Friday, August 31, 2007
I used to worry about getting iced (as they call it) until I realized there is no penalty for dying. Previously I would move slowly through areas and avoid any area that looked risky. Now I'm the fucking Terminator when I hit enemy warehouses and compounds. Add my crew and paid off cops to the mix... good times. Last night I gained control of all of Little Italy.
The only real penalty for dying in the game is when there is a Mob War (that is, I aggro a rival family by icing too many of their associates). Then some of my extorted business are burned. The trick is to know the quickest route to an FBI agent, so you can bribe him. The result is you win the Mob War and aggro is completely reset.
Another "feature" is when I extort a business deep in rival territory, I mean their goons are crawling all over like ants, just focus on extorting the owner. Even if I die right after a successful extortion, I get credit for it and receive a cut come payday.
The game is easy after you learn the controls (except for the stealth missions... they still frustrate me). Even though it's easy, I'm still having a great time playing it. Last night I meant to get to bed early. No dice. I was up in the loft playing Wii after midnight.
I highly recommend this game (if you couldn't tell by the way I've been raving about it).
Thursday, August 30, 2007
She wants us both to play online. Not together mind you. While building and scripting in Second Life looks interesting to me, I prefer games with character levels, quests, and gnome slaying. Avril admires the beauty of my games, but is not interested in combat. Instead, we will play games on the same nights and not play on the same nights. I can appreciate that.
Originally I planned to buy a more powerful computer some time next spring. But Avril and I agree that a cheaper, moderately better second computer would be better for us now. Especially since I'm joining LotRO in about four weeks.
Okay, now to figure out how to set up a home network so we can share the printer and Internet connection.
Monday, August 27, 2007
The Godfather was fun the first couple nights I played, but my character was low level, poor, and an outsider to the Corleone family. Plus I'm a clumsy oaf, so learning the Wii's controls is a long process. I lost count of how many times I died because I was trying to punch someone when I meant to pull out my pistol.
But last night it all clicked. My character has moved up in the Family, and I have the controls down. I understand bribing cops and shaking down store owners. I can drive. I can shoot. I can use cover. I even have the start of my own crew. Times are good.
The game makers did an excellent job with the story. I'm not reliving the plot of the movies. Instead, I have my own character that is weaved into the Godfather canon. I'm not "third mafia thug to the left" but a character with his own story and agenda. Beautiful.
Okay, I don't want to mislead anyone with what I wrote earlier. The controls are actually simple. It's more of a matter of learning what button accesses my weapon selection or remembering to shake the controllers to strangle someone or how to aim at someone's kneecaps to cripple instead of kill. (Did I mention I don't let my kids play or watch me play?)
P.S. I meant to post this already but must have clicked Save now instead of Publish Post. Ooops.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Short post. Going our of town again this weekend to visit family. Summers are too hectic. Wah.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Freedom to Build
Ryzom divides actions (skills and spells) into four categories: Fight, Magic, Harvest, and Craft. As you use actions from one of those categories, you gain experience and unlock more specialized areas. For example, if Mumbles gets enough experience in Magic, he will specialize in either Offensive Magic or Defensive Magic (or both). You have the freedom to build your character instead of being locked into a specific class.
Another attractive feature is creating custom actions. I loved playing Legos as a kid (still do with my kids) so building things out of blocks was an obvious turn on for me. You start with a blueprint, which is the basic type of action you are creating. For example, a damaging spell or an aura or a melee attack. Then you add different blocks (called stanzas) that define the action's effects in detail. To make the action balanced, you add "credits" to it such as longer casting time, usable only after dodging, or costs HP.
Unfortunately the game designers added unnecessary restrictions into the action building feature. I cannot mix and match stanzas from the Fight and Magic categories. Also, the action blueprints are too narrow. I want more freeform in how I build my spells. I want to combine healing and damaging stanzas. Perhaps at higher levels I will unlock those features. Maybe I'll do a bit of research on the intrawebs this evening.
Quick digression: My initial vision for Mumbles was a hybrid dps/healer caster. But after completing a few missions from the fighter trainer, I think going more of a melee dps/healer would be more fun and effective. I recommend anyone starting in Ryzom to go fighter first, then branch out into the other professions.
My First Death(s)
One of my newb missions (quests in Ryzom) was to find a group and hunt some big, dangerous creatures. I wandered around looking for the creatures to see if I could solo them, but could not find them. I sent a message to general chat asking where they were and someone whispered me that if I help her with some boss, she'd help me with my mission. Cool.
I join the team and see another team member is Ethic. Talk about weird coincidence. Ethic (from Kill Ten Rats) commented on one of my posts and suggested I check out Ryzom. Now here we are in a random PUG. Call me a freak, but I'm still tripping on that one.
So Ethic and me follow our team leader off into some ruins. She tells us to stop and wait while she pulls. Ummm... can we discuss tactics maybe? Nothing. Soon the leader comes running back with a pack of creeps following her. The leader runs around in circles. Ethic starts healing and I start casting some crowd control and DPS spells. No dice. I take two hits and I wake up in the camp hospital with a little XP penalty. Haha... good times.
The leader wants to try again. Why not? She found another newb to join us and off we go again. A little more luck this time. I actually completed four spells before getting pulverized. I don't think we even dropped one of the boss's minions. Ethic is wise and hit the road. I left shortly after because the leader kept ranting about all we need is more people. Sure. Good luck with that. Here's a dollar, now go buy a clue.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Saga of Ryzom
Sunday night I created a character in Ryzom (Mumbles on Arispotle). The newbie experience is well done and easy to follow. My starting profession was mage but I'm free to dabble in other areas. In fact, I'm advancing steadily as a crafter too. Ryzom's crafting feature has more depth then Warcraft but is still simple to learn. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, and I was crafting armor for Mumbles in no time.
Moment of truth... Ryzom is merely another "okay game" such as CoV, EQ2, etc. Ryzom has its faults (no z-axis is most annoying to me) but does enough stuff right to make up for it. I like its stylized graphics and more open character development. The community seems friendly to new players. The game's backstory unfolds in a series of well-crafted quests. The mix of sci-fi and fantasy is a refreshing bonus.
One aspect of Ryzom I find intriguing is the skill/spell editor. As Mumbles learns new spells, he gains the component blocks (called stanzas) of that spell. I can edit his current spells to change their affect, range, cost, cooldown time, etc. I can also create new spells from scratch in an easy to understand and use interface. For example, I have a few variations of the basic cold blast spell on my action bar ranging from my opening, long-range, high damage spell to my quick, cheap, almost-out-of-power spell.
I'd like to see spell editing in more games. Some people would be content using their default spells. Other people (such as me) could custom tailor spells to suit their individual play styles. I'm curious what kinds of stanzas the upper levels will bring. I'm tempted to subscribe for a month just to check it out.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Godfather: Blackhand Edition
GameFly came through for me. I have the Godfather for the Wii now and I'm liking it. After a short intro, the game surprised with a large number of detailed customization options for my character. I was surprised again when my character "in game" actually looks like the one I spent an hour customizing. Compare that to EQ2 last week where my in game character had more or less the same color hair and wings but that's it.
The controls for the Wii are fun. When my character smacks around a store owner or throws some punk against the wall, I make those same movements with my controllers. Good stuff. I'm looking forward to when we plug our brains directly into the game... now that's immersion.
Saga of Ryzom
Ethic from Kill Ten Rats suggested I check out an MMO called Ryzom. The game sounds intriguing from a quick read of the official site and forums. A mix of sci-fi and fantasy genres. Skill-based character progression. Build skills and spells from scratch. User created content. Friendly, involved community. Sounds great. I downloaded the free trial of Ryzom and will check it out next week.
Lord of the Rings Online
My master plan has remained unchanged... I will play LotRO this October. No, not a free trial. I'll actually go to the store and buy the box and subscribe. The rainy season starts in October, so time to hunker down with a good MMO for nine months.
I'm a bit of a Tolkien fanboy, so I want my experience in the game to be pure and true and magical. I've stopped wearing shoes and started smoking a pipe. I tried engaging Avril in some hot elf-on-hobbit roleplay last night but she wasn't having it. Not true (but not a bad idea...hmm).
I finished rereading the Hobbit last week and started the Fellowship yesterday. I'll read a few chapters a week, finishing with (another) viewing of the movie in late September. I can't believe I just shared that info.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Then there were the games that pushed everything else out of the way. They were juggernauts, freight trains, monster trucks, and eight-hundred pound gorillas rolled into one. Whenever I had any free game time, these were the games I played. No other games existed. And when I wasn't playing the game, I was reading about the game on the web or planning out some aspect of the game or reviewing my previous game session. (OK, that makes me sound weird but whatever...)
Top 7 Games That Ruled Me
- World of Warcraft (+expansion)
- Magic the Gathering (on- and offline)
- Neverwinter Nights (+expansions/user mods/persistent worlds)
- Diablo 2 (+expansion)
- Civilization/Civilization 2
- D&D (pen-paper)
- Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I looked at crafting again but decided to skip it. Instead, I completed a couple more quests with my fae fury... killing orcs or some such. Then I rolled a tiger-looking monk and tried a different starting zone. Meh. Then I rolled a high elf wizard, which was fun to play and fast to level up.
I enjoy the heroic inspiration thing (can't remember what it's called off the top of my head). Essentially you get some type of bonus (extra damage, protective buff, etc.) by using skills/spells in a specific order. Adds a tiny bit of variety to clicking the exact same sequence of buttons for every battle. My guess is that it would even more dynamics in a group. Never tried that since I was apparently alone in the starter zone.
But blah, blah, blah. The game couldn't hook me and I'm not shelling out the bucks for a so-so game. Time to uninstall and defrag. So what's next on my MMO Tourist itinerary?
Monday, August 13, 2007
If you're not familiar with GameFly, it is a web-based service similar to Netflix except they deal in console and handheld games. You create a list of games you want and when you return a game, they send the next one on the list subject to availability. The games come with a pre-paid shipping envelope for easy returns.
My son has had a few Wii and DS games. I had Marvel Ultimate alliance for a few weeks, but since than haven't been so lucky. First, I got a DS game for my daughter on my share of the account. Ariel's Undersea Adventure isn't much fun for Daddy. Second, we had a shipping problem with the Godfather for the Wii. After five days I got worried. At seven days I reported a problem.
They have a well designed interface for reporting problems. I selected the game from the two they'd sent, selected my problem, and then confirmed my selections. Voila. The next day they sent out a replacement copy of the Godfather. Impressed.
With a bit of luck, I'll be spending my nights as a thug in the Corleone family in a couple days.
I played Everquest 2 for a couple hours Sunday morning. My druid made a few more levels, started crafting, and found the main city. So far I'm finding EQ2 merely okay but nothing impressive. City of Villains was more interesting visually, but EQ2 has greater depth and more varied gameplay. I think EQ2's character and monster graphics are lacking. Say what you will but I enjoy the heavily stylized (or cartoonish) look of Dungeon Runners or World of Warcraft.
The way EQ2 handles acquiring skills/spells is a mixed bag. No running back to town to visit the class trainer if I level up in the middle of nowhere. The new skills drop onto my action bar automatically and are highlighted for a few seconds to draw my attention there. Beautiful.
The skills/spells have ranks associated with them (apprentice I, apprentice II... etc.) but I don't understand how to advance them. Maybe I clicked past an important screen during the tutorial, or maybe it's meant to be complex. Whatever. My Fury character is rolling over everything in his path, so I suppose I don't really need to improve the power of his spells.
For example, I went AFK in what I thought was a safe spot to get some water and a quick bio break. When I came back my Fury was getting hacked on by three goblins a level or two below him. His life bar was down to about 20%. I healed up, and then crushed them. A bit on the hairy side but not a problem. Um. Okay. Talk about a forgiving game.
Most likely I'll get one more good game session in before my free trial ends. I thought about rolling a new character to try a different class, but going through the Nursery starting zone again is so very unappealing. Instead I will check out crafting more and do a bit of questing.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I started a Fury and made it to level 7 before my daughter woke up from a bad dream. (She's tucked back into bed, so time to post before hitting the sack myself.) I enjoy the class. As I mentioned before, I like playing healer/dps hybrids.
I'm lukewarm to the graphics. Some things look nice such as when the sun breaks through the tree canopy. While the scenery and buildings are pretty, the characters and monsters look lame. They don't have much detail and they don't stand out against the background. Hohum.
The built in UI customization options get good marks from me. I can rearrange and modify almost every element of the game's UI. Players can further customize their UIs by installing various mods. With only 5 days remaining in my free trial, I can safely say I won't be going nuts tweaking my UI. I did rearrange a few things to make them fit better on the screen, but otherwise kept the default UI.
Well, it's been a long day and the start of a busy weekend. Off to bed for Link.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
So off to Sony Online Entertainment to download the game. Cool, an 85 MB download. I have it downloaded, installed, and activated in no time. The sad part is I only get a 7-day free trial, but that's time to do the newbie zone and try a few classes out. The saddest part is that after I log in, I have to download the patch or the rest of the game or whatever. So the files download and download for about 14 hours.
Great. First day of my 7-day free trial and I've spent it doing nothing in game. Smooth, Sony. When I do get into the game I'll roll a Fury. I like playing healers, but the idea of playing a DPS healer is even better. Wish me luck.
While I was cleaning the garage I was thinking about one of my earlier posts where I complained about the repetition in WOW. Then the post after that I was talking about how I enjoyed Dungeon Runners. WTF. Dungeon Runners is nothing but repeating the same dungeon over and over and...
But I'm not bored by Dungeon Runners. The difference is expectations. I know Dungeon Runners is a simple, action RPG. I expect to run through the same ten levels of dungeon repeatedly until Mumbles is high enough level for the next dungeon. No trade professions, no auction house, no problem... it's a free game.
I expect more from WOW. I want depth and breadth of content. I want multiple zones to choose from at any given level. I want distractions galore. Does WOW deliver on this expectation? Yes. It does. There's so much content I've never seen (and I'm talking low, mid, and high level stuff here), but I played long enough to see the repetition.
Could I play Dungeon Runners for 15 months like I played WOW? No. One month, maybe two tops. But for now I'm enjoying jumping in for 30 minutes or an hour. And that's something Dungeon Runners excels at... getting into a dungeon quickly and adding party members on the fly. Zero effort. Compare that to WOW. Even playing a priest, I'd spend too much time looking for a full group before starting out.
Wouldn't it be cool if WOW instances could scale? Even a little. So if I have two other people with me, we can still run something instead of spamming LF1M SM any class over and over... talk about repetition.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
The game is so casual. I login and start running a dungeon. I open a group and people start joining me. The difficulty (and quality of loot) scales as more people join the party. Most nights I play for an hour or so, and then turn the computer over to Avril so she can do some building in Second Life.
I debated about subscribing to Dungeon Runners, but for $5 a month I figured it was worth a month or two. (Hopefully by then I'll get the whole WOW/LOTRO/Whatever thing sorted out in my head).
My character is Mumbles, a level 20 mage, and I typically play on the busiest server. I like how you select a starting class, but are free to dabble in other classes and mix/match your skills. I'm focusing on AoE damage, which works great for the groups of little critters. Not so much the bosses. I ran some ice chief boss dungeon over and over on Insane difficulty tonight. I sucked down so many potions to stay alive but got tons of loot and gold. Fun time.
Because this is a free, casual, easy-to-play game, the crowd is a bit immature and stupid. I've found many good and funny people to group with and add to my Friends list. I'm looking forward to the next build where they add a Member-only server.
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Too much repetition
I expect and tolerate a certain amount of repetition in MMOs. Grind is par for the course. Single player games have 20-80 hours of content. MMOs have hundreds if not thousands of hours of content. Inevitably there will be some repetition involved.
The Burning Crusade was a decent expansion but it didn't break enough new ground. After a few weeks it felt like been there done that. Some of the new zones and mobs were amazing. But isn't that the same wolf I saw when I started a tauren six months ago?
I like having multiple quests to choose from, but why do I get essentially the same quest every 15 or 20 levels? Repeat that for every alt. This hit me when I was collecting quests in one of the new Outland zones. I was instructed to hunt wolves for meat. WTF. Talk about deja vu. I can't tell you how many times I've had this type quest. One day I got the exact same quest (different zone, different level of beast) for my level 67 hunter and one of my lowbie alts. Besides, in December I was hunting fire giants and demons, but now I'm making wolf jerky because you want a snack. Whatever, dude.
Ultimately this is my biggest worry about going back to WOW. Every other reason I left can be avoided if I don't raid and progress at an easy pace. Will I get bored and frustrated with the same old quests? WOW is an amazing game, and I miss playing it.
P.S. Bloggers I admire have posted about the next WOW expansion. I hope Blizzard has some big announcements saved up. I'm not impressed at all. More of the same. Wee.
P.S.S. This is a shot in the dark... but I wonder if Blizzard is releasing a lackluster expansion because they're diverting their best software development teams to work on their next generation of MMO. One can hope.
Friday, August 3, 2007
This reason for leaving WOW is more like two in one. First, the time requirements to be a successful raider. Second, the raid attunements.
1) Being a successful raider means being online at specific times and a certain number of hours per week. Plus you need time to farm for mats, grind faction, work on attunements, and so forth. I'm a casual player and the time requirement was a deal breaker for me. I could commit to two maybe three evenings per week. I felt pressure from the guild leadership to play more and more.
2) Do you remember the original raid attunement chart for TBC? Remember how ugly and complex it looked? That was a lively topic on my guild's forum. The info we had before the expansion was raiding would become more accessible. Perfect. Great idea. As a casual player, I was happy with that rumor. Unfortunately, that raid attunement chart dashed my hopes. Blizzard basically flushed the idea of "casual raiding" down the toilet. I'm glad to hear they're fixing it now, but too late for me.
Play conflicted with RL
When I joined the raiding guild, I had to play at certain times on certain days. Before raiding, I played when I had nothing better to do in the evenings. If Avril saw a good movie starting on HBO, I could hearthstone and log out and we would watch it together. I couldn't do that part way through a Molten Core raid. Not an ingredient for happiness. It got to the point where I'd skip hanging out with RL friends week after week. I (mostly) stuck to my gaming guidelines, but I was playing more than I should and more than I wanted. I was getting burnt out, and I was missing out on a lot of life.
Obsessed with leveling fast
My first six months in WOW were spent wandering. One night after getting my mount I just wandered. I admired the beautiful scenery. Talk about inefficient use of time. Man, I miss that.
After joining the raiding guild, I was focused on leveling up my priest alt as quickly as possible. We needed more healers. So I started caring more about XP instead of enjoying the game. I bounced between zones, collecting quests, and then going to Thottbot to take the guesswork out of leveling. I started tracking my progress, recording percentage of level gained per play session.
This focus on leveling quickly turned into an obsessive bad habit. I started doing this with all my low level alts. When I dabbled with a few new Alliance characters, I was obsessed with leveling instead of enjoying the zones and quests. This was all new content (for me) but I was blazing past it as quickly as possible.
Inevitably I started feeling like logging into WOW was a job regardless if it was raiding or playing an alt. I play games to have fun. And I wasn't having fun any more.
If I renew my WOW subscription, I will have to be on my guard not to slip into old, bad habits like this one. My friend at work suggested I avoid logging out in inns so I don't get rested XP, which results in a slower progression. I'd be less likely to have this problem if I started a new MMO because the content would be completely new.
Man, reading through all that I sound like a whiner. Boo hoo. Poor me. I can't be a raider. Honestly, I'm glad to understand that now. I wish I'd gotten the clue back in November '06.
Next up is the conclusion to the mini series.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Today's post is a continuation of the why-I-left-WOW mini series. I'm exploring the reasons why I left WOW five months ago. I miss the game and am tempted to rejoin, but I don't want to set myself up (in WOW or any other game) by not addressing what went wrong.
Guild drama and split
When I hit the old level cap, I thought it would be fun to try raiding. Haha. Silly rabbit. I should have peeked at that world instead of jumping down the hole feet first. About one in five raids was actually enjoyable. The rest were frustrating and boring. I'm just not a raider.
What I liked about the raiding guild was playing with a large number of adults. There were always people around to do five-man instances and battlegrounds. That was fun. Waiting around for an hour until we have enough guild members online to take on a raid boss: not so fun.
The months before the expansion we had a serious dip in raid participation, raids were cancelled, and the lewtwhrs left. Stressful but not a problem because it meant more fun running instances and battlegrounds. Those were good times, joking around with guildies in Vent and smashing gnomes in the face.
After the expansion hit, about 10 people powered up to level 70 in a week and a week after that split the guild. I was on the fence and decided to stick with the more casual element in the guild. We limped along, but the whining and complaining in guild chat was too much. The guild leader and remaining guild officers logged on less and less. More people left the guild. I started playing alts more than my main just to get a break from the negativity.
How can I avoid a similar situation if I go back to WOW or play some other MMO? Well, I can NOT join a raiding guild for starters. Duh. A big guild that is NOT raid focused is more for me. That's what I want, just a bunch of fun, mature people that I can group with or just chat with. Hohum.
- Obsessed with leveling fast
- Play conflicted with RL
- Raiding requirements
- Too much repetition
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I went camping with my son and his scout troop last week. During their down time, they played a card game called Speed. I played a variant when I was younger, so it was cool seeing the boys ranging from ages 11 to 17 challenging each other to quick rounds. Eventually we had to confiscate the decks so the boys would get back to their service projects.
Speed is a shedding type of card game where your goal is to play all the cards in your hand and draw pile before your opponent. To do this, you play cards from your hand as fast as possible that are one higher or lower than one of the cards on the discard piles. Players replenish their hands from their draw piles up to a max of five cards. If all players are unable to play, you put a new card on top of the discard piles from little side decks. There are no turns in speed. You play as quickly as possible. You can play runs of cards at the same time or block your opponent by laying a card on the discard pile first.
The game requires quick thinking and quick reflexes (and a quick wit helps to throw your opponent off with some well timed trash talk). Good qualities to improve. Yes, even the proper way to trash talk.
My son has been challenging me to Speed games every night since we've been back. While he's pretty good at it, he can't match my awe-inspiring skills, lighting-quick reflexes, god-like card playing powers. I kid. Another year or two and he will be beating me consistently instead of the other way around. There's been a few rounds I've one by mere luck.
Last night my five-year-old daughter asked me to teach her to play. She's smart so I knew she'd get how to play the game. But the quickness isn't there. She has troubles telling 6 and 9 apart and forgets the order of 10-J-Q-K-A-2. Ugh. How is she going to win the Junior Texas Hold 'Em Championship if she doesn't know the difference between two pair and a full house? What is her teacher thinking? Sure, she can read books and she's still in preschool, but how is she going to be competitive in the world of high stakes poker? I digress.