I Think I Just Accidentally Talked Myself Into Quitting WoW Again

I go through WoW ups-and-downs like the moon goes through its phases. As sure as I am going to play it, I am going to get tired of it. You could say this about any player and any game, let alone any MMORPG, but WoW is always my go-to MMORPG when I need that MMORPG fix.

I had picked WoW up again a few weeks ago when I was dead-set on hopping factions and leveling a Horde Pandaren Monk all the way up to 90. To backtrack a bit; the week following the Mists of Pandaria launch, I played religiously on my (at the time Alliance) Death Knight, rushing to the new level cap of 90. I hit the level cap and was bored within two days (more on that later). Back to my allusions of Monk grandeur. I was fitted out with an entire kit of heirlooms I had gathered up before the MoP launch, in preparation for the inevitable Pandaren Monk I would make. We’re talking full leather agility set, the agility cloak, and 2x agility maces with +15 agility enchants on them. No way I could be disappointed, right? Well I got burnt out on the leveling grind by the mid-50s and was ready to go back to my faction-changed Orc Death Knight. Only to remember why I quit not even two weeks after MoP launch. To put it bluntly, and slightly hyperbolic, the MoP “end game” equates to grinding daily quests, daily.

Let me explain a bit and put it in perspective. If you reach the level cap in an MMORPG, you obviously like the idea of character progression (chances are, via gear and stat/power progression). So when you hit the level cap (arguably where the ‘end game’ begins) in an MMORPG you want a new form of character progression, and the most popular one by far is gear. People want the “phat lewts.” And why shouldn’t they? Makes a man feel good. So how does a fresh level 90 go about getting new gear? I could go into a deep explanation with the breakdown of your order of operations to properly gear up, via multiple facets of the game, but what it breaks down to is you need “Valor Points” and you need quest hub reputations raised to revered/exalted. All the Valor gear is locked behind Revered (at the minimum) and mainly Exalted, so you can forget all about getting Valor until you even have a single reputation to Revered. So, you need to get a reputation to Revered? I hope you like dailies because that’s all you’ll be doing for a while. Reputation grinding is nothing new to WoW, or MMORPGs in general. We’ve been handed end-game reputation grinds since as early as vanilla WoW. The problem is that there were always multiple ways to gain the reputation. My favorite has always been “championing” a reputation by wearing the reputation tabard and grinding heroic dungeons. Blizzard’s reason for removing this as an option calls back to their “we want the players in the game world” philosophy. They didn’t like people “just queueing for heroics and standing around the main city.” Oh, you didn’t like that Blizzard? Well too bad, your players did. They claim it “wasn’t good for the long term health of the game.” I am far from a Blizzard-hater, in fact I have loved every single product they have released (up to a point), but the more I read about their game design logic, and more importantly  read their actual reasoning and excuses for the decisions they make, the more I think they are just kind of stubborn and want to do things their way, like it or not. I respect the hell out of Blizzard and hold them in the top echelon of game developers with the likes of Valve, but I disagree with a lot of their decision making. A lot of this stems from their recent transparency in game design (via developer blogs and twitter), so I’m not sure whether I should applaud them or tell them to stop giving people ammunition to use against them. Look at me; this topic sucks me into ranting. Hell, it’s how this entire post was spawned — I was ranting to a friend on Facebook about this very topic.

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The point I’m trying to make is that all of this combined with my play-style and the facets of WoW I enjoy, leads me to and end-game where I am forced to do dailies, every time I log on, for at least two weeks. I hate dailies. I may be alone in this, but I suffer through the “quest grind” of theme-park MMORPGs so that I can get to the level cap and finally be free of it, not so I can unlock an entire new type of quest-grind! I’m not saying quests as a mechanic are bad, but the way WoW handles quests is dated and boring. Sometimes I miss the simpler days of MMORPGs where “leveling” meant finding the best spot to farm mobs for your level range and just grinding for an hour or two.

Blizzard has recently come out and said that there will be a way to gain reputation via heroics and tabard-wearing as a “once a day” thing. But, unless they tweak the numbers so much that one of those a day will net you as much as doing every daily quest in a single reputation quest hub, I’m not even going to bother. It’s like if they decided to limit daily quests to one or two a day. No thanks. If it’s not equal, it’s not a viable option, and you’re still forcing players to “go out into the game world.” So, yeah, I think I’m done with WoW until they give people a real, viable option to the “rep grind” that doesn’t involve a explanation marks and question marks over NPC heads.

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The War Z: What I Think Thus Far

Now that I’ve had a few days to get some time in The War Z, I wanted to take a moment to  try and express my opinions of this online, zombie-apocalypse, survival multiplayer experience (we really need name for this genre).

I feel the best way to really show how this game takes you on a roller-coaster of “holy crap!” moments is to play the game and then write about your last gameplay session. Luckily, I did such a thing in my first two days of playing The War Z. Here is my quickly jotted down experiences from last Friday and Saturday respectively (pulled from my Facebook page, but edited for mistakes):

Just played my first ~20 minutes of WarZ:

It spawns me in the middle of the woods. I check out my map and head towards the closest town to try and find some supplies (maybe a melee weapon or a gun if I’m lucky). I stumble upon my first zombie aggro as soon as I get into town — I club him down with my flashlight after a dozen or so swings. That wasn’t so bad. I sneak along the side of the first building, what appears to be an abandoned grocery, and I peek around the corner and see a shiny new M16 just lying on the ground, taunting me to loot it. As I inch my way toward it, it disappears. I start to back-peddle like a mad man, and duck back around the corner. I hear footsteps and see another survivor poke his head out the grocery store door and then go back inside. A few seconds later gunshots are fired. Did the survivor meet his death? If so, was it a zombie attack or another survivor who got the best of him? I start to panic and sneak around the other side of the building, checking out the abandoned store next to the grocery; nothing of interest in there. I head back to the grocery, thinking that maybe the survivor just got bested by the local zombies inside, and hope that maybe I can snag that M16 that I had intended to loot earlier (everything in this game is full-loot…you die, you drop all your gear). I peek inside and it looks clear, minus a lone zombie just shambling in a small circle. I hug the inside wall and make my way to the back of the store. I find binoculars, rifle ammo, and a flare. My first real loot! Woot! I take a second to sort my inventory and have bite of a granola bar — *bang* *bang* — I’m dead. Just like that. No idea if it was the original survivor or a new one, but I can’t help but feel like I was bait and switched. I’m dead and have to start all over. Damn it that was awesome. I haven’t felt that kind of suspense and pressure in a game since I first discovered the alpha of Minecraft survival-mode years ago.

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Just had a crazy chain of events in The War Z, have to share this via wall of text. Enjoy?

I started a new game and a new character. Made my way to the closest town and made my rounds from building to building slowly. Weave around the back fence of a house and find a shotgun on a table with a zombie guarding it, so I club the zombie to death with my flashlight (paranoid of attracting other survivors with my swinging light) and quickly loot the shotgun and equip it. I had previously found some binoculars as well, so this is the most well equipped I’ve ever been in War Z; I’m pumped, but even more cautious now that I have more to lose.

I see an (obviously) new survivor sprinting across the street with a tail of zombies on him and slowly make my way to him. I see that he has died, and the cluster of zombies that were chasing him are now on me. I make a break for it up a hill and see another survivor. He’s jumping around like a goof, maybe as a way of showing he means no harm. He looks unarmed so I keep my distance but don’t show aggression. Once I lose the zombies I ask, “friendly?” They reply, “yes.”

He’s now following me as I make my way to the next settlement. We hear gunshots and I instantly drop to the ground. Crouching, we both make our way to what looks like a make-shift fortified military base (I was too in-the-moment to bring up my map and check the name) and as I’m prone behind a tree I see a mask-wearing, pistol wielding bandit fumbling around in the base. This bandit is making his way towards us and seems aggressive. I switch to my shotgun, still in prone, pop up to crouch position and aim down the iron-sights. As soon as they pop around the corner of our tree we are behind I fire off a round from my shotgun. Head-shot. Dead. The first thing that really struck me is how much “bang” the gun had to it. The sound design, the visuals, and the recoil, all put together was jaw-dropping.

Back to the mission at hand. The dude following me instantly goes and jacks all the loot from the bandit I just dispatched of (Ignoring the fact that I just saved his life too?). After a second I start thinking “OK, they are armed now. They know I’m armed. They know I have rounds in my shotgun still (they had asked how much ammo I had earlier). How safe am I really?” I say in proximity chat, “Don’t shoot me in the back o.0″ as the player insists on following me, rather than leading the way. I start to get suspicious and super paranoid. I keep my shotgun out, as they have their new pistol out as well, and I make my way around the corner of a large shipping bin. A rush of adrenaline and paranoia comes over me as I turn around and wait for them to round the bend. I pop a shot off in their face before they can even see me. They’re dead. I take the pistol and all that I can until my bags are full. I start the 10-second log out timer. What have I just done? What have I become? I’m one of them. I’m a bandit.

This game is the perfect game to recollect stories of your in-game adventures with the game’s community or your friends. Stuff like these two stories can happen at any moment in The War Z and I think that’s part of what makes me really enjoy the game. I love open-ended, divergent gameplay experiences. Sandbox games, if you will. The War Z doesn’t tell you where to go, what to do, or how to do it. It throws you into the wild-west world of the zombie apocalypse, where it is kill-or-be-killed and keeping a low-profile when you’re not doing said killing (or being killed).

At the same time, the “make your own fun” aspect of The War Z is a double-edged blade. There are times when I log into The War Z and wander around for 30 minutes to no real success, only to embarrassingly die to zombies because a bug (hopefully a bug!) gives them a wall-hack.

When it comes to the technical stuff, The War Z really surprised me. I went into The War Z having never played Hammerpoint’s previous game, War Inc, so I had no idea what level of jank or amateurism to expect. Have a gaming rig with a CPU-bottleneck like I do, I was worried about this effecting my framerate to the point that it wasn’t enjoyable. Thankfully, the game performs well for the most part, with some random fits of sub-20 frames per second. Hammerpoint also gives the player a decent amount of options and sliders to adjust  the visuals to try and tweak your performance to your liking.

All that said, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what The War Z has to offer. The game is still in late Alpha (rumored to be hitting beta at the end of this month), has only one map (that isn’t even completely unlocked), is in the process of learning how to combat hackers  and we still haven’t seen the experience/skill-tree system implemented.

Should you drop 25 bones at this point? It really depends on what you’re expecting out of the gate. The War Z is definitely not a complete product at this point, but it’s oozing with potential and even in this early stage alpha/beta there are gigantic chunks of amazing emergent gampelay experiences. I’m going to keep this one on my radar and check in on it with every patch leading up to launch.

 

 

 

 

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Pondering what to scratch my MMORPG itch with

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My short-lived rampant addiction to The Secret World faded after about a week or two. I definitely got enough out of it to warrant the price of the game and the first “free month,” so I’m not bitter about it, but I can definitely say I’m shocked my desire to log in came to such a screeching halt. I think I logged about 40 hours in just the first few days of having it, so when I, all of a sudden, stopped logging on it was peculiar, to say the least. I think the first thing that might have put a dent in my momentum was the fact that I rerolled away from my first character and server, in order to be able to play with a friend of mine who I had convinced enough to buy the game. I won’t lie, I was kind of looking for more excuses to reroll my character, because I was unhappy with how his face turned out (little things like that nag the hell out of me in games) and I was already thinking about trying out a more offensive/dps build, as opposed to my purely survival-focused blade/chaos tank. Besides rerolling, the Steam sale didn’t help the cause at all, as that reminded me that I have a gigantic Steam library that doesn’t get enough of my attention. Before I knew it I had forgotten about my Templar comrades and I can pretty much say I’ve moved on. For now at least. I can definitely see myself coming back to TSW if Funcom sticks to their promises of monthly content patches. There was a lot I loved about TSW and I still truly believe it’s one of the gems of MMORPG launches in the post-WoW age of MMORPGs.

So here I find myself with a dozen-or-so freshly installed Steam games, looking for an MMORPG I can log into when I want that “lose myself for a few hours with a podcast playing in the background” type of game. I tried hopping into Rift since they reactivated old accounts for the weekend, but it wasn’t seeming to grab my attention. Maybe when the expansion’s launch is a bit closer? After Rift, my mind wandered to Final Fantasy XIV (probably due to the recent ‘A Realm Reborn’ 2.0 news), Star Wars: The Old Republic, and World of Warcraft.

My deal with FFXIV is that I feel like I’m still just better off waiting for the glorified 2.0 patch to go live. I already picked up the game for ~$10 a few months ago, so I’ll be able to side-step the inevitable price increase that comes with the relaunch and version 2.0. The FFXIV I tried a few months ago, while definitely improved, was still too much like the FFXIV I played back in the beta. I’m afraid this would still be the case if I reactivated any time before 2.0

SWTOR and WoW are kind of pulling the same strings for me when I try to analyze why I am getting an itch for both of them. Both have similar theme-park experiences, class mechanics, and talent-tree layouts. Both (now) have an automated “LFG” system. Both have similar end-game experiences of either “PVP or PVE” being the baseline options. What SWTOR has going for it that WoW doesn’t is that more of it is fresh to me. The idea of starting from scratch with the Reddit guild is really appealing to me. When I try to think of what I would jump into in WoW, it all kind of starts out hazy and then goes downhill when I think about server transfer and faction change fees — all due to the fact that I just don’t know if I want to stick to my level 85 Death Knight who is a recent Horde-faction-change-victim or if I want to go back to my home of Alliance, that just feels more natural and normal to me.

Besides these heavy hitters like SWTOR and WoW, I feel like I’m somehow overlooking an MMORPG that could hit the spot just as well as these. Lord of the Rings Online? It’s never really lasted long for me in the past, and with an expansion launch on the horizon that’s just an added cost, so an added barrier of entry. Guild Wars 2 launches in less than a month, but the client’s lack of optimization throughout the beta weekends has really turned me off, and besides that, I need something now, not a month from now. Planetside 2 beta is said to start in just a few days, but how do I know I’ll be in the first wave of invites? I’ve played a bit of it during the tech test (thanks to a lucky friend of mine who got in) and that engine could use some optimization too. I’ve thought about hopping back into Diablo 3, but having done all four acts, three to four times each speaks for itself. I’m tired of repeating content in that game for such little reward. What the hell, it’s not an MMORPG anyways.

Working this all out in my head as I’m typing this post has actually helped a lot, and I’m honestly leaning towards SWTOR at this point. Rerolling a Jedi or Smuggler could be fun, and I feel like I can fill my head with a “to-do list” in SWTOR way easier (and cheaper) as opposed to WoW. After all, setting goals (both big and small) in an MMORPG is what keeps me playing them. What’s an MMORPG without a carrot-on-a-stick?

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Welcome to New Mandalore

Instead of rehashing all that I’ve already rehashed multiple times, I’m just going to paste my first post on my now-defunct Tumblr.

I’ve gone through many blogs and domain-names since I started trying to throw together a personal website to cover games and gaming news that interested me. It all started when I began getting super deep into the online gaming-culture scene. Sites like 1-Up, with amazing podcasts (GFW Radio and 1-Up Yours) and the glorious 1-Up Show. Jeff Gerstmann’s blog, that eventually transformed into Giant Bomb. Massively.com and MMORPG.com. These sites and communities around them are what got me interested in jumping into the community and diving into video game journalism.

I started with “iWinButton.com” way back, somewhere along the lines of 2006-2007. I actually remember I had originally planned to make a blog dedicated to Warhammer Online, as that was the MMO I was currently the most hyped for. I scrapped that idea when I realized I couldn’t possibly stick to one MMO, and only one, for a prolonged period of time. I wanted to talk about, and most of all, play other MMOs. “iWinButton.com” shifted towards a general MMO blog, where I mainly covered breaking news and announcements and talked about whatever MMO I was currently hyped about and/or playing. Hell, I even threw in some energy drink reviews, seeing as it comes with the territory. During my time writing posts on iWinButton, I gathered a little following of fellow MMO bloggers (wonder if any of you are somehow still reading this, if you still follow me on twitter). Two of which, who were way more active and involved in the community (obviously), have moved onto writing for Massively.com. A path I would love to follow.

Out of nowhere, I just kind of stopped writing posts. My blog kind of faded into obscurity as I switched domain names and hosts a few times, from various things like “1080-gaming,” “myMMOverdose,” and most recently “jamesandhisgames.” The schism mainly happened because I stopped taking classes (Journalism major) and just couldn’t decide on a focus for my online presence. However, this year a spark reignited my desire to blog, get the wheels turning on taking classes again, and work towards my “dream” career. Although I have only scratched the surface so far (a small attempt at a youtube channel and barely-intermitent updates on my semi-defunct jamesandhisgames.com blog), I plan to seriously push myself to make updates and stay active. Gone is my “all encompassing” gaming and news coverage, as I’m going to focus more on just what I’m playing and why I’m playing it. Gone is my “try to think of a witty and clever brand” logic in buying domain names and “branding” my online persona. I’m just going with an alias I chose in 2006 as my Xbox Live Gamertag, a callback to my favorite and most memorable game of my life so far — Star Wars Galaxies. As I move forward with this blog/tumblr/whatever-it-may-morph-into, I will be refocusing back to MMOs for this new direction. MMOs are where my heart has been ever since I got a taste of them in high school with the likes of Dark Age of Camelot, Shadowbane, Planetside, and most importantly Star Wars Galaxies. The latter plays an important role in my new direction. As I mentioned earlier, my “New Mandalore” alias is actually a reference to my home-city and guild-city in Star Wars Galaxies that was settled on the planet of Dantooine. A shout-out to my favorite MMO yet, and a blog covering MMOs again. So yeah, full-circle, and all that jazz. I won’t straight-up say that I won’t cover any “Non-MMO” games, as some come up here and there that I just have to try (recently: Diablo III and Krater) and may want to write about.

Will I keep this blog on “Tumblr?” I may. I may not. I may switch back to WordPress or I may give SquareSpace another shot, but I wanted to see what all the hipsters were up to on this Tumblr thing. One thing I like about Tumblr so far, is the ease of posting quickly. This will allow me to maybe post a quick thought (akin to a tweet, or something) if I’m on the go, via the android app, or even if I’m on my PC, but just want to make a short post with a game trailer I thought was interesting. We’ll see how it goes.

First on my agenda is the recently launched The Secret World, which is patching as I type this. Stay tuned. I’m excited to cover MMOs again!

So, like I warned in that post, there was a chance that I would just not like Tumblr, or that this “direction” would not work out for me. I was right; Tumblr is just not my bag. The editing tools are clunky and pretty much non-existent (for what I need from them) and the site works more as a proxy for glorified Twitter/Instagram posting rather than actual blogging or news posts. I’ve grown accustomed to WordPress, having used for the last four years or so. It takes a little more user-input and time to make a post, but at the same time it allows for more tools and customization. Long story short: I’m used to WordPress and change sucks.

But, as you can see, I’ve abandoned the “jamesandhisgames” branding and I’m sticking to my “New Mandalore” alias and motif. Without getting to philosophical over an online alias, I feel like “New Mandalore” works two-fold; both as a “username” but also as a destination (with that destination being this blog).

With that said, it may take me a while to settle on WordPress theme and color-scheme, but I’m about to start working on all that after this post goes up. The actual domain name will come, but I need to start getting my s*** together and posting way more frequently before I start worrying about removing the “.wordpress” from the blog’s URL. Content should be the most important thing, but all too often I focus on the aesthetics.

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