I haven't written much lately, as there just isn't much "happening." I'm playing Warhammer Online, but there's really nothing "exciting" to write about. I play, it's fun, and things are good. Heh.
I'll be doing my future gaming-related posts over @ Nomadic Gamer. It's a multi-author site that's pretty heavily promoted and I'm hoping that'll give me some more exposure. Plus it's a WordPress site, so maybe that will get me some more interaction since everyone and their cat has a WP account and thus can comment/interact without making Yet Another Account™©.
But that also means I've got to step up the quality of my writing, so I haven't made my first post there yet. I'm working on one but it's probably a few days from being awesome enough to post there.
As far as non-gaming stuff goes, well, let's see... We got a fairly high end home coffee roaster, and have been home-roasting batches of coffee. We've been buying fresh-roasted whole bean for years, but figured it was time to take the next step and roast our own, and have not been disappointed! We've got a HotTop "B" model and it flat-out rocks. I'll have a post on that fairly soon I'm sure.
I'm also still working on cheesemaking, but that's an interesting "process" learning how it works. :) I'm able to make basic curds and they're damned good, but I want to make "real" cheese, so I've got to buy or construct a proper cheese mold so I can mold the curds and press them and such. I'll get there.
She's got about 1000000000 vegetable plants started in the garage and we'll soon have our own vegetable garden. :D Lettuce, chives, tomatoes, cilantro, red peppers, and umm, "some other stuff" (can't remember!), are all happily growing.
Published on April 13th, 2010 @ 07:28:38 am , using 425 words, 2124 views
Playing Warhammer Online again for the past week or two has made me realize there's a lot that a lot of players just don't "get" about "PvP" in some of the newer MMOs. I'll talk mainly about WAR, since that's what I've been playing - but I remember these same issues in Battlegrounds in WoW as well.
WAR is specifically a "Realm vs. Realm" (RvR) game rather than strictly a "Player vs. Player" (PvP) game. I think a lot of people, when they see "PvP" as a feature, think it's mainly one player vs. one other player - so they end up, maybe even subconsciously, having a very "solo minded" attitude about it. That it's all about their performance and what they can personally do. The problem is that WAR is very much about teamwork, as the game is really Realm vs. Realm, and you need to do things to help out your team - even if it's stuff that doesn't pump your numbers on any scoreboard.
"Support" classes have it tough, of course. The scoreboards all show damage and healing - so of course people constantly want to do things that'll pump up their numbers on either of those meters. But what about other, useful things, such as rooting or staggering the enemy so that people can get away, or catch the enemy in order to kill them? That kind of thing doesn't show on any meter, but sometimes can mean the difference between win and loss when done at the right time. If you only worry about your personal scoreboard numbers, you tend to only use damaging or healing abilities as they're the ones that pump numbers. When too many people play that way, your side tends to lose.
So what's the solution? From a game mechanics point of view, I'm not sure there is one. I guess game designers could start working on a way to track "assists" somehow. Maybe count how many times a player used CC vs. another player that was then "soon after" killed - and then consider that a "kill assist" and show that kind of thing on a scoreboard. The real solution, though, has to come from players. In a game that's about teamwork, players need to start thinking for the team and not worrying about the scoreboard. I find that when my side wins, it's a lot more satisfying than simply seeing my character top a scoreboard. And you usually get more out of it from the game too - XP, "renown," or whatever else the game in question awards for winning.
Published on April 8th, 2010 @ 12:35:48 pm , using 92 words, 3422 views
As a follow-up to a previous post, the matter of my LOTRO account is closed; Turbine will not budge, and I'm ... well ... done. Without my hard-earned characters, and somewhat more importantly, my names that I've used for the past 13 years, I just can't see returning. Plus, I have to admit, I am a little bit angry they are not willing to look at multiple ways to interpret data. Anyway.
Thank you to you-know-who-you-are for getting the matter re-appealed, even though it didn't work out.
And now back to our regularly scheduled insanity!
Published on April 8th, 2010 @ 06:06:53 am , using 465 words, 3358 views
That pretty much describes me to a "T" since my post-EQ1 days. I'll stay with a game for maybe 2 or 3 months, sometimes only a month, and then go to another one. Sometimes I come back to a game - usually I will, in fact. I've tried to fight it - trying to even "force" myself to stay with a game when I've felt the "pull" of another. I think now it's time to accept that I am a Nomadic Gamer and just enjoy the process of getting to see a lot of different games.
So, with that out of the way, my current "home" is Warhammer Online. As I posted last week, I'd been missing some good PvP action, and right now, I don't think there's a better PvP game for me than WAR. I like the "fast, get in and fight" nature of the Scenarios most of the time. And when it's time for more involved action, there's the open Realm vs. Realm action of BOs/Keeps and such.
In typical "me" fashion, I'm playing lots of different characters. Sure, being an alt-o-holic limits your progression speed, but as they say "It's Not a Race™" and I'm in no hurry. I have a Squig Herder, a Disciple of Khaine, a Magus, a Marauder, a Shaman, a Choppa, a Sorcerer, and a Witch Elf. I do have an Order character, a Witch Hunter, but he's not getting played much as I don't know ANY Order players.
Among those, I don't even have a favorite - I sort of just log in, pick one, and go for it. They're all fun, and they're spread out across a few Tiers. The Magus is 40 and doesn't get played much, as a year away from the game makes it hard to pickup a max-level char again. The DoK and SH are 30 and 31 respectively, and get played quite a bit. Shaman and Witch Elf are in T2, and the Marauder and the rest are all T1. Population seems to be good across all the Tiers, now that the original 50+ opening day servers have been condensed to just 4. Warhammer's fun.
My EQ2 (and by extension, EQ1, SWG, and Vanguard) account is still active, and I'm still planning to play EQ2, as the PvE is leaps and bounds better than WAR's - it's just that right now, I'm enjoying the PvP/RvR action a bit more, so that's where I find myself logging in.
Next week: Hello Kitty Online? Haha - who knows! :D (Actually - about 90% of the MMO people I follow on Twitter play Wizard 101 and claim it's a good game even for adults... I suppose I'll have to check it out someday.)
Published on April 6th, 2010 @ 06:53:24 am , using 596 words, 11027 views
As that screenshot, dated in 2002 shows, UI customization in MMOs has been around for a long time. I can't remember exactly when they added the capability to EQ1, but it was probably a year prior to that shot. Since then, interface customization has grown by leaps and bounds!
EQ1 only allows "skinning" - that is, all you can change is how and where things are displayed. You can't actually "program" the UI like you can in WoW and Warhammer, but you can still do a lot to the UI.
The evolution of my EQ1 UI...
I spend a lot of time designing and tweaking my UI in games that allow me to. I often say I "can't" play with the default UI on games like WoW or Warhammer. That's not exactly true - of course I could play on the default UI setup, it's just that with addons and customization you can really get a UI tailored to how you think and react, and I believe you end up a better player.
A longterm friend and I both heavily play this metagame, and we often spend hours on IM discussing UI and keybind setups. It really is a detailed, complex metagame.
The more modern MMOs, such as WoW and Warhammer really let you change the UI to suit you. Both of those games have a full-blown programming language, LUA, built into the client, and they expose much of the client API to the UI, allowing you to really make cool modifications to the game's UI.
Let's start with WoW's default, "as installed", UI:
Certainly that's not "unusable" but from my point of view it has several problems that are easily fixed. First, the unit frames, that is, the displays of the player's and the target's health and such, are up in the corners of the display, away from the center of the action, where your eyes should be focused. Also, the hotbars display and other UI elements are a little too "heavy weight", taking up a lot of screen real estate.
Here's my WoW UI as of December of 2009:
Note that the unit frames have been pared down to just what's needed, and most of the UI elements are relocated to a "focus zone." This isn't the best the UI could be; I'm always refining and tweaking my game UIs.
The two main things I first look for when seeking addons are a lightweight unitframes mod, and a good hotbar mod. Most game's default unitframes are pretty overblown. They usually have a large, animated portrait of the character, which wastes both space and CPU cycles. They're also usually too big. So I look for a good, clean unitframe mod. For hotbars, I need something flexible and that reminds me what keys are bound to what. I'm a keybinder - clicking simply takes too long. Hitting a key is much faster than moving a mouse and clicking; there's just no way around that.
After those two things are handled, I generally try to find a good quest log managing mod, a good minimap mod, and if it exists, a good "Grid" type party/raid frame mod. Other things I look for/use are totally specific to the game - such as Recount for DPS/healing tracking in WoW, or HorizontalMechanicBar for tracking class mechanics in Warhammer.
So - what about you? Do you heavily play the UI Metagame, or do you just install the game and play with what "The Man™" gave you?
Published on April 5th, 2010 @ 06:10:45 am , using 59 words, 774 views
This morning, mucho comedy from "back in the day" in EverQuest I. Every time you reload this page, a different quote will appear below. Many of them are not "family friendly" but all of them are funny and were saved for one reason or another. ;) There are between 100 and 200 quotes in the randomizer. Have fun! :D
(Note: I'm Sevok/Sovek.)
Published on April 1st, 2010 @ 08:21:25 am , using 53 words, 870 views
I think that's a large part of why I've been a little unfocused with games lately. There is still a tiny chance that I can get the LOTRO account unlocked, and if I do, LOTRO will be a primary focus.
Or, I guess, I can just wait until 2036 when the ban expires! :D
Published on April 1st, 2010 @ 06:49:09 am , using 1614 words, 1227 views
Yesterday's post mentioned a "complex casting system" in a game some friends and I tried to design a few years ago. I was reading through the forums where we were doing this design work (they're still up, hidden), and was going through the long thread where we discussed said magic system. I decided I'd cut-n-paste the main design post into a blog post. Sure, this represents many hours of conversations, thought, and design on my part but it's not like there's anything super proprietary or anything in it, and I'm sure hundreds if not thousands of other caster players have thought up similar systems. And, it'd need hundreds more hours of work to refine into something "real" that could be put into a game. I like to promote discussion on design and such, so here it is...
The "research mockup" referred to in the text is:
******** CUT AND PASTE OF MAIN DESIGN POST ********
Magic System Proposed Design
Version 2.0 (10/23/2006)
The magic system I'm proposing here is fairly complex, and is designed to provide a much "deeper" caster experience than the simple "buy scroll, you have the spell" type system we've seen in almost every MMO. I've tried to work in some features that make it a little more accessible for the "lazy" or more casual player that wants to play a caster, but doesn't want to learn the complex system. In the end, though, to be a really "good" caster player, you're going to need to learn the more complex system.
The system is based on the premise that in order to "learn" a spell, that is, have it in your spellbook and be able to cast it, you first have to research it. This is done by using the spell research interface, which I have made a crude mockup of -- you can see that at the following URL:
You can see from the mockup that spells are made up of Words, Components, and Sigils. More on that later. Casting (and Research) will be controlled by a number of skills. These will be arranged into trees TBD later. They will be specific skills such as Summoning Demonic Entitles rather than more generic skills such as Alteration like EQ1 has. When you try to Research a spell, a skill check will be done on the skill(s) the spell is tyring to use, and if you succeed, the spell will be learned and added to your spellbook. If you fail, you might lose some or all of the components, or if you fail really badly you might die.
When you want to cast a spell you just select it from your book, or hit the hotkey you have it bound to. A skill check will be done on the spell's skill(s) (the skillcheck for research and cast will be slightly different) and if you succeed you cast the spell, if you fail something bad might happen.
When you start the game with any casting skills, you will have in your spellbook some basic starter spells. You can use these for a while, they'll be enough to be effective. You'll also be able to use these as the basis for learning the spell system. You can look at any spell in your book to see how it was composed and can reason out from that how to create other spells.
For the non-interested, casual, or lazy player, there will be the option to buy spells at certain skill levels from some NPCs. They won't be the "super duper cool-ass" spells you could have, but they'll be enough to play the game and be somewhat effective.
The heart of the spell system is Research. Again refer to the research screen mockup at
As you can see, spells are made up of Words, Components, and Sigils. We'll talk about each one in order.
Words are the main thing that describe what the spell will do. There will be a number of magical languages a caster must know in order to do magic. These will be individual skills in the skill trees. We'll invent a few languages, and use a few from the real world. I definitely want to have Sumerian, Celtic, and probably Enochian. We can invent the rest. We don't need full languages, just the words needed to arrange spells. As you can see in the mockup, the player doesn't have to actually memorize the language -- the words are displayed with the English meaning in parentheses. You simply drag the words from the Words tab on the left, onto the layout section on the right. You have to arrange them in proper order, of course, and we can have varying grammars in the different languages for flavor and to add difficulty.
Components are physical things you have to have in order to use the spell. These are things like herbs, incenses, charms, amulets, talismans, wands, staves, etc. Some components will be consumed when casting, either every time you cast or randomly, and some will never be consumed (such as Amulets). For example, say we have a Blort Demon summoning spell. The components are Asafoetida powder and a Blort Demon amulet. One unit of the Asafoetida powder will be consumed when you cast the spell, while the Amulet will not.
Some components, like wands or staves, will be held (automatically) when you cast the spell.
We can control how expensive/annoying the component system is by carefully deciding how to set the consume/maybe consume/never consume flags for each spell.
Sigils specify the scope and scale of the spell. Scope is what the spell effects: yourself, a target, or an area of effect. Scale is how powerful or "big" the spell will be. We can invent our own sigils or just use a weird font like the one I used for the mockup. Probably best to make up our own. Sigils will also be used to mitigate spoiler site effects (more on that later, though). Sigils were originally (in version 1.0) "Gestures" but after talking extensively with Zar this weekend, we came up with Sigils. They're easier to put in the game, and I think will "look" and "feel" much more mystical and "cool".
So, once you've arranged the Words, Components, and Sigils you think will define a valid spell, you hit "Experiment..." and if you've arranged a valid combination, and pass the skill check(s), the spell will be added to your spellbook and you can then cast the spell anytime (assuming you have enough mana and the components). If you fail, you won't learn the spell, the system won't tell you what caused the fail (bad combination, or failed skill check), and based on how badly you fail, you might die. Twisted Evil
Once you've got a spell in your book, casting is easy. You either select it right from the book, or press a hotkey you've assigned it to. If you have enough mana, of course, and the components needed, you'll cast the spell. If you fail the skill check(s), you fail, and if the fail is bad enough (critical fail), you might die.
That's really all there is to casting -- it's a simple casting system like most other MMOs. The complexity is all in the way you acquire spells (research). Casting needs to be simple, because you're not going to want to have to do complex actions while a mob is trying to make you into its dinner.
I'm proposing another class of spells, called Rituals, that cannot be researched. Rather, you learn them from quests or from ancient tomes you might find in the game. These will usually require the participation of multiple characters, and be very complex. But the effects they have will be very impressive indeed. I will expand on this later.
Random, Unsorted Thoughts
When summoning or animating things, part of the "sentence" you will construct will include a clause for "under my control". If you leave that out, you create a "dumbfire pet" like the Necromancer rat summon that EQ2 has (used to have?). The "under my control" part causes a Will stat check. If you fail, the pet is "dumbfire" and will probably kill you. Razz Especially if it's a really powerful demon and you're just a Neophyte level caster. So, yeah, you might pass the skill check to summon that really powerful demon ... but if you can't control it, you're dinner. So you have to use your head when casting summons.
Spoiler site effect mitigation: To control the effect spoiler sites have on the magic system, the sigil alphabet will be randomized on character creation. Twisted Evil So what means "target" for one character might mean "self" for another. Would be kind of unfortunate if someone thought they had a "Kill" spell but used the sigil that meant "target" for another character, but meant "self" for them.
Skill trees: I haven't worked out how I want the skill trees to work just yet. I'm almost there, and will post on it later. It will probably have 3 trees: Harmful, Beneficial, and Summoning. We can use this to control power and prevent people from becoming "superbeings" by learning everything.
Spell books in libraries: I do plan to have readable books in libraries and other places, and some of them may give you spells you likely won't figure out on your own. Of course, you'll have to pass the skill checks, but it'll be really cool for players that explore and such.
******** END OF CUT AND PASTE ********
So there you have it. What do you think of this design, on a basic level? Is it something you'd like to see in a game? Or is it too complex? Or not complex enough? ;)
Published on March 31st, 2010 @ 06:12:40 am , using 781 words, 683 views
It started with my wife and I talking over a long weekend. We theorized about a very popular television IP and how it would be perfect for an MMO. It had interesting races, a really cool (modern day) setting, and tons of other things that made it, in our minds, a perfect IP for an MMO. Of course, we do not have and in no way could ever afford a license to use said IP - so we figured there would only be two ways to pull it off. One, it could be done "on the sly" and then if it was cool enough the owners of the IP might be on board with continuing the project. Or two, change just enough that it appeals to fans of the IP, but make it different enough that no legal guns could be aimed at the project.
We then began talking about this idea on the forums where the aforementioned friends hang out, and several of them thought the idea sounded cool and wanted in on the project! It was now a "project!" I setup separate (and very private) forums and a (equally hidden/private) wiki for the project and we went forth with it.
Some concept art was created - in fact the artwork in this post is concept art from that project; one of our friends is a very talented artist. For about a month or two, it seemed like this could be a reality. No, we didn't believe we could create a full blown MMO with "just us"; rather we hoped to get the bare workings of something to show, and then try to find venture capital to make it happen for real. We had two programmers (myself - I've been programming as a hobby since I was 10, and professionally since I was 19; and another friend on the project), a excellent artist, several very creative design/story type people. We really did have the right mix to make something barely showable.
As things started to get more and more detailed, that's when problems started happening. The whole project ended up being a very interesting insight into what must happen in MMO development. First it was races. We fought bitterly over which races would be included. Hell, we had some knock down, drag out fights over what to name the races! Yes, race names. Fights. Seriously! Haha.
Perhaps the worst fight was over the magic system. I'm a longterm caster player; I always play casters, and usually pet-based casters. I have always wanted a very complex, deep magic system in an MMO, instead of the simplistic "buy a spell and cast it" type of system that has become the norm. I'm maybe the only player that liked Asheron's Call's original magic system, where things were randomized on character creation, and spell power was greater/lesser based on how many in the world knew a spell. Hell, I didn't think it was quite complex enough! But it was a start. A friend that was on the project is a similar caster fan, so I figured we'd be totally in sync on a complex magic system. Oh hell no. Not even close! Heh. The crude mockup of a research interface preceding this paragraph is my work. I spent perhaps 100 hours documenting my ideas for a magic system that was complex and based on personally researching spells and so forth. The other caster person... didn't quite get it and ... well, we ended up not speaking for a few months when the project was aborted.
Actually, most of us didn't speak for a few months. We're all still friends and we're all over the failure of the project. :) But, wow, what an insight it ended up being! If actual, longterm friends get into fights that badly over game design issues... imagine what people who's only connection is being employed by the same company must go through! Heh. And this was confirmed recently when someone in another community I'm a part of gave us all an insight into what goes on. He's on the dev team for a very big upcoming title, and he detailed how some meetings go. There have been near fist-fights in some of them! And this is an AAA+ title we're talking about. Bottom line: game development is passionate!
Shame our project never went anywhere though; we really did have a lot of good ideas, and looking back over the wiki we created, that's still true. I'm glad I've kept the wiki and forums to look back on.
Published on March 30th, 2010 @ 06:08:08 am , using 24 words, 975 views
Yeah, it's shameless self-promotion, but oh well. Click my Bioware Social link to help me out in the Bioware Bazaar. Here it is: >>> LINK <<<<
That's all for now. :)
Published on March 29th, 2010 @ 07:26:32 am , using 373 words, 10047 views
I haven't had a ton of gaming time lately, but what time I have had has been spent in EQ2. It really is a great game, with tons of things too do (too many sometimes - it's hard to decide what to do!). Quite a few friends are playing, and with the few random guild invites we've done, there's always quite a few on with the PM tag. So, I've been pretty happy playing EQ2. :)
I still miss LOTRO, a lot, actually, but without my original account, I can't really go back. I do have the second account, but all my years-old names, pre-release era characters and the like, I just really can't make a go of it. :/ Maybe someday Turbine will relent and unlock it.
The only thing I DO sometimes miss in gaming is some PvP. Sure EQ2 has PvP now, but honestly, the game was not designed from the ground up to have PvP and I can't imagine it's very good. The PvP I miss the most is the always available, "jump in and go for it" Scenarios and world PvP of Warhammer Online actually. I could always hit "join queue" and within a couple minutes be in a good PvP scenario and it was (almost) always a lot of fun! And the world PvP was fun too. Not sure how it is now as it's been many months since I played, but I think when the PvP itch gets too strong to resist, that's what I'll re-up. I don't have the reflexes for AoC PvP anymore, and EVE ... well, yeah, no.
The info on The Secret World that came out of GDC is very interesting. Interesting skill system, where you have 7 active and 7 passive skills you can slot in at any one time. Should avoid some of the "skill overload" that you get in other games, where you've got 3-4+ hotbars worth of skills to manage at all times. TSW's going to be very interesting!
Anyway - not much else to write about at the moment. EQ2's fun, but I haven't done anything "exciting" - mainly I'm just questing on my Necro and playing random alts now and then. I'm on Station Pass, so I've got seemingly endless character slots to mess with. ;)
Published on March 24th, 2010 @ 08:19:53 am , using 409 words, 725 views
I am an "Advancement Driven Player," aka "addicted to the ding." Levels, skill numbers, whatever the character advancement mechanic is in the game I'm playing, I always seek to see that go UP up UP! The problem is, the scales are never linear.
When you start a new MMO, the advancement comes fast, then eventually starts to really...slow....dooown. Back when there wasn't a lot of choice, well, I just stayed with it and settled for slow advancement. Now, with 100000 choices, the problem is the thoughts start to creep in. "Well I'm only level 15 in that game, I can get some levels really fast instead of taking 3 days to gain a level here..."
I know that most MMO developers choose a number of hours they think (or hope - ha!) an "average" player should take to get to max level, and then design around that. The problem is, that number of hours is usually skewed such that the last, say, 20% of levels take as much time to achieve as the first 80% - or thereabouts. Players like myself would do better, and stay more focused, if the curve were linear. To use an overly simplistic example, let's say you want it to take 100 play hours to reach max level, and there are 50 levels. So, why not scale things so that it takes 2 hours per level? Or, if you want to give players fast levels - expand the scale. So 100 hours to max level, but there's 200 levels - so a level every 30 minutes-ish?
A lot of games have other advancement paths besides levels. "AA points" are one of course - and that helps somewhat - but a lot of times you need 5-10 or more AA points to get anything, and then usually those things have such a small effect on your character's performance that it ends up feeling not worth it. Gear is an advancement path too, and that helps - but again sometimes there's the problem of too little gain and/or too much time needed.
I don't have a good solution - I'm merely commenting on how I play and why I see myself losing focus on a game. When the advancement starts coming too slowly, I invariably end up switching games or rolling an alt. Basically, "advancement driven players" need somewhat frequent (and noticeable) gains in character performance/skills/etc, or we can tend to lose focus and switch characters (which isn't bad for the game, because we stay) or switch games (which of course, IS bad for the game).
How's that for an interesting collection of unrelated hashtags!? Well, that's what happens when you blog about everything you're doing, rather than focusing on one subject. ;)
I haven't written much lately, mainly because there hasn't been a lot to write about. I haven't been "heavily" playing any particular game. I'm still playing EQ2, AO, and STO randomly/when I get a chance, but I haven't been playing a lot and I haven't had anything super awesome to comment about in any of those games, or in the gaming world at large.
I've been in the "investigative stages" of getting into a couple other diversions/hobbies. I've wanted to homebrew for about 15 years and we just checked out an awesome homebrew shop in Indianapolis on Saturday. We'll probably be heading back there soon to pick up the gear we need to get started. Hopefully within a month or two we'll have our first batch of beer! Everyone we know locally will have a bunch of free beer - woot!
As I mentioned before, we have access to a supply of awesome fresh-from-da-cow milk - 2 gallons a week to be exact. So, I've been experimenting with cheesemaking. Doing it the old-fashioned way, without any commercial products such as rennet and packaged cultures hasn't yielded the best results - so we picked up some rennet and cultures at the homebrew shop mentioned above. Yeah, they have cheesemaking (and winemaking!) stuff too. It's a great shop. Hopefully further experimentation will yield some good cheese.
That's a batch of Irish soda bread my wife made last week. It was insanely good! She's been learning The Ways of the Bread™ lately and has been picking it up... like she was born to it. :D We've had some seriously awesome bread for the last 2-3 weeks.
I've also begun the process of re-entering R/C flying - helicopters to be exact. Helis were actually the first thing I was involved with in R/C flying, but I switched to airplanes early on. I want something I can fly at a large schoolyard more easily - and a heli fits the bill quite nicely. I got a rather insane deal on a used fairly high end model from a soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay, oddly enough. It'll be here in 15-20 days and I'll post plenty of pics, I'm sure. It's a Miniature Aircraft Ion-X V1 for those that know the model. I have a transmitter coming from another source, and Phoenix Simulator coming from the manufacturer. Sim practice is pretty important with helis; they're a lot more difficult to fly than airplanes.
So that about covers it! The Health Issue mentioned in a previous post seems to be finally getting worked out. At some point, when it's all completely resolved, I'll have a post on it, from the perspective of a family member (since it's not me that's physically going through it). Suffice it to say, the thyroid is a fairly important part of your body. :D
Published on March 11th, 2010 @ 06:09:43 am , using 377 words, 871 views
One game that I've been excited about for quite some time is Funcom's "The Secret World." There is not a lot of information out there about it yet, but what is out there is awesome. And what Funcom has done with complex ARGs for the game has just been ... awesome. But now GDC is on, and according to a couple of posts (one and two) we can expect some concrete info soon!
What we do know is that the game will be set in the present day, in our world. The locations will be based on real locations in our world. The premise is that all/most of the legends, conspiracy theories, and so on are true - and you're a member of a secret society vying for control. The character development system will be skill-based rather than level based. And that's pretty much it. But that's enough!
Playing Anarchy Online again, Funcom's first MMO, I have been reminded again how awesome a more open, skill-based character system is. AO's character dev is complex, as I mentioned in my wall-o-text AO post. Hopefully TSW's will be even deeper.
I'm hoping to get involved in early beta for TSW. I'm playing AO, EQ2, and STO, sure, but I really miss the beta process. The last major beta (Alpha, actually) I was involved with was LOTRO and that was years ago. I miss the process of seeing a game evolve through early alpha, to beta, then open beta and finally release. Ah well, soon hopefully. I had a chance back in October/November to get a guaranteed slot in the TSW beta, by buying a 1 year subscription to AoC but I wasn't able to take advantage at the time. Hopefully I'll win the random selection lottery again like I seem to so regularly. ;) I know a lot of times active posters at fan sites/etc get selected early on, but honestly, I never found a point in posting a ton about a game that nothing is known about and I'm not in testing for. Once I'm "in", my post count usually goes to 1,000 rather quickly. Heh. Just no point in idle speculation, in my opinion. We don't even know... anything, so there's nothing really to talk about.
Anyway... TSW... A title to watch!
As mentioned in my wife's recent post (<--- that's a link, suckahs!), we've been enjoying a lot of awesome foods lately.
As she mentioned, we now own 0.53% of a herd of 18 dairy cows. Why the heck would you want to own 0.53% of some damn cows, you ask? Well, cows are really cool animals. Besides being cute, they're also made of beef! They also produce a pretty cool substance, called "milk." "But you can buy milk in the store", you say. Sure, you can. But it's not quite the same. Firstly it comes from corn-fed cattle. Secondly it's cooked. Cooking changes the chemical properties of things. Sometimes that's good, other times not so much. I don't want to get into the politics of milk, but we wanted to have access to uncooked milk. It's ... yes ... ILLEGAL ... to sell. Yes, it's illegal to sell milk. Sigh. But if you happen to own some cows... you can get the milk. Anyway. We own some cows. Er, 0.53% of 18 cows. Anyway the milk (and CREAM) is really damn good.
Speaking of cows, yesterday I braised a grass-fed chuck roast from Traders Point Creamery, obtained for us by the awesome people at D&R Market. Why grass-fed? Well, again I don't want to get into the health debates here - let's just talk taste. If you're around my age (39) or older, you might remember beef used to taste different. Back in the late 70s or early 80s, it tasted a lot different. I think that's because back then the cattle were still at least partially grass-fed, before producers converted over to pure corn. The things the cows eat change the taste. A lot. When I ate that chuck roast last night I was instantly transported back to being a kid and eating a roast. The flavor is amazing. Truly amazing.
We probably won't (and likely can't) convert to strictly grass-fed, but we'll certainly seek it out and try to have it whenever we can. It really is good beef. :)
We've also started baking again. Well, she has. I watch. And sometimes measure ingredients for her. She's been making breads, from scratch, and they've been truly amazing! The best bread I've ever had, hands down. And yesterday she made some devil's food cupcakes, frosted with peanut butter frosting. All of which were made from scratch. Spray-can frosting? NO! Not even from a can at all. It was made from real peanut butter, powdered sugar, and milk. And ... these cupcakes are amazing. It's a shame most of them are going with her to Knit Night at River Knits tonight. They'll enjoy them for sure though! Amazing stuff.
Anyway. Next food post, I promise, will have pictures. ;)
Published on March 8th, 2010 @ 07:15:35 am , using 2362 words, 3504 views
As promised, here's the Anarchy Online post. There is no TL;DR version, and this will be a wall-o-text!
I'd been working in my head a way to put up a TL;DR version of this post, but then I started to realize that The TL;DR Thing™ is one of the reasons there aren't more games like AO in the first place. So, no Tl;DR version - either skim the post, read it in detail, or just skip it. Heh.
AO is set 30,000 years in the future, (mostly) on a planet called Rubi-Ka. Nanotechnology has been advanced far, far beyond what we can do now, of course. The game was released back in 2001 and has remained a fairly "niche" game. If graphics are a primary motivator in your game choices, AO will probably turn you off. Back when it was released, the graphics were very good for an MMO, but of course that was 9 years ago and a lot has changed. EQ2, EVE, Vanguard, Aion, and so on, all have more up-to-date graphic engines and thus much higher quality graphics - but as the old gaming saying goes "flashy graphics do not make a game good." That said, Funcom is planning to give AO a graphics engine upgrade "soon" - I'm assuming they'll use the AoC client, which of course has insanely good graphics capability.
Character creation is pretty standard fare. You select a "breed" which in other games would be called race, a "profession" (class), play a little with your character's appearance, give your character a name, and then you're on your way. That might give you the impression that AO's character development system is simple and/or shallow. It's not. In fact you can easily, truly, gimp your character. In fact, AO is the first MMO where you could really gimp your character, and is probably the reason people still fear that state of gimpiness. There is no easy, ubiquitous "respec" capability, so if you gimp your character, it may be a long, long time before you can fix - if you can at all! But more on that later.
The professions are many and varied. You've got for example the gun DPS oriented Solider and the melee tank oriented Enforcer. The pet and buff/debuff oriented Meta-Physicist. The control oriented Bureaucrat. The stealth and other-profession-mimicking Agent. The list goes on - there are a lot of professions and there's something for everyone.
The character development system. It's based on "IP", short for Improvement Points. Every level (and there are 220 levels!) you get a certain number of IP to spend - on anything! You have a few "abilities" - Strength, Stamina, Sense, Psychic, a few others - these are what other RPGs call "stats." And you have a lot of skills. Ranged Energy, Matter Metamorphosis, Nano Casting Initiative - the list goes on - there are several dozen! Each skill is affected by one of more of the base abilities, and increasing the abilities will "trickle" down and slightly increase the skills that depend on it. But to really make a skill useful you've got to spend IP on it. Everything you can increase has a certain IP cost per point of increase, and these costs are color-coded. Green means a skill or ability is very cheap to increase. At the other end of the spectrum is dark blue, meaning it's going to cost a lot of IP to increase. There's several steps in between green and dark blue - giving you a wide range of IP costs to increase things. So that's the primary means of character development. Sort of. ;)
Your breed controls the IP costs of the base abilities. The weak, but super tech-oriented Nanomage breed has green Intelligence - meaning INT is very cheap for them to raise. But their Strength is dark blue, so STR is extremely expensive to invest in. The "big-but-dumb" Atrox have green STR and dark blue INT. The fast and agile Opifex have cheap Sense and Agility. And the "plain vanilla average" Solitus have middle-of-the-road costs for all of the base abilities.
Your profession controls the IP costs of skills. So, the nano casting oriented Nanotechnician has very cheap IP costs for his nano skills - he's supposed to raise them. But his gun and melee oriented skills are expensive. The ranged combat oriented Soldier has cheap ranged skills, a few sort of cheap nano casting skills, and so on. But you see... just because something is expensive to invest in, doesn't mean you can't! You can make a gun-using Nanotechnician. You have to plan things very carefully and know exactly what you're doing - or you end up, as mentioned before - gimping your character. But you've got the freedom to do all kinds of cool things! :)
Nano casting - yeah. This in other MMOs would be called spells. All professions can use nanotechnology to cast spell like effects. Your profession controls which ones you can learn and use, and there are a few "general" ones that everyone can use, though those are mostly very simple ones like tiny buffs to abilities and skills. The profession-specific ones are all themed after the profession. So Nanotechnicians get a lot of nukes. Doctors get heals and DOTs mostly. Meta-physicists get a lot of buffs, pets, nukes, debuffs, things like that. And Bureaucrats get things like "Blizzard of Red Tape" - which is a snare/root. Some of the names are very cool and very "in character" for the profession.
Gear! Everyone loves gear, right? The gear system is a little interesting too. You've got your basic armor and weapons like any other game. Armor requirements are set by abilities - certain armor requires a certain level of STR/STA or maybe INT/PSY, and so on. It's always a pair of abilities. This sort of skew armor choice to certain breeds, since the ability IP costs are controlled by breed. But again... you can do anything. Weapon requirements are set by skills. So for example a submachine gun will require a certain amount of SMG/MG skill and Burst skill to wield. And so on. But on top of that, you've also got your NCU belt and deck slots. An NCU belt is an item you equip, that hold chips, which in turn control how many NCU points you've got - which allow you to maintain buffs. NCU belts and chips all require a certain skill level in Computer Literacy, making CompLit a very important skill. Every buff in the game requires a certain number of NCU points. If you don't have enough free, you can't get the buff, unless you free some up by canceling a buff, or by equipping chips with more NCU points. Your first NCU belt will likely only have one slot for one chip, which will likely only grant another 2 or 4 NCU points. Eventually you'll have a 6 slot belt and chips equipped that give you 300 or more NCU points! Then there's implants... Heh.
You've got a number of implant slots. Head, chest, right and left arms, right and left hands, and so on. These implants can buff abilities and skills. As you can imagine, they are very important. Implant design and creation is an extremely advanced metagame and I won't go deep into it here; suffice it to say they're very important - and I'm not even going to mention symbiants. All implants have two requirements - the first being in Treatment skill. Usually they require a very high treatment skill - but treatment is easy to buff. Then there'll be an ability requirement. Some abilities are easy to buff, others not so much. The ability requirement will vary based on what ability/skill boosting clusters have been installed in to the implant.
Ok, you'll notice in the gear section all these ability/skill requirements are to equip. Once you get something equipped, it stays equipped until/unless you specifically unequip it. Are you following me? If you were to find ways to get stuff equipped, via buffing items, implants, and self- or outside buffs... you could equip things way, way, way over your current skills/abilities. And that's exactly what people do - that's one of the main cool things about the game. There's a number of fairly easy to equip low level items that buff certain things, that will then allow you to equip better stuff. Outside buffs can help. Implants can help - and you can "ladder up" implants to get even higher level ones in. The only caveat is with weapons and armor - you have to stay within (I believe) 80% of the requirements, or they lose effectiveness rapidly. But that still gives you a lot of leeway to equip absurdly high level stuff.
This metagame also applies to nano formulas ("spells"). Each nano formula will have certain requirements in order to "upload" (learn) it and to cast it. So for example, my MP's current attack pet spell requires 532 in Matter Creation and Time and Space in order to upload and cast it. I don't have 532 MC and TS. But I have self buffs that get me there. I haven't tried very hard; I'm only self-buffing to cast this pet. With outside buffs and with better implants I could cast a MUCH higher level pet. But, this pet is level 101 - and I'm only level 89. My pet "cons" red to me, and thus it can kill mobs than con red to me. ;)
PvP. I haven't gotten into AO PvP. It's very popular, though. PvP is controlled by "suppression gas levels." 100% means no combat of any kind is possible. 75% allows aggressive mobs. It goes lower and lower down to 0% which is free for all - but there are very few FFA areas. Most PvP is done as "political PvP." You see, there are two factions vying for control - the huge mega-corporation Omni-Tek, and the rebel "Clans." You can also choose to stay Neutral, but from what I've heard you lose out on a lot of content and life is harder. All my characters are Omni-Tek. Anyway, there is PvP and people like it - a lot! I just haven't done it. Yet.
Whew. So I came back to the game, and first logged on my L89 Meta-physicist. Back when I played, I did a lot of experimenting with various weapons on him. MP's have mostly light and dark blue (EXPENSIVE!) weapon skills. I wasted a lot of IP playing around. I mentioned before, there is no easy/ubiquitous "respec" option in AO. Every certain number of levels you enter a new "title level" and get an IP reset point. That allows you to reset the IP for ONE skill or ability. That's it. Every now and then Funcom has granted a full IP reset option due to profession changes. But those are once per character and you can't "save them up." All IP resetting must be done absolutely naked. No weapons, armor, implants, NCU belt/chips - nothing. Of course, most gear is equipped based on buffs, usually outside buffs... So IP resetting is NOT something you do lightly! I had a full IPR credit... so I stripped down and did it. It wasn't too bad getting everything back on - I didn't try very hard with his gear, and so I only needed two outside buffs to re-equip, heh. That done, I went and got a mission 10 levels above my own and re-learned how to play! It was cool - I got into trouble once and had to zone out to reset aggro, but I didn't die. :D
More details about professions? Well, I can speak in some detail about 3, and less detail about a few more. I play mainly a Meta-Physicist - mine's level 89. I have a level 42 Agent. My wife played a Martial Artist so I can talk about that too.
Meta-Physicist is a pet class, mainly. Big surprise that's my "main" eh? ;) In AO there's 3 pet classes, and MP is kind of the "main" one. You can have up to 3 pets at any one time, but only one of each type: attack pet, healing pet, and mezzing pet. The cool thing is, in AO, pets are separately controllable. You can order your attack pet to attack something, the heal pet to heal the attack pet, and the mez pet to mez another mob. You've also got a lot of nano casting skill buffs - MPs are always getting asked for these, as you can imagine: those buffs are the primary means that other profs cast much higher level nanos than they're ordinarily be able to cast. There's also nukes, debuffs, and a few unique things such as "Quantum Wings" which allows the MP to fly. :) It's a fun class.
The Agent is a stealth-oriented ranged combat class...mainly. Most people play it as a "sniper" type due to the cheap to raise Rifle and Aimed Shot skills. The Agent also gets "False Profession" nanos - these allow the Agent to temporarily "become" another profession and thus use that profession's nanos! But... with a huge downside. All the FP skills carry a gigantic casting speed debuff. You cast around... 10-20 times slower while in FP. And the FP effect is classified as "hostile", so you can't just "click it off" at will - you have to wait it out, and they last 30 minutes. But it does allow you to do some pretty cool things nonetheless.
Martial Artists kick ass, with their bare hands. Usually. There are weapons they can use for cheap IP investment but most just use their hands. Their nanos are mostly skill buffs, some heals, and some crit buffs. Fun stuff.
Engineers have robot pets. Bureaucrats also have robot pets, and can charm - and can have a robot and 2 charmed pets (from separate charm lines - one "stable" and the other "unstable") at once. Fixers run really fast and spray people with lead from their submachine guns. Ummm, Soldiers shoot people. Enforcers smack bitches up. There's a lot of other profs too... Heh.
Check the game out. It really is a lot of fun. I'm on "Atlantean" - also known as "RK1" for "Rubi-Ka 1." The servers used to be named Rubi-Ka 1 and 2, and then they added another server named Die Neue Welt (German for "The New World") and renamed RK1 and 2 to "Atlantean" and "Rimor", but most people call the servers RK1, 2, and 3 still. ;)
Oh... My MP is Bazull. Agent is Vendraen.
Published on March 5th, 2010 @ 12:36:12 pm , using 69 words, 716 views
Just a quickie update! I've cycled back to Anarchy Online after around 4 years away from the game. It has a decently steep learning curve and I've missed a lot in 4 years! At least I was able to reset my IP and step back into my over-equipped implants and armor. ;)
I'll have a full review/etc up within the next 4-5 days or so. :)
Short version though: it's still an awesome game.
Published on March 1st, 2010 @ 06:11:59 am , using 363 words, 699 views
Other than Dragon Age, I haven't discussed many non-MMO games here. I feel other segments of gaming are plenty well covered by other sources, and I don't feel MMOs are given enough specific attention. Plus they're 99% of what I play, so... anyway. But this warrants a post.
Heavy Rain is incredible. It's a PS3-only psychological thriller game, and it's seriously fracked up. I'm trying to keep my site out of profanity filters so I used "fracked" but pretend I used the real word there, because it's the only thing that conveys how intensely twisted the game is.
I can't say much, if anything, about the actual story of the game, as I'm anti-spoiler, but since one part of the game has been mentioned in about every interview/etc, I'll mention it. The stripping scene. Compared to a lot of the rest of the game, that scene is "suitable for children." I mean, it's really not, but in comparison to other stuff, ... yeah. It's mild.
You play 4 different characters - 3 male and 1 female - with no control over which and when - it just follows the story, movie-like, and you play the main character in each scene. The control scheme is... odd. It does make use of every single thing the SixAxis can do, that's for sure. The control choices are inconsistent, though. Sometimes a similar action will be initiated by different buttons. There's also some seriously bad button combos you have to hit. X, Triangle, L1 and R2? Come on. That's some contortion.
I'm not finished yet - and can't tell how close I'm getting as there's no "% done" indicator and I won't read spoilers. I think I'm getting close as most of the characters' stories are starting to meet up now - but who knows. Could be far off still. It'll be interesting to see.
So, if you like psychological thriller type stuff, and don't mind being pretty seriously disturbed at least once during a game, pick up Heavy Rain. It truly delivers on the promises of the developers. This is the kind of thing the PS3 really needs in order to become more of a force in the console market. Well, that and a real online service... ;)
Published on February 26th, 2010 @ 10:34:51 am , using 161 words, 1295 views
So for several years now, Blizzard has had job postings for "Next-Gen MMO." Nothing (that I know of) has been released about this "next-gen MMO" nor has anyone that I've seen come out and say "I was on the project and got fired/left/whatever, and this is what it was...." I'm AMAZED any company has been able to maintain secrecy for all these years!
What is the subject of this new MMO? Will it be "World of StarCraft?" "World of Diablo?" StarCraft makes more sense, since Blizzard already has a fantasy MMO (WoW). Or are they developing entirely new IP to base this MMO on?
Myself, I'm betting it's StarCraft. Blizzard seems to like to leverage existing, popular IP, and StarCraft is certainly their second most popular IP - and it's different enough from WarCraft to maybe bring in new people - perhaps ones that don't like fantasy.
Should be very interesting to see how this shapes up. Hopefully they'll release some information soon!
Being a steady customer at a local business absolutely has it's benefits. Not only are you helping your local economy directly, they generally take awesome care of you as a customer.
Patrick and Tad at D&R Market have really been bringing in a lot of good, new stuff recently. One of the new lines they've added is Traders Point Creamery's grass-fed dairy products. We've been buying quite a bit of the milk and yogurt, and the stuff is seriously flat-out awesome. We'd been asking about grass-fed beef as well, but Patrick said the Traders Point guy told him they don't like to sell the beef at retail because people tend to overcook it and then blame the beef for sucking. Well, Patrick knows we know our beef, so...
... they scored us some. :D And, oh yes, it is GOOD STUFF. We received a pair of rib eye steaks, some New York Strip, and a 2 1/2# chuck roast. The strips and the roast went into the freezer and last night we scarfed down the rib eyes. Oh boy - if you've never had grass-fed beef, you definitely need to try it. It doesn't taste radically different than corn/grain-fed stuff, but there is a slightly sweeter taste, and the texture is heartier. The overall difference makes it, IMO, way superior to grain-fed - and this beef is very, very good. And of course, if you believe in the health benefits of grass-fed vs. grain-fed, well, it's even better.
Another thing is: Traders Point is also local - in fact, we're probably going to go to their restaurant soon and tour the farm too. I have to see what cows that taste that good look like. :D
Patrick also scored us some pork fat. Yeah, that's a subject for another post. :D
Published on February 22nd, 2010 @ 06:50:45 am , using 347 words, 50605 views
I'm still playing STO as a "part time" game - short sessions here and there when I have small/odd blocks of time. :) I think the game is perfect for that - heck, it even seems designed to be played that way. It seems like the perfect game to keep around for smaller blocks of time, when you're also playing a more "hardcore" or serious game. I'm working my way through the Lt. Commander rank - at Grade 5 currently. I've switched to a Cruiser and I definitely like it. I still like the Science Wessel as well, but the Cruiser is working out a little better at the moment. Still haven't tried an Escort, and probably won't due to the expense - Escorts are best outfitted with cannons and I don't have any lying around, as both my Science Wessel and my Cruiser are setup with Beam Arrays.
Speaking of more serious games... It was clear that I'd never actually quit EQ2; it was just a question of when I'd be back. Well that's now, I suppose. Onte and Wolfgar have been playing for quite some time and I've now re-subbed. My Necromancer, Sevolution, was nearly 70 when I left the last time, and I quickly got him to 70 and nearly 71 already. Kunark content is awesome for smooth leveling - and sheer nostalgic Kunarky-ness of it can't be beat.
Of course, I'm also still wanting to play WoW, as I've got 3 max-level characters there, and I still really love running heroics on all of them. The problem is, they're on 2 separate accounts so that requires 2 subs - plus now I definitely want to keep EQ2 rolling so that makes 3 (my STO sub is lifetime so no worries there). I really don't like to run 3 subs for just myself, so something will have to give. I'll probably have to just keep one WoW sub running + the EQ2 sub. Or just forget WoW altogether for a while and let both subs lapse. I'll have to figure that out soon as the WoW subs come due in a week or so.
Ah well. Gaming's certainly an interesting hobby. ;)
Published on February 17th, 2010 @ 06:01:35 am , using 31 words, 2433 views
Or not. Exactly zero (0) people replied about posting schedule ideas. So you all get to endure random posts about whatever subject I'm feeling like posting about, when I decide to. Cool.
Published on February 17th, 2010 @ 05:57:54 am , using 459 words, 4889 views
That, dear readers, is picanha. We were at wonderful D&R Market, and the owner/butcher/meat god Patrick asked us, "Hey have you guys heard of picanha?", and I said "You mean that beef cut that they have at Brazilian steakhouses?" He said yes, and brought us out that wonderful hunk of dead cow that you see pictured above.
What is picanha, you ask? Well, if you've been to one of those Brazilian steakhouses that are getting really popular (Fogo de Chao, etc), then you probably know exactly what it is. We haven't been to one yet, but I keep reading about them and so had heard of the cut. Wikipedia says:
Rump cover or rump cap is a cut of beef that is in some countries considered to be the best part of the steer or heifer (even better than filet mignon) due to its marked flavor. It is famous and well liked in South American countries, especially Brazil where it is known as "Picanha".
Wikipedia's really f'ing boring. What it really is, is possibly the best f'ing cowslab you'll ever eat. Mmmm.
The only way to properly cook such a wonderful creation, is "not much" and "with a really stupid amount of heat." And since not even our uber-duber Weber Genesis will come to or hold temp in Indiana winter, cast iron was the only option. I threw a bunch of salt and pepper, and some garlic powder on both sides of the cowslab, and threw our trusty cast iron pan onto the burner. Thank "Bob" we have a gas range, as only a fool would use a cast iron pan on an electric range. They can't possibly pour on enough heat to get a cast iron pan hot enough. The pan would act as a giant heatsink and might even kill the coil. Anyway, I poured fire to the pan for a full ten minutes, until it was hot enough to sear your hand off, and then threw the god-meat into the pan. 2:30 on each side, and no more, and we had...
Ohhhhh yes. A 10 minute rest while we enjoyed a killer, huge salad, and I served it up...
... with some pinto beans we had cooked ourselves the day before. After having soaked them in raw milk whey for 12 hours. The flavor of this cut is ... amazing. Even though it's technically part of the sirloin, its different enough that it's very noticeable. No other beef tastes like this, and it is truly amazing. We'll be having much more of this stuff. Patrick's also going to cut us some fraldinha, another Brazilian cut. I love having a real, live, skilled butcher, to buy from. We can order up any cut we want. Get anything meat-related we want. :D
Published on February 16th, 2010 @ 06:54:33 am , using 1043 words, 895 views
One thing you always see on MMO (and probably other game types) forums, blogs, etc, is "I want something new and different!" or "This is the same old, same old, nothing new here!", and the more negative, but expressing the same desire/sentiment "This is just a copy of <insert past/popular game here>!"
Why do so many games seem to follow a formula, a cookie-cutter if you will? There's a couple of potential reasons. I'll mainly be talking MMOs here, as that's the main thing I play and study.
The first, and likely primary reason for following design formulas is simple business. "'Game W' has millions of subscribers, so if we follow a lot of what 'Game W' did, we'll have a lot of subscribers, too." In general, that works. No one's matched 'Game W''s numbers yet (and it may be that no one ever does, until Developer B's next game), but most of the other fairly successful MMOs follow a similar design formula. MMOs cost millions (tens of millions, actually) of dollars to create, so, from a business standpoint, you either follow a proven formula, or you gamble with a boatload of money. It's hard to convince the bean counters to go for the gamble.
There is also the past history that a lot of games that went and did something different either failed, changed directions to be more formulaic, or actually shut down. You've got SWG, which when it opened, was a very sandboxy, open, unique game. It had a level-less advancement system with no classes, where you could really create the kind of character you wanted. It also had a very deep crafting system that I can't even begin to explain here. And... it ended up being changed into a standard level-based system with rigid classes. Then there's Vanguard, which sought to return to a more hardcore playstyle, with harsh death penalty and forced grouping. It was plagued by a truly disastrous release (and absurdly high computer system requirements), but I think ultimately the harder gameplay, in a post-WoW world helped kill it. Sure, it's still running, but do you know anyone that plays it as their primary MMO? I sure don't. The list of "different but failed/obscure" MMOs goes on: AC2, Shadowbane, WISH, Horizons; I could go on and on. Yes, all of these had OTHER problems, but, I maintain that if the gameplay were more familiar for more people, the games probably would have survived.
So you get bean counters looking at this history and saying "no way, all these games did things different and failed, we're not gambling with $50,000,000. You will follow a proven formula."
Then there's always the dual-nature of gamers working against doing things differently. Let's take an example from WoW. Dungeons in WoW generally follow a standard pattern. You go in, you clear "trash" mobs to get to a boss, then you fight the boss. The boss might be a simple "tank and spank" encounter, or sometimes there's more of an "event" to it. Then you clear to the next boss, and repeat until the last one. It's fun, but, basically, formulaic. People screamed for something different, so Blizzard came up with The Oculus, easily the most hated dungeon in the game. It's different though! For the record, I like Oculus. ;) Anyway, in this dungeon, you clear a small amount of trash, then port up to a boss and kill him, which frees 3 NPCs. Each of these NPCs represents a different color of drake, which you choose to ride on for parts of the rest of the dungeon. While riding on the drake, your character has a completely different set of abilities from your normal ones. You basically are not your character while you are on the drake. One of them is a damage dealer, one is a healer, and one is a tank. Yeah, it's the trinity. Anyway, for the rest of the dungeon, you use the drake to fly to different encounters. 2 of them, you get off the drake and play your regular character for, and then you get to the last boss. This last boss is a dragon, and you have to defeat him while on your drake. Defeating him requires a little bit of coordination of the drake's abilities, and I find the encounter pretty cool. But most players hate this dungeon! "I don't want to play a drake, I want to play myself." is the main complaint you hear. Well, Blizzard tried to give people something different - and they didn't like it! At least they tried, eh?
And this, I think, ends up being the biggest non-business related reason you don't see anything new: What is there!?
MMOs are at their core a lot like single player RPGs. You make a character, you advance that character, usually through gaining Experience Points by completing quests and killing monsters, so that you can become powerful enough to defeat the main enemy of the story. In single player RPGs, then you're done. In MMOs, a new main enemy always rises, and you repeat the level up/advance phase. That's just how this game genre works.
So, how do you come up with a way to have this mechanic of advancing a character, in order to take on new challenges, in a new and different way? I've been thinking about that problem for over 10 years now, and I've got nothing! It seems other players also have nothing, and ditto the developers. I see the cries for "new and different!" but I never see any actual suggestions as to what to actually do, down at a mechanics/content level. I honestly think it's like the movies: every story has been told already, and all we can do is tell it a little differently, with different people, in different settings. :)
Thing is... I still love these games. I still play them, I invest thousands of dollars per year to keep my hardware current, and hundreds per year on the games and subscriptions for same, and I don't see that ever stopping. :)
Have you got the solution to the "give me new and different!!!one" cries? Have you come up with something really revolutionary? I'd love to hear about it. Comment here, email me, or send a Tweet to @ModemMisuser.
Published on February 15th, 2010 @ 07:30:07 am , using 195 words, 1932 views
I'd like to start posting more regularly, as I miss the simple joy of just writing, and then having "the world" read it. Plus it's a good cognitive exercise, and it's also just fun. Rather than just randomly blathering, though, I'd like to come up with a "posting schedule" like many other active blogs have.
I basically blog about a few different things: (mostly MMO) gaming and computers/hardware, Atheism/skepticism/etc, health/fitness/biking (when it's > 40°F out!), other hobbies, and sometimes food (which is also tied into health).
So I'm thinking maybe I'll start out trying to have a schedule like... Monday: Atheism/etc; Wednesday: Gaming, Computers and The Like™; Friday: Food/Health/etc. And any others days, maybe a random fill-in post will show up. If that works out, I can try to expand it to every weekday, with more specific topics.
Readers: does this sound good? Would you like to see something else? Post comments! Make an account - it's free, easy, and believe me - I'm not gonna do a damn thing with your email address. If you'd prefer not to make an account, you can simply email me your suggestions @ email@example.com. Or, DM or @message me via Twitter @ModemMisuser.