Gliding Along in ArcheAge, Pacing Draenor Content, and a Special Podcast Request

Cat Context is turning TWO on this coming Sunday! I think that’s middle-aged in podcast years?

We want to do a special live show on Twitch on Sunday, April 27, at 6:30pm PST, but more importantly we want your questions! Ask us about the podcast, or about a game we did or did not enjoy. Ask me about editing the show, ask Arolaide why she gets angry about Final Fantasy 7, or ask Elly why he seems to keep playing games he hates.

You can tweet me, or email podcast@lioreblog.com, or leave a comment here, or leave a voicemail by clicking on that tab over there on the right. Include your blog/podcast/YouTube channel and we will totally mention it, too.

Thanks in advance for your questions, and for listening to us have a great time every two weeks. :)

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We briefly discuss this on the impending next episode of the podcast (coming on Wednesday), but has acceptance of the content drought changed your plans at all for the launch of Warlords of Draenor?

I pre-ordered the game, in large part to get my hands on an insta-paladin instantly, but more and more I feel like I’m not going to be playing WoW when the expansion launches. The current content drought has been really terrible for the folks who have been playing Pandaria since it arrived, whereas I still have a considerable amount of options as someone who just started playing at the end.

Assuming Blizzard’s development schedule doesn’t change, and honestly it never does, do I really want to set myself up for boredom? Right now I’m considering skipping the first year-ish of WoD and coming back when there are at least 3 or so patches of content to keep me occupied. (Alternatively I could just frequently unsub for short periods of time in-between, but that doesn’t really suit my nature and I’d probably forget to cancel my account anyway.)

Of course it doesn’t help WoD’s case that there are so many other amazing MMOs launching later this year…

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… amazing MMOs like ArcheAge, which, yes, I am still fangirling. (Fanladying?)

There are no flying mounts in the game (or flying taxis on the scale of WoW, for what it’s worth), but what ArcheAge does have is personal hang gliders. You can cross great distances with your glider, but it takes much more effort.

As with real world physics your glider will work better the higher your launching point is — you can’t just jump vertically off the ground and expect to sail through the air! Also like the real world, landing your glider is a little imprecise and requires (in my experience so far) banking around in a circle like how an plane lands.

Advanced gliders, which the players must craft, can look like giant butterfly wings, or have stealth, or even BOMBS. It’s a really great compromise for flying mounts, a gorgeous way to see some of the landscape, and fun to boot.

I made a short video last night of my first big gliding experience. Enjoy!

Early Impressions on the ArcheAge Alpha
Apr16

Early Impressions on the ArcheAge Alpha

TLDR: Really fun! Really time consuming! Similar to WoW at the start but opens up a lot later!

ArcheAge is the quintessential “niche MMO”.

The game plays a lot like World of Warcraft. Occasionally I even had a sense of deja vu while playing like some of the UI was taken directly from WoW, or perhaps directly from RIFT. (The latter makes more sense as like RIFT the English version of ArcheAge is a Trion joint.)

I was disappointed that combat was so heavily in the well-trod school of “tab target, click hotbar”, particularly when my previous Korean MMO experience was TERA, a game whose action combat I still kind of miss when playing other games. The auction house interface is bog standard, as is the crafting system at the lower levels.

(I still quite enjoyed it though and lost track of time only to come up for air four hours later with a level 10.)

Character creation is thorough, and I was easily able to put together a catlady archer wearing sensible armor — something very unlike TERA.

2014 04 14 22 47 02 ArcheAge DX11 Mar 28 2014 18 07 55 Alpha 500x345 Early Impressions on the ArcheAge Alpha

I planted azaleas!

But this is all stuff that concerns the early game. ArcheAge really gets interesting later.

Where WoW-likes are all about dungeons and raids, ArcheAge is about housing, farming, gathering, crafting, and trading. Players can join large guilds or form small “families”, and claim land for farms or livestock or housing. It’s all non-instanced, which means players are literally dotting the landscape.

And what to do in this sandbox “end game”? Well, you could be a crafter. You could spend all day tending your farm, slaughtering animals for meat or milking the cows. Those grown and crafted materials can get turned into Trade Packs, and those packs have to be taken to market by traders. (There are no world-wide portal systems or taxis in ArcheAge.)

However, the night is dark and full of terrors, or cutpurses and pirates. ArcheAge has a significant PvP landmass, and traders are going to need to traverse it to get the best deals for their family/guild’s products. Want to be a bodyguard, or a navigator? Okay. Want to hold up trade groups for ransom or sail the seas as a pirate looking for precious cargo to pluck? Okay!

And it is that, my friends, that has me all excited for ArcheAge. To be fair I am not sure I will have the time to properly dedicate to it, and a lot will depend on the makeup of the playerbase, but right now the game strikes me as a fascinating blend of WoW and EVE Online with less emphasis on “being the villain” than the latter.

Consider me cautiously interested.

Zombie Co-op Dreams (H1Z1)
Apr10

Zombie Co-op Dreams (H1Z1)

Okay, let’s get something out of the way first — I am a zombie hipster. I used to post in alt.zombie back in my text-only internet days. I would bore friends with dissertations on George Romero in high school. I listened to Braineaters by the Misfits. I helped with an email campaign to bring Shaun of the Dead* to North American audiences, and of course I saw it in the theatre.

In fact, this is me on the right in 2010 at the Seattle “Red, White, and Dead” Zombie Walk, one of three times that I have dressed up as various incarnations of Shaun. (On the left is a lovely friend who I originally met in WoW. She is usually quite alive.)

shaun 500x375 Zombie Co op Dreams (H1Z1)

Liore of the Dead

So yeah. And I know that in the last decade zombies became very hip and then quickly very overdone, but where, dear game industry, is my dream zombie apocalypse game?

The industry (and players, to be fair) seem quite enamored at the moment with griefing paradises like DayZ. I think of these games as less of a zombie apocalypse simulator and more of a “mom’s dead so I can do whatever I want” experience. The zombies could be replaced with anything — heck, they could really be removed completely — because the point of the game is not humanity banding together to fight an overwhelming pityless force, the point is to make unarmed strangers dance at gunpoint for a can of beans.

This is not what I want from my zombie apocalypse game.

What I want are co-operative tools. I want a serious, deep gathering and crafting system. I want to be able to find an abandoned truck, call for help on my radio, and roll it back to our base to become part of the baracade. I want to grow crops and go on clean water runs. I want to be faced with the moral dilemma of adding new wandering strangers to our fortress or making sure we have enough supplies for everyone.

As I write that now I think what I’m asking for is basically Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but in MMO form.

At first blush yesterday I thought that SOE’s brand new title H1Z1 (unlike Syp I think the name is kinda clever) might be the game of my dreams, but that looks more and more unlikely.

We’ve been promised an incredibly deep crafting system and an emphasis on “player ownership and building” which sounds great, but Keen pointed out that it looks like SOE may be targetting the DayZ crowd. All the comparisons to Planetside 2, the fact that their website is just a link to Reddit, the announcement being on a bro-gamer Twitch channel… SOE, at least, does not seem to think that we co-op MMO players will be interested in this title and I guess with little else to go on right now I’m inclined to believe them.

(By the way, game companies, when you use Reddit as your official medium of communication it just makes you look unprofessional and weird. Stop doing that.)

So I suppose my wait for my dream game continues! And when the co-op zombie apocalypse finally hits, I’ll be the one with the cricket bat.

* Apparently Shaun of the Dead turned 10 yesterday. Happy Birthday, one of my favorite movies ever! I will eat a cornetto in your honor.

The Joys of Not Knowing Everything

As I mentioned before I haven’t really been following all the Warlords of Draenor alpha stuff but just based off my Twitter feed and a few blogs the information has been flowing fast and furious, to the point where someone even set up a simulated server with the alpha client so they could take in-game screenshots.

Yikes.

WoW has had a tradition of providing almost complete access to data from the moment it launched, and to a degree that was unheard of in previous MMOs. And while I appreciate that folks are excited for new information and guide writers and theorycrafters love these heady few months, I can’t help but feel that all this transparency is a curse more than a blessing.

One of the things that many folks, myself included, enjoy(ed) about MMOs is the feeling of a virtual world. And clearly there are relative levels of immersion — I’m fine with achievements in my virutal world, for example, while Syl thinks they detract from her experience (which is totally valid). But man, it is hard to keep any sense of wonder when you already know everything, from where to find certain critters to how to quickly gain reputation to exactly how much damage you do with each hit.

I think we got to this point with the best of intentions. Blizzard was (and probably still is?) full of nerds, and as a fellow nerd I can appreciate a love of numbers, systems, and transparency. The unprecedented access to information thanks to LUA and add-ons is an extremely cool concept, but one that has also helped to break down the perception of MMOs from virtual worlds to a series of systems even faster than usual.

And really, a lot of the current MMO “elitism” between players can be traced back to this abundance of information. After all, when it’s possible to Google a bit to find the math for an optimum rotation, or just Ask Mister Robot to tell you what gear you should be wearing, why shouldn’t we expect Joe Random in our LFRs to meet a high standard of performance? Look it up, man, and stop being a bad.

I don’t blame people for being starved for content in a pre-expansion drought, and this is probably just my new filthy casual attitude talking, but it’s nice to not know everything in a game. Online resources are inevitable, but I kind of miss the days when things were crowd-sourced from players and not just mined dry out of a binary months before a game even launches.

It you have felt a bit of the magic wear off MMOs lately, I encourage you to just play the game, discover things, and enjoy the newness. Thanks to the leisurely expansion schedule of Blizzard and other developers (seriously, this always happens) we will have pleeeeeenty of time to explore and catalog every last inch of every last feature.

WildStar Release Date Set for June 3rd. Probably.
Mar11

WildStar Release Date Set for June 3rd. Probably.

You guys, I forgot how much fun a good old fashioned MMO release date war can be.

TESO played their hand well in advance and announced their April launch earlier this year. That left two big players — WildStar, and WoW’s Warlords of Draenor expansion.

Yesterday WoD went up for pre-sale* and the announcement included the slightly daunting sentence “Game is expected to release on or before 12/20/2014.” It seems pretty likely that this is more of a worst case scenario date than an actual launch, but it still caused a lot of people to suddenly realize that their dreams of a summer launch are pretty unlikely.

warlords release 1220142 500x105 WildStar Release Date Set for June 3rd. Probably.

Honestly I think anyone who has watched WoW’s expansion releases in the past knew to expect Fall 2014 at the earliest. Blizzard has repeatedly promised summer releases and has never, ever delivered. Yes, this means over a year of Siege of Orgrimmar and patch 5.4. Yes, this sucks, particularly for players who stayed up-to-date on the latest content or who do progression raiding.

Heck, I’m currently so causal that my idea of progression is working on the achievement to hug critters — learn to /love, noob! — and even I find myself slightly concerned about whether I’ll get bored before the end of the year.

Meanwhile Carbine seems to have learned a trick or two from Blizzard’s marketing team because in the wake of yesterday’s drama today there was a “slip” and, oopsie, someone has accidentally released WildStar’s launch date (Google cache) and pre-order details!

wildstarpreorder 500x281 WildStar Release Date Set for June 3rd. Probably.

I don’t know what a rocket house is but I want one!

It looks like pre-orders will open up on March 19th, and the game will launch on June 3rd. This hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, but after Carbine’s hints last week about press junkets and big news coming soon this seems pretty set.

And it’s a smart date too! June 3rd is roughly two months after TESO’s launch, which means folks who are MMO tourists or just didn’t take to the game will be looking for something new to play. It will likely be 3+ months before the launch of Warlords of Draenor, which is plenty of time to hook bored WoW players into a game that is being pitched as essentially Burning Crusade 2.0.

I am not pre-ordering anything until closer to their launch dates, but I definitely see some WildStar in my future this summer.

* No, I still haven’t decided which class to boost. Paladin (years of being a clothie makes me yearn for plate) or Warlock (finally I can be a real dot damage class)?

It’s Okay to Insta-level (WoW)

In what was probably a mistake, earlier today the live WoW servers briefly displayed a price for automatically levelling a character to 90, and that price was $60. While $60 seems too steep to me, everything is still up in the air and it doesn’t seem worth the effort to get too upset (or too happy) about that number right now.

What did stand out to me was a number of tweets with variations of the argument that $60 is a high enough price point to discourage players from using it “too much”. To be fair I get a little shirty around any authority (you can’t tell me what to do!!), but I kind of bridle at the idea that Blizzard is pricing this service to help save us from ourselves.

First, I don’t think it’s true. Blizzard knows they have a game full of people willing to spend $25 on a horse or a costume hat, and pricing something high to limit sales is pretty counter-intuitive in today’s markets. It seems far more likely that they would price it as high as people will still pay.

But aside from that, I guess I just don’t understand why some feel we need to artificially discourage people from insta-levelling.

A game like WoW has the vast majority of its content for level-capped players. Between heirlooms and the Cataclysm world changes, not to mention the monk XP buff, it’s faster than ever to level a character, to the point where a particularly determined person could probably do it in a long weekend. I appreciate arguments that levelling is an important part of MMOs or RPGs, but it’s hard to argue in the specific that levelling is important in WoW.

And even with paid level 90s, all the levelling content will still be there. If you like to level your characters, that’s cool. And other MMOs still have an emphasis on levelling. Diversity in products is a positive thing for us all!

The argument in favor of curtailing insta-levelling strikes me as another verse of that old favorite tune “You have to play MMOs the way I want to you play them”. And look, I get it, it’s a song I’ve sung myself on more than one occasion. But it’s not a good one.

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