Archive for February, 2007
Posted by Stropp on
February 28, 2007
Blizzard offers a solution to parents worried that their children are spending too much time playing World of Warcraft. This solution is the Parental Control system.
Now providing that you haven’t given your progeny carte blanche with your credit card, and you are the owner of the World of Warcraft account in question, it’s pretty easy to setup. If you didn’t set up the account yourself, you may have to pry that plastic out of the reluctant grasp of your offspring and somehow convince him or her to give you the account password. I understand sodium pentathol is useful here.
Once you have that precious account information, you can set up a play schedule that will only allow the account to be used during the hours that you specify. This is pretty inflexible, limiting time only to the specified hours. I reckon it would be nice to allow an alternative like setting a total amount of hours per day to give more flexibility to the schedule.
More information on this feature can be found in the FAQ on Blizzards website.
Posted by Stropp on
February 25, 2007
Here are a couple of screenshots from yesterdays session playing the Lord of the Rings Online Beta. Both images have been resized and resampled to 360×225 in order to fit here. The originals were 1440×900.
I came over a hill here in pursuit of some critter. The view stopped me in my tracks.
Klarm. What a champion! Short and hairy.
Posted by Stropp on
February 24, 2007
Wow! What can I say about this game? I spent way more time today playing the Lord of the Rings Online beta than I originally intended. It’s that good. When the game is released in two months, people are going to stop talking about World of Warcraft addiction and start talking about LotRO addiction.
As I mentioned yesterday, I downloaded the beta last night and got it installed without any problems. It was a snap to get the game up and running and I created a character, a Dwarf Champion named Klarm. LotRO gives you four races to choose from, Human, Elf, Hobbit, and Dwarf. All of the races except for the Dwarves have both male and female to choose from. The Dwarves only have male models.
Frankly I’m a little disappointed at that. There should be Dwarf women. It’s just that they should look very similar to Dwarf men. Especially the beards.
Other than that the character generation is pretty much stock standard for modern MMOs. The player gets to change details like hair, skin colour, stuff like that. However picking a different region, for example the Blue Mountains or the Gray Mountains will give slightly different feature or hair colours to choose from.
Once you’ve picked your race, you get to choose a class. There are seven to choose from: Champion, Guardian, Captain, Burglar, Hunter, Minstrel, and Lore-Master. I picked Champion for Klarm, which is a damage dealing melee class. The Guardian is a tank. The Captain is a melee class that has the ability to buff the party using banners. The Burglar is a sneaky class akin to a Rogue in other games. The Minstrel is a bardlike class that provides buffs, and I understand has some healing abilities. The Lore-Master is a magic class. The Hunter is… well, a hunter. All in all a good selection of classes to choose from.
I truely enjoyed the gameplay that I experienced today. There was no need for me to grind XP. I leveled up to level seven solely doing quests without having to do the grind. There was a strong quest sequence that presented an introductory storyline that had a sense of urgency. This has continued into a new series of quests, and I’m hoping this goes all the way through the levels.
I did quite a bit of exploring too. The game is gorgeous which makes it easy for me to just look around. I know that’s not everyones cup of tea, but I spent several hours once swimming around Kalimdor at level 35ish. It looks like I have a lot more to see of Middle Earth, since I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ered Luin.
That’s not the only thing where I’ve just scratched the surface. Character development looks like it goes quite deep with earning and developing traits. Titles are available at an early stage. And there is a screen with parent and children attributes that intrigues me, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it in depth yet.
I also want to have a good look at the crafting. I picked an armorer vocation, which gave me three crafting ‘threads’ which included prospecting, metal work, and tailoring. So far, though, I’ve only done a bit of prospecting.
For a game that still has two months before it is released, I am very impressed. Lord of the Rings Online is well polished, even at this stage. Sure there are some issues. A couple of times today things got laggy, and the game crashed once, and restarted my machine another time, but this wouldn’t be a beta if everything was working properly. Other than that, all the quests I tried were complete and worked properly, and there were no graphical anomalies that I noticed.
Normally, when I start a new RPG, I create a new character and then within a couple of levels try another class, and then another before I finally settle on something I like. Today with Klarm I felt no need to do that. Oh, I expect I will experiment with the different classes at some point, but the Champion at least seems nicely balanced. It’s been fun to play.
As I progress through the beta, I’ll continue to post my impressions here.
Posted by Stropp on
February 23, 2007
I checked my email this morning before I left for work to find a nice little present from Turbine… an invitation to the LotRO Beta 2. I signed up a while ago, and had forgotten that I had. So it was a nice surprise.
Tobold has posted his favorable opinion of the game here and here, so I am looking forward to loading it up and having a bash. The download is happening as I type this. It’s quite large, and even at >300.0K per second, there’s nearly three hours left for the download. Faster. Faster.
I reckon that I’ll be creating a Dwarf. There’s something about being short and hairy that really appeals to me.
Posted by Stropp on
February 21, 2007
Another title for this post could have been The Rule of Threes, or Murphy, That Utter Bastard. All of those fairly well describe my last couple of weeks, and are the reason for my lack of posting.
Mix together a sudden move from one project at work to another with a looming deadline; some urgent financial issues; and the meltdown of my home network. Fortunately, I’m getting a grasp on the project which is looking increasingly interesting to work on, especially since the last project involved working with 16 year old ADA code . The financial issues are all but sorted and, my network is running again, even if I am still wireless-less.
The silver lining shows through though. I now need to get a new wireless router for my network, and there are a bunch of 802.11n routers on the market. It’s probably a little early, but if I buy an 11n, I shouldn’t need to get a new router again for quite a while. The only thing now is selecting a good one. Does anyone have any suggestions for that?
Posted by Stropp on
February 1, 2007
World of Warcraft is indisputably the 800 pound Gorilla of the MMORPG ecosystem. It has a worldwide subscriber base of over 8 million players. It has just released an expansion pack that sold 2.4 million copies in the first 24 hours of release. It’s going strong and taking all comers.
Can anyone tell me then why Sigil Games and Sony Online Entertainment released Vanguard: Saga of Heroes in its current state, and against the recommendations of its beta test community?
In spite of some of the things that I’ve read about Vanguard, I decided to give the game the benefit of the doubt. I went to Sony’s web site and purchased the digital download. I then proceeded to download about seven gigabytes of install files. Once the files were downloaded I started the install. Unfortunately the downloads didn’t go well and the install failed. I re-downloaded the two corrupted files, two gigabytes each, and then managed a successful install. Yay!
Upon starting the game, familiar Sony Launcher dialog appeared and checked all the files before downloading the first update. Incidentally, the launcher always checks the files on startup even if nothing as changed. It’s a bit of a pain since it delays getting into the game. To be fair Everquest 2 does this as well.
When the game finally launches the next problem occurs. The screen blanks and the monitor gives me an Invalid Input message. This means that the video card is talking to the monitor such that the monitor can’t understand the signal. Okay. Alt-Tab doesn’t work. Restart the computer. The next attempt is better. The monitor still flashes up the message, but it quickly disappears and the game boots up normally.
Vanguard has a decent selection of races and classes. All up there are twenty races and eighteen classes. I created a Vulmane Dread Knight called Stropp. The character creation provides a whole lot of sliders to tweak your characters appearance. I think this is where it scores a point over World of Warcraft. I like lots of choice.
Getting into the game after creating my character was pretty easy. There was a little bit of lag, but it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t see many other players either, but being in an Oceanic timezone that’s not unusual. I did the first few quests without any problems, no complaints there.
Where I do have complaints is the user interface graphics. Every time I opened a user interface panel, it opened with completely corrupted textures. Random coloured snow isn’t something you want to see in a user interface. Moving my mouse over the panel caused it to resize and then display properly. This effect reminded me of some problems I had in Neverwinter Nights 2 before I updated my graphics drivers, which by the way are currently up to date.
The graphics didn’t really impress me either. I couldn’t play the game over the balanced setting, and on this setting I thought the graphics and textures were somewhat dull. My machine is just over a year old, custom built with a 3.4 processor, 1GB ram, and a 6600 GT video card. Not exactly cutting edge stuff, but it plays EQ2 like a dream, and EQ2 looks much better than Vanguard.
One part of the game that I did think was very well done was the Diplomacy mini-game. Sigil’s idea to use a card battle game to allow players to engage in non-combat gameplay is very innovative in the MMO gamespace. It’s always irked me that World of Warcraft, amongst other MMOs, implements non-combat gameplay in the most basic crude terms. Case in point, WoW’s fishing. That should have been implemented as a mini-game. Vanguard scores high here.
I haven’t really done more than scratch the surface of Vanguard yet. I’ve only spent a few hours, and have done a few quests. I want to spend some more time in the game and experiment with the crafting. I’d like to do a bit more adventuring.
Now back to my question. Why did Vanguard get released so early?
There are a substantial number of reasonably high profile games coming out in the next few months. These games, Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings, Stargate, Tabula Rasa, are all looking at World of Warcraft. They are all aiming to steal a few bananas from that big monkey. The competition is heating up.
It’s really important to impress your customers early. First impressions do count, and bad press can hurt. If your players are faced with bugs, they are going to complain. If there are other choices, they’ll take those.
So why release a game that is simply not ready?