Time to Wear Fancy Hats and Kill Deathwing (WoW)
Nov29

Time to Wear Fancy Hats and Kill Deathwing (WoW)

By the time North America gets home from work today World of Warcraft will updated to patch 4.3, and it’s a doozy. Included in the patch are three new 5-man heroic instances, the divisive Looking for Raid system, Transmogrification (seriously, can Blizzard not say ‘appearance tab’ like everyone else ever?), a totally revamped Darkmoon Faire, and of course the potentially final raid of the expansion, Dragon Soul.

I’ve got stacks of Inferno Rubies, Spellthreads, belt buckles, and Shadowspirit Diamonds ready to list after the servers come back up. There has been no sign on the PTR of epic gems, but the crafting/AH community seems to suspect that Blizzard is just trying to thwart our data mining and will patch in some (probably) transmutes at the last minute.

I can’t see how the Looking for Raid system will be anything but pure angry chaos for the next couple of weeks, and I look forward to seeing it first hand. What will the difficulty be? Will people shout slurs at everyone and then ninja? Will Deathwing just light us on fire and laugh as we run around without a plan? It should be loaded with amusing drama, assuming you’re prepared to not take it too seriously. Enjoy the show!

The Darkmoon Faire redesign was way overdue, but it looks like just another daily grind a la the Molten Front and you can ask my unused 113 tree tokens how I feel about daily grinds.

So yes, there are new recipes and quests and raids and instances but most important of anything today is the fact that this can happen:
transmog goblin Time to Wear Fancy Hats and Kill Deathwing (WoW)
T6 + matching boots and belt, Anathema, Junior 3rd Grade Technician Glasses: It’s definitely not as creative as some I’ve already seen, but by god you can just DEAL WITH IT.

This is the first patch I’ve experienced as a casual scrub and I find myself the most excited to log in I’ve been since returning to the game. Well played, Blizzard.

Mea Culpa from Space

For months I have been telling everyone that SWTOR is going to be a bust. End-game is dubious, the graphics are cartoony, and themepark MMOs are so 2009. Plus, I’m not a huge Star Wars nerd. This game, I declared once, is not for me.

And I still could be entirely right about all those things, but what I didn’t account for is that it would also be a wagonload of fun. I’m not saying it’s the greatest MMO ever, or it’ll kill other games, or that it’ll be awesome still in three months. What I’m saying is that thus far on my level 13 Jedi Knight and level 12 Smugger, the game is a freaking blast to play and I can’t wait for it to go live.

Mea culpa, my friends. Mea culpa.

SWTOR Can’t Be Skyrim

Just a quick post today because it’s in the middle of a weekend full of SWTOR beta and Steam Sales. (Civ V for $10! You may never hear from me again!)

So anyway, yesterday I was playing my new baby Smuggler in SWTOR and having a blast. The Smuggler is my kind of character — mercurial, sassy, tough and self-interested but not mean. I was connecting with the character in a way that I had not with my higher level forcier-than-thou Light Side Jedi Knight and quite enjoyed selecting the best dialogue options to represent her.

At one point around level 7 I was running back to camp to turn in my completed quests and get some sweet, sweet credits and I bumped into an NPC who wanted to talk to me. His loved one had been carried off by some unpleasant group, and he very much wanted me to save her.

In-game, this is exactly the type of mission that my Smuggler would pass on. There’s no money in it, no prestige, and high chance of death. Sorry and all, but come back when you have some credits to pay for that rescue. However, SWTOR is an MMO, and one that doesn’t roam too far from the beaten path. I could turn down this quest for character reasons, but frankly XP is the primary resource for leveling characters. Maybe this guy started a quest chain that I would have to come back for. Maybe rescuing his wife would randomly reward me with gear. Maybe the starter zone was optimized to not skip quests and I’d get behind in levels!

I thought to myself, “If this were Skyrim, I’d have skipped this already and moved on.” And there we have one of the fundamental differences between good RPGs and MMOs: I will make decisions in an RPG strictly for character reasons and believe that I am not unduly limiting my gameplay. For an MMO to give me the same feeling of ease, it would have to have four times the content of each zone. I would need to know that making firm decisions about character development (my Smuggler doesn’t work without a big payday, for example) would close off some doors but open others.

In fact, not only that — these “open doors” would have to be equal to those development and reward doors opened by people who wanted to play their Smuggler as a selfless helper. I’m not even sure an MMO could do this, but if they could it would have to be a hellacious amount of content to try and cover most people’s character needs, and even then it kind of goes at odds with the fundamental idea of a group experience.

I don’t know — I’ve seen a LOT of people compare MMOs unfavorably to Skyrim over the past couple of weeks, and I just don’t see how you can compare the two beyond basic game elements like graphics. It’s like saying that Team Fortress 2 is a much worse RPG than Mass Effect 2.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that cracking the code to create a world with many different possibilities but where your possibilites mesh seamlessly with everyone else’s possibilities is going to be the key to a “next gen MMO”. In the meantime, my Smuggler is going to go rescue civilians out of the goodness of her heart… or a desire to get to level 8.

Preparing for Auction House War in 4.3 (WoW)

One of my absolute favorite things to do in MMOs is play the economy, whether it’s becoming a crafting baron or “daytrading” my way up the ladder. After switching servers in WoW recently I found myself with a dwindling gold reserve and less than profitable professions, so I decided to make cash from doing my dailies every da– ha ha ha. Just kidding. Clearly it was time to get back in the AH scene, but how to get started again with awkward professions and limited liquidity?

In my experience each MMO has its own quirky economy with its own profitable niches, and World of Warcraft near the end of an expansion is a great time to try flipping goods. Everyone is flush and impatient, ready to drop serious gold to save time leveling a new profession or gearing up an alt. This spendthrift attitude often reaches new heights shortly after a patch when gear appears on badge and honor vendors as well as in a new raid instance, heroic, and Arena season. This time around, Patch 4.3 also includes the Looking for Raid finder and Transmogrification.

A bunch of new gear for players, of course, means a sudden demand for scrolls, leg enchants, gems, belt buckles, and possibly even glyphs. If you are a jewelcrafter or enchanter, you should be stockpiling your goods right now in a big way. If you don’t have those particular professions, think about what little things you can make and save for future armor buffs, like raw Inferno Rubies or Dreamcloth or scopes.

This is also a great time to buy and save ingredients for enhancements that you yourself cannot make. Personally, I have been focusing on elementals — they’re relatively inexpensive and they stack well. Figure out what the average price is, either through tracking it yourself or using an auction mod (I like TradeSkillMaster) or checking an AH monitoring site, and buy everything that shows up below it. Don’t forget to check for completed enhancements too: I managed to snag a stack of cheap belt buckles which I plan to flip for twice the price in a few weeks. If nothing else, run lots of non-troll heroics and disenchant everything for a shard and dust stash.

As with many aspects of MMOs, the biggest indicator of success in playing the economny is time. How much can you put into it? You can make a lot of money by having an iron grip on a certain product, for example, but it requires a lot of time camping the AH watching over your domain. Every minute of research you put into your craft or market will pay off in an increased ability to spot deals and make quick, profitable decisions. I’m not saying you need to spend all your free time shuffling glyphs around, but understand that if you only put 10 minutes each week into crafting and listing, you will probably receive 10 minutes worth of gold. (And that could be enough for you!)

It’s sort of ironic that I enjoy the economic side of MMOs so much, because in real life I am somewhat known for being a filthy socialist who loves to hate the free market. In a game, though, I am more than happy to capitalize on the stupidity of others for my own profit. I’ve negotiated direct buying partnerships before with shady herb farmers and miners who never log off, because it is a cheap and easy source of raw material. I’ve identified weak markets and set up price walls to slowly push out the small crafter.

In MMOs… I am the the 1%. And I’ll be seeing you all in the Auction House in 4.3. :)

RPG Review Bonanza, and Why I Didn’t Like Skyrim

For whatever reason lately — I think I blame the last SWTOR weekend — I have had a deep need to play games with dialogue trees. On Friday night I finally finished my first complete Mass Effect 2 playthrough, which took about 35 hours all told. I immediately bought Skyrim and played that on Saturday. Then on Sunday I had the opportunty to talk to someone about Saints Row: The Third and watch a few hours of their gameplay.

Mass Effect 2 is almost two years old, but it’s still commonly considered to be one of the best computer RPGs ever. The plot is.. well, not as good as the first one I hear, but it’s still epic. The graphics are still good. The world is well-realized with alien races and political intrigue and you can explore an almost endless sea of planets (if you want) on your way through the story. ME2 is a lot more of a FPS than most games I play, but it fits well into the story and combat is pretty entertaining with the various damage combinations you can put together with your squad. I found myself becoming quite fond of my team and I was surprised at how bummed I felt when one of the favorites died at the end because of my poor decisions earlier in the game.

In short, I was an idiot for waiting two years to play this. The greatest compliment I can give the game is that after finishing my bad-ass FemShep run I almost immediately started over as a Paragon (ie. sweetness and light) ManShep.

Saints Row: The Third launched on November 15th of this year, and is essentially a hyper-stylized version of the Grand Theft Auto games. While the GTA series has tried to become more and more realistic, Saints Row 3 (and 2, I understand) went the other direction and aims for goofy fun. The character creator is almost overwhelming, and you can assign clothes and cars to your posse in remarkable detail. The missions themselves are incredibly similar to standard GTA tasks, but they include more amusing weapons, set pieces, and thumpy thumpy house music. SR3 is not for people who want some morality in their games, but it is amazingly fun and glossy and occasionally breath-taking.

So now we come to Skyrim. Ah, Skyrim. Look, I really wanted to like this game. I was so excited to buy it after reading a week of everyone’s exaltations about what an amazing experience it is. And yet.. after six hours of gameplay I just cannot make myself start the game up again. I actually became angry — why does everyone else like this game, and I hate it? The graphics are amazing, the environment is reactive, I can go anywhere and do anything I want. It’s a fine game. What is wrong with me?

Part of the problem was absolutely the user interface. If you haven’t gotten the game yet please do not ignore the frequent complaints about the UI. On the PC, at least, it is HEINOUS. I have played a lot of games and am generally good with interfactes, and I had to look up on the internet how to sell junk to a vendor. Settings are not where you expect them to be — you have to set up windowed mode before loading the game, for example — and the ones that you can find are not intuitive at all. The interface isn’t a dealbreaker if you love the game, but for someone already struggling to enjoy it the stupid UI will definitely compound your frustration.

However there was more to it than just the UI, and after a lot of thought I think I’ve figured out a big part of why I didn’t enjoy Skyrim: I don’t like not being a hero. Look at the one of the very first scenarios in SR3 — you are a stylish gang leader flying around on top of a giant vault that is chained to a helicopter, music pounding, while you take out enemies in a blaze of glory with a semi-automatic in each hand. In one of the very first scenarios in Skyrim I was a young, dirt-covered girl lost in a deep cavernous hole, hoping to find some shoes. And I died over and over and over.

I realize that my character would likely gain power as the story progresses, but I think I just don’t like not being heroic in some way. Yes, RPGs rely on character progression so it would be impractical and boring to start out as too much of a god, and yet in Mass Effect I was a humbled space hero and in SR3 you play a tough gangster. In Skyrim I was a small girl with a stick.

I get enough of feeling powerless and lost and having poorly made shoes in real life. As I learned this weekend, when I play a game I want to feel awesome.

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