Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Blog Spotlight: Casual Aggro

I thought I might start a new category of posts, in which I focus on a fellow blogger and maybe a recent post they have done that I particularly like. Heh, typing that makes me think of the QOTD posts, though for those I usually focus on a specific statement that may not be part of a blog. Any posts of this sort will be tagged "Spotlight."

A new friend, guildie, and fellow blogger I "met" through the New Blogger Initiative, @BigMikeyOcho of Casual Aggro, posts interesting thoughts on MMOs and players. That he has similar tastes and playstyle to my own helps a lot in my opinion of his opinions. ><

Yesterday, Ocho posted about the elements he feels make up a good Foundry Mission (player designed) in STO:
  • Story: Has to frame the actions of the Player Character well. Provide sufficient motivation (besides game rewards).
  • Balance Not too much talky, not too much action.
  • Believability The actions of the PC should not conflict with the Player's concept of the Character.
  • Detail The environment of the mission should fit the story. Also, proofread! Then proofread again! Then have someone else proofread!
  • Time The length of the mission should be commensurate with the reward. Not too long, nor too short.
I'm not sure what other games allow for the sort of player-designed quests the way STO does. However, professional game designers would do well to follow the advice Ocho provides for player/designers. Some do a better job at this than others.

Anyway, Ocho has a great natural voice as he writes. I enjoy reading his posts about the various aspects of games he is currently playing. Check out his stuff over at Casual Aggro.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quoting a QOTD: Big Damn Heroes and Mary Sues

“I love Ree, I love her work in building the world of GW2, I love a number of the other characters I’ve come across, I just don’t love me.  I’m too perfect, too good.  To all-star hot-shot knows-it-all.  Sure everyone wants to be that, but here’s the exciting part; we’re not!!  And it’s in trying to be better where our stories become interesting, not in being super-duper off the bat.  In RP, we call such characters ‘Mary Sues.’”
This issue is something that a lot of people seem to be interested in. I myself have bloviated at length on the subject. Whether the sentiments reflected in Syp's comments section are in line with the majority of MMO players is a mystery; but many—if not most—games have taken the opposite tack, making the player character the Big Damn Hero of the game world.

Needless to say, this topic is something near and dear to me. In GW2, I mostly ignore the characterization of my characters in the story cut-scenes. The game is fun, and the world has a rich history, but is rather light on the individual storytelling, from what I have seen. Being the "light reading" game in my current rotation, I am not too concerned about the lack of depth in this regard. Not every game story has to be War and Peace or Lord of the Rings. Much of the time it's fine to have a little fun with The Princess Bride or Stardust.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fun or Un-fun; Or, Can We Support Innovation Wherever We Find It?


The online debate still rages over what to do about The Secret World. It's an innovative game that many people find un-fun. Lono of Screaming Monkey thinks we send a bad message to the MMO development community by not supporting innovation where we find it. Kemwer rightly points out that the only reason ever to support an endeavor of this sort is that you enjoy playing. Syl over at Raging Monkeys then expounds on the fact that TSW is not the sort of place one would want to settle down in.
Does TSW deserve our money and time? Tobold's Homo economicus says no. I say H.economicus may not have all the info he needs. I am not talking about the people who have tried the game and not liked it. I am talking about the people who might like TSW, but have not been reached, whether because they misunderstood the marketing, were scared away by negativity, or simply haven't heard of the game. For that, the game needs time, and a better understanding of the target audience. It may need lower barriers to entry (read: F2P). Ultimately, we may decide it does not deserve our time and money, and that's OK. What is fun or is not fun is highly subjective. I don't argue that TSW deserves some kind of charity.

I don't play LOTRO because ultimately it wasn't fun for me, but at least I tried it. I know people who think it's very fun, and blog about it besides. I don't generally go to horror movies because I don't enjoy them. I don't watch contemporary character dramas for the same reason. I do enjoy the time I spend playing TSW though. However, it's not "light reading." I like Guild Wars 2 because it is fun and light. I play both. I have limited resources, like most people; therefore these are the only two games I currently play. Other games might be fun, but not fun enough for me devote time or money to.

I think a lot of people looking for "innovation" don't really know what they want. For example, the setting itself of TSW is innovative. Name another MMO with a similar setting. Whether it's a "good" innovation or not remains to be seen. The Ability Wheel is a great innovation, IMHO. But, like much of the rest of the game, there is a nuance to it that may be a little off-putting to those not interested in studying that detail. (Having the preset Decks does help.) The actual combat? Perhaps not so innovative, but certainly not as cringe-worthy as some have made it out to be. Frankly, I find it on a par with most games I have played, and encourages (forces?) movement while not worrying too much about limited range cones and such.
Is TSW buggy? It has some bugs; most have been fixed from what I can tell. Guild Wars 2 has bugs, too. In fact (and I love the game), I have encountered more bugs in GW2 than in TSW. That people dismiss TSW as bad because it has bugs, but praise GW2 despite its bugs, tells me those people are looking for reasons not to like TSW and simply add the bugs to their list.

As Syp pointed out, The Secret World is tacking into the wind. Funcom was somehow hoping for "Mainstream" numbers when they had produced a niche game. Like Syp, I hope they give it time to develop the niche audience it deserves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kung Fu Pandaria (Or, Ninety-nine Problems, But Ailuropoda Ain't One)

Ambermist Tweeted/Tumbld yesterday about a silly argument against the impending World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. This included a link to WoW Insider article with the full design history of the race. The timeline of the introduction of the Pandaren into official Warcraft lore appears to begin with the character Chen Stormstout for the WC3 expansion The Frozen Throne, dating to 2003. Pandaren lore is also included in Warcraft tabletop RPG source books from about the same time. All this predates the release of Kung Fu Panda (2008) by about five years.

So you have two comedic, cartoonish depictions of anthropomorphic pandas coinciding within a decade. One is slightly more well known than the other, but they were developed fully independent from each other. I haven't seen any news of Dreamworks bringing a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for copyright infringement. I'm guessing that they know they don't have a case, despite similarities, assuming they have looked into the matter.

If I recall correctly, the Pandaren were at the top of many polls for potential playable races predating even WoW 2.0, The Burning Crusade. I'd bet many of the people who enthusiastically hoped for Pandaren to be a new playable race are still eagerly awaiting the opportunity. If for some reason you've changed your mind in the intervening years, I sincerely hope it was not because of Kung Fu Panda. Others never thought it was a good idea. Still others are looking for another excuse to play the hate game because for some reason they think they are awesome because they don't like WoW.

Now, given the original artwork by Samwise at Blizzard, some callouts to the Pandaren from before the earliest days of WoW (I myself am the proud owner of the Pandaren Monk minipet), and the rumor (fact?) that most current WoW players are Chinese; it makes sense that the Pandaren would be a playable race with some direct parallels to Chinese geography, architecture, and culture, up to and including the martial arts-inspired Monk class. It sounds like a reasonable design decision on the part of the creative team at Blizzard.
The Bloggerazzi have many reasons to criticize MoP. Some can be reasonable differences of opinion over, say, the new talent system or the new restrictions on weapons. One might even argue that the cultural setting of the new continent doesn't fit (though, in a world with mages and motorcycles, I'd say pretty much anything goes). But comparing the new race to a single character in a kids' movie is silly.

I am not going to be at the gates chomping at the bit for MoP next Tuesday. I won't say my time in Azeroth is over forever, but it is for now. However, none of the reasons I have for not playing have anything to do with the Pandaren or their alleged resemblance to Jack Black. In fact, I think it's a pretty cool concept.

TL;DR: Whether or not you actually play World of Warcraft (or intend to start up with the new expansion), let's put to rest the whining about Kung Fu Pandaren, etc. It's not helping anyone.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Trailers

It’s like a whoopee cushion at the end of an opera.
~~Justin "Syp" Olivetti

Please forgive my language in this post. I am just dumbfounded.

Have you seen this trailer?

If I had not clicked through the link from the official Guild Wars 2 Twitter account, I would have have thought it was a trailer for The Secret World. There is no indication of what the trailer is actually for or what it is about until the very end. I get no feeling that matches the feelings I have actually playing Guild Wars 2. It does not match the game. Contrast that with the actual launch trailer for The Secret World:

Holy shit! THAT trailer evokes exactly the feelings I get playing TSW: the sense of dread and danger. The knowledge that I am part of the thin red—and blue and green—line that is all that stands between the World and the Darkness.

I am not making a judgement between the two games. Just saying that the trailer for one gives me chills. The other just leaves me saying, "What the fuck just happened?"

QOTD: Why I Heal/Tank

As any experienced tank or healer will tell you, sometimes it’s stressful as HELL. But I do it anyway, because what I really love is helping others. As in having the ability to keep others, especially my friends, alive.
Guild Wars 2 sort of gets rid of tanks but still has healers, though they're nowhere near as powerful as some other games. Everyone is responsible for some amount of DPS, as well as their own safety. Luckily, there are incentives to help others, like XP for reviving downed characters, both players and NPCs. While it makes for interesting dynamics, as a healer for the better part the last six years, it's hard to break away from that role. Like GeeCee, I love keeping my friends alive.

Friday, September 7, 2012

QOTD: Evolution of a Raider

So here is the challenge that comes with raid balancing. On the one hand you have the raider me from 7 years ago looking for content to constantly devour while wanting to be the absolute best. On the other hand you have the raider me from now that just wants to go in, kill a boss, then go to IHOP for the early bird special.
~~Gloria Boria, the sole resident of  Corgi Island
{sigh} I raided for far less time, but this is still how I feel. I also just came to the realization that I'll never be an MVP on any forum.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rollin' With My KoMies

Ready for Action
So last night, I was leveling my crafting on my Human Engineer, Heide Urmacher, and running around completing the map items for Divinity's Reach. Listening to some of my guildmates from Knights of Mercy on Ventrilo playing in the structured PvP battlegrounds, I decided to get in on some of that PvP action with them.

The cool thing about Structured PvP in GW2 is that everyone is up-leveled to 80 and has access to the same gear and all profession abilities for free for the duration of the contest. There are ways to get different gear stats, and obviously some stats are better than others for a given profession.
Free Gear!
Being a complete n00b to structured PvP, I basically rolled in with the default build, which for the Engineer is a rifle build. I'm not fond of the rifle, to be honest. I like dual pistols or a pistol and shield. But I had already committed to a skirmish server, so I decided to stick with the rifle and see what happened.

Structured PvP is interesting and very different from, say, WoW battlegrounds. Since there are no opposing factions in GW2, the skirmishes are set up at random. Also there are no premade teams that can join as a group and ROFLstomp the unwary competition. The system randomly places everyone in teams that then duke it out. This meant that, while I joined with guildies, some were placed on the opposite team than I was. We were still coordinating through Vent, which meant I could hear the opposing strategy, but I suppose this wasn't much different than a pick-up game of basketball or capture the flag. My team won the first skirmish, even though I died a lot.
Crack Shot
Then instead of getting dumped back out to the PvP lobby in the Heart of the Mists, everyone in the skirmish was transferred to another map and we started again, this time with the teams remixed. You can drop out any time through the Hero window, and some players did. I was getting the hang of my rifle and other skills so managed to kill a lot, even I was still dying quite a bit.

In one of the skirmishes, my team was really doing well, and enough opposing players dropped out that the game automatically rebalanced the teams, which meant I turned coat halfway through. Even though we still lost the match (we were still down one player even with the shuffling), I received a few accolades (maybe some Glory?) for healing and reviving my teammates.

As has been said elsewhere, structured PvP is a great chance to fully test a profession before you waste too much time leveling in PvE, only to discover you don't like the profession as much as you thought you would.
DoubleUnder the Enforcer
Thanks to my guildies in KoM for putting up with my noobishness; Trent, Maric, Kup Kake, Phentari, Musei, and especially DoubleUnder for showing me the ropes. (Was there anyone else on that I missed?)

I need to research a bit and find a good pistol build this evening, before I jump in again. Hopefully, Sctrz will be interested in trying it out, as well. All in all, I had a great time, and am looking forward to more PvP, something I never thought I'd say.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

QOTD: Promise Me the Moon

Feeling a little jaded after being burned a couple times, especially by SWTOR, my good friend Scarybooster has this to say:
I'm constantly expecting the developers to screw something up or promise the moon and hand me rocks from their backyard.
Here's hoping for a better long-term experience, my friend.

Finding the Real Tyria

It's been over a week now since launch, almost two since the head start. And, like ... many ... others, I am loving Guild Wars 2. I've dabbled in pretty much everything but the dungeon content (because I don't have a single character high enough level) and it's all really great. ArenaNet has certainly turned me into a fan.
"Ugh, I hate Thunder Bluff. You can't find a good burger anywhere."

The cities are huge, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that Divinity's Reach makes WoW's Stormwind seem like a frontier outpost. Even Hoelbrak, which is less densely populated, is bustling with activity. And Lion's Arch, the "neutral" pirate city, sprawls across a protected bay, with a ton of underwater exploration, a high diving board, and more than one challenging jumping puzzle, including one in a pitch black cavern that I spent a couple hours completing on two different toons with guildmates from Knights of Mercy.

"Why does everyone automatically assume I know Tailoring and Cooking?"

Crafting is similar to other games of this sort. I was gratified to have the ability to make fairly large bags right off the bat, as well as some gear that was actually at—or a little above—my level—which was also quickly remedied. Last night was the first time I had issues with too much stuff in my bags. Basically it was all loot that I'd accumulated, but hadn't figured out what to do with. I have the ability to break everything down using salvage kits regardless of my character's craft skills. With the common bank for all characters, along with the ability to deposit collectibles (crafting mats) in the bank, from anywhere in the world, I can store mats for all my toons, even though I am concentrating on a single character when I play with Sctrz. When I am crafting on a different character, I just withdraw the mats I need. Another interesting element is the experimentation tab, where you can take materials and components and learn how to make new items, rather than buying all your recipes. Did I mention that leveling crafting also gives XP? The first person to reach max-level (80) in GW2 did so almost exclusively through crafting, with help from guildmates.
"I apologize profusely for any inconvenience my murderous rampage may have caused."

I normally dislike PvP, but while exploring Hoelbrak, I came across a Norn offering to get me into a game of Keg Brawl, a game sort of like rugby or basketball with a special of abilities like "punch" and "kick." I had a blast playing, giggling like a maniac the whole time, and getting funny looks from Sctrz. After a couple rounds of Keg Brawl, I discovered that I actually had a (low) PvP ranking. I also dabbled in WvW on my engineer. That was a lot of fun, as well. In structured PvP skirmishes, you are upleveled with all your skills and abilities, giving you a chance to see how your toons will play in "endgame." In WvW, you are upleveled in HP and that's about it, as far as I could tell.

"Someday I hope to find the nuggets on a chicken."

So I have my Norn Elementalist, Donar Stormsage,up to about level 18, and three of my alts up to 7 or 8, with the fourth about 4. As mentioned, there are folks at max-level already, and many of my guildmates are in their upper 30s. I'm in no hurry to reach 80, not that I've ever been a fan of power leveling.
"Ooo! Igot it! What if we tried to organize crime? Yeah."

I, for one, am absolutely loving the wander-around, no-real-plan style of playing in GW2. Sure there's a story, but I don't have a laundry list of quests to fulfill when I log in so I can level up. No matter what I am doing—map completion, DEs, PvP, WvW, crafting, . . . healing defeated characters—I'm never "wasting time." ArenaNet has created a big beautiful word to explore. I am happy to explore it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Insert Gushing GW2 Post Here, or No Time to Blog!

Maybe later I'll post a bunch more screenies of GW2. I am also behind the curve on that Gamers Survey analysis post I promised. I might blog more about the fun I am having, but I have been busy at work, and once I get home, I'd rather be having fun in the game than blogging about how much fun the game is. Make sense?

I played quite a bit this weekend, but not as much as I originally planned. On Saturday morning, discussing things we might do outside the house, I discovered that Sctrz had never been to Cabela's ("Why would I go to a hunting store?" "Holy Cow, it is so much more than that! Get dressed; we're going.") If you have not been to Cabela's and there is one within an hour or two of your house, I highly recommend it. So off we went on our little adventure IRL. Three hours after arriving, we exited the place with new Timber Ridge Zero-Gravity Loungers for our "game room."

Where to put the computers (Asus gaming laptops) and our peripherals was the next question. Since we spent the better part of Saturday a couple hours from home, the search for portable gaming surfaces was Sunday's project. After a couple trips to home improvement stores where we fleshed out some ideas, we decided to try some Mainstays Deluxe Laptop Carts from Walmart. These turned out to be incompatible with the lounges, so we headed back over to Lowes Home Improvement and picked up some items for DIY desks. We wrapped 1" x 12" x 36" Stainable Kiln-Dried Pine Panels with Duck Black 7' x 12" Shelf Liners, using LOCTITE 13.5 oz High Performance Spray Adhesive, creating light-weight, sturdy "desks" for our gaming lounges. Add a side table we'd already bought from Ikea, and voila, Gaming Central:

Obviously, that's the living room. The "game room" sets up and tears down in about ten minutes, including gathering everything together and stowing at the end of the evening. There's plenty of room for our mice and my Nostromo, plus snacks and drinks. While there's no mini-fridge, I gotta say, the set-up is fabulous. The lounges are more comfortable than our desk or the bed or the couch, much more ergonomic, methinks. They're perfect for an evening of adventuring through Tyria, the Alpha Quadrant, or even the Secret World.