MMO Exclusivity

Since I started playing Warcraft, I don’t think I’ve played any other game in anger. Any. That is bizarre, given it’s been 2 years or so. Before WoW (WoW-BC) I would play games like NWN, KotoR, HL2, etc. Post WoW (WoW-AD) those kind of games are all languishing in my Steam queue unplayed. I still buy the occasional game (hello Dragon Age) with the intent to play them, but never seem to get around to it – the siren call of WoW always wins.

This is probably not a good thing.

And yet I can’t seem to find the time required to invest in a new game (which is not an FPS or something of similar pick-up-and-play simplicity) and also keep Warcraft chugging along. The only other game I play regularly is Civ4, and that is only as a participant in a PBEM game with a few friends – in other words, about 1 minute of play every few days.

This kind of MMO-obsession, or MMO-exclusivity, is nothing new. It’s probably even an official affliction these days, like being Tiger Woods. It is strange however that one game can absorb all your gaming time and needs. Sometimes I resent it, which is also not a good thing.

I’m not sure what the conclusion here is, and maybe one game is enough. But I can’t help feeling like I’m missing out on all that other gaming action that people rave about – Mass Effect 2 being the latest.

In fact, I’m going to fire up Steam right now, and download Mass Effect 1 (I’m a series completionist at heart). And I’m determined to actually play it. Lok’tar!

I believe there is something out there watching us

Deep thoughts from the week past:

For the aspiring wordsmiths out there, the Guardian polls authors for their Ten Rules for Writing Fiction – apparently the first 12 years are the worst…

Old skool PVP

There’s an interesting thread over at slashdot asking where are the Ultima Online style MMOs. Whilst the question is broad, the discussion revolves around the pros and cons of the Player Killer, aka PVP.

In UO, it sounds like everywhere was a PVP zone, other than the cities. So the minute you stepped outside a city, you were a target. That is pretty hardcore, and no doubt led to a lot of rage quitting by the more PVE oriented crowd before the non PK shard was created. There was even a feature which was meant to discourage PKers by eventually giving them a title so all could see what a horrible ganker they were. Which of course failed miserably as a discouragement, as what PKer wouldn’t want to the world to know just how nasty they are??

I played most of my WoW career on a PVP server (Barthilas), before transferring to Feathermoon (RP-PVE). I’m a poor excuse for a PVP player, and would just sit and take it when being ripped apart in Ganklethorn Vale or mining in Sholazar. Meeting outside dungeons was always a fraught experience, with places like Nexus and UK often dissolving into a PVP battle just to get in the door. Even after a 9 months on Feathermoon, I’m still surprised when I can compete in the STV fishing comp and not need a guild escort to keep the gankers away.

And whilst I never really participated in that kind of world PVP, it’s funny how I kind of miss it. It added an edge to the game that PVE realms simply don’t have. You never quite felt safe, and the cries for help on chat were often met with swift main-swapping to rid The Barrens of an Alliance camper destroying baby Horde toons. And of course you occasionally encountered famous gankers, who would always demand your immediate attention – one tormentor of our guild, who went by the handle lolpewpew (the name alone tells the story!) still has a standing kill order despite being on another realm 🙂

PVP realms are the minority, partly due to the Sheep/Wolf ratio discussed at Slashdot, and partly due to the almost guaranteed gear level difference in random PVP which means the target of the attack will most likely not be in a position to fight back. Even in gear-balanced controlled-duel environments such as RogueRogue sets up, it is very difficult for the non-fight-opener to recover for a victory.

Despite all of the balance issues and a general lack of PVP skill, most of our guild members sound almost wistful when they reflect on our days on Barthilas. It wasn’t the PVP itself, or the victory rush or red rage, it was the edge given by unpredictability – and unpredictability is something to be treasured in an MMO world which is otherwise so tightly controlled.

Starcraft Beta Marmot

I don’t play RTS. Despite trying again and again with Total War, I epic failed every time – there’s too much going on, especially for someone used to the sedate pace of Civilization. But Starcraft II is sorely tempting, mostly due to the Blizzard polish, the hype, and the beta raves. Lore has a great video review of the beta on Tankspot (of all places) if you’re tempted too.

Gear Checks

It’s interesting reading about hitting a hard limit on progress. Righteous Orbs has a lovely public service announcement for people complaining that fights are easy when they require 7k DPS average. 7k! Awesome. Our guild DPS tops out at 3.5k, so we’re a long way off. For we casuals, it’s handy to remember the fact that only the very minority of players are clearing ICC raids, but they are a vocal (blogging!) minority. We need more average mode bloggers 🙂

Even with 3.5k, we still have fun cranking through the 5 mans. We did sequential clears of normal PoS & FoS on the way to HoR the other night, the first time for a few of us. Hall of Reflection is just genius design. It was great hearing the reactions from the others who hadn’t seen it: Whoaaa, there’s Frostmourne! Epic…wait…ZOMG THE LICH KING!!!! It brings all that lore & story that we’ve been exposed to home to roost.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to actually ‘fight’ him, as we hit a healing gear limit. Our resident Shaman, having only recently specced Resto after a career as Enhancement, showed champion skills through the first two ‘wings’ but HoR stopped us . We could get to the first boss after 5 waves, but kept wiping on his Defiling Horror fear (when everyone takes damage whilst being unable to do anything about it). It was a hard mana/healing limit, so we only gave it a couple of tries before calling it a night. Though I’m pretty sure we could get through it with everyone on top of their game – it was late, and it was hard to muster the requisite focus.

I struggled mightily with my tanking too, being squashed in that tight corner in order to LoS the casters is counter to my normal Charge-Thunderstomp-Shockwave launch sequence. I kept forgetting to Bloodrage, leaving me rage starved at the beginning, or I’d leave one of the ranged mobs out in the middle of the room meaning we had to go chase it down out there. Confined fighting is not something I’ve had to do much, so practice-practice-practice is required.

So even normal modes have a gear check, and you’ll struggle to progress if you don’t have the right amount of stuff. Not necessarily purples, as Gevlon keeps proving, but at least the right blue drops.

They’re all smarter than you out there

After last week’s tank-parison, this week it’s tank-pug-hell:

And Devo are back! Fantastic Mark Mothersbaugh interview from 2008 on Phawker too, for those that want to dig deeper. Which is everyone, right?

    Achievement metagaming

    I’m plodding around Azeroth on Kodo in pursuit of my Elder title, visiting all sorts of far flung places with nary a soul around. Other than other Achievement seekers, of course. Which is kind of sad – Ashzara for example is a beautiful zone, populated by precisely no-one, all the lonely NPCs in tears waiting for someone to kill or appreciate them. Thankfully Cataclysm brings the Bilgewater Cartel goblins to Ashzara, who make their home there.

    In any case, the Lunar Festival is a nice leisurely journey, and it certainly brings home the ginormous size of the world. It also illustrates one of the fundamentals of playing: the metagame. The idea of attempting the Lunar or any other festival without resources like wow.com or Wowhead is frankly unimaginable:

    Bane: Hey there, guy-with-a-great-huge-halo-shooting-up-in-the-sky, how you doing?

    GWAGHHSUITS: *spinning around with enthusiasm* Hail oh great PC! Thanks for visiting me. In fact, you know what – have this artfully crafted coin!

    Bane: Whoa, thanks old guy! Hey – are there more of you ‘Elders’ around?

    GWAGHHSUITS: Sure are – and they’ll give you free stuff too!

    Bane: Great! I should go visit them. Um, where are they?

    GWAGHHSUITS: There’s one somewhere in a dungeon somewhere. And another in a place you’ve never heard of. Just nearby. Kind of. *looks shiftily around while scuffing the ground with his worn leather boots*

    Bane: Ummm, can you be more specific?

    GWAGHHSUITS: Nope! Good luck! /ignore*quickly turns his back on the annoying PC*

    Bane: …

    Of course it would be possible to find all the Elders, but it would be a royal pain too.  I guess someone once did it da solo, and more power to them, but players with that much perseverance are few and far between.

    Whilst you could argue this means the game isn’t complete somehow, it seems more likely that this enormous community pool of knowledge that has formed around Warcraft is one of the things that makes the game, as BigBearButt observed. It’s social networking, and it’s been around since before that term became the property of Big Business™.

    The amount of free info and time that people have committed to Wowhead and Wowwiki is phenomenal. It’s created a community of contributers, bloggers, editors, Auctioneers and passionate players. I barely move in game before referring to LightHeaded, zooming off as directed via TomTom, or using the Lunar Festival pack for TourGuide.

    In many other games this would be cheating. And maybe the boss encounters suffer a bit from needing guides rather than teaching. But I’d argue that overall, the metagame makes WoW miles more fun – it doesn’t reduce the challenge, just the frustration.

    The truth is out there

    Read it and weep:

    And today’s offtopic, Music Machinery works out who the real drummers are.

      Oo-oo, baby you’re a fool for love

      Banehammer is now officially a Fool for Love, having cleared the final two hurdles last night.

      The first was to get a nice bouquet of roses from the first boss in UK, Prince Keleseth. Because the roses only drop off the Prince and only for one person, doing it via LFD was fated to be a ‘ninja/drop’ disaster.

      So we guild ran it with our Rogue, our Hunter, and me. No heals, but I guess not surprisingly it was challenge on normal mode, given the mobs are ~70 elites and the boss not much more. We even two manned it for a second run, just me and the Hunter. We employed ice traps, misdirects, and much hilarity ensued.

      The last achievement was to set off 10 Love Rockets in 20 seconds. I’d already burned through 25 of the @#$@# things and not got the ding, so this time I disabled all my add-ons, turned the graphics down to Vic-20 level, and went to an isolated pocked of Mulgore. Success!

      The next festival on the list is the Lunar Festival. I’m really enjoying doing each one that comes up, having previously had no real interest. Planning what you’ve got to do, working out the most efficient way, and just the general design of the various quests is all good fun. I’m don’t even mind the PVP quests, I always intend to just zone in and do the Achievement, but tend to get caught up in the fight despite my appalling PVP noobness. For the Horde!