Monthly Archives: August 2008

August in Review

The Site

August saw me AFK quite a bit.  We were down in San Diego at LEGOLand, then back to work for a dizzying number of product releases.

Still, I did not go without an update for too many days this month.

One Year Ago

I won something in a contest!  A Warp Drive Active Shirt!  I still haven’t been to any sort of EVE Online event where it would impress people however.

And speaking of EVE, I started down the training path to get my alt flying a Hulk.  As with most such ventures, it began with mining in the modest Bantam frigate and the oddly shaped Osprey cruiser.  Also, our corp, the Twilight Cadre was founded.  I also wrote up a piece on how to find an agent in EVE Online (without external resources) that has become one of the most viewed posts on this site.

I received a copy of the first issue of EQuinox, the official EverQuest II magazine.  It was… thin.  And it had a dark elf on the cover.  You would think there were no other races in EverQuest with all the play dark elves get.

Meanwhile, Qeynos harbor was full of rumors about Sarnak!

Legends of Norrath was announced at SOE Fan Faire 2007.  I was not there, but I listened to the presentation live while IM’ing with Darren about what we heard, which included an interesting offer from Leonai of Online Gaming Radio.  I still have not actually played LoN.  I am just not the collectible card game kind of person.

I purchased the Richard Garriot’s Tabula Rasa Pre-Order box, only to find that getting into the beta, as was promised on the outside of the box, was not as easy as I had hoped.  You had to get access to the beta forum to get the information, and the beta forum was not letting people in!

In a strange turn of fate, I happened to take a look at PlayOn on the very day they posted their WoW Random Guild Name Generator.  So I posted a quick link to it, which in turn has become my most viewed post ever.  The popularity was related to some Google algorithm which put up this site on the first page of searches related to guild name generators.  And so, for a year, that post has been on the top of the list in my month in review.  It will be there no long I hope, as I recently fell off the first page of the above search.

CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson stirred up the “why so much fantasy?” discussion about MMOs and I put out my own views, to which I now just link back whenever the discussion comes back up again.

And, finally, it was a year ago when TAGN hit the 100,000 page view milestone.  We have had a few more since then.

New Linking Sites

A big thanks to these sites who link to TAGN! I hope you will visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. $500 for a WotLK Beta Key?
  3. WAR Preview Weekend
  4. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  5. WAAAGH – The Warhammer Online Podcast #2
  6. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  7. WAR – The Other Stuff I Saw
  8. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  9. The EVE Personality Test
  10. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG
  11. The Unbearable Lightness of Diablo III
  12. Worlds Collide… With Me

Best Search Terms

todaki kernite
[Now there is an optimist!  Another great name for a band though.]

one more level
[Don’t I know that mantra.]

EVE Online

I mostly worked the economic sphere over the last month with an eye to hitting another goal of mine by the end of September: Having 1 billion ISK in the bank.  I should be able to make it, barring any more typos in buy orders.  I accidentally bought 400,000 flameburst missiles for 43.05 ISK each, rather that the 3.05 ISK I was planning on.  Ouch.  Well, I made somebody’s day.

I also swear I am going to get back to that EVE Blog Pack weekly profile idea.  Time just slipped by too quickly this month.

EverQuest II

I just noticed the other day that the Living Legends free play promo is still going on for EQ2.  Had I been keen for Norrath, I could have played from June through September for free.  Unfortunately, I cannot rouse any enthusiasm for EQ2 at the moment.  Opportunities lost.

Warhammer Online

It’s coming.  I had a peek.  I want to play some more.  In another week or so, I’ll get my chance.  Casualties of War, the Warhammer Online guild to which I belong, is revving up to go.

World of Warcraft

The instance group rolls on.  We shall all be 70 soon and will then have to answer the question, “Is there life after level cap?”  Not that we’ll stop running instances.  We still have more than a few left.  But will there be anything else we want to pursue?

Wii

LEGO Indiana Jones is keeping us busy for the moment.  Also, we have been back to Mario Kart Double Dash some.  I think we’re going to have to invest in a copy of Mario Kart Wii some day though.

Coming Up

I have a few EVE articles queued up to finish and post, and you can expect to hear some more about Warhammer Online.  Will the Warhammer Online community be able to handle me writing more about the game though?

Other than that, the usual weekly log of the Permenant Floating Saturday Night Instance Group, we’ll get through Durnholde Keep yet, and the usual things that spawn unbidden in my head.  I just wish they shared spawn points with something useful!

Darkfall Cometh?

As noted over at Keen & Graev’s, Darkfall is in the news again having announced they are accepting applications for beta testers and having released some game play videos that say “Coming 2008” near the end, apparently indicating that they are shooting for a release this year.

You can find the six game play videos here on YouTube.

Announced almost exactly seven years ago, Darkfall has promised a very ambitious feature set (from Wikipedia), which a friend of mine described as the merging of the best of EverQuest and Ultima Online (pre-Trammel).

  • Unrestricted PvP, with no safe zones, only protection by NPC guards in racially controlled cities.
  • Indiscriminate player killing results in changes in alignment (see alignment section below), which in turn has severe in-game consequences.
  • A character advancement system devoid of player levels and classes. The majority of player capabilities are determined by the possession of skills, which improve in response to in-game use. For example, all weapon proficiencies, the ability to swim, cast spells, ride mounts, and climb various obstacles are all skills that can be learned and improved through in-game use.
  • A real-time combat system that includes FPS-style manual aiming & blocking. Ranged combat and general play will be viewed from the first person perspective, while melee combat will be third person perspective. There will also be no ‘player radar’ or floating names with which to identify players or NPCs, and inflicted damage and the health status of actors are indicated through visible damage, blood-spray, and audio cues.
  • Furthermore, friendly fire is always in effect, so missed melee attacks, misfired arrows, as well as area of effect offensive and healing spells affect both friends and enemies.
  • Complete looting. All of a player’s items become world lootable on death (see looting section below), and virtually all props and items in the game will be player-craftable.
  • Cities that can be built, sieged, captured and destroyed by players, as well as individual player housing.
  • Player mounts and mounted combat, which can be captured and killed by players.
  • Naval warfare, with the ability to create, board, capture and sink player controlled ships, including player-mediated ship-ship and land-ship combat.
  • Real-world physics, including inter-character and projectile-character collision detection. Projectiles (spells, arrows, cannonballs etc.) can be evaded or blocked in real time. Players can be pushed or blocked by other players, NPCs and/or explosions.
  • Dynamic, physical weather, including variable, directional winds. For example, foggy or rainy weather can severely limit sight range and high winds greatly influence tidal wave amplitude and ship movement. Day and night cycles are based on a realistic planetary system of 2 orbiting moons, producing dramatic sunrises and sunsets.
  • Enhanced monster behavior and AI. Monsters do not simply stand and swing at players until dead; they may employ sophisticated combat tactics based on their capabilities, social behaviour, and intelligence level. For example, intelligent monsters will preferentially target healers, casters, and/or weakened players. Monsters do not have fixed spawn locations or sizes – monsters form their own communities, may construct buildings and/or may relocate to new areas in response to being hunted by players. Monsters may also fight other monsters in their region.
  • A zoneless game world capable of supporting over 10,000 concurrent players per game instance,including explicit and dedicated support for large-scale (> 200 player) battles at playable frame-rates.

Seven years is a long time for a game to be in development.

To put that in date in context, in August 2001 Dark Age of Camelot was readying for release.  I was still playing EverQuest, which was on its second expansion (count now: 14), on my 400 MHz Pentium II system with a hot TNT2 based video card, having finally ditched the 3Dfx Voodoo2 configuration. And Duke Nukem Forever was only approachings its fifth year of not being available yet.

The game has a dedicated following that rivals the ferocity of the followers of Derek Smart during the height of his fame on Usenet, and who write things like:

Darkfall is going to be one of the biggest subscription-based MMORPGs over the next decade. It will rival and surpass EVE. Mark my words, you heard it from me first.

-Amonn777

with complete belief and conviction.

But is there really a sizable market for such a game?

Didn’t UO end up with Trammel because such a ruthless, winner-take-all world threatened to chase off a big chunk of their subscriber base?  Does not a game like that almost require a substantial subscriber base willing to be on the losing side, stripped of everything, yet willing to start over again?

Somebody will mention EVE Online naturally, but CCP is tightening down on high security killing with the Empyrean Age 1.1 release and they have published statistics that show that most players not only never venture into 0.0 space, what the hard core declare to be “the real game,” but they never even venture into low security space.  And EVE has its own crutches to take the sting out of loss such as the insurance system, which pays out a good 40% of the price of your ship even if you never bother to insure it.

I have often heard the opinion that the World of Warcraft playerbase will eventually seek to graduate to harder, more challenging games, but have yet to see any proof of that.

And doesn’t the PvP MMORPG community have a standard bearer coming up in the form of Warhammer Online?  Doesn’t that make the balance of 2008 something of a risky time to be launching Darkfall?

So with all that in mind, I just want to ask…

I am undecided, myself.

LEGO Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures

As a reward for doing some school approved work books over the summer, my daughter got to pick out a new video game for the Wii.

With a little guidance from daddy, she opted for LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.

That meant talking her out of Sonic and the Secret Rings and Mario Super Smash Brothers Brawl because, well, the former sucks (my opinion, obviously) and the later because I wasn’t sure she understood what sort of game it was.  She was interested in those two titles because she wanted something with Sonic the Hedgehog in it, which came about because Sonic and his pals now have a cartoon on cable TV.

We got past that, but ended up ordering the game online as it seems to be full retail price, $49.99, on the shelf at most stores in our area.  Amazon.com saved me $10.

The Game

It is a lot of fun.

You probably guessed I would say that, especially if you have read my write ups on LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy or LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  Merely involving LEGO makes a lot of headway with me.  And once we started playing, my daughter was anxious to play every evening when I got home from work.

If you have played any of the LEGO Star Wars games, you know why I find it fun.  You break stuff, fight people, solve puzzles, and generally run amok in a world full of LEGO creations.

The game plays smoothly, better than LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which had a bit of stuttering at points, and they got the colors and textures just right, fixing another gripe I had with The Complete Saga.

They also added in some new game mechanics.  Obviously, the force, which played a big part in the Star Wars games, is out in Indiana Jones.  Instead there are additional tools in the game.  There is a shovel for digging up buried objects, a wrench for fixing broken machinery, a book for deciphering hieroglyphics, and Indy’s whip, which can be used to swing over large gaps or grab objects.

The puzzles are fun, but not too challenging.  We went to the internet five times while running the missions to get past a point at which we were stuck, and of those, twice it turned out we were doing the right thing, we just needed to keep going.

The usual solution, when stuck, is to start breaking up the scenery.  Most things explode into a shower of LEGO pieces, and once in a while yield something that you need to continue.

There are only a few true tests of your ability to jump like Mario, which is fine by me.  I prefer to break stuff up than jump.

In addition to the missions, there are the usual side quests.  You have to collect enough studs, the little round LEGO pieces that fly around when you break stuff, to make ‘True Adventurer’ on each level.  There are treasure chests to find.  There are special feature unlocks in the form of hidden postal packages that you have to place in mail boxes that you also have to find in a level.

And, of course, there are the character unlocks.  Again, these are in the currency of the game, the little LEGO studs, but the prices are more reasonable.  There are no million stud characters to unlock.  The most expensive one is 100,000 studs.  That is a bit of relief, as it takes a while to collect a million of anything.

I really want somebody to do a booklet on how to create a lot of things in game with real LEGO bricks.  Some, like the flying wing plane, I imagine are not possible to duplicate in reality, but others I know I could build out of the pieces we have if only I could get a closer look.

Of course, we have some of the LEGO Indiana Jones kits, so I already have some of the things shown in the game sitting at home! (And they have gotten a lot more play time as well since we bought the game!)

And the retelling of the first three Indiana Jones movies is quite well done, in the same style they did the Star Wars movies.  No spoken dialog, just actions and non verbal communication that add up to silly, campy, and fun versions of the movies.

One of the reasons that this game works so well is that the Indiana Jones movies, at least two of the first three, are pretty well known.  Like the Star Wars movies, most people know the story.  It is almost a shared part of our culture.

Of course, that makes me wonder a bit about the next game in this series, LEGO Batman.  We all know who Batman is, but he has so many different flavors, which one will they pick?  I think that shared vision of an IP, something I mentioned in my LEGO game wish list, is a requirement.

Drawbacks

As with LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, the game does not really make use of the Wii’s unique controller system in any meaningful way.  Instead, you control the game with the Wii remote and nunchuck acting as a substitute for the more traditional game pad.  Okay, maybe it is the price you pay for a cross platform game, but they managed to do a lot more platform specific stuff for the Nintendo DS version.

Then there are some game mechanics issues.  My daughter and I played through the whole game in co-op mode, which was great, even with the usual tug-of-war we sometimes enter into.  The camera has to keep both players on screen, so when you run opposite directions, you both get thwarted.  And therein lies a problem. There are points in the game where the level design keeps you from being able to do things, or at least do them with any reasonable chance of success, unless one of you drops out of the game so the camera can close up on the other player.

Finally, the game also feels a bit short.  Compared with LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, and especially LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, there is not as much content.  There is the same format of 6 missions for each of the three films, for a total of 18, but some of them feel very short.  My daughter and I made it through all the missions in a week of short play sessions.  For a $50 game, that does not seem like enough content.

Yes, we still have to go back and finish all the unlocks in free play mode, but just finishing up all the missions showed us at 67% complete with the game.  I think with the Star Wars versions of the game we were barely past 40% when the missions were done.

Conclusion

If you have never played any of the LEGO games from Traveller’s Tales, go pick up a copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.  Of all the LEGO games, that one delivers the best bang for the buck.

If, however, you have already played through the LEGO Star Wars games and are looking for more of the same kind of action in a different environment, LEGO Indiana Jones is there waiting for you.  Go get a copy.

Just look for one on sale, because there just doesn’t feel like $50 worth of content in the game to me.

Escape from Durnholde Keep – Round 2

So there we were again in Tanaris on a Saturday night.  With no cage match scheduled in Gadgetzan, we headed off to the Caverns of Time to fulfill the destiny of some orc named Thrall. (No, I’m not big on the Warcraft lore when it comes right down to it, at least not the Horde side.)

Assembled for the evening’s fun were:

69 Warrior – Earlthecat
69 Mage – Ula
69 Paladin – Vikund
70 Priest – Skronk
70 Warlock – Bungholio

Our last trip to Hillsbrad Foothills of seven years ago was something of a fiasco.  We were not working well as a team and our tactics, relative to our specs, were questionable.

The first thing we did was reverse the great respec we did a few weeks back, with Skronk changing from shadow back to holy and Vikund giving up retribution for protection again.

While those changes worked well against Exarch Maladaar, it did go against the group dynamic we had built up since I substituted Vikund the paladin in for Blintz the rogue way back in January 2007 when we were doing Razorfen Downs.

Then Bung followed one of the suggestions given after our last run at Durnholde Keep, which was to drop the voidwalker and use his succubus pet.  That gave us additional do crowd control using succubus seduction skill, plus provided and an endless stream of humorous quips from the succubus.

And, finally, there was the thing that I am sure made the real difference in our attempt this time.  Vikund went out and got himself a big piece of wood with a nail through it.

I call it "splinter"

I call it 'splinter'

Look at that thing.  Buford Pusser would be proud!

Anyway, we headed back in time and were soon standing before the keep.

This again...

This again...

The first group of four we went after was a little bit rough.  Skronk bought the farm.  But after that we seemed to hit our stride pretty quickly.  We plowed through the barracks area and took down Lt. Drake in no time.

Can I pry that sword from his cold, dead fingers?

Can I pry that sword from his cold, dead fingers?

Then, the barracks ablaze as a distraction, we headed into the keep itself, clearing a path to Thrall.

Now the challenge would come.  It is one thing to fight groups of four at your leisure, but to get them one after another proved a tough task last time.

With Thrall in the lead, we started out.

There was a little bit of confusion at first.  Since the encounters keep coming, there is no time to stop and pick who Ula is going to take out of play and who Bung is going to tackle, so the first group of four spent a bit of extra time beating on us before things got straightened out.  Vikund helped this process along by running ahead with Thrall while the casters were taking a quick drink to call out the potential targets.  With that, things went well.

We made it to the Captain Skarloc fight and, despite a bit of running about and getting focused on the right target, we took him down as well.  No deaths.  So there we were with Thrall at the gates to the keep again, this time victorious on our first try.

Together again in victory!

Together again in victory!

Skarloc was nice enough to drop a shiny new axe for Earl, the Amani Venom-Axe.

Go with the glow!

Go with the glow!

Not as good as a board with a nail through it, but it will do.

We rested up, got on our mounts, then sent Thrall along to the next stage, with us in tow.

A few easy fights and soon we were ready for the last set of encounters.  Again, more prepared than last week, we sliced through all three of them without issue.

Which left us with the Epoch Hunter.

A tough fight it was too.  Bouncing back from his minions, Earl grabbed aggro and we went to work.  The Epoch Hunter has a nasty damage over time attack that he spreads around, which is what killed Skronk.

Vikund fell back to heal and Bung went down as well.

By that point though, the fight was very close to victory.  Skronk used our soul stone, revived, and took up healing again just in time, as Vikund went down.

Finally, the Epoch Hunter was slain, but not before hitting Skronk with that DoT again, which slew Skronk.

There we were, Bung, Skronk and Vikund dead, Earl and Ula still standing.  With nobody left to ress, we had to release.  Of course, we had learned the hard way at some point past not to release before the boss has been looted.

The loot was the usual ironic finish, the Mantle of Perenolde, a leather item for a group with no leather wearers.

Epoch Hunter down, along with three of us

Epoch Hunter down, along with three of us

That settled, we sat for a bit longer, then Bung, Skronk and Vikund released.

(Somebody reading this must know what is going to happen next… somebody is going, “Noooooo!”)

Just after we released, the quest updated for Earl and Ula.  The quest giver, Erozion, showed up, they turned it in, everything was good.

For them.

The quest did not update for Bung, Skronk, or Vikund.

We released about five seconds too soon.  The quest was incomplete.  We have to do it all again.

AAAGH! (note the lack of “w” in there.)

We stopped and did some research, but found that other people had run into the same situation.  We were borked.

It was too late to start over again, but as you can see from the above screen shot, Vikund was very close to level 70 and Earl was not far behind.  So we reset the instance and went back to get a level for the two of us.

This time around we managed to wipe a couple of times on the very same mobs we had so very recently rolled over like cement truck.

Somebody on the team was tired.  Actually, more than one person.  So somebody did a Leeroy Jenkins on us once.  Somebody bumped into a group early another time. All in all we were dragging by this point of the night.

Eventually though, Earl and Vikund hit level 70.

Next week will be our third and, I dearly hope, our final run at Durnholde Keep.

WAR – The Other Stuff I Saw

I started off to write a piece about my impression after the Warhammer Preview Weekend.  Once I got through with the races and classes section however, I realized that it had legs of its own and cut it free of the rest of my post.  It never pays to cram too much into an article.

So this is the balance of my impressions, which probably still crams too much into one article.

Sudden Exposure

There certainly isn’t much there to guide you into the game.  Once you create a character and enter the game, you’re in the game and on your own.  No tutorial, newbie tips, or anything of the kind that I noticed.

Did I miss something?  Is there a feature to be implemented there or is WAR only targeted at those who have experience in the genre?  Or, heaven help us, does Mythic think that the operation of the game is so self evident that no intro is needed?

Having gotten into EverQuest in 1999, the transition into the game was not so bad.  I was able to figure out pretty quick that the green dot on the mini map was somebody with a quest for me, the orange dot was where to turn in a completed quest and a yellow dot was an as-yet-unsatisfied quest giver.

Why bother with the yellow dots?  Somebody at Mythic has a different relationship with quest givers than I do, since I only want them cluttering up my mini map when we have business to transact.  Can we lose the yellow dots?

Also  how about a little better physical orientation when you first jump into the game?  Of the eight classes I played over the preview weekend, all but one of them started in the game facing directly away from the first quest giver.  Only the black orc was looking in the right direction.  Of course, your tendency is to move forward when you enter the game, so I found myself running away from the first quest almost immediately.

And, for those keeping score, the reward for the first quest appears to be a new pair of shoes in all cases.

Tome of Knowledge

One of the two features being held up as the future of MMORPG design, I can see the point.  Sort of.  It consolidates in one area all the data that you would need to open 8-16 windows and run half a dozen slash commands to get in most MMOs. (And probably 100+ windows in EVE!)

And while I appreciate that consolidation, now I just have a more specific place to search through looking for the information I need.  Sometimes a window to itself is better than having to dig through half a dozen mouse clicks to find something.  For starters, and you can tag me as “Mr. PvE,” I want to get to my quest log with just one key stroke, thank you very much, not have to open the Tome and click a few times to see what I have on the menu.

So, I’ll rank this as good, but perhaps not as startlingly awesome as some would have you believe.

And I expect that somebody will say that the lack of tutorial I mentioned above is the result of having the Tome of Knowledge, which contains the answers to everything.

To that I can only ask, how well does RTFM work as an answer in your world?  Because it doesn’t fare so well in mine, so RTFVM isn’t going to fly. (V is for virtual for those who are still in shock after following that link and finding out what the F stood for.)

Public Quests

This is one of the things over which everybody has been fawning and making claims like:

Public Quests > Sliced Bread

To be honest, I did not really “get” what a public quest was until I actually found one.  Everybody goes on and on about how wonderful they are, but apparently cannot explain them very well. (It certainly couldn’t be my fault, right?)

Basically if you wander into the right geographic area, you will be notified in HUGE letters that you have entered a Public Quest area and what stage said Public Quest is in.

Feel free to join in.

I only got involved with two Public Quests, but as any student can tell you, two points of data is the most effecient way to draw a straight line to a conclusion.

That in mind, the pattern I got with public quests were that they fell into five parts.

The first part, you run around and kill some soloable mobs.  Everybody do their own thing.

The second part, you kill some mobs that you probably cannot solo.  People need to gang up on things.

The third part is some huge encounter that everybody needs to join in with to take down.

The fourth part is the loot distribution.  There is a lotto that everybody gets a chance at, but your odds are improved the more you contributed to the battle.  Some will win, most will lose.

And, the fifth and final part is a short wait until the cycle starts over again.

This is supposed to encourage community and cooperation.  It does so about as well as WoW battlegrounds do, from my own limited observations.  Everybody ran about in a mad rush at each stage with no plan or order.  However, the “everybody” was enough people that we defeated each stage and nobody died.

Public Quests are also supposed to give you some PvE content besides… well… regular quests.

Public quests score a little better in that regard.  There is something neat about running into this sort of encounter.  It is very dynamic… at least it is the first few times.  The encounter is exactly the same each time.  I am more of a “finish a quest and move on” sort of person, so I stayed through three cycles at each and went off to other activities.

Finally, there is the loot.  At the end of the quest you get told your ranking for you contribution.  I managed to get the number 2 spot in one public quest.  Being higher in the ranking improves your odds, or so I hear.  Then they draw for a couple tiers of loot.  I hit the second tier on the same one where I was ranked second.

If you win the loot lotto, you get to pick from a wide selection of items, including a “just give me some cash” option at the bottom.  The items were pretty good for my level and being able to select from a list was very nice.

Of course, if you don’t win, you get nothing, not even a couple of brass coins for your time or a crappy home version of the quest.

I am going to bet that, within a year, that will change and that public quests will give all participants something, cash or some token redeemable for prizes when accumulated in mass quantities.

All in all though, it is something new and interesting for the genre.

Off on a tangent for a moment.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Paul Barnett say that other games could copy the Public Quests, but they would never be as good because they weren’t integrated into the game from the outset or some such nonsense?  I didn’t dream that, did I?

Sorry Paul.  Public Quests are really a splendid idea, but Rob Pardo could make them appear in WoW with the expansion after next (tentative title: The Lukewarm Malaise) with a mere wave of his hand and they would probably be better, faster, and hand out fabulous welfare epics to everybody who participated.  Be satisfied that you were first, don’t try to stake out being best now and forever.

Unless he didn’t say that, in which case, never mind.

The Environment

War is certainly everywhere.  Let’s hear it for truth in advertising.  In almost all cases when I went into the game with a new character, stuff was on fire, things were exploding, and fighting was within sight.

The dwarves had squigs in the compound. It is no wonder they were running around in their night shirts.

The greenskins were facing a drunken onslaught, literally 20 paces from where you start, by dwarves who had apparently drawn the short straw so it was their turn in the barrel.

In The Empire the homes on the edge of the starting town were ablaze and overrun with Chaos!

And the high elves… they had some sort of fairy infestation issue going on and a lot of white lion crap right out in the road where you might step in it.

Okay, they high elves had bad stuff too, things on fire, bad guys running around, men down… er, elves down, and all that, but it was a bit further away than some of the other starting areas.  But you did have to kill some fairies first, once you learned to distinguish them from the high elves.

Anyway, you were put right into some very active environments, and they looked very good.  They all had a good organic feel to them.  I would put the graphic style more in the LOTRO end of the scale, though the WAR graphics engine handles things a bit more smoothly with things at a distance.  It did not look or feel like WoW to me, which you can take either as a compliment or an insult.  It can be both, believe me.

The Interface

I happened to play WAR, then WoW, then WAR again at one point over the weekend, so I had a pretty solid comparison in the responsiveness of the UI.  While I think WAR feels a lot better than LOTRO did on day one, it still isn’t up there with WoW yet.  The button bar is close, but some clicking on objects in the window wasn’t very snappy, and dealing with things in my inventory was almost painful.  Work needs to be done on this.

The interface itself is pretty standard.  Button bar at the bottom, minimap in the upper right, text chat box in the lower left, quest tracker text appears below the minimap, and so on.  I did have to scale it down quite a bit, as everything seemed HUGE on my 1600×1200 monitor.

Things moved in odd ways when I changed the scale a few times and I had to go into Mythic’s Interface Construction Set to get things lined up again properly.  That seems like a whole lot of tool to do the simple things I wanted.  Generally I keep the game interface as close to default as I can, since updates happen that break things or reinstalls are required once in a while and I get tired of resetting things yet again.

Stability & Performance

In more than six hours of play, I did not see the dread crash to desktop.  Go me.

Friday night was lag central on the server I chose.  I varied servers as well as classes, just in case I was on a bad one at some point, but after Friday night things seemed to run well enough.

The game ran well on my 2.4GHz QuadCore with 2GB of RAM and a 512MB 8800GT video card.  But it had bloody well better!

Best Feature

I just wanted to say that the method used to mark the game map and minimap for quests is just right.  A red border on the map surrounds the area you need to get to in order to complete your task.  And, if you are like me and grabbed all the quests you could so have red marks all over your map, mousing over them puts up a hover help window with the name or names of the quests in that give red zone.

Well done Mythic.

Most of the time when I go to some web site for quest information, it is to get a general location.  I would rank this well ahead of the Tome of Knowledge for things other games should copy.  Free me from external web sites and addons like Quest Helper!

Things I Didn’t Do

I did not do any PvP, RvR, or anything else I did not mention.  I’ll save all that for when the game goes live.  I chose to use the preview weekend to explore somewhat mundane things.  I’ve already pre-ordered the collectors edition and entered the keys.  I am committed.  I’m gonna play.  There is no point in trying to rush through everything in just a weekend.

Conclusion

Was it fun?

Well, you know, I wasn’t beside myself to stay logged into the game.  I didn’t play every possible hour I could. I didn’t lose track of time (Mythic, a clock please) and stay up way too late playing.  It wasn’t day one EverQuest where I wanted to stick that needle in my vein and never pull it out.

But I did try to log in on Monday evening, just to see if the servers were still up.

They weren’t.  Darn.

We’ll see in September.

In the mean time, we return you to your normally scheduled nonsense.

WAR – A Touch of Classes

I decided to indulge my alt-itis and make a bunch of characters over the course of the Warhammer Online Preview weekend just to get a sense of how they look and how they play.

How they look?

Let’s face it, the phrase “looks don’t matter” will be earning a place among the common lies people tell any day now, thanks primarily to the explosion in personal ads. We’re all going to spend a lot of time looking at our character, so it had better look okay.

I ended up making at least one character from each race and I played each a few ranks (ranks being the word for levels in WAR). That was just enough to get a taste of the classes I picked. Every class seems to start with two basic skills, some sort of ranged attack and one special melee attack, but after a few levels some of the class specific skills start to kick in. Plus you can see the skills that further ranks unlock.

The impact of Mythic pulling four classes from the game really struck me as I went through making characters. When you say a game had 24 classes planned, but four had to be pulled, that does not sound so bad. Think of EverQuest II, where any race can be any of the 24 classes (though you might need to betray). Pulling four classes would still leave a pretty rich set of choices for your character.

But when the race you want to play only had four choices to start with, having one yanked is something of a blow.

I did not worry so much about, say, the dwarf hammerer being removed from the game until I sat there at character creation screen looking at my other dwarf options. Of course, the dwarves were so ugly that having that additional class might not have helped much. Similarly, I felt the pain of the missing Empire tank, the Knight of the Blazing Sun, after I played a couple of the other tank classes for other races.

Still, you work with what you have. So, in descending order of fun, here is what I played.

(Disclaimer: All rating are superficial and subjective, your opinions may vary.)

1 – From da Greenskins, the Black Orc – The orc tank. For looks and the visceral feel of just beating the crap out of things, this guy is “the gud plan.” I just wish he wasn’t the only orc class, since the goblins just don’t work for me.  If the Choppa looks half as cool as this guy when he is done, I will have to have two orc alts. WAAAGH!

2 – From The Empire, the Witch Hunter – I played this guy the most. The best looking Empire class by far, he has a gun, a sword, and an attitude. A melee class that can take a punch, this will probably be the guy I play if I go Order.

3 – From Chaos, the Chosen – The tank of the Destruction humans, this guy looks like a tank. Not as badass as the Black Orc, but in the same ZIP code, he has a great big shield, a great big axe, and a lot of great big muscles to make ’em all go.

4 – From the High Elves, the White Lion – The second guy I rolled, I wanted to try this guy because pet classes are usually fun. However, pets were broken during the preview, so things were pretty erratic. Plus every single pet, as the name indicates, was a white lion. That, and their obvious popularity, drove the sameness factor to 11 and I had to move on. It was like being at a Johnny Winter/Kimba fan convention. Still, I could see the potential.

5 – From the Dark Elves, the Witch Elf – A female only class, and the one all the 13 year old boys (in years or in spirit) will play because she is hot. Nice animations when she fights, this is a class that somebody worked very hard on… heh. Of course, when my daughter saw me playing one, she ran off and told my wife I was playing a girl. Time to move on.

6 – From the High Elves, the Shadow Warrior – The ranged guy for the elves. Okay looking for a skinny, pasty white humanoid with rocker hair, he is pretty cool on the attack, but the special ranged attack he starts off with has to have one of the lamest animations I have ever seen. He draws back his bow and aims for the sky like he is shooting for the moon, then the arrow flies in a slow arc, made more comical if your target is close, that just breaks immersion completely. The arrow from that attack should have a little red, rubber suction cup on the tip. Perhaps it isn’t fair to judge based on that single attack, but can I afford to take that chance?

7 – From the Dwarves, the Iron Breaker – The dwarf tank. Would be okay if I could get past the looks, and I am not sure I can. I played him after having played the Black Orc and, frankly, I can see why the dwarves are doomed. He has the attitude, but that orc is so money.

8 – From the Dwarves, the Engineer – The ranged guy for the dwarves and the class I thought I would play. Then I saw the guy. How to describe him… If you crossed Rip Taylor, Herve Villechaize, and a warthog then had him run around in my grandmother’s night gown carrying a bronze pipe wrench… that is about what I ended up with. Oh, I am sure he looks better after he gets some more equipment, but here is where that Tabula Rasa “look cool from day one” idea sure seems like a winner.

So those were the classes I played. You can probably tell something about me from what I chose. Not a lot of casters in that lot, right?

In all likelihood, when the game goes live, this will be my class.

Witch Hunter for The Empire

Witch Hunter for The Empire

But there is still nearly a month to go. Plenty of time to change my mind.

What classese did you play in the WAR?

WAAAGH – The Warhammer Online Podcast #2

Somewhere along the line I lost track of the Massively Online Gamer podcast. I used to be a regular listener, but then things started to happen.

There was GAX Online which, understandably, took up a lot of their time.

Then there was the strange temporal asymptote phenomena that seemed to stand between them and MOG show #100. The closer they got to it, the further away that show seemed to be.

So I was glad to see that Gary and Ryan are back with a new podcast called:

WAAGH – The Warhammer Online Podcast!

Episode #2 is worth a special mention because it features Brent from VirginWorlds talking with Gary and Ryan about his “It isn’t fun” post about Warhammer Online, shark jumping as a genre, their expectations, the game itself, and their experiences so far.

Absolutely worth a listen.

You can find the episode #2 right here as well as on iTunes.