Monday, August 8, 2011

"The Raid" Recruitment Video

I got curious enough to check it out myself. The first reviews I've read almost made me not want to put 1 hour of my time into it, but then I decided to watch a piece while having breakfast, and then another while exercising, but had to jump the afterwards words and interviews for I had run out of patience.

Overall, I believe that the documentary would do better if renamed to "our guild" instead of "the raid", since it focus a lot on this one group of people, and it does it pretty good, even if they are not my kind of people to raid with. Its like a recruiting raid video to post in the WoW forums.

It does very poorly to explain to "outsiders" what raiding in a game is, or what MMORPGs are at all. It didn't try to start simple, or to explain what all the game jargon meant. They kept using many words that would make no sense to someone who never played WoW, or other MMOs, such as "quest". The only other place I see "quest" mentioned is on movies and books, and they are generally epic and quite lenghty. That is not the case in MMOs.

Also, it does not try to explain why people have to learn certain things in order to perform well in a raid. What is a tank, a healer, and a DPS? Can I join this afternoon to kill the Lich King from the movie too then? Why the dedication and time spent there?

So many things that could have been covered and didn't get touched. The way people schedule their free time to raid, how different people do it. How people have to adapt to each other's play styles, different accents on ventrilo, different kinds of people, how each member has some social roles, who gets to go, how some groups are picky and others aren't, why some groups finish content faster then others. It all got throwed away to stay focused on this one group, and to lose minutes giving time to the attention leech who likes to cuss.

It all felt horribly disconnected, and it is either a lie or a bad execution to say they wanted to show "outsiders" what it is to raid. It felt much more like they wanted to talk about what this one group feels about raiding and how they feel about their guild buddies.

And that would be fine if it was a raid recruitment video. But I can't seriously call it a documentary on raiding in games, and I don't think they took it seriously either. The kinds of things said makes me wish that at least. I want to believe that certain personal opinions said during the movie were not done considering what was trying to be represented there.

Adding people that were not from the raid group to talk about some raid elements didn't help either, since the focus would always fall back to the specific group and they didn't shine any light in the basic stuff that would make the whole thing more understandable to a complete "outsider" from raid gamming.

Just so many things that could have been done, it felt like a big waste of time and money in the end.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Beliefs in Art, Talent and MMOs

A lot of the entertainment venues and resources out there coincide in also being a form of art, such as movies, theatre, crafts, music and books. All of those elements are present in MMOs: cut scenes like in movies, theatre at every corner of RP servers’ inns, in game music, lore and the crafting possibilities given to players when customizing characters, appearances and housing.

With that said, MMOs are, to me, a venue in which we can express ourselves through art, and the product itself, without its users, is also a piece worth of calling it art. Just look at the many high quality blogs dedicated to housing, decoration and outfit making inside MMOs.

And that makes me think of “talent”, and I believe many other people will quickly associate it with the word art too. Talent can be what we use to separate quality work from pieces we don’t like as much, or even to describe pieces we don’t understand at all. Or, more often then not, talent is the mystery that divides artists from simple mortals.

As Brenda Hoddinott says on her Understanding Talent article, talent is explained to us by the media as a mysterious and unreachable thing, as we are told that pieces we might not understand are good, no matter our opinion on the matter. Being fed such media impressions leaves a lot of people with the concept that they can’t reach any form of art, since they can’t make a masterpiece without practice, or never get their works to be sold.

Anyone with enough practice and motivation CAN make art. You don’t even need hands (or feet) to paint, or play a musical instrument, or write a book. Your first pieces might come out very different from what you were expecting, but all you need to do is keep practicing, go for instruction or DIY books or classes, get better materials over time, and so on.

What does this all have to do with MMOs? The “AAA” myth. My belief is that, just like art, any game developer is able to create a game that people will enjoy, or not, be it a famous one or a fresh into the market one.

It is just the same. If Blizzard (Metallica) announces a new MMO (CD), a lot of people will buy it without even trying the beta (hearing a sample on the radio). It does make sense if you like the game developer (artist), but don’t they also have a chance to fail to your expectations sometimes? (and Metallica did, I don’t like their newer stuff).

And then a game developer you don’t know the name announces a new MMO. A lot of people will say straight forward that since they don’t know where it is coming from, it is either bad or not worth their precious time. The game might even be free, and people will still not try it out, because it is not an “AAA” tittle. Makes me wonder if there are people out there who will only watch Oscar winner movies.

Reading that kind of comment around the internet made me go after definitions of what an “AAA game” might be, which ranged from something of top quality, a game that sold a great amount of units in the past year, to a definition used to make you buy it, assuming you’ll believe it to be top quality. Also, that it comes from a studio that had enough money and thus, should be able to make something of top quality, even if it fails to.

What it means to me is that “AAA” became a short cut to tell costumers that their product should be bought without much questioning, that it is good because they say it is good, and not because you gave it a chance to be so. It is like telling you that you should love the Twillight movies because they got all of the MTV awards last year.

I read a lot of beliefs around the internet under news posts. The most common ones are related with the belief that “if I never heard of this game, then...” which can be completed with beliefs that the game shouldn’t either exist, or be popular, or be profitable. I’ve never heard of Starbucks before moving to U.S., does that make it disappear, or be unpopular to its users, or probably something that does no profit?

Beliefs are to blame on a lot of people who miss trying different tittles and game developers (and music, and movies and even food). Money is often directly connected with the ability to create something good (or to be happy), but then we’ll end up finding games that are both small, from an unknown developer, and cheap to purchase that we enjoy, if only we give it a chance.

Examples of such games to me are Torchlight, AudioSurf, Family Farm, Wurm, Minecraft. Some of these I own, some I’ve only tried the demo and will get a copy once I have the chance. But all of them came from smaller companies or developers, and were able to deliver not only quality products, but many hours of fun to me.

The point of all this is that I want to ask people to give a chance to the unknown. Like art, games don’t need to come from well known sources to be able to be enjoyable and of good quality.

What about you guys? Any games that are not called “AAA” that you enjoy but haven’t shared about yet? Or which big “AAA” promise disappointed you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Castle Empire First (beta) Impressions

I'd like to start talking about this one mentioning that I simply love building games. Sim City, The Sims, Afterlife, and all of the historical Impressions Games ones (which became Sierra, which became Vivendi, which is Activision now): Pharaoh, Zeus, Ceasar. All of these games you can still find demos to download and try, and some rare sales on, thanks mostly to Sold Out Software for still selling the tittles. I haven't tried their versions of the games yet though, but like the idea that at least somewhere I can still find these tittles if I wish to have them again.

On all those games I mentioned, the focus is on economy. Some of the games don't even have combat and war at all, and those that do, have it in a very easy and simple way, and I love that. Back when I tried to play Age of Empires, both 1 and 2, I recall losing horribly to other people because I simply hate making an ugly village. I will spend time organizing, and I'd cut first the trees that are on my way to build, and save the one I find pretty, and so on. 

Castle Empire is a browser based game developed by Ubisoft, the creators of "The Settlers".So far in Castle Empire, the focus is on economy, and only with a strong one you'll be able to succeed in battle. Which, you know, makes sense. 

You start out with a very good tutorial that will guide you through the basics. Trying to go beyond the tutorial is generally a bad idea, since you won't have resources or enough people to just go out and do as you please just yet. So it is a popular tip to anyone that joins the game: be patient and follow the tutorial.

Patience is VERY important. While it resembles those city building games I talked about, the pace is different. Things take much longer, and the game seems to be pretty much designed as one that you keep in a tab of your browser while you do something else. Each important action will have a characteristic sound once it is done, so you'll know when to come back.

The community is nice so far. They share tips and secrets to success like crazy, and even make up lists at the boards, which is incentivated by the devs by a chance of getting cash shop currency. So if you don't like any sort of mystery and thinking and a chance for frustration, you can read before playing. I prefered to learn by myself, and I haven't made too many mystakes. I just realize that my village could have looked much more cute if I had known what I know today. Since they haven't decided if there will be a wipe after beta or not yet, maybe I'll just have to start from zero anyway, and THEN make it all cute.

So far the multiplayer aspect of it is limited to sharing buffs with friends and trading. Buffs are made from food resources that you produce in your settlement, and trade is available at level 17 once you build a "Brach Office".

I won't share any tips here, in case you are like me. Read the tutorial and follow it, and you should be ok. If you miss something, the global chat is for the most part friendly and helpful. Although the game is in "closed" beta, you just need to sign up and wait some minutes to get a key. My name over there is "Carolina" if you'd like a friend to share buffs with :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

My own little place in The Shire

My very first house in Lord of the Rings Online was a Standard House (the small one) at "4 Myrtle Court", in The Shire. While it is an adorable location, it was not my dream house. I've always had a weak spot for "4 Wending Way", a Deluxe House (bigger, more expensive) that sits by the lake.

When I finally built enough money for it though, I could not find any available ones. In LotRO, neighborhoods are added depending on demand. I am not sure how this is measured, but it means that sometimes you just can't get the house you want. 

Instead of waiting, I bought another big one, at "5 Brookbank Street". Not as pretty a landscape, but a nice address and close enough to the bank.

Last week I got curious enough to check it again. It has been many months since I had checked, and there it was: an opening for a "4 Wending Way", and many other Deluxe Houses, enough to pick and choose one for my husband's characters.

So here I am, with all my characters poor, but happy with a little house in LotRO that I've always wanted. You can find more pictures HERE.

Staying happy while staying at home

While reading my “morning blogs”, I found this post from Beau Hindman about his experiences as a “stay at home” kind of person. I’d like to write here my own version of it, as it is so rare to have a chance to share about it.

I've been at home since January when I quit a job for it being a dangerous environment, so I take it as my job (while looking for work) to take care of myself and my home, and keep in mind that, whenever I do find a money paying job, that it will be my "second" job, because I don't want to quit taking care of myself, my husband and my home.

With all the time available, there are no more excuses not to cook. Cooking is much more simple then what some people make it look like. All you need to do to start cooking is to know what you'd like to eat. Then you get on a nice cooking website (such as and start searching. Or call people that you know to be able to cook wonderful things and ask some help. A lot of recipes are as simple as following assembly instructions. The more complicated ones might lead you to making a mistake or two, but after a couple of tries you'll probably master it. The more complicated family recipe I make took me around 5 times to have it the exact way I wanted it to be.

Cooking at home leads to knowing what to buy at the grocery store, which leads to discipline to keep cooking and not giving up to the fast food stuff, or else those fresh stuff you got will run bad. So write down your plans to make it easier to follow.

I took this picture to use later as a drawing model
So once you get familiar with using your stove to craft yummy stuff, get used to cook the healthy stuff, which might be, or not, alien to you. It is to me! This is the stage I am in, replacing the not so healthy with the healthy, adding veggies on recipes and trying to have only fruits as snacks. For the first time this year, I enjoy eating tomatoes and bell pepper, things I'd never willingly add to my plate.

Of course it would be great to just cut all fast food and homemade fries in a day and start having healthier stuff, but it didn't work for me. So this is why I share my "go slow" version: let yourself get used to do it and learn it, instead of trying to rush and risking some frustration that might make you want to give up on the whole idea. I still have fast food once a week, or once every two weeks. The result is interesting: while I feel happy I took a break from cooking, my body feels a punch from the alien food, something I wouldn't feel when I had fast food 2 or 3 times in the same week. That sends me an important message: the stuff I cook, even though they are simple and not super chef stuff, is still better then the fast food.

I've had a lot of people telling me that they simply don't drink water. This means people are either not having enough liquids or getting a lot more calories then what their body needs. Water is the perfect thing to drink, you just need to start doing it to get used to it. You can get 34 little mineral bottles for less then $4, stuck them in the fridge and you'll have something nice and cold all the time. And recycle those little bottles while you are at it, its silly simple to recycle.

Exercise is not a big mystery either. Just start slow so you won't injure yourself. Even if you have a heavy body right now, there are exercises without impact that won't let you injure your knees. This website has a lot of easy reads on exercises: What I did was to spend $100 for an indoor bike, because I was making excuses not to exercise. With the indoor bike right here, no rain, or cold, or heat are good excuses. I also don't need to go anywhere, or pay any fee. I have the internet streaming service from Netflix, and I watch that while I exercise.  I really like the Yoga idea, and might try it sometime, it sounds perfect to do in silence, as opposed to my bike while I watch a show option.

Social isolation is something I feel sometimes by staying at home. It is more complicated to make friends when you don't have any kind of "forced encounters" with strangers that might lead to always meeting and talking and maybe being friends. All of this makes me closer to family and already known friends, and long distance calls (thank you Skype) to the folks in my homeland. 

Yet another thing I'd like to add is that staying at home gives you extra time then those that go out to work. All the time spent in commute, you have as possible free time for yourself. While gaming is my top entertainment, learning is something that I am adding too. Hobbies come in so many different ways, and I recommend people to go after some to take a break from computers. I am picking up drawing after a looooong break since I was 15 years old. I got a DIY book from the library, plus a website (, and having a blast with it. Next on the list is to learn spanish by myself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wow, it's WoW in Brazil!

Blizzard finally decided to recognize in a better way its Brazilian custumers of World of Warcraft. While we (omg look at me including myself there) already had a huge presense within the game, paying in dollars and dealing with international latency, now everything became much easier.

Starcraft had been translated and published in Brazil, and Blizzard stopped there, until last year when Starcraft II was launched world wide, which included Brazil. Now World of Warcraft with a fully translated game and support in brazilian portuguese is arriving, and those too shy to try their rusted high school english to interact with the community won't have that obstacle anymore. Not that it was too much of a obstacle. Brazilian players are quite popular (mostly in a bad way) for screaming in world channels asking for "br?" so as to cluster with its fellow brazilians.

A quest translated. Picture from Blizzard's announcement.

What else is great? Server transfers from the US servers to the new Brazilian ones will be free for a temporary time. Which also means that Warsong-US will be a ghost town sometime soon.

But there is more! They are charging R$15, which is the LOCAL currency, which is, of today, around $9 dollars, and even less in euros. So no more paying R$30 for american lag and no support in the local language!

Negative side? They translated NPC names and cities, which makes it all sound horribly alien if you have played the game in english. Some translations feel unecessary, specially the NPC names. I wonder what they did with the voice acting. Some are cheering for it to be in Portugal's portuguese, just for the kicks in their funny accent (sorry folks, but it IS an adorable accent).

And what does this mean to me? Well, I don't think I'll be transfering, first because I am not playing at the moment, and second because well, my guild is american. 

There is a tricky 3rd reason, which is the fact that brazilians are a rough crowd. I don't really know how to explain that. Let's say that our trolls are more direct and impatient, going for cussing and rage quitting rather then drama and passive agressive remarks. If Sam referred to the internet as a "wild west"... when there are too many brazilians together, I'd call it more like a "Mad Max" kind of setting.

But like in any rough community, good groups can emerge. And now I am thinking of who knows, maybe transfer at least a few characters over there, just to be with my brazilian friends.

I am excited about this, because it would be a huge and good difference in game-play if I was still in Brazil. Lower price and lower ping! I have quite some memories of how difficult it was baaaack in the daaaay, trying to heal Karazhan, with 1k lag and raid leaders with difficult american accents. Which leads me to share this: "back up" was a direction that made me freeze back then. "Does he mean to go back up or to stop? Where do I go??". So yeah, the game being in portuguese and the brazilian community together in its own server might be for the best :)

Some other big games are already present in Brazil, such as Ragnarok Online and Perfect World, both fully in Brazilian Portuguese, but the publisher is not as direct as what Blizzard is doing, it is through some other company, with indirect customer service. Hopefully more companies are already targeting Brazil, and other "out of the dollar and euro range" countries south of the equator line to spread their servers and services.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My First Impressions of Moria

It might be “just” an area within a greater game, but to me so far, Moria has something special about it, full good details and a few key flaws, and all of them together are making my experience in this area very special so far.

It all starts with a Prologue to the Epic Moria quests, which you can start before finishing the Shadows of Angmar ones, like I did. Yeah, I admit, I was way too curious to peek into Moria, and I didn’t want to peek around google or youtube, I wanted to see it for myself. Descriptions of it from my guildmates included annoyances at the massive quantity of quests and awe for the huge maps. Lord of the Rings’ books and movies do tell of how expansive Moria can be, but it did not prepare me for what I’m seeing.

So, as I was saying, the quest that introduces you to the gates of Moria are also the one who will introduce you to a very unique system in LotRO: the Legendary weapons. I love how they made it, with a lot of story instead of just having some NPC saying “hey, things changed, you can use this special kind of weapon now”.

I might be outdated or stuck under a rock, but to me, this is the first time I see so much detail and experience points that go towards your weapon. And you can also name them! At a first glance, whenever I’d click on a weapon link in guild chat, I’d be clueless to what all those things and symbols on the description were. Part of me still is, which is why I even had to go after some guides to help me out on figuring out some details.

In short, your Legendary weapon is an age lost relic that has to be inspected by a Forge-master in order to reveal what special properties does it have. On its first inspection, the weapon will reveal 3 Legacies, which are special bonuses that can vary from a wide list depending on your class. As you kill mobs, there is a chance for other Legendary weapons to drop, and those, or your old unwanted ones, can be used at a Relic-master to break into Relics, which are like the many “socket” options in other games. Relics can then be combined to improve, or broken into shards to create other kinds of relics. It is a whole little system that makes you have to think a bit about your very own weapon. Also, some daily quests within Moria will give you scrolls that can apply a different kind of damage to your weapons, which is very useful to get a bit of advantage against the hordes of different kinds of creatures you’ll encounter.

But let me go back to talking about Moria itself.

The very first impression to me was the darkness. I hate dark environments in games. I’d even do my “inventory break” during LotRO’s night time to avoid it, going to sell, going to the bank to share some drops with my little alts and so on. There is no option in Moria though, but surprisingly, now I am used to it, and actually love the whole different atmosphere from the other games I’m playing.

The other great feel that Moria gives me, is the constant reminder that I am just a tiny hunter in a huge and dangerous dungeon. There are no hill tops to view what is in the distance, and the map doesn’t really detail the stone labyrinths you didn’t see forming around you. I get lost, a lot, and I love the feel of adventure it gives me, of how I need to remember in which bend is the way out, map on my head which way had less enemies, and even plan how to pull enemies so that I don’t get a whole group with a patrol.

There is a huge amount of quests, plus the Moria Epic quests, and this was another point where I had to go after help to organize myself. My plan is to clear out the whole of Moria, though I might skip fellowship quests and dungeons if I can’t find a group. So I went and searched for some progression tips to help me pick which way to go, since the dwarves are quite eager to use my hunter’s help, sending her to different corners at the same time. An overall rule is to follow the Epic Quest, go to the area, finish the epic there itself and then the side ones.

As I’ve mentioned, there are some negative points that are not too bad, and just help model my overall impression of Moria. One of them is the fact that everything seems to take time. Things are either far or with a truck load of mobs in between the points you’d like to reach. With my not very healthy store goat (you can’t use horses inside Moria) it is very difficult to skip mobs, specially when I don’t know the way and I might very well bump into a wall with 5 angry goblins on my toes. So again, that feeling of not being in a safe area, but into a massive dungeon creeps in, and while it is fun, it is also time consuming, making my Moria adventures something I have to plan during the day, rather then just logging in for some quick kills for quests. Another point is that, so far, Moria is the only massive quest area to go past level 50+, and I wonder if, some months from now, when I am done with Moria, I’ll still feel this happy about it and willing to take an alt through it.

So here I am posting about the first impressions, and curious of how I’ll be reading this when my hunter finally reaches the outside world again, and just reaching the borders to Lothlorien. By the way, I tried to go exploring that way already, which was funny and hurtful, and a recommended adventure to just do the “Fellowship speed run” through Moria.

Friday, July 15, 2011

“Shadows of Angmar” epic questline review, without spoilers.

First thing: if you are reading this and have completed the epic questline also, please do NOT add spoilers in your comments. 

Yesterday I finally finished the two epic volumes of “Shadows of Angmar” in LotRO. It was a long journey, specially since I am quite a casual player. It has been over a year since I started, always taking a break to do normal quests whenever the epic storyline became too dangerous for my hunter. Most of it was done solo, with help from my guildmates at some points, specially for the Helegrod step, which was both surprising, epic and challenging (yeah I’m not telling you spoilers).

All of the story felt epic for me, but the game mechanics did get on the way. Once again I agree with Will Wright, games are not the best media to tell stories. I say this because at many times I felt like in a book within the storytelling, just to be slapped in the face with a game mechanic, such as traveling, teleporting out of a dungeon, and so on. 

I started the epic questline as I made my character, back when the game was still on a subscription model. I chose a hunter and continued on both the epic storyline and the area quests until the epic one outleveled me. The whole two volumes were tuned so that you CAN fnish them solo, but as you are remembered often during the quests, it is more time consuming and challenging to do so. As a hunter, all I had was DPS and some little crowd control on later levels. I am right now quite curious to try the whole thing again, both to recap the story and to be able to test it with a different kind of character.

While I would have loved to have had company, it was rare that I managed to find people to go with me. On the first volume my guild and a few other “strangers” did help me, but those were rare moments. I did most of the whole two volumes alone.

As I’ve mentioned, the game mechanics themselves are the breaking point in immersion with the story, which is kinda funny to say and think about. There is a huge amount of traveling, and if you’ve read the books, you kinda have an idea of how long you would have taken to each trip, and you’ll also notice that the storytelling is totally ignoring that.
Also, in the end I was laughing at being sent to Elrond, because just like traveling, it happens a lot. Funny thing is, this is not just for the epic. Whenever you find something odd in Middle-Earth, Elrond is your best bet for an explanation. Even if you just have some dead bugs and rocks in your pocket, he might find it interesting, so get used to his peaceful face.

Overall those were the only odd things to me though. I am no “Lorekeeper” of Tolkien’s work, and I see the whole game stories as another author writing based on an already made up world. Just like series and movies are made based in books and will follow different paths to both fit into the media and because it IS another person writing.

As for the good things, I really like the overall story of the epic volumes. I could see the foreign elements mixed with ideas that matched very much with concepts in the books, and was fun to see them mixing together. I also loved how I’ve felt in danger the whole time. Not knowing what I’d find when sent somewhere did put my whole attention on the screen, which is another reason I’d play this questline in a casual manner: I needed HOURS to get the right immersion, to complete missions without looking at the clock, just there, lost somewhere on a dangerous mission. It truly felt like and adventure, and even with the inspiration buff that makes you strong enough to solo the content, you can’t just “faceroll” through it (or at least I couldn’t). I had to make strategies and and the right pulls not to get too many adds, avoid some, cooked a LOT of support food on my alt to help me, and potions’ cool-downs could be precious.

In the end, I am glad I followed the questline the way I did, with the pauses to catch up in level and without reading ahead for story spoilers. I only wish I had not done it so much solo, but with others. My casual play-style did not help on that at all. Also, I wish they’d publish the story on a book format, full of extra details where the game could not reach. Maybe even dare to make one of those “choose your adventure” tittles and let me meet doomed paths or easier ways that I could not in the game. I do believe none of those will ever happen, but I can keep dreaming :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eden Eternal's First (cute) Impressions

Aeria Games’ Eden Eternal is CUTE. If you feel sick and dizzy controlling insanely cute characters, slaying adorable looking foes, well, I warned you.

On character creation, you start out with basic male/female options, hair, eyes, face customization, and a preview of all class outfits. But as you create your character, your choices are either mage or warrior to start out, which won’t really matter since you get both of them right as a level 1 character. What does matter is the pick on your Heroic Trait, which will give you bonuses on certain stats, which are, of course, different for each class you might choose to play more often or specialize.

Classes are divided between Defense, Melee Damage, Healing, Ranged Damage and Magic Damage, each having three classes in each category. As I’ve said, you start out as Mage and Warrior, but your choices of which of these classes you’ll level more first tells you which new one you’ll unlock faster. So yes, much like in Ragnarok Online, you have a character level and a job/class level, with the big difference that in Eden Eternal you can change between the classes you’ll have unlocked at any time.

These are the levels at which you’ll be able to unlock the classes:

Warrior - Starting Class
Knight - Character level 25 or Warrior level 20.
Templar - Character level 60, or either Knight or Cleric level 55.

Melee Damage
Thief - Character level 15.
Martial Artist - Character level 40, or Thief level 35.
Blade Dancer - Character level 50, or Bard level 45.

Ranged Damage
Hunter - Character level 10.
Engineer - Character level 30, or Hunter level 25.
Ranger - Character level 65, or either Hunter or Martial Artist level 60.

Cleric - Character level 5.
Bard - Character level 20.
Shaman - Character level 45, or Cleric level 40.

Magic Damage
Magician - Starting Class
Illusionist - Character level 35, or Magician level 30.
Warlock - Character level 55, or either Magician or Shaman level 50.

Basically, you’ll have all classes once you reach level 65 and so far leveling up hasn’t been painful.

Your newbie zone will tell you basics about the world, which to me is nothing too amazing, just simple MMO story about being a hero, really. Auto route is here too, and you can even directly teleport to your quest objective if you have a crystal for it, which so far I’ve only seen at the cash shop. Auto route travels so far haven’t been long at all for me to wish to use one of those though.

Right at the start, repeatable quests are present, so that you can acumulate Fame (reputation) to trade in at a Fame Chest for some powerful items. But what I’ve been doing about these repeatables is to be able to get extra money and know what to kill in order to keep my healing and DPS classes at a close level.

Your “Regular Skill” ups are bought with in game money and available when you gain Character Levels, while the “Class Skills require” AP, which you gain when you level up a class. This means that when you gain a character level you can put point in classes that you weren’t really playing at that moment as long as you had the money. Not the same will go with the Class Skills, since those need the class experience.

Although Hunters do have a combat pet, all characters will have a pug battle pet once they reach level 25 and complete a quest for it. I haven’t reached that point yet, but the pet itself is granted much earlier and serves you by looting for you. And I love that! I love not having to loot. I feel so lazy with auto route and auto loot. There are different pets in the cash shop, but I have not checked on it myself.

Your character’s appearance is locked to a few outfits that you gain as you level, as well as different outfits for each class. So far, no piece of gear chances the character’s appearance, other then weapons. I find this to be limiting, but at least the options given are cute. Also, there is a dye system to change the colors.

Crafting was disappointing to find out about. You basically hire NPCs to do most of the work. Some few things are required to me hunted in the world, but gathering and the crafting itself is done at the NPCs in the capital city, Aven. After EQ2 and Wurm, it feels just bad to craft like that, and I’ll probably not be touching that much.

Interesting to note is also the anti-bot system, which will pop up at random times to check on you.

There are still many things I haven’t seen in the game. I haven’t grouped for dungeons, or joined a guild to check into the Guild Town system, or the Lover System. The game is fun so far, but dull as a solo experience. I can sure keep killing and evolving, but that’s all I can do without other players. So unless I find a nice group to join, I won’t be spending much time in this game in the future (ok I admit, I will log in to check the “angry” emote every now and then, it just makes me giggle).

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Sims 3 Exchange

I added a few houses on my page at The Sims 3. You can see it HERE.

Please share yours if you have any content there. Here are some pictures of the 3 houses I placed today. I got many houses I haven’t finished yet, and should add them sometime soon.

How The Sims 3 Exchange works:

The game makes it so that it is easy to share things you create, from whole lots, families and houses to single sims and different colored clothes and furniture. You can view all of this at “The Exchange” and download from there. Once downloaded, just open the game launcher, select what you downloaded and add it to the game by hitting the “install” button.

Now here is how you share a house:
> Options Menu (F5)
> Edit Town
> Click house
> Select the Share button, write details.
> Open launcher, Upload, Select the house and upload, and done!

Your uploaded content will be shown on your page under “My Studio”.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My little end game Utopian idea for MMORPGs

A question that always comes up when a MMORPG game is being developed is “how is endgame?”. This sounds ridiculous if you separate MMO and RPG. Think of the RPG part of the game. Would you ask what happens in the end?

The answer to “how is endgame” in MMORPGs has been “you’ll have some difficult challenges you can repeat to get gear to repeat it again with some advantages”. I remember something like this in RPG games. I would have a save file right before defeating the boss, to maybe tackle it again, and then maybe one more time to show it to a friend. And that’s it.

In MMORPGs, I did some 2 years of raiding. It was fun, but just while the bosses in the raids were still kicking our pixel bottoms. Then we would try with new people, alts, until it became too easy.

So while I admit the current most popular end game system can be fun, it may not be the same game you learned to play. Quests become repeatable quests so that they feel “endless”, and token systems are made so that you take longer to progress in gear. While it can be fun, it can also make it difficult to live the same system again with another skin.

That is what is happening to me right now. After years playing this system in WoW, I am avoiding it in other games. I play, I quest, I do some dungeons, but I see myself actively sabotaging myself from getting too far. In Rift I quit as I reached level 49. In EQ2 I play two characters side by side. In LotRO I do all possible quests in the areas I’m in, even if it’s not the best possible xp gain.

To me, “end game” content is an effort to tell you that your time spent wasn’t for nothing. That when you finally became your best, when you reached the peak of your wizardry or fighting powers, you can still use it for something. It is a strategy to avoid frustration and keep people playing and paying. And that CAN work, but it is not anymore with the current popular systems, at least for me.

What I’d like to see are random and at the same time challenging encounters. Dungeons that randomize, from walls to which mobs spawn, from ambient light to boss skills.

That idea has good and bad possibilities. The good one is the fact that dungeons would feel dangerous, and that sounds silly, because dungeons SHOULD feel dangerous, and not a safe walk with some expected encounters. Also, with better randomized loot possibilities, the surprise of what you might find would possibly drive more people to venture into dungeons. It is what makes a lot of us do fishing in games: there is a random surprise, even when at most times it is just fish.

Lore wouldn’t have to be too complicated on such random encounters. Saving people trapped within, recover magical artifacts, defeat an evil and random named wizard, collect and destroy a dangerous magical tome could be much better excuses then killing over and over again the same boss just to get a shard, which will be traded for a wonderful piece of gear once you gather enough. Seems not to matter what the NPC that did the trade actually does with the shard. That is why I’d rather have little, typical and random dungeon excuses to go inside rather then to grab a bunch of faerie shards to trade latter.

Now for the bad one: there is a big chance for frustration, and no company in the world likes to risk frustrating costumers. With random elements, you could end up facing from a deadly combination to a very easy group of thugs. Also, with random elements, chances are that you’ll have no idea how long a dungeon run could take, and time is short for a lot of players out there. That last problem could be remedied, I believe. In my imaginary random dungeon system, you’d be able to pick how many bosses and mini bosses you’d like in a dungeon. Maybe even the difficulty setting, and that could help in guessing how long the adventure would take.

Adventure! That is the word and the feeling I miss in games. I want the unknown to survive past my maximum character level, to be able to continue exploring, to continue having my pixel bottom kicked not because my team didn’t have coordination to tackle the boss who tail swipes, breathes fire and summons adds, but because it is just surprising and new to us.

As long as something like this Utopian idea I have comes up, end game will remain as what it is, the end with some options here and there. And maybe it should just remain as that, the end, as all things should come to an end, just like all games will some day eventually shut down.

For now I’ll be still exploring the possibilities I have, checking new games, continuing in EQ2 and LotRO. So yes, even though it is a system I am not very happy with, I’ll keep trying, at least the questing and exploring parts that I like, and maybe who knows, I’ll find “end game fun” again.

Also, sandbox tittles promises a good break from the typical system. So far I’ve been checking Wurm, and although not an MMO, The Sims 3 is a fun way to have “housing” with huge possibilities.

And what are you all feeling about the current pop “end game” systems? Are you tired of them? Still enjoy them? Got Utopian ideas like mine in mind?

"The Raid" Recruitment Video

I got curious enough to check it out myself. The first reviews I've read almost made me not want to put 1 hour of my time into it, but...