Friday, December 31, 2010

The best in gaming for 2010

Just a simple list of my favorite games over the past year. I think I’ve already done one but it doesn’t hurt to do another one.

Favorite MMO: World of Warcraft
That really shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s the only one that is polished and no matter how old it may be the classes are just fun to play and the 5 man content is always a blast.

Favorite FPS: Modern Warfare 2
I’m not a huge First Person Shooter person but let’s face it, MW2 is a good game. I haven’t gotten Black Ops yet and I’m not sure if I will, but MW2 was a good game for what it wanted to be. I had hoped it was a more tactical shooter, ala Rainbow Six, but because I hoped it was something it wasn’t doesn’t mean it was a bad game.

Favorite RTS: StarCraft 2
Really, there was any doubt? By far the best done Real Time Strategy game I’ve ever played. I wish I wasn’t having so much fun in WoW so I could play it more.

Favorite Mobile Game: Angry Birds
It’s simple, but amazing. You shoot birds with a slingshot at pigs. It has helped me kill so much time I can’t thank it enough.

Favorite Facebook Game: Castle Age
I can’t believe I’m listing Facebook games but I have to, I’ve been playing Castle Age for probably 7 months or more now. It’s just a fun time sink.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A BIG brick wall.

My wall; I have found and hit my wall yet again. I seem to have a wall when playing World of Warcraft that shows its ugly head whenever I reach outlands. The problem this time is that I love my class and the game, but I want to skip Outlands as a whole. My skinning is already high enough to gather in Northrend and my Mining isn’t far behind.

In actuality I’ve found a new love for my Druid, tanking almost feels like playing an Enchanter in EverQuest. For me to attach such a lofty comparison really says a lot about that class. I played a Warrior alt at 70 during The Burning Crusade and never truly cared for it. I had so many abilities I always seemed to have trouble knowing what to use and when in order to keep threat on all the mobs during a large pull, no such issues with my druid. I seem to have threat more or less figured out so now I get to happily switch from one mob to the next ensuring the casters take no damage. (screw those pesky overzealous melee DPS) I feel like I’m doing crowd control… well in reality I am.

I think I’m a decent tank, but I’m sure everyone thinks they are decent at their class they play. Coming from primarily a healer background though I have a very good sense of healing awareness and how/when they will pull threat. I’ve always know that playing a variety of classes and roles in WoW will always make you a better player overall but I think it is really starting to show now. So all of this boils down to that I think a tanking Druid is my calling.

Back to the wall, simply put I’m tired of leveling. I did dungeons and quest for the last 60 levels, primarily quests. I hate questing in Outlands, and since it didn’t get revamped with The Shattering, there is no reason too. Thus I will be dungeon farming. It just isn’t going fast enough though. I think it is probably going to take me 2 or 3 weeks to fight my way to 70. I have Gran Turismo 5 so it has been calling to me any time the grind its… well grindy.

A Team... Daddy Team?

The other night in guild chat the discussion of potential start times for raids came up. I have played WoW with the same guild for 4 years now and we have always started raids around 5:30PM PST sometimes 6:00PM. My kids don’t go to bed until 7:00PM and I decided long ago I wouldn’t play video games while they were a work, that rule has changed a bit, but I refuse to commit to a raid while my kids are awake.

So the discussion went on for about a minute when I realized that 4 people were pushing for a post 7:00PM start time. The reason? They have kids too. In the last 12 months more and more of my friends have gotten engaged, married or had kids; they are growing up. I chimed in immediately. Our guild is planning on only running 10 man content, so having 5 people committing to a later start time was a lot. The single people wanted to start at 5:30, with good reason. The content is still hard and we have a few people that live in the Midwest and two people who live on the East Coast, starting earlier allows us to run later.

As it stands I think raids will end up starting at 6:00 but we nearly have enough Dads to start a Daddy group. So our guild may very well end up running 2 raid groups a week… not the A Team and the B Team, but the parents and the non parents. My guild is finally catching up to my life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now listen here younglings!

I’m a first generation MMO player. What that means is that I played MMOs when they first came out so I consider myself one of the founding fathers of the MMO community. Be the current MMO gaming community a good thing or a bad thing, I in a way helped to shape it. Everyone likes to think they are special or important, and while I know that isn’t the case most the time, it is nice to think that out of the first hundred thousand people to play EverQuest, I was one of them. That would probably equate to less than 1% of the current MMO market, but everything had to start somewhere. When I first started playing EverQuest I was 17 years old and only going to school for 3 hours a day for my senior year in High School, time was in abundance. Today things are much different, I’m an adult and a parent.

I’ve had the honor of already experiencing every phase of a gaming play schedule and I’m not even 30 yet. I have played for 18 hours a day for weeks on end and I have played for less than 4 hours a week for periods of time… even months where I simply couldn’t play games. I believe I have a unique outlook on the differences in the social obligations and requirements for every range of casual to hardcore gamer.

I feel like that old man now when I hear people claim to be in a “Hardcore” guild. I’m that old grandpa telling his grandkids that he used to walk up hill 5 miles in snow to get to school. While I know that isn’t the case, the feeling is still the same. You aren’t Hardcore by my standards. Games today are not nearly as time consuming or logistically difficult as they were back in my day, yes I said it “my day” deal with it. I don’t want to go off on a tangent about how easy you younglings have it, that isn’t the point. I will just say that to raid at a high level in EverQuest took exponentially more time and planning than it does in World of Warcraft today.

I’ve also had the misfortune of having my gaming time cut to a few hours a week in the past. When you realize that it is costing you more per minute to play a MMO than it would to go to the movies, because of a limited play time, you know you’ve reached the peak of casual MMO gaming. It’s difficult to accomplish anything and coming from a super hardcore background it was a bit of an ego check. While I did enjoy my time playing it took some time to learn to appreciate the game for what I was able to do with it, a lot of time actually. I had to come to terms with not being able to raid and that I would forever be that “noob” I once looked down upon.

What does all this mean? Well I think it explains why I’m so “middle of the road” on various MMO topics. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin in many different MMOs. I can truly see the other person’s perspective because I have lived it. I also think that over the next 10 years we will see more and more gamers having to come to terms with what I already have, that is assuming they want to function in society. You can’t play video games 8 to 10 hours a day and still maintain a healthy social life outside of virtual space, a love life, and a career. Don’t get me wrong, my online friends ARE my friends. I am as close to them as I am anyone and I would never be so ignorant to say those relationships aren’t real. What I am saying is that you must have relationships outside of virtual space if you are to succeed and function at the rest of your life.

The gaming community and blogging sphere are going to slowly learn this over the next few years, at least the vocal minority will. I think Blizzard already realizes that the vast majority of their player base is on some sort of limited play schedule, thus they have made the end game more approachable for everyone. Right now I’m just one voice in a sea of bloggers shouting their opinions. I was a first generation MMO blogger and I will be playing them for many generations to come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Proactive Game Development

While Blizzard normally has the golden touch with everything they do; I have always felt they have lacked in one aspect of game development. That aspect is accurately predicting the community’s reaction to game changes and how it affects their games as a whole, specifically World of Warcraft. Now I’m not going to say Blizzard has no understanding of what drives their gamers, but it often feels like their decisions are made on a reactionary basis rather than a proactive one.

Before I go any further I want to tip my hat to Blizzard on two game features that they accurately predicted the outcome of, Dungeon Finder and Achievements. The Dungeon Finder was designed with the intent to get people in dungeons and groups faster, thus resulting in a more social experience. It succeeded. Granted Dungeon Finder has its draw backs but overall the predicted outcome matched the actual community reaction. The second kudos for Blizzard would be Achievements. Not since the gear grind has there been a better system to keep people playing when they have nothing else to actively do. These are the two obvious game changes Blizzard has made where they accurately predicted how their community would react to them.

Now while Blizzard may have accurately guessed how their community would react to both of these features, even the creation of these features was in a way reactionary themselves. For years people have had idle time on their hands in a MMO and for years people have tried to find ways to fill those gaps. In EverQuest we use to take a 5 man group and attempt to clear old raid content just for the challenge. Even in WoW we would do classic raid dungeons well into The Burning Crusade expansion just to see something different. Other games and gaming communities have had achievement systems for years now; one just has to look at Xbox Live or Steam to see how popular they are. In a way this was a reactionary decision by Blizzard to add these features.

Blizzard isn’t the only developer who suffers from a lack of understanding of what their consumers really want. To be fair though a lot of people who play video games don’t know what they want until it is presented to them. Mythic created Warhammer Online and assumed they had created the next great thing. The problem… well one of the problems… that WAR had was that the development team didn’t predict how the mass market would react to game features. The result was unbalanced armies and instant scenario grinding, which was a major death blow to the entire game. I have a major fear that Star Wars the Old Republic will fall victim to this with their 4th Pillar.

It isn’t hard to understand how gamers are going to react to features and changes as long as you are willing to set your own preferences aside. Your community is one massive entity. They are extremely susceptible to peer pressure and will always fall victim to the land slide effect. As a small portion of your community discovers one thing is better, easier, faster, or more efficient than the rest will soon discover that and they will all flock to it. Ignore why your community tells you they play your game and look at how they really react to it. They can claim they want an open sandbox world, but while playing if they just follow your leveling progression from one quest hub to another you can assume that they don’t want just any sandbox world. They want one that is easy to access and easy to follow.

In college I took a few Sociology and Psychology classes, actually my first major was Cultural Anthropology, and it is very easy to manipulate a group of people to achieve your desired outcome. Talking to the group, or community in a video games case, doesn’t typically result in accurate information because people lie. Watching their reactions is the only accurate source of information. The MMO community has been around for over 10 years now and the video game community for nearly 30 years. There is enough existing data and market trends to predict how communities will react without asking them, as long as you know the signs to look for.

In my very first Sociology class when I was in High School we did an experiment. We gathered up about 100 seniors and had them all go out and buy the same cheap pair of pants. The hypothesis was that the lower class men would see all the seniors wearing them and do the same. Guess what, it worked. After 30 days we had found out that approximately 40% of the lower class men had gone out and purchased the pants. We didn’t ask them if they would, we knew based on cultural precedence that they would copy the people they thought were “cool”.

The point is that developers aren’t predicting what the community really wants. They are making a game they think the community wants based on their feedback and not market trends. The developers are valuing their own preferences over what is already successful. Something Agent Kay said in Men in Black has always stuck with me; “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” You have to treat your community as one entity who will almost always take the path of least resistance.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm writing again.

I don't mean blogging either. I mean I'm actually starting to write fiction again. It has been years since I have written anything and the process to start is a bit daunting. I want to go into this project with as much preperation and thought as possible in the hopes that it will see me through those dry spells.

My greatest inspiration has always been trailers and the backs of book jackets. The reason is you get just enough information about the story to let your imagination continue it. So I've been kicking around a few ideas lately and I think I finally have one that I'm ready to jump on.

My belief is that if I can create a story I enjoy then I should be able to get it on paper. Getting the ideas on paper is key, I can always revise it into a more readable piece later.

Friday, December 24, 2010


That is all. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Questing King Again

What has happened before… will happen again… and it has. Questing from level 1-60 is now faster than using Dungeon Finder and grinding out levels there. The balance of power has shifted back to single player content while you level. That doesn’t mean dungeon experience has been reduced, if anything with the way the dungeons are now streamlined it is better; it is just that questing rewards exp much MUCH faster.

I sort of suspected this a few days ago. A couple friends who hate using Dungeon Finder pre Outlands leveled up by quests only and have since reached level 60. Granted they play more than me but I don’t think they play enough to justify doubling my level in half the time it took me to get there.

So last night, like I do every night, I queued up as Tank for a dungeon and got a one instantly. It was an amazing group too, on the first pull the Priest said “pull 5 mobs and come back here” I replied with “you understand Bear tanks have bad AE threat at this level”. I pulled 5 mobs, and we destroyed them. The entire run went that way. The group was so good that we stuck together for 3 more instance, actually clearing past the “finish” point in one where we were rewarded the Exp and bag of helpful goods. I got about 1 1/2 levels.

I was a little tired and stressed from the chain pulling and constant race for threat, so I decided to head out to try some quests. With in 1 hour I got 3 levels, got my skinning up another 50 points and my mining up 20. I don’t want to say this is the same for everyone but I think that unless you really love dungeon grinding you should just level by questing. I didn’t use any guides or walkthroughs. I went to one of the boards in all the capital cities and picked one of the two zones it recommended. Nothing at all special.

In another 3 months I think this will be common knowledge and more people will quest than don’t. As it stands though the questing zones are very empty considering most have been completely redone. I was sure there would be more people trying out the new old world, but I guess they are focusing on their level 85 characters and preparing them for 10/25 man content.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What to look for in 2011!? Lets see how I do.

Diablo 3 WILL launch or heaven help me there will be hell to pay. Based on a long series of alpha numeric algorithms my chimp slaves have been running it is likely that Diablo 3 will launch late summer early fall of next year, 2011.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm will probably… launch at the very end of 2011 maybe Spring of 2012.

Star Wars the Old Republic will launch around June or July of 2011. It will sell 1.2 million copies then 3 months after launch it will stabilize at 500k subs. A solid number but not nearly what they hoped for.

Borderlands 2 will be announced, and the world will rejoice.

Sony and Microsoft will… NOT announce their next generation consoles yet. That will happen in 2012. With the Move and Kinect just coming out they are going to try and sell as many of the current systems as possible.

Nintendo WILL announce their next generation console. It will have a motion capture eye like the Kinect.

Another Call of Duty will be announced, perhaps launched and will again sell 5 million copies to fat kids dressed like soldiers.

Blizzard will confirm everything I’ve said about their new MMO Titan… because I’m amazing.

The Warhammer 40K MMO will be delayed until 2012. I will get very excited about it then be completely let down.

The WoW movie will have a trailer at Blizzcon which will be the cause the world’s biggest simultaneous nerdgasim. On second thought I don't think this will happen until 2012.

10 guesses... I bet I get 7 right.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The mediocrity is killing me

I’ve known that I’m a little bit of an “Elitist” when it comes to MMOs and video games in general. Back in EverQuest I was the Enchanter Class Leader, an officer, and had a chair on the loot council in one of the biggest raiding guilds. I understand not everyone is equally good at MMOs though, and in a way I’ve forced myself to accept that. I will accept someone who doesn’t know how to do something, as long as they show the potential to learn it. In all honesty compared to most random people I’ve met in MMOs I think that is very considerate of me. I know I’m an elitist though and I still, to this day, position myself into roles where I can be an elitist. I play support classes because they are typically in high demand allowing you to be a prima donna elitist.

Like I said I played an Enchanter in EQ. When I first started playing World of Warcraft I made a Holy Priest and I had a Resto Shaman alt; now I’m making a Druid to tank with. I put myself in positions where I have the ability to be elitist and I think the throngs of mediocre gamers are starting to drag me down. As a tank I rely on the competence of the rest of the group in order to properly execute my job, more so than as a healer. While someone who just does low damage often times won’t get in my way, someone who is over zealous will often times cause extra work and result in me making a mistake… which then leads to the group dying.

I’ve been throwing tantrums in Ventrilo this past week over the groups I’ve been in. One DPS after another keeps focusing down the off target or attacking before I ever get to the mob. I ask them to stop, sometimes they do sometimes they criticize my tanking abilities. I’m okay with low DPS, as a Feral Druid I’m typically top 2 for the group. What I tend to blow up about is when the DPS completely disregards the Healer and the Tank. I’ve started kicking DPS, even if they are high, or just leaving the group if it is too early to kick someone. This only really occurs when I’m playing a tank, because it only matters to me when I’m tanking.

When I leveled a Warlock I would just assist or AE everything down until I pulled agro, then I’d cut it back a bit. I didn’t really have to pay attention and it was very easy. Healing as a Holy Priest or a Resto Shaman isn’t much harder… actually I think it is easier. All I have to do is follow the tank and keep everyone alive. Mobs are a none issue to me. I don’t get frustrated unless a DPS is being a major dill hole, in which case I would kick him… but as a tank I can’t take it. Maybe I need thicker skin if I’m going to play a tank. To be honest though the insults don’t bother me because I often leave a bad group without ever saying a word.

I just can’t stand people who don’t try when I try so hard. I play WoW to have fun, which means actually playing the game. I don’t play it when I’m not having fun out of some sense of obligation. So when I get stuck in a group with people who don’t try, and I try so hard, I get mad. I get mad at having to carry the group and knowing that they don’t really care about me or anyone else in the group.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What I’m up to?

Well I’m back to World of Warcraft and loving it… for the most part. I have a bone to pick but I can’t properly put my thoughts into words yet, so that will wait. Prior to the launch of Cataclysm I made a Draeni Shaman with the intent of being Enhancement at max level. The dungeon finder takes some time to locate a group as a DPS character though so I ended up leveling mainly as Resto, which isn’t bad. Actually healing is very easy. Currently my Shaman is level 67 but I’ve stopped playing her.

When Cataclysm came out I spec’d my Priest into Shadow and started doing some quests. While I normally hate Shadow I found it to be… not bad. I didn’t love it but it wasn’t horrible. I just wasn’t enjoying playing my Priest though. I had also made a Worgen Druid named Team Jacob… with some X’s thrown in here and there to make it look really stupid. The thing is I fell in love with tanking as Feral. I’ve abandoned my other two characters to start leveling my Druid now. I haven’t had much time to play lately so he is only level 36 but I really do love the Druid class. I think it will also fit with my play schedule, as a Druid can be any archetype in the game it will allow me to get into guild raids easier… as I can fill in any spot.

Other games? Not many. I am hoping to get Gran Turismo 5 for Christmas. I’ve been playing Castle Age on Facebook, but I’m not sure that counts. I’ve also been playing Angry Birds on my iPod Touch.

Friday, December 17, 2010


What is Titan? Really I don’t think it takes up that much time to say what Titan will be. Titan will be a MMOFPS with the intellectual property being inspired (aka loosely copied) from Halo.

Why? Halo redefined First Person Shooters as much as Duke Nukem did. People said you couldn’t make a good FPS on a console and they proved them wrong. The IP has spanned several sequels and a prequel. With the top one day sales of a video game being topped by Call of Duty, a FPS game, it is a solid assumption that there is a very large and very healthy FPS market.

Why not a Starcraft MMO? Anything taken from any of their very popular existing works and made into a MMO threatens to cannibalize World of Warcraft. Starcraft is essentially Warcraft in space so a MMO based on Starcraft would just be WoW in space and would receive a lot of critical feedback based solely on that. As it stands now Starcraft is praised as the best RTS game of all time and WoW is praised as the best MMO of all time, there seems to be little reason to try and cross those lines.

The final catch, which I don’t think most people will realize until Blizzard waves it in front of their faces, is that Titan will be heavily tied into a Social Networking site. With the rise of Facebook and Zynga games it is a market Blizzard would be stupid to not try and enter.

I could be completely wrong though. For awhile I had considered a post apocalyptic MMO like Fallout or Borderlands. The reason I’ve written those off is that a post apocalyptic game would attract a smaller market than Sci-Fi.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What does the future hold for Video Games?

What is the future of gaming? Considering any aspect of your life it is always better to look into the future than focus on the present. I could comment on what Blizzard has done with WoW or how Call of Duty is redefining first person shooters, but that is today. What about next year, or say in five years from now. Obviously to make any sort of educated guess about the future one must first consider the past and present.

I think we are going to slowly see a blending of the genres. As each new game comes out they are going to “borrow” a feature from another extremely popular game in a different genre. You can already see it today with Call of Duty having levels and different guns, much like items in a RPG. What does this mean for the gamers? Well it will probably be a good thing in all honesty. Developers have been sticking to a rigid feature list for their genre for so long we are… were beginning to stagnant in game innovation. It’s easier to copy a winning formula than write your own. As the genres merge we should, hopefully, see the best features from each style of game rise to the top. Imagine taking the best features… or game mechanics… from your favorite fighting game, action game, and first person shooter game then combining them in a logical, and fun, manner.

Here is the catch though. You can’t just say, “Hey Bob! Lets add combos like in Killer Instinct to our Sci-Fi shooter then let them dress up in pink dresses to get the girls on board.” (Bob just seems like a good designer name) That won’t work. You must adhere to some sort of logical cohesion prior to arbitrarily assigning game features. This is where game designers of TODAY are failing. They see a good idea and they try to take it. Rather than figuring out why said feature works they simply copy it and when it fails blame it on something else. You can’t copy part of an equation and still expect it to work.

This is why certain game developers are continuing to prosper and grow while others barely get a start. They understand that every part of the equation is equally important. You can in fact reach the same desired goal of having pink dresses in a game without necessarily having pink dresses. Understanding the psychology behind the decisions and why they work is key. I’m honestly shocked more developers don’t employ sociologist and psychologist to assist with game development.

It will take us at least 5 years but in that time we will see more and more games sharing key features. We will see more bloggers and video game websites struggle to define new games. The older gamers, including me, will be irate at having lost our way… but in the end games will get better. They will get better or people won’t buy them.

That being said the need for genre specific games won’t go away. The player base will diminish and any game that isn’t a homogenized cross genre game will be labeled “niche” regardless of the amount of success.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blizzard masters another's idea again

Good old Tobold writes what I think again:

You know I thought about this a few days ago and then Tobold goes and makes a post about it. Blizzard has this amazing ability to take any good idea and implement it faster and better than a game that started claiming the idea as their great new innovation. It happened with Warhammer Online’s queue for PvP anywhere/achievements and now it’s the 4th Pillar. This is why WoW will not be toppled by any one game, but it can only hoped to be chipped away at slowly… or perhaps replaced by this so called “Titan”.

Another fun thing about Blizzard is how they can destroy the blogging communities’ sense of self. Look at Keen for example. He has been one of the louder advocates for EQ/UO/DAoC open world style games. He then comes out a week after Cataclysm and says the Goblin starter quest, which is extremely linear, is the best quests in any game ever.

Blizzard creates a Dungeon Finder which makes it EASIER to play with other gamers and Tobold’s own readers say that WoW is just a single player online game now. WoW is much easier to play and group with other people now. In Vanilla WoW getting in raids was hard and most raiding guilds were elitist… but also the gate keepers to all the raiding content. Even now people are starting to PUG the new raiding content and PUG raids were a very common thing in WotLK. Being a part of the MMO is easier now than it was 4 years ago, yet people claim WoW is a single player online game.

The community is dead? Blizzard creates a Guild system which encourages you to stay in one guild, rather than hopping from guild to guild. Since the raid content isn’t the driving force for keeping guilds together they created other means to do it. Some of the higher level guild rewards are pretty cool.

The hypocrisy of the blogging community amazes me.