Thursday, 21 June 2007

Ooh drama!

What with the recent developments in the World of Warcraft attunements, I thought I'd throw in my two copper.

For those burried under a rock, attunements are a way of artificially limiting who can enter a raid zone. I believe the theory goes thussly: if you're powerful enough to kill Jim McEvil, then you can probably kill Jim McEvil's boss. Therefore, we will insert a quest to kill Jim before you are allowed to kill his boss, because otherwise the progression is screwy (unless his boss turns out to be a lich and can give Jim orders to throw you (and your 9/24/39 friends) down even when dead). WoW has just changed its two midlevel raid zones to not need attunement, when previously they did.

I think its a stupid change.

To clarify, the old system was also partly stupid.

Although the point of the exercise is to make it more accessible to more people, I think its going to disillusion them more. Now the change is live, I expect lots of guilds are having mass wipe-a-thons in SSC or The Eye, purely because they can, instead of sensibly gearing up so they don't get their asses kicked.

Because I've put far too much thought into this, here's what I think the attunements should be like:

Karazhan: Stay as it is. Need to run four instances (oh noes!), with the main quest giver being in Shattrath, where everybody 'lives' in TBC anyway.

SSC: Move the quest giver to somewhere more accessible (more on this later). Otherwise can stay the same. You can't kill Gruul without the same number of people as you need to go to SSC, and you can't do much in SSC without having got some gear from Gruul or Karazhan (not that 10 man to 25 is a good progresion system, but thats not the point of the exercise)

The Eye: Change it. Shred it. Dismantle it. Make it need a Mag kill and a Prince or Netherspite kill. Or something. The pre-quest line can stay I guess, but needing to go to heroics is just a dick move.

Heroics are silly. You need the key (making the attunement 'run this instance lots of times, then do the following:') that not everyone will have. You need 5 people with vastly different class propotions to a 25 man raid. And people don't want to do them like they do raids. There have been several times that my guild has had 5 people go to Slave Pens, where the quest giver for SSC attunement is, get as far as the dude, then have anyone who needs to get or hand in the quest join that instance, so they don't have to bother doing it themselves.

In my mind, heroics should be disconnected from raiding, and a second, distinct progresion route, complementing the raiding and pvp routes: raid to get maximal primary role abilty (dps, tanking, healing, whatever); pvp to get survivability and, well, pvp gear; heroics to get 'utility' gear, for example, shorter frost nova cooldown, more chill duration and a big mana pool for crazy kiting ability.

I fully expect people would still complain that people shouldn't get free epixxxx from heroics, because then nobody would raid, but in theory they shouldn't, as each progression is for a different job, and there's a completely viable progression route for small guilds that isn't merge with a big guild and raid all night.

I also expect its never going to happen with the current thinking behind MMOs, but its nice to dream

Monday, 18 June 2007

Don't buy 64 bit yet :)

Some time ago, I think it was just before Easter, my sound drivers spontaneously stopped working. "No problem!" thought I, "I'll just reinstall them!"

If that had worked, this would be a far less interesting blog post.

After digging through the disks that came with my pc, I found the driver disk, reinstalled the driver, and booted up media player. Still no sound drive. "Curious," thought I, "time for a different tack."

I've contemplated the move to Linux for quite a while, never really getting around to it because, well, WinXP did what I wanted it to do, so why bother learning a new OS?

Since this no longer held, time to apt-get my new OS (nB: process changed in this paragraph for DRAMA!)

So after some advice from a Linux-running friend, I scooted on over to the Kubuntu website and downloaded the live-cd/install disk iso. First stumbling block: I don't have a cd writing drive. I could've sworn I did, but never mind. Ship it to the network drive and get my housemate to burn it.

The actuall process of the install was nice and simple. Boot the computer from the cd, click 'install' on the desktop, follow the instructions (being careful not to nuke my windows partition from orbit when creating the new ones I'd need), a tada! Done!

Rebooting the machine got me to a nice splash sreen and a desktop on one of my monitors. Hmm. Next step: get the other monitor working. Download the nVidia proprietry drivers. Edit xorg.conf. Both monitors now working! (although I do have a region of desktop that my mouse can move into but I can't see as my monitors are different sizes)

Boot the console. sudo apt-get wine so that I can get my gaming fix. Copy WoW over onto my Linux partition so I can run it. wine ~/WoW/WoW.exe


Well, thats not strictly true. I actually got a bunch of error messages.

Now I have a 64 bit pc. I downloaded 64 bit Kubuntu. There are people advocating Linux as the OS for the 64 bit era. Seriously, its not going to happen yet. Wine froze up and died because it couldn't find the 32 bit libraries. Or something like that anyway. To be fair to Linux, I've had a fair share of stuff that didn't work under 64 bit XP, so probably just don't buy that 64 bit pc yet. Back to the drawing board and my windows partition.

My next download of Linux was 32 bit, installed perfectly, but couldn't see the internet. Kind of a bugger. The third install worked pretty well, except for the fact that I couldn't find any graphics drivers that worked.

Eventually I got my Linux-savvy friend to come and poke my Linux until it worked. It took a morning of poking through obscure functions and google searches for help, but eventually, everything worked.

Then I rebooted my computer and it stopped working.

Come on guys, you aren't going to sell Linux to the masses like this!

The story ends quite nicely though. It turns out that I need to reinstall my graphics driver every time I switch my computer on, due to a mismatch between kernel versions on my graphics driver. Once its on, it works perfectly, so now I'm just testing how much up-time I can get out of it. I now have a complete and working version of WoW running on Linux (although apparently the video options menu causes a crash, shows how much I use that menu). OK it took me until this weekend to get mods to save their information (turns out I need to run sudo wine ~/WoW/WoW.exe), but it all works. Except ventrilo. Anyway.

The moral of the story, if it can be called a moral, is kinda two-fold.

Firstly, at the people developing Linux: it all needs to be user-friendlier if its going to get widespread acceptance. The only way we got my pc working was through judicious editting of xorg.conf, and only then after quite a lot of trial and error. Once you know what to add, its easy (and I could do it again in about 5 minutes), but up until that point, less tech-savvy people aren't going to have a clue, and just give up. I did!

Secondly, at the people thinking of switching to Linux: do it, it's less painful than you think!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Two arms, two legs and one head? Bah!

I seem to suffer from creativity. I have Ideas. Lots of them.

An example: when I was maybe 15, I created with a friend a collectable card game. We started of with our concept, developed some rules, mocked up some cards, started playtesting, tweaked cards, then gave up because we discovered the concept already existed and had done for several years. Damn (sub-lesson: do your research). I started thinking about how I could do a space version of Kingdom of Loathing, but stopped when I figured they were probably working on it already (disclaimer: they might not be). And so it goes on.

Fortunately, I have outlets for this constant churn of ideas: I create scores of D&D characters, usually distinct concepts, although mostly casters, and the germ of some kind of backstory in my mind. Then I forget about them when the next big idea comes along.

More recently, having started reading various MMO blogs, I've had a craving to design my own. It’s not going to fly obviously; I doubt any studios will want to spend copious amounts of money on the vision of anyone (especially after Sigil), let alone a 19 year-old with no game design experience. But I'm creating concepts and mechanics and the like, and trying to force it into some kind of design document. At the moment it’s little more than a set of post-its with information on.

A couple of years back, somewhere in the churn was a campaign world. In the depths of my mind exists a world of sub-tropical islands, lit by suns formed of pure mana, inhabited by several races. The thing is, every race in MMOs at the moment seems to be elves/dwarves/gnomes/orcs/[generic fantasy creature X]. Maybe a couple of anthropomorphic creatures (ugh). Screw that. I want weird creatures with 4 legs and no discernable body. I want races with asymmetric builds. I want races with two sets of arms and vestigial legs that are for balance not propulsion.

What I want most right now is Spore.

I've a couple of ideas for pretty unique races (see above), but they'd never see light in any mainstream game, because of how outright weird I like things. I'm sure (at least I hope) that I'm not alone, and from the sounds of the hype surrounding Spore I'm probably not. Spore doesn't even seem to be purely a game as a creative tool. I know that I'll be using it to populate D&D worlds with monsters (probably aberrations), and I'd stick some of the designs in my game that won't get made (think of all the fun with equipment slots! tangible reasons to pick a race ("Ah, as a Codzilla you'll want the second hat slot form playing a Hoozitz, but if you want to be a Foozle-Slayer you basically need the leg slots from being a Doohickey, and don't worry, you don't need the boot slot if you do" (on second thought that’s a bad idea (I've managed insanely stacked parentheses again =/))))

Hopefully a game will come out that doesn't rely on the elf/dwarf/human/orc/X paradigm, but I'm not going to hold my breath. But when it does, it'll be nice to see some originality of design for once; there's only so many creatures that can be stolen before one world merges into the next.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

You gain blink

It may (or may not) be obvious that play a mage in WoW. If it isn't, it will be once I change the ghastly green (and arbitrary alliteration) at the top of this page. Mages are awesome. You get to keep doing things all the time, none of this 'not enough rage', or auto attacking. Well, when soloing anyway. In raids its a bit different; I get to pop some trinkets, chug some mana pots, throw down my water elemental and fire frostbolts for the most part.

Of course there are exceptions. Case in point: Gruul.

Ah shatter, how I loathe thee. What with my puny health (being a mage and all), being close to more than a couple of people kills me dead. Of course, I have this handy way of getting 20 yards from anyone. I'm not allowed to use it.


Nor are the rogues allowed to use cloak of shadows, or the paladins bubble. No-one listens of course, and every set of attempts there're arguments about it with the guild leader.

I believe the reasoning goes something like this:


Yeah, these things happen, but more often than not I take no damage from shatter when I blink. Its not the blink (/CoS/Bubble) that causes the problems, but the lack of aim. Anyway, we decided in our mage channel that its probably more an envy thing; they don't get to reposition themselves after groundslam, but we don't get to... erm.. stare at health bars? Spam sunders?

Its like telling the hunters not to FD, or the tanks not to sunder/maul/consecrate (I'm guessing on that last one, but yes, we have a pally MT sometimes). Its a useful part of our veritable utility belt of skills. I feel the same way when, say, a hunter gets told not to use a pet at the beginning of an instance.

If a player knows what they're doing, they should use whatever abilities they need to to do their job; otherwise how can they do it to their best?

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Forst pist!

So this is what blogging feels like then? How bizarre.

I suppose if you're here you'd like to know a bit about me, and about why I'm writing a blog. Well obviously because its what all the cool kids do!

But seriously; since I discovered the MMO section of the blogosphere - aside: I'm in my third paragraph and I hate the buzzwords already - I've aquired a folder of RSS feeds to various places: usually there're some deep thoughts and what have you going on in them. I'd quite like to get my ideas out there and under consideration. Maybe it'll filter back to the people who can do something about it (nerf range on deathcoil and resists on felhunter plzkthx).

Also, socialising is fun!

A bit about me and my MMO experience is perhaps required: I'm a noob, and I bet you don't here that said that often.

My first MMO, technically, was Kingdom of Loathing. It's Rather Good™. Since then, I've... er... played WoW. My friend at school got me into it maybe 18 months ago, and I've not really looked back, although I have looked forward somewhat.

Interesting aside: Before I knew anything about the game, I wanted to be a mage. When I started playing, I played a shaman, as I (thought I) knew a bit more about the game. Anyway, 40-something levels later, I got bored of hiting autoattack and rank 1 earthshock every 6 seconds, and dabbled in other classes. My main is now a mage. Heh.

I'm in a casual raiding guild, currently fiddling around in Karazhan, Gruul, and starting Serpentshrine as soon as enough people are attuned. I'm deep frost, a (shadoweave) tailor, and a (gnomish) engineer. I don't have much gold, oddly enough.

I've also beta'd Vanguard, for all of the 3 minutes it took for me to give up on how laggy and buggy it was on my computer. I've played EVE for the 14 day trial twice, but neither time had the motivation to pay for a corrupt game, what with dev involvement in BoB and so on. On the horrizon, I'm interested in WAR, and have signed up for the beta lottery or whatever it is they're calling it. I'm also, pondering picking up Guild Wars to see what thats like.

I do research. Example: I know what loot I want from what bosses. I know where the gems I want are. I knew which ship I wanted, and therefore which skills I wanted, and therefore what stats I wanted, and therefore which race I wanted before I even started to play EVE.

I'm intrigued by design. I'd love to work in the business, and I brim with ideas (current thoughts: modular classes, steampunk, non-anthropomorphic races). Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to break in, and won't be for a few years yet. Reading about it is still fun (classes over skills btw)

Anyway, this is probably more info than anybody really wants to know about me at this point. Also, blogger template is rather nice, but ugly in green. Might have to tinker with it somewhat. Then steal the css sheet for my own purposes.