Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is Blizzard the new Disney?

Something Blizzard Entertainment has done recently has got me thinking, is Blizzard the next Disney? Source If you think about it Blizzard is probably close to what Disney was in the 1950’s. If Disney had 11 million fans back in 1950, I’m sure they had far less in reality, and had the foresight to open up a theme park based on a cartoon then how farfetched is it for Blizzard to consider doing the same?

Blizzard is essentially an international powerhouse and easily the most recognized PC gaming developer of our day, if not ever. They boast 3 major marquee franchises; The Diablo Series, StarCraft, and Warcraft which have catapulted them to one of the premier professional gaming developers. With millions of fans and monthly paying customers worldwide what time or company is better poised to surge into the next level of entertainment?

The video game developers, fans, and community in general have gone to great strides to lift the basement dwelling middle aged jobless nerd persona that has plagued their hobby for years. With the push over the last year of Blizzard using famous stars as spokesmen for their game, video games are accepted now more than ever. It’s now okay to play video games and in general it’s almost trendy.

Could we be seeing a Theme Park based off the popular series of games Blizzard has created in our near future? I’m not sure but I don’t see any reason why not. They are in a perfect position to capitalize on their fame and success. If a video game theme park was to succeed it wouldn’t be any more shocking that a cartoon mouse theme park becoming the most visited and famous amusement park in the world...

Monday, March 23, 2009

MMO Addiction

There are many articles floating around the internet about video game addiction, more specifically MMO addiction. I’ve always sort of sat on the fence with most addictions. I believe that certain substances create a chemical need and desire in a person to crave them, like most drugs. I also believe certain people are prone to addiction, or more accurately were video games are concerned, obsession. That however doesn’t mean that I think everything that causes someone to be obsessed with it is an addiction, nor do I feel they should be labeled as such. I believe that a strong enough personal will power can overcome nearly any desire, the problem is fostering that will power.

That may come across as a rather soap box “esk” paragraph but I felt it was important to preface this topic. For better or worse I use to be addicted to EverQuest, or at the very least suffer from an unhealthy obsession. From 1999 until 2003 I played roughly 16 hours a day, now if that doesn’t scream problem I don’t know what does. To be fair my parents confronted me about the issue many times and like all addicts I had an excuse for my time on the computer. I was always explaining or rationalizing it away.

I was probably suffering from a little depression at the time. I never really thought about suicide but I did consider most of my future to be rather bleak. College wasn’t going anywhere and I had no real goals to drive me forward. It’s funny, because to this very day I remember the pebble that set the avalanche in motion. I know many people try to find purpose in tragedy and maybe that’s what I’m doing, never the less it is the point where I can say, things changed.

September 11, 2002 I logged onto my computer to check our forums around 7:30AM PST to see what was in store for that day. I noticed a post titled WTC and it asking everyone on the east coast to report in. I will spare the details of that day, as everyone knows them, but luckily our 2 guild mates that worked near the WTC weren’t hurt and the one who worked at the Pentagon was on vacation.

Over the next few months I watched the news as the United States Armed Forces began the invasion of Iraq. One of my child hood friends who was in the reserves got called up and sent in with the Marines. (He was in the Army Reserves) This is the point where I had an epiphany. My friend was going off to war while I sat at home and played video games. If he is willing to go, then why shouldn’t I be willing to go? Motivation, pride, will power, the military had the potential to give me everything I was lacking at this point in my life. I did a little research and ended up signing up for the Army Reserves as a Radio Operator.

Personal will power; I do not believe that any of my military training instilled me with will power. I believe that simply being a choice for me was enough to awaken the will power already in me. Since then I have been to Iraq and still play MMO’s. That constant desire to play video games 16-20 hours a day still exists within me; I just know how to control it now. I know that other things in life must come first and how to balance them.

I have an obsessive personality. When I was 18 I didn’t know that much about myself so I wasn’t aware of my problem. I am always focused on one thing in my life and tend to let the rest suffer. I guess in my case obsession is synonymous with addiction. People can become obsessed with video games as they can be obsessed with anything.

I don’t believe that video games caused my addiction; in fact it was probably the safest thing to be addicted to. When you look at the alternatives of drugs and alcohol I picked a safe vice which gave me a chance to overcome it before it was to self destructive. I am still an obsessive person, so I don’t understand how people can blame video games for addiction. Addiction has been around for centuries, we simply have a new outlet for it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Wii, what gaming culture needed

I am a huge fan of Nintendo as an innovative entertainment company. Every iteration of gaming consoles that comes out they always try to set themselves apart. I think I have owned nearly every system, handheld or console, that Nintendo has released… yes even the Game boy 3D. Nintendo hasn’t been the King of Consoles since the Super Nintendo, but they are still around. About 2 years ago I picked up a Nintendo Wii because I loved the idea of motion sensitive controls. The Wii nun chucks were an amazingly simple and innovative idea.

My primary use for the Nintendo Wii is now only when I’m on deployment with the Military. I’m in the Army Reserves so every couple months I go away for anywhere from one to three weeks for some random training. The Wii has replaced my laptop as my standard form of entertainment on those trips. Last summer we went so far as to bring a TV to the field to play the Wii.

The Nintendo Wii is probably one of the most approachable and user friendly consoles I have ever come across. The age ranges I have personally seen play it are what amazes me. I have played Mario Kart Wii with my 4 year old daughter who had never played any video games before to playing Guitar Hero 3 with my Battalion Chaplain while spending 3 weeks in the field. Let me tell you when my Battalion found out that we were playing Wii with our Chaplain they were all pretty jealous.

When you use the controllers for the Wii, after about 5 minutes it just feels natural. You point them like a wand, or LED Pointer, and a corresponding hand appears on the TV screen as the typical icon. As you move your controller the pointer moves. When we were growing up my sister always had a habit of leaning or shaking the controller when she played video games. Now it would seem that she has been training for the Wii for 20 years because she can frequently beat me; and I’m what you would call a gamer.

The only down side of the Wii is its lack of proper 3rd party support, by that I mean that the only people who can make a decent Nintendo Wii game is Nintendo themselves. So that leaves a very small margin of good video games out there to play on this system. The bright side is that you could pick up the Wii with Wii Sports and probably be happy with never buying another game again. It’s great at parties and just breaking up the monotony of everyday. My work has even gone so far as to have Wii Sport fit breaks 3 times a week.

With video games becoming less taboo than years past Nintendo has made a great decision with the Wii. They have created a system that applies to 4 year olds, hard core gamers, house wives and yes even Army Chaplains. Nintendo has done what many companies couldn’t do, they have made it not only acceptable to play video games but trendy. I think everyone should have a Nintendo Wii as part of their standard home entertainment package.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guild Recruitment

I’m sorry, this is going to be a little bit of a rant. I’m an old MMO gamer and to be honest I am proud of that fact. I started back in 1999 with EverQuest. I played EverQuest for 6 years and in that time I was in 3 guilds. I only changed guilds after each guild died. Loyalty mattered back then.

There is a drastic difference in the gamers of today when compared to those 10 years ago. The apathy and sense of entitlement makes me weep for society. Yet again my guild received another subpar recruitment application, someone who can barely spell and shows no sign of proper page formatting. Yet this isn’t an anomaly, this is the standard. It’s amazing to me; really I’m almost at a loss for words on how to describe it.

When I was joining guilds in EQ it was treated as a job resume, you took your time and made it look nice. Assuming your application was good enough, and the guild desired your class, you had a 3 month recruitment period where you received and expected no loot. Let me say that again, after applying to a guild you didn’t receive anything for 3 months. We weren’t even running on DKP.

You got a guild invite for the raid, because we had no raid chat at the time, and you had to deguild after the raid. Once you finally did get in the guild you were typically on a trial period for another 3-6 months. It was like a job. I guess when people refer to EQ as a second job they are right. We did treat it like a job but I also think that is why it had more class. You can actually have fun at your work, you just need to take it seriously and be professional. That is what EQ was.

I’m beginning to feel like an old man in the gaming community, talking about how it use to be. I understand why my grandfather always pined over the old days. Yes nostalgia tends to black out the bad times of the past, but we need some of that past again. We need values and self respect. Self respect and intelligence go hand and hand, one should never assume that it is okay to be lazy… especially when someone is applying for a job, or even a guild.

I’m currently stepping out of politics in my guild. I recognize now that I’m a relic of a different time. I just hope that I can occasionally instill some sage wisdom in a few people.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Warhammer and the pit in my stomach

This game stirs so many mixed feelings, the strongest being frustration. I sit at my desk at look at what Mythic has created. Warhammer really is, at its core, a very good game. Mythic did a good job. The game had the hype and the name to make it a success. The problem was that it never came to fruition. I’m giving Warhammer another try.

Back in July of 2008 my friend gave me his Beta key to Warhammer. I played it like a rabid animal. At the time I was easily described as a fan boy. No one could say anything negative about it without hearing my wrath. As time went on I got these little pits in my stomach, like something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I kept telling myself, “It’s only Beta, they are holding the great stuff back”. That floated me through to launch.

At launch I was so enamored by the games sparkle and hype I didn’t complain about the little things. Lag, UI issues, mail server lag, they didn’t matter. I was playing WAR and that is all that mattered. I told myself “It’s launch, everyone has issues at launch.” As time crept on those pits grew again. Until one day in December I couldn’t take it anymore. I logged off and canceled my account. I went back to WoW.

Fast forward 3 months. The Choppa has been released, my preferred class pre launch. This last week I have played on a friends account to discover if I really want to come back. Today I’m going to log on and make myself a Choppa. My problem is that I’m not doing this with a clear conscious. This past week has shown to me that Mythic has not fixed any of the server associated issues that plagued it 3 months ago.

This lends me to feel frustrated. It’s like seeing something that is plain as day, and being the only one who sees it. I could yell and scream but it would only fall on deaf ears. I know everyone feels this way but if I could sit down with Mythic for 1 day I could hammer out 90% of the issues that have kept me and some of my friends away.

That is why I’m frustrated. I know that WAR could be more popular, that I could love it and despite all that knowing that you won’t because the people in charge don’t know your voice. I like to think of myself as a very level headed person, seeing both sides of any argument is often my flaw in life. I see this games lacking balance with ease and know the correct paths to improve upon it.

I’ve resubscribed for a month but I doubt I will stay on past that. I’m already looking forward to Keen’s impressions of Darkfall. I’ve played Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, it surely can’t let me down anymore than they have.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Left 4 Dead

A few months ago I picked up Left 4 Dead (L4D) via the Steam downloader. I’ve always had a soft spot for Zombie apocalypse movies and games so it only came natural to try L4D out. I’m just going to go ahead and give away the ending, L4D is a great game.

The difficulty of L4D is pretty simple. It plays like every First Person Shooter has played for the last 20 years. The real challenge comes in when you realize you NEED the other 3 people in your group. It’s you and 3 other survivors versus hundreds of rampaging zombies. If someone gets too far behind or too far ahead they are pretty much as good as dead, especially in Versus Mode.

Versus Mode is where this game really shines. You have two teams with 4 players on each team. You take turns being the survivors and the “infected”. There are 4 special types of playable zombies and each with their own special ability to kill or immobilize the survivors. After each round you switch from infected to survivor or vice versa.

The graphics are good. They aren’t amazing but they fit. Everything is clean and there aren’t any noticeably issues. I guess it is what you would expect from a game at this time. The levels are well designed and if I had to make a compliant it would be the lack of levels. There are currently only 4 for campaign and 2 for versus, so they get old fast. There should be some nice custom maps coming out soon though.

Overall I recommend for everyone to pick up this game. At this point I would probably wait until it’s on sale though. There is no monthly fee with Steam or L4D so just having the game is worth the money. Left 4 Dead is one of those games that you could play for a few weeks straight, and then take a month long break from just to come back just as addicted as ever. At the very least you know with Valve and Steam behind it L4D will be a valuable addition to your gaming library for years to come.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Personal Update

Sorry for not posting anything recently. I’ve been busy as well as just lazy. I spent last week in Florida for a J6 Summit where I got to test out some proto-type equipment the Military is looking at deploying. It was pretty neat.

Gaming Update:

World of Warcraft
I’m pretty burnt out on WoW at the moment. That doesn’t surprise me though. I didn’t want to start playing again because I knew it would happen but I guess it was worth the 3 months of fun I had on it. Right now I use it more as a glorified chat channel for my friends than a game. I did all the 25 man content with my guild and it was okay, but given my limited play time I’m rarely able to make raids.

Left 4 Dead
Lately I’ve been playing Left 4 Dead pretty much every night. I like to try and get at least one game a night in. Sometimes it is frustrating sometimes it’s fun. I tend to play as well as my team mates so when I’m on a good team I do well, but when I’m on a bad team I play badly. I guess I need to work on my level of consistency. Thanks to my dear wife who bought me a copy of Left 4 Dead, sadly after I had already purchased it through Steam, I finally got around to returning it and picked up Dawn of War 2. Look for some reviews on that in the next week or two.

Warhammer Online
I’ve also been convinced to try Warhammer Online again. I love the Warhammer world and with the release of the Choppa one of my friends have managed to get me to resub. Sadly I didn’t do the live event so I’m playing a Choppa on his account until I can make one on mine. I’m looking forward to it, no matter what Mythic’s short comings were with WAR the first 20 levels were more fun than any other MMO’s first half.

That’s about it. I have some MMO general posts I want to get up but I haven’t had the motivation to properly structure them so they don’t come off as a whinny rant.