Monthly Archives: December 2010

December in Review

The Site

The site was picked for an honor over at Massively, being included in their 2010 round-up of MMO Blogs they like.  I want to thank the team over there again which does try to link up the MMO blogger community on a regular basis.  They seem to favor my other site, EVE Online Pictures, when they need a specific EVE Online screen shot and they always link back and give credit when they do.

I won’t spoil their rankings, but I will say congratulations to the other sites that were part of the write up and encourage readers to visit them all.  There were only a couple that did not already have a spot in my Google Reader list.

The combination of Massively mention and Talking Cats Playing Patty Cake managed to make December 2010 the month with the most page views ever, defeating the previous champion, the late Octopus Paul and his World Cup Predictions, who made July 2010 the previous record holder.

Paul does still hold the single day page view record.  What animal story will be able to top that?

One Year Ago

Let’s see… a random reader wrote in to tell me that the social aspects of MMOs are insignificant.  I don’t think he understood what he was talking about.

People seemed to be getting worked up as to how you define content in an MMO.  Can you compare sandbox and amusement park content fairly?  Taking some of this to its logical extreme, I demonstrated something that trumped all MMO content.

Also getting people worked up was the catch in the whole free to play model, brought up by changes to the store in Battlefield Heroes.  That actually got responses all over the place.

The US release date for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver was announced.  I am beginning to see a pattern here, a December announcement and a March release date for Pokemon every year.

People were warming up for Star Trek Online.  There was a confusing array of pre-order options.  But it was missing some items I really wanted. (I think the awful early movie uniforms just appeared recently in the C-Store.  Now I don’t really want them.)

In WoW we were busy wrapping up the holiday achievements, including wrapping up Pilgrim’s Bounty.

We were also playing with this new Dungeon Finder thing that showed up with WoW patch 3.3.  Automated cross-server instance group matching with random strangers?  It will never work.

The instance group, in its horde RP-PvP server form was hitting Gnomeregan and Shadowfang Keep, both of which seemed… much easier.

And I was officially epic… proven by the achievement.  Of course by that time, somebody already had all the possible WoW achievements.  Too epic to be believed.

Meanwhile, this horrible image was keeping me up at nights.  You just cannot unsee things once you have seen them.

Finally, there was an actual podcast interview with Erik “WoW isn’t easy enough” Estavillo.  He was a surprisingly good sport about being the subject of mockery.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.  I had to search a bit this month, but still found a few sites I had not previously mentioned.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Talking Cats Play Pattycake
  2. Heroic Deadmines!
  3. Fighting Blood Elf Porn
  4. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  5. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  6. How I Got My 5,000 Turbine Points
  7. The Hot New WoW Hunter Pet
  8. Reviewing My 2010 Predictions
  9. Shiny Pokemon Events Coming to GameStop in January
  10. WoW Account Hacked – This Just Keeps Happening
  11. 499 Way to Find Yourself… Well… Here
  12. Turbine is Totally the Reason Warhammer Online Failed…

Most Common Search Terms of the Month

  1. heroic deadmines
  2. elf porn
  3. cataclysm
  4. blood elf porn
  5. zombrex
  6. guild names
  7. turbine points
  8. ancient gaming noob
  9. blizzard authenticator
  10. cats playing patty cake
  11. lotro vip
  12. wow hunter pets

Spam Comments of the Month

This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life…
[Thank you, but I won’t be studying Spanish abroad.  I live in California, Spanish comes to me.]

DELETE THIS POST
[How about I just delete your comment?  Does that work for you?]

makes me want to drink alcoholic beverages
[Celebrating the end of learning skills in EVE?  Wait, this might not be spam.  No, checked your URL.  Spam.]

I conceive this internet site is rattling informative!
[Sorry, that’s me.  I rattle when I cough… or kvetch.]

“pokemon ranch” “porn”
[The ongoing need to prove Rule 34]

Where I Spent My Gaming Time in December

Game time distribution as counted by my Raptr profile, which doesn’t count Lord of Ultima or DC Universe Online beta.

  1. World of Warcraft – 62%
  2. EverQuest II Extended – 25%
  3. Civilization V – 7%
  4. EVE Online – 4%
  5. Hearts of Iron III – 1% (Damn Steam sale got me yesterday!)

EVE Online

Not much activity in space for me in December.  The great learning skill point redistribution allowed me to get within a couple of days of equipping and flying a Nightmare.  The account is set to lapse soon and I will probably let it go until Incursions is fully launched.

EverQuest II Extended

For the first two weeks of the month, this was my #1 game.  Even during the first week of Cataclysm I played more EQII.  And then I started getting folded into the WoW routine and Norrath started to fall by the wayside.  While I was gold this month, I will probably opt for a silver account when that expires.  I suppose that means no Freeblood race for me, but it would cost me another $30 to get that $20 options, and even then I would have to spend $45 more to get the full set of Freeblood features.

Lord of the Rings Online

The hot summer game for the instance group has also seen a drop in play from me.  I’ve logged in a couple of times.  I have kept the game patched.  But I have not done very much.  You’ll note that the play time didn’t even make the list above.  I was on long enough to see and approve of the latest update to the vault UI.  I do have to peek back in soon though, as the lotteries are back in the game.

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm has reshaped the world and I am starting to find myself more and more caught up in it.  The odd thing is that I have spent most of my time playing Wrath of the Lich King content.  My daughter and I are both in the middle of that with characters still.  And I have been doing Argent Tournament dailies with one of my characters to finish off rep with the main Alliance cities and to pick up a few heirloom items for the alts I suspect I will end up making.

Coming Up

I might have a set of January 1st predictions for 2011 up tomorrow.  Or maybe I won’t.

The instance group is poised to return to the new (and presumably improved) Deadmines.  The holidays have gotten in the way, but the cold gray new year should give us ample time to get into the reworked dungeon progression in Azeroth.

I am also looking for some Twitter management app.  Right now I am just using the built-in WordPress.com ability to publish to Twitter when I post and then the Twitter web site for everything else.  Only the web site seems pretty awkward for any purpose other than a Twitter post.  Who can suggest something?

Looking Back at 2010 – Highs and Lows

Yesterday I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed in the new year, at least for MMOs. (There are some single and multi-player games on my list, but that is another post.)

Today, it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2010, or at least what came to pass in my little corner of the gaming world.

Lord of the Rings Online

Highs:

  • The instance group had a great summer diversion from WoW into Middle-earth.  LOTRO gets better every time I go back to it.
  • I had more fun than I probably should have playing with the music system in LOTRO.
  • The transition to Free to Play seemed to be mostly a good thing for the game.  There were a lot more people playing.  And Turbine has been adjusting what is free and what you need to purchase from the LOTRO Store based on feedback.
  • I feel quite satisfied, as a Lifetime Subscriber, as to how I was treated as part of the transition to F2P.

Lows:

  • Only four of us hit Middle-earth, and since there is no mentoring or “buy a level” method in LOTRO, there seems little likelihood that we will be able to carry on past where we stand with the whole group involved.
  • Still haven’t seen Moria yet. (Only 8 levels away though!)  And Mirkwood?

EverQuest

Highs:

  • It still lives!  And look at how many servers it still has!  Not bad considering its age.
  • Now has housing in what looks to be an interesting mix of the EQII and LOTRO approaches.  It is really well done, given the architecture and interface that EQ has been carrying along with it for nearly 12 years.
  • Server merges, once I could find my characters, beefed up the visible population somewhat.

Lows:

  • Only focused sustaining the current population, though that is probably both the right and practical choice.  It just makes me a little sad to have to admit that there just isn’t going to be any significant new player base.
  • Server populations feel pretty small even post-merger.  I suspect we’ll see another round soon.
  • The game is really feeling its age.  Every time I go back the interface feels older and more cobbled together.

EverQuest II

Highs:

  • EverQuest II Extended is bringing in enough people to its single server to make the game feel more alive than it has in a long, long time.
  • New Halas is a good starting area and if you follow the quest line all the way through, you get a mount as a quest reward.  One more for the “why didn’t you do that sooner?” list.
  • The integrated quest guide functionality really helps out in New Halas.
  • The basic New Halas housing makes the old single room cells we got as housing in the racial ghettos at launch seem like… well… single room cells. (Though they are now two-room cells these days.)
  • The Revelry and Honor guild hall (on Guk) is still awe inspiring, and in a much less game-lagging sort of way.

Lows:

  • EverQuest II Extended has effectively ended any possible influx of new players for the old EverQuest II servers.  How soon until EverQuest II live is just the Antonia Bayle server?
  • On the server with my main characters (Crushbone), nobody on my friends list or in either of my guilds is still playing.
  • The integrated quest guide appears to be a work in progress, at least in some of the older zones.
  • The rest of the New Halas housing looks just like the basic from what I have seen, with a room added here or there.  I’ll just stick with the basic.
  • Eyesore marketing.  EQII deserves better.
  • The Freeblood Station Cash Grab.  $65 for the race and all the accessories.
  • The loss of Stargrace as a subscriber.

TorilMUD

Highs:

  • TorilMUD is still up and running.  I’ve only been logging into it since the Fall of 1993.
  • ZMud still works for me on Windows 7!  More than a decade of triggers, scripts, and macros preserved a while longer!

Lows:

  • Oy, you think EverQuest or EverQuest II Live have population problems?

Star Trek Online

Highs-

  • It shipped!  A Star Trek MMO at last!
  • My classic NCC-1701 ship model looks great!  I love it!  I make original series sound effects whey I fly it!
  • Seems to be getting all sorts of of new episodic updates.

Lows –

  • Apparently it wasn’t the game I wanted.  If you ask me, I’ll tell you I like the game, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I obviously can’t be trusted to speak the truth.  It is installed.  I keep it patched.  I never play. Damn.
  • Then there is the whole C-Store thing…

Civilization V

Highs-

  • Gets back to the series roots and what made my most favorite Civ game, Civ II, great.
  • Actually runs well on my new machine.

Lows-

  • Gets just as laborious to manage as you get closer to the end game (unless you’re losing badly) as Civ II
  • Ghandi the Terrible! (Supposed to be fixed with the latest patch)
  • Didn’t run at all on my old machine for no reason I could divine.
  • Individual Civs and tiny scenarios as for-pay downloadable content?  I’ll wait for a big Steam sale.  And then I’ll wait some more.

Total Annihilation

Highs-

Lows-

  • I still don’t have anybody to play against. (Same for Age of Kings, and I am so out of practice with StarCraft I get slaughtered by the sharks on BNet so fast it is scary.)

Pokemon

Highs:

Lows:

  • I still need 325,217 steps to max out the Pokewalker.  I wear the damn thing everywhere.  Obviously I need to walk more or rebuild the Pokewalker LEGO machine… and then hide it from the cats.
  • We didn’t get all of the download events they got in Japan. (Where is my special Celebi?)
  • WiFi co-op play in HeartGold and SoulSilver limited to battles.   I miss the underground from Diamond and Pearl.
  • Pokemon Ranch was no help at all.

Wii

Highs:

Lows:

  • The Wii, on the other hand, seems extremely taxed playing LEGO Harry Potter.  At first I thought there was something wrong with the game, but it is the Wii huffing and puffing trying to keep up. The LEGO games look much better on the XBox 360 or PS3.  It is time for some better hardware from Nintendo.
  • Netflix Streaming selection is still too small… and too random.  How do you make season 2 of a series available on streaming, but season 1 not?  I know, it is all in the licensing details, but they need to get those details worked out.
  • I totally suck at Super Mario Bros. Wii.  My daughter and her little pals play, and I am the one always in the bubble.

World of Warcraft

Highs-

  • The instance group is back together in Azeroth
  • I can fly in old Azeroth! OMFG that is so worth it!  Especially with my druid.
  • An all new race to play, redone level 1-60 content to go through, including updated instances, plus guilds have levels and achievements that give access to interesting things.
  • With only five levels to cap out, I am taking it easy and enjoying the new content.
  • The game is still smooth and polished and a lot of fun to play with my friends and family.

Lows-

  • Once the instance group hits 60, there are 20 levels of unchanged content between us and the next new thing.
  • Level 85 seems to come awfully quick for most.  Nobody else seems to be taking it easy.
  • Can’t fly in some parts of meso and neo Azeroth.
  • Guild levels come very slowly for small guilds.  I think we’re 25% of the way to level 2.  Achievements are also easier for bigger guilds.
  • More reputation grinds… including one with your own damn guild!  I helped found the guild five years ago, and now I’m neutral with it?
  • Gear inflation – my best welfare epics: Gearscore 245.  My first green drop at Mt. Hyjal: Gearscore 272.  My hunter gained a base 100 DPS rating by trading in his blue gun for the first green quest reward gun.
  • Wintergrasp is dead… and when it isn’t, I end up getting owned by level 85s with gearscores that seem to be an order of magnitude above my own.

Blizzard in General

Highs:

  • Still the brightest star in the PC games sales chart, with booming sales of StarCraft II and Cataclysm.
  • Hasn’t been completely destroyed by Bobby Kotick yet.
  • Tenacious D – Completely uncensored at BlizzCon.  Told my daughter she could watch until the first swear word.  She barely got to watch a minute.
  • Gave Red Shirt guy his due.

Lows:

  • Didn’t ship Diablo III… or give us a release date.
  • Didn’t tell us a damn thing at BlizzCon.  We had to find stuff out this way.
  • Forcing RealID on users who want to post to the forums?  That didn’t piss anybody off
  • RealID and Facebook integration plans in general.
  • I still hate the new BNet Parental Controls window.  Firefox doesn’t seem to like it either.  There may be a correlation.
  • It is starting to get easier to count the people I know who play WoW and who HAVEN’T had their accounts hacked.
  • Still no cast list for the Warcraft movie.

Facebook

Highs:

  • Family Feud – Comes in great, bite-sized doses and you can help your friends score more… or embarrass yourself in front of them.  The answers piss you off, but in a good way.  You feel smarter than your fellow man and woman.
  • Warzone Tower Defense – In the MindJolt section, it isn’t really a Facebook game, you can play it other places, but I first found it on Facebook.  It is fun.

Lows:

Other Semi-Related Items

Highs:

  • Scott Hartsman’s back and looking like all win with Rift
  • Duke Nukem (and 2K Games) might have the last laugh after all.  Hail to the chief, baby!
  • The MMO market in general looks like it is in for an uptick in the coming year.
  • EALouse get’s it all off his chest.  I’m not sure any of it was a surprise though.

Lows:

  • APB… I blinked and missed it.
  • MassiveBlips, gone… and probably forgotten.  Who will continue to decide who runs the #1 WoW blog?
  • For what seemed like forever this past Spring and Summer, Derek Smart and David Allen just could not shut up.  Well, at least until somebody got paid off and went away quietly.  (Okay, it was like Jerry Springer, we decried it, but we couldn’t look away.)
  • The EALouse comment thread makes Derek and David look like the pinnacle politeness and restraint.

The Blog

Highs:

  • Lots of great comments from the regular readership.  Tobold has a point, being less popular generally begets better quality.  There is probably a lesson in that which applies outside of blogging.
  • Very little trollish behavior aside from SynCaine… and he can’t help it, he just foams at the mouth when somebody says “World of Warcraft.”
  • Still writing regularly after more than four years.
  • Writing and recording stuff that I enjoy going back and looking at years later, which was my main goal for the site.  This is my gaming memory.
  • A very high complement and honor paid to me in the form of a mention from Massively.  Thank you so very much.

Low:

  • I have a backlog of things I want to write about, much of which I fear I will never get to or, worse, that I’ll simply forget.
  • I never got to a bunch of things that were somewhat topical and have since lost some meaning, but which I should have recorded at the time, if only for context.
  • My most popular posts this year involved a World Cup predicting octopus, Talking Cats Playing Patty Cake, and Blood Elf Porn.  Now you know the secret to popularity.
  • I still cannot find another WordPress.com theme that I like better than Regulus.  Not that I need to change, but something in my keeps looking. (Something in that probably explains men.)
  • I looked at my site the other day without being logged in and saw the ads that WordPress.com slips in for the readers.  Gold seller ads.  I swear, I didn’t know.

And that was about it for 2010, wasn’t it?  Thank you all for being involved!

Now what highs or lows did I miss in my myopia?

My MMO Outlook for 2011

More of that “end of year” stuff we bloggers are required by law to do.

Next year looks like it has the potential to be a banner MMO year.  Lots of stuff is coming out and much of it looks to have some serious potential.

The real question is, what should I spend time with and what should I skip.

There is only so much time to play, and MMOs have a certain “Hotel California” aspect to them… at least for me… I can check out any time I like, but I can never leave. (I was exploring EverQuest yet again this fall.  See.  I was first playing that in March 1999.)

My current MMO baggage is pretty heavy already.

There is World of Warcraft.  The instance group has returned to Azeroth.  It is also the game, because of Macintosh support as much as anything else, that I play with my daughter.  So it is unlikely to fall by the wayside completely, even if the instance group decides it wants to try something new.

And after WoW, there is the every changing hierarchy of “other” MMOs that I play in addition to WoW, the most prominent of which are Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, and EVE Online, but which could, given  the right whim or pang of nostalgia, include a half dozen other games.

So realistically, out of the MMOs coming out in 2011, I can probably pick up and play one seriously.

The problem is picking which one.  There are a few to choose from and they each have their own appeal.

Here is my list of MMOs to consider:

Star Wars: The Old Republic – The De Facto Choice

But it is Star Wars!

Star Wars: The Old Republic is at the top of the list for 2011.  How can it not be?

I mean, it is Star Wars from Pete’s sake!  Star Wars!  We’ve already covered the ratio of Star Wars to Star Trek in terms of literary popularity.

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

I have even created a category for it in WordPress already in anticipation of its release next year.

Which assumes that it will actually come out in 2011… and that it will be playable.

EA has a history of “gun to the head” ship dates, so it seems likely to hit the shelves in 2011, but you never know when they might suddenly learn their lesson on that front.

And I am going to guess that BioWare, shipping its first MMO, is going to face a set of unexpected (by them) issues at launch that will gum up the works good and hard, a situation that won’t be helped if EA kicks SWTOR out the door prematurely.

Plus the whole thing is going to be on the Hero Engine, a platform as yet unproven in a real world, subscriptions in the six figures and up environment. Danger, danger, danger.

None of these are deadly sins, especially if the game is good.

EverQuest was in all sorts of trouble on day one, but was so different (yet familiar) that we all rode it out and stayed subscribed in numbers well beyond the expectations of the EverQuest team.  With SWTOR though, a possible forced early launch with a noob MMO crew on an untried third party platform presents a series of real risks.  And if the game doesn’t stand out as delivering a unique experience, failure is a distinct possibility, especially to a cynic like me.

On the plus side, it is Star Wars, it is BioWare, it is an MMO.  If I had to make my choice today without any additional input, this would be the game I’d take.

DC Universe Online – More Super Heroes

Men in Tights

DC Universe Online is coming, and it is coming soon.

Very soon.

January 11th (1/11/11, I guess they couldn’t wait until November) will see the release of Sony Online Entertainment’s entry in the super hero MMO genre.

This is the only game on my list I have tried as part of a beta, primarily because I haven’t really liked super hero games up to this point.  I spent more time creating characters than playing them in both City of Heroes and Champions Online.

DCUO seems to be less about costumes and more about action.  Exciting, frantic, quite visceral action.  It has a very arcade-ish in feel… which it probably should because it is clearly a console game.

This is all a good thing, except when it comes to controls on the PC.  A real console controller (which is to say, not a Wii controller) has a second analog stick to control the camera.  As Yahtzee said in his review the other week, “The camera is like the working class.  If you cannot control it, it will plot to destroy you.”  And the camera in DCUO seemed hell bent on doing me in, mentally and physically. Having to try to fix the camera angles while running around like crazy fighting was a serious annoyance.

Camera control issues aside, small doses of DCUO were enough to satisfy me.  I could not see myself playing this game for a stretch of more than an hour.  It is fun but can be almost exhausting.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.  And if I wanted a game that was both an MMO and very much unlike anything I was currently playing, DCUO would not be a bad choice.  I just cannot tell if it was something I would stick with over time or not.

A key deciding factor: How much will Station Cash play into things?  Given how SOE decided to present the whole Freeblood race in EQII, it could be a deal breaker.

Rift – Mr. Familiar

Not a dye nor a floor wax

A lot of people seem interested or excited about Rift – Planes of Telara… or Rifts of Telara… or just Rift.  I’m not really sure what the official name is at this point.  Anyway, people whose opinions I respect are writing a lot about it.

And it is being made by people with solid track records who have proven they can do good things.  Reports about the game, now that the beta NDA has been dropped, tell a tale of a polished and really good looking game, with some special twists to help it stand out in the fantasy MMO genre.  And then there is Wolfshead with a recipe for fixing the game.  It is never too early to start on that.

Unfortunately, my dance card is kind of full when it comes to the fantasy MMO genre.

One of the things Rift has going for it is the latest and greatest version of Public Quests, which sounds like it is working great in the beta.  Unfortunately, Public Quests were a also a key differentiator for Warhammer Online back in the day, where they also worked well in beta.  Will Rift fare better when it goes beyond the self-selecting beta crowd and has to capture an audience that will need to buy a box and pay a subscription fee?

And then there is the soul mechanic, which has described as multiple mix-and-match talent trees so you can have greater character differentiation.  Again, sound great in theory, but we’ve all seen diversity packed up and put away because there turns out to be one “optimum” talent point distribution for a given role or task and all else is considered crap.  Maybe the team at Trion is wily enough to have avoided this… or maybe showing up with the soul that gives you a pet will mark you as a loser as surely as showing up in a WoW dungeon finder group with the title “the Explorer” will.  We shall see.

And while I have enunciated what is probably the most pessimistic possible view of what these features portend, I still have to ask what Rift really has going for it that would draw me in and keep me playing.

Guild Wars 2 – Return to the land of no jumping

space bar... space bar!I really like that logo.

Logo aside though, Guild Wars 2 is probably a reach, given I could never really get into the original Guild Wars.

I own it.  I actually own the original and one of the expansions.

I like the idea of it. Not so many levels, emphasis on group adventures.

And there is the subscriptions model, which is “Buy the box, play forever.”  You have to love that.

I’ve installed it a few times and have tried to get into it, but I never stick with it.

The scenery is gorgeous but I find the character models off-putting.  I have mocked Darren about his complete aversion to any anime-like Asian character models, but I kind of see his point here.  And you have to look at your character all the time, so if you don’t like how they look….

That and the space bar doesn’t make you jump.  This is one of those trivial things that suddenly becomes annoying when you can’t do it.  I watch our instance group when we travel across zones and several of us are practically addicted to jumping.  We jump at the crest of every rise, over every obstacle, on every down slope just to see how far we can go.  So when Potshot and I last played Guild Wars it almost caused us physical distress not to be able to jump.

Okay, those are, admittedly two lame reasons not to play a game.  But I could never find some huge bonus to the game that would off-set those two things that I couldn’t get in a game where I didn’t mind the character models and I could jump.  So Guild Wars lost by default.

Still that is yesterday’s news.  I hope.

Guild Wars 2 could change all of that.  They’re keeping the same no-subscription model, which everybody loves, the heavy instancing, which I don’t mind, and trying to simplify skills a bit, which is probably good, while working with a new “quests not from a guy with an exclamation point over his head” model of events for players (if I read it right).

On the other hand, they’ve upped the level cap from 20 to 80, no doubt to capture the achiever types, and while they promise it won’t be a grind, I find that hard to swallow.  Either levels have value, in which case you are automatically encouraged to push towards level cap, or they are not, in which case why bother with them?

And of course, like Rift, GW2 is yet another fantasy MMO, which isn’t exactly what I need.

Plus it might not ship in 2011.

So I am probably unlikely to go here unless I get an ironclad guarantee that the space bar will let me jump.

The Exiled Realm of Arborea, TERA Online – The Pretty Face

Not Terra, no no no

TERA seems to be lurking in my periphery.  I saw it back at GDC.  The person in the cube next to me at work has TERA screen shots as his desktop patterns.  Tipa just tweeted the other day asking who was looking to play it.

But what do I actually know about TERA?  Well, it looks really nice in screen shots and demos I’ve seen.  But it is still another fantasy MMO.  What does it bring to the table?  Here is a marketing quote for the game:

TERA is the first true Action MMORPG, providing all of the depth of an MMO with the intensity and gratification of an action game. Players fully control their characters using the game’s dynamic battle system. Player actions can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as six allied races try to work together to protect their lands from marauding monsters, underworld dwellers, and evil scheming gods.

TERA raises the bar, setting new standards in the gaming industry. It is a visually stunning world with graphic quality above all other games in the industry. You will experience a new ground-breaking gameplay system where stereotypes of traditional MMORPGs will be broken. You will have full control over the attacks and the fate of your enemy. No more ‘pointing and clicking’ and playing combat relay with the enemies. Furthermore, not only do you control the action, TERA is also set in a world where the players will dictate the flow of the economy and individually impact the community environment.

Well, I suppose I should be thankful that they didn’t talk about the oft-mentioned “fourth pillar” at least.

And while I have probably been influenced by the beta, but it sounds like it might play a lot like DCUO.

Or maybe not.

Some of the superlatives are hard to digest.  What does it mean to have full control over the attacks (who else has control over my attacks in other games… we are talking about my attacks right) and the fate of my enemy?  Does that mean I can force them into indentured servitude and make them go do my trade skill harvesting?  Can I make them quack like a duck?

And remember, setting new standards can include standards for failure.

This seems an unlikely bet for me, but what I don’t know about it could fill a book.  I’ll look for some beta reports to see how much of the marketing is empty hype.

The Agency – The Covert Ops Hero’s Journey

A really, really secret agency

Oh, The Agency.

The trailers sure look good.

But does anybody think this is going to ship in 2011?

I’ve been on The Agency hype and silence ride a little too long to put money on it.

Other Factors

There are things that can sway which games I might try over the next year.  The ongoing reviews and reports from the various betas and the like will certainly influence me.

The instance group is also a key factor.  The five of us represent a wide range of interest in the genre.  At one end, there is Potshot who plays more betas than any of us and myself, who keeps a candle lit for the MMOs of the past.  And at the other end of the spectrum we have Earl and Bung who are pretty happy with WoW as our weekly vehicle and who really only have time for one game in any case.

If one of these games ends up being a must play for Potshot, I’ll probably go play as well.  If any become a must-play for Earl or Bung, the whole group will probably migrate over for a while.

And if group sizes in a given game go beyond the WoW limit of 5, there are other potential players would would come along for the ride.

What Will It Be?

I am sure I will end up playing at least one of these games in 2011, I’m just not sure which one yet.

How about you.  Which of these are on your must-play list?  If you had to pick one, which would it be?

And did I leave MMOs off of the list that I should be considering?  What other logos should I be clipping from game sites?

TERA is the first true Action MMORPG, providing all of the depth of an MMO with the intensity and gratification of an action game. Players fully control their characters using the game’s dynamic battle system. Player actions can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as six allied races try to work together to protect their lands from marauding monsters, underworld dwellers, and evil scheming gods. TERA raises the bar, setting new standards in the gaming industry. It is a visually stunning world with graphic quality above all other games in the industry. You will experience a new ground-breaking gameplay system where stereotypes of traditional MMORPGs will be broken. You will have full control over the attacks and the fate of your enemy. No more ‘pointing and clicking’ and playing combat relay with the enemies. Furthermore, not only do you control the action, TERA is also set in a world where the players will dictate the flow of the economy and individually impact the community environment.

Duke Nukem Forever? Two Months Early For April Fools?

I saw this teaser over at Ars Technica and had to follow it to Amazon.com.

Duke Nukem Forever - Ship Date Feb. 1, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever… with a ship date?

That has to be a mistake, doesn’t it?

Is it one of those Mayan Calendar prophesies?

Or some sort of sign of the apocalypse or the end of days or some such?

Hogwarts Castle – Brick by Brick

  • 3+ hours
  • 3 instruction booklets
  • 10 bags of parts which added up to 1290+ pieces
  • a 6 foot long table
  • my daughter and myself
  • iTunes and YouTube

These were the ingredients for a Boxing Day afternoon of LEGO building.

(I am reliably informed that the 26th was, in fact, Christmas Sunday and that Monday was Boxing Day for anybody who cares a whit for tradition.  I’ll claim that is why I took today off work, even though I live in California.)

My daughter has not been much on LEGOs over the last year.  She still likes them and will pour over the catalogs when they show up, but other priorities seem to get in the way of actually playing with them.  So it looked like we might skip LEGOs for Christmas this year.

But then there was LEGO Harry Potter on the Wii and the latest Harry Potter movie, which put her in the right mindset when the Fall LEGO catalog showed up in the mail.  Inside was a variety of Harry Potter sets to go with the movie release, including Hogwarts Castle.

That was what she said she wanted.  A big set, the castle, and on the expensive side.

But I help create the Christmas wish list that gets doled out to family and friends, and especially to grandparents.  (Due to divorce and remarriage, my daughter has more grandparents than are biologically possible.)  And from that list, I know to whom to hand the big ticket items.

And so on Christmas day, one of the (too) many gifts my daughter got was LEGO set 4842, Hogwarts Castle.

She also got set 4736, Freeing Dobby, which was good because assembling a big LEGO set is often a set of serial operations, so it is hard to divide the labor… which meant that I build most of the castle while she did one of the castle sections and the Dobby set.

Listed at 1290 pieces (not counting the copious extras, since the LEGO people tend to throw in an extra or two of any tiny piece you might lose, which in a set like this with many, many tiny pieces probably boost the actual part count to 1400) this was easily the biggest LEGO set we have attempted.  Jabba’s Sail Barge, though intricate, was a mere 781 pieces, while the Castle we build was 973 pieces.

So we set up a six foot folding table in the room we call “the bowling alley” (it is 33 feet long and 11 feet wide) and went to work.

To keep our spirits up, my daughter played a continuous stream of Potter Puppet Pals videos from YouTube and then, when that ran dry, selections from my seemingly endless supply of “Weird Al” Yankovic songs on iTunes.  All of this drove my wife to the other end of the house.

And only three or so hours later, the castle was complete.

Looks Just Like The Box!

The set came out very nice.  I am always surprised/delighted at how the LEGO designers can create some very set-specific effects without creating a huge number of one-off parts.  There were very few special parts in this set, outside of the minifigures and the tops of the towers. (I am also amused when I recognize something that was used in another set for something different… like some of the items in the fruit bowl were used to make Gary the snail in the original Spongebob Squarepants sets.)

The cast of minifigures out front include the three from from Freeing Dobby.  They were another Harry Potter (whom you cannot see because he is under the invisibility cloak!), Lucious Malfoy, and of course, Dobby.  Dobby may be the creepiest minifigure I’ve seen, though that is because it is so well done it captures how creepy he was in the movies.

A Closer Look at the Minifigs

And then there is the inside of Hogwarts.

Towers and the Dining Hall

Dumbledore's Quarters

My daughter is now enjoying the castle.  We will have to see how long that lasts.

You see, our cats really like LEGOs as well.  However, what they really like is to knock LEGO sets off of tables and shelves so they hit the floor and shatter.  Then they bat the pieces around or carry them off to hide them.  Our cat Fred was very interested in the whole building process and had to be lifted off of the table and out of the middle of things a few times.

Fred waiting for his opportunity

We’ll see what Hogwarts looks like in the morning.  We might have to rename Fred and Trixie to Voldemort and Bellatrix.

Easing into Cataclysm

In the week or so following the launch of Cataclysm I ended up playing a lot more EverQuest II Extended than I did WoW.

But the tide is turning.  Slowly my interest is transferring to the new expansion.  So only a couple of weeks after the expansion released, I actually had a character hit level 81.

I was only about 16 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes behind the first person to hit level 81, assuming that they took at least 20 minutes for them to do so.  It might have been less.

I like a lot of the things Blizzard has done with Cataclysm that aren’t necessarily “content,” like the level up message you can see above.  It not only tells you that you have leveled, but also shows you what new skills you can get at your trainer and reminds you that you have a talent point to spend.

As usual, I have tended to focus on a more lateral experience rather than racing to the level cap.  For example I had one character that I wanted to get closer to exalted status with Darnassus, which gave me a reason to run through the new version of Darkshore.

I recall Darkshore being something of a travel grind, lots of running up and down a fairly lengthy zone, something that drove people with alts to make that long run through the Wetlands in order to run through the much more popular Westfall experience.

The new version is quite an improvement.  The quests are well done and, as with the new Westfall, demonstrate a wide variety of ways to make “kill 10 rats” m0re engaging.  Plus, there is a quest early on in the Darkshore line where the reward is a companion pet.  Why is this such a rare thing?  The only other quest I can recall that offers up a companion pet is the Westfall chicken quests, and that is a hidden quests.  You have to know it is there to find it.

I am still digesting the challenges and implications of the whole new guild level-up system.  The levels and character reputation and the like are going to change how people view guilds and changing guilds, but I am not sure the changes will be all good.

I like the mini-cut scene thing they have going on in a lot of the zones,something that has come along with the new content.  There are some epic views to be seen.

Nifty Maelstrom

I appreciate that they couldn’t do special videos for each and every cut scene event.  That would take a lot of time and a lot of drive space.  So I am okay with them using current game assets and just panning the camera around in a wide screen window to give you a special view of the world. I just wish they would at least turn off some of the in-game indicators, which sort of break the magic.

Thrall... will have a quest for you at some point

I don’t really want to see the quest giver icons floating above NPC heads in cut scenes.

And while I am complaining about minor things, what happened to flying in the Dranei zones?  I ran a character over there, but no flying was allowed.  Is it the same for the Blood Elf zones?

Ah well, I was only there for reputation.  I am not sure how many people will notice you cannot fly there… or that blizz updated some quests there as well.

So I like what I have seen so far.  WoW play time is ramping up and other games are falling by the wayside… for now.

Pokemon Black and White Coming March 6, 2011

As somebody noted in the comments of the previous post, there was a big update to the US region official Pokemon Black and White web site, including something of a non-announcement of the release date.  The “Coming Spring 2011” ribbon changed to “Available 3/6/2011.”


Generally Nintendo has a press release and a post up on the main Pokemon.com site and a Twitter message or two.  But this time around, they just quietly updated the Black and White website.  Now, they might be saving the press release for the new year since the time between Christmas and New Year tends to be a dead week for news.

In addition to the release date, they have a range of new information about the game including some of the new Pokemon you will see in the Unova region where Black and White take place.

Blitzle

I expect to see more news soon along with a Toys R Us event to coincide with the new Pokemon movie that will be coming out along with Black and white.

Addendum:

Of course, shortly after I wrote this, I got an email from Nintendo with the announcement for the release date.  So they are just getting the ball rolling.

Official Word in my Mail Box