Tuesday, December 29, 2015

About that movie....

Yes, I have now seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

No, I'm not going to talk about it much.

Yes, it's a good movie.

No, it's not a great movie.

Yes, it is better than the Prequels.

No, It's not better than the original.

Yes, it is (IMHO) better than Return of the Jedi, whom I actually put below Revenge of the Sith.



I feel it is now safe to venture into SWTOR without concern of spoilers being splatted across the screen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fire? You don't need fire to beat a troll...

...just a good legal team and a willingness to smack the patent troll around.

Word came out late yesterday that a patent troll company, RecogniCorp LLC, lost in it's attempt to sue Nintendo for how the data for their Mii's are stored.

The judge threw the patent itself out, saying that the patent the company tried to sue Nintendo over --a patent on how police sketch artist data is stored-- an attempt to monopolize mathematical operations.

Here's the link to the Business Wire article about the case.

And an article from Nintendo Life, providing a bit of context to the case.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Troll in the Dungeon!!

Under the heading of patent trolls, it seems that several video game companies, Activision, EA, Zynga, and Take-Two Interactive among them, have been sued by a company calling itself Virtual Gaming Technologies for "real-time interaction systems" in online sports.

No, really.

Why do I call this company a patent troll? Well, for starters, the company Virtual Gaming Technologies was founded in September 2015, and practically the first thing the company did was to file lawsuits in patent litigation friendly East Texas.

I'm all for a patent holder to defend their rights to their patents, but come on. It's not like fantasy sports haven't been using this tech for a while, and the fact that the company was created expressly for the purpose of suing the big names in the video game industry implies that they really haven't much of a leg to stand on.

To that end, I'll let John Oliver do the talking on my opinion of these patent trolls:


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Quiet Night...

Helloooo!!!!

Hellooooooooo!!!!

Where is everybody?

Oh, wait. Star Wars.

Nevermind, carry on. I'm just gonna leave this here....


And this....

Google Gets in on the Fun with Star Wars Easter Eggs...

Changes Ahoy

As I've gotten older and begun turning more into Greybeard than Redbeard, I've found that I've had a harder time reading the red link text on a black background. Therefore, I'm making some tweaks to the blog layout.

Nothing really drastic (yet), but if you check out the site over the next few weeks and see things a bit different, no it's not your browser going haywire.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And Jihad Comes to Star Wars

You know, I wonder just how many of the people of the so-called Alliance to Preserve the Expanded Universe actually intersect in a Venn Diagram of GamerGate people....

Rogue Star Wars Fans threaten to ruin The Force Awakens via 'spoiler jihad'

No, really.

I mean, I know that spoilers come out once movies are released, but deliberately behaving like this because Lucasfilm decided to can the EU?

Stay classy, EU fans.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

No, I don't hoard things. Why do you ask?

My wife loves Mario Kart 8.

Hmm.... Maybe "love" is not a strong enough word; more like "addicted to Mario Kart 8".

Some people, when they get off work, will come home and have a drink. Others will turn on the news. Still others will watch a game*, catch up on social media, or curl up in a corner and take a nap.

My wife comes home and plays Mario Kart for stress relief.

This is actually fairly close to the setup that I use when
playing as Rosalina. From gameasylum.com.


I now have a hard time remembering when she hadn't played Mario Kart online, and when I was ever concerned about how well she'd handle it. Those days are long past; she now has gotten to the point that she recognizes different online players by their names, and surely with a name like "Mom" she's recognizable too.

Due to her love of Mario Kart, I've often wondered whether she'd go for any other online games --yes, MMOs too-- but I'm realistic in that Mario Kart is pretty easy to handle. I think that some games, such as the LEGO games, she'd find interesting, but I've yet to discover a video game she loves as much as Mario Kart.

The reason why I bring this up is because I've been tossing around this idea in my head about gamers, and whether they fall into one of two major groups: those who tend to play a few games all the time, and those who like to try out lots of different games. The border area between the two groups is a bit hazy, but the overall grouping is what I'm looking at. I'll break the two groups down, so you get a feel for where I'm coming from.

***

The Tried and True

When I think of the gamer who sticks to a few games, I think of my dad. Okay, he's not a gamer, but if you get him interested in playing something, he'll pull out the chessboard.

And that's pretty much it.

We've tried to interest him in different games, even simpler strategy games than chess,** but he always returns to the chessboard.

Play chess in the morning, defeat an alien invasion force
in the evening. From the movie Independence Day.


My wife is cut from a similar mold: she plays Mario Kart 8, she plays Settlers of Catan and a few other board games, and that's about it. We get new games every so often, but the learning process with her can be pretty painful; she frequently gets frustrated by my and our friends' explanations on how to play a new game, and she'll just say "let's just play it and we'll figure it out!" And you can imagine just how THAT ends up...

The youngest mini-Red seems to have a knack to explain new games to her mom, but even then my wife prefers to stick to a few regular games without much deviation.

***

On the other side of the aisle are those that play a lot of different games.

Like the mini-Reds.

They play a lot --and I do mean a lot-- of games. While they don't have the money or resources to amass thousands of games like some collectors do***, they do play a lot of a different variety of games. From Star Wars d20 to Pathfinder to Savage Worlds to Magic: The Gathering to LEGO The Hobbit to LOTRO to Hyrule Warriors, they do get around.

There, but for the love of God (and a lack of money), go I.
From a pic of Game Haus Cafe.


They've got a bit of me in them, as I would prefer to try a lot more games than I currently can play. I do have a few stalwarts, but if I'd my choice I'd like to play more games out of my collection.

But a multi-thousand collector of games? No, not me. I may collect games, but not anything close to that many. I'll occasionally get a "we should prune these games" request from my wife, but once I move some titles around to make them fit.... Well... It works out.

***

If there's one true weakness I have, it's for a well written splatbook.

What's a splatbook? It's an RPG book that's not really part of the core ruleset. You'll find them as extras or additions to the current rules, setting books, or extra gear/equipment/races/vehicles/mounts for a game.

For the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars ruleset. Rules, gear,
specializations, and starships for those who want to channel
their inner Han Solo.  From fantasyflightgames.com.

Remember Baldur's Gate? Yep, the Sword Coast
of the Forgotten Realms lives on in D&D 5th Edition.
From enworld.org.


Some are even books about how to play a particular RPG, basically taking the core rules and breaking them down into bite sized chunks.

Yes, Pathfinder has so many splatbooks that they created
one so that you can figure out how to play the character
you want to play.  From paizo.com.

I've been known to collect adventure modules, which are premade adventures that you can either run as-is or drop into an ongoing campaign. For the GM who is busy in real life, modules are a godsend.

Ah, my old friend. In my first time playing this module, our
party died due to a massive avalanche. Really brilliant, I know. From Wikipedia.

Still, my love of splatbooks probably stems from my love of add-ons to SF&F series/universes. Items such as the Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad, or the Star Trek Technical Manual (original series) brought these settings to life in a way that I hadn't considered before. You can find manuals on how to speak Quenya or Sindarin (two Elvish languages that Tolkien invented for Middle-earth), a "Haynes Guide" to the Millenium Falcon, or an Atlas of Pern.

This was what my copy looked like.
From memory-beta.wikia.com.


A lot of these books grew out of fans' desire for them, and publishers and other assorted third parties were more than happy to satisfy the demand. Today, this sort of book seems quaint, but I still love it.

***

Still, I find that I do have some things in common with my brethren who love to play only a few games. We both play games, and we enjoy what we're doing. I may never quite understand why they need to stick with only a few games year in and year out, but I can appreciate the fact that they do love playing games.

Even if it means I know that a blue shell is headed in my direction.





*Particularly during college basketball season; there's always a game on that's interesting.

**We've tried Risk, Rail Baron, Facts in Five, Waterworks, etc. but to no avail. And no, I'm not trying Diplomacy on him; I would kind of like to remain on speaking terms with him.

***Don't believe me? Check out some of the comments on this list from BoardGameGeek.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Strike Up the Band

The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, and I am still alive.

Frankly, I'm kind of surprised about that.

But for a change, there were no political "discussions" during the family get togethers*, so there was little chance that the gathering was going to turn into a shouting match. Not zero, mind you, but a lot less than the average Thanksgiving holiday.

Since my spouse works in retail, she had a very very busy Thanksgiving weekend. And as a consequence, I did as well; I shuttled her back and forth from her employer, so she didn't have to try to find a parking spot or worry about falling asleep driving to or from work.

However, this being our household, there were MMO related activities as well.

***

The Mini-Reds began their server transfer after one last concert in Bree, where the band and others gathered agreed to transfer over to the Gladden server. If the Mini-Reds ever thought that their attendance at the concerts went unnoticed, they were hailed by people when they made it over to Gladden.

My son had a silly grin on his face when he related the story to me, and I couldn't help but smile in return.

Things like this little acknowledgment show some of the best that MMOs have to offer.

***

I advanced a bit further into Wildstar, and continue to be impressed with the game and the stories. I've found that I can put the Texas aspect of the game almost completely in the rear view mirror, but there are times when I just wish that the game would tone it down a bit.

And as far as SWTOR is concerned, I've decided I'm going to make the jump into the coffee expac over the upcoming Christmas holidays. I'll have some time off, so if I do something stupid and stay up until 4 AM playing the game I won't pay the price at work the next day.

Until then, however, I'm going to noodle around Wildstar when I can, and I think I'm going to see if I can push a bit farther into the slog that mid-50s Age of Conan is right now. I've not really touched the game much over the past few months, and I have that old itch that needs scratching.




*One for each side of the family.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Heads, I play SWTOR, and tails... Hmm... Maybe best two of three...

I've found myself strangely reluctant to make that leap and take a character into the new SWTOR expac.

Whenever I get on the servers, I putter around with checking out the companion stories I never completed, goof off in the fleet, and buzz around Taris and Hoth.

I can't really explain it, since there's no good reason why I couldn't take my Inquisitor into Knights of the Fallen Empire; she'd completed all of the questlines up through Shadow of Revan, and I wasn't doing much of anything with her.*

The auto-leveling that goes on now in the low level zones means that while I can go there, I can't just zoom on by like before. And yes, I do approve of the auto-leveling for low level zones, but I will have to pay more attention when clowning around in Tatooine, for example.

It could be my concern that keeps me from reading novels these days: I won't know when to quit. I have that problem when reading a good book; I'll be reading in the evening, and I'll finally start to get tired, look around and.... It's 4:30 AM.

Whoops.

I could see myself doing that with Knights (and Dragon Age, if I'm being honest). After all, I did it with regular class stories in SWTOR, the WoW leveling experiece, and in other games (such as Age of Conan or Star Trek Online). Hell, I've done it with Civ IV, and that doesn't exactly have an externally defined story at all.

My problem is that I'm no longer a spring chicken, and being up most of the night, consumed in a book or game, will take a much harder toll on me now.

***

While I dither about SWTOR, I've continued to play Wildstar.

I've finally grown to a kind of mental truce about the post-apocalyptic cartoon sexy style that is the toon character design. Part of that is because the questlines and the overarching story don't make a mention of the semi-skimpy nature of the toon and clothing designs, and part of it is because I've actually grown fond of the absolutely goofy design. Right now, my Stalker's headgear makes him look like The Tick's weird younger brother, and so I have this running commentary in my head when he's jumping around:  "SPOOOOOON!!!!!"

As far as the World Story goes, hmm..... I'm up past the third World Story part, and I will freely admit that I wasn't expecting Wildstar's world story to move in the direction it did. It now seems more conventional than at first glance**, but right now it wouldn't shock me if the story took another sharp turn towards the unknown. I do like what I see so far, and I'm still hooked, but I'm still on the fence as far as the story goes.***

***

And to nobody's surprise, I've not progressed much at all in NaNoWriMo, and the youngest Mini-Red has already far outstripped my word output.

One of these years I'm going to get into a situation where I can take a couple of days off in early/mid November and spend it just writing.

Okay, who am I kidding? That's not gonna happen.






*I don't even do anything with housing with her, because a) I haven't bothered getting a place on Dromund Kaas and b) I tend to be a lousy decorator. I know beauty when I see it, but actually creating a beautiful environment? Well, I don't have that touch.

**If you play WoW, think of some of the things associated with Twilight's Hammer and a lot of the Old Gods type of stuff and you've got the idea.

***See? I could talk about something like this without spoilers!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Lack of Something

I've caught up a bit on the news out of BlizzCon, and it seems that Blizz has made a couple of announcements:

  • Legion, the new WoW expac, will drop in "Summer 2016". The placeholder is "on or before September 21, 2016".*
  • Activision Blizzard will no longer release subscriber numbers as part of financial quarterly statements.**
The former isn't exactly a surprise to me. For all their talk about speeding up releases, Blizzard remains incapable of pushing the release cycle beyond the (roughly) 2 year mark. And this was even when Blizz decided to not wait until BlizzCon and release the name of the new expac at Gamescom. Blizz also stopped major content patches for Warlords significantly earlier than in prior expacs, with the unspoken promise of a quicker release cycle for the next expac.

As for the latter, I'm not surprised. At all.

WoW's subscriber numbers were stable from June 2015 (5.6 million) to September 2015 (5.5 million), but Blizzard's announcement of Legion came in August. Speculation ran rampant on various message boards that Blizz was going to release significantly earlier than they had in previous expacs --maybe even as soon as BlizzCon itself-- and I'm sure that kept people subscribed through the latest quarterly ending.

But with Legion's release sometime in Summer (people will hope for June, but will likely see an August or September release), you can expect subs to plummet.

The subscriber number problem has become an albatross for Activision Blizzard, so they are now attempting to jettison it entirely.*** The thing is, Activision Blizzard loved to trumpet their WoW subscriber numbers when it was a positive, so its absence will be interpreted by analysts as a potentially major problem facing the studio. The corporate finance people can talk all they want about better metrics for the health of the game, but they set the standard for years by talking about subscriber numbers, and you can't simply sweep that under the rug.

That said, a reduction in subscriber numbers is going to have an impact on development of the game. WoW has long been a cash cow for Blizzard, and a reduction in that cash flow means that they've got tighter financial constraints on future projects. 

***

What does this mean long term? 

Blizzard is likely to depend more on Overwatch, Hearthstone, and HotS to provide income where WoW is no longer able to. I believe it a very shrewd business decision that Activision Blizzard is opening it's own television/movie studio, and its first project is the wildly popular Skylanders property. Not WoW, not StarCraft, not Diablo, but Skylanders.

That's where the money is these days, and Activision Blizzard is chasing that money.****

Oh, and one more thing: without subscriber numbers, Blizzard is now free to experiment with F2P models in WoW. Sure, they've always said they'll never go F2P, but with the cash shop and the WoW Token they've currently sidled up right to that F2P line. If Bobby Kotick says "go F2P since I can't justify the staff for WoW", WoW will go F2P.




*There's a very interesting discussion on this over at Blizzard Watch as the Breakfast Topic.

**Word of this came out a few days before BlizzCon itself. Here's the eurogamer.net article on this.

***I'm deliberately saying Activision Blizzard versus Blizzard, because this is more a corporate business decision, not one made in the development house itself.

****Money is in mobile games too, and the purchase of King Digital is expected to bolster that area.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Meanwhile, back in Azeroth...

It's BlizzCon, which means that this got viewed and released into the wild:


The oldest Mini-Red was confused. "World of Warcraft?" she asked. "They really improved the CGI on their expac trailers."

"No," I replied. "It's for the movie."

"There's a movie?"

"Yeah. Been in development for a decade or so."

"Looks pretty good," the youngest mini-Red added.

"True, but the dialogue is a bit clunky."

(I decided not to point out the obvious Moses references to Thrall in the trailer. I presume a helluva lot more of those will be in the movie.)

***

Seeing a full trailer, I'm wondering whether this is one of those movies where the best parts are all in the trailers. (I'm thinking the same thing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well, so it's not just Warcraft.)

Why? Well, trailers have now been honed to an art form, making even bad movies look good.

Like, oh, this one:


But in terms of Warcraft, I'm really thinking of this:


In a pre-LOTR special effects environment, it's really a pretty good trailer. And the characters didn't sound that bad in their acting, either. But if you actually watch the Dungeons and Dragons movie, you realize pretty quickly how lousy it is: clunky dialogue, confusing plot, metagaming*, and bad acting.

Looking at the trailer for Warcraft, I honestly rolled my eyes at the Thrall parts. I know the story, but the Green Jesus criticism that is often lobbed in Thrall's direction is going to haunt this movie. And he's not even a main character.

For the sake of the MMO genre, I hope it doesn't suck, but I've a bad feeling that some of the worst parts of the Warcraft storyline are going to bite this movie in the ass.

***

Oh, and continuing the tradition of the Warcraft movie being upstaged by Star Wars, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens international trailer was released:


Yes, it has Japanese subtitles, but it shouldn't detract from the trailer experience.

All of the extra scenes not in the US trailer make the movie's secrecy all the more interesting.

Will it succeed? I think that's more on J.J. Abrams than anyone else.

***

While digging up the D&D Movie's trailer, I started punching in some old trailers from movies that I liked when I was a kid. These movies were much older than me, and I used to watch them on television when there were a lot of independent television stations and they would show old 50's and 60's era movies during the day.

Like, say, this one:

Yes, that's really Ernest Borgnine. And yes, they really butchered Viking society in this flick.


Or this one:
Yeah, that's Pat Boone.






*There's even a scene where one character accuses the other of being just low level. I mean, who actually wrote this script, anyway? Was it a riff on a D&D campaign?


EtA: Clarified when I was talking about the D&D movie trailer versus the movie itself.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Candy Crush Got Even Tougher....

...now that they'll have Diablo in level 666.

Yes, Activision Blizzard bought King Digital, the creator of Candy Crush, for a whopping $5.9 Billion --Ah sayid billyun, Boy!*-- dollars.

I'm pretty sure that King Digital is going to be part of their own little mobile empire, and that they'll likely keep their Blizzard owned mobile initiatives separate. Outside of that, however, I'm not sure what synergies they'd have going forward. It would almost seem that they want King Digital to teach the old dog --Activision Blizzard-- some new tricks. But corporate mergers tend to be tricky things; if the merge is performed at the cost of destroying the old corporate culture, the result isn't exactly a good one all around.

"It wasn't a good fit" is corporate speak for "We messed up and tried to hammer a round peg into a square hole."

Not that this will impact MMO space directly, but it does signal even more of a shift of Activision Blizzard's priorities away from PCs and consoles and into mobile space. Rather than hire a bunch of new employees and continue building from the ground up, they just bought a mature company (if you can call a company that's been around 12 years "mature") to do their mobile for them.

Just watch out for that Forsaken level in Candy Crush; those Apothecaries are murder.





*You have to say it in Foghorn Leghorn's voice to get it to work.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Post in which the Blogger Attempts to Remain Relevant

No, I'm not blog-fading.

Really.

And no, while I've been playing some Wildstar --and poked my nose into SWTOR on the first day of early access-- I've not been consumed with MMO playing either.

I've been adulting.

As in, I've been a parent and been dealing with parenting stuff, an employee and dealing with (lots of) employee stuff, and a janitor dealing with (lots and lots of) cleaning stuff.

And you do know what's on the horizon, don't you?

NANOWRIMO.
Oh noes!

Oh, yes. THAT.

And yes, my Sisyphean attempts continue unabated.

I'm pretty sure that mini-Red #3 is going to make an attempt of her own, having succeeded at writing a 12,000 word story last year.* This time, I hope to get her officially registered, but you never know. She's very much a self motivated person and would likely consider any external reminders/encouragement to be annoyances.

In that respect, her natural tank-style stubbornness shines through.

Me? I'd just be happy to write about 10,000 words, let alone 50,000.

Maybe if I wrote really crappy MMO fanfic.....

....like that time Quintalan and Lady Liadrin hung out together
in Nagrand with a picnic lunch and.... NO NO SCRATCH THAT!!

Or maybe not.





*Yes, she beat my own word output by a mile.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!"

The other night, The Symphony of the Goddesses dropped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Yes, they were there to help promote the latest Zelda release for Nintendo's portable 3DS device, but they were also there to play:



Stephen, as a geek like the rest of us*, thoroughly enjoyed the performance, as did the audience.

The mini-Reds thought it awesome, too.

Yes, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is on tour. Whomever at Nintendo thought this promotion up is a genius.






*Although we aren't geeky and well connected enough to manage to get a cameo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

EtA: The original video is now marked Private, so I redirected the link to another video.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

If You'd Have Told Me...

...back in the Spring that in October of 2015 that I'd be playing Wildstar, I'd not have believed you.




But here I am, having just reached the Exile capital city of Thayd, and have just gotten the grand tour.

Yes, Wildstar does have an automated grand tour of Thayd in a similar fashion as the tour you receive when you reach Shattrath City in WoW.

In fact, there's a lot more in feel to WoW from Wildstar than I'd care to admit. The text based quests, for example, are far more of a throwback these days. The Exiles themselves are a heavy dose of WoW-esque nostalgia, with the Granok mimicking the Dwarves, the Aurin as the Night Elves, and the Mordesh as a faction-swapped Forsaken.*

The Aurin/Mordesh heavy starting zones (up to L15) of Everstar Grove + Celestion remind me a lot of Blood Elf starting areas, up through The Ghostlands. I don't think it an accident that at L15 or so you finish up the Celestion area and are given a quest to go to Thayd, the capital city of the Exiles; after all, a similar thing happens to Blood Elves at the end of the Ghostlands' main questline.

If I'd not have known ahead of time that some of the Wildstar devs are ex-Blizzard employees, I'd be speculating on that already.

All of these similarities are one thing, but if I don't find the story engaging, there's not a lot to really hold me as a player. But that's the surprise: there actually is enough of a story there that I want to follow it through and see where it leads.

And no, I'm not posting spoilers. It's F2P now, so the subscriber wall is no longer an obstacle.

***

Are there things that I find annoying?

Of course.

Like I said last post about Wildstar, a lot of the things that I grumbled about --the annoying Texas + SF mashup, the obnoxious level up graphic, and the women in refrigerators plot device, among others-- are still there. However, they kind of fade into the background after a while. In a way, it's akin to the scrolling alerts on Neverwinter and Star Trek Online: some people can handle them, others can't. Whether you can handle the annoying aspects of Wildstar is up to you, but I don't think there's any reason to not try the game out and give it a true multi-day test.

Now, if they could do something about the occasional lag when playing, particularly when getting quest info....





*Haven't run into the equivalent of the Apothecaries yet --at least in terms of that terrifyingly amoral approach to their studies, that is-- but I'd imagine that the Chua more fit that bill. Only with more explosions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Things That Amused Me, Part Whatever

I was behind this minivan the other day.

Were it not for a traffic light, I'd have missed this.


You see it, don't you? The Lion of Lordaeron is by the left brake light.


For the Alliance!


Leeroy Jenkins is alive and well.


Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Deja Vu All Over Again*

I've not been able to get into Wildstar this past week, but I've not been trying very hard either.

I did take note that Carbine is currently scrambling to bring more servers online to handle the surge in interest in the game, which is pretty much back where we were then Wildstar first dropped.

When I read that Carbine was bringing new servers on, my first thought was that I hoped that they didn't overdo it and then have to shut down some of these servers when the initial rush faded. But that cynical thought was quickly replaced by another one: maybe enough people really did like the game, but they weren't willing to replace their WoW subscription with one for Wildstar.

I think it'll take more than a few weeks to see whether it's that sentiment is true, but I do wonder if Carbine was onto something as far as the storyline goes. It didn't really resonate with me that much, but maybe it did with enough people that maybe Wildstar can be saved.




*The longtime baseball player Yogi Berra, who was famous for quotes such as this one, passed away last week at the age of 90. He's the sort of pop culture icon that would find his way into a WoW questline. He's the one who said "It ain't over 'til it's over." Go check out a lot of his more famous sayings here at Wikiquote.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm Pretty Sure Something Happened Yesterday....

...oh yeah.  Wildstar went F2P.

No, I didn't get in. (Work, you know.)

Yes, I downloaded the update.  Overnight.

When I get the chance --and there's some significant downtime around the house-- I'll try to get into the game and see what's what. I don't expect the game to change much as far as the initial storyline goes, but we'll see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Some Wednesday Humor

In case you missed it when Dorkly came out with this on April 22, here's a link to Six Parts of WoW that are more Messed up than you Realized.

It's fairly accurate as far as it goes --I'm not gonna nitpick or anything-- but it is worth a few chuckles.


Monday, September 21, 2015

The Future looks a lot like crowds and long lines

Last Sunday was my first attendance at a college fair since I was a high school senior, close to 30 years ago.*

To say it was chaos was likely an insult to chaos' dignity.

Take this college fair and double it in size
(due to the size of the convention center) and you've got the idea.
I saw buses from school districts about 60 miles (96 km) away parked outside.
From clubflightlevel.com


While the oldest mini-Red and I were dodging crowds that surrounded the popular schools that she had no interest in**, I couldn't help but notice the number of booths devoted to universities and schools that specialized in graphics, media, and gaming.

My first thought on seeing those booths was that they're going to be not having a lot of students interested in them, particularly given the number of students who were interested in engineering, medical, or business degrees. However, every time we passed one of their booths by there were always two or three families there, talking to the representatives.

Perhaps there's room for graphics and media schools alongside the more traditional art schools after all.

***

Speaking of room for things, I've been spending the past few days checking this particular game out:

Yes, the exact same name I used for my first Gunslinger in SWTOR.
Makes it easier to remember, you know.

Yes, Wildstar still has the same storyline as I remembered it.

Yes, Wildstar still has the classic "women in refrigerators" trope on the Exiles side as motivation for a major NPC.

That said, I'm more curious about Wildstar now that we are rapidly approaching the end of the month and the F2P release.

I think they've got some work to do as far as working the bugs out (given that I've had a crash or two when playing via the PTR), but I think they'll be ready come release time.

The story is still (relatively) appealing to me, and I think I can swallow the heavy dose of Texas-influenced Hollywood Western on the Exiles side without it getting too annoying. The things that had me scratching my head in my previous exposure to Wildstar haven't changed, but because I'd not have to pay a subscription for the privilege of being mildly inconvenienced I'm much more interested in the game now.

Does that make me one of the "I won't play it if it isn't for free!!!" crowd? Not really, because I would subscribe --and presently do-- to games that I really do enjoy. However, I don't want to plunk down money without knowing that I'm really going to enjoy the game. There were enough reservations about Wildstar that made me reluctant to pull that trigger and subscribe, and I'm fine with that assessment. Now that it's F2P, I'm revisiting the game under a different set of criteria with a lower bar, and I've found that the game does merit an extended revisit.

Maybe I still won't subscribe, but I'll be more likely to consider it now that I can immerse myself more into Wildstar without worrying about whether the game was worth subscribing for.





*I said "CLOSE TO", not "exactly". NOTE THAT. (And no, I don't know why I used all caps there.)

**Some universities, such as Bowling Green State University, University of Cincinnati, and others made a deliberate attempt to spread their prospective crowds out by renting multiple booth spaces. But others --and I'm looking at you, Ohio State, Alabama, and Rose Hulman Institute of Technology-- did not follow suit, causing huge knots to form in the crowd.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sigh...





I was watching this trailer again the other day, and I kept thinking that this would be an awesome game to play. But why did it have to be a First Person Shooter? As much as I try, I can only play an FPS game for about five minutes before the headaches start.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let the Fall Frenzy Begin

I see Wildstar has committed to a date of September 29th for its F2P rollout, which means that the Fall release/announcement craziness has begun.

Now, let me see if I've got all this right:


  • LOTRO's server transfers are presently ongoing. The first server closures are expected to begin sometime either later in September or early October. The mini-Reds have been following these developments closely, and while they're sad to see their old server go, they're kind of excited that my long suffering L15 Champion will get moved to the server they're on, so I could join their Kinship.
  • Wildstar's F2P releases on September 29th. They get ahead of the rush for SWTOR's and GW2's October releases, and they're hoping to bring back some of the crowd they had that first month or two after launch. I'm planning on signing up for the game, so this is one person they didn't have at launch, but I'm realistic in that I've got a lot of games I play a little bit of. We'll see how things look, I suppose.
  • GW2's Heart of Thorns releases on October 23rd. Depending on who you talk to, this could be the dawning of the apocalypse or just business as usual. Me, I'm still playing the original GW2 release --and I don't see me having money in the budget for Heart of Thorns for a while-- so I'm planning on sticking with GW as-is for the time being.
  • SWTOR's Knights of the Fallen Empire releases on October 27th. Since this is my only subscription at this time, I get the expac for free, if you want to ignore the cost of a subscription, that is. As I typically do when there's a big expac in a game I play a lot of, I'll let everyone else run ahead for a while and then jump into the expac zone. Since you won't be able to go back and visit the old zones once you move to KotFE areas, I intend to hang around and enjoy things in the original areas as long as possible.
  • Funcom's Age of Conan rolled out a new expac back in May to coincide with AoC's seventh anniversary (where did the time go?), so they beat the rush. That said, they're still coming out with incremental updates that are currently in the test server.
  • Star Trek Online's final chapter in the current expansion (the Iconian War) is set to drop sometime in mid-late September. There's a new expac on the horizon --called A New Dawn-- will be released sometime this Fall and go through 2016. Since I'm still in the mid-low areas for STO, this doesn't have a great impact to me.
  • Neverwinter released Strongholds, and that reminded me that I ought to get back to playing the game more. I'd played around with it every so often, but my problem is that I figure I'm playing for a little while and then I look up and realize it's 4 AM.
  • Blizzcon is the first week of November. Given that this is Blizzard we're talking about here, expect some new surprises. After all, that's pretty much what they do at Blizzcon.

I think I touched on most of the bases of games that I follow. That said, I'd be remiss in forgetting that LEGO Dimensions releases for consoles at the end of September. Me, I'm psyched about getting a chance to play the Doctor.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Negotiations

(This is something new for PC, a short piece of fiction that I'd had rattling in my head for a little while. It's not going to be a regular feature of the blog, but I felt that I had to do something with it or it'd just drive me crazy.)




"Not interested."

I flicked the sabacc cards onto the table and frowned. Some days you simply can't get the card you're looking for.

The Rodian leaned across the table, spreading his hands over the chips. "Unless you're made of credits, I'd say my offer couldn't have come at a better time," he said, sweeping the pile to join his own sizable mound of chips.

He had a point. I figured that I couldn't lose with my hand and tossed in a few extra chips, but the little sneak managed to pull that one out of his snout. Again. I glanced around the cantina, but I didn't see anyone interested enough in the game for them to be tipping that little slimeball off.

I decided I'd had enough losing for one day. "Look," I replied, "I'm not a big fan of war zones. Somebody could get their ship shot out from underneath them."

"I thought you were one of the best pilots in the Mid Rim." The Rodian began stacking my --now his-- chips, making a thrumming noise in his throat.

"One of the best pilots alive, and I prefer to stay that way." I pushed myself away from the sabacc table and began to stand up.

"Not even for fifty thousand?"

I froze. "How much again?"

"Fifty thousand."

I sat back down. That amount of credits would keep me comfortable on Coruscant for a long time, let alone Nar Shadda. "What's the cargo? And you'd better not say 'a Hutt'."

The Rodian slowly pushed a stack of chips to one side. "It's a war zone. What do war zones need the most?"

"Kolto."

"Well, that too," he said, scrunching his snout, "but there's not as much money in kolto as there is in weapons."

"What sort of weapons? I don't have capacity for a full shipment of assault droids."

"Blasters. You can pack a lot of them in a freighter your size."

My fingers twitched. You could outfit a small army with blasters given my cargo space. "Who's side are you arming?"

The Rodian picked up a chip and made an elaborate show of peering intently at it.

I hate it when customers act like they're better than me. "Look," I groused, "I want to know if this job will bring the Republic down on my head. Jedi give me hives."

He pressed the chip onto the table, holding it in place. "My client has interests he wants protected from both sides, and this shipment will help his people do that."

"If that's all there is, fine with me." I shrugged. The Rodian's client must have a massive operation planetside if they're willing to pay that much. "What's the time frame?"

"My people can have the cargo delivered to your docking bay within the hour. As for delivery, my client expects the weapons delivered to Ord Mantell in a couple of weeks."

"What's the situation at the spaceports on Ord Mantell?"

"You're not going to land there. My client has a landing pad fairly close to Fort Garnik, but it isn't covered by spaceport security. The other spaceports aren't safe at this time."

So much the better. Smuggling spice was bad enough, but blasters were the Glitterstim of a war zone, and buying off spaceport customs would have been a real problem. Unless there was something I was missing, there was a huge upside and not that much risk for me.

I nodded and stood. "You've got yourself a pilot."

The Rodian looked at my outstretched hand and shook it after a long moment. "Don't make me regret this decision, Captain," he said. "My client doesn't like smugglers who don't deliver."

"They never do. But hey, you're dealing with me. My record speaks for itself."

"Just make sure you deliver the shipment to Ord Mantell on time. There will be a contact at the landing pad who will make sure your delivery is logged. Name's Skavak."

"Skavak. Got it."

I left the cantina with a bounce in my step. I may have lost big at sabacc, but I landed a deal that should be a cinch. Things were looking up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Short Update

For the past two weeks the mini-Reds have gone back to school*, so there's been less time than usual for game playing. For both me and them, to be honest. We're also knee deep in university advertisements for the oldest mini-Red, and we've finally taken a crack at sorting the desirability of each based on some fairly simple criteria: whether they have a Music degree, and whether they have an oboist on staff.**

Needless to say, game playing has taken a real back seat.

I've kept up with some of the news, particularly the Wildstar F2P Beta. For some strange reason I never removed Wildstar from the main computer, even though I only tried out the original Beta. Perhaps it was me being cynical, but I figured that eventually the game would go F2P --after all, every other game not named EVE or WoW*** has-- so why not wait it out? For the record, I still have WoW files on my PC as well, and I do have a free DVD of RIFT lying around (courtesy of a Gen Con 2011 freebie), so I'm good there too.

While I haven't received a Wildstar Beta pass (yet), I'm definitely curious about how it has matured. If there's one thing that I've learned over the years of playing MMOs, it's that MMOs at launch aren't the same as they are a year or so in. The most famous example is Marvel Heroes 2015, which had a terrible launch, yet the dev staff worked tirelessly to completely revamp the game into its current incarnation. SWTOR is another game that really suffered from overinflated expectations, and when the game failed to deliver on being the WoW killer that EA promoted it as, subscribers abandoned it in droves. Like it or not, SWTOR has found its niche in the F2P realm. A steady amount of updates have also rounded the game into a form now that people were hoping it'd be at launch: robust starfighter PvP, player housing, plenty of Ops and Flashpoints to run, and a lot of story to cover.

Wildstar should be no different.

***

Aside from Wildstar, I've been only puttering around on SWTOR, avoiding making a decision on what to do about my Agent.

The completionist in me wants to go and do the Agent's story, but the moralist in me says "No way."

I'm not exactly sure how this battle will get resolved, but my money is that the completionist will eventually win out.

***

The mini-Reds, on the other hand, are still following the server shutdowns on LOTRO very closely, because they want their toons (and Kinship) to end up in the right server.

Not sure how it'll end up there, but I know they're definitely going to keep up playing the game.






*No, really. Yes, it's earlier than usual for our school district, but they've decided to hit Winter Break at the end of the semester, rather than have a short couple of weeks linger on into January. I'm fine with that, but most of the schools don't have air conditioning, and in the summer Midwest heat+ humidity it's not.... pleasant.... in the schools. (At least until mid-late September.)

**Music isn't the only major she's interested in, but it's the one with the most restrictions. I'm quite surprised that some universities, such as Marquette University, don't even have a Music degree. (You can minor in Music at Marquette, however.) Other universities have had news reports about cuts to the arts programs or facilities (such as at the University of Akron). And finally, oboists on staff are much rarer than flutists or trumpeters.

***I don't count the WoW token as F2P, even though people who play the economic game certainly think it that way. That's mainly because somebody had to pay for that token, even if it wasn't you, so technically it's more akin to "F2P only for the people who can afford the in-game token".

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Short Request

Due to EU rules, apparently Blogger has automatically posted a warning saying that Google Analytics and whatnot is being used on blogspot.com blogs, visible by viewers that originate from the EU.

It also says that it's up to me to determine if that warning (or whatever it is) is visible, a snarky way of Google being able to claim plausible deniability if something goes wrong and someone decides to sue Google for something that I wrote (or, likely, some malware that snuck onto the blog).

Anyway, if someone who originates from the EU (you know who you are) can comment as to whether this sort of warning/announcement/whatever shows up, I'd appreciate it. I don't feel like trying to cause security alerts by attempting to IP spoof my laptop just to find out if the damn thing is there or not.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Gamers, Ahoy!

No, we didn't use a ship to get there.
From the official Gen Con graphic for 2015.


Due to circumstances beyond our control*, we made our annual trek to GenCon on Saturday instead of Sunday. It was a (relatively) cool and clear day when we arrived at Indianapolis and walked from the Lucas Oil Stadium parking lot to the convention center.

The line for coffee at a nearby coffee shop was practically out the door, and we arrived too late to get a drink from Mayfair's free coffee van out front, so we went inside to get our tickets from Will Call. There, we were confronted with the first big difference between Saturday and Sunday at Gen Con: the Will Call line was 1/2 hour long. On Sunday, you could just walk right up without a wait and get your tickets, but a lot of people show up for Saturday and Sunday only, so the line is significantly longer.

This led into a (strong) suggestion of mine, which was that Gen Con LLC should look into making a "weekend pass", combining Saturday and Sunday. This way an attendee (or a family) could got to both days and be able to see everything in the main Exhibit Hall as well as catch a few presentations. However, as my brother-in-law pointed out to me, the cost of a Saturday + Sunday ticket is only slightly less than a Four Day Pass, and for a multiday pass it would only make sense to just get the Four Day Pass instead. Another thing he was concerned about was that the crowd would then swell to the point that the Indy Convention Center --one of the largest if not the largest in the Midwest-- would be swamped, and then Gen Con would likely have to move to one of the coasts. That would defeat the purpose of keeping the Con in the Midwest, which is the only really huge gaming con in this part of the country: PAX and PAX East are on the coasts, as is BlizzCon and E3, and San Diego CC and DragonCon are on the coast and in the heart of the South, respectively. Origins is the only other major gaming con in North America (based in Columbus, OH) and it is far smaller than Gen Con.**

Once we secured our passes, the mini-Reds took off with my brother-in-law for points unknown, and my wife and I were left to explore the Exhibit Hall on our own.

(Many more pics and commentary after the break...)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Legion-aires

So, the new WoW expac is called Legion, and will focus on the Burning Legion's massive invasion of Azeroth.

After having seen the highlights (Illidan?  Really?), I can only say one thing:

Why didn't they do this instead of Warlords of Draenor?

It would have made a LOT more sense to tinker with a few things and keep a normal timeline rather than going Azeroth-2 like they did with Warlords.

As it is, I do see that Blizzard seems to have finally gotten a kick in the pants as far as putting the story in-game as opposed to in books and other media. Still, the damage there has been done. They can't put old story back into the game, and since they're not interested in fixing the previous storylines it's kind of a moot point.

But I am still shaking my head, wondering at the change of venue for the presentation. Blizzard has always done their own thing, and their customers have loved them for it. Why decide to abandon their current business model now?

Perhaps there's more to the subscriber drop than Blizzard is letting on, but what I think is more likely is that the rest of the industry is threatening to pass Blizzard by. Blizzard finds itself in an unusual position with MOBAs in having to play catch-up, and they can't seem to get that mojo back in holding onto their WoW subscriber base. On the Activision side of things there's Skylanders, but Disney is muscling into that space with their own version*. I get the feeling that Activision/Blizzard sees the other game houses as more of a threat than before, and to stay relevant they can no longer afford to isolate themselves from the rest of the gaming populace.



*And they've got the Marvel and Star Wars properties to attract buyers of Disney Infinity as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Post Gen Con Teaser

Gen Con 2015 has come and gone, and all I've got left are the memories.

And the abs.

What abs, you ask?

Oh, these abs:

The only thing that was fake was the spray tan.
That was NOT a body suit.

I'm still decompressing, and I've got another, longer post on the way, but I figured I'd at least provide the pic above and this one below:

And, naturally, I drew a blank at the name.
"You're that... that Brit woman from the new Blizzard game!"
I was grateful she was excited I knew she was Tracer from Overwatch.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Soon....

In a short time, this will be swamped.
From GenCon's Facebook page.

Unlike, say, San Diego Comic Con, Gen Con is all about the games.

I know that some people have been around since yesterday, playing games and going to pre-Con parties, but Gen Con officially begins Thursday morning.

There's a livestream set up for Gen Con, and Boardgame Geek/RPG Geek has their own streaming set up for Gen Con right here.

Time to play the games...



EtA: The GenCon livestream doesn't seem to be active, so I replaced it with the BGG livestream. I'll update that info as more comes available.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Gary Gygax Day!!

Courtesy of D20 Monkey

Today is the birthday of Gary Gygax, who with Dave Arneson created Dungeons and Dragons. Were it not for Gary and Dave, the RPG* as we know it would not exist.


Go out and play some games in Gary's honor today.




*Video games as well as pencil and paper.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't Blink

No, I'm not channeling my inner Whovian.

(But I couldn't resist putting this in!)


Okay, now that my computer seems to have recovered from a surprising crash, I can finish this post.

The week of free WoW came and went, and I really didn't end up doing much. I didn't check out the new areas because that'd take money, and I tried and failed several times to get into AV. After the 50 minute mark crossed each time, I would give up and start over.

I did mine some low level ore while waiting for AV to pop, but it never did.

After the week, I'd weathered the initial emotional surge of nostalgia and did some number crunching. The result: our budget really couldn't afford it right now.

So the week of Free WoW didn't have it's intended effect.

***

Instead of WoW, I decided to revive the long standing goal of finishing the (original) class stories for SWTOR.

As of this mark, I've got 6 of 8 of the class stories completed, having recently finished the Sith Warrior's story back in June.

I revived the Jedi Knight I'd created back in the first few months of SWTOR --and last seen somewhere on Balmorra-- and have pushed him along up into Chapter 3.

The Knight's story is interesting to me mainly because of it's eventual impact on the current expansion. I'd wondered a little bit about some of the storyline's direction with Shadow of Revan, and now I know where some of it came from. I guess from the big picture perspective you could say that the Knight and the Warrior are the two primary storylines for SWTOR, since much of the main storyline flows through them.

Obviously, not being finished with the Knight's story I don't know how it will eventually pan out, but I've my suspicions.

And when I've finished the Knight, I have to look once more at the Agent's story and decide what to do.*

***

Gen Con comes early this year, and next week the entire family will head over to Indianapolis for a day of immersion in gamer culture. If you happen to be there and see a brood of redheads around, it just might be us.

I'll file a full report when I get the chance.




*The chorus of people yelling "Do it!! It's awesome!!" notwithstanding.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Meanwhile, on As the World Turns....

Remember Colin Cowherd, the ESPN personality who got immensely ticked off by his network carrying Heroes of the Dorm?

Well, Colin Cowherd has now left the building. He quit ESPN for a rumored deal with FOX Sports.

Not that they needed his approval or anything, but having one less critic on staff means that ESPN doesn't have to worry about their own staff potentially sabotaging their eSports initiatives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cards vs. Raids

While it's not explicitly MMO related, Blizz is going to have a big Hearthstone announcement on July 22nd. The expectation is that it's more than just a card pack, and my guess is that it means an eSports deal with a league and/or television coverage (see: Heroes of the Dorm, broadcast by ESPN).

I did say "explicitly" for one reason: Blizz has a finite number of devs, and the more devs that work on other projects such as Hearthstone and HotS mean fewer devs working on WoW. Hearthstone and HotS are getting a lot of the press from Blizz these days, and for good reason: their customer base is growing and profits are up. Even Overwatch is getting a lot of love, given the videos coming out about gameplay and whatnot. But if the devs are working on these three titles, what about the others?

It's likely that the "big three" Blizz properties are on a much lower priority track these days.

Sure, WoW will have a new expac announced at BlizzCon, but that also means that people will have to lower their expectations a bit. With 6.2 the last major content patch of Warlords, Blizz is obviously shifting focus in-house.

And WoW just might be on maintenance mode for a while.

Unless, of course, Blizz can figure out how to extract the BGs and Arenas from WoW and make them playable in a standard MOBA format.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rest in Peace, Iwata-san

Word has come out that Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo, has passed away due to a growth in his bile duct.

He was a programmer first, working on games such as Earthbound, and went up the ranks. He's seen the highs and lows at Nintendo, the Wii to the Gamecube.

He'll be missed. We don't have enough programmers who can shape industry like he did.



EtA:  Dorkly has provided a link to a large amount of art honoring Iwata-san.
Artists Across the Web Pay Tribute to Satoru Iwata

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Always on, I see

The first thing I noticed about logging into WoW after being away for a little over a year was that somebody was always on.

Whether or not people are actually logged into the game, they're never more than a smartphone away.

That was somewhat unnerving, as I first logged in to discover that yes, Azshandra, Tomakan, and Co. were still part of the old Alliance guild. I'd logged in extremely early in the morning as I used to do, not expecting to see anybody online. Well, that wasn't the case as there were a few people who were logged in via smartphone to guild chat.

And I expected to find myself sitting atop Honor Hold in
Hellfire Peninsula when I logged in. Silly me.
Nobody said hi, but I was perfectly fine with that. I hadn't thought ahead of what to say should somebody yell "RED!" or something; after all, I was pretty sure I'd been purged as would have been expected after that length of time of inactivity.

I did some puttering around on old toons**, mainly checking to see what was there and how the toons looked after the "graphical upgrade."

Barkeep, hit me again and put it on the Archaeologist's tab.
I've spent a long day working on portals.
I realize that comparisons between before and after pics happened a year or so ago, but one thing that struck me is not the cleaner lines in the facial features but how similar the toon design was to the original WoW toon design.

If you look at the clothing and cloth armor shown above, they're still stretched across the basic graphical frame. No amount of extra polygons could change that basic design of WoW toons, where the cloth --and to a lesser extent the armor-- are placed on the skin of the frame and not around the frame.

To change that, I think, would require a complete overhaul of the graphical engine, and would likely cause some issues with players on older and slower machines.*

***

It felt, well, eerie being back.

Have you ever gone away to college --or your family moved away from the neighborhood where you have your earliest memories-- and then you come back to visit later? That feeling of not quite fitting in, but-everything-looks-so-familiar-and-yet-I-hope-nobody-recognizes-me-and-wants-me-to-talk-about-things-I've-not-thought-about-for-years?

Yeah, that feeling.

The one thing that is a truism in MMOs is that you're anonymous. Sure, some asshat might give you some grief for not doing it right***, but nobody is checking you out through your webcam. In theory that affords the squeamish --or the reluctant-- a bit of freedom.

Blizzard did take away the ability to be anonymous to an extent by the Battle.net friendship listings, and I understand what Kurn was concerned about when she felt she had no control over her ability to "be anonymous" in a Blizzard game. In a very real sense, it pushes you away from playing a Blizzard game when you just want to be alone in a crowd after a long day at work.****

The funny thing is, Warlords is designed for more solo activity than social activity. I didn't even need to purchase the expac to know that; tons of electrons have been spilt opining on the solitary nature of Garrisons. But while you may do your thing inside a Garrison, there's still plenty of social connection possible in a guild (courtesy of Guild Chat and Vent) and via the Battle.net friends list. It's this weird dichotomy that I can't seem to wrap my head around.

If you want peace and quiet, a Dalaran bank will do nicely.
Tomakan must be some sort of pensioner, waiting for his monthly allowance.


Maybe my big issue is that I'm concerned I'll get sucked back in when I'd decided that I was going to give the game up. After all, that's a (potentially) $180/year commitment, and it's not like Blizz is going to finally fix the holes in the storyline continuum from post-Cata Old World to Outland and onward.

I did see that they created a specific "pre-made" PvP selection, but that doesn't preclude premades from invading casual BG runs. I'm not so foolish as to believe that BGs have suddenly skewed away from Horde dominance, either.

But still....

I spent time reading some quest text. Played around with zapping a few neutral animals in Darnassian Forest.***** I essentially got my feet wet, and memory took over. I stared for about 5 minutes at the keystrokes for my Dwarven Ret Pally on Moonrunner-US, rearranged a few things, and then decided I could brave Alterac Valley. (And, naturally, the wait time was 38 minutes, out of my range.)

What started as a simple matter of logging in, making sure my toons will live another couple of years, and logout, and now I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to end up doing.





*Even with the upgrades that Blizzard did to the game's graphical engine, it still takes much less oomph to run than, say, SWTOR or GW2 does.

**And in the process I actually did miss a "RED!!!" from Ancient. Um, sorry about that, Ancient.

***Or be hit on or something like that. I've thankfully not had to worry about that in MMOs since I dropped WoW, but you never know.

****My current non-online game of choice: Civ IV. No CD or DVD needed, and more importantly, no Steam needed either.

*****For the record: easier to kill than Flesh Raiders on Tython.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Well, whaddya know...

Remember this post??

About how I saw that Blizz was doing a naming purge and I'd considered subbing for a month just to keep the names alive.

Well, guess what appeared in my inbox a few days ago:

No electrons were harmed in the screenshot of this e-mail.

Sometimes you just can't make this shit up.

I mean, if I were to write this sort of coincidence in a novel, people would say "Hell, Redbeard, at least be realistic every once in a while!" But I've still got the e-mail to prove it exists.

What have I done with this opportunity?

Not much, if you consider accepting the free trial and keeping an eye on the PC as it downloaded 11 GB of updates "not much".

I've not actually logged in or anything. That also means I've not

  • found out if I've been purged from the (mostly dead) Alliance guild my toons were in. It has been a year since I last was subbed, after all.
  • discovered what my toons actually look like since they've been redone.*
  • checked to see what my (miniscule) friends list is up to.
  • ventured into a BG to watch the Alliance lose.**
Will I end up doing much of anything with this free time? Not likely, no. I doubt my frustrations with BG imbalance have suddenly changed, and if I were serious about returning to the game I'd start over with a new toon and level to 90 before buying Warlords, and by the time that happens Blizzard would be ready to drop their next expac.

But at least my stable of toons will survive the next purge, which is fine with me.





*Seriously, Turbine, you have to get better looking toons for LOTRO. At least make the toons look as good as the background scenery, please.

**Come on, some things never change.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teaching kids the basics of PvP since... oh.... A month ago

For the past month, the most popular game on the Wii U has been Splatoon, Nintendo's answer to multiplayer PvP games. 

And, naturally, what our youngest got for her birthday was Splatoon.

"You're a kid now, you're a squid now..."
From forbes.com
Splatoon is the first new Nintendo property in what feels like ages, and it has been a big hit.

The basics are pretty simple: you're a squidling, which is (effectively) a squid that switches back and forth between squid form and a humanesque form. The squidlings love to have "turf wars", which are 4x4 PvP matches where they try to cover the playing field with their color of ink. The players are selected at random and then assigned randomly to two different teams, so you could have a big bad veteran in one match and find that same vet on the opposing side on the next match.

The games may be a variation on area control PvP games, but they're still fun.*

Of course, along the way the mini-Reds are being introduced to PvP in a slightly more forgiving environment.

Slightly.

From forbes.com.
"AAAAAAAAHHH!!!" My oldest screamed. "I HATE THEM!!!!!"

She stormed over to where I was working.

"Do you know how some people will hang out at your respawn point and wait for you to respawn and then kill you?"

"Graveyard camping? Sure. I've played Alliance in Warsong Gulch, so yeah, I know graveyard camping."

"THEY'RE DOING IT TO US RIGHT NOW!!!!"

"Ah." I considered putting on headphones but decided against it.

The match had ended in defeat, but my oldest ranted for a few more minutes. "AND THIS IS WHY I DON'T PLAY PVP IN MMOS!!!!"**

A half an hour later, she'd recovered and the games went on, but yeah, they're learning about PvP.

A lot.

Maybe they'll have some battlegrounds in their future. But excuse me, I'm going to put on some headphones.





*I still have issues playing due to headaches even though it's in 3rd person viewing angle, but in general the game is a lot of fun.

**And several less PG variations on the same point.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fading Away....

It's been a slow week.

Not much gaming going on, a whole lot of work going on, and no truly funny stories to mention.

Outside of the mini-Reds attempting to take down some bosses in Fornost in LOTRO, and on the first boss they did the exact opposite of what they should have done, which was to kill the adds. Even then, it was one of those "you had to have been there" moments.

I did think long and hard about potentially resubbing to WoW, however.

It feels odd that even after nearly a year away from the game I still think about it as much as I do. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing, as it could be pointed out that's a sign of an addiction, but it is also likely that WoW is a game you simply can't ignore. It still is the reigning heavyweight champ in terms of MMO subs, and in my (extremely) unscientific survey the WoW blogs outnumber all of the other MMO blogs combined.

What made me think about resubbing? News that Blizzard was going to free up some more toon names that haven't been logged into since December 7, 2010.

None of my old toons would have been affected, but the thought of potentially losing them forever gave me pause.

Can't I at least get to keep Quel'delar?
I should have known this would happen. WoW is large enough that there's potentially truckloads of idle toon names out there, and a periodic purge would free up a lot of potential names. (Even the overused ones, such as 50 different iterations of Legolas for a Hunter's toon.) But as somebody who occasionally runs across his old character sheets from college, I find it hard to give up a toon that I've played for any decent length of time.

I think it likely that I'd have subbed just for one month, just to login with the various toons, and then let things be.

Then again, I didn't need to let things progress that far, so I don't know if I could simply keep it at that. And that is likely for the best.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

There may not be a free lunch, but there are some free RPGs

It's that time of year again.

Right around mid-June, a group of gaming companies band together to promote Free RPG Day.

No, really.

FREE.

Even have the logo to prove it!


The Free RPG website even has a Retailer Locator, where you can find game stores providing the Free RPG Day games. Odds are also good that those game stores are promoting gaming all day* by running demos and hosting game groups.

If you're not close to a game store, you can even find some freebies on RPG website DriveThruRPG.com, free for the downloading. 

I've spoken of them before, but Evil Hat games has PDFs of their FATE Core rulebook and the FATE Accelerated Edition available at their website in a pay what you like format. Try it out, and if you like it you can shell out a few dollars for it. If you want a game that's quick to pick up and try out, FATE Accelerated is likely the one for you.

So get out there, roll some dice, and hang with some friends!

Sometimes victory or defeat comes down to a single roll...
From The Big Bang Theory

EtA:  NOTE:  This is not restricted to the US. I punched in Vancouver BC, London UK, Munich Germany, and Singapore and got results.



*Not as if they don't do that normally, you know, but....