Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Alternative Advancement

I reached the level cap in World of Warcraft precisely twice: once at 60, once with the same character at 70.

When I hit 60, my friends were delving into Blackwing Lair. I've seen inside on my friend's priest and another friend's paladin. I never saw it on my mage. I did see the Molten Core, although only a few bosses. I saw bits and pieces of Zul Gurub and AQ20.

When TBC came out, I was mostly geared in level 60 blues, rarish items from instance bosses. I don't think I was even fully blued. I may have had one pvp purple. Then came the leveling to 70, and of course the replacing of ample gear. At 70, I cleared Karazhan several times, beat Gruul a few times, and (with the aid of tailoring and engineering) got fully purple, 'epic', gear and started enchanting bits of it. (then I got bored and quit, not the point)

At 60, I was too far behind the curve to actually achieve much advancement: sure I could've gone for PVP gear, or whatever, but I wasn't really going to get anything that way, except after the 2.0 patch (and I still didn't get much done). At 70, I was on the cutting edge, so I geared up quicklier.

In guild wars last night, I stuck an endgame rune into my endgame armour. I picked up an elite skill. I respecced to replace the shield I may or may not have destroyed by accident.

Its a better shield, it was all planned! Really!

I also have a good idea of what I want from my build, although haven't figured out my rune/insignia combinations yet.

Then I can work on armour styles and dyes (although I'm pretty happy with what I have at the moment).

Oh, I probably ought to actually reach the level cap, and finish the main storyline, what with only being level 18 (of 20), and having done 4(ish) missions (of I think 16 or so).

Maybe its just me, but I know which I prefer.

Pan's Labyrinth

I recently saw the film Pan's Labyrinth; it is rather good. I found myself rather disappointed that they didn't do more with some parts of it.

I realise that the story would be lost if they went with more of the magical parts, the fact that it is just this girl, but all the same, I want to know what the deal is with the pale guy.

For those of you haven't seen it (semi-spoilers zomg!), the protagonist is in a room with a guy with no eyes and great big claws, who's just sitting there. Its pretty creepy. He eventually comes to life, inserting eyeballs into the palms of his hands and chasing the protagonist like this. This is even more creepy.

The thing is that the room is covered in freizes of the dude attacking people, but no explanation as to why he's there. I want to know more! (and I figure that was the idea)

Anyway, I loved the design of the creatures in it, and I fully expect to steal bits and pieces for the first D&D game I run. Creepyness like that deserves to be recycled.

woo popularity

I got over a fifth of my total traffic over this last weekend, having linked my last post in a comment on Tobold's blog, and then having had that post linked to on Virgin Worlds.

As if to prove that I'm now Popular™, I also got my first comment spam. Fortunately I have all comments posted here in a feed on my iGoogle homepage, so I see them as soon as they go up (if I'm online). Interestingly, the link was primarily trying to sell Guild Wars, when I've only actually made three posts on it. Granted they've been three of my more recent posts, but still.

Anyway, I'm sure this isn't in the slightest bit interesting to any of you, but I'm the kind of person who gets excited until I realise that it was only Orange texting me with a sim update.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Turning back time

Tobold made an interesting post today on world persistency, and as I started making a comment, it started getting far too big as my ideas started spawning lots.

In a nutshell, Tobold proposes that a reseting game, where the game ends and starts again every $period_of_time, could more interesting and less stagnant than the current persistant worlds.

What if it was both? What if, as part of the persistant meta-plot, there was some kind of temporaral cataclysm every so often (not that that makes a lot of sense when you think about it, but work with me here). Your character gets shunted back to being a newbie again every time the reset occurs.

Let there be a low level cap, and a class structure that branches out depending on your choices. Have epic quests that unlock a title/ability/whatever each reset. In fact, you could have several quest lines like the Ahn-Qiraj stuff in WoW: a great big quest line to unlock a Big Bad Evil Guy, who defeating unlocks you 'the Dragonslayer' or whatever. Have doing that three times give you ', Dragonbane'. And another dude who's a giant elemental (or whatever).

Also, it makes a lot of MMO tropes make more sense:
  • If your game resets every, say, 2 months, then your dev team has a patching schedule laid out right there: in addition, any changes to gameplay can be explained in game as something changing when the temporal slip or whatever it is happens.
  • Bosses respawning: well, if you do, then so can the bosses. Also, if the Biggest Bad Evil Guys only spawn once per two months, and are downright hard enough, there could be actual competition between guilds/servers/what have you to actually kill the boss before the end times come, especially given the epic questline idea above
  • I thought I had more things than this. Hmm.

Also, let there be seperate endings. One where the dragon gets killed, but the elemental lord runs rampant through the capital cities. One where both get killed, and the Lord of the Land comes forth to drive the Evil Minions from his land in a huge event. I'm sure enough triggers can be added to do produce all kinds of things.

Perhaps most importantly (in my mind anyway), there would be regular events. See the above for a couple of examples, but my mind is leaning towards end-of-beta style events. If the persistance of the world is ending in a couple of days with the next reset, make it the actual end of the world in game. Lets have fire raining from the sky, the undead rising, creatures invading our capitals.

I think the idea has a lot (lot lot) of potential. I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Let me show them to you...

I haven't had much of a chance for more Guild Wars shenanigans over the weekend, due to visiting friends, but on a shopping trip I (spent considerably more than I was planning to and) bought a couple of DS games. Specifically Sonic Rush and Pokemon Diamond. I also own Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.

When the DS and PSP first came out, being but a poor student, I didn't get either; and was thinking I'd get a PSP. At the time, all the DS games seemed to be incredibly gimmicky, usually about the touchscreen: Warioware Touched, I'm looking at you. Now, I'm sure that that kind of thing can be fun, but not (price of DS + price of game) ammount of fun, to be perfectly honest.

When I was in America earlier in the year, I decided to pick one up on the cheap. You may have noticed that I'm a sucker for pokemon from the openning paragraph (blue, ruby, leaf green, mystery dungeon and diamond), hence the DS vs PSP decision, especially since the games I wanted for the PSP were Wipeout and Mercury, the latter of which I'll pick up when I (eventually) get my Wii.

Now with three games, it occured to me that the gimmickiness of the touch screen and dual screen setup is still there to an extent, but not as horribly transparent as it used to be. Mystery Dungeon really utilises the touch screen well, but the other screen is kinda left in the lurch: I left the default top screen layout of my team's condition, but still spend time going through the menu to check on my team, because the top screen just doesn't get any focus. Sonic barely uses the touchiness, but uses the dual screen kinda as one big screen. The problem being that theres a great big black bar in the middle, so it can't actually emulate one big screen, so you just get moved between the two at specific points in the levels. The boss battles have the action on the top screen, and a hit counter on the bottom screen, which is pretty worthless, as I've been able to count to 8 ever since Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive (my first computer game!). Pokemon kinda delivers, in that it utilises both screens, but only some of the time. The battle menu is very good: the animations on the top screen, and the menu as touch options on the bottom. The pokedex has various features on the bottom screen that are nice and intuitive, while the actual information is on the top. Some other menus, for example the bag, can be manipulated with the bottom screen, but I mostly use the buttons as its got better fine control. And most of the game, the bottom screen has your 'Poketch' on it: basically a placeholder because there's nothing much to do with it (I could be being unfair about this last point, as I'm not that far into the game yet (but already looking up which pokemon are the best, go OCD!)).

Overall, I think that the new pokemon games are the best at utilising the dual real estate the DS gives - and for using the touch screen sensibly (although I believe there's a mini-game involving mixing berries that just abuses the touch screen for its purposes later on) - of the games I've both played, and thought about buying and looked into a bit, but I think there's room for improvement still.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Dungeons and Dragons and books, oh my!

A couple of weeks ago I splashed out and bought a D&D book of amazon.co.uk, then about a week later I spotted another one I wanted in Waterstones, and bought that as well.

These books were both 3.5 edition (which I haven't figured out how to pronounce yet)

The other day, Wizards of the Coast, who produce D&D have anounced 4th edition.

Now, on the one hand, this is a Bad Thing™. I have three 3.5 edition books. There are people with shelves and shelves of them, which will (probably) be obsoleted when the new ones come out.

On the other hand, this is a Very Good Thing™, as the game will (hopefuly) be more streamlined, like the new Star Wars Saga Edition, also produced by Wizards. This will (presumably) mean that most of the 3.5 books aren't actually needed, as a lot more of their content is incorporated into the core rules.

On the gripping hand, both of the above, balancing out to a Good Thing™. The rules will be in place from the core 4th edition books. The flavour text from 3.5 will still be perfectly acceptable. The conversion from 3.5 to 4th edition characters should be relatively simple, even if some nuances are lost.

Overall, I am pleased with this announcement, even if it means the raw mechanics of some of my books will be slightly obsoleted: it won't matter as the flavour will still be there.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Guild wars: a story of surprises

As I posted the other day, at the weekend I purchased Guild Wars Factions, so I thought I'd do a quick 'first impressions' post.

On the way home, as I often do with a new game, I popped open the box to have a look at the manual. Expecting a flimsy bit of paper saying 'how to install' and a 4 disc behemoth of a game, I was pleasantly surprised to find only two discs and a dirty great manual of Everything You Need To Know And Some Stuff You Don't.

Arriving home, I unlock my linux box, shove the disc in, and 'sudo wine /media/cdrom0/install.exe', or whatever it was. Similarly surprising, it worked.

Well, perhaps 'worked' is a little strong; once it was all installed, and I took the 30s to add Factions to my PlayNC acount, I boot up the game and there's no mouse rendered. 'No problem', thought I, and I plunge onwards. Maybe a half an hour later, I realise that I'm not getting anywhere, as GW seems quite click intensive. So off I trundle to find some hackerish way of seeing my mouse.

Long story short, I end up running a program that renders a cat chasing my mouse around the screen. Kinda annoying, but means I know where it is.

I knew that GW instances basically the entire game, but I didn't realise that it downloads all the assets for each instance as you zone in (surprise! I guess). This worked fine, until I tried to zone into the first zone after the first town. Then everything went kinda wrong. Guild Wars crashed, causing X (my linux gui rendererer) to crash. Darn. Well, I'll restart it then. After reinstalling my graphics driver again, X still wouldn't load. I reinstalled linux, and still nothing. I think sometheing got corrupted in my /home partition, the bit where user files and programs and stuff get stored, and which doesn't get formatted on reinstalling linux. Unfortunately, I don't have a clue which bit is likely to have done this, so short of just experimenting renaming random files, I was kinda stuck.

So with a dead linux partition, I booted windows, and installed Factions there. As expected, this worked fine and I actually got a chance to try the game.

Its pretty okay!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Impulse Buying

This is perhaps the downside of Guild Wars: guilt free(ish) impulse buying. It doesn't matter if I play that much as there's no subscription.

It also gets bonus points for installing cleanly on linux first time, although it doesn't render a mouse, which is a bit of a bugger. Although I can't seem to zone into the first area past the first town, but I expect thats nothing some more RAM won't fix.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Decisions, decisions

Having decided to move away from WoW, I'm now kinda between games (even if I do still have access to WoW until October). I've been looking for the cheapest way to get ahold of CoH, and I think amazon is it (at the moment anyway). So sticking it in my basket, I found all three Guild Wars boxes, that I put there a while ago while pondering whether to keep going with WoW.

Of course, I don't need all three in the slightest, I only really need to get the one. But which one?

From what I can gather, in general, the differences between them are 1) the plotline of the game, b) the classes availible and III) the abilities each class can potentially get.

Now of these, the most obvious is the character class. With this in mind, the choices boil down to: default set, default + Assassin and Ritualist, or default + Dervish and Paragon.

Now, I'm not really a paragon-y person, and dervish, scythes, woo, not that great an appeal, so it looks like Factions is the one for me.

Of course, there could be other wildly different things between the campaigns, but I don't actually know what difference they make, so I'm going to throw this out to the (not many) people who read this:

Which Guild Wars box do you recommend I get and/or avoid? Why? Optional bonus question: should I just wait until GW2?

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Goodbye Spellslinging, Hello, erm, spellslinging?

I've made my decision. I'm going to shelve my WoW account, and sign up to City of Heroes.

I no longer have any kind of longing to log into WoW. My belf rogue is kinda petering out of interesting things to do; I did go to Wailing Caverns (one of my favorite instances in the game) with her, but the newbie zone has run out of interesting things and now consists of 'clear this village of foozles'.

My mage ran out of interesting things to do as soon as my guild collapsed and there was no more Karazhan to run. Seriously, Karazhan is good fun, provided the group your with knows what their doing and has a good leadership. I've been on runs where we cleared everything and runs where we wiped on Moroes all night, the difference being who was running it.

My twink, who I never got around to blogging about, also got shelved when my guild collapsed, as there was noone to bug to run her through various instances to pick up the gear she needs.

I doubt I'll get WLK, see previous posts for why. If they reitemize Naxxramas to be the Karazhan of Northrend, I may be more interested, but I get the feeling that they won't; Blizzard say their statistics show Kara is the most popular instance, but I get the feeling thats because a 10 man raid is so much simpler to put together, easier to organise and plain out more fun than a 25 man. If they make Naxx 25 man, they've missed the point entirely.

So on to CoH. Much as it kinda bugs me, I expect I'll delete the main I currently have, and restart exactly the same character. Primarily because I buggered up in skill selection, partly because I want to tweak the costume a bit, and a little because they managed to make leveling fun.

Also, a teency bit of 'I want that newbie zone kill 100 dudes badge'. Damn, badges >_>

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Emerald Dream

I've been thinking about what I'd like from an expansion for WoW, and had the following thought:

I'd use the Emerald Dream, and make it an overlay on Azeroth: mostly the same ground map, but with different doodads. The Kalimdor and Eastern Dreams would each have a selection of content ranging from, probably, 20-80. I'd put portals between particularly 'green' zones, for example Ashenvale, Feralas, Felwood, assorted other places, and these zones would be about the equivilent of the portaled from zone. The less natural zones, Plaguelands, Desolace etc, would be corrupt areas, at higher levels. The Blasted Lands and the Black Portal would overlap both worlds.

The terrain would be fixed to allow flying mounts, both in the Dream, and in Azeroth proper as they're using the same terrain data. Populate the dream with, say, the remaining good parts of the Green Dragonflight, the Cenarion Circle, maybe a couple of new factions. Throw a selection of new instances accross the whole level range, including a couple of dungeons at equivilent to (not harder than) the highest stuff from the previous expansion.

Presto. Lots of birds with one stone. Percieved downside by Blizzard: no increase to level cap. But throw in a druidic hero class, maybe find something else that can be made a hero class, and there's your artificially extended playtime.

I fully expect that none of this will happen, but if I had my way! *shakes fist*

Monday, 6 August 2007

Obligatory Lich King Post

I seem to like covering the 'if you've been hiding under a rock' posts, so if you don't know what I'm refering to in the title of this post, I'm sure you can find out plenty more on basically all the sites linked to the right.

Frankly, I'm not impressed. Woo, another ten levels. Good point: more leveling, as thats what Blizzard seems to be best at. Bad point: mise well give up raiding again.

Woo, hero class requires repeating content that you have to have done at least once through.

I think it says a lot that two of the headline features are 'change your hairstyle' and 'new dances'. Great. Could we get some actual useful gameplay please?

My plan for WLK is the following: Get in the beta, see everything, go back to leveling my rogue. If it turns out that its a carbon copy of TBC with 'weird and wonderful' swapped for 'snow and trees', then I won't bother getting it at all I expect.

The one 'feature' that stands out the most to me as 'broken mechanic' is an increase in the skill cap to 450. Surely thats just mudflation staring out of the feature list? If my 375 skill tailoring gear lasts me to 75, the level that 375 skill equates to, I'll be very surprised.

tl;dr version: not impressed, probably won't buy.