Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Starting afresh

I'm sure that someone, somewhere, will have gone on at length about how important newbie zones are. After all, they're the first thing people see of your game.

Last week I started playing WoW again, and have no progressed to the lofty heights of, well, level 15 or so. I thought I'd play through the only bit of content I've not really seen, the Blood Elf starting zones (which I had seen, but only passing through to kill the Blood Elf leaders on my mage), so I thought I should comment on them a bit.

In short, I'm incredibly impressed. I'm certain that its the best newbie zone in the game; not from any one huge and obvious thing, but all the small things together.

For example, I've already sold a bag from not being able to equip it, due to receiving ample bag-space from quests. I was level 12 by the time I'd finished the quests in the 1-10 zone, Eversong Woods, and I think I missed one or two. It all flows nicely together. It doesn't hurt that it all looks rather good as well.

Having now arrived in the 10-20 zone, the Ghostlands, I've started running the quests there as well. These are also well designed, explaining why the Blood Elves are dealing with the Forsaken, and not requiring you to run from one end of the barrens to another (hello Mulgore's "go to the Crossroads" quest).

A post on MMOG Nation suggests that the next expansion should be a revamp of the old world to TBC standards (or better), and I totally agree with this, especially with the newbie zones — I poked at the troll and undead starting zones as well, and neither of them seem quite as consistent and easy to run as the belf one, especially with the lack of quests giving bags. I also seem to remember coming out of newbie zones at level 9 plenty of times before, never more than 10.

In other news, having rolled a rogue, white damage is quite the epiphany to a mage. Passive damage? Yes please!

Thursday, 19 July 2007


I've not logged onto WoW in a couple of weeks. Well, not entirely true; I've logged on to check mail, see if any of my guild are actually there, then logged off again.

Seriously, its a horrible game.


No really, it is. Yet I've played it for about two years now. Why? People.

I was quite happy farming away runecloth and felcloth back before TBC, and netherweave, Scryer rep, and any number of motes after. I ran instances (when a group would actually end up forming). I raided. But all the time I was keeping an eye on guild chat. When the guild disbanded, that was it, my will to keep playing stopped. I could've found another guild and kept doing the same, but it couldn't keep my interest.

I think I'm going to give it one more chance on an alt. I have quite a few lying around. My main server has no spare slots left yet only one character above about level 10 and no characters above 18. I can't stand the Alliance zones at that level. They're too seperate and not questful enough. The level 18 is a Dranei, who leveled in the new zones.

I have several Horde characters at similar levels, and am actually more interested in playing that side. People can decry the barrens all they want, but I think it's Good Design™. Its a single place where you can actually get through enough levels to be powerful enough to go to more quest-populated zones. If you get bored of quests, theres an instance slap in the middle of the zone, which is right in the middle of the zone level range as well.

In fact, Horde leveling in general seems to be more friendly. A very low level instance, no crappy stockades, easy access to Shadowfang Keep, Scarlet Monastry (great instance, or greatest instance?) and the Razorfens, and the huge Barrens.

I think I'll roll up a Blood Elf, the only low level content I haven't seen, and see how it goes. If it doesn't grab me, its probably cancellation time.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The revenge of casual gaming!

City of $character is different. It appears to have taken out the crap. And considering its the same age as many of the current 'mainstream' games, eg WoW and EQ2, I don't know where the latter went wrong.

There's very little worry about downtime, maybe I'll have to rest every few fights. No need for assist trains, just target the tank and your offensive abilities hit eir target. No fighting over loot, you just get it. Everyone is unique, both in looks and abilities. The equivilent of potions drop like candy, you lose out if you don't use them every fight. No serious messing around requiring 'class balance', people do a bit of everything; besides everyone has more 'health potions' and 'defense potions' than they know what to do with, and possibly an awaken or two if it all goes horribly wrong.

Above all: its fun!

Wait wait wait, did I just insinuate that other MMOs aren't fun? Well, I challenge you to find me one that lets me throw lamp-posts and photocopiers and hospital beds at my enemies. Where else can you fly at level 6? (yay, flight!)

I'm probably about halfway through my trial now, and I'm very seriously considering subscribing. I logged onto WoW last night, saw that there was hardly anyone on my guild online and logged off again — there's not much fun to be had without a bunch of other people, just grinding gold, gear or reagents.

Another difference is the lack of numbers. There aren't any numbers to say 'you are this tough', or 'you hit this hard'. I figure I have about 100hp, based on the numbers that pop up above my head when I take a hit for about half my health. I don't have a clue how much endurance (aka mana) I have, but it doesn't matter because I don't know how much my abilities cost either. One upshot of this is that, although it can be done, there's not much point in trying to optimise everything; sure pick stuff thats good, but might as well get the fun stuff thats good as well.

Maybe it changes nearer the endgame, but I've already got a villain lined up to play, and I'm sure it wouldn't take 5 minutes to create a different hero. Maybe a melee class or a healer, not something I usually do. Oh, I could have a fire themed dude with robot parts! Actually, I wonder if there's some kind of fire-like mutation I could use. Ah, plant parts! I wonder what I could do with them...

Maybe this'll take a bit longer than 5 minutes...

Friday, 6 July 2007

Gender and you

On my RSS feed I have a recent post to Kill Ten Rats that gets truncated to 'Did We Mention You Can Play As A Chick...', which, not only means something completely different from what the article's about, but is on my list of things to talk about as well; as material for this first paragraph is the second hardest thing I come to write, having it on a plate makes my decision of topic a lot easier!

On the internets, everyone is anonymous, beyond a handle and in some cases an avatar. I'm male (free information!), but as you might be able to tell from my banner, in WoW I play a female avatar. What you can't tell from the banner is that I still play under a male name.

In my (now ex-) guild, we had a couple of actual real life girls. Shocking, I know! Even still, there were roughly even proportions of male and female avatars, and mostly non-gender-specific handles. Nobody found this odd, and sometimes didn't even know that the female players were female, despite the avatar.

Now my original character in WoW was a shaman. A troll male in fact. My first mage was a male undead. When I rerolled to alliance (to join my friends on a different server), I rolled a female mage. Why? Well, I wanted to be human for the racials, but seriously, the male avatars are ridiculous. I admit they look pretty good in nice hefty plate armour, swinging a big sword/axe/polearm/10lb catfish around, but put one in a dress casting spells and he looks silly. In my opinion, the same is true of a lot of races in WoW; my alts are all the gender that seems the best for the class (eg: male warriors and shamans, female casters and rogues)

In CoH I started out with a female, but after starting to play, decided I didn't actually like the costume I'd made once she was running around, so started again. I also tried the huge body, but ended up with a sensibly-built male (magic corrupter, gravity/kinetic). In EVE I play a female because there're more interesting customisations to be made.

In my experience, people assume everyone in MMOs, and in fact on the internet in general, is male, regardless of avatar. Although I try to use the correct gender for people I talk to (and use Spivak pronouns if I don't know), it really doesn't fuss me which gender someone's avatar is. I chose a male handle mostly because it didn't occur to me not to, but partly because people refer to me as male because of it: my avatar actually gets ignored gender-wise. I don't really see why its such a big deal.

In other news, two posts in one day, wtf?

A different type of heroic

So what with a lack of things to do in WoW, I thought I'd branch out and experiment a bit with other games.

I've noted I'm already playing a bit of EVE. Its an interesting game, and I can't quite figure it out. It needs micromanaging in the sense that you need to log on every $skillTrainingTime to keep your advancement going, but also need to grind up money as otherwise that skill training doesn't do anything. Combat so far (what with being before my first clone upgrade of skills) consists of orbit at 3km, throw on my afterburner, lock on, fire all weapons, wash, rinse, repeat.

It looks shiny, and I'm only about a week into my (admittedly third) trial, so I'll see how it goes.

Last night I also tried City of $character, having managed to find a trial key thanks to Van Hemlock. A 2 gig download later, a quick registration and I'm looking at the character creation screen. Probably half an hour later, I'm still looking at it. The customisation is silly in its potential.

I've now created 5 different characters, 4 heroes and 1 villain, and only actually played one out of the tutorial. Although a couple have been fairly goofy and not been something I particularly want to keep playing, its good fun just to play around with the creator and see what can be done with it.

The gameplay is very refreshing coming from WoW, no stopping to loot, very little stopping to rest and fast(ish) travel by default, plus it looks a lot more fun - throwing people into the air and letting them fall is a bit more interesting than just pewpewing with fireballs and frostbolts! But I'll give a more thorough look over it, along with EVE, once I've got a bit more experience with the thing.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

On endgames

I have nothing to do in WoW.

Thats a complete lie of course. What I mean is I have nothing entertaining to do. I could grind money, primals, rep, whatever. I could attempt to run heroics, probably peaking at 3 members (lacking a tank or healer) over a couple of hours while doing the former before the group collapses.

See, I'm no longer in a guild. Childish leadership and a bad attitude meant I left a raid early and got kicked. Not the point.

The point is of course that without 4-24 other people, there isn't really a meaningful way of advancing. Sure I could join a pick-up kara or somesuch, but I doubt that's a good idea. Pick-ups, in my experience, take forever for anything to happen.

So now what do I do? I'm playing EVE again, and I spend my adventures in Kingdom of Loathing every day, do I even need to keep playing WoW?

My thought is that I'd like to run a guild. Yeah, like thats going to happen, or even be a sensible idea. The problem is that I'm casualcore (to misremember a phrase from somewhere I've forgotten). I play plenty, but not to the extent of ignoring real life. I can't make the raiding schedule of real hardcore guilds, but I want to go kill the bosses every so often. A guildful if people like that means you've got the same mindset, but probably never the same group twice
as people are away doing real-life-y things.

I think the move to 25 man raids has alleviated this problem a little, as it means you don't need as many people in the same place at the same time, but another 10 man would be nice

Of course recently the people have been the reason to log into the game — grinding isn't fun — and being able to get a similar group of people will be the thing that determines whether or not I particularly want to keep playing.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Worst. Change. Evar.

Of course, if you read official forums, every change is the above. Every single time.

I don't buy it of course, as every change kills every class, profession, ability or item out there.

(Incidentally, hello again, I hadn't realised I hadn't posted in so long, but I actually have interesting stuff to say again now!)

Recently, I journeyed back to my original MMO, Kingdom of Loathing. When I got back into it, it was in the middle of a countdown to their biggest content addition for two years or so, so it was interesting for me trying to catch up in how the hell the game works again. When the, basically, expansion was released, I then had to un-de-relearn everything again.

The new content I've come across so far is thusly: lots of new zones, more monsters, new quests in old zones, new unlockable stuff in old zones, changes to some items, changes to skills.

Man, listening to chat, or reading the forums, you'd be forgiven for missing the first 5 things in that list. People were acting like the sky was falling, the Earth was crumbling and the internet was switching off, all at the same time.

I found a thread on the WoW forums about a change to elemental resistance potions decrying how they were now useless because of the reduced duration of the effect. I've found similar threads decrying changes in EVE.

People seem to completely overlook the point of these changes: usually, they make sense, either for balance purposes or for narative purposes or just for plain old consistency. But take away someone's favorite toy and they'll complain until they're blue in the face.

I changed my playstyle of Kingdom of Loathing after a couple of weeks of playing due to the change in mechanics, and the new method was a lot more fun than the old one, only for a lot of people it wasn't the same old dull playstyle as it had been for months, so they complained. None of this finding interesting, fun, new ways of doing things.

Man I hate people, can't they just see the good in something new for once?