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Archive for May, 2010

Foreword: This post was directly inspired by this one over at the pink pigtail inn. Larisa is one of my favorite bloggers and I respect her and her ideas a lot. More often than not she has sparked good ideas for me and even helped this blog by encouraging me. That said, when you don’t agree with something, you don’t agree with it and I want to do my best here to do it with the utmost respect.

Also, I’ve been guilty of everything below so I do include myself. What follows is a reflection I’ve been having for a long time and that thanks to Larisa I’m finally able to write down.

You know it, I know it, lately there’s been a lot of talk about the WoW community. I know  I’ve been vocal to the fact I think WoW community is probably one of the worst ones out there if not the absolute worst one. When Wolfshead wrote the article that started the recent spur of talks about community I was overjoyed. At last! someone talking about the problems. And then Larisa write her latest post about how we must not judge everyone just by looking at the community and how we can all enjoy the game doing our things and without being asses to others. How not everyone is bad and how some parts of the community are in fact helpful and friendly.

Of course Larisa isn’t entirely wrong. There’s wonderful people playing WoW and if you have the pleasure of meeting them you have tons of fun away from the general dickery. But by saying that there’s no such thing as community I believe we are putting our heads in the sand. Wether we like it or not we are part of the strange group known as a community and we all are participating actors, whether we like it or not.

Evils of Gearscore, how we fail at community

Do an experiment with your fellow WoW players. Ask them if they like Gearscore, if they approve of it, if they think it make WoW a better place. Almost all of them, unanimously, hate Gearscore with the passion of a thousand suns.  Nobody likes that piece of garbage and if we could be done with it we’d be a lot of happier. Yet, it remains… it’s still there and we are still using it. The number one item that comes up when we talk about how bad the WoW community is, is the one we are all using. If this sounds suspicious it’s because it is.

Why is Gearscore still there then? Because we failed at acting, because we agreed to it. How many of you have used it once for shouting in trade to get that “one last healer” for ToC. You’re bored with the place and just want to get done. We don’t feel like asking questions so we get lazy, we ask for a 5k gearscore healer, just to make sure we get done. Just then we failed at community, or rather we helped building the one we ate so much. Sure for you it might be “once every month” but for the outside observer it’s one more elitist raid leader asking for Gearscore. Later, when someone else will want to put a group together what will he use? Gearscore! Because the community has accepted it. Because all those “once a week” added up. If every time someone used gearscore in trade to recruit, 5 people were to tell him to go to hell and get raped by an elephant you can be sure gearscore would disappear fast.

But no, it’s still there because we are not speaking up and because when the time comes to do better we don’t. We are part of that wonderful community we love to hate by our inaction.

The island, how we clear our conscience

Just like a lot of things in life when we don’t like something we tend to distance ourselves from it. It’s so easy to blame it all on others and keep to our little groups, our islands and forget about the rest. Think about your wonderful guild, how you’re shielded from the bad pugs, the loot-whores and the rest of the scum. You’re not like them, you’re better than them and at least you treat each other right! An island of civility and common sense amidst the seas of the retards.

It’s so easy to clear our conscience with a Us vs Them mentality and blame everything that goes wrong on the “Others”. Yet we all play the same game, we’re all in this together. If we want things to change we have to interact with the “Others”. If they don’t hear our ideas how can they change to something we like more?

Take responsibility!

I have a challenge for everyone, myself included. Let’s play the way we want the game to be played so we have the community we want to have. If we don’t like Gearscore we don’t use it, ever! Not even when it’s 11pm and the raid hasn’t started yet and you fear the guild will collapse if the healer sucks. Take the chance, you might gain a new healer or you will crash but at least you won’t add to the problem. Communities are built by their residents, not by anyone else.

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The mirror

“Damn proxy pylons! Protoss are so damn cheezy, takes no skill to play with them.GG and go die!!”

That what my opponent said yesterday after I stopped his zergling rush and destroyed his base by warping in units using a proxy pylon (building a pylon close to the enemy to warp  in units closer). He was mad his master plan got foiled by a simple strategy. Maybe it’s because I used some cheese or maybe it’s because I’ve lost to  zerglings rush 20 times before and that zerg always try to do it on that particular  map. Maybe I used my brain…

You know why I love Starcraft 2 multiplayer so much? Because it’s a challenge. Because there’s no gear or xp or anything else that rewards time. Every game, I start on an equal footing with my opponent and who wins comes to down to skill and good tactics. You know what else I’m being remembered of? Lots of people out there who don’t want any kind of challenge. They want to find that perfect  combination that will make them win every time and stick to that. In a game like Starcraft that attitude will get them only frustration.

But do you know where else I’ve seen those people? The ones who want the easy win all the time? They’re shouting in trade, asking for 5800gs to do ToC10. Sure they will tell you it’s because they don’t want to waste their time but playing WoW or any kind of game for that matter is pretty much the definition of a waste of time if you get down to it. In fact I remember reading a philosopher in class who was arguing that the only activities worth doing were sleeping, eating and having sex. The rest is a waste of time.

What they really want in fact is a game telling them that they are great, that they are invincible and that we should all bow down at their feet, content to bask in their glory and obeying their every command. I’ve seen them and you’ve seen them too. The last ones out of the fire but the first ones when it comes to getting the rare loot.

And do you know why they hate challenges so much? It’s because it forces them to look at themselves in the mirror and not see the glorious conqueror but rather what they really are.

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I know I tend to do this on wednesday but work kept getting in the way and I prefered to wait a little instead of rushing something.

So last week things went as they went in our current age, with me leveling up slowly to 46, becoming a hero of Aughaire and honorary hobbit barbarian of the tribe. I was promised I could pick a woman as my wife but I ran away when it looked like she wanted to eat me… in a stew, with the bones of her fallen enemies and the blood of the innocent. So yeah, great people to fight Angmar with but I don’t think It will become a resort destination.

This week I want to address something I’ve heard often about Lord of the ring online. A lot of people who have tried it have walked away from it between level 20 and 30 and most of them have pointed out the same thing,

“All you do is kill goblins, wolf and spiders all the time… it’s boring!”

True! You know what I’m doing at level 46? killing goblins! You know what I will be doing in Moria? Killing goblins. In Mirkwood? Spiders!!

So why is this a bad thing? Why do you find it so boring? Because you’re playing a MMO like you are playing Diablo. You are after loot, crazy monsters and big spells. It’s not wrong and it’s very enjoyable but it’s not what Lotro is about. Lotro is about living in the Third Age and experiencing it. That’s what a MMO is!!! I hear some people shout.

Wrong… or rather it’s what MMOs are advertised to be. A lot of them and I’m looking at WoW in particular here are first games and then experiences. WoW is interested in providing fun mechanics and rewards in form of loot and monsters, the “living in the world” comes second. What makes it different from Diablo is that you are doing it in a persistent world with millions of others.

Lotro offers you living in Tolkien’s world as its own reward. That means that walking forever in the brown of Lone lands should be fun and rewarding for you. It means that killing goblins all over the place should be great because that’s what it’s all about. Living the at the end of the Third age when Sauron is trying to destroy the free people of the world. This is what the games offer before loot and monsters.

There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a game here but if you are more interested in WoW style of gaming then Lotro will not be for you. You will play up to 20 or 30 and then decides that killing goblins is only fun for so long before you go look somewhere else. But if you think experiencing Tolkien world can be fun, do take the time to enjoy it and don’t simply rush through everything. You don’t have to be max level to experience the best of Tolkien here.

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Alan Wake review

First of all I want to give a special thank to mmogamerchick for making me discover this game and give it a shot. I was dimly aware that it existed but until she talked about it on her blog I was completely oblivious to this wonderful survival horror game.  Thanks!

I want to start this review by talking about survival horror games, a genre that has been with us for a while and became popular thanks to the Resident Evil series but sadly one that is frequently misused or badly done. Really good survival horrors games are few and far between and although a lot of them try to create that one special game everyone will talk about a lot of them fail along the way or become weird hybrids that are closer to actions games or shooters than true survival horror games. Resident evil 5 is a good example of a survival horror game that became something else (still good though).

So besides being scary, what is a survival horror game? It’s simply a game where the goal is to survive the situations the game throw at you. In a classic game the goal is to beat the opposition but here it’s simply to survive the situation wich may include defeating enemies but in the end you never get to completely wipe out the menace.

Ode to horror classics

First and foremost Alan Wake is a game made for horror fans by horror fans. The game does it best to draw its inspiration from the works of Stephen King, Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and other sources in the same genre like Twin Peaks and the Twilight Zone. In fact it’s probably the closest thing we will ever get to a Stephen King game. I’m saying this because wether or not you will enjoy the game depends on if you like that style of horror. The slow building type where nothing is clear and stuff doesn’t always make sense. The game starts with a quote to that effect warning the player that to enjoy this game you must play along and forget for a moment about cold rational logic.

The game

It’s hard for me to talk about this game without giving spoilers. Talking about the story or any of its element can ruin a big part of the game and I really don’t want to do that.

That said, is it a good survival horror game? Yes it is. In fact it’s probably one of the very best ones. The graphics and music are extremely well done and combined with the flashlight mechanics really creates a great spooky atmosphere. Also,the environments are believable enough that you feel like you’ve been there before or at least seen a place that looks like it. I felt like I could really go trekking around Cauldron lake as I was playing the game.

Is it scary? Yes and no… in fact spooky might be the better word here. I know a lot of people have reported jumping when playing this game but I haven’t felt that way really. It was great fun and somewhat scary at times but not with the intensity others have reported. I suppose how you will experience it depends a lot on your tolerance to horror movies and the likes.

The list

Because no review would be complete without it!

The monkey liked:

-The visuals, especially when the flashlight came into play. Also great and believable scenery.
-The story. Clever and it makes sense in its own way. Doesn’t resort to cheap tricks all the time to try to be scary.
-The overall experience. It’s a bit hard to describe in bullet points but the whole game as a whole was just awesome!

The monkey disliked:

-The noise of the game disc. The disc makes so much noise I had to install the game to my hard drive. Not happy with the sloppy programming here.
-Short and expensive. Awesome game but real expensive for such a short game. At least its quality time.

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Real life crits you for …

Sorry for the lack of updates the past few days but as the title says things got really crazy for me in Real-life(tm).  Work, preparing to move to a new appartment and a slew of others things are eating at my time bad. I’m not abandonning the blog but I don’t know at what frequency I’ll be able to update in the following days. On the same note, the Salamanders project is now on hold until I’m settled in the new appartment.

With that said enjoy the sunny weekend!

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Two months ago I was writing on this blog about how my raiding guild disapeared in a drama-fest caused by a struggling raid and in wich I was one of the main actors. To make a long story short I was raid leading when I shouldn’t have and different expectations from myself(raid-leader) as well as the leadership of the guild caused tensions wich finaly got the better of all of us. One of my worst gaming moment by far and it caused me to quit WoW and look elsewhere for my MMO fix.

Back then I was wondering if I could/should make the switch to a casual lifestyle, one that wasn’t centered on endgame or raiding or completing the big challenges a game had to offer. I wasn’t sure if I would like it but I tought it would be a nice idea to try it at least.

Well two months later of easy casual living I can say the experiment is a huge success. Going “hardcore” casual has been a revelation in many ways. For one thing it changed the way I approach a game completly. Not playing with endgame and raiding in mind does make for a completly different experience of the game. Simply exploring and enjoying the world without always thinking about achievements or completing tasks for endgame is a refreshing change of pace. I actually stop and read the quest text!

So that’s why there’s been a lot less MMO centric posts recently. Lotro is fun and having fun is actually harder to write about than when you’re angry with something. For now I’m taking the time to smell the flowers and enjoy the sights and it enough to keep me happy.

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Got your attention now! Since nothing much new is happening on the MMO front for me right now and since other bloggers are doing a fine job of being angry with WoW I’ll bore you some more with Starcraft 2 beta. I mean right now in Lotro I’m killing orcs in Angmar yet again so… lots of fun but not much to talk about.

Back to SC2. Played quite a few matches over the weekend and I can feel this game growing on me. I was pretty excited to start with but now it’s becoming an addiction and I can’t wait for the full game to come out. I’ve clawed my way back to a 50/50 win-loss ratio and I have hope to be able to climb back out of the copper league at some point soon. The learning phase is brutal in this game but now that I’m starting to get a hang of things it’s becoming really fun. On that topic, I’ve been thinking of writing a guide for absolute beginners so if its something that would interest you drop a comment below.

Slugging match

Sunday I got the play my most exciting game of starcraft 2, a 40 minutes slugfest that involved a ton of feints and counter-feints, epic battles, sneaky tactics and the full use of our races.  I was up against a zerg player who set the tone of the match by nearly pulling off a successful rush and me barely hanging on. We would reverse the roles for the rest of the match with one of us nearly killing the other and then being beaten back. I eventually won through attrition and economy as I found out that our exchanges usually ended up costing him a lot more than it cost me.

But what really made the game special is that around the 30 minutes mark my opponent piped up:
Opponent: “Whatever happens man, this is the best game I’ve played so far. Thanks!”
Me: “Likewise, great game!”

I’ve said it with Lotro and now I’m seeing it a lot in SC2, there’s decent people out there who can be civil with each other. In fact I’m finding out that the Starcraft crowd takes great pain to be polite and congratulates you even when they lose. Sure you come across the occasional “pwn” kid but most of the game starts with a “Good luck, have fun” and ends with a GG(Good game) in the true spirit of the term. It’s fun to be able to get beaten without being insulted.
Later that day I was checking the Starcraft 2 site and found the Battle Reports, games played by top players and commented by Blizzard. I was so proud of myself and then I started crying when I saw those guy plays…

http://us.starcraft2.com/features/battlereports/4.xml

maybe some day I’ll last 5 minutes against them.

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