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Mechwarrior 4 Free

Yes, you can get Mechwarrior 4 for Free.

Anyway… almost two years ago I wrote a post about how I would design a Mechwarrior MMO.  Part of this whole release of MW4 for free is that a company called Smith & Tinker bought the Mechwarrior rights three years ago, then last year they got $29 million in funding, which sounds to me like someone is trying to make a game, and given S&T’s other ventures into online stuff an MMO seems likely.  Or perhaps at the very least a Global Agenda style game with MMO elements.

Obviously, I’d love to see a Mechwarrior MMO.  I just hope they don’t screw it up.

My turn at the wheel

As I said before, I’m helping out with the MMO Track at Dragon*Con this year and part of that is every couple of weeks I post videos on the blog.  This week is my turn, and here is my entry.

Mostly, I point this out because, A) I’d like to drive what little traffic I have over there because every little bit helps, and B) I had a particularly clever turn of phrase in today’s entry.

“And now you MMO, and MMOing is half the battle.”

Sometimes I kill me! Ha!

Not All Slopes Are Slippery

Taking another angle on yesterday’s post, now I want to look at the major protest against the sparkle pony: the slippery slope.

As with any time a change is proposed, the alarmists immediately paint it as a step toward complete and total destruction.  No change can be in a vacuum, but not every change needs to be the tipping point for Armageddon either.  So the argument goes like this:

  1. Pets for sale.
  2. Mounts for sale.
  3. Epic raid gear for sale.
  4. The only way to “win” is to have the most money and “buy” victory.
  5. The planet explodes.

Yes, I’m exaggerating.  But only for step 5.  Here’s the thing… you don’t need pets.  There are pets available in game, and they’ve given away exclusive pets at Blizzcon and other events as well as sold them as part of pre-order packages and collector’s editions.  But as far as I know, the pets for sale don’t actually do anything to affect game play.  If I’m wrong, please correct me.  (A quick run through some wikis tells me that there are no bonuses but some will detrimentally affect play by ruining stealth or debuffing the owner.)  They dance, they talk, they are silly and fun, but having a pet doesn’t make your character any stronger than someone of the same class, same level, same gear but without the pet.  The pet is a toy.  And so is the mount. (Wiki link.)  The mount gains you no extra in-game advantage.  None.  It just looks pretty.

So, why the jump in step 3?  Why go from two consistent levels of selling items with no affect on game play to suddenly selling gear that does?  This is where the argument falls apart, and it is clear to see why they go there.

The pets, the mounts… the coolest pets and mounts in the game comes from raiding or hard quests.  Regular players get pets and mounts, but they are, in comparison, bland.  Blizzard has giveaways and collector’s editions and pre-orders, but again, those are somehow considered special, just like the stuff you get from playing the game at it’s highest level.  The fact is, most of the people complaining wouldn’t have an issue with Blizzard selling a $25 plain brown horse that worked that same as the Celestial Steed.  The issue is that Blizzard is selling the (arguably) coolest looking mount in the game for cash and not reserving it for their hardest working players to earn with blood, sweat and tears.

Even if Blizzard followed the advice I laid out in yesterday’s post and introduced appearance only items (items with no stats at all), it would not be an escalation.  They might end up selling the coolest looking appearance items in the game for cash, but it would not be selling raid level gear.  The thing is, to define a slippery slope, you need at least two related items that show a clear escalation which you can extrapolate to further escalations leading to destruction.  No such thing exists here.  People might not like Blizzard selling game stuff in the store, but there is no slippery slope here.

The minute Blizzard starts selling raid gear, though, you’ll find me in line throwing rotten tomatoes at them.  Until then… nothing here to get worked up about.

Myst it by that much…

I’m a huge fan of the old Myst series of games.  Puzzles and story, no combat.  Awesome.

Back when I was heavier into GameTap, I finally got a chance to play Myst Online: Uru Live … for about two days because they were shutting it down.  Hence the title of this post…

Well, thanks to Massively I have discovered that it is coming back, again.  And it is free!

I’m definitely going to be checking it out.  I might even look into their Open Source project.

Why an MMO?

Back in November, I started a thread over on the Epic Slant forums entitled “Does everything need to be an MMO?”  The spark for that post came from the various announcements of features for the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. Things like full voice, instancing, henchmen, focus on story, etc. all lead me to believe this game is going to play like a single player game where you might sometimes group up with other people.  I mean, how advanced is the story telling a full voice going to be?  If I get a mission to hunt down an escaped criminal, and we end up having to kill him, only as the healer of the group I stood in the back while my buddy killed him, will the quest text change to reflect that?  Will my buddy’s name be a part of the quest or will it be like every other game and proceed either a) thanking me for something I didn’t do, or b) generically offering thanks without naming anyone in specific.  Obviously, there is a lot of “wait and see” when it comes to these things, but as I said in the thread, as more is announced I’m getting further and further from purchasing at launch.  As it is right now, I’m probably going to wait at least three months because I want to make sure the advancement and progression of the game doesn’t fall apart.

Over at The Banstick is a post about Away Team Tactics in the recently launched Star Trek Online.  It looks very cool.  But I have to wonder why I’m subscribing to an MMO to play a game with an NPC team.  Tying back into the forum post linked above, from my time in the STO beta I can say I absolutely would have jumped into this game if it were a Single Player RPG with a subscription option to participate in the MMO elements and perhaps some downloaded expansion packs later on.

Global Agenda, despite being more FPS than RPG, has an interesting model.  You buy the game, and that buys you the typical FPS.  There is a good overview at That’s a Terrible Idea.  If you decide you like the game, you can subscribe which gets you access to more game play modes and other MMO type elements (in game email, auction houses, player run bases, and more).

STO could do this by making solo play planet and space exploration free, as well as perhaps a few “arena” style PvP areas, even some multi-player PvE stuff, then having a subscription to actually participate in Federation vs Klingon vs other empires and have an impact on the balance of power.

I really hope that more games that want to be MMOs consider Global Agenda’s model, as I think it is a superior one.  It allows players to scale up and down their participation and their cost without the all-or-nothing simple subscription model.  As it stands, from the beta I won’t be picking up STO as it, to me, felt a lot like Pirates of the Burning Sea which I also sort of liked but felt it was too much to pay for what I was getting.  But I’ll probably pick up Global Agenda, and if I enjoy it I may drop in to the full MMO from time to time when I feel its worth it.

To get back to the original question posed by the title, “MMO” is the latest craze in gaming buzzwords.  WoW has delivered so many money bags to the offices of Blizzard that every title wants to cash in, to be an MMO, whether they would be good at it or not.  I think more companies should take the time to consider if their game is actually going to be worth playing, and paying for, as an MMO and then design accordingly.  Either make an MMO or a Single Player game with some MMO elements, but don’t make a Single Player game and then charge a monthly fee for it.

Cats & Bags, Ledges & Jumping

Mostly, this post exists entirely to commit me to action so that I can’t back out and if I do people can call me out on it and say, “You said you were going to, then didn’t!”

Last year, I sat down on December first, thoroughly disappointed that I’d failed the NaNoWriMo, again, and thought to myself, “What I need is a smaller goal.”  So I decided I was going to write a short story and post it on Christmas Eve.  The story that I wrote, however, was very very depressing.  Not that I had intended to write something light and happy, but my initial turn toward darkness wound up being a death spiral into oblivion.  In the year since I didn’t post it I’ve only read the story twice and hated it both times because it was not only dark it was needlessly so.  It wasn’t just dark, it was black.  There was just nothing redeeming about it at all because it wasn’t even well written.  Obviously, I didn’t post it.

So, another NaNoWriMo has gone by and I didn’t win, again, but I had the same thought as last year.  That I just needed a smaller goal.  I kicked around the idea that sparked last year’s short and decided that since I, personally, am not in such a dark place this year (last year in addition to failing the WriMo I was also unemployed and a number of other things) I would take another crack at it.  I am very pleased with the results.  I still need to make another pass or two at it for glaring errors and then give my editorial staff (wife) a shot at it, but I do think it will be ready before Christmas.

As such, I am stating here and now that I will be posting a short story on Christmas Eve.  It is entitled “The Last Christmas” and I hope you return to read it and enjoy it.

Fallen Earth

This isn’t exactly zombie news, but…

Over the past few months, I’ve been participating in the beta for Fallen Earth, an upcoming post apocalyptic MMO.  Before I get to the good stuff, let me just get the bad stuff out of the way.

The graphics.  And I don’t mean the style, but the performance.  My PC isn’t exactly new or top of the line, but I beat out their required specs and I play a great number of games released in the last couple years very well.  When I venture off by myself or in a small group, this game plays great.  But when I get to town or any large gathering of people, the game turns into a slide show.  Unplayable.  Obviously, I could buy a new PC, but my PC should be enough to play if I turn all the effects off… it doesn’t help though.  Even with minimal settings, low resolution and playing in a window, the game gets better, but never what I would call good in busy areas.  To make matters more confusing, if I stand still in town, I can sit and watch everything run great, but the instant I try to move or turn, slide show.

That aside… Fallen Earth captures the post apocalyptic world perfectly.  First off, the world is huge, so when you run off into the wilderness, you are literally running off into the wilderness.  One day I just picked a direction and started running.  Two hours later I was still running… I’d seen one other person and some critters, some salvage and ruins, but little else.  The best part of this… I started to get worried.  Am I lost?  Where is everyone?  I’m gonna die out here… This is what a world after Armageddon is supposed to feel like.  In other MMOs I would complain about all the empty space, because those games are littered with NPCs and stuff and are supposed to be full of people, but Fallen Earth is supposed to feel empty, and it does, and it works.

The combat is a little different from your standard MMO.  Ranged weapons require aiming, and melee weapons have standard swings but need you to be facing the target.  There is no auto attack or auto aiming, you don’t automatically hit something just because you have it targeted and hit your attack button.  This makes fighting moving targets more difficult, and it makes movement matter in combat.  Speaking of movement… you know how in real life if you are running and then jump, you pause when you land?  You know how strafing is slower than turning and running?  Both are true in this game.  So, if you are looking for typical First Person Shooter mechanics of jumping around like a coked up jackrabbit all while running sideways at full speed in a circle perfectly nailing your opponent all the while, you won’t find it.  Personally, I love it.

Another aspect of the game that I really enjoyed is the crafting.  Not because crafting is so awesomely fun to play, but because so much in the game can be crafted.  If you are familiar with EVE Online, it works like that.  People go out and scavenge from the wilderness, then craft items (and the crafting is all done “offline”, meaning you don’t sit at a bench and make stuff, you just set it to be made and it will be done in time).

In fact, the EVE comparison is important, because, to me at least, this game plays a lot like a ground based version of EVE.  While I could never really get into flying around space in a ship mining materials and joining corporations, I could easily get lost in walking the Earth, surviving.

I’ll make another post later with some screen shots, but to close off this post I’ll just say that if they can get the graphics issues sorted out, or if I win the lottery and can buy a new PC, I’m definitely on board for this game.  If I could take this game’s design and put in zombies, I think I’d have my perfect MMO.

XI

From 1998 to 2009, as of today, this blog officially goes to eleven.

I put up a pretty good summary post last year at ten, but the Spinal Tap fan in me just couldn’t let this year go by without a mention.  Now that that’s done, I’ll mosey along…

Surfacing

With my last post being on February 26th, meaning that it has been over two weeks since my last post, I guess you can say that I went dark, or underground.  Of course, prolonged absences are not unusual for me and my weblog.  I’ve done months before.  But sometimes things happen…

So what happened?

Well, I got a job.  Nice place, good work.  I’m back at a small company again, and let me say that after four years working at BellSouth/AT&T I don’t think I ever want to go back to a giant corporation again.  Too much politics and middle management.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work, and the immediate team of people I worked with, and at the end of every segment of the project when the people who had been giving us hell and ulcers for months finally broke down and said they liked the work and looked forward to using it and copious rounds of attaboys for all it was sweet… but the bureaucracy of meetings and playing the blame game and jockeying around all the folks who want to make sure they get all of the credit with none of the responsibility… well… to be blunt, fuck that.  There are only so many times you can have someone hand you a problem they spent no time looking into and after you spend a few hours or days digging through it you discover that not only is it not your responsibility but that the only person with the ability and authority to fix it is the guy who passed it to you before you want to strangle someone.  But I’m out of that now, and I hope never to go back.  Getting a new job, though, does mean a bit of a learning curve as I feel out the new folks and the new company, get up to speed on the products and projects, so the first couple or three weeks are always a bit of a cram-fest.  After nearly four months of being unemployed, working feels good, especially in this economy.

On a non-work related note, a place where I normally hang out has become a place I don’t want to hang out anymore.  Have you ever had a group of people that you liked to be around, except for one guy?  Its always that one guy, the one who seems to want to be a part of the group, but doesn’t seem to know how to do it.  He joins in every conversation and drives everyone away, or into fits of anger, as he insists that he knows more or better than everyone else, despite repeated showings that he clearly does not.  Well, one of my favorite places to go has one of those guys, and in the past I have had varying levels of success in just ignoring him or putting up with his crap, but recently he just pushed a few too many of my buttons a few too many times, and as much as I love the rest of the people I just can’t handle the anger and frustration that I feel in having to deal with this monumental douchebag on a daily basis.  So, my choices are to continue to go there and feel pissed off all the time, or stop going.  It is depressing.  Perhaps I’ll return there after a nice long stay away.

All in all, however, life is good.  And I’ll be back to posting more soon enough.  I’m even going to bring back movie reviews since my idea for doing a movie review site didn’t really pan out like I hoped.  You’d think being unemployed would equate to having more free time… but looking for a job in a shitty economy is hard work and more thoroughly exhausting than actually having a job.

No Comments, One Year

This is something that likely no one will care about but me, however I figured I would make a post about it anyway…

In order to cut back on spam I have set the blog to disable comments on any entry that is more than one year old.  Probably 99% of spam comments are made on posts from 2006 or older.  They all wind up in my spam queue for holding and deletion, but I’m neurotic and like to keep an eye on the spam queue for valid comments so I want to reduce the amount of garbage I have to sift through.

Anyway, that’s it.

Enjoy.