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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Why I am still playing, and loving it

Written first for the WoW Hammer website, re-posting here some time later. Please forgive the fact it has not been reedited for the past weeks. It’s been busy.

 

I’ve also not been playing much since then, but always endeavour to do so. I might need a “am I still playing” post soon. Grumble.

The content in the recent patch is excellent, and it will very likely hold the player base in thrall until Blizzcon where my guess is we will see another announcement to keep the WoWers wowed. Continue reading

Blog status like the Drowned God

“What is dead my never die”

It has been another fast and tiring few weeks around the TyphoonAndrew household, with far too much non-gaming malarkey. That does not mean that nothing news worth happened, but gosh darn it – I can’t give my usual degree of rant on the topics.

Here is a rapid fire round-up of some things that I thought to blog in detail about, but won’t get time to.

Should characters be scaled?

At best, make it an option. No way I want this as a forced change.

If you want it to be forced and no choice to stay high level then I can agree to disagree with you, and then also decide that you really must be a tad selfish. Games can be about fun options, and it should not totally destroy an existing fun to crate a new fun.

Blizzcon News and Gossip

Frankly I’m beyond caring about Blizzcon, particularly where getting the information asap from the showroom floor is concerned. Australians are far too far from the noise and splendorous hype for me to worry about being current.

The general buzz is about the DOTA style game they are ramping up, but I really hope we do get an expansion announcement and then details about it.

Without one it feels like the end of Mists just sort of ends with a whimper.

Blackthorne can be downloaded.

I have no idea what it is (was) or it if it is worth downloading.The screenies I fond make it look like a side scrolling action game. Cool for some casual kicks. Continue reading

HearthStone, Impressions so far

A week ago I downloaded and started playing HearthStone. For a beta it is solid.There were no graphical glitches, error 37s, or other strange config things going on to hamper getting in straight away to play.

Overall – I’ve now been reminded why I hate “Draw a Card” based games and why I just stayed away from MtG when it was repeatedly offered at game stores and roleplaying tables. The degree of “random” in what powers can be used when is a key issue for how the game plays. That might be a cornerstone of this style of game and a known factor to many players, but for me it is farcical.

The darn game could be renamed “The Frustration of RNG”.

hstoneBannerKnowing that a deck contains a few handy abilities to your current situation and not getting them for turn after turn is way too frustrating. Twelve or so games into the normal Practice modes where you try to unlock the other classes and I was almost screaming at the screen. I certainly thumped the table. I am also consistently frustrated by how often the NPCs is able to pull the “right” move. Kill a taunt empowered card and the NPC drops another straight down. For pity’s sake. The NPCs seem to always have the right card as follow-up. Screw this.

One battle my “Heroic” Mage drew no extra minion cards for 5x rounds – in a game based upon using minions and specials to win! In another game which came down to both heroes being on less that 5 HP at the last turn I’d never seen a Fireball card (4pts cost inflicting 6 damage). ON A MAGE!

I also noticed that there is a certain strategy in not just using cards because you can deploy them. The NPCs in Practice mode seem to hold cards early and then swamp the board later. The NPCs in the tutorial games are softer and seem to have worse luck with cards. I’d like to know if the NPCs are at the same “level” as my hero or am I being challenged by level 10 opponents while tooling around on a level 1-3.

That aside…

  • Too many “click to proceed” things from the time you open the app to the time you are actually about to play. Animations are slow (on my laptop). I think that is by design in HearthStone as WoW plays fine on the same laptop and it cannot be using much in the way of a 3d engine.
  • Overall I’d like it to “play quicker”. Show cards quicker, etc.
  • The initial training fights have the odd “Grom Dar!”, “You will burn”, and other character based emotes and actions, and its funny now but after a few games I started wondering how old that will get.

After the training five or so fights, the player is tasked with defeating the other classes. Some classes seem already freaking cool, and others disadvantaged.

The Mage (starter) has a 2pt special power which delivers 1x damage, and it can be used every turn if you wish. By contrast the Hunter has a 2pt ability which inflicts 2x damage. Why? I note that the Mage can always ping 1pt, but the hunter can sometimes not, but that is a trivial limitation on a game where we usually have other uses for those points.

So far I’ve unlocked the Warrior, Shaman, and Priest so far, and find the Warlocks, Hunters, and Druids darn tough to beat. I’ve heard that Rogues are tough to content with, but both my matches have been down to the wire although I’ve lost both too.

The Warlock’s draw a card power is fantastic, and I am repeatedly fighting and getting trounced by the Warlock because I think that ability will suit how I like to play. Sure it might cost a few health, but a Card per 2pts is trivial if you have only a few cards left in your hand. The Druid being able to directly attack is great. It might only be useful periodically, but it seems hardy and appropriate to the class.

The Monk and Death Knight are not present as classes and I can forgive that given how much diversity there is already in the class mix.

I’d back a MOO2 clone in a heartbeat

BioBreak blog reminded me today how much I loved the PC game Master of Orion 2. By today’s games it is a contradiction to all the features that generate buzz:

  • single player
  • turn based
  • fully offline
  • no time limits
  • still images, or sprite graphics

Why was it so good? Well for a start it supplied a backdrop for my mind to fill in the story. Continue reading

Can the Trinity be damned?

Can the trinity of tank, heal, damage roles in online rpg games be removed? Really?

An old question, and perhaps one which is both too subjective for each game style in question, and also blisteringly obvious for MMOs. Blessing of Kings has a great post where the discussion thread is the perfect primer for the issues and the potential degrees of how effective the solutions will be. A darn good read.

trinity-dangerousTo me it is all about degrees of effectiveness vs the suspension of disbelief. No solution I’ve ever read provided a summary for an MMORPG that has no role based system, without a set of quasi-magical powers to manipulate the monster’s behaviour. And that is not what might really happen.

If nine of my friends and I decided to attack a giant, I don’t think the giant would understand taunts enough to only swing at one person, or that two of us were good at recovering from wounds so might be better to kill early. The giant is going to kill easy targets, targets that hurt it a lot, and then the rest of us.

Similarly a grizzly bear will attack one of us until it can get a good meal, unless we keep poking it with spears in which case it will hurt the spear carrier and probably ignore any others just standing to the side waving their hands (healing, caster dps).

In MMORPGs I don’t think it can be totally removed. I don’t think I’d want it removed either. We have a method which is essentially in support of the fun, and while the mechanics of that illusion might be tweaked, the illusion is useful.