Tenfold Hate

Back At It
October 23, 2009, 12:13 pm
Filed under: MMORPGs, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After a healthy MMORPG hiatus, it’s hard to believe it has been nine months since I’ve posted. I was in Champions beta for a wee bit, but got bored after clocking in a few hours of game play. Nothing particularly wrong with it–but there was nothing “right” for me about this game either. Plug highly customizable superheroes into the most tired, played out, massively multiplayer cookie cutter formulas. If that’s your bag, you’ll be pleased as punch.

It’s not so much that I’ve given up on MMORPGs as I feel MMORPGs have given up on me–or more accurately–turned their backs on fans looking for something they haven’t seen a thousand times before. Despite all this, I’ve been itching to play something, and that something equaled resubscribing to Warhammer Online. I’ve been playing very casually and having a swell old time in Tier One.

Mostly, I’m trying some of the classes I didn’t bother with the first time around (magus, shaman, and Knight of the Blazing Sun). Server consolidation, new open world RvR incentives, and 10-day free trials have made Tier One RvR a very healthy, fun place to spend a couple hours a night if you enjoy PvP.

Over a year after launch, I still feel this game has some of the best classes in any MMO–and the PvP is as close to being done right as anything out there at the moment. Which admittedly, may not be saying a hell of a lot. I love the Warhammer books, so being a tourist in that world again is a great deal of fun for me too.

That’s not to say there still aren’t issues.

1) While the outcome of RvR results in the victors having access to buffs, experience bonuses, and special vendors, these massive battles still have little to no bearing on the game environment itself (barring flight path accessibility). This is my old hang-up with all MMORPGs (phasing, while a clever immediate fix, would not be a cure-all).

2) Tier One RvR has been great–everything I’d hoped for the game the first time around. I had a blast RvR’ing a Knight of the Blazing Sun all the way through Tier One, but once I reached Tier Two, the RvR action quieted down considerably. I found myself back where I was left during my first go at WAR: queuing for scenarios. Again, these are great fun but should not serve as the focal point of a game.

The two Tier 3 characters I played after launch are on the last remaining Open RvR server. The pop on that server is painfully quiet so I really can’t speak to the Tier 3 experience at the moment.

If I could transfer these characters to a more populated server I would in a flash, but I think at the moment, there are no Open RvR to standard server transfers permitted.

3) After a few web browser searches, it appears the WAR blogging community is virtually non-existent–either burnt out, faded away, or simply not vocal enough. I know from my time back in-game, the players are out there. Are any of you WAR bloggers still kicking around?

While I’m having a great time, I’m not forgetting my initial zeal for this game that slowly faded after a couple months’ play when “War Is Everywhere” slowly began to feel like “Grind Is Everywhere.”

In my opinion, WAR’s Tier One experience is second-to-none and the vibrant Tier One RvR makes it the most casual-friendly game I’ve ever played.

My big question is, will the healthy Tier One population translate to the higher tiers as time goes by, or will I end up playing a bunch of different classes through Tier One and find myself hitting the wall I hit a year ago?

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The Usual Hiatus
January 29, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

I hit that wall I face every couple months where online gaming totally loses its luster and just doesn’t feel very satisfying, so I’ll probably be taking a little breather from posting for a wee bit. Too much snow here.

In the meantime, here’s a really funny video blog from Beau Turkey.

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Men in Tights
January 22, 2009, 10:17 am
Filed under: Comics, MMORPGs

There’s a lot of speculation about what the new shiny of 2009 will be. Though at best it’ll garnish nothing larger than a niche group of players (if it’s any good–or in fact, more than vaporware) I’m intrigued by Darkfall. Any move away from the gear-based, Barbie dress-up game that all major fantasy MMOs have become has potential in my book–and FFA looting ensures that your character won’t strictly be what he or she wears. I’m certainly willing to forsake somewhat outdated graphics for a change of pace–but I tend to enjoy PvP. Most don’t. And FFA looting has the potential to become very frustrating very fast depending on player culture and maturity levels.

But the big slugfest of the upcoming year will surely be between DC Universe Online and Champions. DCUO will no doubt win out on the sub side since they have the big name license and the big name company behind them. But which will be the better game?

The recently released preview of DCUO fell short in my eyes. The city (presumably Metropolis) seemed too “clean,” the character models didn’t scream “Jim Lee,” and the screen was overpopulated with glowing orbs and floating whirligigs, hearkening back to the power ups and hovering coins of arcade games of yore. I loved Crystal Castles and Double Dragon, but the thing is, I wanna forget I’m playing a video game every so often in an RPG.

Both DCUO and Champions promise an “action-oriented” game too. This is another cool idea that has yet to be executed well. One of them has gotta pull it off, right? But let’s get back to the subject at hand–MMORPGs–and what they’ve been sorely lacking. Story.

Now before you start up, I don’t wanna hear how the Death Knight is really cool and Blizzard really outdid themselves with adding quirky quests and fun twists to WoTLK. Stitches by any other name is still Stitches and I’ve been there, done that, it was fun, but it’s over.

This is where Champions hooks me in. Their Nemesis system allows you to create an archenemy for your hero who plays a significant role in your game play. Now this creates some solid potential for unique storytelling, one that moves away from the cookie cutter quest lines we’ve all been ushered through for the last half decade. You’ll not only be able to customize your character with an even greater breadth than Cryptic gave us in CoH, but you’ll be able to customize your powers and how they look.

The main thing that troubles me with superhero MMOs is that I’ve never found it an adequate fit for existing MMO conventions, like the tank/healer/DPS archetypes or the raid/dungeon crawl-reskinned-as-instanced-evil-scientist’s-underground-lair-crawl. Since those mechanics are so rooted in fantasy tabletop RPGs, they’ve always seemed strangely forced to me in any other genre.

Atari and Cryptic: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together?
December 9, 2008, 9:28 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

Just got the news over at Massively. Despite any prior indication that this was coming around the bend, it appears Atari has acquired Cryptic Studios. With the resources required in this day and age to put out a “Triple A” MMORPG, I don’t see anything wrong with smaller studios getting an economic piggy-back from larger companies. Anything in the current economic landscape that gives MMORPG studios a bit more survivability (as long as it’s not accompanied by total creativite compromise) is probably a good thing.

Revisiting Middle Earth
November 20, 2008, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online, MMORPGs

Last night, my brother-in-law and I set out to conquer Middle Earth on our freshly rolled rune-keeper and warden. This was an exciting night for me. You see, we’ve both been playing MMORPGs for many years now, but we’ve never quite been on the same page. He avoided WoW because of the cartoonish graphics, while I embraced it. When I started Guild Wars, he had just quit.

When he started LoTRO, my computer fried–and when my new comp was in working order, I began one of my many brief stints in Vanguard. He was playing Tabula Rasa when the reskinned shinies of Burning Crusade lured me back in for a couple months. That, coupled with the fact that having two kids under four-years-of-age severely restricts his game time, contributed to our repeated passing like two pixelated ships in the night.

But yesterday, we breezed through the introductory Thorin’s Hall content, settled on our crafting professions, and talked of future adventures. Our timing was finally right. And the same can be said for LoTRO and me–the timing is finally right. The first thing you need to remember is I’m generally mono-game-ous.

I half-heartedly tried a 10-day free trial of LoTRO when I was in AoC open beta, having freshly stepped off the Warcraft hamster wheel for a bit of a breather. Turbine’s vision of Middle Earth immediately appealed to me, but I just wasn’t able to wash away the putrid taste PvE, level-based gaming had left in my mouth.

Fast forward to present. As WAR proved to not quite be my cup-of-tea over the course of the last month, I warmed up a little to the idea of returning to a straightforward PvE title. WAR taught me that it wasn’t PvE I was sick of, but the arbitrary nature of most gameplay in MMORPGs, whether it’s fighting PvP battles that don’t impact anything, or filling experience bars for the sake of leveling.

After all, that’s why I constantly dream about truly persistent environments and non-scripted encounters against AI that actually lives up to the “I” in its name. Patterns reveal themselves all too quickly, the virtual world loses that illusion of spontaneity–and with it any sense of “life”–and the game loses it’s luster.

Don’t get me wrong, LoTRO is not revolutionary in this way by any means. You’ve still got the kill, collect, and messenger quests anyone coming from any slew of MMORPGs is all too familar with (and generally tired of). For me though, the care given to storytelling in LoTRO is what breathes life back into what’s long ago become a tired treadmill.

As my guardian wrapped up Chapter One, that sense of progressing through a story conjured up the old feeling I’d get running with friends through a D&D module during my fledgling pen-and-paper days. The mechanics and the process of leveling felt secondary here–an afterthought–where it seems to be the focus in all too many other games. After all, if we’d played D&D strictly for our love of rolling dice, we’d all have just become craps players, no?

My first time playing, I didn’t give myself much of a chance to interact with the fabulous community LoTRO has. This may sound crazy, but it’s almost like the reverence and love players have for the Tolkien cannon somehow rubs off on the game–and that respect and courtesy translates to how players treat one another. I experienced this on a microcosmic level in Vanguard, but at the time, that game had neither the population nor the cohesive world to keep me there.

The community as a whole seems to truly enjoy experiencing the game and its world without eyes and minds locked on the destination–or the progression bar at the bottom of the screen. More than anything, I’m puzzled at how a game that seems so conventional on the surface has been able to rekindle my interest and offer a depth largely absent from the majority of most other kill/collect/rinse/repeat MMOs.

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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.

Bought a PS3
November 7, 2008, 10:31 am
Filed under: Console Gaming, MMORPGs

Okay, I picked up a PS3 this week. I haven’t even hooked it up or purchased any games yet. I’ve devoted all my game time the last four years to MMORPGs, so I’m not even up on what seems worth playing. The last two console games I purchased were Red Dead Revolver and X-Men: Legends for the PS2. That’s how out of the loop I am.

I’m putting my MMORPG playing on hold for the most part until TCoS is released Stateside. I am riding out my 3-month WAR subscription. As I’ve pointed out before, the classes are awesome; the look, feel, and style of the world is spectacular; and the game appeals to my fantasy sensibilities more than any other MMO outside of LoTRO, but if they don’t fix the current lack of Open World RvR, I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it long term.

I still feel it’s the best MMORPG currently on the market for people who need an alternative to PvE, but the player interaction just isn’t there. The PLAYERS are there, but for some reason, no one talks to each other! It’s bizarre. In a strange way, I BLAME the ease of grouping, be it the instant scenario queues that wisk people out of the “real” world or the non-commital, freestyle nature of public questing.

When I look at my gaming history over the last few years, it’s been all about the fantasy: WoW, Guild Wars, AoC, LoTRO, Vanguard, and DDO. So it’s about time that I hang up my sheath for a little bit and try something new. Any suggestions?

I’m eyeing Fallout 3, but beyond that, not sure where to start…