Friday, July 17, 2009

Before long

My vacation starts today, meaning that I most probably won't be either playing or blogging for at least the next few weeks. At least the first two weeks I will be away from the computer altogether, though I may update my other blog during the time due to the fact that we're travelling to European Championships in Lure Coursing with our dogs. But for this blog... it's going to be a short silence.

This means that your blogroll will be a bit shorter on my behalf, too. As it happens, I'm not the only blogger taking a well deserved summer vacation: more prominent names have already taken their leave.

But before the 'long absence' I'll recap my last night's endeavours. First of all, the initial patch load was pretty quick, but for some reason it lagged my computer even after it had finished: was is just a freak incident or is there a real data leak in the loader, I don't know. But after restarting my machine the performance was quite different.

Secondly, I found out another reason why it's next to impossible for a new player -even in social guild- to get access to the lower instances and learn from them. You see, I travel with LFG tool on all the time. I have the "first time tank, noob warning" in the comments, which in a way works as a warning to the 'fast levelling' level capped know it alls.

Or should work.

In the initial party there were two druids (boomkin and asparagus), DK, mage and Laiskajaakko. Fine, the composition is quite reasonable. The tree-druid was the one who got the party going, and she was excellent: she took into account the fact that I am only learning to tank, gave me time and gave me information which I obviously didn't have due to my inexperience. She also tried to slow down the rest of the group, as the boomkin was one of the impatient know it alls: "sure I have omen, but the tank is slacking" was his comment on stealing aggro. Doesn't matter how hard I try, my TPS remains below 2k, for some reason or another: I don't think it's about the rotation or such, there is now something I just don't get.

Anyhow, we wiped. Partly because I couldn't keep the aggro effectively in the 3 or 4 mob pulls. Partly because the boomkin was doing steady 1500 damage and generating huge amount of aggro, stealing it constantly from me. Even with spamming taunt and devastate I wasn't keeping up to him.

So the bird-man left the group. So did the DK, as they were a couple.

And we got another two to run the rest of the instance. A paladin and another DK.

Who listened to the tree druid, checked their threat and all in all the rest of the instance went flying by. I suppose a big part of it was the fact that I got the time to call the pulls, get the initial aggro and just do my work on my pace. Thanks to the resto druid, I felt I could work within the group.

Still I hate Ingvar: he sucks.

Anyhow, I later heard that the warrior threat generation is a bottleneck in WotLK and that the situation is not unheard of. I tested my rotation later on against some elites for a quest (being healed by Bishopgeorge) and breaking even 1800 TPS seems extremely hard with the gear and talents I have...

And I remembered only as I logged out, that I haven't visited a class trainer since lv70... that's too skill ups ago...

Anyhow, the impatience and intolerance of different skill levels among the PUG's may be a big cause for the discussion about how terrible PUG's are: while the people with extensive raid experience -from vanilla even to the current top content- would like to advance on their own pace, there may be a player without that experience in instances, slowing the progress and trash clearing. I know that my talent build isn't that for clearing trash, and I don't have the Glyph of Cleave in my repertoire: it doesn't serve my levelling. However, this should be in the normal instances as the trash clearing is all about multi-mob tanking.

So, instead of trying to excel in PUG's, people should learn to adapt and wing their playstyle accordingly. This is something that is very hard to do, as the courtesy is a two way street. If you act snobbishly about it, the one feeling inadequate will act aggressively. That's self-preservation for you in short.

I want to thank all of you wonderful and helpful people PUGging day in, day out, helping newcomers and people who are not up to the challenge to overcome their lack of skill. You are the angels and helpers, who really make MMO's worth the grind to any instance, making the newcomer player feel at least a bit helpful on the way.

Thank you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lackluster maintenance

Yesterday's extended maintenance really had it's effect on the extendedly served servers: at least my server was so lagged that it killed the will to play at all. This morning the lag was still there, though because of the lower population it seemed a bit better.

If the lag issue isn't repaired today, my weekend of gaming is ruined. Thank you very  much for well done and exquisitely executed maintenance, dear Blizzard.

I wish we can get some recuperations for this.

Vain hope, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goals and levels

When Gevlon isn't ranting about the bliss of being dirty rich and owning a raid for a night, he comes up with fascinatingly interesting posts. Like the one about how to play a MMO right. This crossed an issue to which We Fly Spitfires made a nice complimentary post, too.

Goal making and levels.

Whereas Gevlon covers the subject from the standpoint of MMO's being an addiction and that people feeling guilty or having inadequate resources are playing the game actually wrong -something which I completely agree with him-, We Fly Spitfires shows how the goal setting can really enhance and enrich your game play experience. By setting definite, concrete goals you have a straightforward aim to go for. And you're cutting off all the things which do not help you achieve this aim.

Just like in normal goal setting. In real life. Really.

I have now aim, too, which actually has two levels. First my aim is to level Laiskajaakko to lv80 and enter heroics with the guild. The second is to learn to play the toon so well he's ready to run with the guild as a contributing member.

This thinking has caused -already before Gevlon and others blogged about this- that I have started to enjoy the game again. I doubt it has much to do with Northrend content, as I find the killing spree boring still: instead, to see the experience increase and the levels ding one after another creates the thrills.

Not to mention the nice guild chat full of nice personalities and issues.

I think it's easier to focus on your levelling game than the heroics and end game progression. Granted, the progression is still a valid measurement of your success, but to progress in the end game content is co-operative effort, not your own effort, and your own excellent performance may be ruined by someone else's mediocre one. Or by a freak accident. So the end game focused 'aims' are not as effective in motivating people as the levelling. In levelling you can always see where you are at any particular time and where you are headed.

And this is the trap of level based MMOPRG's: levels represent the instant gratification curve of the game. Each ding on new level means that you have achieved yet another step on your hierarchy ladder, taking you one step further towards the ultimate world domination level cap. Levels are an easy measure of your playing success. Gear is more ambivalent, as the cookie cutter gear for certain talent build may well be off your build's requirements: there are no set ways to evaluate a playstyle over another, except in the performance in a set job function in a raid. Which cannot be compared to each other directly because the group composition varies.

This makes the overall gratification of the end game achievements more ambiguous and most certainly not so appealing to the casual weekend gamers (and morons and slackers).

There is no game over screen in MMO's. Too bad.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Child's Play

My youngest son has a toon on my account. On a different server than my mains are, but on the same as all of my three son's toons. Being 8 years old his understanding of foreign languages is neigh, as he's just barely able to read in Finnish, even. He plays every now and then, and usually ends up filling his packs with vendor trash, booze or something as creative. Which we quietly get rid of with my oldest son (who has a killer hunter on the same server, downing 4-5 levels higher mobs as he explores the areas meticulously...).

He prefers to play alone, even though sometimes he has problems with the quests and instructions. Questhelper has been a blessing in this sense, and -believe or not- he has finished Wailing Caverns in a party,  alone, without anyone helping! I was amazed of that, but he just loves to kill things.

And I gather he's pretty good at it with his Tauren Warrior.

But he's stuck in the Barrens. And that bothers him a lot.

So I decided to give him a treat and make one very, very happy little man.

We created him a Death Knight.

You should have seen the light in the little man's eyes. The enthusiasm ("I'm going to meet the Lich King?!" followed by "Dad, what is a lich?" :P ), the inspiration, the joy!

Of course, as I haven't played my own DK yet, I had to help him into start: I didn't read the story, only the first few starting quest objectives (to make his runesword crafted) and off he went. In the first session he gleefully slaughtered the Tor's Hand population and severely harmed the Scarlet Crusade. All by himself.

The next session he did almost all by himself: slaughtering more of the Scarlet Crusade, delivered the message and finished off the DK starter storyline. All I -and his older brother- did was to help with the technically harder quests (like the cannon shooting/Frostbourne shooting) and talents: everything else he mastered himself.

The only thing I have been lecturing to him about has been the fact that it's not quite acceptable to hunt and kill people who are running away, scared and defenseless, even in a videogame. And that Lich King is actually worse than bad and evil , he's bound to destroy everything in the world if he gets his way with things. Hard thing to tell to a youngster who is gleaming with joy of getting 'hard things' accomplished by himself...

This 'experiment' proved me just one thing about the game, however.

The game is severely dumbed down by itself, and adding Questhelper-like system even a person who doesn't know a thing about MMO's can play a toon to the cap. Easily.

This revelation combined with what I wrote earlier about the casual love Blizzard is having on the game is just a sign of the modern days: we players -like the general population of the western world- are used to the 'instant gratification'-mode. We have to get our rewards right now. The more with the less. Especially in our hobbies, we have to be masters right away, or we will take on another endeavour.

As it happens, Pete at Dragonchasers wrote about the same thing the other day. He just states that "As MMO players, we argue against anything not-fun. We want insta-travel, hate death penalties, don’t want to grind, don’t want to have to spend hours at a time playing in order to accomplish anything. We want everything convenient and risk-free and for the most part, developers have obliged us."

I don't see any difference in these two, but fun can also be hard, with the reward being something to work for. Something which is a challenge, resulting wipe after a wipe, requiring persistence and steady mind.

And by recognizing that Blizzard has just done this -giving us instant gratification and easy route to rewards-, you can easily deduct the direction WoW is headed and what kind of game the Blizzard's "secret project" will be.

Polished snapshot game with instant rewards for everything.

Do I really want to play that kind of game? A game which is a child's play?

It sucks to be me

Yeah, that's a rip off from Avenue Q, the home of the song for the exceptionally hilarious WoW video "The Internet is for porn". But it describes my feelings after the weekend and my first PUG in Utgarde Keep.

I suck.

Big time.

I feel responsible for the three (3) wipes on Ingvar the Plunderer and one on Prince Keleseth. The latter was pure neglect on the party's healer's mana (she was all dry...) and a great learning experience on that. But the final boss...

I just sucked.

You see: I have read the event, I know the stages and I have read the strat. It just doesn't click. I can see the STOMP warning, but my brain hits Heroic Strike. I can see the Whirling Axe warning, but my finger works on the Revenge -oh, Sword and Board procced! And BOOM!

Otherwise the weekend was pretty nice. 'More of the same' questing in Northrend is abundant, but there are certain gems in the mix here and there: where as Outlands was exactly more of the same as the Old World, the experience and technological advances can be seen in the quest design. Also, the issue I wrote about earlier with the short storylines showed the other side of the design: to my big surprise the questline starting from Orfus of Kamauga spread across several quests leading to the Pirate camp and finally to the revelation on the existence of the Kvaldir pestering Howling Fjord! And just when I had given up the idea of long and intriguing stories in Northrend.

WotLK can surprise you, now I agree with that. Gold nuggets like helping the sea lions to mate, the pirate miniquests (can't call them anything else) and few others really make the game feel different for a while, until you are slammed in the face with yet another slaughter grind like the Iron Dwarf quests in the northern part of the Howling Fjords.

Laiskajaakko is only 4 quests short of I've Toured the Fjord and is now stuck with quests requiring 2 or 3 players: the 2 player one has already proven to be a bit too much for him to tackle alone, so I'm not taking any guesses with the 3 one, either. With Bishopgeorge's help I'm sure we can tackle both of those. Then I have to find a couple more to complete the achievement... and to be able to move on to Grizzly Hills!

Utgarde Keep proved to be a disappontment otherwise: poor loot, awful looks and dumb mobs. Very much like Hellfire Ramparts for the first time. But Ingvar has more special moves compared to Vazruden, and hits harder, so I just have to overcome my fear of moving and fighting at the same time.

And I have to learn to follow the fight, too.

I will learn.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Paradigm change for me, thank you!

I've been Tweeting about it and I was ecstatic about it in my earlier posts, but I haven't reported about the actual issue itself. Yes, how the Three Stooges have joined the ranks of a new guild. The three blind mice have found a new home, and if all goes well -and no one of us blunders spectacularly- we should be approved as 'members' to this fine bunch of casual raiders.

Anyone who has even the slightest inclination in looking places like WoW Armory or such will find out that we have been rolled into Highland Warriors , which is -after the recent Mimiron kill (HarGREAT!!!) in Ulduar 25- at rank 23 in the server wide progression list, and in Ulduar10 on the 12th spot.

And the first casual one, besting many of the hard core guilds over there.

As I have a lot to do with this, all I can say is that I'm in a group which has brought up the competitive part in me. Like my recent rant about not being prepared shows, it hit hard to realize that the people in this guild are professionals, and I'm just a noob. I feel like a guy in a tv show who went to fight with the masters -or their best pupils- of ten martial arts after 6 weeks of training said: I don't know what I'm doing here, these guys fight to kill...

Maybe I'll have enough to pull it through as casual and someday raid with this fine bunch.

I've been online to the extreme during this week, and I can see it's affecting my casual being. I'm stressing over the progress of my toons and I'm not really enjoying the ride: it's too darn slow!

But then again, if I'm giving up on the content, I will feel miserable: how did I get here? What happened in the earlier part of the storyline? And so on.

So far what I've seen in the guild has been about two grades better than I have thought it to be. Like I said, the people are professionals in their way: personalities, but all are clearly focused on doing their best. If Gevlon calls casuals as morons and slackers, he sure as hell hasn't seen these casuals! The activity is such that people are organizing lower level achievement 'raids' (to Old World content) while the raid locked teams are doing their runs. And all the while there are questions whether anyone is interested in coming to heroics... I'm dumbfounded after all the time in the quiet small guild living and being able to follow all chats at the same time. I need a paradigm change with this, definitely.

The sheer amount of people and toons has fooled me in the way that my social ape has gone bonkers and I have been slapped in private for greeting the toons as they come in. Only because I just cannot connect all the gadzillion alts with their respective mains, yet, and I've been greeting the ones I know I've been chatting with/to. Can't help it, or my hyperactive clicking on the Guild Greeter announcements... oops...

So I have to prune the Guild Greeter list and personalize the greetings a bit. Already I have introduced my signature greeting in logging in (Terve kaverit == Hello friends in Finnish) and upon logging out (Soommoro which equals approximately kkthnxbb and laters). And I think that will be all of the 'native' things I'll use.

What I've been doing? Laiskajaakko has been questing and like I have said earlier I hate Gjalerbron for its repetitiveness and grinding status: the storylines in there are nice, but the killing is not. Though I cannot say that killing Glaciron didn't boost my spirits... It was great, but too easy...

I got Pupunen to Outlands at level 58, and I think it wasn't a level too soon. So far she hasn't done any combat, but the current Discipline will have to do until I get her to Shattrath and can dual spec her to holy and shadow. I just want to see how the dual speccing works and how easy it is to jump from the evil killing machine to the holy healing machine.

Can anyone tell how you can click the action bars with Clique on? I can't click the skills as I have Clique on for some reason... And for healing I have come very dependent on clique...

Tonight... I will run with LFG on all the time and go where ever it may take.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Social Playgrounds

I cannot help it but this really got over my publishing threshold. I've been reading the original article as well as Spinks' excellent recap and Lum's thoughts about the Professor who conducted quite an interesting sociological experiment in CoX.And I even read the final paper in which Professor David Myers describes the experiment, it's background, focus and -most interestingly- execution.It's very interesting -and amusing- reading as whole, worth the few minutes to leaf through, I think.

Something just clicked and I had to check my reader again. Something about the way Prof. Myers' character Twixt used the rules of the game without respecting the social rules imposed by the rest of the players sounded so familiar. But where had I seen this same?`

Take a look at here and here, with this and this response.

While I have to say right away that I don't agree with Gevlon in many matters -and have even written about it- I still find his outrageously snobby attitude against social connections, slacking and giving and helping others without further thinking (I think there is a word for it, but cannot find it now) usually at the level of irony and sarcasm, I find his postings usually entertaining. That is the value his 'social postings' have for me.

But the comparison of the two incidents are like spitting images: Twixt used the game's hardcoded mechanics to win in a PvP area, even alone, whereas Gevlon dictates his strongly opposing view of humanitarian help in a system which doesn't appreciate his strict opinion.

After reading professor Myers paper I got more the impression that instead of taking this Twixt character as a boss to fell, the CoV player simply gave in and resorted to the lowlier means. I've been taught that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Then again, I don't know the exact situation in the battleground, whether this could have been achieved by some mechanic or another. But as game based mechanic, NCSoft showed that the tactic was approved by it, even though the player community had decided otherwise.

How about if Gevlon would have started as a new player on CoX and found out that this strategy would have been the most effective in gaining wealth and levels? Just remember, this is how he would play, because the game sets the rules, not the social connection.

I wish Gevlon stays the way he is, Greedy Goblin, and keeps showing us the limitations of our socially bound minds.

And I wish professor Myer keeps on studying the social implications -and limitations- of the gamer communities. It seems that there is a lot to be learned about people sticking to the rules. And being punished by using what it takes to make the big kill.

And of course, I wish that the game designers and producers would be so clever as to minimize these opportunities to abuse the system or at least work around the well defined boundaries.

The players should also remember that these social playgrounds we call MMO's are just that: games and social playgrounds. In WoW I think people have already learned that the biggest obstacles are there to fall down, and that AFKing in BG's counts as cheating... well, at least in the social community's collective mind, at least.

But if the return with the least input is there, wouldn't you use it, too?

Cataclysmic Illusion of Impact

By now everyone and their grandma have heard about the registration of Cataclysm by Blizzard. This has lead to several speculations about what it means and what it will imply. The most interesting would be the speculation about Cataclysm being the next expansion of WoW. And that it's effect would be... well, cataclysmic.

Tobold wrote a nice piece about player impact in MMO's, something which I have ventured earlier. I think Tobold is correct for the majority of the thinking, but he forgets one way of going on with the impact driven need of the players: storyline driven dynamic MMO.

I've discussed about this earlier: make a railroaded story for the world and let players play and think they have caused changes into the world itself. The arch-enemies of the world should be so hard to kill that they would need the concentrated effort of the whole population to take down. And they would be gone, when they had been downed. When the story advances through these checkpoints, the world seems to be changing and everyone has made the difference.

(and this combined with the list Tobold made earlier, it could really work... where the expert crafters would be of extreme need and so on.)

To combine these two up, there is a possibility.

Cataclysm which would happen to Azeroth could well be the launch for the Blizzards new so secret MMO: It would effectively wipe out the Old Game and replace it logically with the New Game. The Characters who would miraculously survive the destruction would be new and naked, and in a completely new world.

Talk about paradigm shift.

All that has been broken could be repaired. New lore could be deviced.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Manic and depressive

Ever since I started to apply for my new guild I've been trying to find ways to improve my amazing skills as a tank/warrior. Because of the new content of Northrend, I've been manic in my playing, finding new enthusiasm into the stale quest grind of Outlands. That is due to my explorer nature: seeing new things and experiencing new events just thrills me like nothing. I've explored Outlands almost completely, and I feel there is nothing to see anymore, except the instances I've overlevelled.

Then the depressive part hits, like yesterday. I was reading WoWwiki, and for the first time I was reading the instance descriptions and strategies for Utgarde Keep. First of all, the boss drops -which I have never earlier checked before entering an instance- are a huge disappointment for a protection warrior: all plate in the normal instances up to lv80 have +INT in them. So no help from that part. But the strategies part struck the soft part in my soul.

I am not prepared.

The game hasn't been able to prepare me for the movement on boss fights, nor for the intricate finesses of even the earliest bosses, because I have been forced to skip a lot of content. The highest instance I have ever visited has been in Auchindoun, in which the bosses were more or less tank and spank ones. And I have never experienced a heroic with more challenge.Which is another point leading to my conclusion.

If I hadn't been playing with this certain tanking mentality which Veneretion mentions in his blogcast , I wouldn't be here and trying to find ways to make myself better. Veneretio says -quite bluntly, which I like- that he doesn't want to be mediocre tank, he wants to be amazing.

I don't want to be a mediocre tank. I want to be at least a great one.

I'll leave the amazing part to the ones who need the self-induced ego-boost.

I feel at the moment, that the learning curve has suddenly turned into a more steep incline than the Northrend questing content has suggested.

If I think of the situation from the viewpoint of a total newcomer to the game, I'm even more puzzled. Just think about it: you breeze through the content, dinging every now and then and hit the levelling brick wall in Northrend. Up till then your levelling speed is such that you don't have to worry about the gear bonuses and definitely not about maxing anything: you are changing your gear faster than your real life socks. Hopefully.

All of a sudden you are plunged into this new minigame, where you are given a new piece of gear at the end of each quest chain. With almost identical stats, with only changes in the bonuses. Where as you have been this far getting only the bonuses mentioned as being your character's classes basic stats, now you are faced with bonuses which are somewhere inbetween and require serious understanding of the theorycrafting (in which I suck, big time).

How does that make a newcomer, first time leveller or a returning player?

I haven't tried the Deathknight 'tutorial game', but it's been said to be excellent start for a new high class toon, but I doubt it doesn't have a bonus tutorial either.

But my conclusion is easily this: As I have passed the instances in the Old World and Outlands (besides the lower level ones in both), I have also passed the boot camp in instance running. This means also, that I have passed effectively the training in raiding, which has been the prominent end game pass time of the current raiding community. The newcomers will find this even harder as they will boost themselves through the levelling game to this point, find no groups willing to take them and hear snickering about their faulty gear.

I'm not going to take it.

I don't want to be a mediocre tank. I want to learn and be a great one.

But where is the training area? I've passed the tutorial already...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Howling Fjord by Weekend

Quite a weekend that was: unbeliavably the Three Stooges were logged in daily, waiting for the recruiting officer of the new home for the fools to arrive online. Which happened conveniently on sunday afternoon, after Laiskajaakko had dinged 72, gotten Honored by The Explorer's League and Revered (!) in Valiance Expedition and visited Dragonblight for the first rescue mission.

But let's start from the beginning. On friday the Three Stooges went along and quested for their fullest in the Howling Fjord area, mainly dealing with Vrykul infestation in the area. This kind of grind is/would be boring done alone, so this was the best possible situation: holy trinity doing their best to best the world.

On Saturday I spent most of my time levelling alone. Finally I found the quests people have been talking about, you know, the ones which are different from the typical kill ten foozles grind. To walk around the dark iron dwarves in a body suit was hilarious, as well as the harpoon surfing: really eye candy for the people. But really won the day was the quest in which you guide the hawk and collect the eggs. Granted, it's the typical collect ten dingles, but the twist was something for me who hasn't enjoyed the flight for too long. And of course, the flight mission of Steel Gate Patrol was a joy I did on Sunday, too. Not exactly the best dog fight simulation, but surely worth the daily!

For the evening I spent the time helping the Two Fools to do the same quests, effectively enjoying their gaps and enjoyment. And failures. Though they didn't make it to the Explorers league, yet, even though Bishopgeorge dinged his 71.

On Sunday I spent most of the time trying to return completed quests with Pupunen, whom I desperately want entering the Outlands, soon. I've given up with her on the finesses of levelling, and I'm pushing her up to get her tailoring and enchanting up from the 300 cap they are in. So I mostly flew across the Old World, making about 1.5 levels when the brothers logged in.

And surprisingly, our recruiting officer.

We grouped up, heard some 'truths' about the code of conduct (we're adult, so this should have been cut even shorter... :P) and off we went: from The Order of the Fist to the new guild in two button clicks.

Kind of sad, but exhilariating at the same time.

As we were already at our own questlines, we continued to quests for some hours: I finished the wolf questline, dinged 72 and did the Steel Gate Patrol once again. Way too much fun.

Then I logged in again later to finish the first slaughter mission into the Gjalerbron: the first set of quests which make me feel that the questing is just grinding in different guises. The flight quests and the bombing quests are a breath of fresh air only to be squashed with these slaughter orgies: "kill 18 these, 10 those and yet another 8 of another kind for the good of the people". You are the army around here, kill them yourself... oh, wait, I think I'll do that for the experience, reputation and that nice shiny which I can sell for money...

Which reminds me of the thing that has started to bug me royally: the quest chain rewards. They are the same stuff, time and again, but just with different bonuses. It gets very, very boring after the third breastplate with 1262 armor and different bonuses. Just to pick up the 'right ones' to suit your current spec seems to be the new minigame, and I'm afraid this will not stop in the further areas.

I hope I'm not right. Though it seems I have to switch from the sword to the Valiance Expedition rep mace... I just hate it. There has been just two adequate upgrades to my Honor Hold rep sword for the whole time in Northrend, and now I'm offered a huge improvement as a mace.

How degrading is that, really?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Casually casual WoW

Blizzard surely caters to the group paying their bills. That's the thought I have from yesterday's questing around Valgarde. The thought hit me after I had fulfilled third questline in Howling Fjord (after fulfilling several in Borean Tundra): the questlines are all short enough to be completed in one session, with a nice shiny quest reward at the end of the rainbow.

I just don't remember who or when said that casual gaming is the growing disease in MMO's. In a way this is true, because being a casual means you cannot commit to the game fully: sure, you can commit to a raid schedule and leave everything else off. I'm speaking of my own experience, naturally, for I feel that my commitment to the game and my former guild was hindered due to the fact I didn't commit enough time to it.

But now Blizzard is catering more and more for the casual gamer, the guy next door who logins, kicks a few quests and logs off. Which is great for me, as I feel I can accomplish something within the short time I play. But the story-driven mind is crying: now I'm forced to read a set of mixed short stories instead of a good novel: I've yet to encounter the stories like The Missing Diplomat, Absentminded Prospector or the Darrowshire questline, which guide you through twists and turns and areas to a climatic conclusion (well, the Absentminded Prospector not so much...), and really make you feel the urge to uncover the next part of the plot.

Sure, us casuals are more abundant than the real hardcore raiders, who are catered with the latest content. So guess who is putting up the finances for the new development? And who should benefit more on this basis?

And of course, as a social gamer, this leaves me with only one question: what this means to the social aspect of the game or the guilds? There are already some posts in the blogosphere about this, and it doesn't look too good, IMO, if there is no connection with the people you're playing with.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Small steps

Yes. I went to a store and now I have full WotLK. But you can imagine my amazement when I logged in and found out that Förgelös had already activated his! With the devil hitting my mind -and as Bishopgeorge was online, too- I started to group Laiskajaakko and Förgelös... and Bishopgeorge upgraded his account!

The Three Stooges ride again, this time under the crisp boreal sky!

While I was travelling from Valiance Keep to Valgarde, where the two miscreants decided to land, I experienced my first Whoa! moment in Northrend. Or WoW moment, to be more precise.

The turtle ride from Unu'pe on was just a nice show of creating a scenic time sink. I rather enjoyed the scenery on the route, but what really bugged me was the waiting time at the dock: I'd rather be killing things -and naturally doing quests- than waiting for the transportation without any knowledge of the time it takes for the swimming/flying/teleporting thing to arrive!

That wasn't the WOW! moment. That moment came in the Howling Fjord: as I landed to Kamauga after two waiting times (longer than the rides themself, at least felt like it!), I noticed that the Valgarde was still a short trek on wards. The first interesting thing I noticed was that I was hunting the same creatures as the local wolves: to kill the prey or the predator, that's the question. Nice addition to the game dynamics, really.

The WOW! moment came when I stepped into the Ancient Lift. My gasp of amazement silenced our brotherly discussion completely. It was way more than anything in Outlands. I can remember my first time in Kalimdor with my newly created Tauren Druid -Bullcopra- when I had similar moments.

The trip was worth the boring quests and grind-like starting of the Howling Fjord quests.

I'm looking forward for more of the same, if the same is like the raid on the Ancient Lift.

The Three Stooges already made plans to enter Utgarde Keep. We will get beaten, but we'll have fun.

Oh, and the last small step: Förgelös applied to the same guild I have my application open. Now to get that lazy player of the priest to do the same, and we're rockin'.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Full speed against a brickwall

What I have already noticed in the Borean Tundra is the fact that the quests themself are very easy: Laiskajaakko flies past the 'kill 10 foozles' and 'collect 5 dingies' in such a breeze that it amazes me. The questlines which you can point out from the first two quests go quest by quest till the final part, which is a group quest.


Or then it isn't. Even though the expansion has been around for a half a year, the majority of the population is already capped, or speedlevelling an alt. This leaves the Northrend for the most part as void and empty as the Old World or Outlands is. Except of course the farming areas, which are another story completely.

So I'm questing on a lovely storyline, the suspense is growing and I'm killing the baddies/mosters/foozles left and right and speaking with different NPCs here and another there only to realize that the climax of the storyline is a fortified brickwall which won't budge.

Very rewarding. Especially as you can see the lovely, shiny reward for the quest when you are about to accept -or have just accepted- the quest, which states "Suggested players (3)". It doesn't matter if its 2 or 4, it's enough for a normal, green wearing toon to stop dead on spot.

The difference in difficulty leading to the climax compared to the climatical ending is huge.

No wonder the toons I've met in Borean Tundra have only done a couple of quests here and a couple there and then moved on...

Completely other issue is the war-aspect I mentioned in earlier posts. the aggro range for the Nerubians or the Kvaldirs is so large that you can easily go around them without being attacked. And you can still beat one up while another stands nearby, targetting you but doing nothing.

Come on. Blizzard, you have technology to make wonders like Phasing, but you still cannot make an AI which could live up to some logic in the game. How lame is that?

Then again, the quests beyond Valiance Keep and Warsong Hold start to show promise in both storytelling and visuals: the freeing of the kidnapped mages at Beryl Point for the Kirin Tor mages residing at Amber Point is just beautiful. Even though the quest itself was a bit of a disappointment due to the pushover nature of the 'evil' mages and dragonkind.

Laiskajaakko's journey continues.

Great thinking, Blizz!

Just a quick burst of frustration:

I have missed some information and in that case it's not been stated clearly enough. I got stuck just 1 point short of lv71 on my WotLK trial yesterday. Only because no-one has stated that the trial is valid only for that level.

Granted, you can cruise around the Northrend for the 10 days, twiddle with your DK (which I won't do) and have fun with the factions, but you won't gain lv71.

Granted, it makes sense in the way that people who don't purchase the expansion will stay at the level cap of TBC, but I'm furstrated and agitated and feel cheated.

Enough.Sorry, thank you and goodbye.

PS. I'm going home via store to purchase that expansion. Onwards to victory!