Thursday, 31 July 2008

Micro-transactions and the West

While I was mooching around buying Nightfall to expand my Guild Wars horizons, I noticed a couple of interesting things in the GW store. Specifically, for six of your English pounds (approximately $11.75, €7.50 (although priced at €9 and $10, so tough luck Europe I guess)), you can buy unlocked skills from each campaign.

To clarify for those not in 'the know'; in Guild Wars, once you learn a skill for the first time, it's unlocked and can be used by your pvp characters and heroes, and trained on your roleplay characters more easily through tomes. To learn the skill, with the exception of some basic skills you get when you start a character, you have to pay an increasing amount of gold, as well as a skill point, which you get through some quests and from filling up your XP bar once you hit the level cap (20). This can get quite expensive, when you consider there are 1235 skills in the game.

But with these unlocks in the stores, you can unlock a quarter or so of these for six pounds, times five for each campaign plus core plus the Eye of the North expansion, for £30 ($50, €45) you can unlock all the skills. My opinion: I'd rather just buy the campaign/expansions and do the hard graft to get the skills I want; I doubt I need all of them anyway.

But while I was looking, there's also the extra character slot at the same price. This is much more tempting. Although I currently have a couple of spare slots, I can see myself buying more once I run out. And there are a couple of other PvP-y things you can buy as well: not for me, but I'm sure some people must use them.

City of Heroes also lets people buy more character slots, but as far as I can tell, that's it for Western micro-transactions. (Yes, World of Warcraft sells character transfers and name changes, but thats a money-grab, not micro-transactions (no controversial opinions on this blog, no-siree).) Of course, both are owned by NCSoft, and Guild Wars has both a very different business model and very different game style from other mainstream Western MMOs; I'm still intrigued as to how many people feel its worth roughly three beers to not have to do fuss with skill unlocks, and whether its possible for other games to follow their lead with similar things for purchase. Maybe its worth six pounds to skill up to 350 in a profession in World of Warcraft, of for some number of extra skill points in EVE, looking at things that may have a similar time and in-game cost to the skill unlocks.

I think its a reasonable idea, but somehow suspect people would disagree with me.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

I Will Survive

The Tuesday N00b Club: Survivor Edition

Last night saw the beginning of a worryingly hardcore endeavor: reach 1337500 XP in Guild Wars without dying. Not once.

To add to the fun, this is in Nightfall, which I've not done yet, so I don't know the tricks to the missions to do them without dying.

Fortunately, some of the less n00bish of the Tuesday N00bs do know what they're doing, so I guess I cede to their superior knowledge. Or something.

I actually started this rather daunting task last week, creating a fresh dervish and running him through the tutorial zone for an easy level up, and to start out on my explorer track as well, as you can't get back into the Factions tutorial zone. 'Might as well,' thought I, 'at least it gives me a backup title if this one goes tits up.'

First thing on the Survivors to-do list was the first mission. Actually, the first thing was to form groups. Off we split into two groups of four, or a group of four and one of three. And then we jiggled, and shimmied - well, maybe not shimmying - as it turned out you need to take a hero into that mission. Then the mission itself, which was easy as falling off a log.

Next up was The Ferry: getting someone to take us into a later zone. Apparently, there's some glitch in GW where higher level characters can take lower level characters in their group into certain zones they shouldn't be in by that point using a quest. This zone then has a vendor for endgame armor, which is handy when you're second level and don't want to die.

Unfortunately, some of the noobier of us didn't really get what was going on at this point, and, besides, didn't have the gold required to buy the awesome armor anyway, so I just let the group leader map travel around until it was time to start killing things again.

Then we killed some things, and did some quests. Yay for things I understand! Very careful killing of things, with some slightly nervous pulls at times, but nothing our intrepid trio plus Koss couldn't manage, and after carefully managing our XP gain, we found ourselves having killed enough that the quests we had would push us over into level 5 once we handed them in, which is considerably safer than killing things, so we did.

This is where we stopped for the night, but now comes the tinkering of secondary professions. Several people advocated a monk secondary for some heals, but the dervish is already the veritable mage-tank of yore; strong in melee with a bunch of heals, if not the healing focus of the monk. It seemed a little like overkill to grab monk for heals as well, especially as I suspect most of the survivors will do the same. So that decision's still to be made, but I've got a couple of ideas ruminating, and by next week I should have it all sorted.

Also for next week, I need to find some better songs from which to pinch lyrics for the blog post titles for the series.

I'll show you a dead horse

I found it interesting browsing my feeds this morning just how much bloggers repeat themselves.

Keen was (and the entire comments thread besides Cuppy) slavishly fanboying over WAR, despite the game not being out. Again. And yes I know betas, but saying 'WAR is not WoW' leads directly to the quote about Age of Conan in Zero Punctuation because yes it is, thats the way games markets work.

Tobold was discussing the merits of grouping, or lack thereof, in WoW. The specific thing that caught my eye was the numbers for the grouping exp boost, which I'm sure he's posted before in a similar context.

Shamus regularly posts about DRM being the devil and wrong, which is correct, but preaching to the choir a bit by now.

Maybe I'm generalising a bit, but it was still funny to see Keen posting an image from Penny Arcade about beating a dead horse, while doing exactly the same himself.

Friday, 25 July 2008

The State of Play

I probably mentioned waaaaay back when I started this blog that my main character was my WoW mage, and probably mentioned the term 'frost 4 life'.

Yeah, that didn't last too long.

Magey is now an arcane/frost build, after I realised that a couple of gear ever-so-slight downgrades, coupled with a respec would increase my damage considerably. I now do slightly scary amounts of damage spamming arcane blast, and still high but slightly more reasonable damage with a more sensible rotation that doesn't leave me out of mana in about 30 seconds.

New additions to the character stable:

I now have a druid, my third level-capped character in an MMO (more on the second in a bit) and second in WoW. Currently a feral tank, but, as noted previously, my gear is at a point on the curve that's dead on my server. I'm eyeing switching to moonkin spec when Wrath of Lich King hits, and I've got a couple of pieces of Windhawk gear in case I get really tired of the lack of tanking before then. Although primal drop rates are the devil.

Third and fourth in the WoW stable are my hunter and warlock, both just bought their mounts (yay for patches!). The warlock I'm leveling with my girlfriend (shadowpriest) on the same server as my druid, and the hunter is on the same server as my mage to be a mining/sharder. All I have to say on these ones really is that pet classes are silly. That is all.

In other territories: I've recently got back into Guild Wars, prompted by me remembering to get online for the Tuesday Noob Club, me being the Axe Ranger (and don't listen to that Hemlock bloke, axes are far better than bows and pets and that kind of rubbish). This would be my second level capped character, but in Guild Wars you get that before you're halfway through the story. I also have a shiny new dervish to join the (upcoming) TUE Nightfall Survivor. Which should be interesting.

I still have City of Heroes/Villains installed, both US and EU, but am not currently subscribed; the mid levels are very repetitive grindy, which has kind of put me off. I love my gravity/electric Dominator, but playing him is hard work, which isn't really what it should be like. I'm interested to see what Champions will do in this respect, as it looks like they have a much wider range of locales in the preview.

I'm also playing TF2 (primary class: medic, second class: engi, third: pyro), Super Smash Brothers Brawl (mostly Kirby, although Zelda, Sonic and Pikachu also get frequent plays) and planning out D&D adventures, as well as planning out characters to play in that (current count of characters I want to play: 4), but I'm usually the DM, so they might take a while to get through.

Hopefully more frequent posts to follow, including some on podcasts, leveling, and upcoming games.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Who's to blame?

In an interesting turn of events, I just got evicted from a group. Context:

In an alternate life, I'm a bear tonk. I have enough armor/defense/hp to tank heroics. Just about. I'm still in blues and greens, but that's good enough, as you start getting epics in heroics.

The others in my group were all Tier 5+. This means they're a full two sets of gear above the gear I'm at. So on the first pull, chain lightnings went flying all over the place, and I lost agro lots. Who gets blamed? I do, for being undergeared.

However: I have nearly the best gear a bear tank can have before starting heroics. I'm missing a couple of group quest rewards (blech), but could survive the damage. The only way for me to improve my gear is to.... run heroics.

Now, if I was on my mage, now happy at over 1000 spell damage in T5+ gear and was grouped with a fresh tank, I'd be using less powerful abilities less of the time. I'd be tempering my damage to the threat available, probably surfing the 30% above the tank's I have to play with. I'd still be doing damage comparable to what's expected for the instance, just less than rushing through it with an awesome group.

Am I the only one who wants to be a group player? Seems everyone just wants to mash their worky buttons with no regard to anyone else.

Also, zomg updates!

Friday, 18 July 2008


Beta patch notes are up

Just wanted to be the first person on my RSS to report it :)