Tuesday, 25 February 2014

What happened to fitting in?

Bhagpuss over at Inventory Full made an interesting post that I loved. It's about armour and how betas looking better then release. In short, he says that beta is a time where everyone is wearing mid-level armour, they look like they fit the surroundings, and no one's a clown with forges on their shoulders. I agree fully.

What happened to fitting in? I don't mean fitting into a group of people, I mean the world. We'll look back at Vanilla WoW again (I know that may be getting tiresome, but bear with me.) Epic gear, the sets of raids and legends were rare. Most people were still wearing quest and dungeon gear because that's what you could wear without devoting yourself to a 40 man raid team.

Here's an image used to promote WoW when it was new. People looked like they fit.  Sure there was the problem of the 'clown suit', armour that didn't match, but at least each piece was believable.

But epic gear was something else, something that stood out. Sure it made you stand out from other players, but also the setting.

Don't get me wrong, some sets looked amazing, believable and in place. The tier 2 paladin comes to mind as one of the better looking sets to this day.

But then there was the tier 2 warrior set and.... ugh.... As a warrior at the time, I never envied anyone wearing this.

Fast forward to some of the sets we have today. With catch-up dungeons and LFR, these epic pieces are more common then ever. What rogue would find this practical? Is this the look of a man who defends Alliance boarders from the horde, or a raving lunatic?

Perhaps I'm different. I'm not in these games to be the big hero who killed Deathwing. I'm in these games to try and be a part of the world and for many games that's no longer the focus.

So I agree with Bhagpuss, I miss the days where players fit the world they played in. Thankfully Mark Jacob agrees, his recent dev blog on Massivley is a breath of fresh air after the ever growing trend of...well.... this....

That is apparently a hunter... You know, the in tune with nature, raises animals, uses a bow kind of thing... apparently....

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sickness, Landmark, ESO, Saturdauy Snapshot

It's been an off week for me, most of it has been spent in bed or doing menial thoughtless tasks as my head tried to decide whether or not it was going to explode from the pressure in my sinuses.

My time in Landmark has cut back a fair bit. Furnishing a house isn't as entertaining to me, and my claim is pretty much full aside from a well I plan to build in the corner. Once we get either a 2nd or extended claim I'll jump back in, but I don't want to remove my house. It's also a tad lonely living in the corner of a tier 1 island. Neighbors come and go, as they all rather quickly move to a higher tier island. I'm sure this will all resolve itself with updates, when tiers are removed, water is added, etc, etc.

I really want to jump back into Elder Scrolls, having only got some time in during the beta weekends. MMOs are at an odd time. Millions have played WoW and understand basic MMO mechanics, but as you have to design around new players, we always have to play through these hand holding opening areas. Most of the complaints I see revolve around this area in ESO, and I can understand that. Coldharber is a slog, a boring zone where everything dies in a hit or two, at a time where you don't have active abilities, during a beta where the zone is flooded with other players. It teaches things well enough to those who don't understand the game, but please, please please, allow alt characters to skip that zone.

I have not got into the pvp yet, though I'd really like too. Limited play time during the beta weekends have left my character around level 6 or 7, a duel wielding nightblade. The nightblade class is fun enough working on the assassination line, but duel wielding isn't working for me. I think what I'll do is change up to sword and shield, try to find a balance between offense and defense. Funny how that's basically a crime these days. MMOs expect you to go all DPS, all Tank or all Healing. It's all about DPS, Max DPS, look at the numbers. Sigh #MissingCityofHeroes. I'm off track, really want to try the pvp, lots of good videos surfacing.

It changed Angry Joe's mind about the game. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I82pz60iGL0

Werit's having fun in small skirmishes. http://www.weritsblog.com/2014/02/outpost-scuffle-eso-pvp.html

There's even solo gank videos already coming out, such as this one from Kesil. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-97mrfaqdw

I look forward to the next beta weekend.

Last but not least it is Saturday! I don't usually post on Saturdays, reserving them for Snapshots but it had been a light posting week.

My WoW Gnome Rogue, the Codegnome!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


I've been thinking about buffs lately, not as in balancing patch notes, but beneficial spells placed on your character.

Are they still accomplishing the same goal they used to? Buffs used to be important, there used to be a time where whether or not you could complete certain challenges hinged on them. Let's look back to 'vanilla' World of Warcraft and a spell called Mark of the Wild. Mark of the Wild was pretty much the best player provided buff in the entire game. It would provided by druids to give extra armor, increase all primary attributes and increase all spell resistances for 10 minutes (If I remember that part right). There was no other buff like it in the game, and you could feel the difference when it was cast on you. Now this was also back in the day of linear gear scaling, where 'outgearing' content was a much harder thing to do.

Today, outgearing things is easy due to exponential scaling, and thus buffs mean very little. Mark of the Wild is no longer unique as it is identical to a paladin's Blessing of Kings, no longer provides armour, and no longer provides spell resistances (Spell resistances were removed from the game.) and lasts an hour. You won't notice if it's there or not, and nothing hinges on the power it provides.

Only one example, but most buffs feel that way now, you just don't notice or care all that much.

Next is how we apply buffs. Buffs were a reason to group with people, bring certain classes and and promote socialization. It used to be applied player by player, but now affects the entire group at once, I support this change. In large groups, having to apply it to everyone one by one was a giant pain, and I don't want to go back to the 5 minutes buffs of classic paladin blessings as sometimes their entire group roll was just to keep those buffs up.

But surely there is a way to make buffs matter a bit more then a fire and forget click once per hour. no, feeling a buff I think largely hangs on linear vs exponential progression, then sooner and easier you outgear things, the less buffs matter.

So assuming buffs feel powerful, here how I would have them applied. First, makes them a passive, BUT BEAR WITH ME. This is not a single binary are you close or not deal. We'll use the example of a druid with mark of the wild. To the druid, this is something that is always on, upon spawning in the world, the buff begins to build up to full power over 30 seconds. Should Mark of the Wild be dispelled off the druid, it once again must build up over 30 seconds to it's full power. This is two fold, the druid no longer has a pointless button to press, and dispelling it can't be countered by just clicking the button again. To teammates, the buff builds up by being in proximity to the druid. Over 30 seconds it raises up to full power and then begins to stack duration. Every second spent in proximity to the druid adds a second to the duration timer until it reaches a maximum. We can make this 5-10minutes. As soon as the player leaves the druid's proximity, the duration timer ticks down, until within the final 30seconds the buff itself powers down to nothing.

This promotes group play, you get buffs by being near the player that provides them, and wandering off means you're going to loose it. If a group spawns in pvp, and a lone wolf immediately runs off away from everyone else, he won't have these buffs. But those who stick together will. This also means social hubs like cities become even better places to gather, as you'll gain an assortment of buffs just by hanging around.

Perhaps it's just a pipe dream, but that's the kind of buff system I want to see. But how they're applied only means as much as the buff provided, and if it means nothing.... then what's the difference?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Saturday Snapshot

Today's snapshot is a flashback to City of Heroes. My time traveling street fighter Mr.McJigg hanging out in roman times. I still miss this game.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Our Work is Never Over

As I've been exploring and building in Landmark, it hit me that I knew NOTHING of this land. Norrath is dear to many but I had never even really glanced at it before. To rectify this, I've downloaded Everquest 2 and ran around a bit.

I have to say, I enjoy the collection of playable races the game has. I enjoy how some are really more bestial. At current I am having trouble deciding what race/class to continue with. Froglok Bruiser, Fae Swashbuckler, or Sarnak Paladin.

My roommates have also got back into a computer card game called Spectromancer. This is one I really enjoyed a few years back. Not many people would enjoy a card battle game with no deck building but... this is a card battle game with no deck building. In fact all 'classes' share 80% of their deck with everyone else, with only the remaining 20% being unique. I've reinstalled it but have not yet had a match, perhaps I'll write about it more when I do.

Those materials finally got added to Landmark today, so without further ado...
House Progress!

 There are walls now!
 I am not yet done adding windows.
 Again, some windows on this side would be nice.
The porch is starting to come along. I may be on the furnishing phase soon.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

More Then Ever Hour Over

I swear, only one more Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger lyric as a title after this one.

House progress!

A patch hit today that was going to add plaster among 11 other materials. Plaster is made from sand which I have TONS of, with no other use for. The great thing is, I got the 'server going down for maintenance' message right after deciding wooden walls weren't going to work. Ironically, the extra materials were accidentally left out of the patch, and will be added tomorrow. That means I didn't get to add walls today, but I did get to plan for adding them tomorrow.
Wood is not a scarce resource per say, but when your plot is in the desert it can be hard enough to find in abundance. I'm going with a wood thatch roof, how quickly one can find his wood stockpile disappearing.

The patio is also a large wood hog, still needs legs and rails.

Just for reference, the stairs in the basement.

I'm very much enjoying my time in Landmark, it's been a while since I found a game this relaxing.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Work it Harder, Make it Better

To all those trying to take screenshots in Everquest Next Landmark, make sure you are in Fullscreen mode! While the game dislikes to alt+tab, the screenshot function will not work otherwise.

While I had done some building while playing, I hadn't done anything beyond some basic planning. Then I finally finished building my selection tool, the fables were true, and now building is addictive and awesome.

House In progress.

 I'm going for a 2 level home with a semi-sunken basement built into a cliff side.
Coming out from that door there, I would like there to be a porch or patio for evenings enjoying the view.

The walls of the semi-sunken basement are made of stone, though everything higher will have walls of wood.

I haven't yet decided the floor plan for the inner rooms. The basement will be mostly storage, but the upper floors will be for living. The 2nd floor will only be the closest portion of the 'L' shape the house is in. It will feature walking access to the rest of the 1st floor's roof.

My worry at this point, since I live on an island featuring tier 1 materials, is that I need to make a 10 minute walk to the portals if I want to continue to improve my tools. I could also just delete my plot, regain all the materials used in building and move to a new island. But really? I'm fine here. I don't 'need' better tools to finish this simple house. Later in the alpha, no only will there be a wipe of claims and progress, but all materials will eventually be spread across all lands at various rarities.

So I think I'll just stay here for now, finish my simple house and enjoy the view. It'll take a wipe or the introduction of a snowy biome to get me to move.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

The game I will talk about today, will surely spawn at least ONE video featuring that song.

That game is EverQuest Next Landmark, I caught the bug. To describe it briefly, it's advanced Minecraft. Like Minecraft before, I am thoroughly enjoying the Alpha.

I'm going to say it now, I tend to really enjoy the Alpha stage of games. Beta, not so much. In Alpha, you really watch a game grow from barely functional to fully featured. Beta is all bug hunting and feedback that means nothing, followed by a wipe of progress.

Anyway, Landmark, looks great. It took me about two hours to find a free plot of land to grab for myself, and I saw some pretty neat things along the way.

This was the first house I came across. If the nature wasn't neat looking already, it was suddenly accented by this large wooden mansion. There wasn't any furniture inside, and there's not yet any form of clear glass that can be crafted to fill the windows, still, a great first impression.
 I found this later on, a neat, weird, creepy church.
Digging for resources, I came across what I think is tungsten with a pick axe not yet strong enough to mine it. I was interested in how the ore would spawn, so I excavated it. It looks like... well... I'm sure you see.

I was going to spend the rest of the post talking about my current claim and house in progress. But the screen shots didn't save. Alpha is alpha right? That will be coming next post.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Friday, 7 February 2014

Just not meant to last...

Today I'm going to talk about a brief fling I had with a game called Just Cause 2. We ha some brief fun together, we saw each others flaws but stayed for our strengths. Eventually though, there's that one flaw you just can't ignore. For me, it's the bad checkpoint system.

Just Cause 2, you have a checkpoint system that flies against what you stand for, and encourages aberrant play during your missions.

If you don't know the game, it's an open world car jacker like Grand Theft Auto, but instead of a city, your playground is the entire island nation of Panau. Your mission is to take down the current regime, as you destroy government property and cause general chaos, missions unlock. This is one of the largest world maps available in gaming today, it's beautiful, it's full of activities, it's begging to suffer numerous explosions. 

Playing on 'experienced' difficulty, I could have rampages, but actually had to worry about military response. Things could easily get out of hand, and I tended to die often. I was fine with this, it was challenging, thrilling and at no point did I ever die thinking it was unfair. Upon death, any progress made was saved, those fuel tanks I blew up? Still blown up, but I reset to the closest allied stronghold. These are not close by, it could easily be 7-8min travel, by car to get back to where I was. That, or pay for 'extraction', a form of quick travel available to locations you've discovered already, where you jump from a helicopter. This was a time vs money thing, and it was fair. It wasn't all that cheap either, everything from auto-travel to guns was rather expensive and you could run out of funds fast if you weren't careful. I was planning! I was watching my heat! Most importantly, I was enjoying myself.

Too bad about about the missions though, because they really killed all of this. Missions always start far from the objective. On average you have 4km of travel from where the mission starts to where you need to be. You cannot 'extract' during missions so it's time to jack a car. Missions also take place on the world map, so all the normal things are there was well, the things you need to be destroying and collecting. So far so good. I go around destroying some things on my way to the numerous objectives of what I need to take out. Heat goes up, army responds, let's say I died. Well, that was probably my own fault, let's try again. Ok, everything has reset, that was expected. Hmm, all the collectables I got are back, and all the non-objective things I destroyed are back too, this doesn't happen normally. It's a mission, rules are a bit different, but what's this? I'm 4km away again. Ok, that irks me a bit, couldn't have started me back at the place? I try again, play more careful and for example's sake we'll assume I died again. Well... time to jack a car... again....

Here's what I learned. The point of the game is destroying things, things littered everywhere. Fuel containers, broadcast towers, radio masts, SAM turrets. This gives you 'chaos', a mark of progress as missions unlock at certain levels of accumulated chaos.

Once in a mission, you are to ignore them. Sure it's fun to blow them up on the way, but it's only extra heat, heat that will get you killed. As much fun as it is to destroy all this stuff, by your 3rd time driving back to the mission, you'll wish you had just stuck to the objectives. If it's two radio towers, you just take down those two radio towers. You finish the mission and THEN you can go back and start destroying/collecting things. It creates aberrant behavior in that the game turns from 'all the things' to 'ignore all the things' if you want to succeed. 

This in itself I could accept, if it wasn't for having to drive back, EVERY TIME.

I suppose one answer could be to tone the difficulty down, so I could just get through and see the story. But A) That diminishes the challenge, B) Doesn't fix the checkpoints and C) The story, writing and acting are HORRIBLE, and not the reason to play the game.

I suppose I could just ignore the missions, but as with Grand Theft Auto, there are many things gated behind story progression.

My response has been to stop playing. 9% game completion, almost a crime in my book as I quite enjoy finishing things, side quests, collectables. But the checkpoint system just doesn't work for me. Like Shadowrun when it first came out, I need to let it go.

Also like this jet...

It's not me Just Cause 2, it's you. Gather your data and get out of my hard drive, we're through.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


So what are people playing these days?

I haven't touched WoW in about two weeks, part pre-expansion slump, part other games grabbing my attention. I'm not a raider and dungeons have never been my fancy. I'm a guy who logs in to RP, do battlegrounds and wpvp. The RP scene is dying down on my server as people wait for the expansion. Make no mistake, it's not dead, but certainly less lively. Combined with the death of my most recent guild, the social hooks just aren't hooking. With PVE gear outdoing even conquest PVP gear out in the world, wpvp has it's own slump. While the next patch will help alleviate that, I'm not sure it'll bring back those waiting for Warlords of Draenor. That leaves just running random battlegrounds when I'm on. As Alliance, I have a short wait between matches but a reliable 60-70% loss rate on all but two maps, as recently illustrated on MMO-Champ. (Found here http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/3707-Battleground-Win-Ratios-Upcoming-SoO-Changes-Feedback-Blue-Tweets-DLC-424 ) I guess I could just go Horde, but that doesn't help the Alliance, removes the last of my current social hooks, costs $25 if I don't want to reroll and leads to 30-45min waits between matches.

So far I've been taking a different approach, playing Smite.

While the control scheme is somewhat different, it gives me all the action I wanted out of WoW's battlegrounds on a fair playing field with no gear concerns. Ok, some, but it's all bought per match, in match. I even get to play with friends new to the game immediately, with no more then a 5min wait between matches. Lately I've been trying to increase my 'mastery' level. Smite has a ton of level layers so I'll try and break it down. 'Beta Level' is an account level based on exp earned from finished matches. A scheme that was largely abandoned. It goes to 30 but does nothing but unlock a certain character skin and ranked matches upon reaching max. While I'm not sure of it's original intent, it was decided long ago that it would go away when beta ended and do nothing else. I'm level 27 and have until March 25th to get that skin if I want, but honestly? It's a skin I find ugly, for a god I rarely use. If I get it, it's only because I'm playing the game anyway. As you play a god, you earn xp for that god and he earns 'ranks', up to 10. Upon rank 1, you've 'mastered' the god and can purchase a gold skin if desired. At rank 10, a 'legendary' skin is awarded if you also own the gold skin. Where ranks becomes important is that the number of gods you hold at rank 1 or higher becomes your 'mastery level'. Playing ranked modes once you're level 30 requires a certain mastery level, and is largely used by the community not as a merit of skill, but knowledge. Someone at the current max mastery available, probably knows a fare amount of the game.

At any rate, trying to raise my mastery has taken me out of my comfort zone. There are two gods I play often and feel confident with. Sun Wukong (rank 4), and Loki (rank 6). As a rogue in WoW, Loki was a natural fit. Something about Sun Wukong's mobility just really worked for me and while there were a few other gods I knew, most I barely knew a thing about. So I started the quest for mastery, for knowledge, and while there have been some real road blocks (I'm looking at your Agni!) it's been an eye opening experience.

This weekend also saw the release of Loadout, a neat little arena deathmatch game. Today Dogs of War Online entered open beta and I plan to play that a bit more. While I do enjoy it's turn based tactical game play, I'm afraid I just won't find myself staying without context or story, unless another hook grabs me. There's also a beta under NDA I get to play this weekend. I enjoy it so far, many seem not to but it has things I've been looking for in its genre. I'll have much to say when the NDA goes down.

Last but not least, I just can't shake Splinter Cell: Blacklist. It's been over a month and I still dive in a few times a week. I just love the stealth game play. I've beaten every mission on perfectionist, I have every dead drop, hacked every laptop, detained every HVT, and I still keep going. Currently I am revisiting missions to fill two check boxes, beating the mission without being noticed, and beating the entire mission non-lethally. While I always went for the 'ghost' play style of non-lethal stealth, I was not entirely judicious about being non-lethal. Especially early on when my equipment was of low quality and I could only bring 3 sticky shockers at a time.

What about you? What currently fills your free time? Are you still in WoW progressing raids, or something else? Leave a comment!

Saturday, 1 February 2014