Thursday, April 24, 2008

Age of Conan Open Beta keys available

Fileplanet has keys available for the AoC 'Open Beta'. Not really sure how open it is when you have to pay for a fileplanet subscription to get hold of them! Actually, the beta keys are available elsewhere, but it seems most sites are having various contests whereas Fileplanet is using a first come first served method.

I bit the bullet and shelled out the $16 for a quarterly Fileplanet subscription. I hope to get some use out of my money by downloading demos for games I've heard about before I cancel it. I discovered after I had already signed up, that if you hit the 'No Thanks' option in the bottom right of the subscription chooser page, apparently you're then given the option for cheaper subscriptions!

I downloaded the entire 12 gig (!) client last night and found out this morning it was corrupted! So, I went ahead and installed Fileplanet's download manager which looks like it will be a much safer bet for acquiring the client without problems.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to check out AoC for myself soon and get an idea of how this game will play (unfortunately, there will be a level cap of 13 for this beta, which seems kind of lame. And, now that I think about it, might be an inadvertent message about the state of their game at later levels). Expect to see a couple of first impression posts from me once the beta opens (which is May 1st I believe).

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Next WoW-Killer will be...

Age of Conan? Nope. AoC will be a niche game. Heavy graphics requirements, its mature rating and its attempt to have a PvP-focused game while still appealing to the raid AND the 'casual' crowd at the same time will keep its population low.

Warhammer Online? Nope, though I expect WAR to be in 2nd place in number of subscribers for a Western MMO unless they just really drop the ball or lose focus on what their game should be.

Some other game? Nope

What will kill WoW is WoW itself. It's inevitable, and expected. The game gets stale, players get bored, move on to other activities (be it MMOs, other games or real life events), sever populations begin to fall, servers get merged, devs start working on other games, etc etc.

WoW will follow in the footsteps of other successful MMOs and have a long, long slow descent into the twilight realm, joining its forefathers such as Ultima Online and Everquest in semi-obscurity.

So all the talk about such-and-such game being a WoW-killer is just dumb and a waste of energy. Nothing short of a nuclear holocaust is going to cause World of Warcraft to suddenly lose millions of subscribers.

Warhammer: Unanswered RvR and City Siege Questions

Mythic has been giving us a lot of good info about RvR and City sieges lately. But after my experiences with Shadowbane and WoW, I've come to the realization that players will cheat, lie, scam and abuse every loophole they can find if there is some gain in it for them. I can only assume that Mythic has seen some of the issues that have arisen elsewhere, but they still have left a lot of questions unanswered that I would like the answers to such as:

*How is determined who gains control of a keep that was just assaulted successfully? Killing blow? Most damage?

*Same question regarding the battles with the King and other big bosses in city sieges.

*What happens if you sack a city where the king is already captured?

*How are AFKers in Scenarios dealt with?

*Do you gain Renown points for winning a scenario instance even if you didn't get anywhere near another player or capture point?

*How long do players of a sacked city have to wait before they can try to reclaim it?

*Do the players reclaiming their city have to deal with the whole instanced gate battleground thing first or can they just charge back into the city proper and fight the invaders directly?

*Is there ever any loss of Renown points or do they just continue accumulating forever?

*Can you see who your opponents will be in the instanced scenarios? If so, then how will they deal with the groups who send in a spy ahead of time to make sure their opponents are weak before the rest of the group enters?

*Will off-peak hours players be able to take keeps with little to no resistance?

*If some keeps are in lower-level zones so that higher level players cant go there, are we going to see 'twinks' (oh, how I hate that term!) controlling these keeps?

*On the other hand, if all keeps are accessible to all players, wont the high-level players just come and dominate the lower level keeps?

*How do they plan on dealing with 'twinks' in the instanced scenarios

Sounds like they have some great concepts, I just hope that the developers have enough experience with WoW's Battlegrounds to understand how players will try to abuse their system. If not, things could get ugly...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

WoW Patch 2.4 Impressions

Note: The initial draft of this was written a week ago

Not a whole lot in this patch that affects a blacksmithing warrior directly, so I'll mainly focus on the new quests and the Shattered Sun Offensive.

First off, the new 'World PvP' quests are a bust. Especially the one for the Spirit Towers in the Bone Wastes. That quest tasks you with the incredibly difficult job of taking one, thats right one, of the spirit towers. Now anyone who actually knows anything about this PvP objective knows that taking just one tower is really a nonsensical task. Usually all of the towers change hands at least once during the period that they're open. Sow how does this play out in reality? Everyone runs out, groups at one tower, captures it, then rides off to turn in their quest, completely ignoring the rest of the towers, leaving it up to a handful of players (usually less than five for each side) to actually work on achieving the objective. The quest for Halaa is slightly better, but not by much. For this one you have to kill 10 players near Halaa. Oh great! Killing players near Halaa! I never thought of doing that before! *sarcasm off* Finding players to kill near Halaa has always been difficult. Either one side or the other almost always has a significant numerical advantage, making actual combat pretty rare. The best chance you have is by camping the fly point. This quest does nothing to change the interest in Halaa.

How about something meaningful, like actually holding the damn town for a period of time opens up new vendors and quests? Or a mailbox or bank? Or anything worthwhile!

Failure on both counts.

There are a number of new daily quests available in Shatrath. They are all pretty simple and one is even related to resource gathering so it can be done in the normal course of harvesting raw materials. The others have you searching for items amongst the Ethereals of Blade's Edge, the Blood Elves in Netherstorm and taking readings in Nagrand. All pretty easy, though the Blood Elf one can sometimes take a while depending on your luck.

One good thing about some of these new quests is that they reward you with a care package. These packages always contain a useless green item but also sometimes have a Badge of Justice! I found two badges in a total of 10 or so packages. Bonus for me since I was just doing the jobs for cash.

The change that has directly affected me the most is the unbinding of Primal Nether and Nether Vortex. I spent all my gold on hand plus everything I've made from the new dailies to upgrade my epic, blacksmithed axes. Both my two-handed and one-handed axes have now been upgraded to their full potential. Only a year after the raiding players were able to do so! Initial prices for the Nethers were ~250 gold for a Vortex and ~50 gold for a Primal. Prices have steadily dropped since then, and with the plethora of new daily quests, getting gold to purchase these items is extremely easy.

The new 5-man instance, Magister's Terrace is fun, and somewhat of a challenge. It's very magic heavy and the magisters and warlocks hit like a two-ton Tauren, but with spells. You definitely need to make good use of corners to draw them in and spell reflection is extremely important for the tank. I've only been in once and we made it through to the end with only one wipe, but then had trouble with Kael'thas. The final battle with Kael'thas is very melee-unfriendly (but thats nothing new for WoW). Trying to avoid the balls of arcane energy that spurt out of his head while also not touching the floor but getting into melee range while 'swimming' through the air at extremely fast speeds just isn't a whole lot of fun. It's very doable, just annoying.

The Shattered Sun Offensive quest progression on the Isle of Qeul'danas is very well done. There are always a couple of daily quests that aid in the progression of the Offensive as they are completed. So the more players that are on your server doing these quests every day, the faster the Shattered Sun will improve its foothold on the island. As the advance reaches a new phase, new quests are opened up and the old ones are deprecated so that they still give cash and reputation rewards, but they no longer directly help the Shattered Sun in their efforts.

I appreciate how the Shattered Sun actually takes over buildings and kicks out the mob spawns as the battle progresses. The quests are pretty quick and mostly painless, though on a PvP server you always have to deal with the jerks who have nothing better to do except run around looking for players to kill who are low on health.

Now on to the bad. Mainly, BUGS! Several extremely annoying ones in fact. First off, our guild bank is unusable. The number of allowed withdrawals never resets, meaning that once you hit your limit for withdrawals from the clan bank, thats it... forever! Or at least until they fix the bug, but who knows when that will be. The issue doesnt seem to be getting any attention at all on the bug report forums thought the GMs have given out some rather dumb suggestions for fixing it such as 'Delete your WTF folder' (isnt this their answer for everything? It doesnt work by the way) and the oh-so-interesting 'Have you entire guild stay logged off for 10 minutes!. What?! How will that fix anything. And anyway, my guild isnt that active. I know there are plenty of times during the day when noone is online.

Note: The Guild Bank issue has been taken care of since I initially drafted this post

Secondly, my computer locks up when I try to teleport to/from Quel'danas. Sometimes I can simply close out WoW and login again, but most of the time a full reset of my machine is required! I can fly back to the Undercity and return to normal space/time that way, but using any sort of time-saving travel method just doesn't work. Again, the usual GM answer is to delete your WTF folder. But you know what? Everything I've changed about my interface, from addons to video settings, resides in there. Forcing the user to re-jigger their entire interface from scratch is not a valid solution. And why would any of the files in there have such a debilitating effect that my system is locked up!? This is definitely a client issue, not an addon issue.

Overall, Patch 2.4 is a good addition to the game. Lots of new content, especially for enchanters and jewelcrafters. Tons of shiny new items to buy for the PvE crowd (including the arena armor sets, which is a bit odd, but I've given up trying to guess where Blizzard comes up with some of their decisions).