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Archive for November, 2011

Dcuo, a guilty, but fun pleasure.

Wow… this blog has grown quiet for the past few days. I would like to say that there’s a good reason for that but the truth is my mind was simply elsewhere. I’m either playing Skyrim or DCUO recently or catching up on Tv series and writing here has been less present on my mind.

On to the main topic now DC universe online and my playing it which is a big surprise to me. For one, I wasn’t a fan of previous super hero MMO titles and second, with the exception of Batman, I don’t really like the whole DC universe, Superman and aliens just never worked for me.

DCUO is a weird beast of an MMO. The regular trappings are all there, levels, skill trees, instances, loot, etc… but it plays a lot faster. In fact, DCUO main difference from classic MMO is that is was made to be playable on consoles and it’s an action MMO. Meaning you do a fair bit of button smashing, there’s combos to be done by pressing the right buttons the right way and you have to aim to hit stuff. No auto attack here.

The game doesn’t innovate much besides that, you still have kill 10 rats quests. The instances are not that great and ultimately it all boils down to getting loot.

Yet, I’m having a blast with it. Why? Because this game remembered one of the greatest lessons there is to any game. Ultimately, it all boils down to giving the player a memorable experience. Mechanics should not be more important than what’s going on around you and DCUO succeeds at that. When I play, I feel like I’m Gotham City or Metropolis and I love that I’m fighting Bane or the Titans. Everything is done to make you feel like you’re right there with all the super heroes and villains of DC and I’m enjoying the game simply because of that. The flaws the game got (and it has many, believe me) get forgotten because I’m not thinking about the mechanics while playing.

So I’d like the other developers to take a good, hard look at this little game and take some notes. It’s not the greatest game of all times, its way too short and there’s a lot of improvement to be had but they have succeeded at the most important task which is reminding us all that ultimately, we play MMO because we want to live in a particular world for a while and not because it has the best mechanics of them all.

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Some Skyrim link love

Just found this over on Richard Cobbet site. A bit of spoilers but lots of lols!

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So I had a plan to keep me occupied until Old Republic. It consisted of keeping raiding to beat that damn Ragnaros, play some Starcraft 2 and mess around in Arkham City…

Then DC universe online went free, I rediscovered the joy of being scared pantless in Amnesia : Dark Descent and I got Heroes of Might and Magic 6 on whim and it turns out it’s a great game… and then Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 get releases and to top it all off, I’m starting to think Skyrim looks interesting.

So…. besides quitting my job… anyone got any tips to juggle 9 games at once?

Edit: I forgot Dark Souls… so it’s 10 games now.

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Before I start I suggest you read this post by Kaozz which was in turn inspired by this post from Encrazed Craft.  And one particular bit that really got my attention was this quote:

I think Blizzard needs to think things over before doing such dramatic changes on such a constant basis. Heroics are hard…. Heroics are not hard! Over complicating stats, combining stats…. It gets to a point where it feels like we’re dealing with one of those plastic surgery addicts… We never know what things are going to look like after going under the knife so many times. With each patch and expansion I feel like I recognize my characters less and less.

In a lot of ways, this quote sums up the feeling I’ve been having about WoW since Wrath of the Lich King. It’s not that change is bad in itself but when you keep changing something over and over and over again at some point you change the game so much it becomes unrecognizable from what it originally was. 

Case in point, when I started playing WoW back in Vanilla I do so with quite a few friends. There were 11 of us to be exact. Out of those 11 people, only I still play WoW. With one exception for drama, the 9 other people all left for the same reason. Something changed about the game that they really didn’t enjoy and that caused them to leave. For example, a close friend of mine had a hunter and a Paladin and at some point he just got tired of having his classes experimented upon and gave up.

Creating an abomination

In a lot of ways, I feel like Blizzard has been playing mad scientist with WoW for quite a while. Just take the raid size and lockouts for example. They moved from 40 to BC model of 10 for some raids and 25 for the others. Then, they did both 10/25 versions of all the raids but with separate lockouts and gear and now they share the same lockout and gear.  Another good example would be the constant changes to the Paladin class since launch.

I know that this kind of design is called Iterative design. In short, you improve slowly upon a concept until you reach the best result. However there’s a trap to Iterative design which is that you can reach a point where your final product is entirely different from the original need. For example, if you design a car and you end up with an airplane, chances are you lost your way somewhere and even if you think a plane is way cooler than a car, if the client wanted a car he won’t like the airplane much.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not about whether the idea is a great one or a bad one. I’m  not saying either Blizzard shouldn’t try to improve the game. I’m saying that there’s a trap in all of this and I think Blizzard may have fallen for it. By keeping experimenting with WoW, they are turning it into some sort of Frankenstein monster and every time they add a new arm or leg, a few more player get disgusted by the creature and leave.

And very much like the mad scientists of B movie, Blizzard is exulting in their new “perfect” creation without realizing that outside the castle, more and more peasants are picking up torches and pitchforks.

Calming down a bit

I’ll admit, I used exaggeration a bit in the above post to make it a more enjoyable read but I’d like to take the time to make sure everyone understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that changes to WoW are bad in themselves. For all I know, the upcoming changes in patch 5.0 could very well be excellent decisions from a mechanics standpoint. Stat squishing or Mega damage might not sound like a ton of fun but you get that it’s becoming necessary to change some things about that.

What I’m saying is that the constant changes and experimentation done with WoW are changing the very nature of the game and that is one of the reasons why people are quitting or complaining loudly. To give an example I’m going to talk about Star Wars NGE. Star Wars NGE (New game experience) was an attempt to make the old Star Wars MMO more appealing to a larger audience and get more profit out of a game that wasn’t doing that great. NGE literally turned the game upside down and turned out to be a disaster.

I know from someone who took classes to become a video game designer that the NGE is taught to student as the perfect example of what not to do with a MMO. While the changes in NGE were on paper good ideas, it alienated the remaining players who loved things the way they were and it failed to draw in new players, leaving the game in a very sorry state.

This is what I’m getting at here. It’s not about whether the changes are good on paper or not. It’s about how they change the way you play the game. The more you change the player experience, the more you risk turning away players who loved to thinker with talents tree, who loved to carry arrows arround because it felt more like a living game to them and you risk turning away players who loved their WoW with a darker tone.

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Pleasant surprise, DC Universe Online

During the weekend I gave a short go at DCUO out of sheer curiosity. Since it’s now free to play, I was curious to see what that game looked like and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s not game of the year material and if I had to pay 50$ + subscription I would probably be a bit disappointed.

I’m not going to turn this into a full review because I haven’t spent a ton of time with the game and also I was more interested in the Action Rpg aspect of the game. Rapidly, DCUO is your classic superhero game where you create your own super powered hero or villain and fight against an incredibly powerful evil from outer space (Brainiac in this case). If you’re into superhero and like the DC universe, chances are you’ll like this game too at least until you run out of content.

What I found really interesting is how DCUO went for a different tack with this game. Most of the game is classic MMO fare with levels, talent trees and kill 10 rats type quests but it plays out like an action game. This is a game where you will have to actively block and dodge attacks and where you have to aim at targets to hit them. And I have to say it works pretty well. I was enjoying myself a lot playing a MMO like it was an action game. The combat was fast paced and felt a lot more exciting that hitting my abilities in a perfect rotation.

The downside though is that it makes content go by rather fast and I’ve been reading that this is the main problem in DCUO. You get to endgame fast and suddenly find yourself with very little to do. Fast paced, action style games do have a few drawbacks.

On the whole, I will probably play this game a bit in the following days if only to see what an action MMO really looks like. I now wish for DCUO to keep going for a long time because if anything, this is a game that made a good attempt at something and I hope to see some of its concepts carry over in other games.

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To the lowly peons

Warning! Irony ahead.

Dear peons,

today I write to you from a very special place. I’ll give a few hints to your fungus-beer addled minds. It’s very warm, there’s fire all over the place and there’s a huge red guy screaming all the time….

No it’s not Firelands you slug brains!!! It’s Hell and you sent me there when your -literal- back-stabbing ways.  27 sword stabs were more than enough!! You didn’t need to stab me over a hundred times and wear out the equipment in the process you bunch of incompetent monkeys!

So, what happened? There I was leading you through Raid #591-A(bis), screaming at you and whipping Dumblock as is proper when you guys turned on me. Apparently some members of the tribe didn’t like being yelled at constantly and felt I was mean to them. Look, it’s not my fault if I have to tell you everything. If I don’t you will all probably stab yourselves with your swords or fall down into every fiery pit. I had to lead you or you would have surely failed. Only my genius could ever save you from certain doom.

Anyway, I don’t get how my constant insults and threats turned you against me but here we are. Your pathetic tribe will keep carrying on while my new tribe “The unguildables” will rule the world. Well, they will as soon as they submit to my will and once Lolgolas stops drooling all over the place. Also, I might have to do something about that rogue who keeps hanging about the guild bank…

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah! My terrible vengeance! Soon, I will break out of this hell and crush all of you and you’ll all beg me to take you back. After all, without me you are nothing. So I will make this offer, join me now or be destroyed!

/signed EmoWar, Lord of Creation

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PC issues

One of the joys of PC gaming is that from time to time, you have to fight the damn beasts to get things working how you would like them to. I had a hard drive die on me a few weeks ago and since then I’ve been fighting my PC trying to set things right and fix them myself.

After multiple formats, a shady piece dealer (I had to buy a 100$ of crap to be able to buy a hard drive from him) and a few other adventures(an exorcism was completed) I’m finally in the clear and the proud owner of a new 1 tera hard drive.

Hopefully I’ll be able to return to a normal posting schedule soon. Thanks for your patience.

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