Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time is coming

I have never been a big fan of the Far-Eastern MMO's. I've tried some over the years, like Thang Online (which was nice in a simple way) and Silkroad Online, but I've never gotten the hang of them. Maybe it's the graphics, or the emphasis on grind and pvp instead of a story or introducing the lore to the player. Or maybe it's just the player merchant system which clutters the starting zones of the game unplayable.

Never the less, I downloaded and tested gPotato's next big thing yesterday. Aika Online.

It's not bad, but it's just enough Far-East for me to enjoy. I wonder if the designers know that Aika means time in Finnish... (thus the title of this post, hint, hint!) Because this game needs more time in tweaking the controls and responsiveness. Really, when you compare the combat in Aika to even Allods, the difference is huge: you can't tell from the visuals if your attack has activated the same way as in Allods. Let alone in WoW, but then again, WoW has been around for 5 long years where as these two are 'newcomers'.

The same problem I mentioned earlier persists in this game, too, as in every far-eastern MMO: the player merchants sitting around the starting spot, selling mostly useless - or highly overpriced - items to anyone. At the same time the chat is full of gold sellers...

But there are some nice features in the game and it's controls. For example the gold sellers: when you click their name in the chat window with the right button (secondary mouse button, that is), you have the option to Block this name. It takes you directly to your ignore list and all you have to do is approve! Allods, hello! Here is an usefull feature to copy!

There is also a very highly controllable lfg system, which I didn't have time - nor level - to test, but it seemed very intuitive and concise. I doubt - however - that I will ever test that part, though, because I don't have any urge to play the game any further.

It requires a certain set of mind to enter and enjoy these westernized versions of the hugely successful Korean games. I seem to lack that, but I'm sure there are many over there who enjoy the game later on.

It. Just. Doesn't. Click.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What took the fun for me?

Tobold beat me to it with his post about Stockholm syndrome and Hecker's nightmare. It's a great post about the rewards the current DIKU MUD based MMO's really offer to us players. Sadly Google's Buzz has a separate discussion to it, which doesn't connect to the discussion in the post itself. Anyhow, I commented the post in Buzz like this:
Great post, as usual. It's along the same lines as I was sketching a post on my own blog, as I realized that you have to change how you approach the game at level cap: instead of following questlines and the 'great story' of the game, you must learn to enjoy micro management and min-maxing. For a story driven (nearly to roleplaying level) player like me this is a nightmare, really.

By saying so I have to disagree with Merlot up there: in WoW there is no story after you hit level cap. There is a grind through heroics to gain access to the ICC to be able to continue the story you have been playing through most of the Northrend quests. The abrupt change from great stories and continuity (sometimes a bit poor but still) to gear grind in gogo-groups is such a lackluster that I have given up. I find no enjoyment in running through the same instances night in, night out only to gain that one last emblem to gain that one last piece of gear: the gear and/or maxing the stat isn't a reward enough to keep me as a gamer interested. Much like Luke stated, except that I cannot see that T10 gearset as an achievement or reward anymore.

There has been some complaints how DIKU MUD type games railroad the advancement: how about really doing this in a good way? You could choose your approach to a quest, let it be in selecting your approach from multiple choices (continue story, abandon story, take another route), and really be railroaded through a STORY in a MMO? this is something I expect to see in SW later on, something that has been lacking in the earlier games I've played.

I believe that the type of MMO Tobold asks for could be made, but it would require a developer willing to break - or strongly modify - the currently accepted mode which WoW developed to it's prime. 
 My gripes with the cap level game comes from the min-maxing being the only reason to play. In that sense I feel that the famed "End Game" is really a depiction of the Hecker's Nightmare: Shitty game design that the designers are paying the players to play. By game design it's mandatory to switch from lv264 gear to lv277 gear as much as it is to aim for a Royal flush instead of a mere color in Poker. The difference is even bigger at lower gear levels, so the game 'rewards' the player who has the butt to sit at her/his computer night in, night out doing the same encounters to receive either that upgrade as a loot or that last emblem needed to purchase that reward.

The sad part is the fact that the great storylines really stop when you hit the cap. Only to be replaced with the senseless revisitations to the heroics and later on the Icecrown Citadel with it's priced final confrontation with the Lich King. As the progression route, where the story could have been made to flow through, is broken and forgotten, there is not much for a story and lore to be of interest.

It comes down to why you play. Do you play to win the game and min-max as the designers suppose you to do, or do you play for the stories and lore the levelling game is so full of?

Either way, you play as you find the game to be fun. I don't find min-maxing without a storyline fun. Perhaps this means that the end game in any MMO is dead for me then?

"All work, no play, makes Jack a dull boy..."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Brotherly love: Loken

Aye, finally I got around to login WoW with my warrior so long neglected. As I had been playing an odd hour of Allods here and another there, it took me a few fights to memorize the controls and how they differ from the setup I have for the other game.

It was three against the Halls of Lightning, and boy it was fun. Again.

Two level capped and one below the instance's "recommended" level. As DPS was only lv 77 while the bosses are already in normal at lv 81, I as a tank and Bishop as a healer had to do our share of the job. Which was refreshing in a way, because this way you really learn to use all the tricks and talents you really need. The only way to do this harder would have been to run it either as a duo - which would have been senseless - or do it solo - which should be doable, but still senseless.

We had some misses, losses and hits, but all in all the run was good clean fun. Not much of a gearing run for Förgelös, now at his lv77 prime, but still a valuable lesson in threat management, positioning and all.

More to follow, as soon as we get along again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A whole new world

By Azariell

I've never ventured very far into the PVP world. Sure I collected the occasional pvp gear piece when for some reason I had some honor to burn, but I never made a real attempt to be learn how to play pvp. Now that I switched my druids dps spec to a healing spec with 'fitting' gear me and a warrior friend decided to give the arena a go. Quite frankly we suck at it, but its pretty fun to do and I've just scratched the surface till now! But why is it soo much fun (atleast in the starter phase where I am at).

WoW in general is too predictable it seems. Several bloggers such as Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn and Ciderhelm over at tankspot posted about the lack of surprise and maybe even the lack of new challenges to be one of the weak links in 'modern day WoW'. Well, I've found quite big and for me relative new challenge in the Arena.

First of all, nothing is predictable. You never know what team you will face, and as you are facing human opponents, every team (even with the same class composition) is different. Sure you can think of a certain strategy to go for but the fun thing is that selecting the strategy can only be based on the class composition which you will only know when you enter the arena pit and already have to 'defend' yourself. Its more like a battle field, where you can make the greatest of plans in theory, but the real situation will always be different and requires constant vigilance and improvisation.

Now at this point I'm just focusing on keeping myself alive (especially during the first few matches I played), but the potential of any healer is much greater than just healing. Next to decursing and de-poisoning we've also got roots, cyclone etc but also some minor DPS capabilities. Now I'm already starting to use it at times but more when I think I've got a few seconds where I can 'slack' on healing and CC their healer for a bit. But timing those spells just right so that one big 'saving' heal for the dps is interrupted, or making sure the dps cannot reach me or 'save' his healer when my buddy is dps-ing him down, will become crucial if you want to survive in the higher ranks.

That is one of the other 'fun' things. There is no fixed level of difficulty. You will start low, and as you learn you get better (hopefully) and will be facing higher ranking teams which will require you to pull out more 'tricks'. You will need to learn how to use your class abilities to their fullest potential, but you also need to think outside of the 'role' box. You are no longer just a healer, tank or DPS. You need to focus on all of those aspects if you wish to survive.

And in all this the best thing is, there is no script that is followed, no big flashing boss mod messages telling me to stop casting, or tell me to move to position X. Sure there are addons that will give you more info on what the opponent is casting and which could tell me what the consequences will be. But with all those things, it will always be dependant on the situation how to deal with it.

Now one of the things I always thought was 'Playing arena is all about learning a few dozens tricks and apply those', but its more. Just knowing the tricks is not enough as for one you need to apply them at the right time, but also need to realize that each trick has a counter trick and its up to your creativity to think up new 'tricks' and new applications of older tricks.

Arena, an unexpected versatile aspect of WoW....

Friday, March 12, 2010

Does wisdom come with age?

With age comes wisdom, or atleast so they say. Apparently, however, age also comes with the knowledge of (supposedly) gaining that wisdom and that is something not everybody is able to handle well enough.

During my vacation a few weeks ago I had an epiphany, well I had realized this before, but it was a bit more obvious when I was there. Several of the older residents of the hotel apartments went to the poolside around 10-ish and started 'settling'. They moved around some of the chairs to provide a bit more 'empty space' around the chair they had selected and one of them always took a second chair and put it on the first to elevate her sitting position, they place their books, fly swatter and other regalia around them, and sit there for the rest of the day as the king of their little own castle.

Now this does not necessarily seem rude, but when you realize they are making the sunroof less comfortable for others, but more comfortable for them then it is.

This is just one of the many examples, so why am I putting it up here, in a WoW blog? because we see the exact same thing happening in WoW. 'The grownups' believe that WoW (and any online game for that matter) should not be played by kids, but just by the adult and mature population. We all (me included) are appauled by the 'kiddies' who walk around yelling god knows what to everybody they come across and find it absolutely normal. But who are to be blamed for that? Those kids? their education? or maybe their parents for not raising them right? Or is it the WoW population who made these kids into a self fulfilling prophecy?

As stated earlier, kids are seen as trespassers on the domain of the older players. This means that from the start, kids have been treated as such. They were told they shouldnt even be there, are the n00bs and are boo-ed at for not instantly knowing what to do. Isn't it somewhat obvious then, that at some point, the kids just started to not care anymore, and fulfill the prophecy of the 'problem children'? You can either fight with all your power to prove you are mature enough to play the game, or you can take the easy route and just be the kid they think you are....

A good portion of the 'Older people' believe they have certain rights over the younger. They believe that they earned the respect of said youngsters by just having the age. They hold the wisdom and they should be respected.

Personally I almost always try to do the 'right thing' and help our older fellow man. Be it in a shopping mall, crossing a road, or standing up for them in the bus so they can sit. I have absolutely no problem doing those things as I believe them to be right. However, they have absolutely no right to claim these things. They have no right to wiggle them in front of me in a line for the check out believing it to be ok. They have absolutely no right to kick away my bag because they believe I had to remove it for them in the first place etc etc.

So who are we (as I count myself to the somewhat mature player base of WoW) to tell these kids that they can't play and that they are ruining our experience? Aren't we ourselves just as much responsible for ruining their experience? And If we would have embraced them from the start, wouldnt there have been a lot less hatred?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some thoughts more about being a tank

The last few weeks I've been deprived from playing either WoW or Allods, at least as much and at the level I would have wanted to. This has lead me back to the basic gripes I have with the gear dependant progression in both of them. A sin of a DIKU MUD type of gaming.

I have been wondering how much easier it is for a dps or healer to enter the higher level content in WoW than it is for the tank. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the basic assumption is that the tank knows the encounters inherently and at a level where s/he can -and by basic assumption usually does- lead the party. Be it a 5 man or a raid. A tank who honestly states that s/he has never seen the encounter is shunned and most probably not invited, if the raid/party is a PUG collected from the server itself.

On the guild level I've heard that its almost the same: if a scheduled raid 'loses' a known and designated tank, the raid is more probably cancelled rather than the tank being replaced with a newbie one. Mind you, I base this information on the discussions I've had over the last few months with people around the net, not on my own experience. I haven't heard the same happen if a dps or even a healer hasn't been able to join: they are readily replaced.

The only way I can see a tank can earn her/his spurs in the current end game content is by cheating. By being so full of her/himself that they don't have to admit their lack of experience on the encounter. Or lack of experience as whole. Sure, they will be called in names and even kicked out of the party if they really mess up, but they get the chance to try.

The honest one gets the finger before that possibility.

Is it any wonder the tanks are in short supply?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Vacation time over

As it happens, I had a week off from work. Coincidentally, Az had his vacation just before that, so we've been out for 2 weeks now, more or less absent from both gaming and blogging.

This will now be put to past and the normal status will resume.

Whatever that means.