Tenfold Hate


Bring It On, Winter Doldrums
January 7, 2009, 11:08 am
Filed under: Film, Gaming

Not much going on with me game-wise since the holidays. Still having a hell of a lot of fun with LoTRO, but merrymaking coupled with post-holiday blues has compromised my MMO time the past few weeks. I’ve never been a fan of those “year-in-review/predictions-for-the-upcoming-year” posts, so I’ll spare you all. Simply put, 2008 was a year of lukewarm games failing to hold my attention. From Mythic and Blizzard to Funcom and SOE, a good part of the year was spent bed hopping from Vanguard to Burning Crusade to Age of Conan to Warhammer.

While none of these games are terrible by any means, it took LoTRO coming waaay out of left field with the MoM expansion to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth.

2008 was not all mediocrity on the MMO front–if only because it spawned the Spouse Aggro podcast. Beau Turkey, who took over the helm at Troy’s Voyages of Vanguard podcast earlier this year, and his wife Leala (who hosts the uber-awesome Epic Dolls podcast) lend a breath of fresh air to the often all-too-whiny, eternally dissatisfied legion of MMO bloggers and podcasters out there.

For me, these guys pull off in their podcasts what Tipa over at West Karana miraculously has pulled off in her blog year after year–that perfect blend of intelligent discussion, humor, and a true affection for RPGs.

Caught two great westerns over the holidays–one old, one new.

The first is John Ford’s Fort Apache. Ford’s work stands the test of time surprisingly well, whereas many other classic Hollywood westerns can come off as a bit to hokey. Henry Fonda. John Wayne. Apaches on the warpath. What more do you need?

The second is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This flick is not your standard western. If you like the slow, poetic style of directors like Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog, you’ll love this one–which plays more like a starstruck stalker flick than a shoot-em-up. Great performances all around.

What am I looking forward to in the first half of 2009? Watchmen.



Gamer’s Grab Bag
November 11, 2008, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

Over the weekend, I purchased my first PS3 games–LittleBigPlanet and Fallout 3. I’ve played through the first few introductory levels of LBP and have nothing but good things to say about this game. The physics engine is really cool and learning to negotiate the controls was easier than I thought after 3+ years away from any sort of console.

I picked up LBP at Gamestop where they had some leftover preorder cards floating around, so my sock puppet was able to add some neat “God of War” Minotaur and Medusa bonus outfits to his repetoire.

I only played Fallout 3 for about an hour, and quickly became bored with the constant cut scenes. Take my initial impressions with a grain of salt. I’m not a fan of FPS-style games, and prefer my RPGs from behind a keyboard and monitor. I’ll have a more balanced perspective when I muster up the energy to play more and get into the meat of the game.

I logged into WAR a couple times over the weekend. I had a great time Saturday night taking a keep in Ostland. We had a decent warband and Destruction put up a good fight, but we ultimately prevailed. Did I mention how much I love the Swordmaster? But outside of open world group play (which is usually a weekend guarantee on my server) I haven’t been very engaged with questing or scenario grinding lately.

Last night, I also checked back into LoTRO. My brother-in-law is a Tolkien fanatic and very casual MMO gamer who just got his main to max level in preparation for Mines of Moria. He’s probably gonna roll one of the new expansion classes, so I was getting my level 12 Guardian in shape for the influx of low level players who will no doubt be looking for a tank come late November.

After all this RvR hooplah, I could use some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls. And visually, LoTRO still puts all other MMORPGs to shame. Prove me wrong. The world is so damn pretty, I actually enjoy getting lost in it. I’m hoping some cooperative group play will cure some of the existential loneliness WAR conjured up in me too.



Burnt
October 29, 2008, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

WAR has thrown my MMO play habits completely out-of-whack. You see, spring and fall are when I tend to forsake my more hermetic pastimes (MMORPGs) for RL endeavors, only to return to fanatic button mashing during the sweltering heat of summer or that dreary, post-holiday tail end of winter.

But after a month plus of obsessively playing WAR, I’m starting to feel the fatigue of returning to an MMORPG full force. The elements of the modern MMORPG I find lacking (and bitch about constantly) are really impeding/killing my enjoyment of the genre. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope with static worlds, leveling, and generic, respawning mobs. And I just can’t solo PvE anymore. No matter how hard I try. It’s mindless. It’s not challenging. There’s zero skill involved. And all I achieve from it is another notch on the level bar that has very little significance to me anymore anyway.

This got me to thinking, “Stripped of their multiplayer/more “social” elements, would any current MMORPG be more than just a massive pile of regurgetated, recycled suck?” Though I’m playing devil’s advocate to a certain extent, there is some seriousness to the question. Sure, the breadth and depth of the actual landscapes/zones in most MMORPGs is just breathtaking.

But at the end of the day, when I’ve grown tired of looking at the pretty scenery, it’s the casual, pleasant social elements of being in an agreeable guild (or playing with RL friends) that’s kept me in every single MMORPG I’ve played long after the game’s “best before” date of fun had long expired.

I don’t think we as MMORP gamers give ourselves half as much credit as we deserve for breathing life into the often flat, monotonous confines we’re given to play in.

Pssst…PS3?

I haven’t picked up a console title since 2005. In fact, the last console I owned was a PS2 I chucked last month when I moved into a new apartment. I don’t want to jump into MMO’s I’m looking forward to (like TCoS ) with a bitter, burnt out gamer mentality when they are eventually released. So, I’m thinking of picking up a PS3 while I cool my jets and take a little mental health break from gnomes, dragons, and grinding. Why a PS3? For the Blu-Ray player.

I know the PS3 doesn’t have quite the extensive range of games as the 360, but the fact that the PS3 always comes up when NCSoft (and obviously SOE) talk about developing games for the console, I feel like it’d be the wiser choice for me down the line.

Any console advice–either wii, XBOX 360, PS3, or otherwise? Probably won’t be another month or two before I lay out the cash for a console anyway.



I Petition the Gaming Gods
July 29, 2008, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

Give me something to play…something to WRITE about. Fortunately, that mass crap machine we lovingly know as Hollywood has provided me with a surrogate outlet for my sci-fi/fantasy/escapist cravings this summer. Dark Knight was electrifying, Iron Man and Incredible Hulk were very good, and The Strangers successfully scared the crap out of me.

But my keyboard just isn’t calling. The screenshots from DC Universe Online look good. Here’s hoping Sony delivers something playable behind the pretty pictures. I’m so ambivalent about Warhammer that the recently announced content cuts haven’t even thrown me into a frenzy. I’ll try my best to reserve my judgment–and potential excitement or disappointment–until release. Getting my panties in a bunch about developer speculation, spin, and buzz at this point makes me feel like one of those armageddon crazies with a sandwich board strapped to my chest that reads, “The End is Nigh.”

I hope everyone is having a safe, happy summer and I hope I have something engaging to write about on the MMORPG front soon!



The Viability of Microtransactions
January 16, 2008, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

There is a great thread that’s been going for several days now over at The Common Sense Gamer instigated by some comments SOE’s John Smedley recently made regarding microtransactions. I urge you to check it out if you haven’t read it yet.

There is no question that microtransactions are a viable business model–especially since they provide access to games for very young players still tied to their parents’ purse strings who might not be able to scratch up the nominal $15 dollars a month in subscription fees.

For social MMOs that aren’t “games” in the traditional sense–Second Life for example, microtransact away if that floats your boat. It’s not so much the nickel-and-diming that comes with microtransactions that turns me off to them. It’s the uneven playing field they create. Money and fairness don’t mix. Look at politics. Look at class structure. Look at professional athletics. Anyone ever see Eight Men Out about the White Sox throwing the World Series?

Face it. In most MMORPGs, competition for resources–be it currency, materials, or gear–is a major element in the game, whether the game is PvE, PvP, or a hybrid. If these resources can be purchased with real money, this not only devalues the time and effort put in by folks that didn’t buy their way to their goals, but also has as much of an adverse effect on game economy as gold farmers do. The only difference? The money is going into the pockets of the designers instead of some cyber-sweatshop overseer in Singapore.

My main problem with SOE in particular is perhaps Smed should not look at payment methods as the “barrier to entry” for getting people to play MMOs. SOE spread themselves too thin. They have what–around ten plus games and 90% of them are lemons?

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, though, since he is as much a businessman as he is “Joe Average gamer who happens to be at the helm of the MMO division of a huge multinational corporation.” 200,000 subs is a healthy monthly subscription number, but thanks to Blizzard, suits look at those numbers (which are by no means representative of any other pay-to-play western MMO before or after WoW) and $ay, “Hey, how can we do that?” Not every athlete can be Rocky Marciano or Jackie Robinson. That doesn’t make them bad at what they do.

Make a game that’s fun and people will play (and pay), regardless of the payment method. That’s one thing Blizzard has proven that is attainable, whereas CEOs lu$ting after nine million $ub$criber$ might be setting the bar a bit high at this point. Continue to churn out mediocre title after mediocre title and pissing in the wind, and no one’s gonna care whether it’s free-to-play or you’re paying us to play it.

Build it, and they will come.



Shakespeare & SOE
January 4, 2008, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

I don’t know if it’s post-Christmas shell shock or what, but it’s been a pretty uneventful week gaming newswise. Since I was out of the loop for most of 2007 with a fried laptop, you’ll be spared any sort of 2007 wrap up from me.

My return to WoW has proven a lot more entertaining than my return to Vanguard. I got through high school and four and a half years of college never having read a whole Shakespeare play. Likewise, after 25 years as an RPGer and four as an MMORPGer–I have yet to make it past the complimentary first month free subscription of any SOE title. At least SOE are in good company. As a big comic book geek, I’m betting their DC Heroes MMO is the one that finally ropes me in if it’s done right.



Back From the Holidaze
January 2, 2008, 11:18 am
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Not much to report here. Didn’t get a chance to try Tabula Rasa yet. I ended up giving the copy I ordered for myself to my brother-in-law. He and my sister are expecting their second kid this spring, so his window of opportunity for gaming will be somewhat limited once the new bairn arrives.

I used the LoTRO buddy key I’ve been sitting on since last spring, but by the time I returned from my week-and-a-half of holiday merrymaking, the 10-day trial was up. I guess some things just aren’t meant to be.

Speaking of things not meant to be, I didn’t renew my Vanguard subscription. It just didn’t offer me anything substantially different–or more fun–than the other fantasy MMOs out there. Telon never quite sunk its talons into me the way WoW did.

And speaking of the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, I finally installed Burning Crusade. Despite all my protests upon release, and hemming and hawing about Blizzard resting on its laurels by giving us more of the same dressed up in a different skin, the game is fun. They’ve learned how to incorporate rep grinding into questing a lot better and added enough new twists and tweaks to suck me back in like Pacino in Godfather 3.

I made some great online friends in my old WoW guild and was pleased to see that many of them are still there, proving yet again that it’s not so much the game you’re playing, but the people you’re playing with.