Time Capsule 2014

I really liked the format last year and enjoyed coming back to it. So the concept will go on for another year, but with a new name to better reflect what I’m looking to do.

The truth is, this post is a time capsule. I mark this place to show where I was at in my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, and questions at the beginning of the year. That is what is fun for me. So there are basically three sections below. The first deals with my hopes and desires for the coming year – what I want to accomplish or would like to see come to pass. The second is staking out, in the grand blogging tradition, what games I will return to to try again or just to enjoy again. And the third is my list of burning questions – my musings and ponderings about what 2014 might hold.

The Crypt of Civilization, the world’s most ambitious time capsule, and one of the inspirations of this post.

What I Am Looking Forward To

The Vought F7U Cutless. I’ve played around on the WoWp test server with enough of the high tier aircraft to know that I was made for this plane. Originally the fastest of the tier 10 jets, that has been eclipsed by the new British line. But, unlike its real world counterpart, this plane handles like a dream. I have led a two plane chase column from one end of a high tier map to the other without getting shot down, because of its incredible pitch and roll rates. It also has decent firepower and a great climb rate, making it the perfect ending to a line that already has those traits going for it. I’m finishing up the F4F Wildcat right now, and then its on to the Corsair for a couple of tiers, before transitiong to the F6U Pirate, the only hiccup in the line. It follows a bit too closely to its real world counterpart. And quite frankly, its an odd choice – the line would more logically go through the F2H Banshee, a production aircraft, rather than the Pirate.

In any case, this is probably my first planned foray up the tech tree in WoWp, along with the Messerschmitt line culminating in the severely OP Me 262 mark 3. Because you can’t ignore the OP stuff in the world of PvP. You could also include in this that I am overall looking forward to a growing player base for WoWp.

Elder Scrolls Mania. I got Skyrim for Christmas and have been enjoying it – except for the random murders of important townsfolk that I have no power to stop, which apparently happens at random. And I got to try my hand at the ESO Beta, and while its under NDA, I think it would be okay for me to tell you that I went from being “meh” on it to being very excited for it. I am not excited about a subscription fee, but I honestly don’t see that lasting more than about six months time. How about you?

Playing Old RPG Franchises. I picked up Wizardry 6-8 from Steam over the holidays. I was a Might and Magic fan growing up and just didn’t have the money to follow both series. So I’ve always wanted to go back and try it out, and that is exactly what I intend to do – at the bargain basement price of $2.75, which I could have afforded even back then, had they been on sale that low! Speaking of Might and Magic, UBI continues to develop MMX: Legacy, and I will continue to watch and wait eagerly, thought I have not been ready yet to drop the $30 they want for early access and testing on Steam. I may not be able to contain myself much longer though. Speaking of which, my other holiday Steam purchase was Conquest of Elysium 3, by the same people that created Dominions 3 and most recently just released Dominions 4. It takes more of an RPG flavor than the grand strategic scale of Dominions, but there is no denying the connections between the two. Speaking of which, you can now also get Dom 3 for a mere $20 on Steam. I absolutely guarantee that this game is worth its original asking price of 3x that amount. I can also include the Agarest series on here, as hopefully Ghostlight makes more of them available on Steam. The game got a terrible rap for confusing combat and its supposedly heavy fan service. So far I’ve seen less fan service than your typical Bong movie, and the combat is quite excellent – thought if you jumped the tutorial because the game looked a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics, I can imagine you got your butt handed to you more than once. The game looks the same but the system is very, very different.

I could have included this in my “Return To” section below, but I tend to think of that as more in the realm of MMO’s.

The Return of WoW. I am excited about the possibilities of the new expansion (especially the base/home), and the inclusion of a max level character. I have actually been playing around on my free WoW account some over the holidays. It seems strange to say it in some ways, but I firmly believe that WoW is a better game now than it was when I left it 5 years ago. At this point, unless ESO just absolutely grabs me by the head and won’t let go, I intend to spend a few months in Azeroth towards the end of the year (assuming that is inded when it drops).

Burning Questions for 2014

What Will Come of Wildstar? I’m not sure it can be said loudly or clearly enough, but Wildstar wants to be the WoW killer. From the art style to the considered goals, to the planning of races and classes, the goal can’t be seen as anything other than an attempt to invade the fertile subscription lands that WoW occupies. Maybe its just me, but when I hear ESO talk subs, I think its just a placeholder to recoup costs. When I hear Wildstar say it (perhaps because of the announcement of its version of Plex/Kronos), I think they intend to stick with it. I can’t help but think they will fail. I have no ill will to the game really, though I do think its a major step backwards to limit your race/class combos, so I’m not looking to be right here in the vindictive sense, but I just can’t imagine what it is about this game that will make it a lasting presence on the MMO landscape. On the other hand, I felt the same way about Guild Wars 2…

Will ArcheAge Be Arriving in 2014? Its been out for a year over in Korea. Its in testing with players over in RU as we speak. Yet we have nothing more than a basic placeholder site and zero information about release dates or just about anything else with regards to a timeline here. I submitted a question for the Game On Podcast (about the PR machine) and Victor Barreiro seems to think that Hartman was encouraging, but I was disappointed with the overall lack of response, not just on my question but on the game overall. One the one hand, the game is ready – just translation issues remain. On the other hand, we can’t give any further information or dates or even a range of dates. If we can’t give a range of dates even on a PR buildup, I have to think the game is really far off. Any yet I can’t imagine that if all that is remaining is the final stage of localization, that it would be on hold for another full year. The bottom line here is that this is my next big game that I have great hopes for, and the sooner it gets here, whether that be to fulfill my expectations or dash them, the better I will be.

How Will WarThunder’s Gound Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks? WarThunder’s vision is ambitious. Put planes and tanks together on the same battlefield. I can’t think that this will be easy to implement or balance, let along do those two things while making it fun to play. So I’m curious to see how it plays out. WarThunder and WoWp are different enough that they draw their own individual crowds, but there is something about the ground game that will be interesting to watch play out. Maybe just because Wargaming has more to lose than Gaijin does. Then again, WoT is the WoW of the military battleground world. Their position is going to be tough enough to assail without the added design complications that Gaijin is imposing on itself.

Return To…

I’ve pondered this one a lot over the past few weeks. Initial thoughts included Age of Conan, Dark Age of Camelot, or Neverwinter Nights. But NWN still doesn’t have a class that really drives me to want to play the game. Conan I got as far as downloaded and taking my old character out for a test drive, but an hour later I was done. So done. Dark Age is an old title, but with the coming of Camelot Unchained, I thought it might be fun to play for a bit and do a compare contrast as the year brings more information. Still, it is dated and we may still be a ways from Camelot Unchained. Plus, as a divided market now intends – it is still a subscription game, and that means there is a barrier to entry there that other options don’t have.

In the end, I thought about what I wanted out of the experience. I said to myself that these will be long term, but part time efforts. I have main, “every night” kind of games, but I want games I can “marathon” in – play one or two nights a week, draw the experience out for a year and really enjoy it and not feel like I have to log in every night to keep the world turning. With that in mind, I settled in on two:

EVE Online. On a whim, because I loved the idea and what was inside, and boosted by Wilhelm‘s glowing review of it, I placed the EVE Second Decade Collector’s Edition on my Christmas Wish List. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but…what the hell, it was Christmas, right? Well my parents spoiled me, and I absolutely love it. The Rifter looks great on my desk, and I’m super excited about the board game, which looks like fun. And the soundtrack and history book are absolutely worth the price alone. And the game itself is perfect for the drop in/drop out mentality now that I think about it. I’ve always been desperate to fill time in EVE – but the long time EVE players like Kirith Kodachi and even Wilhelm, don’t seem to be people who play it every day. Maybe my pacing has just been off. If nothing else, I always enjoy just flying in space. While there is a subscription barrier here as well, but I think its worth it given my past experience with the game.

SWTOR. I have decided after long consideration to hit the reset button on SWTOR. I never did get past the starter planets on the side of the Republic. I would love to see the other half of the galaxy. And the idea of just following the storyline, and filling in the blanks with the minigame, ducking the sometimes irritating side missions – which also cuts down on the overly long leveling cycle, particularly towards the end. And, free to play, very good if I’m burning my two sub limit on ESO and EVE.

I don’t like that SWTOR under-reached for their Galactic Starfighter expansion, I think it was dumb and yet another let down, on top of being blatant plagiarism. But while I think that, I’m more interested in blogging about my experience in the game, than spending more time shredding them for the move. In other words, it sucks for the MMO world but it benefits me, so I’m gonna roll with it.

Fishers Aren’t Even Trying Anymore

I got this email today:

 

Greetings !

Prepare for Pandaria with 7 days of FREE game time for your account, and try out the latest updates to World of Warcraft! Simply click below to claim your time… but act fast, as this offer will expire on October 25.

The latest patch (5.0.4) sets the stage for Mists of Pandaria? before it arrives on September 25, and includes a number of new features and improvements to help you get ready for the new expansion:

Goblin and Worgen – Play as a shape-changing worgen or a cunning goblin, and adventure through their unique starting zones and quests… even if you don’t haveCataclysm?.

New Talent System – Perfect your characters skills and abilities with the new simplified talent system focused on unique abilities and spells.

Account Wide Achievements, Pets, and Mounts – Track accomplishments across all of your characters, and travel with your favorite companion no matter which character you’re playing.

And much more…

We look forward to seeing you on the fields of battle.

– The World of Warcraft Team

 

The email came from a random Yahoo account and the link…well, it wasn’t any more convincing than the sender box.  So…yeah, I totally need to get those 7 free days of WoW before Mists of Pandaria hits last month.

 

WoW Just Keeps Getting Better and Better…

I’m kinda torn here.  I did say over, and over, and over again that I thought that Cataclysm would be the high water mark for World of Warcraft.  That it would jump the shark there and be on its way out.  And, by all accounts,  I was right about that.   Subscriptions have  been on the decline, and the grumbling has gotten louder.

One of the current concerns is the “dumbing down” of WoW.  I know, a month or two ago I would have been laughing too – how do you dumb down the dumbest and simplest mainstream MMO on the market?  But awhile back, I got in on the unlimited free trial, ostensibly to see how some of the areas had changed, and found that all the abilities had been overhauled as well.  I went digging for information and found that this was indeed the dumbing down that had been referenced.  And it is true in a literal sense – Warlocks no longer need Soul Shards to summon pets for instance.  But I was stunned at how much more I enjoyed the classes, and found myself nodding in positive directions at the changes I had seen.  I liked the streamlining of the abilities, and the new starter areas are well done for the most part – will special kudos to the new Troll and Undead starting areas.

And that’s why I’m torn.  As WoW continues down the backside of its career, the moves it is making seem to be, to me, all the right ones.  I know I am in the minority in that, by the way.  No argument there.  But I can’t help it, I approve of what they are doing…

Which is why I almost felt better today when I read that they were doing away with Talent Trees.  Or at least, the traditional version of them.  I read the article, and agreed, that’s a terrible idea.  The talent tress are fun and allow someone to invest in personalizing their character, a great move.  To get only one talent point and three choices every 15 levels?  You must be joking, that’s a terrible idea!

But then in the comments someone gave a link and a simple suggestion.  Did you bother looking at how the new talent system actually works?  I hadn’t, so to be fair,  I jumped right on over to see the fail up close and personal.

A pox on you Blizzard.  That’s actually rather brilliant.  I *like* the new Talent System.  I like the streamlining, I like the “dumbing down”.  What is wrong with me?  What is to keep me from subscribing to WoW and starting all over again in the grand golden standard of MMO gaming!

 

 

Oh, right.  That.

The Day the Whole World Went…splat.

Apologies to Trent Reznor.  But it was so appropriate.  As followers of the blog know, I recently did my ten free days of WoW (since I never upgraded to Wrath of the Liche King), but despite enjoying a brief return to Azeroth,  I couldn’t actually bring myself to spend money on the game.  Which, to date, makes WoW the only MMO that I have not resubbed to once I left.  That should tell me something, but I’m not sure what yet.  Perhaps that class imbalances are more than just a pet peeve to me.  Perhaps that immature gamers can permanently ruin a game for me.

So I find myself in the contrarian position on this day.  As millions of fans crash the WoW servers and celebrate giddily the release of glorious new content and hope (foolishly) for a new generation of customers, I stand soundly on my prediction:  this is the high water mark for WoW.  From here, it is all downhill – both in terms of subscription numbers and in terms of quality and polish.  Why?

Veterans will eventually want the old areas back

Yes, even WoW gamers get nostalgic, especially as those young gamers who grew up on it start climbing through their twenties and into their thirties.  The logical step is to offer such rollback servers.  I think we all know what that would mean.

The lore has been altered…pray I do not alter it further

From personal accounts from friends, the Horde is not longer the “not bad, just misunderstood” other white meat.  Its truly *bad* now.  Evil.  If you think that won’t affect new players, alts, perception of characters, etc.  think again.  Those subscribers who left at Burning Crusade left by and large for one reason – they couldn’t stomache the perceived changes to the lore – the backstory – of the world.  Same at Wrath of the Liche King.

And the number one reason…

[insert drum roll]

Because Blizzard Can’t Go Wrong!

Or at least they (and many other people) think they can’t go wrong.  Which is usually the moment, corporately speaking, when the floor falls out from underneath you.  See also:  Enron, US Automakers, Indianapolis Colts…

Blizzard almost went there with their RealID fiasco this year, but pulled back right at the brink.  Its only a matter of time before they reach that brink again, and this time, they will have drunk so much of their own Kool-Aid, that they will plow right on ahead.  The funny thing about this is that is may not even be all that important a matter, but it will become one in the course of the steamrolling. 

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Cataclysm release date “may ultimately prove to be incorrect.”

At least, according to Blizzard’s Small Print (tm):

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Blizzard Entertainment’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Blizzard Entertainment generally uses words such as “outlook,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “might,” “remains,” “to be,” “plans,” “believes,” “may,” “expects,” “intends,” “anticipates,” “estimate,” future,” “plan,” “positioned,” “potential,” “project,” “remain,” “scheduled,” “set to,” “subject to,” “upcoming” and similar expressions to identify forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause Blizzard Entertainment’s actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include, but are not limited to, sales levels of Blizzard Entertainment’s titles, shifts in consumer spending trends, the impact of the current macroeconomic environment, the seasonal and cyclical nature of the interactive game market, declines in software pricing, product returns and price protection, product delays, retail acceptance of Blizzard Entertainment’s products, competition from the used game market, industry competition and competition from other forms of entertainment, rapid changes in technology, industry standards and consumer preferences, including interest in specific genres such as real-time strategy, action–role-playing and massively multiplayer online games, protection of proprietary rights, litigation against Blizzard Entertainment, maintenance of relationships with key personnel, customers, licensees, licensors, vendors and third-party developers, including the ability to attract, retain and develop key personnel and developers who can create high quality “hit” titles, counterparty risks relating to customers, licensees, licensors and manufacturers, domestic and international economic, financial and political conditions and policies, foreign exchange rates and tax rates, and the identification of suitable future acquisition opportunities, and the other factors identified in the risk factors section of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and neither Blizzard Entertainment nor Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of Blizzard Entertainment or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations.

Also, small print h/t to Tuesday Morning Quarterback, my favorite football column.

My Visit to Azeroth

My ten days are almost up, which leaves the dreaded eternal question.  But I will chew on that later, for now, I have to confess something.

I actually enjoyed the return to Azeroth.  I found some  things I expected, and alot of things I didn’t.

The first of those was that when I joined a PvP server to play with two friends, who are both teenagers,  I expected to be in a world of hurt.  That I would have to wash my eyeballs with soap after each login session.  That I wouldn’t be able to level from all the griefers.  That a guild of teenages each with multiple level 80 toons would be unable to create any semblance of “community.”   And I was wrong on most all counts.  The guild, for all its CAPS LOCK SMACK TALKING was actually pretty helpful.  And I even managed to find a guild that didn’t use CAPS LOCK SMACK TALKING when that got old.  I chatted with other players in game, and even found a decent pick up group or two.  The one time a griefer showed up in my questing area, they stayed all of five minutes before moving on, and it was good that they did, because I had a  group of 80’s from our guild ready to come rock her world if she hadn’t.   Gold pieces were freely given in advance so that when I dinged 20, I would be Mount ready.   Speaking of – that was such a good move on Blizzard’s part, though irritating as a Shammy player that Ghost Wolf is now good for only 4 levels.  Why not back that up to say, 10 or 12 instead of 16?

Somebody said something in game the other day about the Barrens – I told them it hadn’t bothered me a bit since I had learned to quit General chat.  This was followed by much “Aweomse!!1!!0!  how to do that?”  How does one hit 80, especially more than once, without learning these little tricks of the trade?  Anyway, I was glad to pass that little tidbit on to others.

Secondly, I have to admit, though Blizzard still plays favorites on classes, often boosting one above the others for long periods of time to play with class distribution, I believe that all of the classes have improved from my last time around.   It also leads me to believe that those power boosts are in fact, unintentional results from trying to tweak PvE/PvP power levels in a game where the community is so large, it can find exploits your builds almost before you get them out the door.  I enjoyed the Paladin again, but the Shaman is still my favorite.  I have watched a number of PvP battlegrounds fights and it seems to me, for those who are counting – that builds don’t play nearly the factor that they supposedly do.  I saw a level 80 troll rogue spec’ed for PvE do just fine in a PvP setting.  Not first place, to be sure, but not the bottom of the pack either.

Lastly, I’ve actually kept up with those fast levelers, oddly enough.  I guess having 80’s weighs you down a bit, because I’m still ahead of them on the leveling curve, even with their extra xp bonus gear.    The Tauren starting area is still maddening – it took me nearly 3 hours to level to 10, something  Ican normally do in an hour with other races.  I but the number of quests and the rest bonuses insure that you can usually move out of any given area sooner than you should, if you don’t like it.

So…will I be staying in Azeroth for the long haul?  No.  World of Warcraft lacks too many of the things that I have come to know and love from my MMO’s – vanilla is all well and good, but now that I’d added some chocolate chip cookie dough, its hard to go back.   And its starting to show its age graphically, as you can see from above.  But am I enjoying it for the moment?  Of course.  I have friends to play with and a class I enjoy using.  That’s good enough for me for now.