I’m on a Boat

I'm on a boat.

Everybody look at me 'cause I'm sailing on a boat.

I always hated Thousand Needles because the race track was just so stupid.  Some people think Cataclysm has done a lot wrong with World of Warcraft, but look at me… I’m on a boat.

The last time I wrote about my worgen it was over here, January 14th and I’d just made my way out of the starter zone which left me at level 12 or 13, I forget.  Maybe it was 14.  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is that as of last weekend, just five weeks later, I’m level 47.  Sure, you say, “Five weeks?! Why aren’t you at, like, 70?” but keep in mind, this is 47 without really trying.  I’ve spent much more time on my rogue who doesn’t kill, and so really this is level 47 in a total of 72 hours played.  And at least half of that is standing around chatting with people, role playing and browsing the auction house.  I’ve made it to level 47, heard the DING! of a level gained 46 times and I feel absolutely no sense of accomplishment whatsoever.  Every time the rogue makes a level I feel like I’ve conquered something, like I’ve crested another hill.  With the worgen, it’s more like, “Shit… I leveled again?  Didn’t I just level like twenty minutes ago?  Well, fuck, all my quests are green, and where did all the exclamation points go?  Did I outlevel another quest hub before I finished it?”  I feel like I’m missing the game, like I’m being pushed toward some end game, hurried along so that I don’t have a chance to get bored or to notice whether or not I’m actually enjoying playing.

In a few levels I won’t have anything left worthwhile in Thousand Needles.  The kills will be trivial, and the quests will be all gone, and the only real herb here is Stranglekelp, which gains me no skill and people aren’t even paying much for these days, but I suspect that I’ll return here because it’s the only place my River Boat works.  And ultimately this is where my biggest conflict with WoW comes in… there are some really cool and awesome places in this world, and you don’t get to stay there.  Why can’t I spend my days on the river fighting pirates and monsters?  I mean, I suppose I could, but the game doesn’t support it.  There are daily quests for fishing and cooking and other things, but why doesn’t each quest hub have a couple of dailies to making hanging around even mildly interesting and rewarding?

Not to go off on a tangent, but face it – this entire post is a tangent (a nice Friday sojourn off into rant land), but with the advent of the daily quest, why isn’t this mechanic used everywhere?  We all know that killing monsters is a pointless pursuit in WoW, they’ve hamstrung the exp on them so much, and quests are where the action is, and daily quest exp scales with level, so why not have a handful of quests in every hub where you can get one or two a day and continue to level doing whatever the hell you want?

No.  Instead, I have to make yet another zone useless and leave it to probably never return.  The empty husk of a world that necessitated The Cataclysm in the first place.

Oh well, at least for now… I’m on a boat.

The Greatest Thing About EverQuest…

… was that at the time I only knew a couple of people who played it.  So I played on their server and with them, and everyone else, the dozens – even hundreds – of people I met and played with were new.

When I look at new games, I now go to my dozens – even hundreds – of friends and can’t get them all to agree on the same server to play on.  Largely, this is because all of us at one time or another played other games and made new circles of friends that weren’t part of the EQ crowd.  Or even if they were part of the EQ crowd, they weren’t part of the E’ci server crowd.  Maybe they were on Bertoxxulous or The Nameless or Tunare or one of the many other servers, and they have a circle of friends just like we do, and they’d like to play with them and their new friends, only we want their new friends, who are our old friends, to play with us, and we can’t all play on the same server because most of us would just end up in the queue for a few hours.  And so we go to new servers in these new games, and we make new friends, and making the next new game even harder to play with our friends in.

A lot of people (not an alot made of people) make the claims that your first MMO colors your vision of the mechanics of later MMOs.  And while I can’t completely dismiss that, I fully believe that what matters most about your first MMO is that it marks the only time that all your MMO playing friends were all on the same server at the same time.  It’s kind of like High School that way.  People look fondly back on High School not because High School was so great, but because of the people, for good or bad, that High School contained.  Once they leave High School and go off to College and get Jobs and have Kids and join Clubs and all the other things that life brings, it gets hard to reconcile your friends into one group where you can do awesome stuff with all of them, you don’t have to choose and you don’t have to leave anyone out.

When I was playing EQ, the fact is, despite there being many servers to play on, as far as I was concerned, there was only one server.  My server.  As such, it’s no surprise why I advocate so much the single server design philosophy, so that I have the most control possible over playing with who I want when I want and not having arbitrary divisions between us.

Dead Island

I first mentioned Dead Island back in October of 2007 because it was mentioned in Games For Windows magazine.  GFW has been gone for some time, and many people though Dead Island was too.  And then there came this…

While I’m pretty sure that the game play won’t be anything like that, the trailer is incredible.  Amazing even.  I eagerly await more news of this game.  And I know I’m late to the party posting this about a week after it appeared, but my posting schedule demands that zombies are on Wednesdays.

If the version above is confusing for you, here is one that plays everything out in chronological order:

Sneakin’ Around: My Country for a Horse

Kaens in leather.

It was the only clean outfit, or something like that.

I need a new look.  I suppose I could always go with the dinner suit or the dress from last week, but I’d rather not.  To the left you’ll see a picture of me in my adventuring attire.  It looks like standard leather stuff, and that’s the problem.  I need to find a way to look less like I’m itching for a fight, while still retaining some stats so that I can survive the occasions when I’m trying to run away from one.

Browsing my way through the auction house, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that remaining in leather is going to be hard if I want to get a look that I like, and might instead have to go with cloth in a few areas.  Obviously, as I level I will have more options, but for now I can only wear what I can wear, restricted by level, and so I am limited in my choices.  Still, there has to be something better than this.

Another issue I’ve been having is that my desire to leave town was bottoming out.  I mean, in Stormwind I can safely earn a few thousand exp every day and never have to worry.  But I decided to venture out and checked in with the Hero’s Call board to see where I should go for a level appropriate challenge.  I suspect I’ll constantly be back tracking, looking for old low level quests to pad out my growth, but I wanted something exciting and challenging.  The board said to go to Darkshire in Duskwood.  So I flew out to the logging camp and then headed out on foot.

I love exploring, but sometimes, running on foot through places you’ve already explored can be boring, but what option do I have?  Anyway, after a long trek there, I discovered that like much of the world the people of Darkshire just want me to kill stuff.  Everyone, that is, except Abercrombie.  He had a great series where I was sent out to deliver or gather things and everything was going swimmingly until he asked for some ghoul ribs, which you can’t find just laying around.  I was very disappointed to not be able to continue working with him, but on the bright side, I made a couple of levels and got past 20.

The horse.

My feet thank you, Abercrombie.

Level 21 and riding high…

The Last Minecart

There is just something great about this, and part of it is that so many people simply won’t understand it at all.

I’ve finally gotten my own Minecraft server running again, and for the first time in about thirty restarts it finally has coal.  I’m working on getting the maps working, and I’m in need of upgrading the RAM on the server.  I’ll post links later once I’m sure it is all in order.

A Week of Tweets on 2011-02-20

  • A website that I only go to every 45 days requires a new password every 30. I've never logged in with the same password twice. #
  • I've regenerated the world on my minecraft server nearly 2 dozen times, and each time there is no coal near the spawn point. #ithatesme #
  • "The Lady Hermit" DVD releases today, and I review it for @Shakefire http://bit.ly/eVNHps #
  • Every Tuesday I make a WoW post, and I always forget to get screenshots, and they always have the servers down. #damnmytiming #
  • @Critus I was just thinking the same thing. in reply to Critus #
  • Movie screening tonight, and I'm attending as a reviewer. #onlysuckerswaitinline #
  • @Critus Every morning, I seek your insight to assure myself that the world is, in fact, still here. in reply to Critus #
  • If you need to tell Donald or Daffy they should move downward to avoid being struck in the head, what do you yell? #duckmightconfusethem #
  • Regen'd the minecraft server this morning. Coal!! #aboutdamntime #
  • What? Since when did "enuf" become a real work AND valid in Scrabble?! #afterizoquoiliketoushnuu #
  • I figured it out @Critus, Facebook and Twitter broke up on Valentine's Day. #
  • Would you kindly… #
  • This is kinda awesome. http://irinawerning.com/back-to-the-fut/back-to-the-future/ #
  • I believe that Activision-Blizzard should merge their 2 hottest games: Call of Warcraft, a first person shooter set in Azeroth. #
  • You know what never gets old? Alignment jokes. #adnd4ever #

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Trains Suck

With the new EverQuest Progression server opening this week, the gaming blog-o-sphere is all atwitter about it.  Some are praising it, some are just enjoying it, some are coming to terms with their inability to play it anymore, and some downright hate it claiming that it ruined its own lands and it won’t ruin theirs.

The funny thing though is that very little about the game is actually broken in such a fashion that everyone agrees.  Except the boats.  They’ve been broken in some form or another since the original 1999 launch of the game.  Everything else though is subject to opinion and preference.

Take combat for example.  Some people are complaining about how slow it is.  The fights are long and players don’t actually do a whole lot.  Spells have long cast times and abilities take anywhere from six to ten seconds to pop back up.  Of course, I’ve been complaining for a long time now about how combat in new games is too fast.  They are over very quickly and I’ve always got another button to hit, another ability to use, another spell to cast.  I don’t have enough time to be social unless I stop playing.  The old slow combat, however, allowed me to talk to my group, my guild, the zone, and hold private conversations with several friends.

There are no maps and no floating quest indicators, which some people say makes the game too hard to play since you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing… unless you explore and read and, you know, remember stuff.  I actually don’t plan on playing on the new EQ Progression server because I’m actually enjoying playing WoW for the moment (of course, I’m playing WoW in a manner completely alien to many folks), but also because most of the people I enjoyed playing EQ with aren’t going to be there either, and it’s the people who made EQ worth playing.  However, I did drop into game and rolled up a monk in Qeynos, just like the old days, and you know what?  I still knew the world like the back of my hand.  I knew where the vendors were and where to find quests, and more importantly when I didn’t remember, I remembered how to find out: you target NPCs and hail them to speak to them and find quest text, and then you just do what they want.  No indicators, no tracking, you write down on a piece of paper on your computer desk what they are looking for and who they are and when you find the stuff, you bring it back.  Even better… you don’t have to actually be on a quest to get quest items.  In WoW and other new games, if there is a quest for gnoll teeth, you have to get the quest first and then go kill gnolls.  In EverQuest, you can go kill gnolls and get the teeth (which are NO DROP) and then find a quest guy who wants them.  How cool is that?  Imagine if in WoW you could be hunting raptors and some other player says, “Hey, there is a guy in the Wetlands who wants ten of their hides and he’ll give you some coin for it.”  You say, “Cool!” and collect the hides, then go find the guy in the Wetlands.  To me, that is much more awesome than killing a bunch of raptors and getting no loot, then finding a guy who wants hides, so you go back and kill raptors in the exact same spot you were before, but now they magically have hides they didn’t have before!  What?

Another example that comes up in the “I can’t believe we played like this” side of the discussion is trains.  The act of someone dragging mobs on you, either by intent or by accident, that then stop to fight you while the other guy gets away.  Yep, trains suck.  Nothing in the game is worse than having your day ruined and your group wiped by some idiot’s train to the zone line.  But you want to know what is totally awesome?  Surviving trains.  Your group already had a mob to fight and now you have three, or five… the enchanter start mezzing, the monk snags one to off tank, the ranger pulls one out and roots it, and the cleric is screaming for everyone to stop getting hit because he’s running out of mana… then… one mob dies, and there is this clear moment when you realize that everyone did their jobs without being told, they worked as a team and your group is surrounded by mobs just waiting to die and you are more than happy to oblige.  I spent entire Saturdays in zones with a buddy or two breaking trains.  Be it out on the lawn in Unrest or after Kunark down in Sebilis, trains were thrilling and exciting, and they just don’t happen in new games anymore.

Trains don’t suck.  Not for everyone.  Some of us want that game.  A game of danger and thrills, of social interaction and interdependence of classes, where quests are things you can do at any time and not just when someone flags you for them, a game where travelling to another part of the game means something more than having to stone home later or riding on a griffin for a couple minutes, but nobody is making it anymore.  Are they?

The Great Divide III

More than levels and more than lore, you know what divides players from other players most?  The players.  And nothing divides players faster than giving them exactly what they want.

People look back at EverQuest and they make fun of the difficulty of the game.  In fact, they often laugh it off as not being difficult at all but instead as being imposing or broken or wasteful.  They look back and remember (or just hear stories about if they never actually played in that era of MMOs themselves) dying to a rat and they belittle the experience.  Killed by a rat?  And why is my hero killing rats anyway?  But you know what?  They weren’t rats.  They were large rats.  They were giant rats.  They were diseased rats.  Even if the name of the monster was just “a rat” the thing was the size of a large dog.  And those weren’t beetles you were killing, they were fire beetles.  But people complained.  It was too hard.  Leveling was too slow.  There weren’t enough quests.  The spawn times were too long.  The loot didn’t drop fast enough.  Raids were too big and required too many people.

So, later generations of games have given players everything they asked for.  Easier fights (I’ve actually played WoW characters up to level 30 without ever dying), faster levels (I have a level 39 character that was level 33 three days ago, and that was in just 3 or 4 hours of playtime, maybe 5) and quests… good gods are there quests.  Dozens of them.  You can’t swing a dead rat without hitting a score of floating exclamation points.  I haven’t run into a spawn time greater than a couple of minutes, even for elites and bosses (raid instance locking doesn’t count).  My bags are so full of good loot from mobs and quests that my only choice is to vendor most of it because it’s too common to be worth selling to other players.  And I don’t need 65 or 100 people to kill a god anymore, I just need 9 people to go with me, maybe 19 or 24.

The one thing players don’t need so much anymore?  Other players.

I’ve mentioned before that I recently returned to WoW to try to play with some friends.  Haven’t actually played with them much, in part because of level disparities, but also because our schedules don’t seem to line up very often.  Doesn’t matter though.  I don’t actually need them to play.  In fact, playing without them is faster.  No problems of people being in different phases or on different sections of quest chains, no issues of level problems, and I can get fast and easy exp, gaining a couple of levels a night, fighting monsters that in no way actually have a chance in hell of beating me as long as I keep mashing my attack keys.  Hell, I have a druid who’s gear is so out of whack (and this is all found and quested stuff, I haven’t bought anything from the auction house) that I play with no fear of ever running out of mana.  Most of the time I play in cat or bear form, and between fights I pop out to normal and heal myself, then back to melee.  The wife’s hunter is even more insane.  The speed at which she kills means she rarely ever needs healing at all.  When we play together, I don’t even bother staying in normal form.

I’ve tried to play with other people, but it’s actually hard.  Grinding exp from monsters isn’t worth it, and finding people on the same quests is a losing battle.  I could queue up for dungeon runs, but that’ll just put me in a random group with random people who I will likely never see again.  Back before I quit the last time, I was in a guild, and we had guild chat and a vent server and it was very social… except for the fact that none of us were actually playing together.  On the same server, sure.  Sometimes even in the same zone, but grouping up always slowed somebody down.

At least in EQ, the only people slowed down by grouping were the quad kiting druids and wizards, fear kiting necros, and the occasional AE or charm kiting bard.  Even that isn’t true anymore as I actually saw with my own eyes a cleric soloing even con mobs the last time I returned to game, and not kiting either, he was standing toe to toe.

Now, don’t take this as railing against solo players.  While I personally don’t enjoy doing it, I do realize that it is what other people want.  I mean, WoW has 12 million players not because that many people suddenly realized they wanted to play MMOs.  It’s because that many more people were able to play the game because they didn’t need to actually have other people to play with.  And there is nothing wrong with that… except that many of these people refuse to acknowledge the impact that their style of play has on people who do want to group and play with others.  The impact is in server resources and population make up.  In older games where the majority of people were wanting/needing to group up, finding groups was easy.  These days, with the majority of people not wanting to be reliant on other players, finding groups is hard.  So much so that Blizzard actually had to make cross server instances possible and a group finding tool just to alleviate the pressure.  The issue now is that for many of the people who want from grouping what used to be an integral part of grouping (the social interaction and bonding), the LFG tool is an empty gesture.  It solves the symptom of not being able to find a group while completely destroying the ability to bond with those players.

But how do you solve that?  Again and again on this blog you’ll see me advocate the single server design for games because I whole-heartedly believe that the best way to solve player problems is to allow the players to solve their own problems.  If finding better groups is as easy as travelling to another part of the game world that is a much better solution that trying to get different game worlds to be able to share a player pool for certain kinds of grouping.  However, given that at this point Blizzard, and most game companies, can’t redesign their entire server structure to be a single server design, what then?  Free server moves?  That seems like the best possibility, and perhaps put a lockout so that a player only gets one free move every 90 days or something, and if they want additional moves they can pay for them.  If I meet cool people in the dungeon finder, I might move to their server if it were periodically free, but I can’t see myself ever paying $25 to move a character based on the interaction of an hour or two.  Nor would I pay $25 to blindly move to a random server in the hopes of finding more people to group with.

Once again, though, looking forward at new games, I’m less enthused about wanting to play them because of the divisions between players.  Even in the Rift betas that I’ve been playing in, I’ve got friends playing on 5 or 6 different servers playing with subsets of their own friends, and none of us are playing with all our friends, or even have the capability of playing with all our friends without creating characters on a bunch of servers, on both factions, and maintaining characters at several different level tiers.

Zombie Love Song

Do zombies celebrate Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t make this song any less catchy.

Sneakin’ Around: Love Unfair to Men

Most of the last week or so, I’ve spent it partaking of the Love is in the Air events all around Azeroth.  LiitA (not to be confused with Lita or Lita) is World of Warcraft’s version of Valentine’s Day.  There are a series of daily quests where you can spritz people with perfume/cologne or throw bonbons at them, give a lovely charm bracelet to the leaders of the cities, and there is an investigation line of quests that leads to a daily involving fighting some guys and blowing up a wagon.  If you are over level 75, there are other quests, but I’m not, so I haven’t seen them.

In any event, I’ve been doing the single daily item I can do, the spritzing or beaning people with bonbons, and then keeping my eyes and ears open for people selling the charm bracelets (which I cannot make because you have to kill people to get charms).  I earn the Love Tokens very slowly, but I’ve earned enough to buy a couple of rewards.

I’m very disappointed in the dinner suit that men get.  Women get a dress, which looks more like négligée, that is quite sexy.  Men, on the other hand, get a dinner suit, that actually looks more like pajamas.  Not sexy pajamas, but a lame button down shirt and pants combo that I’m pretty sure people don’t actually wear except on TV shows.  Why can’t men get a suit that looks more like a bare chest and sexy boxer shorts?

Of course, I suppose I can’t complain too much.  I mean, it could be worse…

I know, I know, your eyes, your eyes.  Have a scouring pad for your brain.  It won’t help.  Trust me.

Level 19, and handing out charm bracelets to world leaders…  Ain’t love grand?