Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Gaming: Vanilla WoW: My Thoughts

I have been away, but you my readers have not been forgotten, oh no, for I have many gaming stories to shower upon thee from the previous couple of weeks...

I didn't necessarily plan to not write a blog post for nearing a fortnight, but in doing so I felt the need to write something interesting, and so here we go...

World of Warcraft, I don't play World of Warcraft any more, I pretty publically derided the whole approach Blizzard had taken around the time Wrath of the Litch King was released, and yes I played that expansion, but my guild of friends fell apart, my main honcho and I (Hi Chaplain) re-rolled on a new PVP Server and well, it never really took off.

With the casual ease one could get heroics, compared to the skill and time dedication needed to get gear in vanilla, it became far more pew-pew than an RPG, and indeed the player skill base around me started to reflect that, PVP videos stopped being things like level 60 hunters roaming wild, or even the annoying rogue naked evisceration videos... No they all became just inside battlegrounds, where everyone is doing the same thing, on the same ground, in the same patterns, over and over... Dailies the same.

So, Looking at the power of my then level 80, and the planned level 90 and eventual 100 I just didn't feel the need to pay £15 a month to play.  Instead I went and got married, which, so far, has been a more fulfilling adventure.

And this is the shambled Blizzard have brought on themselves, I saw it coming, those who didn't include I supposed the millions of subscribers they are shedding, the title retains 10 million subscribers, probably more than enough to keep it alive (well definitely) but I hope their now having still 10 million does not tell some suited executive that the game is a success, one current player described the current Warlords of Dreynor (I can' even spell it, I'm so uninterested) expansion as a menu fest, clicking through menu after menu.  From what I gather, the idea being you have your own garrison now... and you need followers, so you alone you gather your NPC followers?... Through daily, or weekly, or regular, repetitive, time sucking tasks...

Yeah, that's pretty much where I got off Wrath, with the monotony, and it just seems that monotony has carried on...

If we look back at WoW, about the original game, what can be say... Well, it took time to gain levels, it really did... Level 1 to 2, was 400 XP, the nightsabers (for example) in the starting zone were 100 XP, so kill 4 and you had your level... It took a few minutes.. and the other half of that first quest got you half the next level and so handing in the first quest you had been introduced to the "ding" of level 2, gathering XP and then getting a large XP boost for the hand in...

Spin forward again to the last time I played (you can find it in this very blog) I went to a now ruined Human starting zone, killing the wolves and kobolds, just the first three quests, I never needed to do the rest... level 9...

In the same amount of time it took to get between level 2 and 3 originally, I was level 9 in the current retail release.

I'm pretty sure I could download the game now, today, and level a DPS character even more quickly.

And that's so sad, the original release of the game, the starting areas, okay were not perfect, but they were pretty damn good.  Good fun, and they engaged you.  For starters, as a real early player, you had to read the quest text and travel around and you didn't just make XP you made experiences that I simply don't see the game offering today.

Okay, new lands are new lands, but should a new land have been +20 levels higher than the original release?...

I think perhaps it shouldn't have been, or more rightly the value of the early experiences should not have been devalued, why should a quest I did in 2005 reward 1200 XP, suddenly reward 3000 XP in 2015?... Simply to speed up the levelling, to cut players from that early experience...

And why?... Well, the answer for Blizzard to their customers, and to be fair amongst the customers ourselves, was that no-one was any longer interested in the starting zones, they had had their day, no-one was there any longer to help with Hogger... or to complete the quests, so first it was dumbed down, and then it was changed completely in Cataclysm.

But that didn't invigorate the players, it made some go abck to look, new players had an even easier ride, but they had a different experience to those of us whom had been there before.

And the difference was the experience we'd had, the original game was not completely finished, we know this, and I don't think the vanilla game was ever completely finished as an RPG, instead because of it's success from launch it got corrupted by the numbers of people, so we never saw the real first game design be realised.

You can see this in the match of the original art to the world... Look at Thandol span, a dual span bridge, to a tiny thin paved road each side of the span?

What traffic jams would have been there for the amount of traffic between Lorderon and Stormwind?... What traffic did the Dwarves of Ironforge have to pass North or bring South warranting that span?... Even with one span fallen and one partly blocked by rubble there's no way that span would ever be needed... But it was in there...

The fortresses of both factions, I don't think ever reached their potential for PVP use, Theramore never tempted many... Menethil simply ended up a ganking spot...

The best open world PVP was around Southshore, and I remember groups of 20+ fighters all rallying to the cry in Ironforge "SS under attack" and we flew off to defend...

That stopped happening, as soon as battlegrounds came in, not because southshore or Tarren Mill were less fun, arguably they were more fun... But because players like ease of use, and it was easier to get more honour in a battleground than actually in the world.

And again, Blizzard, this devalued the fabulous job you had done with the world, those open world kills should have been worth more than farmed kills...

Just like that original starting experience should be worth more than just being skipped over...

Just like the game today should be more than just rising and repeating tasks...

As I said in 2008, the game did not need to climb up, it needed, with it's very rich lore and appeal to expand out, it needed the level cap to change slightly, and I think Burning Crusade was a very good expansion after vanilla, but some of the things which happened later... have lead the world of warcraft off it's own track.

For ease, for the numbers, for the majority...

But I find myself in a minority, I crave the old experience, the old feel... One can still find it, and find communities enjoying that, but they're not official, they are private servers... Something I'm at pains to point people at due to their legal frailty.

I would however, say to Blizzard, time lock servers... And for the love of god, time lock and free to play model them, the game is close to ancient, I'd personally love to work for Blizzard, to time lock a server to say level 70, TBD era, but then expand the game outwards from there, to add story and content to the fringes and see where it would go.

How might the Iron Horde make an appearance in such an expanded world?... Would the Dark Portal cut off the worlds, leaving only Mages able to portal between cities and the Iron Horde spill out of the actual Dark Portal...

It's an interesting question, and might have fitted the lore better than what feels like the battering it's taking in WOD... I dunno, I day dream about it... The nearest I might ever get is emulating a server for myself and facing the wrath of Blizzard's legal department; something I don't really want to do.

So I stay not a paying customer, not a free to play customer to Blizzard, I stand aloof, with none of their products engaging me... But I wish they did.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

BBC Copy Proofing Still Bad

For a while I've taken to pointing out faults in stories on the BBC, and I'm still flabbergasted when mistakes are made, not least silly things like this:

Taps his feet... Not Foots....

It's so annoying, because this article isn't rushed, isn't really under duress, and unlike my own blog it's an official news outlet, this is written by a professional reporter and ergo professional writer.  Gah.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I'll never pay to play an MMO again...

That is a bold statement, as a player with a major elitist streak in my past, many years in vanilla WoW and later versions, running guilds, running corporations in Eve and having some damn fun whilst doing it, how can I sit here in 2015 with tall that in my past and say I'm not going to pay to play an MMO again?

Well, Russia is one source, with games of the quality (damn high) and quantity of WarThunder, World of Tanks and other titles it's hard to say why to buy into the idea of paying subscriptions.

More traditional MMO's like Lord of the Rings, you can access that game free, but pay for content, and if you've paid for content you then still get access to it when you stop paying...

World of Warcraft has the opposite model to this the moment you stop paying they cut you off, your dealer cuts you off, and you loose that world, and to some extent you loose yourself, because in these MMO's we, as players, invest a little of ourselves in those character, they are us as we walk and live those virtual lands after all.

So, to be cut off from them leaves us wondering, leaves us missing them... But that pull, in the current economy is not enough to make me want to pay.

It's not essentially Sophies Choice is it... Sub to play a game, or eat better food... I know as a bit of a fattie, I'm picking the food, and so that leaves me playing free to play games.

Dungeons and Dragons Online has graced these pages 5 years ago, though not as good as Wow it was there, LOTRO also, there are others I've tried.

So, if Blizzard come out with a new game "Titan", whatever that maybe, what would I do?... Well, the first thing is read all about it, but all that time I'd not be thinking "yes yes yes"... I'd be thinking "how much how much"... and if it's more than a dollar, I'm out of there, I'm not paying £29.99 for a title then £10 a month any more, ever.

Is this a sign of the times?... I suppose it's a sign of my maturing, and choosing to spend my time more carefully, as I've gotten older the amount of time I have to play has lessened.  So, if I get an hour a night, that's 7 hours a week, that's then what 28 hours a month... so just over a day... If I'm paying a £10 monthly subscription, those companies have to run their servers 24/7 I get that, but I'm paying £10 for 1 day... That's expensive.

The counter argument is "play more", playing every day that's 33p ish a day... That's cheap, but who as an adult, as a real person, with a real life who has time to play every day?... Every hour of every day even for some titles to achieve what you need to as a top notch achiever?... Not me...

Students maybe, people with that ability to run on 2 hours of sleep... But not me, not a middle aged man.

What shocks me about this whole feeling I have is that, I'm actually at a time in my life where I could spend on games, but I don't want to, the price per play time does not stack up, free is much more liberating and I never have that niggling feeling that; if I put that title down for a week, I'm loosing out; for free, I can't loose out... And the title itself can't, though it has to run 24/7 server power and time is very cheap now, more so than 15 years ago when I became an online player.

And that server time and cost for the publisher can be offset by premium or shop offered items in the game.... This i believe is where AAA MMO titles now have to go.

Five years ago, I'd have had the opposite opinion, if I went back and asked myself, even in the pages of this very blog I've said that, but I have to say now the opposite is in my mind.  I want to play for free and spend maybe a little now-and-then on top-up items.

Where does this leave the next generation of MMO's for me...

It leaves me hoping, maybe in vein, that they are free to play.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pathfinder

There's not a log going on, save to say I've been reading and following the Pathfinder RPG game rules.  Which are essentially D&D v3.5 rules. Message ends.

Friday, 1 May 2015

History of Sexual Violence During World War 2

Maybe I'm being a revisionist, maybe I'm reading or learning history different to others, maybe I'm just wiser or perhaps, and I suspect this to be the truth, the journalist who created this report, and the supposed masses who are ignorant of sexual crimes during and especially in Berlin at the end of World War 2 are just ignoring the obvious.

I'm talking about this report from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32529679

It talks about Soviet troops raping and assaulting Nazi German women, we'll make the distinction that they were still Nazi's and as the report itself says "in the west German suffering was ignored due to the guilt for Nazi crimes", and crimes they were.

The wrath, pillage and rape of Soviet citizens was widely known, and understood, I was taught about it and in learning about World War 2, and the waves of troops following Operation Barbarossa it was generally understood to me, by my teachings, that the Germans were animalistic and treated the Soviet and sub-humans, and that included raping and killing the women and children.

I had read an account of a German officer on the Volga front who was "only interested in a little buggery", so whilst his troops had the farm wife and teen age daughter, he took the 7 year old boy to the barn... "All were killed later by the unterfeldwebel, who took great delight in stabbing their necks and holding them up by their hair as the life drained out of them" the account read, I remember reading this at around 12 year of age, it chilled me to the bone... What are people actually learning now-a-days?... Only of the heroic struggle?... Only of the Combat of Arms?  Only what Call of Duty teaches them?

The rape of German women, was not ignored, indeed there is an interviewee in the Thames Television series "The World At War", a German man named Friedrich Luft; a Berliner, and he explains how when the Red Army came (38m20 on wards) other members of the house hid whilst he lead the Soviet soldiers to two dead women's bodies from another flat... he explains, "I told them these are my women, our only women, in their broken German, or what they called German, they gave me condolences, but then moved onto the next house to get what they wanted there".

It always struck me more how condescending, about the Russians ability to speak German, and how lacking of guilt for the whole war that German man was... He comes across as a complete arsehole... But it never struck me as he was revealing a dark secret in the rape of Berlin, it was common knowledge, the status-quo.

The essence of the problem with German and Soviet peoples being ravaged of course is that, there are reports both German and Soviet forces pillaged and dismembered Poland in 1939, wind forward to 1945 the allies in the West were fighting the Axis alongside the Soviets, so the pall of guilt lies heavy over the honour of the victory gained.

It's clear in the post war Soviet Block talk of Soviet forces committing such crimes were forbidden, but why not talk of it now?  Is this another one of those Russian idiosyncrasies that they can't face?

I find many computer games made by today's, or even my, generation of Russian (War Thunder being a good example) have a very rosy idea of how the second world was was conducted... 


This is a very interesting ideal of what was going on, and is reflected in the game with the performance and action of the "Russian" aka Soviet vehicles...  If we spin into the "Making of" blog post...

"we worked with a British studio, veterans of video trailer production. Together with them, we have created one of the most successful trailers referencing the military. But the British have their own history and their own view on the Second World War and we, the descendants of our Soviet heroes had our own war and own memories of it"

And it seems, certainly sexually, for the "honour" of the Soviet soldiers sake yes, Yes Russia you do have a different view of the Second World War, and it seems; like in Germany; it's slightly too far through rose tinted glasses.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Week Without a Post?

Could I leave you, my darlings, without a post for a whole week?... No, of course I couldn't.

So what is going on?... Well, I'm trying to arrange a Friday night D&D game with a group of mates - but two of them are being quiet on the availability, one doesn't have a webcam or mic to join in with, one is eager and I'm getting blue balls about the whole affair.

I've been playing some games, notably Cities Skylines, and I've been made to play a lot of H1Z1 Battle Royale for the wife, our best result has been #2 so far, so near, and yet so far from a win!

Today see's the release of WarThunder patch 1.70, their 1945 release, and it's biggest item for me is the new British Naval Aviation line, which I'll look forward to unlocking and getting to ace status.

Beyond all that, I think we're going to be busy Saturday, the father-in-law is having his boat launched (seriously, a whole boat) so we've got to go to that.  Then Sunday we're meant to be going to see some friends, but I don't know what that'll entail.  If I can throw together a D&D game and their kids are in the mood I'll drag that with me and make them play.

Development wise for the Dungeon Crawler, I've been tidying up some of the C++ code under the hood, and I've formally sorted out the XML loaders, so that's the format for everything, settings and screen layout will be the next feature I look at.  Doors are still a work in progress, and I'm still mulling the whole steps thing...

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Beard Gate

I'm beginning to process the interactions I've had over the last week, with the grief and trying to keep busy I've shluft off a lot of stuff and am only now processing it... One item on the list was I had to collect one of the poodles from the clippers...

The lady who does the clipping, I've known her since 1989... So boy, teen and man... in 1994 I grew a beard...

So, 21 years... I've had a beard for 21 years....

She looked at me when I collected the dog the other day and said...

"Oh you're not growing a beard are you"

Go figure... Go figure.