Monthly Archives: June 2011

Wizard 101

A friend called me an MMO junkie, and I think it would be hard to argue with that.

Anyway, I’ve heard of this game and decided to give it a try since my EVE Online fix is on hold, either temporarily or permanently. It’s a F2P child-friendly title with a surprising amount of depth. You’re a wizard student at a wizard academy, and you have to help stop an evil wizard. Yes, the basic theme sounds very similar to a certain popular book series, but the similarities are really quite shallow. The graphical look is very similar to World of Warcraft. It’s even voiced, at least as far as I’ve played, though I’m one who prefers to read subtitles.

Gameplay is similar to most theme park MMOs. Find the yellow exclamation mark, pick up quest. Quests follow the usual defeat [X] creatures, collect [X] number of objects, or go talk to another NPC. Turn quest in to yellow question mark NPC. Repeat. What really makes the game stand out, however, is its combat. Instead of the standard combat we’re all used to, it comes in the form of a type of collectible card game. Your spells are cards you arrange into a deck. During combat, everyone selects the spell they want to cast from their drawn pool, and then combat goes in turns to resolve the round. New spells can be purchased from trainers and collected as quest rewards. The spell graphics are simply amazing. Colorful, unique, funny.

And if that wasn’t enough, it has crafting, pets that not only grow but help you in combat, housing, mounts, gardening, and an assortment of minigames. Level cap is 60. Oh, and they release the monthly patch notes, something Free Realms doesn’t do that frustrates me. They’re obviously making a real effort to keep the game updated, because their patch notes are just as extensive as those in any other game I’ve played. In other words, they don’t treat F2P and child-friendly as an excuse to half-ass it.

There’s a first month special of half price ($5.00), so I went ahead and subscribed for a month.


It’s so pretty!

I recently upgraded my computer, and I decided I really needed to see what it could do. As I was also in the mood for something quite violent, I took a look at the recent first-person shooters. I’ll be honest. I haven’t played many shooters lately. Not because I don’t like the genre. No, instead it was the console-izing. Too often shooters are now poorly done console ports that don’t take advantage of the PC’s strengths.

But the best reviewed game recently is Crysis 2, so I decided to give it a shot. And let me tell you something, shooting the heads off guys has never looked so good. At times I can’t help but marvel at all the little things that games have these days, like the leaves floating through the air, the swarms of buzzing flies you can see in detail through your rifle scope, the heat shimmers, dripping water. You know those gorgeous, high-def screenshots the developers release to show off the pretty? That’s what the game actually looks like when you run on max settings. And my machine is good enough to run on max settings (though I dropped a couple things down to very high to squeeze a few more framerates out during the heavier fights). I’m spoiled now.

Oh, and the game itself is great, too. They infuse story throughout the game. The NPCs for the most part act quite intelligently. You’ll occasionally see an NPC get stuck or run in place, or repeat the same phrase over and over. Those things will throw you out of the game momentarily, but overall the AI is good enough to keep you on your toes. I have no trouble treating the NPCs as I would human enemies and expecting them to react the same way a human would.

As for the console-izing? Well, at least you can remap the keys and access the game console to run inline commands to change the FOV. I would like it if the game allowed me to save anywhere (or at least was a little more generous with checkpoints; I hate redoing content). Overall, though, I’m enjoying Crysis 2 immensely.


Putting the macro back in micro-transaction.

The introduction of a cash shop into EVE Online has had more than the usual share of controversy. The introduction of the game’s cash shop was bad enough, but it seems they sorta missed the micro part of the word micro-transaction. None of the vanity items available can be purchased for the equivalent of a single PLEX (which is around $15), and the ocular monocle implant would cost a whopping $68 of real world cash. My in-game dreadnought would cost less (minus fittings) if I bought one using PLEX.

There’s also a leaked in-house document showing some of the other ideas they’ve tossed around, such as offering ships and ammo in the store to be purchased outright. Now, since the game already provides a RMT method of purchasing ships and ammo outright, this may not sound like a big deal. It wouldn’t be if it wouldn’t have a devastating effect on the in-game economy. It’ll set a bar as to what a player can charge for those items. It would be difficult for someone to manipulate the market or take advantage of wars or events going on.

Not every game needs a cash shop. Why couldn’t those vanity items have been available as drops, or better yet, as manufactured items? How awesome to kill a Gurista rat and find a blueprint copy for a special Gurista-designed shirt with a small manufacturing run? Wouldn’t that have a better chance of getting more players into the game?

I’m very disappointed in CCP. It won’t stop me from playing EVE, but I honestly can’t see myself spending a dime in the store. And the day I’d need to in order to be competitive is the day I unsubscribe.


5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better

There’s a very inspiring article on Cracked.com today that everyone who’s ever felt down about their life should read. It’s geared toward teenagers, but I think it’s a message worth re-reading for everyone.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-reasons-life-actually-does-get-better/


Fansible.com

I’m blogging over at Fansible.com, a fan site for Scifi/Fantasy books and all things related! Come check us out.


Indie MMOs and their fans

There’s an odd philosophy among gamers that you don’t see in most other hobbies, and it’s particularly prevalent among MMO gamers. It’s the need to “support” indie developers by paying for an incomplete or buggy product. Because the developers are passionate. Because they love games. Because they’re a small house without the resources of Blizzard or Bioware.

Fellow gamers, let me tell you something: you are a customer. When a development house is making a game that costs as much (either in initial box fees or monthly subscriptions) as a title by the big names, they need to provide the same level of quality and customer service as those AAA titles. Would you buy a crappy vacuum cleaner from Hoover to “support” the corporation? If the house doesn’t have the resources to provide a quality product, the price you pay should reflect that. I might pay $5 or $10 a month for an MMO that is less polished than, say, EVE or Everquest II or World of Warcraft. But when the developer starts asking me to spend $15/month, they’d better be able to stand up next to those other guys and prove they’re just as good.

Stop forgiving untested code, frequent server outages, horrible design decisions, and excessive bugs. Don’t let the developers’ fervor and passion blind you to the fact that they’re selling you a service. Games aren’t developed on the patronage system (if they are, I have some design ideas I’d like to see implemented pronto).

Demand quality, and if you don’t get it, vote with your wallet.


APB Screenshot of the Day

I was impressed with this truck. No idea who it belongs to.

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Check out the sign.

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What bad movies can teach you

I saw my first Mystery Science Theater movie many years ago. Space Mutiny. The idea of watching painfully bad movies may seem absurd, and it’s hard to explain what makes it so fun, but it is. Over the years I grew fond of Joel and Mike and the robots, and I have my preference as to which of the two men is funnier. (Notice how I’m not saying)?

But after watching a few, I also started to realize that many of those bad movies share a few common traits that make them bad, and I’m not talking about the quality of the acting or set pieces or special effects either. I also realized how watching them can help with my writing, by showing me what not to do.

1) Emphasizing the wrong scenes. A lot of bad movies will spend a long time following the characters as they drive from point A to point B, and they don’t use that time to develop the plot or the characters. Or they’ll spend an entire scene with the characters at a dance club while an entire song is played by the band, who are likely friends of the director. Again, there’s no plot development taking place.

Every scene in a book should serve a purpose, and that purpose shouldn’t be “because I wrote it, damn it, and it took forever.”

2) Continuity errors. Continuity errors come about when the director doesn’t care about correcting the mistakes made in filming. Now, many if not most movies have a small continuity error or two. Maybe the actor was holding the gun in his left hand and then suddenly it’s in his right. Or a piece of jewelry keeps flitting in and out of a scene. Those are easy to overlook with weeks of filming and numerous passes at editing. I’m talking the big, obvious continuity errors, like the characters running around in the daytime one minute and night the next. Or entire scenes that make no sense together. Those are hard to miss if you actually go over the film, and it tells me the director doesn’t care about getting even the big things right.

Even the most diehard outliner needs to make a pass over the book to make sure they haven’t made continuity mistakes.

3) Nonsensical plots. Not every MST3K movie shown has a nonsensical plot. Some would actually be decent if the entire movie were better. But most of the time, the movie makes no sense. A monster movie with a monster that never appears until about five minutes from the end. A science fiction movie with a random vampire scene in the middle of it.

“Ooh, ooh, wouldn’t it be cool if…” is not the way to plot a book. Everything has to be there for a reason. Save your awesome ninja unicorn zombies for a new series.


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