It is all about the time sink

The time sink game is all I’m playing at the moment. It has many levels and challenges.

I have three writing mini-projects going at once, a few games to try to play, and a family to look after. The three writing projects have deadlines which are looming so I really should be doing those with all my spare time, but I find them difficult to write them without spending large blocks of time. When I write I need a good 1-2 hours of time to get anything new written. I can review my own work in much smaller time blocks, but there is only so much review that can be done before it is called procrastination. New text needs thinking time.

A pc game however can be 30 minutes to 1 hour if I know what I’m doing (like WoW), or need a heap more (like 2-3 hours) if it is a game which is new to me like Elder Scrolls, EvE, Star Wars. I guess I could go play D3 too if I wanted some hack and slash fun, and D3 is the game I’ll fall back to when all else fails.

The writing is all based around pen and paper role-playing games (for a Deathwatch mini-module and a fan made Ars Magica supplement), and I’m enjoying the process of trying to create something for a critical audience. Writing for your own sake is easy, writing for an audience who will read, review, editorialise, and point out incongruity is much harder. That could be part of my hesitation too. The projects are not commercial things, so I’m not targeting a commercial level quality, but still thinking it has to be better than my typical notepad scrawl.

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As far as computer games go, WoW is still interesting to me. I have some gripes which will come out below, but as I write this I’m really just mouthing off about an errant kid who I like, but pissed me off recently.

I think it is interesting that WoW Insider has announced cut-backs to their blog staff across all games, and wow is significantly affected. That would not happen if the revenue was flowing well, and that is telling about the users of these games, and the market in general. Even though the subscription rate is ok-ish the players themselves are not putting up with any kind of silly or boring content anymore. I think repetition will be the next thing that MMOs have to have less of to keep their audiences, and that will be a huge problem for almost all the theme park style games. Players want more content, more often, with no drop in quality or they go elsewhere. They might return when the new content drops, but almost all the players I speak to are not willing to wait. They go elsewhere. And they should too.

WoW and Guilds

Well there is a doozy here to tell. Many of our raiders either left for greener pastures, were removed for being painful, or left for life reasons. That then caused another round of departures, as others had to ponder leaving too. Then some of those greener pastures were not as good as advertised, so those people began looking around again. Because I’m fed up with being treated like a revolving door, and fed up with the whinging, a few were told they were not welcome back. I think most people would support a player making the “right” call for themselves, and forgive a lot of how that was communicated or made. We’re all human. I think a Guild has to also make the “right” choices too, and that means sometimes enough is enough.

This was not a great time for our guild, but also not unexpected at this stage in the game. The downtime between expansions is always crappy for guilds, with only the strongest ones staying focused. Add in some continued drama, a few people who think they are special snowflakes, and you’re left with very little to do. There is no lever by which a player can be controlled (such as an employment contract for compensation) so “managing” difficult people is next to impossible for any prolonged period.

That leaves us with a guild of social players and no “serious progression” raids happening. Frankly I’m glad that some of the pains-in-the-arse players are gone. I’m sad that we lost great people too, and even more so that it might lead to others leaving. At this point though it is not something to fight, but something to accept. I want players to be having fun, and that is far more important than rubbish about which guild you belong to, or she-said-he-said malarkey. I am glad it is “over”. I’m glad that the people who are staying will not have to wonder why such stupidity is tolerated. It is not tolerated anymore.

I can now login without having to think about somebody getting shitty about some illusory problem. Finally, no dramas from World of Warcraft. Yeehaw! I do not even understand why in hell some people require the input that they do; it is like they are not adults at all.

I’m even happy that the people who left are getting what they like from their game time. It is good to think that people can go somewhere and be happy, and it is very possible (and even a certainty in one case) that a problem only existed because of the people involved. Dissolve the problem relationship permanently, and the fun comes back. More power to them. I hope they’re all killing digital monsters, and looting wonderful pixels.

I’m really not having a go, just talking through what happened. I’m sure the choices were not perfect, nobody makes perfect choices all the time.

Bygones are bygones. – TyphoonAndrew.

An aside – Wow characters can only belong to a single guild at a time, and therefore changing guilds is also inevitable. Why can’t WoW have more than one formal method to organise players. Cal them battle units, corps, whatever, but allow a way that players can stay in a guild they like, but also advance and be managed in another set of organisations. It might help players who have dual loyalties. We can cross-server raid all sorts of junk, but cannot organise characters in the same way in-game. I think that is a functional gap.

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ESO Beta

This weekend I was given a ticket into Elder Scrolls Online Beta (thanks T!) and it looks like a reasonable game. As my friend told me “think of it as a good single player story, not as an MMO” and its a great game. There was an NDA which I briefly skimmed while downloading the game so rather than say anything questionable, I’ll just say that it is similar enough that I knew what to do, but was a little different. Graphically it will challenge some computers. This is not a game which will run well on a low spec machine.

Where is the value?

If I were to think about value for money when playing time sinks I not subscribe to Wow, Eve, ESO, or any other subscription game. I’d get back into Star Wars, or something like it. It’s free and has plenty of content I’ve not played. Or many of the other games out there that are free to play. I do like the idea of not having a wow subscription for a while to save up for something else. Perhaps it is time to pause my membership for a few months.

I’ve also got a 7 day trial of EvE sitting waiting, but I cannot bring myself to login just yet. It looks fantastic, and honestly I’d be playing more just to look at the pretty space pictures than actually want to do space battles. I don’t think that alone is worth a subscription cost. In fact a video of beautiful space scenes rolling in the background would almost be as appealing.

That’s not weird. Is it? Happy killing, TyphoonAndrew

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Is being watched in an MMO by Spooks OK?

By now most gamers have head about the NSA watching games like WoW and SecondLife for dangerous individuals. If you’re also watching out for potential impacts from the NSA’s activities exposed recently, you’re probably now saturated with odd and scary stories.

A meandering thought or two is below.

Frankly the entire concept reads like fiction to me, and is scary enough that I’m seriously considering changing a huge amount of what tools I use and what I do online.

By way of really dreadful example – please consider these revelations about what is plausible for surveillance. It is an video explanation of the methods recently exposed. Actual hardware hacks, device exploits, and all other manner of “hacks and hijacks”.

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Garrosh Hellscream still wins, kind of.

At the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar the heroes of the story will have defeated Garrosh, and stopped his plans to use Sha powers to rule Azeroth. That is the expected outcome of the patch content. There is also some question on who the new Warchief of the Horde will be. I won’t spoil that for you.

I will spoil part of the story, as it is a part which I dislike. You have been warned if you read on.

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Thinking about the in-game store

It was going to happen. I don’t like at all what I’m reading. If you’re “pro” any side of these features then I’d warn you that I am not before you read on. I’m angry about this, and strong language follows. Continue reading

FlexRaids in 5.4, and LFR is apparently killing wow?

I’m reading about the Flexible Raid feature which is likely for patch 5.4, and I really dislike where the community is already taking it.

Ultimately, my guess is that in the next expansion, as long as there are no technical difficulties with the Flex Raid system, is that it will replace LFR completely.  I sure hope it does.  LFR is a stone around WoW’s neck and needs to be killed as quickly as possible.  For this reason I welcome the Flex raid system with open arms, and hope that it succeeds.

WTF!

While LFR might be killing the game for some, you are the not the entire player base.

If not for LFR I could not see the raid content. I don’t have a huge social network of raiders with RealID to sync with, and therefore I need LFR for the game to be viable.

I would not have some of the gear I have which allows me to sub-in to help our guild’s regular raid team. I am a pitch hitter who helps fill gaps, and removing LFR only makes that a shitty experience to try and keep up with where our raid team is. Our Guild raids three nights a week and is about as social a group as I have ever played an online game with – because I know a bunch of them from real life and have played with others for years. Years and years in fact.

So this new system is designed for social…good. What I will then need to do is open up and connect with new folks to form irregular raid times to try and suit my irregular schedule? Nah, I’ll just keep doing LFR when I can.

I love that the Flexible Raid feature is being added, it is a great step that will benefit the game, but to say that this renders LFR obsolete is plainly wrong. It might be true that many players who begrudgingly play LFR now will only do Flexibel Raids, but I doubt that too.

Many players will try to do all three, and that is a bad thing. It means burnout and boredom are present faster. i.e. Weekly LFR, Flex, Normal on the same content? Nope, no time. Bah, move on.

Links: I Like Pancakes – Flexible Raid Preview. and MMO Champ’s article.

Piss off Perfect World, your sales spam sucks

Perfect World, the trickster parent company behind a few MMO games that I have looked into (most recently Neverwinter) are offering a 15% discount on a store purchase.

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Geez thanks. I can spend money to play your essentially free game. In the case of Neverwinter I’ve barely moved beyond the starting beach and you’ve already got offers for my wallet. Sheesh.

Piss off Perfect World. I hate getting “offers” like this in email and I am slightly obsessive about avoiding this junk. My SWToR account email regularly gets special offers from those folks, despite the fact I have not logged on for other six months. Maybe you’re just trying to make a fair dollar, and it is certainly plausible to offer, but it stinks to me. My inbox is not a place I want borderline spam for games that are dead to me.

I intend Free-to-Play to be free. Continue reading

Thundering LFR thoughts

I did a LFR for Throne of Thunder (or ToT as it is being called in the off-channels) and it was ahem interesting…I was unlucky enough to joining a run already in progress and on the final boss of that LFR session – Council. What I saw was expected and I’ll share a little.

For starters, the LFR mini-game has not changed and is still present, meaning:

  • an idiot still trolled the raid by pulling with missing players/roles, and left before being kicked. I feel there should be a way to make that player’s life worse somehow because he wasted 10 minutes of 20-ish people’s time.
  • an impatient player still yelled and whined about “just pull” and was a general pain through out the encounters. These people make me not want to read /raid channel.
  • nobody “knew” the strat, despite the raid leader explaining it really clearly,
  • many Dps did terrible jobs of staying alive and also actually doing damage. We sat around 80k dps for most attempts, did about 105k on the kill, but 5-7 players were doing less than 40k, and some less than 20k dps. Doing 20k dos with a 30% buff is unthinkable.
  • gear level was low for some characters present, but honestly how they played was far more a factor.
  • I battlerez’ed another character in each attempt, but I think the attitude is to wipe and reset rather than push in LFR.

ToT-screenie

Oh, but we have new enhancements to the system to help:

  • the new 5% buff for each wipe is interesting. I joined the Council attempts at +15% so knew they’re already suffering. When we killed it we were at +30%. I was around 3rd on Dps for most of the fights, sometimes getting to 1st. The buff is not stopping people from leaving, and is not stopping situational awareness, or lazy players.
  • the new buff system will help reasonable players carry bad ones, which is why I fully support it as a concept. The max value of 50% might not be enough if the player base cannot learn about staying out of sand-traps, but it is a help.
  • We will have four of these raids by end of April to do each week. I do not have the time or inclination to repeat that repeat wipe experience 4x a week in addition to dailies and trying to get a raid spot. I find wiping like that totally frustrating. It is not progression when nobody stays to learn, or refuses to learn how to do the fight properly.
  • Oh – and my Mogu coin and luck remain consistent with the previous tiers, meaning NOTHING DROPPED for me BUT A SCRUB DPS GOT A TWO HANDED WEAPON at item level 502. I wanted to throw my laptop at that point, or go out and buy a cat so I could kick it.

To be fair a single boss kill in not enough to say that the sky is falling, and in fact I like everything I’ve seen in Throne of Thunder. The trash, the bosses I’ve seen, and the physical construction is very good so far. I am pleased to say I will return there, and even keep trying to offload my lucky-mogu-coins for something other than gold.

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Arrrg loot in LFR and the Useless Ordinary Legendary Gem

This post is brought to you by the word: Random.

I was going to whine about loot in LFR, as a run through Terrace and the first part of Heart of Fear saw nothing. But then I got lucky in the second part of Heart of Fear LFR, and got the Gloves token which I’ve now had drop 4x times. Arrrrg. No weapons, side grades, other drops for ages. Oh, working as intended? Random rewards are fun. /sarcastic

On an actual positive note I have now handed in and completed the first stage of Wrathion’s quest-line for the “Ordinary Legendary Gem. Now the slow grind up to 6000 Valor points has started, and we’ll see how far behind the curve I am. I doubt patch 5.2 is 6-7 weeks away given the news and press flying around.

I love the fact that the Legendary quest line is a pain in the arse and bloody difficult for a casual player. Blizzard got this right. it should be driving those players crazy, and should not be something that we feel is deserved; earn it. I get a good quest line and the promise of more great stuff to come.

Not that the “Ordinary Legendary Gem” is actually useful as it requires a Sha Touched Weapon to be slotted into, which is also RANDOMLY DROPPED. So the Ordinary Legendary Gem” is actually a “Useless Ordinary Legendary Gem“. I’ve decided to treat the gem like getting the Left Binding in Molten Core. Now begins the stupidly long path of getting the other random thing to drop.

My Death Knight could really use a Sha Touched weapon for Tanking. Really, really, handy. Random and hard for LFR upgrades is poor, random and hard in a Legendary quest is perfect. Its like the two are the same now. Just saying.

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Time for Tokens to die

Years ago the wow community were rousing about the token system was ok, but fundamentally flawed. The mini-game we play after the boss dies is another treadmill-merry-go-round where gear drops which is useless. As a design principle wow’s reward for effort is based upon re-trying the kills each week until you get lucky. Today I’m bloody mad about this as its been far too long that we’ve been suffering this. Rant incoming.

In our guild forums I wrote this class tokens:

On the token (issue) I think we’re screwed for two reasons: we need to take what we can in terms of characters who are able to join and raid above their match on the token, and we can’t get people to switch characters just to suit the bloody token system each major content patch. It is a bullshit scenario to be in, but I can’t think of a solution that does not have the regular raiders re-rolling each patch.

The token system was an ok idea to allow a boss to drop loot which would not be fraught with drama, as only a few classes could use it. Less people = less drama right? Wrong.

We have in guild now is one character with a token to himself, and half the raid split on each of the other two. Ah shit, gear drama. And I don’t mean people being bitches about loot, I mean that we see Tokens getting cycled for gold/de as we’ve had too many of one type and miles from enough of others. The drama is that our progression is slowed due to shitty luck. A boss dies but the drop is totally pointless.

Also with 4-5 players on each 2 tokens it takes huge amounts of time to gear those 9 players. It is not just 9 kills job done, because we have alt sets, and subs who join from time to time to help with the roster, which makes the distribution ever worse.

Just bring more people to suit the tokens? The server populations are shrinking and this is a totally non-viable response.

Bring the player not the class? Nope. Bring a balance of classes for the tokens. Oh and the tokens change each major content patch. Arrrg.

Reroll? Good god, have you seen how unfriendly the alts are? Forget that as viable for everyone except those with huge amounts of time to play.

The outcome is our raid group just has to suck it up, and keep grinding.

Honestly I am so sick of the loot rewards or issues around loot getting in the way of actually having fun with my raid team in World of Warcraft.

Fark this, I’m soon going to play something else. If Blizzard need a reason why I’ve moved to month-on month payments now, and will shortly consider reading a book instead of logging in they can start with this. Fark it. Destroy it all.

(p.s. what about suggestions for alternatives? Nope, I’ve done that for years suggesting ways that progressive “coins” or currency could be acquired each kill. Do a search on Gear on the blog… they’ll be a few.)

Folks still roll Need on offset. FFS

Short one – doing a 5 man for the valor, and the Druid healer needs on a Strength dps Neck item. Riiiiiiight. Druids need strength for what exactly? He then needs another item which could be his offset. Both well before anyone else has even rolled. Deathlordxtx for the loss.

It was not surprising that his name was also an ArthasZ style fiasco. Can’t these people re-roll Rift already? Somebody tell them that Wow is dead please.

I’m sick of this shit, so I’m calling them out. You want an offset item and wish to roll Need, then use the chat function BUILT INTO THE GAME to see who else wants it.