Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The [Gaming] Social Network

Cynwise writes a great article today, inspiring a response from yours truly. This is a topic that hits home hard with where I'm sitting right now. In WoW, I don't feel like there are a whole lot of individual accomplishments I'd like to tackle. Instead, I'm thoroughly enjoying my time in TOR. Still, I would be willing to swap between games in an instant if I knew something was going down in one universe or the other.

Some of my WoW guildies are playing TOR, but not all of them. Some are waiting for a free trial, some decided it just wasn't their cup of tea, but these are still people I love playing games with. Perhaps the most - THE MOST - important thing that has happened to me over my 5+ years with WoW and even more years with MMO gaming is having made the friends I've made. Some have literally become my best friend. Had I never played WoW, I would never have met these wonderful people in real life. Even if WoW dies tomorrow, and the servers shut down for good, these relationships are what will stay with me forever. Pixels do not define them.

Some days I feel like the only reason I keep paying for WoW is that the prospect of short changing this hard won friendships is completely abhorrent. Sure, I can email most of them now. We're likely Facebook friends. We have ways of staying in touch that don't rely on WoW, but WoW is our meeting place, our clubhouse, our coffee shop, our Monks. It would be a lie to claim that such a loss would not leave the bonds strained. Unbroken, sure, but strained nonetheless.

This isn't to say I don't have bursts of gaming fun in WoW. It is still, after all, a great game. But I enjoy other pastures as well. Not to call them greener, just different. To borrow a term, I've always been somewhat polygamerous. I don't want to be forced into monogamy because I'm afraid of losing friends. Fear has always been a poor motivator to maintain any relationship. Also, it is of the Dark Side and leads to anger and aggression (trolling?).

I would be happy as a pig in mud if I could have my cake and eat it, too. If I could play the game I want to play and still be directly in touch, in chat with my best gaming friends... that's a pixelated nirvana right there. I'd jump between games as activities dictated, never feeling like I had to remain somewhere just to maintain.

The problem with any one company developing such a capability is very obviously financial. What business sense does it make to make it easy on your customers to spend money elsewhere? Because obviously you need to keep them in your game, in your world. You need to keep those doors firmly closed, lest all the cattle stampede out at the slightest hint of fresher fronds.

Or do you? A more forward-thinking businessman might realize the truth of the old country adage: "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." That is, in putting the happiness of your customers first, you may just generate enough good will to make your game, your company the de facto Center of All That Is Gaming. You'd still have your game, but you could also be the Facebook of Gaming.

But does it even have to be a Blizzard, or a Bioware, or a Turbine? These developers are heavily invested in their own games. Let's be honest, it would be really difficult to get them to seriously consider interfacing with someone else. This is where I think a savvy entrepreneur, a new third party could come in and be the diplomat. Negotiate between these disparate nationalities in order to form a more perfect union. (The could also establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, but let's just start with a union first, shall we?)  Yes, I'm talking about a third party "app." An addin. A plugin. Whatever you want to call it. A piece of third party code, maintained by an exterior company but vetted by the "local" governance, integrated smoothly into the UI.

It seems to me that every game has to develop it's own chat system. Sometimes they get around adding a voice chat feature too, but more likely it's just chat. What if someone developed that for all games? What if, for every new MMO from here on out, the chat feature was already solved. Just use the NerdFace app (or whatever).

It's easy to see the revenue potentials. Could be part of the sub. Could be an extra add in to a more basic chat, a "real money store" perk. Could be ad driven. I think if it became generally accepted, the entrepreneur would be able to simply charge the companies. Who wouldn't want to be hooked into the gamer network? It could be a vital step for general acceptance of your new game. And you wouldn't have to stop at MMOs. One of things I love about Steam is the ability to chat with other people playing any number of other Steam games. I can say "hey, how did you do x in Skyrim to my buddy playing Portal."

The potential is easy to see, I think. The risk, however, may be too much. It would take someone with vision, and probably deep respect in the gaming community to pull such a venture off. Still, I think it may only be a matter of time. Twitter and Facebook have proven the power of social networking. The world is shrinking even as it grows. The gaming industry needs to get on board.

Monday, January 30, 2012

#SWTOR - Life at 50

I was a bit apprehensive at hitting 50 last week. One of the dangers of getting in on the ground floor of any MMO is the potentially shoddy state of the end-game. Sometimes it takes a while for games to figure out the gaming identity of their core playerbase (if they ever do) and design an end-game that can keep them around. Already, some have decried TOR's lack of end-game, so it was with mixed feelings that I capped.

I've really, really enjoyed the leveling experience. I'm a sucker for story, it's my gamer type, and if there is one thing even the critics agree with, it's that TOR does story well, even if it flubs in other important MMO categories. With reservations about the end-game rampant, why would I really want to end the leveling experience? Yet, I really want to see the end of my class story. There's a certain satisfaction to finishing the leveling game.

A side benefit is that, upon reaching a plateau, it's a lot easier to work on your character. As you're leveling, the tendency is to not get too comfortable with any one piece of gear, any one way of playing, because next level it can all change. Also, generally you're credit-starved (training is expensive!), so I rarely get into the more expensive minutia.

I'm looking forward to deciding what I want my max-level toon to look like. I believe the way it works is that, because of mods, you can pretty much find orange items that you like the look of and mod them up to be max-level viable. This is almost as good as transmogging (and out-of-the-box, I might add, not years later). Tweaking the look of your character is a great max-level activity that I'm looking forward to.

When I capped, I was not finished with Corellia yet. Rumor has it there are still some quests on Ilum. Plus, there is a bunch I haven't done. We pretty much ignored flashpoints, and capping unlocks the hard modes of those, so once we get some more max level folks in our guild, we can all go back together and I can see these as well. I realize I'm experiencing some of the content out of order here, but I guess my point is that, fresh at 50, I still feel like there's a whole bunch of content to explore.

How long that'll last? We'll see. Even if it's only a month or so, I think I'd still like to level my lowbie trooper the rest of the way too. TOR gives a story-gamer like me the incentive to roll alts that was never there for me in WoW. It's even a bit of a challenge as I try to skip as many of the non-class quests as possible, so I'm routinely under leveled for each planet (a far cry from my typical over leveling on first pass).

I guess my point is that a casual gamer like me has plenty of content to stay busy. I've been playing for probably what averages out to a couple hours each night, every day of the week (a solid casual schedule, if you ask me); I needn't have been so nervous. There's plenty to keep me around, though I may scale back the time I've been spending (take a few nights off for other pursuits) now that I'm max level. Such is the life of a casual gamer. Plus, I'm still only about half-way through AC:Revelations. I'm sure that game would appreciate more of my attentions. So many Templar, so little time (and another great story I might add).

Here's a question for other 50 TOR'ers: what are/were the first things you focused on at max level? What have you found to be the most fun?

Friday, January 27, 2012

#SWTOR - Ding, 50.

Nothing of substance to see here today. I'm celebrating hitting 50 last night on SWTOR. I'll discuss my spec sometime next week. Until then - and following old "screenshot or it didn't happen" adage - here are a few fun pics:

The moment, or just thereafter.
Corellia's skyline. Pretty, and the last place I gained experience points (for now, on this toon).
Another view, along with a random billboard that I found striking.
Our giant rabbit, looking very satisfied with himself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shameful Confessions About My Warlockery

Poneria wrote a great article yesterday over at Fel Concentration. It actually spawned a bit of Twitter-flurry between several of us 'locks on there, as we discussed some of the sentiments expressed. For my part, I simply stated that I sometimes feel the urge to defend the "funness" of playing a Warlock, especially and Affliction Warlock. I suppose I feel like sometimes we get a bad rap for being too hard, too complicated, so as not to be fun. It sometimes seems like, in order to be considered a good Warlock, you have to know how to run simulations and consult spreadsheets and spend a whole bunch of time devote to arcane studies.

To that feeling, I say: Being a Good Warlock is as much an art as it is a spreadsheet.

Many of us find it hard to explain the feeling when you're really "clicking" on your 'lock. It's a feeling I've yet to match with my limited playing of other classes. Frost DK, the class I've played the most outside of my 'lock, does not have the same feeling. When I'm playing my DK, I feel like a brute. With her, it's more like playing an old button-masher fighting game.

On my Warlock, when I'm playing well, it's smooth. It's a thing of beauty. The best comparison I can make is that it is similar to what athlete's describe as being in "the zone." Training and instinct take over, and the shadows flow from me like notes from the fingers of a virtuoso pianist. Indeed, I often feel like some sort of grand conductor, standing high on a pedestal and gesticulating wildly at my own demonic orchestra.

But things aren't always that way. My play is often far from perfect, and sometimes I couldn't find "the zone" if it were a barn in an empty field and I just smacked headfirst into the side of it. Yet, when we bloggers write about our classes, we're often writing from the best case scenarios, not the worst. Sure, we may talk about troubling mechanics, but I think maybe we don't talk as much about how much we actually suck at playing our class some nights. The zone is great, but it's not all there is to playing. In fact, it's generally a small slice of the time I spend online. And sometimes, it's the most rewarding when you're fumbling around for the right key, boss bearing down on you, and just barely manage to tap it before you get squished. Yep, sometimes it's just luck.

So, I'm bringing 'Locky back. I'm going to admit the things I routinely fail at. A dark confession, of sorts.

I'd like to think people consider me a good 'lock. Maybe not, I don't know. But I've been around for a while, and people seem to stop by here to see what's up with Affliction (when there are, you know, some changes). I'm not a hardcore, bleeding edge player by any means, but most of us aren't.

I simply love my Affliction Warlock. I want others to share that love without fear of being a "failure." Aff'locks (and, indeed, other flavors of Warlock) can be a whole lot of fun, even when played sub-optimally. Sometimes, it's very easy to get caught up in eking out that extra 1k DPS, when our sanity would be better served by saying "F the 1%" and focusing on having fun with the other 99. (Percentages may vary. It's probably more like 80/20, but talking about the "one percent" amuses me.)

So here are some ugly truths about my Warlock play:
  • I only use Demon Soul once per fight. It's macro'ed with my guild banner. Even then, I often forget to smash the button. On most nights, I have no idea whether it's conflicting with anyone else's spell (heroism, etc).
  • I have to be badgered to provide cookies. Even then, I generally don't eat mine.
  • I often forget my Doomguard. He's macro'ed to that Demon Soul button.
  • I trust Mr. Robot almost blindly. I've never run a personal simulation.
  • 90% of my 5+ years of play time has been spent running as Affliction with my Felhunter. The other 10% was Demo when I'd already cleared everything as Affliction. I've never chosen a spec/pet based on math/EJ alone.
  • I overwrite DoTs... a LOT. I cringe every time I do it, but I get paranoid about them dropping off.
  • Bane of Agony gets clipped more than I'd like to admit. Generally, I just press the button because I'm used to pressing it. And then let out a big "derp."
  • Especially when I'm raid leading, I get lost in my rotation and forget to keep a DoT up. "Oops, went that whole fight without Corruption."
  • I don't really pay attention to my DPS anymore. Generally, if I'm looking at a meter, I look at how I'm doing compared to everyone else, usually in overall Damage Done. That's the category I want to "win." The only time I'll use DPS metrics is when testing new builds/gear.
  • I don't test things very often, weathering patches with what I enjoy, even if it's costing me some DPS. Only when it looks like something is "in to stay" will I actually pay it much mind.
I'm sure there are others. (To my Warlocky brethren - What do you routinely fail at?). These are just what I could think of off the top of my head. If a Warlock pro actually watched me, they'd probably point out a dozen things I'm doing wrong. Even so, I've had a lot of fun and generally not shamed myself. Absent the over-the-shoulder 'lock observer, my mistakes go mostly unnoticed. I hold my own when I need to, and play with confidence.

I suppose the major caveat is this: I'm not a hardcore raider, player, etc. I'm the epitome of casual, and don't place a whole lot of importance of playing "perfect."

That being said, I've raided since TBC and seen all the content. I've been in big raid groups and small raid groups, led both kinds. I've never been kicked from anything, never been greifed about my playing. Though, I will admit that I'm not the most outgoing player, and I try to surround myself with good people.

So, I suppose I should distill this into something potent that you can take home with you. Let's go this route... let's postulate Fulguralis's Keys for Being a "Good" Warlock. (And by good I mean satisfyingly evil.)
  1. Educate yourself efficiently. In a broad sense, you should generally know what a Warlock is, even if you don't strictly adhere to the idea. Knowledge is power, but choose your resources carefully. You don't want to get mired in minutia if you're only interested in the basics. This goes for both strats and builds. Good Warlocks are experts at seeing the true soul of things.
  2. Focus first on living. Good Warlocks prize their own lives very highly. Dead DPS = 0 DPS. A lot of people do not understand this. They're so worried about getting the big numbers that they die halfway through the fight. Raid Leaders can't depend on people like that. Instead, look at your Damage Done for a boss fight. It's the actual damage that kills the boss, and that's what you want to be contributing to. If your rotation is sub-par because you're trying to live... so be it.
  3. Kill what needs killing. This means following directions if you're not the leader, or following the kill order. This is also why I blatantly ignore meters on a lot of trash/add fights. My numbers aren't going to reflect that I swapped from the drone to the spiderlings to help finish them off before they caused the boss to regain life (at great personal DPS expense, I might add). Good Warlocks simply enjoy killing things for the sake of killing things. We don't need to e-peen about it. Act like you've killed something before, even if you haven't.
  4. Shard your soul. Not the spell, but in real life. Warlocks should have a solid, crystalline exterior that allows us to be true to ourselves and our own Warlocky ways. If you've followed 1, 2, and 3, then you're probably already doing the right thing. Let the rest roll off you. Good Warlocks don't deign to recognize the criticism of others, including other Warlocks. A big part of having fun in social games (I'm finding) is firmly defining your own boundaries. Decide what is important to you, and then be true to that. No one can take that from you.
That's it. Four steps. Learn 'em. Live 'em. Or come up with your own. I could care less. I'm a Warlock, after all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dancier Dance

I've been following Klepsacovic at Troll Racials are Overpowered for some time now. To some extent, I consider him my reader's personal Howard Stern. That is to say, he can be a bit of a shock jock, but probably less focus on nudity (this being a text-based media, though Howard did it on the radio so maybe he just hasn't gotten that big yet). I'll admit it, I hang around for the lulz. And I inwardly cringe for some of the hate mail he must get when he takes "the line" and leaps across it with wild abandon.

Color me surprised, then, to read his article today. I suppose I was anticipating extreme hyperbole at some point, but instead got a really well-reasoned article. Instead of exercising (or is that exorcizing?) my best warlock cackle in anticipation of the flames to come, I found myself nodding vigorously along with his points.

I encourage you to click through, but I'll summarize what I took from the article. Basically, Klep is establishing that you could basically design a raid fight in several ways. Let's assume all players could be thrown into one of three bins, labelled: Bad, Average, and Superstar. The fight can then "test" one of those levels. Superstar tests require extreme multitasking, and are generally shouldered by one talented member of the raid. An average test clocks in as "DPS" race, where generally the whole raid is involved but to clear it without extra gear, you need to demonstrate a passable mastery of your class. Bad tests then would be best exemplified by "Defile" on the Lich King fight. A mechanic that, should one "bad" person stand in it, will wipe the raid.

Since most things are better viewed on a sliding scale, we could say that we have individual responsibility at both ends of our "test" slider, with "involving everyone" in the middle. The problem with simply shooting for the middle is that there are a limited number of mechanics you could employ without being completely bland. Also, it can be a bit rewarding when one person is allowed to shine. The flip side is that it can be utterly frustrating when one person causes a fail (both for the group and that one person).

Klep says that he feels WoW's raid design has slowly been moving that slider downward, toward the "bad" tests. I have to say, I tend to agree. It does seem to me that raid mechanics of late either involve DPS races where most of the raid is involved, or have a mechanic where derping it up wipes the raid. There seem to be fewer and fewer "superstar" type tests.

It's a shame because where "bad" tests are firmly seated in negative reinforcement, I think "superstar" tests have the potential to seem more positive. The problem being, of course, that it flies in the face of the "bring the player not the class" mantra. That is, often "superstar" tests involve a specific combination of abilities, limiting the possible classes needed. This realization serves to reinforce the feeling of that slider sliding lower, and it seems in line with what we've heard from the Devs.

Yet, is it a good thing? Having been a 10-man raider longer than other types of raiding, I suppose I'm more used to enhanced individual responsibility than, say, a 25-man raider. Even so, I find myself wishing often that losing just one person wasn't so dire. In 25's, I feel like: "Fel! We can lose half the raid and we're still fine." Now that's not completely true, but the wiggle room is there.

I don't really have a good solution or anything. We could probably discuss the trade-offs at length, and I'm sure Blizz has. I've said in the past that I'd like to see more tank-and-spanks randomly thrown in (especially early in a raid instance). That is, I think we could do with more "average" tests sprinkled in. They may not be as exciting mechanically, but I think they help keep a raid group together with positive vibes.

I suppose instead of coming to some grand conclusion that I don't really have, I'll instead close with a mostly unrelated public service announcement. I'm sure y'all know this already, but if you bail on a LFR group, you get a 30 minute deserter debuff. Apparently, everyone in our raid group had missed this. And the debuff umbrellas out to include the dungeon finder as well (which is dumb, IMO).

We queued up, but were placed in a group that was a revolving door on the last boss. We'd wanted to do all of the first four, so we dropped right away. There was no warnings about 3/4 cleared, no chance to decline a show already in progress. But they were on the platform, so they'd obviously cleared the first part (we were queuing for the first half of DS, fwiw). Maybe the warning just malfunctioned, I don't know. In any case, it was not what we wanted, and we only need a few seconds to see that they group wasn't going anywhere fast.. The finder, for whatever reason, was throwing people in and no one wanted to do just one boss... people were popping in and out like crazy.

Imagine our surprise when we dropped and got that 30 minute debuff. No big deal, thought we, we'll just do some 5-mans. Oh, wait. Can't do those either. Welp, I guess Ima go play Star Wars then. Boo hiss. (In all fairness, this is my first negative experience with the LFR, though I'm not a heavy user.)

I guess we should have just stayed and tried to do that one boss and been grateful for the opportunity. Still, it seemed like a confluence of odd design choices conspired to end our raid night early. I mean, we didn't even get to the mechanics! We danced with the "organization" raid boss, and wiped. Sometimes, it's just not your night.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brain Leftovers

I've been really struggling to hash out content here on KeS, as evidenced by the lone post last week. Unless I'm on vacation, I've almost never posted so little. I've made a three post per week commitment to myself, and generally the problem is lack of time, not lack of ideas. As Cataclysm wanes, however, (and SWTOR starts) I find myself paralyzed by indecision. I feel a bit like the frogs in Frogger must feel right before hurling myself into oncoming traffic.

Okay, I'm not sure if that's an apt analogy, but we're pro-Frogger references here on the blog, and I wanted to have an excuse to go on record with that. It is primary season and all that stuff. Important issues are important.

Today, I'm going to touch on some disjointed ideas that, alone, I felt failed to merit their own post. They also may explain a bit why content has been hard for me. These ideas are ill-formed simply because there doesn't seem to be a lot to say. Still, it makes a good ADD Monday post, so here we go:

In WoW...

I'm wracking my brain... I'm pretty sure nothing at all happened for Affliction Warlocks since Cataclysm hit. We've really had no major changes, and nothing much to talk about. My playstyle has remained consistent, my spec and stats pretty solid, and damage competitive. Other 'lock bloggers probably feel me here: we've basically been given NOTHING to talk about this entire expansion. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I feel like Warlocks are in a good spot. Changes can be a mixed blessing even in the best of circumstances. Topics like: Shadowbolts, now with +10 cool, do not a full post make.

Frost DKs haven't been much crazier. There may have been a few more breadcrumbs on the DK side, but for a Frost PvP'er, I've not changed a whole lot. No posts here.

My casual raid schedule can't keep up with "easymode" raiding. Everyone seems to be blowing through content. We raid once a week, and even that's been a struggle for us the last few months. The result is that I'm just seeing bosses that everyone else is "over" months ago. I think before in ICC and such, it wasn't so drastic. Part of that is us, part of that is the game. Like my feelings about my 'lock... it is what it is.

While we're on that note, I may as well hit on the hot topic du jour: the upcoming raid nerfs. My stance is the same as it has been with every nerf this expansion (and obviously Blizz hasn't listened). Every time they do this, people complain. Every time, I think they could have avoided complaints by simply making the nerfs somehow toggle-able. I loved the ICC buff. I thought it was a great idea that didn't go abuse "one size fits all" development practices. There can be some downsides to it, but I guess I just feel that choice > no choice any day of the week. But this is nothing new to this set of bosses. They've set the course. It's tough to feel surprised or upset when they stay it.

Finally, on the WoW side, there's simply not as much content to talk about. We were promised smaller, quicker patches, and we got those. The problem is, we still got the same number of them. So we just got a smaller, quicker expansion. The end result is that it doesn't feel as epic, the story feels rushed, and the content thin. Is this a surprise to anyone? I still think that Blizz could make "smaller and quicker" work, but they'd have to do it by altering the practice of releasing an entire tier per patch. I'm not sure that this isn't based more on my own personal quirkiness. I would enjoy smaller slices of story, more quickly, that added up to a good big picture. Others that play more heavily might simply get bored faster. Consider this also ill-formed.

In short, I'm willing to see what Blizz has in store for Pandaria, but like many long time WoWers, they're on a bit of thin ice with me. I think most people would agree that Blizz needs to step up the game for Pandaria. A lot of us are willing to weather a sub-par expansion (and, to be fair, they weren't completely phoning it in... there were some good parts).

Shifting gears to SWTOR....

I'm almost to 50. I plan to do a spec post then. I should also be able to chat about one of the big topics of: "what then?" Until then, Fuu and I are simply duo'ing the game. It's fun and I love the stories. This is nothing new.

I'm also completely willing to be patient. I feel like the minority in this regard. I understand why: a lot of folks need to make the decision of what to pay for when this first free month runs out. Thus, they are really judging TOR with a fine-tooth comb to decide if it's worth their money. Call it responsible spending. I don't begrudge this of others. And, for my part, I don't really want to throw fuel on the flames of a game I'd really like to see succeed. I liked the sentiment expressed by Scary Worlds the other day: even if you don't like TOR, general gamers should hope for the game to succeed since, if Bioware can't make money on the Star Wars IP, what chance does anyone else have of creating a the "next" big MMO?

I, on the other hand, am pretty much an unabashed fanboy when it comes to Star Wars. So long as the game was moderately solid, I was going to like it, and they certainly delivered a moderately solid game. I have some complaints, but none that I'm up in arms about. There are a collection of minor things here and there, and I have confidence that they'll get around to fixing them eventually. Also, I suppose I've not experienced enough yet to really form proper opinions. And I'm not in a hurry. Messing around with lightsabers can keep me entertained for hours, and I find it worth my money.

Sealing the Tupperware...

So, basically, all of my posts would be boiled down to: I see where others are coming from but don't feel strongly myself. Which makes for very boring writing. A side note, one I haven't really mentioned on here, is that Fuu has had some health issues lately. It was scary for a bit, but doctors are no longer of the opinion that there is anything potentially life threatening. Still, such a scare tends to put things into perspective. Maybe I've just found it hard to write because I'm emotionally occupied elsewhere.

In any case, I guess I wanted to get all these brain leftovers out there. I'm still around. Still playing. And if my posting seems less frequent, it's simply because I don't want to bore you guys. Rest assured that I'll be watching the wires for my usual fare. If Blizz comes out with some major Affliction Warlock change tomorrow, I'll be writing about it. Once we get things ironed out with Fuu, I should have more emotion to spare for fiction and such, too. It's something I want to get back into, but I'm not going to force it either.

I suppose the best way to wrap up these disjointed musings is to offer gratitude for the folks still lurking around these parts. I appreciate my readers all the more when the going gets rough at home. I mean, I threw one raiding article up last week and got great responses on it. This is a great community to be a part of. And if you guys notice something I'm missing, feel free to shoot me and email and I can get on it. I'm certainly not above accepting writing prompts. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Zon'ozz Pong

One of the things about being back in the saddle as Raid Leader is that I'm apparently going to feel motivated to complain a bit more (read: write on here) about boss tactics. Seeing as how we're woefully behind any raiding curve you can think of, I'm sure my tactics won't be news to anyone. Heck, they probably won't even be helpful. They may, however, be entertaining. Also, I've generally gotten some good and helpful comments from readers (since you're all ahead of me), and who helping someone else can make you feel good. So, I guess, help me help you. Or something.

Our ragtag group is on regular Zon'ozz. We've done him via LFR, but our goal (as has been since mid-Wrath) is to progress through ten man content at our own rate. That is to say, LFR doesn't "count" as far as we're concerned. It's like running BH on off nights. Good for gear and to keep the fingers limber (with a side bonus of introducing us to the bosses).

What I had conveniently forgotten about Raid Leading was that I can't help but get irate at shoddy visual cues and tricky mechanics. When I'm not RL, I'm a little more laid back. I don't feel personally responsible when someone dies. After all, it's not my crappy strat. (To be fair, I try to whisper the RL with any and all suggestions, but it's a little easier to weather when the buck isn't stopping with me.)

Well, now it is, and we're dying. For anyone who hasn't done this boss (and a quick sanity check for myself), here's the quick run down of boss abilities:
  • There is Purple Ping Pong Ball of Doom that spawns. Look for the lightning from his nose. It will bounce of players and do distributed damage.
  • There is a frontal conic called Psychic Drain. It hits like a truck, but will only occur when the ball is active.
  • There is a stacking buff for the boss that makes him hit harder. It stacks up until the boss is hit with the ball and then resets.
  • When the boss is hit with the ball, you enter what I call the Back in Black phase. Characterized by creepy tentacle monsters, a dark room, mosh pitting on the boss's butt, and, yes, me singing like Brian Johnson over vent.
That's pretty much it for abilities to worry about. There's one debuff the healers have to cleans ASAP that will cause a knockback, but it's unavoidable. It's probably unfair to my healers, but I consider that pretty much par for the course. (Isn't there always something stupid to dispel, just cuz?)

So what we were doing was the basic half the group on the boss, half the group out at max range. When the ball spawns, our tank flips the boss so the lightning goes through his crotchal region. The ball goes out first, then in (being ponged by the group). After it hits the melee group on bounce (2), we call for them to get out of the way. It pongs off the ranged group, heads back in, and then strikes the boss, starting Back in Black mode.

There are two major issues. First, the flipping ball has a giant hit box that is in no way indicated by its visual representation. After a while, it sort of felt like playing ping pong with ball that has a giant, beach ball sized force field around it. The graphic does not help really at all. Even when it hits a group, the explosion lags behind DBM's reporting and the actual direction change.

Second, a direct corollary of the first, the ball does seem to want to rebound directly at the boss. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it decides it's path. I tried hitting it flush with my ranged group paddle. I tried "adding spin" by moving into it. Yes, I even tried to curve the bullet. Myth Busted. Again. Seriously, if anyone knows how to get the ball to behave, you leave me a comment. Just when I think it's going right... it goes left.

So yeah, "catching" the ball with the boss is a big issue for us, especially when compounded by the fact that the actual radius of the thing is way larger than it appears to be. (So you inevitably get that one person that thinks they're far enough out, but really isn't and sends it ponging back unintentionally. Also, I've heard it sometimes ricochets off of pets. Anyone see that in action?)

When got used to catching, we found that we started getting the tank squished around the third pong match. That is, we were using a 3,3,3,splat... strat. Apparently, and this didn't occur to my bright ass until later, you can and should change the number of pongs. By leading off with a 3 pong, I was likely condemning us to a splat later. Supposedly it has to do with how the stacking lines up, because it takes longer the other times for the ball to spawn (and thus he builds up more stacks before you can get rid of them).

Instead, I should go with at least a 5,3,3,3 strat. We should be close to killing him by that last set of three, hopefully avoiding the splat. Leading off with 5 makes the next couple 3's not so bad, as the ball spawns sooner after you exit Back in Black mode. I guess there's a definite cooldown between spawnings, so by making it bounce more, you're shifting the phase back a bit in time, evening out how long you are forced to take it to the face. I'm not sure I completely grasp all the nuances, but suffice it to say, I need to try a front loaded pong strat.

Yes, this is a healer heavy fight. Our healers are, while not over geared, decently geared. We probably have room for improvement in that area, but it is what it is. We're casual, so we don't focus a lot on gearing, trying to make up for the "grind time" with being smarter in our strats. Thus, more research was needed, and while I don't think I can improve the ball catching, the new pong pattern should help. I can mess with it a bit to see what we can handle.

Anyway, any advice from y'all? Did I miss something? Is it just a matter of getting better geared so our healers can "heal through it?" (Five hits is rough with the AoE, but I think we can do it the first time through.) Otherwise, I'm just going to be pissed about the terrible purple ball graphic. Seriously, if you're going to make a pong mechanic, Blizz, at least make the ball part look logical. I'm not fond of giant invisible force fields on my balls... just sayin'.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Love, A Weakness?

The Jedi looked out over the white wasteland and suppressed a sense of vertigo. Hoth. How had he ended up on a backwater planet like this, pandering to some stupid coalition that didn't trust him? Still, he couldn't argue that the Outer Rim was a mess, and who better to help settle it than a Consular of the Order?

"I could have Holiday create a program to make us believe we were on a beach," his companion, Tharan Cedrax, suggested.

"Can she make a parka?" Ful'guralis asked.

"A virtual one," Tharan replied.

"Not likely to keep us warm, is it?"

The scientist scowled. He didn't like it when the Jedi pointed out the limitations of his artificially intelligent holo-girl. What was up with them, anyway? What sort of relationship did they have? Was it... romantic? How did that even work?

The Jedi decided he didn't want to know. Whatever the scientist did in the privacy of his neuro-circuitry was his business. Who was Ful'guralis to judge? He was having his own struggles with the Jedi code, and Tharan was no Jedi.

Not that Ful was thinking of rebelling against the council, mind you. He was not that eager to flirt with darkness. No, he had the utmost faith that their rules were, generally, in a Jedi's best interest. That is, though they may cater to the safest path, they nonetheless were created with good intentions for the well being of a Force-user.

It was just that... lately he'd been thinking a lot about love. Any good Jedi studied the history of the Order religiously. There was so much to uncover, so much to learn. And, despite the rules to the contrary, there was a recurring them that he couldn't quite shale. For many of the Jedi that had fallen to darkness, it was love that brought them back.

It was easy to understand how losing someone close to you could tempt one to anger. From that standpoint, close, loving relationships were almost a burden to a Jedi. The more connections you had, the more ways for a Sith to get at you. Also, caring for someone put them at risk.

Early on in his journey, when he'd been a padawan, Ful hadn't ruminated as much on the code. He simply had too much on his mind to worry about a relationship. The galaxy was a big place, and there was plenty to do. Fatherhood or romance had never been high on his to-do list, not after his own rocky upbringing. More likely than not, any children fathered by him would end up in a shoddy orphanage somewhere, just like he had. Jedi often didn't live long enough to rear children properly. It was a hazard of a life of service, and Ful had known what he was getting into.

Nadia Grell's face bloomed in his mind. The Jedi pushed it away. A shiver danced along his spine. He chose to attribute it to the cold.

Ful'guralis thought of Setele Shan. More specifically, he thought of the parents that were responsible for producing the Grand Master. Or, at least, what he knew of them. It was rumored that they had both returned from the dark side for love. Furthermore, they had left a strong legacy via their progeny. Was a Jedi coupling really such a bad thing when it resulted in such a formidable offspring?

"Are we going to press onward, or simply stand here gazing until we succumb to snow-blindness?" Tharan asked petulantly, snapping Ful from his reverie.

The Jedi raised an eyebrow before inclining his head.

"Oh, goody," the man said, shivering. "Holiday, ready your recording software. This planet promises to positively teem with excitement." He gestured toward the featureless white expanse and shivered. "Perhaps we can overlay all of this with the sound of a crackling fire when we review the footage later."

Ful'guralis rolled his eyes and draped a leg over the nearby speeder. He twisted the accelerator, and took off like a shot, robes - and doubts - streaming behind him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

#SWTOR - Balance Shadow Rotation

I still cling to the term "rotation." I don't know why. Nothing about my Shadow play is really cyclical. It just seems smoother than "priority system." Rotation sounds like it takes skill. Priority system sounds more like something you program into an android. And androids don't poop, and should be destroyed.

Anyway, I'm a bit over halfway to cap on my Shadow, and I'm feel like I'm finally starting to get comfortable with the rotation, as it were. I really enjoy the playstyle, and it's exactly what I expected. I chose Balance because I wanted a character that could mix it up close range, but not be useless further away. The Balance playstyle provides a good balance (derp) between the two. I have some strong ranged attacks, and I have strong melee attacks.

At level 39, I believe I've gotten most of the major abilities. If I were to prioritize what seems to be my hardest hitting abilities, it would go something like this:
  1. Spinning Strike
  2. Tumult
  3. Shadow Strike
  4. Force in Balance (AoE)
  5. Project
  6. Double Strike
  7. Whirling Blow (AoE)
  8. Telekinetic Throw (Channeled)
  9. Mind Crush (DoT)
  10. Force Breach (DoT)
Mind you, I'm ranking only based on "hardest hitting single target in an instant." Bioware has said that in an effort to make combat feel more epic, they've tried to make it where you're almost always facing multiple assailants. Even most bosses usually have some sort of ancillary target. I think, therefore, that the design favors burst damage quite a bit.

Even so, DoTs are useful to the Balance Shadow. They provide a measure of healing, and will do significant damage in longer living targets. Thus, just because they're at the bottom, doesn't mean they're not useful.

I find myself using a different pattern of skills depending on the situation. For a group with all normal enemies (non-elites), I'm likely to lead off with a FiB, follow up with a Whirling Blow, and then finish off single enemies with a combination of Spinning Strike, Project, or Double Strike (when SpSt is on cooldown).

For a group with, say, an elite and a non-elite, I will often Mind Maze the elite, and then single target the non. I generally lead off with a Project, then stun, Tumult, and finish with a SpSt. Then, I'll work behind the controlled target, use Shadow Strike to break the stun, and continue with a Project, Force Breach, and FiB. Then, I generally alternate Double Strike and the standard attack, watching my cooldowns. If I crit in melee, I'll get a free, instant Mind Crush, and I'll throw that. I try to use Project and FiB every time they're off CD. Then, as soon as the target drops below 30% health, I'll weave in as many Spinning Strikes as I can.

I find myself rarely using Telekinetic Throw. Unless something is at range, or I'm trying to kite, my fingers are usually finding other keys first. I like to keep Force Breach rolling, which basically means casting it whenever it's off CD. Mind Crush I only use when I get instant pops. If I find myself behind the target, I'll use Shadow Strike when I can.

Tumult, Spinning Strike, and Shadow Strike all seem to hit hard, but they need a certain setup. FiB hits hard, but sometimes you have to be careful about AoE, and I find it somewhat cumbersome to point and click with the mouse. I sort of wish I could just click it twice and have it center on me automatically.

Right now, I'm stacking Willpower, Crit, Surge, and Accuracy as my four major stats. Willpower is the primary, Crit secondary. Surge helps Crit, and I'm just getting to the point where I'm seeing it and Accuracy on gear. Accuracy means I won't miss, though without much of it I'm sitting at 90% melee and 100% force abilities. I'm not sure how. Going over 100% doesn't hurt, though, as it will cause the abilities to ignore some armor. So generally I'm prioritizing thus: Willpower > Crit > Surge > Accuracy. Though I think I'm going to try to get my melee accuracy closer to 100% (putting it above Surge in the interim).

This is how I'm playing my Shadow. It may not be right. I've not done a whole lot of research. It's just what feels effective to me. Feel free to point me to any articles that you think tell how to do it "better" or anything like that. I'm always willing to learn. Or, if this helps you but you have a question or two, feel free to leave that in comments as well. I'll try to answer as best I can.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Subscription Models

I wrote about my initial reactions to AC: Revelations yesterday and how the game has me thinking about subscription models. No, not the kind that wear push-up bras and try to get you to sign up for things. I'm sure all of you gamers were thinking exactly of that. It's not like we've seen a whole bunch of articles talking about subscription games going free to play or anything.

Okay, that was sarcasm. It seems like every other day some MMO is going free-to-play, or instituting a cash store, or whatever. The general push from gamers seems to be one that favors f2p models. After all, we like getting stuff for free. And people have been conjecturing about when WoW will go f2p for ages.

Spending time in a single-player game, I can't help but wonder why we aren't seeing a whole lot of contrary thought here. That is to say, why all the hate for subscription models? Are they really a bad thing. Is free really better? Or what about a cash store where you pay just for the content you want? Or how about something like Guild Wars, where you buy the game and then play for free.

I try not to think about the money too much. I'm fortunate enough that it's not a major concern for me. Still, as a cheap-skate engineer type, I can't help but judge how much value I'm getting for my money. It's not the spending of money that bothers me, so long as I feel like I get something out of it. The question for me isn't "how much" but rather "is it worth it?"

I talked yesterday about being perhaps a bit annoyed that the new AC game feels, as one comment more accurately put it, like a giant batch of what should be Downloadable Content. Yet, I'm not displeased with the game or the purchase, because I still feel like I'm getting my money's worth. It just... feels weird because it's not what I've come to expect for a fat, $60 purchase. Maybe the issue is that I've been condition through MMO's to expect such content for, essentially, "free." Or at least as part of my ongoing subscription (which I don't pay attention to, so immediately free, but costly when you consider each month).

Even then, doing the math, I'll probably get $60 worth of gaming enjoyment out of it. The amount of time I'd spend in 5-ish months in WoW, I might spend in AC, depending on what stage of the cycle we're in. (Right after a patch, maybe not, but near the end, when I'm only logging in a couple of hours per week for raiding/PvP... maybe.)

In the single player realm, I feel like we're rarely seeing the solo game anymore. If a game is even remotely successful, you can almost guarantee it'll have a sequel. And this practice has got me thinking: why don't we see any subscription models in single player gaming? (Network costs aside, including things like "enabling" multiplayer.)

Here's my point in a nutshell. What if, instead, Ubisoft had taken their AC franchise and made a monthly story out of it. Let's say they start with AC:II, since developing it was probably given the go only after the success of AC:I. They take II, and sell it for cheap, say $10, but only sell like the first city. And then, they promise us that every month they'll release the next chapter in the story. A new city each time, maybe. And in two years, or whatever, they finish the story. Of course, they say, you can jump in at any time and start from the beginning. There'll be deals on buying the back content. And deals as well for people who want to commit to the whole year. Maybe we give it to them for half price. Every month, you tune in to download the next part of the story.

When people are excited about games, it can generate enormous groundswell and media coverage. And people are most excited about when games release. If they know about the game, they want to be there from the start. Skyrim proves that even a single player game will be talked about online, will be related and processed the same as we've grown used to for MMO's. A monthly, single player subscription model puts you in a state of perpetual release.

A lot of people balk at monthly subs, but why? Do these same people balk at subscribing to Sports Illustrated, People, or the local newspaper? Some maybe, but I suspect there are plenty of folks out there that carry magazine or news subscriptions that they don't even read. Yet, we don't see nearly as much angst over these media. There is some, to be sure, but it is still generally seen as an acceptable model. Some magazines may go f2read, or have a cash store (order forms), but there is likely still a market for monthly subs.

I would suggest the key feature that makes those subscriptions ever-so-slightly more tolerable is the regularity of content. With a magazine, you know you're paying for content each month. Some months may be better, bigger than others, but you're always getting something.

I wonder if there's not a market for the same sort of thing in gaming, especially with single player games. A game that commits and delivers monthly. And we're talking content. Not just bug fixes or miscellanea, but advancement of story. I would be far more comfortable paying monthly for something like that than I am for my current MMO stable. I don't like that you're paying monthly for "access," when some months nothing comes out or is advanced. I imagine that's why a lot of folks go to the trouble of dropping and re-subscribing as content comes out.

I think Blizzard sort of tried to improve on this with their "shorter and quicker patches" mantra, but I'm not sure they executed well. It was quicker, no doubt, but I feel like the content and quality suffered because of it. Still, it may have been a step in the right direction. It's just hard to completely revamp your development process, especially when players have already grown used to a certain type of release. If a game were to start with small monthly chunks up front, it might be better received.

MMO's may not be the best arena for a monthly, serialized story either. Playing Catch Up always seems to be an issue if you come in late. And how to you monetize latecomers? You don't want to detract from the players that were there from the start and have stuck with you, but you need to be open to people jumping in. Single player games don't have those constraints. It doesn't matter where others are, you can jump in a month later and go through the exact same story. Heck, you could even charge the same price and just "gate" the previous content so that they're always the same distance behind. Or charge double for a "double month," allowing players to get back on schedule. For subscribers, it would be nice to know what you're getting and be able to experience in your own time frame. There's not as much of a race, though still may feel like keeping up with "the Joneses." 

I don't know, would it work? Would you pay monthly for a single-player game? Does serialized story appeal to you more than shelling out in chunks every year or two? It does to me. I like anticipated costs. Makes it easier to budget. And I suppose I just wanted to go on record saying that I don't think all the concepts of a subscription model are bad. There's a lot to learn from what works there, and it could certainly translate into innovative future business models. At the very least, it's something to think about.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Thoughts on AC: Revelations

I've taken up assassinations again. That is, I finally started in on Assassin's Creed: Revelations. My initial impressions of the game can be distilled into a simple sentence. It feels exactly how it was marketed. That is, if it were an MMO, this game would have been an expansion. I think there may be a bit of a negative cast to that statement (at least there is in my mind, if it doesn't come through in the text), but I'm not displeased by the game. No, it's exactly what I expected, no more, no less.

I love the AC series. They've been great games, and have a great story.. I knew I was going to pick up Revelations, it was just a matter of waiting until I got my Christmas gifts. With all the other gaming I was doing, it wasn't hard to wait, though I was excited about the game. The beauty of single player games is that they wait on you. Unless it's Skyrim, in which case if you don't start playing it with everyone else, you'll still feel left out (much like an MMO).

In any case, the game looks and feels the exact same as its predecessor. It plays the same. In all facets, it pretty much just picks up where the last game left off. In my opinion, the story-telling is a little clumsier than the previous games, as it sort of just thrusts you back into the animus and I found myself a bit bewildered. It had been a while since I'd played the last game. Still, my feelings likely mirror Desmond's own, so it's not terrible. The game just feels a bit more "gamey" than iterations past, where I've felt completely immersed.

I felt like from the first Assassin's Creed with Altair, to the AC: II... that jump was a legitimate 1 to 2 jump. That is, the game felt updated and improved on from one iteration to the next. From II to Brotherhood, that was the introduction of multi-player, I think. Thus, there was a significant addition even if the game was mostly the same. Revelations has all the same stuff... and it feels like no more. I guess there are some minor things (like the bombs are a fun touch), but it is exactly what they are marketing it as: an expansion in the series story. AC III is in development, and I assume that will feel like a proper "jump."

I feel like my tone is coming off a bit whiny here, and that's not completely my intention. I did have some initial disappointment, but I'm not exactly sure why. Like I said, I don't feel lied to. I feel like I got exactly what I was paying for. And, like all of the games in the series, as I play I find myself drawn in (maybe not as quickly or as wholly as the others, but still significantly). The mechanics and styling all settle in around me like a favorite blanket, and I'm enjoying myself. From randomly bombing guard patrols, to seeking out treasure chests, to renovating the city... it's all familiar and still fun, not tired. I look forward to doing it. I just can't shake the feeling that it could have been better I guess. Or maybe that it was sort of rushed out as they focus on III. Like this was the "left overs" of the story and it didn't have quite as much polish. But I can't really point at any one particular thing. It's still a solid game so far... a little clunky at parts as it tries to immediately pick up where you left off, but solid. Definitely solid.

Now, there is the addition of the Assassin's Tower Defense, so maybe I'm not being completely fair. It's sort of like an awesome, assassiny mini-game. From someone that enjoys the occasional tower defense, it's a lot of fun. Not really a revolution, but fun. I'm glad they added it. Also, there's the hookblade. Same story here. A fun mechanic, but not ground-breaking. Seems like a simple, logical addition.

Maybe there are huge surprises in my future. I've hardly scratched the surface. But I wanted to write it out. Maybe some of you playing the game have had the same feeling and could place it better. Maybe I'm just being persnickety. I do find that it makes me muse about subscription models, downloadable content, and single player games. I'll write a bit about that tomorrow, which is why I wanted to describe this today.

I have absolutely no regrets about buying the game, and I'm having the exact fun I've come to expect from the series. Forgive me, then, if I don't classify it as a "blast." I'm not really feeling mind-blown, or like I'm going to spend long sessions burning through the game. Instead, I'm looking forward to a nice, leisurely walk with my old friend, Ezio. A scenic stroll down Constantinople's ancient streets, bodies lining the gutters, blade in hand. Idyllic, no?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Story Fans vs Game Fans

It's becoming increasingly apparent to me that initial reactions to SW:TOR can be sorted into two camps: those who want to experience a good story, and those who want to play a good game. Now, I'm not saying the reactions are black and white - more of a slide scale really - but that where story falls on an individuals' priority scale is a good indication of how they're going to feel about the game.

There are a whole lot of parts to any video game, but if we're taking a huge, convenient meat cleaver, we could cut them down the middle and have "game items" on one side and "story artifacts" on the other. Most of the time, it's pretty obvious what goes where. Talent trees? Game stuff. Conversation options? Story ingredients. It gets murkier when you dive in deep, but let's keep things simple for the sake of this article. Two camps. Sliding scale of importance to the gamer.

For some gamers, a lack of innovation in button pressing is totally a - excuse the phrase - game-breaker. For others (present writer included), the nostalgia-inducing controls are more comforting than upsetting. It sort of lets us get the "game" stuff out of the way and focus on the unique aspects of the story and world.

This isn't to say that one is more important that the other. It's completely personal opinion. In fact, in that spirit, I want to like a recent article from Gordon at We Fly Spitfires. He's explaining his views on the staying power of the new game, and I think he does a great job of laying out his concerns... I just don't agree.

Well, that's not entirely true. I agree that there is a certain slice of gamers out there that will probably grow bored of TOR after several months. I think there are a good number of people that will find its not a flat out "revolution" in MMO gaming (and, let's be honest, it's not. It borrows a lot, and does a lot well, but it's not re-inventing the genre, though I do think it raised the bar significantly in some areas). But Gordon specifically states that he doesn't believe the game will earn its creators "stupid amounts of money," mostly citing lack of player retention as the reason.

To be fair, he's in good company with this opinion. I've seen it uttered - and well backed up - elsewhere. Yet, I feel like a most of those articles are only written from the point of view of a "gaming" gamer. I'm not ashamed to call myself more of a "story" gamer. I don't need or crave innovative controls or mechanics to deeply appreciate a game. I need one thing: a good ride. A solid story. Something to draw me away from reality for a bit and let me escape. And I think escapism is something TOR has in spades.

Having stuck with WoW for 5 years (and counting), it is not the revolutionary mechanical changes and improvements that keep me logging in. It's not really the story either. Rather, it's my feeling of investiture in my character and my guild; I don't want to abandon my warlock. I would argue that getting a gamer to invest in their character is the single biggest hurdle new games face when we're talking about retention, and that's something TOR does very, very well.

But, again, I'm biased. I'm totally willing to overlook a lot of the mechanical flaws. It's a great ride. I'm investing more with every hour logged in, with every cutscene, with every dialog option. I'm a Story Gamer. Gaming gamers are totally right to feel contrary. They prioritize differently.

Having made this case, I would extend my argument by asking how many folks do you think exist in each group? Are gaming gamers going to carry the day? Do story gamers represent a significant enough portion of the gaming world?

I think, personally, that there are more story gamers than gaming gamers these days. There are more people willing to forgive mechanics in the face of a story that pulls them in. And new gamers are being created daily by this new niche. WoW, when it came out, didn't just nab all of the existing gamers and call it a day. They went after new and untapped slices of humanity. They created a playerbase instead of just stealing one. They re-sized the meat pie and claimed the Lord's share. I can't help but think TOR is going to do a bit of the same. They have two trump cards: a great story and, yes, the Star Wars brand name.

Blizzard may be more recognizable to gamers, but Star Wars is more recognizable to pretty much everyone else. I have relatives who still have trouble finding a power button a computer, much less have considered any product from Blizzard. Yet, you better believe they've seen Star Wars. Or at least they're aware of it. How many Americans do you think exist out there that don't know what a lightsaber is? They may only be able to mumble something about "Luke Starhammer" or something, but I think it's pretty ubiquitous in the way only Hollywood culture can be. Will all of those people try out a Star Wars game? Hell no. But you better believe some of them will. Some that never considered trying World of Warcraft (though the table has undeniably been set by the mainstream success of WoW).

Still, I'm straying somewhat from the topic of retention. Even if new players are created and assimilated, will they stick around? Will there be anything for any of us to do in 3 months? A lot of that depends on BioWare and EA. They'll be hard pressed, I think, to keep up with the living behemoth that is a successful MMO. There will have to be content additions, and bug squashings, and server tweakings. But if they can, the money will pile up like snow on Hoth. If you have any doubts, just give George Lucas a call. I mean, Star Wars fans will pay for Jar Jar Binks (and complain about it, but pay we did). BioWare has to only do slightly better than freaking Jar Jar.

I guess I'm just saying: don't underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Halftime of the Reader Clearing Game

And we're back. Happy New Year everyone! Back to the grind. I'm having an acute case of gaming withdrawal today. I've swapped my early morning coffee back in where early morning PvP warzones had settled in over break. Then, there's the bloated feedreader. Neglect it for a week and it'll blow up bigger than, um, something in a Michael Bay movie. (Anything. Could be a banana, and it would mushroom cloud... yeah, picture that.)

So yeah, I'm halfway through clearing out. I'm skimming most of what I find, captured by a few articles here and there. In an effort to force myself back in the swing of things, I'm babbling here. I'll even give you an amazing list of random gaming thoughts:
  • I picked up AC: Revelations yesterday (finally!) and started it. Took forever to get my PS3 updated to the right software (I've played all the games on the console, though I had to dust the bad boy off this time). The tutorial got me right back into things (Yep, remember how to ledge assassinate). Looking forward to this game.
  • My brothers surprised me with a Christmas Game Gift. They're poor college kids, so I didn't expect much (usually a half-imbibed beer is a solid effort, amirite?)... but they pulled out a Lord of the Rings game that I hadn't really paid attention to: War in the North. Apparently it is supposed to have a solid co-op to it, so I'll have to give it a play-through soon as well.
  • After unlocking my legacy on TOR, I rolled a trooper. Feels totally different from my lightsaber-wielder, in a good way. I feel a bit like Stallone (think Rambo, not Rocky. Or maybe Demolition man. Murder-Death-Kill?), running in, guns blazing, blowing everything to hell. Fun times.
  • I'm back in the raid leading saddle on the WoW side of things. Our previous RL stepped down due to RL time crunching. Last night saw my re-debut. We've got the first two Dragon Soul bosses down now, though the ping pong guy took us a bit. I'll probably be writing more about the strats we're using here, though I know we're late to the party, as usual.
  • Two shout outs from my reader perusal. First, From KISA... on trying to hit "quicksave" while playing TOR. Spot on. Caught myself doing this last night.
  • Second from Bio Break... on the strength of story-telling and its potential to reach untapped audiences. I've been seeing a trend of reactions to TOR in the blogosphere that I'll write about more tomorrow (and also link the counterpoint).
Wasn't that amazing?! *Sigh* Okay, back to the grind and sneaking in articles. I will get this reader cleared out today...