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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 6

J boley and I acquire access to all four pillars, do some trading, and begin work on our mob farm!

Fossils Server Series Ep 008

This is an important episode, as we divide into two teams to prepare for building the dinosaur parks!

Monday, December 30, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 5

The adventure in the sky continues as j boley and I expand to more pillars and discover the source of our food and livestock.

Towards the end of the video, you see why I chose not to record for this particular series. Staring at cobble, lava, and water for 20 minutes at a time isn't particularly entertaining. Don't worry though, we're already looking at some other maps to try out that will be exciting for both of us to film.

Fossils Public Server Series Ep 007

In this episode we meet a few more members, hatch baby dinosaurs, and Noble takes to the sky.
We found out that most of our enclosures were too small for our full-grown dinosaurs, and we've expanded since the recording.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Metaworlds - A Truly Unique Mod!

I'm impressed by a lot of things mod creators come up with. Camouflaged blocks, mobs with unique qualities, and items with amazing abilities are all pretty cool and very enjoyable, but often not mind-blowing. Sometimes though, a mod comes along that just defies all logic and really makes you take notice.

Metaworlds looks to be one of those mods. Before I explain any farther, just look at this simple picture:
That is not an optical illusion - some of those blocks really are at an angle. How does that work? Well, according to the description on the mod's forum page, it's basically a game save file within your game save file - a sub-save... or "metaworld" in this case.

These metaworlds can be edited directly in-game, allowing you to move them around, make them rotate or fly, and even scale their size! If that's not crazy enough for you, try this - everything still functions. Chests, furnaces, and yes even redstone all work regardless of position or size!

Here's Captain Sparklez showcase video where he puts the mod in action. It's pretty wild stuff.
I've yet to try this mod for myself, but was so amazed by what it's capable of that I felt I had to mention it straight away! Hopefully, I'll find some time to give this a go... it looks incredible.

Friday, December 27, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 4

The series continues, and this time j boley and I discuss objectives, adventure maps, and the Fossils/Archeology server while lamenting the rain.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 3

J boley discovers the contents of a secret chest, and we have a bit of an oops moment.

I'm pretty sure we have some missing footage now, as I swore there was a joke in between episodes 2 and 3 that's just gone. Maybe James is saving it for his jokes series... :-P

Monday, December 23, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 2

J boley and I continue working on the map challenges of expanding the island and making our way to the pillars themselves. We also get our first set of uninvited guests!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4 Pillar Survival - Episode 1

Here's the first episode of our "4 Pillar" survival series, starring myself and j boley.

I have a fear of heights/falling, so I was a bit nervous. Even though it's just a game, the consequences on this map for losing materials early on could make or break the entire thing. Suffice to say, the shift button was my best friend alongside James!

Remember to check out j boley's channel for other fun Minecraft series and aventures!

Fossils Public Server Series Ep 005

In this episode, we have a friendly competition as we race through an abandoned mineshaft to gather materials!
This was a lot of fun to participate in, and just as much fun to watch! We're currently brainstorming some other competitions for the future. Be sure to check out Jody's YouTube channel for more episodes!

[BONUS] Here's the episode from James' perspective! Be sure to watch his channel for an upcoming team-up series featuring yours truly! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Coming Soon: 4 Pillar Survival Series!

As mentioned in my last post, j boley and I are going to be producing some Minecraft videos together.

We're kicking things off with a series using a map called "4 Pillar Survival", and we'll be playing it in Minecraft version 1.6.4. It's similar to skyblock, but there are some unique twists.

Off in four different directions are these pillars, each made out of various materials. Inside the pillars are villagers, hidden chests, and other assorted goodies to help us along the way. There's a laundry list of challenges, from the mundane to the fantastic, and our goal is to complete them ALL (at least the non-Tekkit ones)!

The first episode will be out soon, likely within the week, and can be seen on j boley's YouTube channel, which I highly suggest you check out. I'll also be posting the videos here as well once they are released.

If you'd like to know more about the 4 Pillar Survival map or want to try it for yourself, just click here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

F/A Server Series - Ep004

The new episode is here! We show off a few projects, find adventure, and have an inaugural ceremony at the fossil shrine.

We filmed this episode directly after the last one, and as I said before it was a fun experience! We still have room for more teammates, so check out episodes 000 and 001 (on JodyVL's channel) to join us!

Also, AngerPuppet42 (j boley on YouTube) and I are thinking about having some more Minecraft fun in the near future. We're still tossing around ideas, but I'll let you know what we decide on soon!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fossils/Archeology Server Series

I joined the Fossils and Archeology public server several days ago to be part of a project masterminded by JodyVL/Mandelsage. I've been a fan of his videos for several months now, and when the call went out to participate I felt it would be fun to play along and see how things turn out.

I've been having a wonderful time and have made several friends already! The team, albeit small for now, has some truly talented and friendly people that welcomed me with open arms. You can see my first appearance in the episode below.

Likewise, I've already been helpful to the team, contributing on some projects that will appear in upcoming episodes. If you're interested in joining, please check out the earlier episodes that have all the information on how to apply. Hope to see you soon!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Zombie Rehab Center

Inspired by some fellow youtubers I've had the pleasure of playing Minecraft with, I finally produced my video for the zombie rehabilitation center. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Answer to an Old Question

How do you keep zombie pigmen from spawning on/near your rails in the Nether? It's been an issue since the first Minecrafter laid track in hell.

The typical and certainly cost-efficient answer is to place glass, slabs, or stairs directly above the track itself. While in a minecart, players can pass through these blocks without taking any damage or suffocating. It does feel a bit cheesy using this method, and there are a few drawbacks (namely slopes and access to the area without a cart handy).

Konceptum1 decided to try his hand at answering this with a more high-tech approach.

While not the most resource friendly, it does seem to be an interesting take on the subject. It would be a fun way to impress people with your redstone skills!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

9-0 The Dream Achieved!

After a personal best of 7-3 (and several horrible 3-3s yesterday) in Hearthstone arena, I achieved the dream, going 9-0!

I played as a mage, though my draft wasn't all that exciting. I had NO legendaries, Pyroblasts, Polymorphs, or even Fireballs! I ended up with two Cone of Cold, one each of Mirror Entity, Mirror Image, Frost Nova, Frostbolt, Blizzard, and Flamestrike for spells. For spell cost reduction and damage boost I had two Sorcerer's Apprentice, one Ancient Mage, and one Azure Drake.

Other notable minions included Venture Co. Mercenary, Frost Elemental, Twilight Drake, two Acolyte of Pain, two Dire Wolf Apha, and a single Spellbreaker.

As usual, it was mage control, but instead of hard removal I focused on locking the enemy down with freeze. I played aggressively with my minions most of the run. Acolytes were clutch here, and in a pinch I'd ping one for card draw to find answers. Sometimes I'd get lucky and have spell damage on the field for larger Cones or Blizzards, which was crucial against a shaman in the 6th or 7th win bracket fielding a swarm of Harvest Golems and Defenders of Argus.

My closest match was in the 5th-6th win bracket against a rogue who had me at single digits with lethal on the field. Fortunately, I was able to drop their health low enough in turns prior to secure the win with an Acolyte-pinged topdeck Frostbolt.

Several of the games were pretty rough, and I saw a good deal of legendaries on the opposing board, including a Ysera that was bounced back to hand once it was low on health only to replayed immediately after. Ragnaros almost had me, but I was able to spam minions for him to target instead... and again, Acolytes were amazing here.

All told it was an amazing run, and my first impression of the deck was not the best. I envisioned it going 5-3, worse if I faced any amazing decks along the way. Suffice to say, my overall opinion of freezing has increased considerably. In the absence of hard removal, simply stalling for time can make all the difference.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Weekly MMO Live Show Starts Tonight!

YouTuber Corpsealot (aka Larzul) is starting up what sounds like an amazing and entertaining series based on free-to-play MMOs. It will be broadcast live every Friday night, starting 7-7:30pm EST and will run between 1-4 hours.

I could explain the details, but the announcement video does that well enough on its own. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Basic Priest Mayhem

While browsing for Hearthstone deck ideas, I found this priest deck that uses all basic cards and plays fairly well in ranked games. The creator (Mayhem Gaming on YouTube) says it even stands up in Masters, and shows a number of games on how to go about using the cards effectively in following videos.

I put the deck together and ran it a while last night, and it went better than I expected. I'm 3-star Diamond, and was having a blast beating people packing all-star rares like Argent Commander or popular legendaries like Sylvanas Windrunner..

The deck is very much control-based, with eight single-target removal spells (Shadow Word: Death/Pain, Holy Smite, Mind Control) and two Holy Nova. That's a third of the deck dedicated to removal. The remainder has a few minion health boosts and is packed with workhorse basic minions like Chillwind Yeti and Gurubashi Berserker and card drawing utility minions in Novice Engineer and Northshire Cleric.

It's important to keep your larger minions healed up, as your win condition is likely an ogre or angry Gurubashi to the face. It's debatable as to the effectiveness of Shadow Word: Death, as it can sometimes be a dead card. Many players have realized that 4-attack minions are the hardest for priests to deal with and capitalize by running as many of them as they can. That said, players also often run Shattered Sun Cleric, Dark Iron Dwarf, and Defender of Argus (all of which booth the stats of other minions), putting their 4-attack minions into Shadow Word: Death territory.

Being control, the deck is also rather slow and can be overwhelmed very quickly by aggro rush. If a warlock or rogue ends up with the Coin, you're probably in for a troublesome start that you may not recover from. Also, you will curse Faerie Dragon's existence because your only means to remove it is via combat or Holy Nova.

In an upcoming patch, Mind Control is going from eight to ten mana, making it a truly late-game spell that won't allow you to cast anything else that turn. This will be a significant problem for this deck, and I'm uncertain the deck will be very viable after that. Mind Control is a bomb however, and can be a huge menace in Arena play, thus the cost increase. If you want to try this all-basic deck, I suggest doing so ASAP.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hearthstone LOLs and Mickin on Twitch

I've been playing Hearthstone a while, and in short I think it's off to a solid start. The game is a little thin on features at the moment, but it is still in beta (and will be for a while as open beta doesn't begin until at least next month).

My personal strategy has been to improve at arena to where I can end up profiting with a decent win/loss ratio. Watching good players that explain their thought processes behind draft choices and plays goes a long way to improving your own skill.

Twitch is probably the best place to do that, and my favorite Hearthstone streamer by far is Mickin. He's a strong player that knows arena and provides an informative stream without a bunch of flash and clutter. Mickin streams begin roughly 6-7pm EST and run about 6 hours, so there's ample time to tune in and watch.

While not a typical Mickin game, I had to share this particular highlight where the opponent pretty much hands him the match and leaves him speechless.

Watch live video from MickinX on TwitchTV

Friday, November 8, 2013

WoW: Warlords of Draenor Announced

Blizzcon is underway and as expected, there's some news on what we'll see next for World of Warcraft. Here's the announcement trailer:
First things first, this is NOT the full cinematic expansion trailer you may be expecting. That will most assuredly come along at some point in the future. This video is really just a teaser to announce some of the new features being toted for the expansion.

Considering that some features announced for previous expansions still aren't implemented, it may be premature to comment on these... but I'm going to anyway.

Level cap 100

Nothing unexpected here - it was going to either be 95 or 100, not a huge difference either way.

Updated character models/skins

Already announced. Personally not too excited here, though some feel this is necessary.

Level 90 Upgrade

You can make one character instantly level 90 and experience the new content right away. This has it's uses for a quick high-level alt, and possibly even a poor man's realm transfer, so I'm not totally unopposed. Sadly, this looks like it will be instantly abused by gold sellers to farm easier than ever before. I'm also guessing that this will become a purchasable service down the road, because people like instant gratification.


Build your own fortress with tons of bells and whistles. This looks to be Blizzard's answer to the often-requested player housing in WoW. The biggest surprise here is they will exist in the open world. While I vastly prefer the idea of that, I'm unsure of how well it will work in practice. Previous attempts at open world player structures haven't fared well, so it's a gutsy decision by Blizzard. Here's to hoping it works well.

Questing System

Lots of buzz words here like "refined and flexible" with little to explain what that means. Quests can now reward random rare or epic loot, which might be okay. One of my biggest complaints about WoW is that it has a huge world that people can mostly ignore if they choose (get to level 10, set hearth to capital, queue LFD and never look back), and the chance at better rewards for questing may alleviate that.

A "New" World

This all takes place on Draenor, which is now known as Outland. Time travel is obviously a major theme of the expansion, and it sounds like someone is attempting to mess with past events (a repeating theme in WoW already). I have mixed feelings here. Seeing the original Draenor sounds pretty cool, but time travel can easily create lore inconsistencies. Speaking of lore, the actual reason as to why this is happening in the past is still unknown. That's intentional so as to generate speculation, which keeps people talking about it.

Not Mentioned in the Video

Level scaling and number squish. I can see not talking about the impending squish, because while necessary at some point, most players won't like it (mah big nmbrz r gon, wtf blizz). Scaling players/instances to match the other is a great feature used by a number of games, and helps to strengthen player cooperation. They're both coming to WoW at some point, perhaps before this expansion is even released (which may actually be the reason they're not part of the trailer).

Final Thoughts

Some are going to see Draenor and immediately think, "oh boy, a return to TBC! That must mean things are going to be like old times!" only to have their hopes quickly dashed. Face it, that style of play is never coming back to WoW (for better or for worse).

The announced features are a bit of a mixed bag, and I'm sure many are wondering if new races/classes/professions are even going to be added. It's still too early to tell, but I'd think if they were certain on adding any of these it would've been in the announcement. Warlords of Draenor seems more about improving what's already in-game, with garrisons being the major new feature.

That said, I don't see anything that makes me want to return yet. Garrisons would've been nice when more of my friends were playing - it's a great idea for current subscribers, though (which is an important demographic to please).

Perhaps the focus isn't to necessarily bring in new or returning players, but to keep the current ones happy. WoW may be past it's peak, but with millions of active accounts it's still very far from dead. At this point, I think the numbers have pretty much stabilized and Blizzard is left with a strong title that continues to be their major source of revenue. From this standpoint, it only makes sense to add engaging content that keeps those players entertained.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Duel of Champions is Bad

Not Breaking Bad, not Michael Jackson Bad, and not even Snakes on a Plane bad. Just plain bad.

As I stated in a previous post, I think it's wise to play a game for at least a week before drawing any conclusions as to the state of the game and your personal enjoyment of it.

Firstly, it always takes a little time to learn game mechanics (even more in the case of card games), let alone how well the mechanics work and how they affect the game as a whole. Second is what I like to call the "honeymoon phase" where you're busy learning and experiencing what it has to offer and you enjoy the game early on, but as the shine wears off you see what you have left. That phase usually takes about a week for me, and if I'm still interested in a game after that, then chances are it's at least decent.

  = Don't bother.

Unfortunately, once the shine faded from Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, all that remained were hassles, restrictions, and blatant cash grabs on what could've been a solid game.

I will be making comparisons between Duel of Champions and other free-to-play digital card games throughout the rest of this post, and I feel it's incredibly fair and reasonable to do so. That said, let's begin looking at the game's features.
Factions: Choose wisely, because you're stuck with it for a while!

Starting Out

You begin by picking one of the original faction decks. You're given minimal knowledge about each deck's playstyle and introduced immediately to the campaign/tutorial. If you don't already know each deck's strengths, weaknesses, and options (which you shouldn't be expected to), you may pick a deck that you don't enjoy at all. Sadly, you're now stuck with this decision unless you get enough cards to make a new deck or start fresh on a different account. The website gives a slightly more descriptive look at the factions, but for in-depth information you're going to have to check the forums or an external source.

This is a ridiculous and archaic trick to get you to buy more cards - not because you're enjoying the game and want to buy more, but because you had to make an uninformed decision that could change your progression and enjoyment of the game dramatically. My only counter to this is to suggest making several dummy accounts to try out the different deck types. Once you find one you're happy with, either stick with that as your real account or start fresh with all the knowledge you have gained. Even then, that's a time-consuming, inconvenient, and annoying process to play a game.

Comparison #1 In SolForge (still in beta), you get two starter decks that contain a combination of two factions each. That's at least a sample from all four current factions, and you can start getting the feel for them all right away. Hearthstone (also still in beta) starts you off with one class, and you unlock the other classes by beating them in Practice Mode. As you level classes, you unlock their basic sets. In the case of both games, you have access to all the basics without having to spend anything but some time.

The "campaign" in Duel of Champions is incredibly small, and is really more of an extended tutorial. You can earn some rewards for completion and it doesn't take long, so it's worth doing... but calling it a campaign is an exaggeration.


You have a large play area to deploy creatures and spells, and the positions of each are pretty important. There are numerous special abilities and spells that affect an entire row or line, or spaces adjacent to the target/originating space. Staying aware of this is critical to your success.

Creatures attack inside their deployed row (there are exceptions of course), and attack the enemy hero if unopposed. The turn after being deployed, creatures can be moved to new spaces at the cost of not attacking. In addition, each creature has an attack type (melee, ranged, or flying) that determines where they can deploy/move to and what they can attack.

In addition to your hand/deck of cards, there's a separate mini-deck of event cards that randomly cycle each turn, allowing you more options. Your hero has several abilities as well, but I'll get to that later.

On the positive side, the game plays out on what feels like a pitched battlefield. It's an uncommon feature in card games, which usually just have a general "in play" area. This adds a tactical element to the game where board control doesn't necessarily mean the entire board. You may have one row locked down with a tough creature or spell effect, but your opponent is merrily swarming the rest of the field. Creatures are important, and you'd be hard pressed to build a viable deck consisting primarily of spells and fortunes.

As a result, matches tend to be more slow and methodical than in other card games. Note that each turn itself is only two minutes long (similar to other games) and as the game advances you have more decisions to make in that time frame. This can make late game turns somewhat hectic, as a mistake here can cost you the match - and there's plenty of places to slip up. I actually enjoy that part, as it encourages you to learn your deck and make quick, efficient plays. Overall though, match length is rather long with typical games going around 30 minutes and sometimes well past 40.

Comparison #2 SolForge has a similar but simplified play area with deployment lanes for creatures. Turns are usually the same pace throughout the match due to their "two cards a turn" rule, and matches are about 10 minutes shorter on average. Hearthstone has a much simpler play area (currently occupied exclusively by minions), but special abilities (like taunt or stealth) can dictate the rules of engagement. Turns can get more complex as the game progresses, and learning to make smart, efficient plays under a time limit is important. Matches can go as long as Duel of Champions, but there's far less to pay attention to at once.

Daily Activities

Once per day as you login, you are given an option to either "cash in" or "grow your rewards". If you cash in, you receive all the login rewards you've previously grown, with a cap at 7 days that gives seals. To get this, you must login consistently about every 24 hours for one week. If you miss a day, your build up is gone and you start new. This can be pretty annoying if any unplanned events take place that keep you from logging in at the proper time. Short of incredible planning or severe lack of any social/family life, you will come to see this as frustrating. It's similar to Farmville crops where if you don't tend them during a certain time window then you lose them.

There are also two forms of tournaments which require tickets to enter. Only one version is accessible at a time, and it alternates daily. If you vastly prefer one over the other, again you're stuck waiting until the next day (or longer if you're busy tomorrow).

Comparison #3 SolForge currently runs a login, first win, and third win daily bonus that resets according to their server. The timing is far more flexible and the rewards are much better on average. Hearthstone has daily quests to complete (that day or later on) that pay out alright and don't require specific time commitments. Again, both of these systems are more flexible and rewarding, and feel more like a bonus than a hassle. There's no tournament options for SolForge yet, and Hearthstone currently has the Arena draft. If you prefer constructed play in Hearthstone, your options are limited to ranked games. Expect to see more tournament-style features in both games soon, though.

Store Options

Duel of Champions has two in-game currencies with gold and seals. Gold is much easier to obtain (you can play matches to grind gold), and can purchase most packs from their store. Seals are way rarer, earned sporadically via achievements, leveling (I think?), and logging in consistently everyday for a week.

There's a vast array of purchase options in their store, each with various pros and cons. It's a bit overwhelming at first and you'll either waste currency buying sub-optimally or develop a buying strategy depending on what you're looking for. There's a couple of guides on their forums to help new players understand the options, and it's required reading if you want to purchase wisely.

While it's nice to have options, it feels like a bit too much for new players who will almost certainly regret making uninformed purchases. You can argue that it's ultimately up to the user to decide what to buy (and that's a valid point), but you can also argue that some purchase options are utter rubbish at all times (looking at you, small pack) and flooding the market with traps is a tad unethical.

Comparison #4 SolForge also has two currencies (silver, gained easily for free and gold, available only with cash), faction decks, and several pack options. There's some trap options here too (never use gold to buy basic packs), but they're far easier to spot. Hearthstone uses gold (freely gained) and real cash, and your options are limited to the number of decks to buy, or paying for Arena entry - pretty straightforward.

Collecting and Deckbuilding

Now we come to the heart of the matter as to why I'm not impressed with Duel of Champions. You are severely limited in deckbuilding options because of two major restrictions:

You cannot use the same card in multiple decks. For example, let's say I have three copies of a card. If I put 2 copies in one deck, I have only one copy left to put in other decks. This is an outright asinine and arbitrary restriction for a digital card game. It means that if you want to make a variant of a certain deck, you either make decklists and keep having to rebuild the decks each time you want to switch, or buy more cards until you have multiples. Even in real life you're able to "deck jump" cards you don't have multiple copies of, and in most other digital card games this is no exception. I'm calling it for what it is - a sleazy sales tactic.

Ultra-rare heroes limit your options. When you build a deck, you need exactly one hero card. This determines what faction and spell cards you can add to your deck.

Don't get me wrong, this is a balancing mechanic to keep players from cherry-picking broken combinations and I fully support that. Your chosen hero is unique and has certain strengths and weaknesses, and that makes things interesting.

The problem here is that hero cards are the highest rarity. If you open a bomb rare and some decent commons from a faction you don't own a hero of, you can't play them. Same goes for a neat spell from a school none of your heroes allow. It's such an issue that a purchase option was added to get a random hero with some playable cards for it as a pack. This alleviates the problem somewhat, but don't expect to get a certain faction whenever you want - random means random. There are faction decks available for a handful of heroes, but they aren't cheap.

Imagine if you couldn't play any goblins unless you had Kiki-Jiki, or no counterspells without Jace Beleren in your Magic: the Gathering deck. That would be ludicrous and poorly designed, yet that is exactly how it works in Duel of Champions.

Combine those restrictions with the aforementioned hassles and sleazy sales tactics, and you have Duel of Champions in a nutshell. It has some great ideas and could have been a good game, but some key poor decisions hold the title back.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Not Fail at LFR

In an effort to help you improve your gameplay, I'm sharing this important series. The "How to Not Fail at LFR" series gives you crucial information and tons of important tips to make your life in LFR easier and more fun*!

*"easier and more fun" may be subjective. It's still enjoyable to watch.

I also got my Hearthstone beta key a few days ago, and have been enjoying the ability to try it for myself. As with pretty much all other games, it's best to play at least a week to get a broader idea of how it plays and what state the game is in.

Speaking of which, I'll probably post extended thoughts (technically reviews I suppose) on both SolForge and Duel of Champions in the near future.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Minecraft 1.7 Mods? Not Until December

Minecraft 1.7.2 is out, and people are wondering when they'll see their favorite mods update. They're not going to like the answer.

LexManos (the leader of the Forge team) made an important post on the Forge Forums yesterday. The hows and whys can be found in the full post, but the following excerpt boils down the end result.

"As it sits however, 1.7 will be a rather large update for quite a lot of mods. As I said before, Minecraft has changed a lot. Which means Mods themselves will take a while to update. We are trying to get Forge out as soon as we can for mods to start, but don't expect any major mods to be updated until possibly December."

December, well that's fan-freaking-tastic. I guess the silver lining here is that mod authors now have plenty of time to polish (or update to) 1.6.4 without having to rush or skip straight into 1.7. Also, players will have ample opportunity to try out the "new" additions to Minecraft (which some are now calling "the update that destroyed the world").

So, I think I can sum things up. You can't use mods in 1.7, but that's ok because 1.7 adds the mods for you. Yup, that's just about right.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Terraria, M&M:DoC and Minecraft 1.7.2

I know it's been a while since my last post. I've been trying yet more games (oddly none of them are actually MMOs), and I'll go over them a little bit here.

First off, I picked up Terraria about a week ago for next to nothing during a Steam Midweek Madness sale. I heard about the title a couple of years ago, but I was busy raiding in DCUO at the time and completely forgotten about it since. Happening onto the sale seemed like the perfect time to finally give it a go.

Image from Nerd Age
I'm sure you've heard all the cries of Minecraft "clone" or "ripoff" by now, so let me address that first. Yes, it's blocky, and you spend a good deal of time mining materials from biomes, and there's even a rudimentary wiring/power system, but that's about where the similarity ends. To claim it's a Minecraft ripoff for these properties would be like saying SWTOR is an Everquest ripoff because they both have classes, races, and experience levels.

While Terraria has the sandbox, block-building thing going on, there's another side to it altogether which is about 2D platforming, game-changing powerups, and epic boss battles. It ends up feeling like a "Minecraft meets Metroid" hybrid, and while that sounds odd, it works very well. I'll likely be talking about this title at some length soon.

After trying SolForge and eagerly awaiting to play Hearthstone, I figured it would be a good time to look at Might & Magic: Duel of Champions as well. Let me start by saying that now is a good time for fans of online/digital card games. I've been playing those since they began (anyone remember Chron X?), and things have certainly changed a lot over the years. There's a pretty vast selection of games to choose from now, and they're available to just about everyone because of the the low system requirements needed. Some are available as apps, and there's even a number of browser-based titles now, so you can play virtually anywhere.

As for Duel of Champions itself, it has a very tactical feel. Sure, some of the common CCG abilities are present, but the layout of the game really makes it feel like a battlefield. You have a front and back line to deploy your creatures (shooters in the back, melee to the front), and extra spaces to play spells affecting certain areas of the field. You can choose to attack with each creature or move it to an adjacent space, which sometimes may be more advantageous or safer depending on the situation.

The game does use a resource system (you typically gain 1 more each turn to play your cards), but it's a bit more complicated than say Hearthstone's due to your hero card and the Might/Magic/Destiny levels. Each turn, you can choose to increase one of those levels (or use a different hero ability). You'll want to increase those levels some as you play, because cards have level requirements in addition to the resource cost.

As if that wasn't enough to remember, all players also have access to the event cards at the bottom of the field, which is reminiscent of the Planechase addition to Magic: the Gathering. This gives you yet more options and ways to use your resources.

There's a lot to understand in this game, and it's about on par with Magic in terms of complexity. Thankfully, the game has a training/tutorial system built into its campaign mode so you can learn these details as you go. Still, I've had a few turns where the timer countdown ran pretty low (against living opponents) due to all the options available. It definitely forces you to manage both your time and resources, which is a good thing.

Finally, it's that time again... Minecraft released version 1.7.2 today. It's packed with new commands, custom settings, clickable chat functions and lots of QoL tweaks. Content-wise, it's doubling the number of biomes (and changing biome placement code), expanding the fishing system, allowing for larger Nether portals, tiled wall maps, and adding colored glass, new wood/sand/dirt variants, and lots of flowers.

I like all the backend improvements without question, and they're preparing the game for the upcoming Plugin API (which is a step in the right direction). In terms of content, there's not much here that wasn't already available via mods. All this does is force what was once optional (modded) content into vanilla play, while spitting on the mod authors that introduced the content in the first place. To my knowledge, only Dr. Zhark has been credited as modded content officially made its way into the game, and that's kinda lame. Even then, he had to come up with a workaround for his horse breeding system to include vanilla horses (which causes confusion to players even now).

We don't need games to add things already available via mods that were already working just fine. We don't need mod authors to actually "lose" by contributing, only to have their work become obsolete and uncredited. It's unoriginal, unnecessary, and inconsiderate - please stop. Why not work on adding truly new content, or perhaps that Mod API everyone is so desperately waiting for?

Friday, October 11, 2013

MultiMC5 and Fixing Forge 1.5.2

I haven't loaded up modded Minecraft in a while, and was unpleasantly surprised to find that I could no longer get Forge to work for 1.5.2. Whether using the old vanilla launcher or running MultiMC, I kept getting errors about not being able to download needed files.

This was pretty frustrating because the game could always download them before. Oddly enough, the files would need re-downloaded each time I launched the game, which never made sense to me, but whatever. The problem of course comes when the server hosting those files either removes or changes them... which is what happened.

After some searching I found a post on the Minecraft forums with a simple explanation and permanent fix, which I will now be sharing here.

User funjust0 writes:
I've found the solution:

the launcher is looking for scala-library.jar and bcprov-jdk15on-148.jar.
The problem is that the owner(s) of the site have changed this files to stash files
so now they are called scala-library.jar.stash and bcprov-jdk15on-148.jar.stash.

So you'll have to download them here:
(same sites as before, but now with .stash)

put this files into your lib folder and change their names to what you need (remove the .stash at the end)
You will get a message that the extension will change, but you can ignore that.

If you now start the launcher again, It will already find the files and it wont try to download it anymore Posted Image

So you're ready to play (this worked for me anyway) 
Not only will this get your game to work, it will speed load times slightly by not having to download the files each time you launch!

In other news, MultiMC5 is in an open beta/testing stage and so far seems to be doing well. MMC5 works for Minecraft 1.6.4 and lower (though you may have to use the fix above for 1.5.2 and older instances). For all the features added to the vanilla launcher, it's still primitive compared to even the beta version of MultiMC.

If you want to give MultiMC5 a try, here's a direct download link. If you have any questions/suggestions/praise/etc. be sure to post it on their forum thread!

Friday, October 4, 2013

WynnCraft and SolForge

I've been looking around a bit to see what games are available, because let's face it, I'm not just an MMOaholic, I'm a gameaholic. While watching some youtube, I discovered a free to play online card game in open beta called SolForge.
The game was initially funded by Kickstarter, as a collaboration between Stone Blade Entertainment (makers of Ascension) and Richard Garfield (originator of Magic: the Gathering). You get a team like that to work on something, and people are going to want to see the result!

I've been playing around with SolForge a little bit each day for about a week now (there's daily rewards), and it's worth taking a look at. The gameplay differs from traditional CCGs a bit by taking advantage of the computer environment (as opposed to physical cards) - I'll explain.

At the beginning of each game, spells and creatures in your deck all start out as rank I. As you play them, the next rank of the card gets shuffled into your deck. Currently, cards can get up to rank III (and I'd doubt you'll see more ranks right away). This allows for greater card complexity, as the difference in power between rank I and rank III varies a lot between cards. A great example of this is Chrogias, who starts as a measly 1/1 at rank I (probably one of the worst rank I cards ever), but turns into a mighty 40/40 with extra abilities at rank III. Conversely, other cards are strong in the early game, but not as super-powered at rank III.

Another big feature of SolForge is the absence of a resource system. MtG players are all too familiar with having to include the right amounts of mana-generating cards in their deck to play anything, and many CCGs feature a similar mechanic (including Hearthstone, which is also currently in beta). In SolForge, you normally get to play 2 cards per turn. While it feels limiting at first, you realize it's the tradeoff for not being "mana screwed" (though mulligan-type hands ARE still possible). I'm sure the 2-card limit also helps to keep crazy infinite combos from popping up as well.

I'd like to go into more detail on SolForge, but I'm already long into the post and have something else to talk about, so perhaps I'll have more on this game at a later time.

I've been keeping an eye on Minecraft as well, and with the current set of update woes, it's hard to get too excited over mods. It seems all your favorites are only working in certain versions, and you have to make decisions on what to keep and what to remove.

That's where something like WynnCraft comes along and changes it up. WynnCraft is an MMORPG-styled world built in Minecraft, and you need no additional mods to play (not even Forge)! You choose a unique character class with its own set of special abilities and equipment, then go adventuring about the land. You can complete quests, find random loot chests, and brave carefully-made dungeons.

Unlike normal Minecraft, you don't spend time doing a lot of mining or crafting as you can't break blocks. Think of it as an adventure map on steroids, with a big ol' realm to discover full of monsters, towns, quests, ruins, and of course epic loot.

WynnCraft has a number of nice server features like friend lists and such, but it also includes a party system. You can create a group and invite people to join you - which gives increased XP gain among other incentives.

I've only dabbled in this for a few hours earlier, but had a good deal of fun. I met some people in the game, went out adventuring, and had a blast. We started out by dying a few times to mobs way too tough for us (in all fairness they were guarding a chest), then leveled by killing easier stuff. Soon we were exploring the map and going on quests.

I should also add that while not needed, you can utilize some clientside mods as well. Here's a direct quote from Wynncraft's twitter:
So, if you're tired of having to put together a working mod list or just want to try something different, check out WynnCraft. All you need is a legitimate, updated copy of Minecraft (currently 1.6.4).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

WAR's Impact on the MMO Genre Part II

As promised, here's my second post highlighting the impact that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (aka WAR) had on the MMO genre.

Better PvP Maps System

Back in the day, these actually had a purpose.
If you've ever played WoW (and you most likely have), you know how the battlegrounds system works now. You queue up anywhere in the game for the map(s) of your choice and duke it out against the opposing faction in your level bracket. If neither faction wins the game in a certain length of time, the match ends. It didn't used to work that way, though.

Plenty of time to level fishing, I guess...
In the past, you had to visit the entrance to the battleground you wanted to join (kind of like a dungeon/raid instance portal). A few years later, they added NPCs in the city capitals you could queue from, but that meant you were stuck in town waiting on your BG to pop (there was no LFG or LFR then either).

Once in the battleground, you might be stuck there for hours. There was no time limit, and if either team decided to farm honor instead of go for a full victory (which was often), you were in for a long night. In addition, it was usually a bad choice to even join a battleground unless you were near the high-end of the level bracket for several reasons.

Welcome to Nordenwatch!
Then WAR came along and changed it all. You could start joining for scenarios (their term for battlegrounds/PvP maps) from the moment you rolled your toon, before doing any quests! Also, you could queue from anywhere via several clicks in your UI.

When the scenario popped, all characters on the map got scaled up (at least in terms of the basic stats) to resemble the top of the bracket. Your level one now had at least a fighting chance in the battle!

Each map had its own objectives of course, but if a side hadn't won by a certain time (typically 15 or 20 minutes), the match was over. In any event, after it was done, each player would be dropped back into the game right where they left off. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's WoW's BG system as it is today (sans the player scaling). You have WAR to thank for that.

Open-World PvP via the RvR Areas

WAR didn't use the phrase "player versus player" (PvP), instead choosing to use their own term of "realm versus realm" (RvR) combat. At first, this sounds like a cheesy gimmick, but if you got to experience the system you found there was more to it than most games offer.

The area in the middle (shown with the red border) is the RvR zone.
The zones for each race were paired with an opposing faction, and in between them was a shared RvR zone. Inside these zones were the objectives of a number of quests, a public quest spot, and several strategic locations to capture.

You could ignore these quests and the RvR area entirely if you so chose, but you'd be missing out on content, rewards, achievements, and the chance to engage in enjoyable open-world PvP.

These kind of areas could be found in games already - WoW had the Plagueland Towers (pre-Cata), Silithus, the Hellfire Fortifications, Halaa, etc. - but they were often not highly-featured. In most cases, you could go sightseeing in those zones and never have to participate in PvP. The rewards were often minor, and mostly skippable.

By comparison, WAR's RvR zones were often worth doing, and once you got to enjoy the PvP opportunities of the zone, you'd be sad to leave it to venture into the next tier of content.

Anti-Griefing Mechanic

I've been talking about how great WAR's open-world PvP was, and I'm sure many of you are skeptical. If you've ever rolled a new toon on a PvP server, you've probably been griefed and ganked dozens of times by some high-level d-bag that thinks killing lowbies constitutes "balanced PvP". Heck, I'm sure most of you scoff at the very term of "balanced PvP" like it's a misnomer... but it's not. WAR had it, and it wasn't hard to accomplish.

There was a mechanic in place to stop griefing dead in its tracks, known as the "Chicken" debuff. If you took your higher-level toon into a lower-level area, you'd get a warning on your screen. If you ignored the warning, you'd soon be turned into a chicken, with huge stat penalties that turned YOU into the prey of lower-level players! In addition, you couldn't use items or special abilities, and you couldn't gain XP, Reknown, or Influence, so you either ran through the zone as a chicken, or went somewhere level-appropriate to remove the debuff.

This one simple game mechanic was pretty much all it took to have balanced open-world PvP.

Capital Sieges

I killed the leaders of each enemy capital,
and all I got was this crummy t-shirt mount.
Whether you actually enjoy PvP or not, any WoW player worth their salt has at least attempted to get the For the Alliance/For the Horde achievement(s), and you probably remember the day you completed it fondly. Getting that Black War Bear mount is a red-letter day that's hard to forget. You and your crew rolled into each capital city, fought through waves of guards, battled enemy players, and assassinated the city leaders. What happened then?

Depending on how well the last city was defended and the strength of your team, you either stuck around a little bit to rub salt in the wound, or you found a convenient hiding spot to hearth home and enjoy your new mount (which was really just a status symbol, as you already had access to better mounts both in terms of performance and appearance).

In WAR, each faction had only one capital city, but it was freaking HUGE (there were plans for more, but they were shelved). Your faction had to push forward into enemy territory, capturing two fortresses before you could even attempt to besiege their capital.

Once inside, you didn't get to head straight for the city leader, oh no. You had to fight to lay claim to the city - killing NPC bosses, taking control of locations, and fending off opposing faction players - public quest style. The defending faction meanwhile got a public quest of it's own to attempt to kick you out of town.

Assuming your team could accomplish this task, you then got to fight the capital leader in a PvE boss encounter. Instead of a mostly worthless mount however, you had a chance at some of the best loot the game had to offer.

But it didn't end there. For successfully conquering the opposing capital, your faction had up to 24 hours to loot and pillage the city! Special NPC fights, missions, and other goodies were all available. Meanwhile, the opposing faction is locked out of their own capital and forced to make due in a refugee camp until everything resets. How's that for insult to injury?

As awesome as that sounds, things didn't go quite as planned. Some servers got to the point where one side's capital was almost on permanent lockout, due to population imbalance. While locked out of your capital, you lose access to a number of important resources, further ruining your faction's chance to defend against future assaults. In the end, this turned out to be a great idea that was poorly thought-out for the long-term, and was detrimental to keeping the players subscribed. Had it been better implemented, this would have been one of the most glorious faction PvP features of an MMO ever. Hopefully a developer will someday fix the mistakes made there and produce something amazing.

This concludes my look into how Warhammer Online influenced the MMO genre, but I'm not quite done talking about WAR just yet. Expect a couple more posts in the near future where I'll recount my most memorable moments of the game, and possibly go into detail on the issues that plagued WAR and helped lead to its end.

Monday, September 23, 2013

WAR's Impact on the MMO Genre Part I

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (aka WAR) is set to shut down December 18, 2013. It has/had a lot of issues and shortcomings that ultimately led to its end, but that's not the focus of this post. Today, I want to highlight what this game did to impact the MMO genre long after it's gone.

The Tome of Knowledge

In-game achievements weren't new when WAR released, and nowadays are expected in pretty much every video game made, but the sheer amount of information collected by the Tome of Knowledge was pretty mind-blowing at its time.

Want to know how far along you are in a certain zone's storyline (and the rewards for each stage)? Open the Tome. How many high elf archmagi players you've killed? Tome. What's the deal with that big spider in the cave? You guessed it, look in the Tome.

From lore details to player stats, the Tome tracked everything. In addition, you gained stuff for completing things outlined in the Tome - titles, achievements, items, and even some special abilities. Being that WAR released around the same time as Wrath of the Lich King, it's arguable that WoW's achievement system came first... but it still doesn't hold the amount of information that the Tome of Knowledge had.

Public Quests

For those not familiar with the term, it's an open-world multi-stage quest event that's shared by everyone in the area. You don't have to be in a group to participate, and there's sometimes several ways to actually go about participating in the quest. Typically, it starts out as a small event that leads to something big... you might even say giant.

Each major zone had at least one public quest, and in most cases it culminated with some type of boss fight. The first one located in the Orc & Goblin v. Dwarf starting zone involved the coercing of a giant to help break through an enemy location. The orcs and goblins decide to enlist in the giant's formidable strength by capitalizing on his love of brew. For the Destruction side, the event went something like clear the trash Order NPCs, steal some beer barrels, then lure the giant to the dwarf fortress to help smash it. If you played Order, the objectives were to kill waves of attacking Destruction NPCs, then deal with their big ally in an explosive finale!

If I remember correctly, these were separate events in single-faction PvE-only areas... but there were also public quests in RvR spots as well. I recall the next zone (or perhaps farther along the same zone) including a mountain pass with a public quest for both factions in the same location. Players raced to forward their faction's public quest while fighting off enemy players attempting to do the same! It was EPIC.

Several years later, RIFT, EverQuest Next, and a number of other titles would build upon the public quest idea to create dynamic events and large, multi-stage quests that can run anywhere from hours to months for an entire server to complete.

The Dangers of City Life

When I say every major zone had a public quest, that included the capital cities as well. You could be walking the streets of the Order capital, and find a greater demon of Nurgle as you turned the corner.

This was the finale to a public quest in the city, unlocked by players completing the previous parts of the quest. I recall this happening on several occasions when I played, running for my lowbie life as a plague boss lurked the city streets! It really added to the atmosphere of the game as a reminder that even in town, you weren't entirely safe.

This was true for both Order and Destruction's cities. Wander down an abandoned alley, and you might get jumped by skaven. Perhaps you decide to get nosy and see what's going on at the Khorne training grounds - you'll probably be attacked by berserkers and Chaos hounds. Just look at that place and tell me anywhere there seems remotely safe.

The Destruction capital also had an arena where you could test your might against the servants of Chaos. I remember finding several quests that led me to that pit, where it was pretty much everyone for themselves (think Gurubashi Arena, but with big nasty NPC monsters to fight in addition to other players).

I'm not sure if any MMO since has added this element of danger to cities (perhaps AoC? I haven't played it but it sounds possible there), and I doubt we'll ever see anything like this again for a good while. Blizzard has attempted this several times now as an introduction to their next WoW expansion (Scourge raids pre-WotLK, Deathwing attacks pre-Cata), and players mostly whined about how their bank mules got killed while running to the auction house. *rolleyes*

I have much more to talk about concerning the best parts of Warhammer Online, but this post is already long enough. Join me for a second installment where I'll focus more on the PvP/RvR aspect of the game.

WAR: Tribute Movie and Fortresses

I found this today while browsing youtube, and watching it brought back some great memories. Give it a watch if you played WAR's RvR at some point, or if you wanted to see what it was like. For me, WAR made PvP enjoyable beyond what any other game before or since has offered. EA/Mythic had a great IP and a decent game to build upon, but they let it languish until most players (including myself) quit.

Reading their forums earlier today, I found out that due to exploits the RvR fortresses were removed at some point. That's pretty sad because the RvR fortress battles were a lot of fun. If you played oldschool WoW, think of the Southshore/Tarren Mill rivalries, but add a structure in between that a faction could capture for a short time. The controlling faction had access to special vendors, siege defenses (ballista, etc.) and a small army of high-level NPC guards. The opposing faction could then return with their own siege weapons (battering rams, etc.) later to assault the location. In addition, you could loot the enemies to gain a currency (like Honor points in WoW) and you could always pick up repeatable missions to kill X enemy players. Suffice to say it was grand.

So, when people figured out a way to exploit the system, the devs simply shut down the fortresses. Apparently it was too much hassle to actually set about fixing the best open-world PvP system they (and possibly any other game) ever had. The stupidity of this decision leaves me staggered.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lore According to Arthas

I haven't seen much in the way of good WoW machinima as of late, it seems that most of the best ones have moved on to other things. I just happened to find this, and got a great laugh from it. Check out the other videos from SlightlyImpressive while you're at it - good stuff!

Surprise! Minecraft 1.6.4!

Yo dawg, I heard you like updates, so I put some updates in your updates. With little more than a tweet announcement, Minecraft 1.6.4 was dropped into the public's lap. According to the patch notes, all it does is change how structures are saved (will be useful in converting older maps to 1.7 when it releases) and provides an idle-player timeout feature for servers.

It's still a bit early to tell whether or not mods are going to be affected much. Most will need a minor update, simply to tell your game "hey, don't freak out, I'm compatible", but I'm a bit worried for some others. Those with structure generation - particularly Project Zulu, Twilight Forest and the like - may run into some snags. Here's hoping for a smooth transition!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

LOLs with Lorewalker Cho

Here's an amusing Hearthstone video where a certain combination gets very ridiculous very fast. A minion gets buffed beyond what the game can handle... so what happens? Watch and find out.

At first glance, this looks like a broken combo, but you need to keep in mind several things. The engine card (Lorewalker Cho) gives a copy of the spell played to your opponent. They can choose to do what they wish with that spell, but you'll only get another copy if they play it. In a real game (as opposed to this demonstration of a funny trick), you'd equally be able to cast the spell on your own minions, so if anything it's equally ridiculous for both players.

You could also choose to use the cards as "fuel" for spells that make you discard a card when you play them, thus stopping the combo from going anywhere. Also, there's removal cards that will take out a minion regardless of their health, so Cho could be shutdown right fast (and you probably should make him a priority target if your opponent plays him). With a properly-tuned deck, Cho might be overpowered... but I'm not sure the cards are available to do that (at least not yet).

Warhammer Online Shutting Down

It was called the "Age of Reckoning", and it looks like the Day of Reckoning is now upon us. Warhammer Online will be shut down as of December 18, 2013. It was live for 5 years - a short time for an MMO.

I remember being so incredibly excited for this game, and it was one of the few titles I bought as soon as possible. I've even purposely waited to buy WoW expansions just to keep from having to deal with the bottleneck situations from too many people doing the same quests, but with WAR I was willing to deal with it. I installed the game and was very pleased with what I saw. My first toon was an orc, possibly a black orc, I don't remember now. What I do remember was a wonderful starting zone where I was smashing dwarf skulls and the amusing "barrel" quests. Also, being able to join PvP maps from level 1 and have fun was amazing (they'd scale all players to be able to compete with the top level of the bracket). The maps were all great, and at the time WoW's battlegrounds paled in comparison (except perhaps for Alterac Valley IF you liked those extended sieges).

For a while, I kept subs active in both WoW and WAR, because I enjoyed both equally. I rolled toons on both Order and Destruction, and enjoyed both sides equally. I have several fond memories of the game that I may retell on another post (a couple are quite long to explain but worth it). At some point though, things turned south. I don't recall the exact patch, but class balance eventually got out of control to the point that some classes were simply not played because others were so much better. I left once I realized changes weren't coming to fix this glaring issue.

Fast-forward a year or so later, and WAR releases the Tomb Kings expansion. Players now fight to control the expedition point into the desert to fight the ancient undead and loot their ruined cities. A side could only hold the area for a short time before the other side was allowed to come back and fight all over again - think Tol Barad, but the winner gets a small continent (with a number of instances) to explore instead of one island and a raid. This piqued my interest, and if memory serves me the game had a limited trial available at that point. I reinstalled and gave it another try. The new content was a lot of fun, but the class balance was still a huge problem, so I didn't stick with it.

In the years to follow, Skaven were added as a cross-faction race (I still don't know how they justified that on the Order side), the servers were merged in several waves (from 36 I think down to 4 now), and entire zones and PvP maps were removed from the game. I can only assume the reasoning behind the last two were to keep the game from looking like a ghost town (and to save money from wasted resources). Whispers abounded about WAR going F2P, which was officially squashed with an announcement soon after.

That brings us to today, and the sad news of WAR's close. According to a well-respected (now former) moderator of WAR's forums, EA wanted to make WAR F2P, but Mythic refused. The license for the Warhammer IP expires at the end of this year, and Games Workshop and Mythic have agreed to part ways.

Some are wondering if the license will go to another company and a new game will emerge. I don't see that being very likely, at least as an MMO title. Warhammer 40k was going to have an MMO adaptation (you can even find videos of it on youtube), and WAR's poor long-term showing seemed to be part of the reason behind GW pulling out from another title. I can't imagine GW willing to license out the IP again right away - remember, it takes at least several years to develop an MMO and that's rushing it - and WAR closing will still be fresh in the minds of gamers for a little while. The Warhammer IP is going to have that black spot for a while, keeping players leery of investing time and money into another game any time soon.

Anyway, that's the news as it stands. I'm going to keep an eye on the WAR forums and website to see if anything will be done towards the end of the game. I'd like to be part of the last hurrah in some way if possible because for all its shortcomings, Warhammer Online influenced the MMO genre pretty heavily. I'll go into more detail on that topic in another post soon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

When Did Gamers Get So Dumb?

 While reading about one of my favorite mods on the Minecraft forums today, I saw a post giving incorrect information on a boss fight (big surprise, I know). The post claimed the boss was immune to a certain type of attack, which is only partially true. In this case, the attack is "very effective" when using it at the right time, but has no effect the rest of the time.

Anyone that's played video games for more than 30 minutes of their entire life knows that bosses have a number of tricks up their sleeve... or so I thought. Seeing that post reminded me of the Ultraxion boss fight in Dragon Soul (WoW Cataclysm raid), where I literally saw dozens (if not possibly hundreds) of people in LFR die because they couldn't be bothered to pay attention to basic things.
I see dumb people... and then I kill them.

 Ultraxion had an uber attack meant to wipe the raid. However, players had access to a special ability that protected them from it entirely, in the form of a big purple button near the center of the screen. All you had to do to avoid it was watch Ultraxion's cast bar for the spell, and click the button just before the spell was done being cast.

Not only that, but the game itself TOLD you he was preparing to cast the spell and how you could avoid it. If you had Deadly Boss Mods or something similar, this was probably the easiest boss fight in all of WoW, as it did everything but hit the button for you! You didn't even move - the entire raid stacks up in one big spot for the fight to take advantage of AoE heals and such. Seriously, go to youtube and watch an Ultraxion fight if you don't believe me.

When you see this...

Get ready to hit this.
Yet, many people died and raids ended up abandoned because people couldn't read and follow incredibly simple directions.

I rag on WoW a lot for its lack of challenge, but its bosses at least have fight mechanics and stages you have to learn to deal with if you want to progress. I can't blame WoW for this one.

This leaves me wondering just what the hell happened in gaming that made people so dumb? What game(s) simplified things to such an extent that people found the above examples challenging?

I'll admit that I'm out of the loop when it comes to certain genres and even eras of video games. When PS2 was the "in thing", I was playing WoW and other MMOs on the PC. I haven't played an FPS since Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil on the original Xbox. Obviously, I've missed some things. Did some super-popular game(s) come along and make their boss fights ridiculously easy?

I checked youtube to see the final bosses for the Halo series of games, and those looked pretty dumb to be honest. The fights all looked very simple, and were much shorter than the cutscenes before and after the actual fight. Doing some quick searches, I noticed Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 often mentioned as having some incredibly simple boss fights.

With all those being well-known titles, I'm wondering why a developer would do this? Is this really what gamers want now, or were the devs being lazy? Sadly, I'm inclined to believe they were only giving people what they wanted - more of an interactive cut scene than an actual boss battle. Maybe I'm just old, but winning doesn't hold any value to me if there's no challenge. I'm not asking for insanity-level difficulty here, just an equal risk versus reward scenario. Has that left mainstream gaming, and if so, when? Feel free to fill in the blanks for me on this one.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Run to the Hills, Run For Your Life!

This is a fine example of the exciting things that should be possible in your MMO. I was in the desert of North Ro doing a quest (killing snakes, spiders and scarabs) when all of a sudden I'm stunned and my screen is blotted out by a large white shirt.

A sand giant spotted me and thought I'd make a good snack. Being a magician, my elemental came to my aid, and it was immediately clear that I stood no chance against this behemoth. I made a tactical retreat (aka I ran like a scared kid) to the nearest city for protection, with the sand giant chasing me the whole way.

He was a lot closer earlier, but I thought I'd better get some distance before taking time to snap a pic. Yes, I could've died quite easily and were it not for a speed buff he'd have caught me. It was a great thrill though and offered a fun diversion from the relatively mundane quest.