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Archive for October, 2009

Aion olive branch

Earlier this week I posted about the demise of  Aion. Syp over at Bio break made me quickly realize that I was anything but being objective. I took a bazooka and started firing madly at Aion. Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret. I tend to speak my mind directly, no more no less. Personal friends of mine knows that when I say something it’s what I really believe. This personality trait has gotten me in trouble more often than not but it has the merit of being honest at least. That said I don’t believe Aion is the worst thing to ever happen to humankind so here’s what I think Aion does better than a lot of MMOs.

Graphics

It’s an easy one but it’s worth mentioning again. The graphics in Aion incredible and really set a new standard for me. Call me superficial but graphics are important for me in a game. It’s what keeping me from trying Fallen Earth right now since I find the graphics incredibly ugly.

 Cohesive universe

 This might sound weird but for me I need to feel like I’m part of a living and breathing world. Players can talk about Chuck Norris all they want but when I play I want the NPCs to tell a believable story and the world has to support that. Aion does this wonderfully by being consistent and not breaking the 4th wall more than it has to.

Involved combat

I can’t speak for all the classes but for those I tried combat was involved and did not revolve about pushing the same 3 buttons all the time. Also, classes played and fought differently.

 Challenge

The game is not easy, at least not when compared to games like Champions and WoW. When you want something you have to invest time and effort to get it and I’m not just talking about the grind. I don’t want the game handed to me on a silver platter, I want to have to fight tooth and nail to stay alive.

What about the rest? PvP and  endgame? Well PvP is set-up to be player dependant, so whether or not it will succeed and what form it will take will rely largely on the player base. As for PvE the reports don’t look good but who knows? Maybe they will add some PvE endgame elements that will fix the problem.

For my part I still have a week to wait before making a decision. I was thinking about going back to Aion but I have to admit I’m thinking more and more about trying Fallen Earth. I’ll see how things move in the next week.

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Platformer classics

If, like me, your computer is busted right now and you can’t play anything on your PC, console games are the way to go. I’m a big fan of platformers and this forced break in gaming has forced me back to some of my old classics. Since I know a lot of you are also big fans of platformers here’s my top 10 list of platformers you need to play. Of course it’s my list and your will differs but if I made you try one of these my mission will be accomplished. I’ve listed the games in no specific order. All of these games with the exception of  Blaster Master can be found on the Wii virtual Console.

As a rule only one game per series is allowed.

Super Ghouls and Ghosts (Snes): If for some reason you are tired of living and feel the need to throw your controller at your loved ones in pure frustration this game is for you. It’s one of the hardest platformers I have ever played. The kicker is that once you finish the game you learn you have to do it again with even harder enemies just to make sure you never finish it. I have yet to finish it.

Super Mario World (Snes): It’s a Shigeru Miyamoto game, it’s a Mario game. Right then and there it should be enough to make it worth playing. This one get’s a special mention for introducing us to platformers with a ton of alternatives routes, secrets and rewards for completion. A pattern still present today. This game is just great.

Mega Man 2 (Nes): The mega man series has it good and bad games. If one game was to represent the series at is best this would be it. The difficulty is spot on, great controls and the music is so good it is still played in some night clubs.

Contra (Nes): A classic of classics. This game invented the run and gun platformer all by itself. It’s difficulty just made you come back for more and being able to finish it was a matter of schoolyard pride. I still have to finish this one with just 3 lives.

Super Castlevania 4 (Snes): I have to admit I’m torn between this one and Castlevania 3 on the Nes. I’m a big fan of the Casltevania series and these two games are more or less the best examples of what an awesome platformer can be. Castlevania 4 wins out by having one of the greatest music ever heard on the Snes, a good difficulty while avoiding to be frustrating like other Castlevania games can get.

ActRaiser (Snes): This one gets on the list for being original. It’s a mix of a rpg, platformer with some  Simcity thrown in.

Sonic 2 (Sega genesis): I’m not a big fan of Sonic games but this one is for me the best of the lot. If only for the history lesson and see what Sonic is all about this is the one to try.

Ducktales (Nes): Just more of the same greatness Capcom was giving us back in the 90s. This is worth playing just to sing along with the theme song.

Blaster Master (Nes): A little known game but one of the greatest platformer of all time (in my opinion). Your pet frog just stepped on a radioactive block in lying around in your backyard, dug a hole big enough for you to follow and you jumped down to follow it. Of course an armored car was waiting for you and off you go to explore an  underground world full of mutants and weird creatures. This game is one of the first exploration platformers along with Metroid. You have to navigate this huge maze, get upgrades to access new areas and finally save the day. Good music and awesome graphics are present too. Did I mention it was also really hard?

Super Metroid (Snes): A game that needs little introduction. It has been topping “best of” lists since its release and is a perfect example of what a masterpiece can be, regardless of genre. If you have not played this one yet you need to either get it or hand in your gamer card.

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A small reminder

While I was writing my last post on Aion downfall I knew I would get a strong response. I’ve been a gamer long enough to know that when you attack someone favorite game you become the bad guy and no matter how you try to make obvious your messing around there’s still some people who will resort to personal insults to discredit you.

If you don’t agree with what I am writing here you are always free to comment on it. I swear I will not delete your comment. On the other hand any comment with personal insults will get deleted.

Finally, this blog is my place to express myself and give my opinions. It’s not a scientific report on anything. The blog title is a dead giveaway but I felt the need to reiterate.

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Aion crash and burn?

Disclaimer! Since putting obvious and multiple warnings that this post numbers are based on personal observations and that they are not hard numbers, and since people obviously don’t know how to read anymore, I have taken the liberty of exagerating every number in this post. Also, I will refer you to the About page for my policy concerning spelling. Thank you for your time and understanding.

Do I dare go there? Expose myself to the flames of the fanboi, the undiluted pure evil of the haters? Do I dare play the doomsinger? Singing about the end of all things as the signs and portents are revealing themselves.

You bet I do.

My prediction for Aion is that it’s bound for one of two fates. Either it will become a niche game with a dedicated core of gamers keeping it alive, like WaR, AoC or others before them, bound for greatness but ending below expectations, Or, it will crash and burn in a spectacular fashion leaving NCsoft to wonder how exactly another of their game failed (see Auto Assault).

Signs and portents

I want to say right now that Aion is eerily following same the path of WaR. But let’s not get  ahead of ourselves and look at the signs. Before going further I want to also say my numbers are  based on observations I made looking at different stats sites and just people I know. These are by no mean hard numbers.

1st sign – Cannot retain players

Around 1428% percent of the player base is  unsuscribing after the first month marker. If you read blogs,forums and look at Aion server stats you get around that number. Just looking at my Aion guild I’d say the turnover rate is very high as is to be expected for a new game but most of the turnover is people unsuscribing and not coming back. There’s a lot of gripes and comment but a  few keep coming back:

-PvP is bad: Even those staying are saying the same. By all accounts Aion PvP is not the great contest of arms and wits it was advertised to be. Gross class imbalance, abilities not working in pvp( spirit master pets for example are not working right with flight involved), imbalance of numbers, levels, etc… A lot of players will say it’s normal for that kind of pvp, or that it’s because people are not max level or any other reason you can think of. The point here is not who’s right or wrong. Almost everyone is finding  something wrong with pvp and when pvp is your selling point then the majority of your players need to find it awesome. Wich is not happening right now.

 -Too grindy: I’m less inclined to call this a game killer since it’s part of what will keep some people in the game. However a significant portion of the player base is having trouble with it so it might be that the game is really too grindy

-Crafting is worthless, broken: I completely agree with that one. Any game wich motivates me to go watch TV for an hour while I craft is doing something wrong.

-Finally there’s the infamous crysystem.dll bug driving people away as they cannot participate in mass pvp or group activities. Based on my very unscientific sampling of real life friends, blogers, guilmates I’d estimate to 38799% the percentage of players encountering the bug, meaning 1 in 3 player. I mean this blogs gets a lot of hits from people looking for answers for that bug and Google directing them to my post on the bug.

-If we combine everything, there’s about 9999% of the starting player base who will not play more than  two months. It is enormous! I know some people will say it’s impossible but WaR did go from 700k subscriber to 300k in the space of a month and a half when it released, a 58% drop. Will Aion be worse or better there’s no sure way to know but you can already see and feel the drop in the game.

2nd sign – The web, forums and blogosphere

Look around the web, the forums and the blogs. There’s very few people right now saying Aion is  “The Game”. Most are either closing down, switching games, blasting the game or otherwise being negative. Every game has its detractors and fans but it’s the balance of the two that’s more  indicative of a game health. Right now there’s more bad than good out there being said.

3rd sign – Aion shallow endgame.

I’ve searched high and low for information about Aion endgame. Besides a few bosses and a raid nothing was popping up. I mean that the only end game to be seen was Abyss, bosses and a raid that wasn’t exactly one. Pvp seems to be out the question as a steady activity due to the problems cited earlier so we have to look at PvE. The info I got at first was far from encouraging, tank and spank and nothing else. So I guess that killed pve too.

But then I told myself, this game been out in Korea for a year, let’s see what they have to say.

Well since I don’t read Korean it was hard to find info but it’s there if you look hard enough. What  did I find? Exactly what I said earlier. By all accounts I found, Aion PvE endgame is at best a side activity, nothing there. So it’s pvp only. Most Koreans at endgame are either farming the abyss for ranks or ganking people through rifting. So if you’re looking for more than rank grinding or ganking your pretty much screwed.

The end?

Is Aion destined to the fiery pits of failed MMOs? It all depends on what NCsoft considers to be enough profit. How much players do they need to keep the servers going will be the main factor. I don’t think that everyone will stop playing it but rather it will probably have a subscriber base along the lines of WaR or AoC.

Despite all I just said Aion is still a great game. At least until you grow tired of it. It’s polished, got nice storytelling and more than enough “this is awesome” moments to keep you playing a few months. Will it last as long as WoW did for many gamers myself included? Probably not. One of WoW strength is diversity, something that Aion seems to be lacking.

I’d say, play it, enjoy it but don’t expect it to last forever. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good  movie and then leaving with a good feeling  so it’s not wrong either to the same with an MMO. If like me your done with WoW and looking for something while you wait for your next big MMO Aion will fill the space nicely.

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Old school memories

First of all I want to apologize for the slower updates on the blog. Blogging without having a computer at home is a challenge. But luckily I managed to scrounge a few minutes here and there, a few internet connections and post during my lunch break.

With my computer down at home I started working on my stack of unfinished console games. You see I have a ton of console games at home and I’m as much a console freak as I am a computer one. In fact if I have a defining trait as a gamer is that I play almost anything. This tendency to play anything means that I often switch games whenever something new and shiny comes out and leave my older games unfinished. And of course I always promess myself I’ll come back and finish them all. Self-delusion is a wonderful feeling. This is how I came to start playing Super Mario Rpg for the Snes(on wii virtual console).  I have to say my memories of it and my current experience are very two different experiences.

So here’s my theme today, let’s talk about our rose-tinted glasses.

Old school RPGs.

Most of us who are currently playing MMOs have played in the past quite a few RPGs on consoles or computers. I know I played every entry in the Final Fantasy series up to 12 with FFX-2 being the only one I could not get myself to play seriously, it felt way too much like a girl slumber party. Super Mario RPG is one of the old school game I badly wanted to play when it came out but did not get a real chance to. I did see parts of it at some friends house but that was mostly it. Since it had such a  great reputation and the parts of it I did see where awesome, it has been on my to do list for a very long  time. I had downloaded it a few months ago but din’t play it much since I was so busy with MMOs. But with my computer out of the picture I finally had a chance to sit down and really play it.

To say that memory and reality are two different things would be a major understatement.

The first few maps and dungeon were a breath of fresh air, the music was fun and cheery, there’s a story in plain sight, and the thief you just caught? He’s rotting in prison and you can go make fun of him. You are a hero and you are changing the world.

However as I progressed in the game something was nagging at me. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but eventually it did become very clear. I was killing trash after trash in dungeons to get to the boss. I was looking for gear, grinding cash, the story had an obvious quest progression…. I was back in an MMO!!  So all the things mmo players are complaining about have been present since forever in our childhood games. But with the power of nostalgia we chose to forget it. We forgot that we would spend entire afternoon killing the same mobs over and over again to buy a new spell or just level up before a big fight.

So are my childhood memories bound for destruction? My love of old school games squashed? Not at all! In fact I’m beginning to find again some of the fun I had playing those games. Yes I’m grinding and killing pointless trash but at the same I have a story to enjoy, new content to see all the time and I don’t have to shout “LFM 1 tank” all the time. I have control over my playtime and only my skill will  prevent me from finishing, not 9 other people.

Maybe my memories of what was fun were skewed but the fun is still very real.

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Favorite 7 deadly sins of MMOs

With Aion, Fallen Earth coming out and WoW taking water and bloggers trying to figure out wich to play or justifying their choices there’s a lot of talk about what makes a good MMO and what people would like to see improve in MMOs. I want to talk about the things I enjoy in a MMO but are considered bad, unfriendly or evil. In no particular order I present to you 7 mmo sins I do or enjoy that won’t make the world a better place.

-Killing grinds. I love those long grinds where you just kill stuff without really thinking about it. They’re often decried as the worst thing to have in a MMO but I do enjoy the zen moment they procure.

-Faking real life. I will often outright lie and invent real life issue to drop a bad group or simply skip a raid I don’t feel like doing. Tip to know if I’m faking, check to see if I’m still online 10 minutes later.

 -I’m a pvp coward. Fair fights are for rest. Me, I like playing dirty and back stabbing. The goal is to win and I’ll play nice as long as it gets me ahead. But if I can gank you and get away with it your dead pal. Of course if you have the Ultimate pvp weapon of bad-assness I’ll just leave you alone. Like I said, coward.

-I love drive-by ganking: You know how you have from time to time to travel trough the low-level zones and you encounter low-level players you can one shot? I love it. Everytime I try to get the drop on them and one shot them. I just love imagining the guy doing his quests only to see his character drop dead for no apparent reason.

-I’m a vengeful  pvper. If you kill me I’ll do my best to get back at you. I even keep a list of people who ganked me one too often. However the coward rule still applies.

-Ninja the opposing faction: I don’t do it in my own faction, but if I see someone from the opposing faction questing or going after a node I’ll do my best to get it before them. Only way to get at them on pve server.

-Pretend to know the fights. I get fights real fast most of the time. Even if I’m the first one to say people who don’t know the fight should speak up I don’t. I know the truth that once you get that noob tag on your head your done for. In guild tough I moderate myself.

There you go. Won’t help the mmo genre but at least I know what I enjoy. I’m curious to see your lists too!

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Will Aion and me make peace?

A quick update on my recent computer adventures.

First of all for those wondering it seems the “Aion destroy graphic cards” problem is mostly associated with the first generation of directX 10 compatible cards, some of wich are notorious for having problems. So yeah Aion didn’t help but probably so did my card.

Second, I do not plan on stopping blogging, thanks for your concerns but this monkey has  a lot more to say.

Finaly, I would like very much to come back to Aion once I get my new card. However, it will wait until Ncsoft fixes the crysystem.dll bug. This is my condition if they want my money.

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