll have a reason to ramble about an MMO.