The moral of this ballad. Ex wives will sometimes cost you more than just alimony.
The moral of this ballad. Ex wives will sometimes cost you more than just alimony.
Just a quick note.
Since the games release is nigh upon us, I’ve decided to keep the April Poll going until Age of Conan Hyborean Adventures servers actually go live.
As I mentioned previously, this will be the last poll I do on the front page of Stropp’s World for a while. I will still keep putting polls up, but they’ll be in the forums. The Simple Machines Forum software is much better than the WordPress plugin I’m currently using and offers more flexibility.
The other benefit of forum based polls is that they are visible for anyone to see when the poll is concluded. That’s not the case with the Democracy plugin.
Anywho. That means you’ll have an additional twenty or so days to vote in this months poll, Are You Looking Forward to Age of Conan.
I know that the last few weeks it’s been an Age of Conan information overload, if you haven’t already had enough, drop by and let your vote be heard.
That didn’t last long.
Back in February Electronic Arts announced that they would be re-badging The Sims Online as EA Land, making it free with a subscription required for additional content, and allowing players to make all sorts of goodies, sort of like Second Life. The idea was to revitalize TSO and (I believe) break into the lucrative kiddies market.
Well, it looks like the kiddies weren’t having it.
According to Massively, Electronic Arts felt that EA Land hadn’t met its targets for continued existence. Consequently, EA will be turning off the servers at the end of July this year.
I find it a little interesting that EA didn’t give the newly branded game much of a chance to meet its targets. EA Land was up against a few other virtual worlds. The biggest of these was Second Life, which was a constant drain on EAs subscribers.
I’m just guessing here, but it seems to me that EA-Land was The Sims Onlines last chance. EA had probably already decided to close TSO down but gave the development team one more chance to pull it out of a nosedive. The rebranding was part of the strategy to do this, but really didn’t work.
Thus EA Land dives into the MMO Deadpool.
I’d just posted an article on game politics and what does Game Politics the blog do?
They report on a rant by Richard Bartle in the UK Newspaper, The Guardian.
Bartle, love him or hate him, is the co-creator of the MUD, the text based predecessor of our beloved MMORPG. He’s also a great voice out there for the gamer generation and he doesn’t pull any punches when he’s talking game politics.
Bartle directs his ire at the following:
I’m talking to you, you self-righteous politicians and newspaper columnists, you relics who beat on computer games:…
He has some word of prophecy for this generations politicians and media moguls.
15 years from now, the prime minister of the day will have grown up playing computer games… Gamers vote. Gamers buy newspapers. They won’t vote for you, or buy your newspapers, if you trash their entertainment with your ignorant ravings. Call them social inadequates if you like, but when they have more friends in World of Warcraft than you have in your entire sad little booze-oriented culture of a real life, the most you’ll get from them is pity…
In the immortal words (paraphrased) of Monty Python: He’s a cruel man – but fair.
Like I said in my previous post about game politics, there are powerful groups with a vested interested in knobbling the gaming community. Richard Bartles perspective is that they have already lost, that there are now more gamers in the community than non gamers.
While I don’t agree completely — just because someone is born in the post-game generation doesn’t mean they are a gamer, or respect games — Bartle makes a great point. Games are here to stay. The longer this media exists, the more entrenched it becomes.
A few weeks ago I started playing Ikariam, a web browser based MMO in the style of the Civilization games. I figured it was about time I gave you an update.
I now have two towns on the go. There’s Stropptopia (pictured) and Stropptown on another island. Each island provides only two resources, wood and crystal, stone, sulphur, or grapes. There are several ways to obtain all the resources you need. Trade or buy them, attack other players and loot them, or build a town on four islands with each of the resources.
Stropptopia is on an island with crystal, which is useful as it’s used for research upgrades. But for many other upgrades I needed stone. So I built a palace which allows an extra town for each level and then built Stropptown on a stone island. Once I’d gathered enough I shipped it back to Stropptopia and proceeded with the upgrades.
At this stage I haven’t built an army, I’ve just been upgrading and researching. As you can see from the screenshot, I have lots of money in the bank and I’ve maxed out the amount of wood (building materials) that I can store.
To be honest, now that my main town is effectively built, I’m finding Ikariam a little boring. It’s not a fast game, you can really only do one thing at a time per town, and once you get a ways along it takes a long time to do anything.
So, I’m not really spending much time in there now. The place is running on autopilot while I’m doing other things.
The big problem is I find the gameplay a little shallow. I quite enjoyed the depth of gameplay in the Civilization games, especially 3 and 4. One of the things I liked was aiming for a non military victory – I especially liked building up my culture and watching enemy cities defect to my supremely decadent culture.
Ikariam doesn’t have that depth. That doesn’t make it a bad game. There are a lot of players enjoying it. I’ll probably keep an eye on it, but I don’t think I’ll be doing much else with it. At least for the moment.
One of the many (too many) blogs that I have in my RSS feedreader is Game Politics. It’s a fairly recent addition, even though I visit the site occassionally, and an important addition. It keeps a fairly up to date, though gamer biased, perspective on the social and political issues surrounding our favorite hobby.
If you’re a regular reader of Stropp’s World, you may have noticed that I occassionally get my rant on when it comes to the old media portrayal of computer games. The reason is that I believe that the old media companies have an awfully large amount of gold invested in their properties.
Television and print media are the big losers when it comes to all things computer related. Newspapers have been losing out big time to the new online forms of publishing like this (and other) blogs. Television is also being hit big time. A couple of years ago I saw some statistics that revealed that the 18 to 34 male demographic was simply not watching TV at the levels it used to. You can probably thank computer games, the Internet, and alternative video sources like YouTube for that.
It’s not hard to come to the conclusion then, that the people with a lot to lose are not going to be saying nice things about the media that are threatening them. It’s probably not a stretch to believe that these same old media moguls are not above putting their large resources to work discrediting the new media forms and making life generally difficult.
Fox News for example is one of the more alarmist and extreme services around. (I hesitate to call them a news service.) We’ve seen examples of their behavior in the recent past with the whole Mass Effect scandal. While the academic at the center of that actually recanted and apologized, Fox News made no further comment. Does this mean they’re more interested in the scandal than the truth?
It was only a few days ago that a US based morality watchdog group referred to the US Constitution as a suicide pact. They were upset that the constitution allowed game developers and the producers of other violent media the same freedom of speech that they themselves enjoyed.
In other countries like Brazil, the judiciary are busy banning games, some of them over nine years old, saying that they undermine the public order and that players are subversives — that’s not all that far from saying that computer game players are terrorists. In recent days there have been reports of the new US installed government in Afghanistan banning, or discussing the banning, of computer games including consoles. So much for democracy.
Even here in my home state, there are politicians who don’t want to give computer games the same ratings that are available to movies. These politicians are actively against an R18 rating for games. Ironically, an R rating would help parents make better informed decisions on their game purchases. Blocking an R18 rating works against parents who want to do the right thing and buy appropriately rated games for their kids.
It seems the whole world is arrayed against computer games and the people who play them.
I know some of you guys could care less about what other people, especially politicians and watchdog groups, think about the games that you play. After all, you’ll go out and play GTA IV or Age of Conan regardless.
And if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. Right?
Tobold once again has an interesting article up. This time he is asking would mono-games be better than multi-games?
The premise is that since game developers seem to have such a hard time balancing their games between the PvP and PvE modes, why not just focus a game on a single mode. A PvP game wouldn’t need to make sure that characters are balanced and useful for PvE, and vice versa.
I don’t think this would be a very good idea overall.
First of all, we have recently seen the results of a developer focusing solely on PvP as the core of a game. Fury, by Auran, is a PvP game that effectively sent its developer broke. Now maybe that wasn’t caused by the PvP more than it was by the execution of the game, but the message is clear. It is harder to develop a persistent PvP game than it is to develop a persistent PvE game.
As for PvE games; there are more than enough examples of the success of PvE only games. A developer can create a PvE only game and expect some measure of success if it’s a good game. But even here there would be problems adopting a mono-game style. World of Warcraft has been so much of a success that MMORPG players now expect a variety of styles to be available to them.
Don’t feel like spending the next three hours raiding. Do a couple of battlegrounds. Want to take it easy, just complete a couple of quests while chatting to your guildies. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and players now expect that.
So what’s the solution?
Instead of creating Mono-Games, how about creating MMORPGs where the player characters have split-personalities?
There are two big impediments to balancing PvE and PvP — class/skill balance and gear.
Let’s address the class/skill balance first. Tobold touches on the problem when he says that:
Class abilities get nerfed to achieve balance in PvP, although that ability might have been perfectly balanced for PvE, and is now underpowered. Abilities and item stats like aggro management end up being useless in solo and PvP play…
How about a system where there is no need to nerf any skills or abilities to make them useful and balanced for one game mode or the other. Here’s where the split personality comes in. Give the player both sets of skills and abilities — a PvP set and a PvE set.
This wouldn’t mean that a player has two completely unique set of skills. The way to do this would be to allow some skills to be used only in PvP and others to be used only in PvE and the rest to be useful on both game modes. A good example of this would be stealth.
There’s recently been a lot of emotion about the Warhammer Online developers decision to include stealth when they previously said that they wouldn’t. A lot of players don’t like the idea of a rogue sneaking up behind them and then stun-locking them to the graveyard. But stealth can be useful in a PvE game. It’s a great way to crowd control in an instance. Just stealth up to the mob, stun it, and then deal with the adds. Getting rid of stealth, hurts the PvE game.
Keeping stealth as a PvE only skill, or reducing its effectiveness just in PvP would be a way around the dilemma. PvE players can keep using it in groups and solo PvE, but not in PvP. A great compromise.
Some attributes can also be dealt with in this way. A class might be terribly overpowered in PvP, but if its attack power was reduced to balance the PvP game, the class might no longer be viable for raiding. Do the same here. Have a PvE/PvP split. One attack power equation for the PvE game and another for the PvP mode.
And since those sorts of attributes are often affected by gear, do the same with each piece of equipment. Just have modifiers that have different effects on the different game modes.
This would allow the developers to balance gear more effectively, and give them the side benefit of specifying equipment for one game mode or the other. Raid gear would no longer, necessarily, overpower PvP play, and equipment gained through PvP arenas or honor points could be directed specifically to the PvP modes of play. At best that chest piece or axe could be used effectively in both PvE and PvP game modes without unbalancing either.
The split personality system could also be extended to other parts of the game. Talent trees for instance. Instead of having players respec when they change between raid mode and PvP mode, they have their permanent raid spec, and their permanent PvP spec. That’s much easier for players to manage.
I’m not saying that this system would be without its problems. There would still be balancing issues within each mode, and players would still demand that someone else’s class be nerfed because it does more damage that their own. Balancing is hard too. It doesn’t matter if the game is mono or multi mode, balancing classes and skills takes time and effort.
However, a split personality system would make the developers life much easier since balancing is between classes, not between classes and modes. Tobold makes the point that Mono-Games would be cheaper to produce too. While split personality system would be more expensive than the mono game system — more content is required for one thing — less time would be required for balancing and that would reduce the overall cost.
Let me know your thoughts.
I have decided not to download the Age of Conan beta.
For one thing the public beta starts next Thursday the 1st of May and closes on the 17th of May, prior to the full release on the 20th in the US. Since I’ll be away from the 4th to the 18th, I’ll only have three days to play (and a big part of those three days will be spent preparing for the trip.)
The download is also big — the installed files are 9GB — and my account has a bandwidth cap of 25GB. Granted, that’s a lot, and I’m unlikely to go over the limit, but it will be a long download in any case. The other thing is that I’ll have to buy a sub to File Planet to access the download. For three days… nah.
If I wasn’t going away. I’d pony up the cash and grit my teeth for the big download.
So I did the next best thing. I ducked into the local EB Games store on the way home from work last night and placed my preorder for the collectors edition of Age of Conan. All up the CE AoC preorder is going to cost A$109 — highway robbery when you consider the current price of the Australian Dollar — comparable to the price I paid for The Burning Crusade collectors edition.
It also looks like the War Mammoth is the bonus that is provided to Aussie EB Games preorder customers. The sales clerk didn’t really know much about it, but he had a printout showing the War Mammoth. I know that the Mammoth was the mount most people were after, but I was secretly hanging out for the Killer Rhino. A much more dangerous looking mount in my opinion.
Age of Conan will be available for sale in Australia on Thursday the 22nd of May. In talking with the sales guy at EB Games, most games are released on Thursdays in Oz — just like movies — though this isn’t a hard and fast rule. GTA IV will be released on a Tuesday. When you take into account the timezone differences though, I’ll be playing AoC only a day after the US release.
So the release schedule for Age of Conan as I understand it is:
Just a quick update tonight since it’s getting a bit late and I have a full day tomorrow.
I spent a short time hunting in Terrokar Forest this evening. I was only in the game for a bit over an hour, but still managed to clear up three quests. I also did a bit of exploring around the bone wastes, and found and picked up another couple of quests.
I also decided to try out the Warp Stalker as a hunter pet. I wanted the Warp Hunter, but couldn’t find one less than 64 so I settled on the Stalker. Looking at the stats, the Hunter is tougher, so I’ll have a look at taming one when I hit 64.
The Stalker was a pretty easy tame and didn’t hurt too much while I tamed him. I ended up calling him Cromulent.
So far I’m not sure how good the Stalker is. He hasn’t increased the loyalty level yet, so I haven’t been able to train more than Growl. The Ravager had his natural armor and stamina increased by training, and had an armor of around 7000, so he was tough. He also did some great DPS and was able to burn the mobs down quickly.
Once I get a few loyalty levels on Crommy, I expect he’ll be a lot tougher. In the meantime he needs a little more care in the mending department, especially fighting those buzzards.
I definitely agree with Znodis at the Mystic Hunter. There is a deep and abiding need for more than two stable slots.
Funcom opened up their NDA and offered a lucky 15,000 players the chance to participate in a weekend of PvP gaming goodness.
I wasn’t one of the lucky 15,000, but Keen of Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog was one of the chosen. Over the last few days, Keen has posted a few times about his experiences, and has recorded a few movies too. Here are the links to Keen’s AoC PvP Weekend Impressions Part One and Part Two, as well as his Final Thoughts.
As with all these things, there’s good news and there’s bad news.
The good news is that the PvE game is, in Keens words, magnificent. I’m pretty happy to hear this. As you’ve probably worked out by now, I’m more of a PvE’r that a PvP’r. While I do enjoy PvP, a good PvE game is essential for me. Good story and lore help a lot too.
The bad news is that the game is very resource intensive. I think we all expected that, but it looks like it will take a pretty substantial rig to play this game at the setting required to get the beauty that we’ve seen in the videos and screenshots that have been released.
Hopefully Funcom are not going to run into the problem that SOE did when EQ2 was released. Some zones were almost unplayable due to lag caused by the heavy graphics requirements. I dreaded going into North Qeynos or Qeynos Harbor — it could sometimes take a minute to turn 90 degrees. That alone drove a lot of players away, right into the waiting arms of World of Warcraft with its much more modest system requirements.
The other bad news, especially at this late stage of development, is that the PvP game is seriously unbalanced. Some classes were extremely overpowered and could nuke an opponent in one or two shots, while other classes could barely manage a scratch.
While this is a bit of a worry, I expect that this is precisely the reason that Funcom held this weekend PvP event. They would have been watching very closely, and would have gathered some valuable info. That data would be put to use in balancing things out.
Don’t forget that two weeks before the Tabula Rasa beta ended, a game that was barely ready for release was patched and put into a releasable state. It may have needed more content, but the bugs and many shortcomings were fixed.
I’d wager that is likely to be the case here. I suspect that AoC will go into open beta with a bunch of balancing done that will fix PvP, or at least go a long way in doing so.
And since the NDA has been lifted (for the PvP weekend only) if you were one of the lucky players who partook this weekend, let us know what you thought in the comments below.