Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Grinch Was a Warlock

I had a fleeting concern the other night. I say fleeting because I'm a Warlock, not a Paladin. As this concern has to do with others' feelings, it's not very warlocky of me to have it. Still, it was an interesting thought that I wanted to share.

It came, uninvited, when I logged into a raid my buddy was running. I'm not a regular raider anymore, but I get asked to come regularly. I'm only able to make perhaps every fifth raid, but I do like the occasional nighttime Deathwing ride. My gear/skill is tolerable enough that I'm never a drag on the teams I help out, but I'm no longer competing for top spot on the charts, either.

Anyway, I noticed I had a somewhat jaded attitude, especially toward gear. My buddy, the raid leader, is rather new to the game still. He joined at the end of Wrath. He's in the prime of his WoW career. Everything excites him. Especially the loot.

Me, on the other hand... I think it's fair to say that I'm in the winter of my time with WoW. This isn't to say that I have immediate plans of leaving, just that I've been through enough that I don't get very excited about a lot of the game. Especially the loot. Indeed, I find myself focused more on long-needed quality-of-life improvements (like talent tree improvements) than the more transitory tier gear, or raiding instances. It just doesn't get me excited because I know if I wait a few months, there'll be a new batch of content.

Now, I haven't really said anything to this person, or really in public (apart from this post), but I've developed an attitude that anyone who cares about gear is silly. I'm not an asshat about it. I don't force this belief on others. I just sort of do the behind-the-screen eye-roll when people get overly excited about a drop. When someone starts talking about gear score and what gear you should have and yadda-yadda... I want to scream: NONE OF IT MATTERS! But I don't.

As I was stopping myself from yelling yet again during the raid (while a prolonged who-gets-the-loot discussion was going on), I thought: Why should I rain on their parade? They think gear is fun, and divvying up the spoils is a big part of the game to them. Who am I to ruin that, to steal that joy? Doing more than my private eye-roll would be akin to walking into their house and taking a poop right in the middle of the living room during a party. Or maybe ordering a minion to. If it were a party of mages, I might be on board with this plan, but it's a party of friends.

If we pull back and look at the state of WoW from 30k ft, I think it's fair to say that, in general, more players are in the winter of their careers than the prime. This isn't to say there's a significant portion of each, just that the game's been out for a while. Newbies are going to naturally get harder and harder to find. Yet how many veterans are raining on the newbie parade? How many let their jaded attitudes go further than a private eye-roll?

I, for one, am going to endeavor to keep my curmudgeonly-ness sequestered in the dark corners of my soul. I want for others to find the same joy in this game that I've experienced over the years. I'd love for them to make it to their own winter. I don't want to be the Grinch Who Stole WoW. It is perhaps a personal flaw in the first place that I even feel the slightest bit of resentment toward their joy. Why is it sometimes such a struggle to just be happy for others?

And then I realized I'm a Warlock. I'm not supposed to be happy. Period. I'm supposed to enslave demons, and lurk, and stuff like that. I carry around the souls of the dearly departed in candy-like crystals. I've probably popped one or twelve in my mouth simply to taste the sweetness. I shouldn't feel too guilty about a spot of random irritability, right?

SERIOUSLY GUYS, THIS GEAR IS GONNA SUCK IN LIKE... when is MoP coming out again?

JK. Get on wit' your bad looty self. You go, newb.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#Diablo - Musta Been Tuesday

Got the "Error 37" rigamarole last night. Awesome. My evening activities were cancelled. I'd already cleaned the bathrooms. My wife was raiding... but there were no spots for me. All I wanted to do was log in and play my purchased single-player game in peace. Oh, wait. It's patch day. And WoW is up, running smoothly, but Diablo is full? Must have been full because the server was up.

So here's my question, if Blizz is trying to make Diablo like WoW in that it runs from a server and all that... where the hell is my queue? I never thought I'd say those words. Or these: Can we get a felling queue? Seriously. If this "Error 37" crap is caused by overburdened servers, then the least they could do is put me in a line for spots when they open up.

Maybe it was something else. Like I said, the website indicated the servers were up. I noticed on The Facebook and The Twitter that other folks were playing. I had patched completely. Why was I getting an E37? Was I just unlucky, something was messed up? Or were the servers really full.

I wanted to highlight a post by Targeter. It's pretty ranty, I'll warn you, but he raises good points. Points that I thought about, sort of irked me, but ultimately dismissed. The big one that I disagree with him on is the whole gold selling thing. I know Blizz said they didn't want to do gold selling, but it happened anyway (and companies, like people, can change their stance on things). My thought is that the best way to stop gold selling from third parties is to simply offer the gold yourself. Make it cheaper and more convenient than the other guy. Heck, I don't even mind them taking a cut. Whatever, this is a business. In my dream world, they'd make a bunch of money, stop charging subscriptions, and sell cheaper games (also never sell stuff in the AH that isn't readily available in the game. Make sure you didn't miss the "dream" part of this world).

I think it's silly that they're doing a second AH. I don't see how that lets you opt out. I mean, you can just buy gold and then go shop on the non-$$ AH, right? I guess it's a nice gesture.

At the end of the day, I can turn a blind eye to the AH stuff. I may throw some things up, maybe I'll make a couple bucks, who knows? Ultimately, the AH is a completely optional facet of the game. You can play from start to finish and never do any dealings on the AH. Thus, ignorable (unless you have moral qualms against it, which is your right, I just adopt a more live-and-let-live view, so it doesn't rile me up).

This logging online to try to play a single player game stuff, though... this is getting old. It wouldn't be so bad if it worked. But any DRM that prevents you from playing game is felling stupid in my opinion. Great way to lose customers. Blizz can afford to make these mistakes. They've delivered enough to convince people to give them the benefit of the doubt (me included), but they're the exception.

As things stand now, if I had not purchased a year pass, I would not have bought Diablo III. It is a great game. I'm enjoying playing it, when I can. I would have missed out. The game is great. All the other crap? Seems like one blunder after another.

Fine Blizz, if you're going to make us log into every game from now on... fine. Then make it felling work. My game time is precious. I can deal with maintenance windows. I can deal with full servers. But at least give me a queue. Really, is that too much to ask? I can be flexible, but only if I know what I'm being flexible for. If I know where I am in line, I can go do other things. Getting straight E37s just makes me want to write a strongly worded letter to the developer. Much like Targeter did.

Now, where did I put my lightsaber?

Friday, May 25, 2012

If Hollywood Can Do It...

With layoffs happening at Bioware and now the news that 38 Studios gave everyone the boot, I find myself wondering: Just what is a good launch metric? 3 million is not good. 1.2 million is not good. How about 5? Or is anything short of WoW's double digit millions just not good enough?

It's not an easy question to answer. Obviously, it varies a lot based on the size of production budget. Still, I can't help but feeling like there's a lot of dumbassery going around. If you sell 3 million copies of something, especially something that costs like $50 a pop, how are you losing money? Well, spending it, derp, and I suppose video game production ain't cheap.

It makes me think about movies. Aren't there a whole bunch of movies with ginormous budgets that completely tank and lose money. Yet, you don't hear about huge layoffs at Universal, do you? (It's an honest question, I confess that I don't really know). It seems to me that perhaps video game companies are going about this the wrong way.

How do movies work? Don't they secure a whole bunch of financing and then create a specific subsidiary company to produce the movie? Contracts are signed, people get paid (a lot in some cases), and the movie gets made. If it tanks, the smaller company files for bankruptcy or something and the big cogs keep on spinning.

Okay, a financial analyst I am not. This is just me spitballing here. I may be completely off base. I'm just saying that perhaps game companies need to shift to a more Hollywood approach. Currently, it feels like gaming companies need to hit a home run on absolutely every release. That's a horrible way to do business. It's just not going to happen. You can execute everything to perfection and still have a flop. Maybe the idea was flawed. Maybe the fickle waves of society have swung in a new direction. It happens.

Not that Hollywood is a bastion of fiscal responsibility or anything. I guess I just feel like, if they can muddle through it, with all the egos and flash, why can't gaming companies? Or maybe the movie studios have all the same problems, they just don't make Internet news as much. I don't know.

Who takes the loss when a movie flops? The stars still get paid, right? Maybe video game developers should have similar contracts where they get paid for the job, then... done. Not salaried, but contract work. I don't know, that probably sucks. As an engineer myself, going from the security of salaried to the rick of contract is rough. However, how much security is there really in the video game industry?

Like I said, this is all just idle, mostly uninformed speculation. I was reading the gaming news and thought about how I've heard of, say, superhero movies with a lot of special effects that brought in $100 million or something... and oh, darn, had a $200 million price tag. By the time those numbers are in... the stars have already been paid and moved on to the next project. You don't hear about people getting laid off. I assume that lawyers just fight it out in the dark of the night or something. (Lawyers are like Batman, is the main point here.)

My point is just that if Hollywood can weather $100's of millions in shortfall, keep producing movies (many of which probably fail), then why can't game companies figure out a sustainable system? Or is my image of Hollywood just overblown and it doesn't really work either?

I guess at the end of the day, I'd be thrilled if a million people are buying my work. Maybe gaming companies should just aim (and budget) lower. I don't know that we're going to see a 10 million subscriber behemoth again (except when Zynga perfects mind-control and puts out Hypnotoadville). I'm okay with a lot of niche 1 million subscriber games done well. How about you?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

#Diablo - A Monk-ee?

I hate wasps. I do not like them in real life, and I dislike them in Diablo III as well. A lot of it is probably because I'm a monk, a melee. I have to run through their stupid explodey offspring (or darts, or whatever) to attack them. And they run away. And the mini-wasps hurt.

Fortunately, I can teleport. What now, wasps?!

Anyone else find that they change their talent choices to match the trash? For a monk, I flip between many of the main attacks. The first one, with the teleport rune, is nice when stuff sits at ranged. Zip, zip, zip... dead. The second is great for waves of attackers. It has a slight range to it that knocks through the lines of baddies. I feel like shouting YOU SHALL NOT PASS. The third is amazing for dashing into giant groups of mindless zombies, and then going to town. I feel like a badass firework of death.

I've not quite found how I want to use the fourth one yet. The first three seem to cover my needs.

I tend to pair the basic attacks up with supplementary "hotkey" attacks. Like, if I'm in sweeping strikes (firework of death) mode, I put either the bell (for waves) or the immune-dashy attack (I know, I'm great with names) because it's fun. When using the teleport main attack, I try to use the other skills to boost AoE. So the main attack deals with the main body of baddies, the secondary stuff is for the random, annoying, one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other mobs. It's surprisingly fun and fluid. There's something to be said for having fewer abilities that mesh better together. I hope they apply this same thinking to MoP.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Some Random Thoughts

In what's becoming somewhat of a trend during the pre-expansion lull, my Monday will once again be the home of some random recaps from the weekend. I have some Diablo thoughts to share. I want to link to a bit of warlockery from the great Cynwise. I've not played TOR due to Diablo, so, um, nothing there. Sorry TOR. I'll be back once I bring my glass of ice water all the way through hell, which I'm suspecting a max-level monk will be able to do. I'm pretty sure that's how Diablo ends: a triumphant character, holding aloft a sweating glass of clear beverage whilst hordes of demons swoon and slobber at the sides. "In the land of the thirsty..."

Anyway, Diablo. Yeah, I wanted to share a bit about my playstyle. I've mentioned that I rolled a monk. Basically, every time I level, I've been trying the new skills I get. After somewhere around 17 levels, I find myself gravitating toward a certain playstyle and speccing to match it. I like to use the charge ability (I forget its name, it's on the 2 button) to zip in, and then unleash holy hell. I've been using sweeping strikes, as I feel like that hits everything around me the best. I also use the fiery roundhouse kick (at least that's what I count it) as my secondary ability. I have the heal on 1 (with AoE rune) and the suck-everyone-in-and-explode on 3. Though, for 3, I just got the run-around-like-the-flash-with-fists, which is vying for usage. The main perk with that one is that you go immune to damage for a few seconds. Great "oh shit" button.

Since I'm mixing it up in melee, I generally try to bring a ranged companion. Right now, it's the Scoundrel that's picking off the stragglers. Also, his blatantly loot whoring makes me laugh. The Templar is just too dull.

[Insert flashy game transition here]

I have two links I wanted to share, warlock related. I didn't have enough to say to make a full post, so I'm tacking them on here random-style.

First, Cynwise wraps up his wonderful series with a surprisingly hopeful post concerning the future of warlockery. I guess it shouldn't be surprising. Still, halting the downward slide of the class I love is no easy task. Cynwise has laid out a solid, logical path, but will the devs take it? Initial forays by 'locks into the beta (myself included) see good signs. Only release will tell the true tale, but there are definitely things to look forward to. I wanted to link and thank Cynwise for his exhaustive look into 'locks. Really great stuff.

Second, I wanted to link a new (to me at least) warlock blog. Amijade the Warlock posts over at Immediate shards should be given for the site name. Furthermore, seems to be good content over there, and I mentioned that I was on the lookout for new souls as part of the whole NBI thing. This is the first warlock-specific blog I've seen. Thanks to Rivs for pointing it out. Amijade, consider yourself /followed.

That's all for today. Hope your Monday is overrun with zombies. (That would be an improvement on most Mondays, right? Especially if you're in the firearms business.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

#Diablo - Onward to Ring Two

I spent another night in Diablo yesterday. I figured I'd join the blogosphere with some Day 2 insights. Only these will be less of insightful. It's more like I was able to verify a lot of what I learned through comments yesterday and wanted to publicly declare it. Which sounds sort of egotistical, but one of my general principles here has been to simply chronicle what I've learned. Chances are, though there are many people that learned before me, I won't be the last.

Anyhoo, the night started off with another server scare. Logged on only to be immediately rebuffed. Error 37, or 3003, or whatever. I think they should have renamed it error 666, just cuz. So I went and tended to my Castleville castle, stared at some football slides, and came back about 30 minutes later. Got right in.

Fuu had finished downloading somewhere in there and logged in herself. The first thing I want to report is that the ease of a private multiplayer session were just as easy as described. Fuu exists on my realID list. I clicked her name, and my monk ported into her game. Pretty neat, though I was slightly OP since she'd just started. We had fun playing co-op for the rest of the night with nary a disconnection.

I've swiftly gotten over my initial displeasure at a lack of character customization. You don't really zoom in close enough to mind. Also, since gear can change, at the level we can say, that's probably enough.

Playing co-op meant I got to see how the story varied if it were Fuu (witchdoctor) or me (monk). Pretty similar, though slightly different flavor. A cool thing I learned is that all the dungeons re-spawn randomly. That is, we did the first cathedral part again... and it was different! Some stuff was recognizable, but I didn't know where I was going. That's pretty cool. I had seen someone mention that feature, but hadn't experienced it for myself.

So Diablo was good last night. Hopefully the servers can remain stable enough to play. If not, there's always Zynga, the Productivity Vacuum company.

Thanks to all the folks that commented yesterday. It was all just as you said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My First Night In Hell

I think Blizzard has taken immersion too far. Not only did they want me to play a game simulating a fantastical hell on Earth, but they really wanted me to feel it as well. This, of course, is evidenced by the server failure just as I was getting going.

I didn't have a whole lot of play time last night, but I did roll a toon. A monk. I think I'm around like level 6. The early levels go fast. Having never played a Diablo title before, the gameplay is all new to me. I can't speak to any improvements.

I like that it is very mouse driven. It provides a nice change of pace from most of the games I've been playing lately. I guess I feel that I'm playing in a more relaxed posture because of that. Slumped back, hand laid negligently across my poor mouse (which may quickly tire of the repeated clicking). It's a far cry from the normal "stooped gargoyle" look.

The gameplay is addictive. I'm enjoying my monk. I think the game design engenders a feel of nostalgia, even for someone that didn't play Diablo. It's "throwback" without looking "old."

I've not tried any of the online features yet. I was simply playing single player. Fuu started her download after her raid last night, but it didn't complete by the time I was being kicked off. Server instability appears to be an issue with Diablo. There was a whole lot of rage on the forums.

I'm not terribly upset, despite my comments above to the contrary. These things happen. I do wish Blizzard had seen fit to include an "offline" mode for pure single player play. I don't see why this couldn't have been done. Having to rely on server connectivity when playing alone seems pretty dumb. Maybe there are reasons, though. Otherwise, it doesn't surprise me that their servers are getting bombarded. They gave away a ton of games essentially for free, plus I'm sure there are a whole boat load of people that didn't do the year-long deal. That's a huge in-rush of players. Still, who better to handle this than Blizzard? It's not like they're new to the game.

I suppose I have some questions, not knowing much about Diablo. I've not read up a whole lot. Perhaps the wisdom of the interwebs can rescue my newbness. Feel encouraged to answer me in comments:
  • Am I right that there is essentially no character customization? You simply pick class and gender?
  • Do different classes have different stories, or does that not matter?
  • I saw the "make game public" option, but what if I just want to play with my wife? How does that work? I'll break this down into two sub-questions:
    • Are private co-op games easy to create?
    • Do you both have to be on the same story parts? If not, how do the levels resolve? That is, what's to stop me from bringing a max character to a new co-op event? Not that that's necessarily a problem, just wondered...
That's all I have for now. Gotta run to lunch. Thanks in advance for the help! I'm sure y'all know way more than I do at this point.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Fail Week

Another week, another lack of post ideas from yours truly. I swear the weeks are flying by. Being busy in other areas of life will do that. Still, I'm hopeful for more than one post this week. Diablo is releasing tonight (at 3AM my time, I think... so effectively tomorrow after work, as I'm not taking the day off). That should give me something to write about later in the week.

For now, I did want to point out one thing. There's been a lot about ToR's recent subscriber loss. I don't have a whole bunch to say about it other than I'm still playing, still paying, and still feel like I'm getting my money's worth. It's a different sort of mindset than with WoW. I'm not really trying to do the endgame. I'm just trying to jump through all the stories. I basically do some random PvP, and while I'm waiting for the WZ to pop, I run the class quests. I don't pick up any other quests.

The benefit is that levels and planets come fast. The downside (?) is that everything is pretty challenging. I'm routinely under-leveled for things, and every so often I run up against an elite that I cannot beat. Usually, a few days of PvP dailies nets me another level, and then I can continue. I'm not sure how this will hold at the higher levels. For now, though, it adds challenge and is fun.

One good change that ToR made recently (that seemed un-trumpeted, IMO), was the slight change in PvP dailies. It went form a simple "get X wins" to "play X times" where wins count double. For me, this is a huge quality of life improvement. Where before you may be frustrated by a string of losses, now there's an end in sight. I've found that most things in life are infinitely more tolerable when you know what you're shooting for. I wanted to complete the dailies, but it was frustrating when you just couldn't get a win. This alleviates a lot of that frustration, as you get there anyway. Good stuff.

It is changes like this one that makes me happy to continue on with ToR. They seem to have a good eye for what is annoying for the player base, and try to change it. They can't fix everything immediately, and I'm willing to be patient. It's good that they're trending in a positive direction.

By contrast, I've felt WoW to be trending in a negative direction for me. The whole Cataclysm Warlock debacle, as chronicled by Cynwise, was a huge reason. Secondary was a focus on endgame, which when that fell apart, left me with little to do. There are no class stories in WoW.

I think Diablo will be a welcome addition to my gaming life, and I still look forward to MoP. I'll play ToR until I've experienced all 8 class stories (four on each side). I'm hoping that by then they'll have added a lot of content and quality of life improvements, so I'll keep playing. I'd say that's pretty likely. Still, if ToR shut off development today, I'd play through those stories and then be done. They're fun. I hope Blizzard improves on the class story idea in their next MMO. I think they could do a great job with it as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Any Newbie Warlocks?

Are y'all out there, lurking? I know I've been a bad blogger lately, but I swear I have good intentions. Like, I really thought the New Blogger Initiative was cool beans, but didn't feel like I could really sign up to sponsor because I'm more of a study in what not to do lately. Especially when you compare it to these stellar articles.

Side note, I really love the Pot. It makes my linking life a lot easier.

Instead, I wanted to mention that if there are any new warlock bloggers hoping to get in on this NBI thing, shot me a link in the comments of this post. I would love to link you in a post to be created at a later date. With all the gloom and doom Cynwise has been analyzing, new 'locky bloggers deserve a special mention.

Side note, from a warlocky perspective, isn't gloom and doom good?

I'm full of side notes today.

Hey! That can be my useful tip. Don't know what the hell to write about? Just start typing and then randomly throw in side notes. You can even give them their own paragraph to add length to your post. It's all about appearances, am I right?

Okay, so that's a lie. Content helps. Especially, if you want to get linked by the Pot. (Which, I must note--but not side note--is a laudable goal.)

Side post, are there many class specific SWTOR blogs out there? No, not you, Targeter. I already know about you. (But even you have branched out a bit). I think altitis has been encouraged so that the concept of a "main" is somewhat muddled in TOR, if not altogether destroyed. Anyway, I'd love to find someone writing about Balance Shadows. Does such a person exist? Google says "no" (apart from yours truly and forum guides).

Closing side note, Day Jobs suck. Just sayin'. (Which makes it okay.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sporadic Posting Inc

I've been a bad blogger. Seriously, one post last week? That's slacking. I honestly tried to write a second post on Friday, but was so busy that it has sat half-finished in the unpublished state. I've tried over the years (wow, has it been years?) to not make a whole lot of these self-indulgent apology-type posts. I think we have an unspoken bond of trust, whereby I do my best to write interesting things and not waste your time, and you believe that I'm doing my best. It may not be true in all cases, but the assumption has generally served me well.

As such, I'll keep this short. Don't want to waste your time, you know. Day Job is acting up just as optional Night Job (as an author) is struggling through my final round of edits for my latest book. Day Job is sending me to our plant in Juarez, Mexico. I'm actually writing this during my layover in Houston. Though, I'll have post it later because I'm not paying $7.95 for sub-par wifi for an hour. Nor am I downloading your software, Boingo. If you'd just pop some ads up, I'd be okay with that. Annoying, but I get it, you gotta make money, too.

Anyway, it probably comes as no surprise that my gaming has taken a bit of a back seat. And when you don't game, it makes it really tough to write about gaming. I'm not quitting though, I guess I just wanted to poke my head in and say "hi." A lot of you are probably caught up in the whole Guild Wars 2 storm right now anyway. I've got nothing to add there. I don't plan to play it upon release. I may check it out at some point (some of my Facebook friends have already pulled me into a group they have for the game), but it'll have to be when I get some time.

SWTOR has been frustrating lately. For a while, Reps were winning a lot, and things were good. By a lot, I mean probably 50% of the time. Coming from a much lower percentage, it seems like a lot. Then, things swung back the other way. Now it seems that every time I log on, I can't get a win. Makes it not so much fun. So I levelled an Imp to 10. Got a win my first try. I'd like to keep working on my main, but not at the expense of fun. With the introduction of the Legacy perks in 1.2, I think it's high time I spent a bit on alts. So my plan is to swing away from PvP and back to levelling. I'll queue while I'm working on quests, just to see if I can get on a lucky streak, but no reason to beat my head against a wall.

For WoW, I'll probably have to miss my raid this Friday on account of travel. My plane will just be touching down when we're supposed to start. Maybe I'll catch the tail end of some action, who knows. Otherwise, I've not had time to jump in the beta any more. Surprise, surprise.

Maybe next week. Though, at this pace, it'll more likely be May 15th before I can work in some solid time. Yes, that date choice is intentional: Diablo III should drop. It may make a great (and free) welcome back gift. Until then, expect some sporadic posting.