In MMOs, faster, easier leveling is a poor substitute for engaging leveling.  The goal should be to make your game always fun to play, not fun to play through once and then help people speed past or skip the “boring parts” on future runs through.

Appearance Items

I don’t really want to write about the celestial steed that Blizzard added to its item shop last week, when so much has already been said about it.  Instead, I want to focus on one element of it: the speed.

Buying one of these mounts does not gain you any advantage.  The speed of this mount will be equal to the speed of the fastest mount you own.  So if you only have the slowest mount in the game, your celestial flying mount will be the slowest in the game.  It might be based on your riding skill too, but it clearly states that in order to have your celestial steed move at 310% speed you have to own another 310% speed mount.  I suspect the only real attribute this mount has beyond its looks is that it is a flying mount, and so if you have no other flying mount, this could be your first flying mount.  But the key here is that the mount itself has no speed, and instead takes its speed from another source.

People are okay with this because it means that you can’t buy an advantage from the store, just a toy that is no better in game that what you already own.

One thing Blizzard hasn’t added to their game yet that several other games have are appearance slots.  In some games if you want the stats of the Unobtainium Breastplate but prefer the look of the Ghostly Robes, you can slap the breastplate into your “real” armor slot and put the robes into the “appearance” slot.  That way, everyone sees the Ghostly Robes, but you have the protection of the Unobtainium Breastplate.  Now is the time for Blizzard to look at this.  I think they’d be fools not to go down this road.

They should first add in the ability to wear appearance only items, that second paper doll, and start putting in craft-able and drop-able and vendor purchasable appearance only items.  Then once it has been out there for a bit, start throwing the truly awesome looking stuff into the store.  How many people would shell out $5, $10, or some other amount for a Celestial Breastplate or Hellfire Helm or other armor pieces with awesome unique (until a million people buy them) looks and animations?  Especially if its like the pets where one purchase makes the item available to all the characters on the account?

The answer: lots.  So, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it coming soon.  I don’t think Blizzard is ever going to sell “real” gear in their store, no buying top tier raid gear, but I can easily see them milking appearance items for all it’s worth.  They’ve already proven people will buy pets and now mounts, plus it would give them another avenue for exclusive giveaways for Blizz-con and other events.

Alliance: I love it when a plan comes together

So, this past weekend I decided to do a little PvP in the Battlegrounds. As usual, I dumped myself into all three BG queues and then headed off to mess around with low level quests I never did.

It took a while, but just as I was finishing up a handful of Darnassus newbie quests (Woohoo! 11 faction per turn in!), I got the call to enter Warsong. If you’ve read some of my ranting before, you’ll know that for the Alliance on Durotan Warsong Gulch runs last about as long as it takes for the Horde to run the flag three times. Non-stop. They just chain us, mostly because the entire Alliance side is out getting honorable kills, wasting time while me and maybe one other guy try to defend the flag. One shadow priest and one other random guy just often are not enough to fight off four or five Horde. We usually down a couple of them, but their shaman/druid/rogue will take off at high speed and that’s all she wrote. (By the way, being able to use speed forms or sprint while carrying the flag should be forbidden. It sucks that I start fighting a guy, he runs off with some speed boost, and I’m in combat so I can’t mount up and chase him. Blizzard, either remove the use of speed abilities while flag carrying, or remove the combat flag in BGs.) All I usually ask is that a hunter or two stay on defense and use their ice traps. I realize that druids switching forms can break free easy, but it help against everyone else.

Anyway… so I go in expecting it to suck. Only, it doesn’t. One guy starts shouting orders and, lo and behold, people listen. We win, 3-0. Yeah!! So, I re-enter the Warsong queue, and twice more I get in, and twice more we win. Awesome! Then I guess people stop joining, or perhaps too many people are in queue, so I head back to lowbie quest fulfillment. A short while later, an Arathi Basin call comes in. Whoosh…

So, Arathi Basin, like Warsong, seems to just suck for Alliance. And it doesn’t fail to disappoint in the first round. After asking to be invited to the raid a few times, I start inviting people. Most of them are in groups already, in the raid. I do invite three people to my group: two priests and a druid. All the healers in Arathi were not in groups. At this point some of the people start bitching about lack of healing, so I explain the situation. They start arguing that you don’t need to be grouped to heal. I explain about group heals, and the fact that Power Word: Shield can only be cast on group or raid members. All the other healers back me up, but some of the melees (rogues mostly) continue to say we don’t need to be grouped. I finally relent, “Hey, you’re right, we don’t NEED to be grouped, it just makes it about 10,000 times easier, especially since most of us have CTRaid_Assist installed and can easily target and heal anyone in range in the raid IF THERE WAS A RAID FORMED AND WE WERE ACTUALLY INVITED INTO IT.” Just then, the pop up for Warsong springs up on my screen. I click it and zip over to Warsong. I’m about to leave my group when I notice that they are all also in Warsong. We stick together and put down the most awesome 4 healer defense ever. Another Warsong victory.

After Warsong, I go back to the queues. Immediately Arathi Basin pops up. I’m hesitant, but I go in anyway. The good leader from the earlier Warsongs is in there. He gives commands, and people actually listen. Its a tough fight (I think the Horde side had more “raid level” players, because by far their outfits were sillier and they were really hard to kill), but we managed to eek out a victory by a mere 50 or so points (2000 to 1940/1950).

Finally, as I’m about to queue up again, the Alterac Valley gong sounds and I zip in quick. Normally I come into Alterac toward the end. All the towers are gone, and its the weakening dregs of an 8 hour zerg fest who remain emboldened by a few new players. But this was a new start. Immediately everyone rushed forward to try to take a new graveyard. The entire half-hour I was there, we fought at this location. We pushed up and down the hillside, getting so close to the flag at times. And then my computer locked up.

Ah well… maybe next time.


“Running’s not a plan! Running’s what you do, once a plan fails!”
-Earl Bassett, Tremors

Its funny… I often find myself quoting Tremors, but this one stands out. Mostly, this quote keeps popping up because of how I have come to apply it to life. Too many people rely on things that should be backup plans or fail safes as their primary plan. You can see it on the streets when you drive. There are people out there who have insurance, and they’ve covered themselves in the safest car on the road, and they drive like they don’t care about anyone else. They trust the car to save their lives and the insurance to cover the damages, and it never crosses their minds to, you know, pay attention to the road. They run yellow lights at high speed, they change lanes without signaling or even looking, and they are more intent on finishing phone conversations than they are on actually driving their car.

Lots of people deal with relationships, jobs, and other things the same way. They run out instead of trying to work on the problems, instead of trying to fix it.

That’s what this quote means to me. And he’s right… running isn’t a plan, its what you do when every opportunity to succeed has failed. Running is a last resort, and should be treated like one.

EverQuest Finally Starts to Roleplay.

… or so I thought.

Verant finally decided to put up a “Roleplaying Perferred” server. Its got a few rules over and above the regular server and a semi-complicated alignment system with exp penalties for grouping with the wrong sort of people and of course the infamous “Trivial Loot Code”. Most of these rules are well and good, and I think outline a roleplaying system quite nicely. However…

Arguably, one of the best roleplaying game systems ever created came out of TSR in the form of its many versions of Dungeons and Dragons. Over the years, I’ve played a few of these and one thing remained constant: TSR would put out book after book outlining spells, equipment, lands, history, classes and all the nit-picky goodness, but never in any of its myriad of books does it tell you HOW to roleplay, it leaves that to the player.

The difference between EQ and D&D? Never in D&D would you create a character named “Mystik Al`dude” and sit in one place killing a single monster over and over. Not once while playing D&D did anyone ever say “Explore? Why don’t we just wait for this kobold to respawn and gang rape him? Its easier.”

I logged onto the Firiona Vie server after having let it sit a couple of days live. Partly this was because I didn’t want to run into the first day issues of 300 people trying to kill the same 12 moss snakes. I sat at the character creation screen for a long time (you only get one character on this server) trying to decide who I wanted to play and why. I quickly bypassed all the characters I regularly play on other servers. I wanted this to be new. So finally I ended on a Dark Elf Shadowknight named Dvain.

My first impression? Too many people running. When you go into town in your normal life, or even in a D&D session, you don’t run at top speed. I put on walk and began to stroll. People zinging by me at a full run, flailing weapons about. Don’t these people have any manners? Put the swords away when there is nothing to fight, no danger. After about 5 minutes of horrible talk and worse names, I had to turn off OOC, Shout, and Auction, and PC Names (so they don’t show over people’s heads). Ahhh… much better.

I wandered around and spoke with my guildmasters, they don’t respect me, and I am humbled by their willingness to openly hate me as a tribute to our dark god. They gave me some chores to do, so I spent time cleaning the floors and other such things until they decided I was worthy to begin my path as a shadowknight. I gladly accepted these new duties and headed out into the city proper.

I met quite a number of other adventurers, a few talkative fishermen, but also about ten times as many people zinging by at full speed in a hurry to do something. Finally I made my way out in Nektulos Forest. I stretched for a bit, then drew my sword and began looking for the beasts who held the items I sought.. fire beetles!

I’m as curious as any lad, and after finding a few of my prey, I realized I was further from town that I had ever been. And I liked it. I had heard stories from some others about a human city, I even saw the guards of Neriak killing a few of them. So I decided to seek it out.

After that I had quite a few adventures. I met some other roaming dark elves and some humans, and a few other odd races. I found the city of Freeport where they tolerate my kind, and even a brother guild of shadowknights who were willing to assist me in my dark ways.

Mostly I was disappointed. Not in the game. After two years I still find it fun to play this game in almost any form. I’m disappointed in many of the players. It seems, from my experience so far, that about 90% of dark elves have chosen to roleplay as the brooding silent type who seeks power and wealth. Many of the humans seemed to be that way as well. With so many ways to roleplay a character, its odd that so many choose the exact same way to play.

At the end of the night, after being trained in much of the ways of adventure and entrusted to advance to the 5th level of skill, I returned to Neriak, pulled up a stool in the Blind Fish, popped a few silver on the bar to start a tab, and began to share my tales with the other patrons… no one. Well, not entirely. I had two people come in and ask me what the hell I was doing justing sitting around and not “playing”. They seemed frustrated when I asked them, “Playing what?” And one guy, bless his soul, who actually sat and listened as I told him the story of my adventure to Freeport.

As I told him I was turning in for the night, he jumped out of his seat, looked at me with a gleem in his eye and whispered, “I’ve got to see this Freeport.” He smiled, and walked out of the pub.

There may be hope yet.