Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Not the way I like it...

Well it dawned on me today that several high profile issues are in the air. Two of which I wanted to talk about today:

1. Always online DR
2. Advertising

It could have just been both offline & online
Always online seems to be a rather interesting idea when it comes to games that don't use online worlds or instances (MMO type games). For instance, SimCity, which has caused a bit of a fuss between my brothers and I.
We are all in agreement that the forced element of the game play does nothing to help us enjoy the game. In fact, I have to design several cities in a region to make up for the fact that my city alone does not have the financial power to have all the city hall buildings as well as the other necessary utilities that are required of a growing community.

If I could have a larger city space, with adjusted prices/maintenance costs I could play myself (online or not), I wouldn't be dependant on other people to have fun. Otherwise, my cities are just losing steam as I reach that boundary of what I can achieve alone. Which inevitably leads me to not play the game I paid for. Plenty of online games allow me to continue playing without other people. Most of the game is still available to me. There are certain challenges I can not face, but there are plenty that I can.

Its the choice I am offered that allows me to continue enjoying my time, the choice that I do not have in SimCity. I have to have a second or third city, when frankly its only going to be there to give me city hall enhancements, not fun.

Advertising on my Xbox 360 has pushed me so far away from the console, I barely touch it. Accidentally moving over the obnoxious advert, for a product I have no interest in, results in loud tag lines and other non-sense being pushed into my brain. You might argue that just having the logo on your screen, even if it is not the focus of your attention, still subliminally brings those companies or products into your awareness. Which is equally lovely.

If that is what the Xbox 360 was like when I bought it, then fair play. But I bought it when it was this great games console that seemed to be sleek and efficient. Allowed me to play games like Fallout 3, get silly achievements & it just felt like the whole package. The dashboard changes really have spoilt that & I just would like it to go back to the way it was.
Its even more insulting that Gold membership doesn't free you from the adverts! How much money do I have to pay to get the dashboard back?

Simcity has also turned to advertising in the form of the electric car charging station for a certain car manufacturer. My main issue with this particular advert is that the charge station is imbalanced in comparison to other happiness creating buildings and the only reason not to use it, is simple as a protest, which I am sure EA couldn't care less about.

I won't speculate as to why companies want to use these tools, as frankly that does little good. I am sure me having a bit of a bash doesn't help much either. It's just how I feel these changes to products have negatively impacted my experience as a customer & made a game or access games less fun.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Micro transactions - When did spending a fiver get so small?

In the last several years we have seen the rise of the "free to play", not that anything in life is ever truly free.

Part of the growing ways to make money from the free to play titles is the "micro-transaction", which has come to include some rather macro prices, prices which I just don't understand at all. Honestly, this post will be short to save myself ranting endlessly about the greed and exploitation of others... *dragged off to the loony bin, kicking and screaming*.

Not quite what it seems...
Just think however, when did spending £5 become a "micro" transaction? I don't remember buying a 4 pint bottle of milk for half that price and thinking that was "micro". 

Maybe 1-50p could be considered micro for some in-game items or xp boosters, whatever it maybe, but when I am being asked to cough up £2 every week for items that I will just use up, well I do a quick calculation in my head and it always seems to be way more than the £8.99 I was paying for a sub.

I guess I just don't like the term as it masks the true price that is being asked for in exchange for that race pack in title a or the rent for bag space in title b.

Keeping it brief
I suppose I wanted to voice my concern for the marketing surrounding free to play games or worse, the hybrid models that have you paying twice. So when you see that nice new title being released with "micro-transactions" actually take a look at the prices of in-game items and ask yourself if it really is micro?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Death in Pathfinder Online - An MMO save game!

Although I have not been blogging recently, I have not stopped keeping my eye on the MMO scene thanks to &

One of the games that has caught my eye is Pathfinder Online, which has some very interesting approaches to MMO creation which I will save for another day.
Today however, I would am going to talk about their approach to character death in game.

The proposed system

In pathfinder online, as it stands (which is on a drawing board at this point), is that when you die, you have to get back to you body after resurrecting at a predetermined location to get back the inventory items you had on you. Otherwise they remain on the corpse and a random section of it is up for grabs by others.

You don't loose your equipped gear

This is what I think will set it apart from other more harsh systems; to still be able to carry on! I have tried games like Darkfall or EVE:Online were you loose everything you currently have upon death, where you need to either have spent time before, or now need to spend time, getting your stuff together again which may take time if it was unexpected.
Carefully mining with Warp Stab's to avoid being ganked!
Coupling the sting of defeat with the "salt in the wound" of having to spend what resources you have left on ships/gear is a lot to swallow. It might seem weak to some people, but when you only have a finite amount of time to play, its hard to justify spending an hour rearming something you had taken from you, rightly or wrongly.

Just like a save game

Okay, so I die, I loose the ore I was mining and maybe a few nice items I looted from goblins I was slaying on the way. But I can continue on with little or no fuss, there is no need to go after my corpse, which will also reduce corpse camping dramatically. I don't have to go get my body because that armour I forged with months of my time is still on my shoulders, not laying on the ground.
Just like in Skyrim, I go back to my save point and get a chance to try the same thing again (hopefully better this time) and I can continue. Which frankly works brilliantly and that game is probably my favourite game of the year so clearly the idea of trying again without benefiting from your death works well!

Immersion impact
My brave high-elf cleric doesn't have to
worry about consequences of death!

Okay I agree that its not very immersive for your armour to some how transfer through your soul or whatever magical transition takes place to bring you back to life. That said I don't live in the world of my MMO, so I can't devote all my time and effort to rebuilding and rearming for another fight that will inevitably come. 

Others have used the age old, if its not 100% looting FFAPVP then its not a sandbox, but I am convinced that is not so. There are other things that need to go along side this to make the game great, mobs need to be more intelligent and have a wider range of moves that need to be countered by different tactics, not just keep smashing until it dies.

The idea of randomly looting a PVP killed corpse might not seem fair, but why should PVP kills give 100% loot when PVE invariably doesn't allow players to loot 100% of the items on the monster. Frostmourne 100% drop anyone?


So to save me from the, at times debilitating, fallout from being killed I think its a great idea! It also allows adds consequence to death that some games don't have much of.
I would also recommend everyone keep their eye on Goblinworks blog. This game is going to be something interesting!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Inspiration to play differently!

I began writing this post wanting to write about how important I thought having good relationships with your guild members is, but frankly I read an inspiring post on Massively that made me stop thinking about EVE in some abstract way and actually get up and do something!

What happened?
Well I had been playing EVE:Online for the last few months and really just coasting through the game, with visions of how it could be. I was in a decent corporation, but one that really was a bit small and wasn't aiming in the same direction I was.
I spent alot of that time, soloing missions for the Galente Federal Navy and not really even the same region of space as my corp mates.
It was upon reading the post by Brendan Drain that I just decided that I was not doing anything that I really wanted to in game or in real life! Seriously it made me get back in touch with my more advertureous side!

Whats new?
Straight away I started looking for a bigger more active corp, one that is full of people looking to get into 0.0 space. People are ready to jump at the new Wormholes that they discover in nearby star systems.
Once I joined them, I recieved a mail about 1 day in which said they are looking for more people to help sign up for 0.0 operations... I had a mini party in my head over how cool it was to be part of this.

My advice - Go for it!
I know that EVE:Online is different to other titles, but what ever game your playing or hobby, I say get in there! Do it! Don't worry about failing, as you already have if you haven't even tried!
As a friend of mine used to say "don't tell me why you can't, tell me how you can!".

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gear & Skill in WoW

In my experience, of all the guilds I have been in, gear is very important. From WotLK bringing gear score to the masses, to today’s tier 12 being the best. I remember chasing gear, like a pro. I would be hooked on what it meant to have a “full set” or to have the status symbol at the time. 

Did that really make me a better player? Honestly no, it was the motivation to kill new bosses (or the same ones for loot), but it certainly didn’t make me better. What did make me a better player was learning to play differently to defeat different enemies. Taking on board feedback about my play style and not accepting that it was completely outside my control. I.e. they are cheating.

I am not suggesting that someone who has just hit level 85 in the gear they gathered along their travels is now ready for the Firelands. I am however saying with some time to get into Heroic gear and with a few items from the valour vendor you can be ready for the raids. It’s the one tier to another I am looking at.

Does the gear really make that big a difference to me?
The difference in gear is what I want to talk about. For instance, I have got angry or felt unfairly treated when I have lost a /roll for loot in a guild run. The fact of the matter is that with or without it, I am unchanged. What does change is my play style.

I have been told I am a terrible healer by some tanks, but others think I am more than good enough to heal through dungeons and raids. I have to ask myself, is it my static item level score, or perhaps it’s how I & my party are fighting this particular boss or group of mobs.

I want to challenge the idea that gear is make or break when we are talking a difference of about 19 item level points. Across 17 item slots on your character that’s only 323 item level points extra. Which isn’t even one extra item’s worth.

I have said in the past to my brothers and others that learning the fight so that you avoid 30k damage, or dispell a stun, is way more effective than those extra stat points you get from a full set of item level 378 gear.

Recount says...
As a shadow priest I appreciate how competative I get with DPS, and not having the gear is an easy way out when it comes to why I don't do 20k dps. The fact of the matter is, I am not even sure with it I could. Certain badies have certain weaknesses. Certain classes can output more burst damage than others. I guess I want to say, being a good player is more than gear and numbers.

Practise what I preach...
Even as I say that, I know I succumb to the want for new gear (look wise especially with t11 priest toilet shoulders) and will have to re-read this and take a step back. Blizzard make these bosses so we can defeat them if we are smart and stay on our toes.

As always this is my opinion and feel free to disagree!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Raiding, not the best way to spend my gaming time

In the last few days I have been playing Rift and started thinking about what I will do when I get to level 50, which is the games current top level. A couple of months before I started Rift, I left my WoW life behind and part of that was raiding. Raiding can be many things for many different people and in my experience, I seemed to follow certain patterns.

My Raiding History
I started raiding during the Burning Crusade (tBC) as my priest – Bryonis. In my super nifty (or so I thought) Primal mooncloth set! Oh yes I had a couple of Epics! I felt powerful, yet Karazhan prooved that I really needed to pull my finger out. In the years that followed I slowly began to get a sense of how raiding really wasn't for me. I think after about 6 months of going to the same raid and listening to the same people, well lets just say there is only so many times I would visit a themepark before the rides get tiresome.
I was really happy I stuck at it, during the Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK) as my guild and I achieved our goal by killing the Lich King. After that Cataclysm came around and low and behold I was back in Karazhan, just hunting bosses for gear and not really caring who or what I was killing. The fun was gone.

Raiding as I have experienced it, comes with a rather large commitment. I have played many games in my time, they all allowed me to pick it up and put it down as I pleased. MMO's however have other people in them, who unlike inanimate software, will be annoyed if I didn't turn up or I decided that I was not in the mood.
This is a strange new world where computer games for me have gone from something I play when I would like, to having a social pressure associated with playing. Certain people in guilds and raid groups who really want to raid (for gear, achievements etc) seem to be the people I don't fit well with, yet I know they are a healthy part of any group to help keep it going.
I also agreed to 4 hours at a time, something I really don't like. I tend to play for about 3 hours on average before then getting a bit twitchy and having the urge to go do something else, even if it is the washing up! So you can imagine when we hit the fourth hour I am happy to end, with others wanting to crack on and keep going. With a boss like the Lich King where you need to think a little bit, after hours and hours I start to get distracted and forgetful.
As some people who know me maybe aware, I have had some therapeutic training, and in that time I have learnt that boundaries are very important. They help people to feel safe and in a fair environment. Understandably these have not translated into the raiding world I have experienced, even when I try to remind people of the time frame we have set, I have been made into a bad guy for saying "its 11:00pm, its time to stop now."
The idea that if I bang my head against the boss one more time, he will go down. It might happen, but if the first 12 times it didn't, why should it go down now? Its not like the Lich King has some where else to be next time we raid. Although he does have a busy shedule messing up Azzaroth (well not these days).

This is the real crux of the matter. I hate sitting for 4 hours knowing that if I am uncomfortable and really don't want to spend my evening bashing my head against a single boss just so someone can get a pixel sword (That one is for you @Katbond) when really all I wanted to do was have a bit of a go and if its not working move on to something else.
I am aware that because there are so many people involved in raiding, with so many different views on how to approach a problem we have to some how stay united, but there were many times I was prepared to down tools and leave. I mean can I say I have ever had that at any other point in WoW? Probably not. Raiding is a unique can of worms that once I buy into it, thats it, I am in. I even started playing PvP more in my later WoW years for the freedom it offered along side group play. Although I am sure there are hardcore PvP guilds that would disagree.

The backlash
Being part of a smaller guild (under 25 raiding members), meant that there was a need for most people to attend the raids at least once a week. With individuals like myself who did not like the constant commitment each week to raiding, we would enevitably rub up against those who were very much so commited and needed us to attend so they (or the group) could progress.
I have to say I even became part of this critial group when I had given up my time to fight monsters I don't really care about because I want to help a few friends out. If I am then sitting about for an hour waiting for someone else to turn up, well its like waiting for a bus that you are not sure is even going to show!
I have to admit though, once I did just pull a sickie on raiding. I just couldn't bare it. That should have been a good indicator to stop I guess, I really didn't learn!

The future
I think I liked some of the smaller raids in WotLK that I could get done in an hour. They were more my cup of tea. I think as I get to level 50, I will try a few raids, but it may get to a point where I just leave Rift until the next expansion. I have to learn that no matter what other say to make me attend, raiding and I will just never be that good buddies!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

I want a Sandbox, so why do I keep going to the Themepark? – Bryonis loves his rides!

Themepark...Get it?
I hope that title makes some sense (I hope my powers of communication have not failed me!) but with Rifts headstart now upon us, I wondered what on earth drew me back into a more linear MMO?
I certainly have a track record of playing games that fall outside the loose definition of Sandbox, however when I left WoW (my last love) I found myself saying, “I want more! I want more control and be able to create my own fun!” and at the time I meant it! I still think being able to create my own adventures that can grow and change as others join in is a great thing. 

Pouring pixel sand out of my shoes…
So why on earth am I playing Rift? Simply because other people can create fun stories as well! I think I have a real appreciation for good tales; to be told a story and enjoy bashing some heads in along the way (or healing a few bashed in heads as well!). I am reminded of Star Trek and how I still love to sit and watch the crew of the Next Generation (or all the others, bar enterprise) toil over a problem and come out the other side by employing cunning and diplomacy. They might be a few hands down (Tasha Yar RIP), but mostly intact.
A good story is definitely a positive in the games industry as a whole and the MMO genre is no exception. The problem here is not that the story tellers are not good enough (although some would disagree), but that the sandboxes we have on offer to play in seem to fall short for certain audiences. I am really glad that Darkfall, Mortal online and a small number of other sandboxes are thriving. They are testament to the fact that sandboxes do work. But with all other markets, because choice is limited many people won't play a sandbox title because it isn't the type that would draw them in.

Which sandbox shall I build my castle in?
Because our choice of Sandboxes is quite limited compared to more linear MMO's when one goes belly up as certain titles inevitably do, I lose a little faith in the sandbox. Even if its only my feeling, (which I think it isn't) it means the next time a sandbox appears all the excitement is cancelled out by cynicism.
I am hoping that a development studio will pop up and just focus on the game play. I think one of the issues with Earthrise was trying hard to make the game pretty and not perhaps making that a secondary priority behind game play. After all, no matter how pretty something is, if it doesn't work then that isn't going to be of much use.

So the answer to my original question is?
The answer is that we need more Sandboxes. Sandboxes that last and grow in different directions from those that are already in play. There are some titles coming up that could be interesting and I am keeping my eye on them. Not holding my breath either... I still have my Earthrise bruise.