Friday, December 10, 2010

Troubles at Square Enix over Final Fantasy XIV

The recent restructuring at Square Enix is interesting enough for Final Fantasy XIV fans, but the company also apologized "that the game has yet to achieve the level of enjoyability that FINAL FANTASY fans have come to expect from the franchise." I have not tried the game, nor have I played much of the FF series, but that apology does not make me want to try the game until the company works out the problems. The departing producer Hiromichi Tanaka offered his own apology and revealed some of the specific problems the game is experiencing: "A number of concerns that have been voiced by users, such as the design of the user interface, availability of tutorials and game content, and battle system functionality, represent key issues that must be addressed." Those problems, although described generally, are pretty major. Hiromichi indicated that he did not respond enough to player feedback about the issues, resulting in the substandard product. That should be a lesson to all producers of games.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Taking a break

I canceled my pre-order for Cataclysm and froze my account for World of Warcraft. Part of the reason was that I wanted to play Entropia for now. Entropia turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Most people play because it is fun to sink money into a game anyway. I found that the developers started selling synthetic mind essence, seriously depressing the market for mind essence, which is the only known product that can be made from vibrant sweat. Combining the sweat with force nexis produces mind essence. Vibrant sweat is the only way that a beginning player can earn money without depositing money into an account. But selling synthetic mind essence has seriously depressed the market for not only mind essence but vibrant sweat. It all comes down to a trick to get players to deposit money, a method the developers devised to turn around their losses. I also read that Entropia will get a new island by Dec. 13, and land will be offered for sale on the island. The prices probably will be unreasonably high, because I read in the offering that deposits greater than $50,000 will be rewarded with no transaction fee. Sorry, Entropia, I don't have that much cash to invest, and I won't invest in virtual land that may never realize some kind of profit. As far as I can tell, players who own land don't necessarily realize much return for their investment. Many of the land areas were empty when I visited them. A secret may be to hold events on the land to draw players to the land, but promoting events may not draw enough profit. One of the land areas that must realize some kind of profit is Nea's Place, where players are sweating. But the depressed vibrant sweat market probably affected the owner a great deal. If I have any suggestion for the developers of Entropia, it is that it should be easier to get some kind of return for any investment, whether it is time or money. I saw many players getting sucked into the game, but many are disappointed when they learn that it is now next to impossible to play the game without depositing money. I am not sure how the company can make money from players who do not deposit, because it is a closed economy that can only increase if players deposit more, but the company does realize some profit if it charges for things that non-depositors buy.

The other part of the reason why I am getting away from games is that I realize that I am getting increasingly bored with all games. I also feel a need to deal with some real-life concerns, and games are starting to get in the way, so I may not return to gaming, unless it is for brief sorties.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cash added to Entropia

I decided to take the leap and add $10 to my account at Entropia. I am hoping that I can get some kind of return for this investment, but we will have to see. I noticed that MindArk does take a small fee, plus there is an exchange rate, so that means the $10 translates to about 96.50 PED, not exactly 100 PED.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Crafters shine in Entropia

Entropia is a crafter's paradise. The possibilities for making things seem endless in this virtual environment, but they are limited to the imaginations of the developers, because all items require blueprints, and I think most players cannot make blueprints.

A similarity exists in armor, for example, except in textures and colors. There are so many types of weapons, devices and vehicles, it is hard to list them all. The weapons include pistols, rifles, fist weapons, daggers, swords and more. Vehicles include land rovers, cars, boats, airborne vehicles and more. Most players specialize in making one type of item because their avatars must learn and level up crafting skills before they become proficient. By making items and selling them, players can get a return on whatever they put into the game, although profits are not guaranteed.

My understanding is that it is faster to get to crafting if you put some money into the game, but you must subtract the investment from your revenue to get a true profit. In other words, Neverdie invested $100,000 to buy the club mentioned in the last post, but how much did he put into the game after the initial investment? No one is saying, so the actual profit is unknown. Some writers are presuming to say he made a $535,000 profit from the club, but I doubt that is his actual profit because he must have put more money into his game account. Another person is claiming to have earned his college education from the game, but it is possible it is more like a savings account than actual profit, if he put a lot of money into the game.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Entropia gives incentives for grinding

The news was inviting: An entrepreneur sold a piece of virtual property in the online game Entropia for $635,000, setting a new price record for such real estate. The property was Club Neverdie, which John "Neverdie" Jacobs bought in 2005 for $100,000, then built into a playing environment. Jacobs sold the majority interest ($335,000) in the property to John Foma Kalun, and the rest ($300,000) to 12 other buyers. The property is divided into domes, or separate playing environments. Kalun owns 8 domes and naming rights to Club Neverdie, while the other buyers own one dome each.

After hearing the news, I decided it was time to try Entropia. I found out I was not alone. Many other players are giving the game a try after seeing that some people can make money by playing the game. We all found out that it is not easy money by any means. Earning money of any kind means grinding some of the most insipid gaming ever invented. But don't let that stop you.

Entropia is very similar to Second Life, so if you have tried that game, you will know what to expect. Both games are supposed to encourage socializing and cooperative gaming. Entropia is set in a futuristic environment, while Second Life is current times. Entropia has a currency that is set to convert to the US dollar: 10 PED equals $1, so 1 PED equals 10 cents. Second Life currency has no set conversion rate, and players have to rely on the market value at the time, so there is more risk involved. Entropia says that a minimum of 1,000 PED can be drawn out at a time. According to its annual report, MindArk AB, developer of Entropia, reports a negative cash flow of $2.4 million, so the company has not found a way of making a profit yet. I wonder how long it can last.

Without adding money to their accounts, players are offered only a few activities. By gathering sweat from monsters, players can make a few PED, but it is extremely time-consuming. Players are issued a device on arrival at Planet Calypso and given a mission to gather sweat. Once the player finishes the opening missions, he or she is sent on a mission to go to the Sweat Camp. Gathering sweat is very difficult because the monsters either walk away or start attacking players and the gathering device only works occasionally until you build up your skill level. I have found the best response to an attacking monster is to stand my ground so I can gain skill in sweating as well as defensive combat skills. It is definitely easier to sweat with a group, but often players have differences of opinion on how to do the job. Players are not particularly welcoming to newbies, but some do help new players. I spent most of my time just sweating, not chatting, as usual. When you consider that 1,000 vibrant sweat sells to players for 2 to 4 PED and it takes more than 6 hours of grinding to get that much sweat, you are not going to get rich quick by any means. The same amount of sweat sells for .01 PED (known as 1 PEC) at the Trade Terminal, so it is worth the effort of selling to players.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gamasutra interview compares UO and WoW

An interesting interview on Gamasutra makes a fairly balanced comparison between Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. The interview is with two designers of UO, who are not out to bash WoW, but to give readers an idea of what the differences are between the games. They may be stating the obvious, but I have not read a better comparison between the two games. UO has more of an open-world design, which emphasizes gaining skills, rather than overall character levels. They call the WoW design an on-rails method that emphasizes character classes that are defined, plus leveling that character. It sounds like UO has no character classes, but is designed to make the skills define the character. The designers also point out the Blizzard has put a focus on the action-reward cycle, or the ding factor.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Popularity works against video games

There are people who deliberately pick games that have a small but loyal following and decry any game that has a measure of popularity. Those gamers are interested in games as long as they are in the vein of the Dungeons & Dragons board game, which is played by a select few in small, intimate shops or at home by a group of friends. If the video game is next to inaccessible because of a complicated download or some obscure software that has to be downloaded to get the game, that is all the better. Once the download is made easy by a simple interface, those players are not interested. Fans of Darkfall feel privileged because they play an obscure game on one or possibly two servers. Fans of Shadowbane are happy because the game enjoyed some obscure following for a year or two before it was shut down and now a group of dedicated fans are trying to set up an emulator so they can play the game. The more complicated, difficult to access and obscure, the better. Those fans mock the efforts of really popular games to appeal to the masses and say that World of Warcraft is too easy and Warcraft Online has no good PvE content and even the PvP is no good. The very popularity of WoW and WAR works against them because once they enjoy a large subscription base, certain players get turned off by their universality. Those players would rather play in obscurity in their private rooms and only contact the privileged few who agree with them that popular games are worse than bad.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Ding 60 for Horde Paladin

I dinged 60 on my Horde Retribution Paladin Renon on the Ghostlands server. That was after about 5 days and 17 hours of play, or close to 137 hours, which is not a record but pretty fast for me. I am trying the style of concentrating on my solo play, rather than spending time on professions.

I don't think leveling is the only achievement worth pursuing, because a game like World of Warcraft offers so many other achievements. One problem with WoW and other games is that professions are not always well designed. In WoW, professions fail to help a player all during the leveling process. In the current iteration of WoW, the only use for professions is for raiding at max level. The time spent for professions is a waste until the character reaches max level, so my advice is to level first, then develop professions. It makes leveling easier and makes the professions easier to build as well. Drops from monsters and quest rewards are always better than the armor and weapons you can make. Enhancement and buffs for raiding are not really needed early in character development. I raised enough gold for two characters' mounts by selling cloth and other items from my Paladin.

I am using Jame's free guide from WoW-Pro to level. I think it is the best guide out there, regardless of price, even though there is some unevenness in the guide, like misplaced waypoints and features that don't work, like an attempt at putting a series of waypoints down to guide the player. Another problem is that I keep exceeding the leveling goals of each section, meaning that the guide is always slightly behind. I skip many parts of the guide, like the whole section that takes the level 58 character from Outland to the Eastern and Western Plaguelands to level to 60 before returning to Outland. The guide misses the mark there, because it is actually easier to stay in Outland and level there before taking the quests that require level 60. I also do no group quests unless I can solo them.

The Paladin class has to be one of the easiest classes to level in Patch 4.0.1. I have no mana problems and seldom run into difficulties, unless I am surrounded by monsters more than 5 levels above me. Consecration is a little weaker now, but Holy Wrath has been buffed for AOE.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Smoother play for WoW

I finally ironed out the video jumping or hiccupping I was experiencing in WoW after Patch 4.0.1. The hiccupping consisted of a brief freeze of my character when it went in or out of combat, plus very slow tooltip response every time I moused over an item. I decided to follow Blizzard's advice to repair the installation, then delete the Cache and WTF folders. I deleted the many patch updates that were cluttering up the WoW folder. I made the agonizing decision to delete some useful but unnecessary mods to improve the frame rate as much as possible. For example, I deleted Decursive because, although it is useful, the functions are duplicated in Healbot. I also stripped any map utilities because the stock map is OK. I finally deleted NotesUNeed, which does not work as well as it used to and can be annoying. After a long download to replace the patch updates, I changed all the settings of the mods to make them behave like I want them to.

New adventures in WAR

I decided to start a free trial of Warhammer Online. The game is pretty much the same as it was before the "endless free trial." But the experience was an eye-opener for me, after about a year or two away. My old characters were not present. I may have to renew my subscription to get them back. I found that WAR has four servers for free trial members but many more servers that are for subscribers only, so I was wrong to repeat the cant that there are only four servers in a previous post. My new High Elf Swordmaster was put into the Empire starting area, and I found that all free account characters are placed in that starting area, rather than the racial starting area. I breezed through the beginning quests and a starter public quest with few problems and got past level 3. The game is very accessible and easy to play, which is more than I can say for games like Darkfall, which I found was hard to download and even harder to play on my machine. The open areas of the game are also more pleasing to me than the instanced areas of Dungeons & Dragons Online. I have had many unsuccessful attempts at playing downloaded content. It could be the age of the machine and operating system, which game developers no longer want to support. Accessibility is one of the key reasons people play games. If a game is hard to access, the game will not have many players.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Most WAR entitlements make sense

Mythic has begun a series of Warhammer: Online entitlements designed to make more real money for the company. Only one of the entitlements is cause for concern on my part. I think it is fine to offer cosmetic or meaningless changes to characters, such as transfers to another server, trophies, mounts, vanity pets or even items like non-uber armor or weapons. I do have an issue with the offer of another level for all of a player's characters for real money. I simply do not like the idea of someone else paying for a level that I want to earn by playing the game. After all, the idea behind a video game or MMO is that the players play the game, not pay real money to be boosted even one level. Admittedly, Mythic is limiting the purchases to one per account, so no player can buy his or her way to max level on a character, but I still find the offer of a level for real money very objectionable.

Blizzard 's new community site sports open look

The preview of Blizzard's new community site has more of an open feeling, without all the borders and lines of the previous site. The old site now looks clunky by comparison. Now I wish Blizzard would change the user interface in World of Warcraft to a more open design, without all the clunky borders and ugly art. I have always liked the look and feel of the Skinner addon, which gives the game a more streamlined appearance with no distractions in the form of art. Skinner is definitely hardcore.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Neverwinter book part of game announcement

I received an email that announced a book, Gauntigrym by R.A. Salvatore, published on Oct. 5. It was sent to me because I subscribe to the Neverwinter newsletter after I played Neverwinter Nights from Bioware for years. I never played Neverwinter Nights 2 by Atari, but I still had an interest in the game after playing the original version. I never purchased NWN2 because it didn't seem to live up to the hype and would not improve on many of the features of the original. I continued to play around with Neverwinter Nights and used some of the development tools to see if I could design my own game. I did learn how hard it is to develop a game.

Anyway, I don't remember receiving any notice of the game Neverwinter, which was announced in August and is being developed by Cryptic Studios, maker of Champions Online and other titles. It is expected to be released by the end of 2011.

Announcing a book before the game is a strategy similar to what Blizzard did when announcing Cataclysm books before the expansion is out for World of Warcraft. The book could help players get into the lore, which can be intriguing for some audiences, especially role-players.

Neverwinter does sound like an interesting game, especially because there is supposed to be a persistent world multiplayer environment, rather than an instanced environment like Dungeons & Dragons Online.

Friday, October 29, 2010

All WoW players can preload Cataclysm content

WoW Insider has called attention to a method of preloading Cataclysm content without buying Blizzard's download of the expansion. That method is handy for people like me who have purchased a pre-order of a hard copy of Cataclysm from a local retailer and don't want to pay twice. You can download the content without waiting until launch day on Dec. 7, when the servers may be jammed.

As explained by Wow Insider, the method of preloading is:

1. Make sure World of Warcraft and/or the launcher and background downloader are completely closed.
2. Open up your World of Warcraft folder.
3. Open in Notepad and change the "accountType" line from LK to CT.
4. Open in Notepad and change the "accountType" line from LK to CT.

Then you can start the launcher and download the content (about 700 megabytes) needed for play on Dec. 7.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Champions Online goes free-to-play

Cryptic Studios has decided to offer a free-to-play deal for Champions Online, but with many restrictions, similar to other free-to-play models. Players are divided into Silver (free) members and Gold (paying) members. Silver members have limited access to archetypes, character slots and many other features. Although I have never played this game, it seems you have to pay in order to excel at this game, similar to the free-to-play limits placed on Warhammer Online and Lord of The Rings Online. Cryptic says the free-to-play deal is in beta now, and it will be implemented in the first quarter of 2011.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

First Impressions of Rift: Planes of Telara

Rift: Planes of Telara looks interesting but the proof will be in how it plays, and whether enough players will pay a subscription fee for yet another MMO in the medieval fantasy genre. The similarities to World of Warcraft are pretty obvious. The differences from WoW are subtle but important. The models of characters are much better conceived and more intricate than the WoW models. The landscapes are more in keeping with the dark fantasy ideal than WoW, which strays into futuristic diversions from medieval times. Rift offers much more choice in character talents, with at least four specializations to select after the original class selection. For example, a player selecting Warrior as a class can specialize in at least four different areas: Champion, Reaver, Paladin or Warlord. More specializations are expected before launch. The talent interface is remarkably similar to the WoW interface, but it has more talents that depend on previous selections. The game is now in beta, and is expected to launch in 2011.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EA Louse takes on Mythic

The EA Louse rant about Mythic and Warhammer Online is a bit hard to swallow in one chunk. It merits reading over and over, then reading all the sometimes vitriolic comments responding to it.

First, the EA Louse is an anonymous soon-to-be-former employee of Mythic, so he or she has an ax to grind. He stands on a thin thread by complaining before he is officially let go. He should be worried that he will be found out before the pink slip arrives. His bridge-burning rant guarantees he is leaving. He is grousing about bosses in a personal way, not necessarily in a professional way. If I were an employer looking for a graphic artist in the gaming industry, I probably would not hire EA Louse because he or she is complaining too much and would end up trying to undermine my company. If you work for a company, you do not necessarily do things that you want, as if you were an artist expressing himself like Vincent Van Gough. An artist can do that if he wants to, but not working for a company. To a certain degree, an artist has to work on a team and do what the project demands, or even what the boss demands. The artist does have a say in what the project is, but if what he wants is not accepted, he has to do as the team wants and not whine about not being able to get his own way. Believe me, I have experienced the same problems working for newspapers all my life. I very seldom get my own way creatively and have learned to stick up for what I feel is right, but I know when to compromise and back down.

Second, Warhammer Online is not dead and is not in danger of dying. Mythic has a following that is larger than many online MMO games. Instead of free-to-play, Mythic offers the "endless free trial" to new or returning players who want to maintain a level cap of 10. At least they can try it out. Mythic has been merging servers until it is down to four in North America, but some online games, like Darkfall or Dawntide, have only one. I am now reading that some players are coming back for the second anniversary of Warhammer's founding. No online game can expect to have as many subscribers as World of Warcraft, or even StarCraft II or Diablo III. If I was in the game business, I would be happy with my successes and not wallow in my failures.

Third, I found that Warhammer Online is an enjoyable, balanced game, and the developers were interested in ironing out the problems as they came up. I admit the PvE content was a bit short because it did not hold much interest for me, but I really enjoyed the PvP instances and the RvR groups. One blogger suggested a third faction, but I don't agree. The rivalry is more intense in the one-on-one factions.

Finally, I could criticize how the game was promoted using the "British guy," who made me think the game was European, but I would come back to Warhammer Online if I could only stop playing World of Warcraft. I can't afford both.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Nerf for the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty is one of the most irritating aspects of WoW. At the same time, it is something that may never be completely eliminated from the game, even if I would prefer it that way.

Instead, through the patch system, Blizzard has decided to make it gradually easier to come back to life after death. Not too long ago, Blizzard buffed the player's ghost so that it runs faster, and it added a flying ghost mount to help the player get back to his corpse in some places. In Patch 4.0.1, a new button appears at the top middle of the screen that allows a player's ghost to return to the cemetery. That is handy if a player gets lost while ghost-running to his corpse and decides to bail out, taking the penalty, or try to locate his corpse once again.

The ghost-after-death system has a long history with Blizzard. I heard that some of the early MUD games had the ghost, so, naturally, the developers at Blizzard wanted to create a system for retrieving the player's body after death. I am familiar with the ghost system in Diablo and Diablo 2, where the character is stripped of all of its items unless it gets back to its corpse. If the player is not able to pick up all of the items, then dies again, there are multiple corpses. Hard to believe, but it is true.

When I played Guild Wars, I was relieved to find it had no Death Penalty. No loss of items, no damage to equipment, no loss of gold. The after-death system of Guild Wars is very simple. The character is resurrected at the nearest shrine, ready to play again. There were some problems with that system, but it remains a good system overall. If the character is fighting near a shrine, sometimes it can get caught in a never-ending battle: Impossible to kill the monster and stop the cycle of resurrection, but usually the player can do something to stack the odds in his favor and break the cycle.

I fail to see why there is a Death Penalty at all. While working out my Shaman's abilities after the patch, I died frequently, but I was learning how to play the character after the major content change and got caught by some of the bigger monsters. In the process of learning, I ended up spending quite a bit of gold for repairs. That cost is totally unnecessary, and I do realize it has a lot to do with my style of experimenting on my own without looking up published builds in advance.

Friday, October 15, 2010

WoW Patch 4.0.1

Patch 4.0.1 for World of Warcraft has to be one of the most game-changing patches in a long time. It remains to be seen if it draws more players into the game. So far, the players seem to be sparse because they are still figuring out the new system.

I had more than 30 addons that needed updating after I came back from a short trip, then I encountered the download and installation of the patch, which took about an hour. Paladin talents and skills have all been reworked to include a new dynamic called Holy Power. Some skills build up three tics of Holy Power similar to the Death Knights' runes, then they are expended using another skill. Crusader Strike is available at level 1 to provide another skill through the entire leveling process. Crusader Strike replaces the previous skill of judging Seal of Righteousness that provided some self-healing.

That is just the beginning of the changes. Blessing of Kings and Blessing of Might are the only blessings available, eliminating greater blessings, which is a real blessing. That awkward Pally Power is no longer needed. Pally Power is awkward because it is only useful for one character class, but left a ridiculous spot that had to be moved aside for all other classes. Even after I updated Pally Power, it now does not work correctly, so forget it. The programmers never provided a filtering mechanism to prevent its loading on other character classes. Totem Timers, for instance, loads only for Shamans. Rather than Pally Power, it is much better to use a utility like Healbot that can be used on any healing class, or any class for that matter, to serve as a reminder to refresh certain buffs.

All classes now have a new profession box, a new guild box, and a new talent mechanism.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Leveling without professions

Leveling a character quickly in World of Warcraft is definitely a different occupation than developing professions.

The benefits of professions at the early levels are so lacking that it makes sense to level a character, then level the professions needed for raiding at max level. The time spent developing professions at early levels is better spent on leveling itself, rather than on professions. If the goal is to level as fast as possible, professions are time-wasters, not efficient.

Here are the professions and how they offer little help to characters at early levels:

First Aid: Helps with healing out of combat, but lacks much use in combat, because a hit stops the action of healing. Can be used with a stun skill to heal a bit in combat. Buying or finding food is just as useful for healing out of combat. Totally useless for self-healing classes, and it depends on the availability of cloth, which drops only from humanoids.

Cooking: Offers a small buff, starting at 2 stamina, for better survivability, but it is such a small amount that it doesn't live up to its potential. If you spend the time to level cooking with fishing, it can offer more substantial buffs, but that takes a lot of time, which could be spent grinding for experience.

Fishing: Standing next to water watching a bobber is a time-waster for sure. The only benefit for leveling is to use it to develop cooking.

Skinning: Can produce leather from animal bodies. Leather can be sold on the Auction House or used in crafting professions, especially leatherworking. But the time spent skinning can be performed on alternate characters, leaving a leveling character free to grind.

Mining: Can produce ore and metal bars from nodes. Ore and bars can be sold or used in crafting professions, particularly blacksmithing and engineering. But the time spent mining can be performed on alternate characters, leaving a leveling character free to grind.

Herbalism: Can produce herbs from plants. Herbs can be sold or used in crafting professions, like alchemy and inscription. But the time spent herbing can be performed on alternates.

Blacksmithing: Can make mail and plate armor, but quest rewards and drops tend to be good enough for leveling. Slight improvements for weapon damage can be made through buffs in sharpening stones and weight stones, but the benefits are not all that great. The real benefit is in the upper end, when the blacksmith can make slots for gems. High-end crafted armor and weapons are not better than what can be found in the game.

Jewelcrafting: Can make jewelry at low levels, but quest rewards and drops are better. Can make gems starting at Burning Crusade levels (around character level 60). Gems made at high levels are a lot more valuable and can be a money-maker by selling high-end gems on the Auction House. Jewelcrafter-only gems are valuable for raiding at max level.

Leatherworking: Can make some armor and enhancements, but only high-end enhancements have any value for selling at the Auction House or use for raiding. Value for raiding is less than for other professions.

Inscription: Can make glyphs for any character, but, by design, the scribe can only make a limited number of minor glyphs which might be useful at low character levels. Leveling the profession is done by making major glyphs, while minor glyphs are made by research which has a long cool-down and therefore is time-consuming. A leveling character might as well buy minor glyphs at the Auction House.

Engineering: Has little use for a leveling character, except in making bombs to enhance combat. The crafted items and enhancements have some use at the high end for raiding. The fancy mounts are only cosmetic.

Alchemy: Has little use for a leveling character, except in making potions and elixirs, but the buffs are very small and not necessary for leveling. Health and mana potions do drop from kills, but leveling does not depend on them, given the way the game has been changed as Cataclysm approaches.

Archaeology: The Cataclysm profession has some promise, but the enhancements probably will be the same as previous professions, not offering much benefit to leveling. The greater benefit will probably be for raiding.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Starting a Human

I tried an experiment in leveling a Human Paladin in WoW on the Eitrigg server (marked for new players) by avoiding the quests and professions, showing that Blizzard has made the starting areas so simple that the quests are not necessary for leveling. I was doing about 5,000 experience per hour just killing things, about the same rate as I do while completing quests. I noticed that the early quests have so little experience that it takes about the same amount of time to kill stuff as it does to complete the quests. I got up to level 6 doing no quests, then tried the quest to kill wolves and bears. One problem with that quest is that you kill many more wolves than needed because the wolf population is much higher than the bear population. You search for bears for a long time, especially on the "newbie" servers where the population is higher in the starting areas and players are competing for the same quests. The experience from the quest is about 600, while each wolf or bear gives you 90. You might as well kill 5 or 6 more wolves to get the 600 experience. It takes almost as much time to run back and forth for the quest. My character ended up with just about all starting equipment, rather than the quest rewards, but the quest items are so paltry that it doesn't make much difference. I can use a gold-digging-banking-auctioning alt to buy or find stuff to twink him anyway. The experiment also demonstrates that leveling a character can be done fast without leveling professions and doing quests. The secret is to keep killing one monster after another, not walking any great distances. You have to find where the monster population is thick and heavy. One huge disadvantage to leveling a character by grinding is that it is terribly boring.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PTR play

Playing on the PTR for WoW gave me an explanation of sorts for the faster health recovery for characters below level 15. In the new scenario, a Paladin does not have any self-healing before level 9. Even Seal of Righteousness and its Judgment do not have self-healing, unlike the current version. The new healing mechanism to replace the two current ones is not learned until level 9. Instead, all character classes are given self-healing out of combat. That is not a bad thing. I have always liked self-healing for any character and missed self-healing on classes that do not have any. All classes are getting a total revamp in talents, so the player will have to choose a specialty, fill that specialty with 31 points, then choose where the rest of the points will go. Limiting talent choices that way seems fairly logical for players who have experience with the game, but I am not sure how new players will react to that change. Experienced players know where they want to go with a character build, but new players may still have to experiment.

Friday, September 17, 2010

So much for Darkfall

A few weeks ago, I successfully downloaded the Darkfall client after a few attempts at getting a working copy. It was a big disappointment to me that the game did not play well with my computer at all. The problem may be my outdated hardware -- the old NVIDIA card or the old CPU -- but it is amazing that Blizzard and NCSoft and Turbine and Sony games seldom give me problems. Darkfall played like I was in a vat of molasses and could not get out. The responses were so slow that it seemed to take a minute before my hits connected, and by then my character was dead. I did try a few settings to see if I could correct the problem, but the attempts failed. I gave up.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leveling experience

With the latest patches (3.3.0 through 3.3.5), leveling a character in WoW has become very easy in the early stages (before level 15). These patches make leveling so easy, they make all leveling guides written before the patches outdated and unrealistic. One big change is the health recovery rate of a character below level 15. It is immediately obvious on creating a new character that health recovers at a very fast rate, making health recovery of any kind unnecessary out of combat. I wonder why all characters don't have a better health recovery rate, but that would change the nature of the game, making first aid, eating and drinking unnecessary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back to Azeroth

I recently came back to WoW and am enjoying some of the patch changes.

Paladins are still a very easy class to level and play. I have noticed that a Retribution Paladin is even easier to level, with the high damage and mana recovery. Leveling as Protection always has the low mana pool as a problem. I recently was in a situation where my Retribution Paladin was surrounded by about 5 enemies, so I decided to let Retribution Aura and Consecration do their jobs while I healed my way through the battle. I was using Flash of Light over and over, then hitting Consecration when my health recovered enough. I laughed in triumph as the enemies dropped one by one, and I emerged alive from the fight without being starved for mana or even using one potion. Now, that is survivability. That is the way to heal yourself through a battle. I think that I enjoy the healing hybrids the most, the Paladin, Druid and Shaman, because I miss being able to self-heal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

So Long, Azeroth

I froze my WoW account after an attack of boredom with the game around the holidays. A big reason why I became bored with the game was the demand to grind for almost every reward. If you want the best equipment, you have to spend hours doing repetitious quests over and over until you get an upgrade or a piece of equipment. The designers of the game seem to take pleasure in making the grind even longer every time a new expansion or patch comes out.

And speaking of patches, the new content itself becomes more of an irritant than a pleasure in my mind. One day, a class is an underdog. The next day, it is a stellar leader. In the old days, Rogues were so popular the game was called "World of Roguecraft." With patched changes, Rogues lost their luster until few Rogues were rolled and few actually were played in instances. In the last expansion, there are a few pieces of equipment for combat Rogues, but they are largely a neglected class. I like playing neglected classes. Paladins were neglected because of their lack of damage-dealing ability. But along comes a patch that boosts their damage-dealing, and everyone rolls a Paladin because of their newly-found power. The changes make the game different every time a patch comes out, leaving me bewildered about how to play my character. The heroic class, Death Knights, are not understood by most because of their new mechanics, and they largely overpower any opponent in the game.

Change can be good, but too much change leaves me cold. The plans for the next and final expansion, Cataclysm, are like a capitulation on the part of Blizzard, as if they are ending the game in an apocalyptic fire that will leave Azaroth burning and players able to fly through mass destruction.

In general, I wish MMORPGs would try more alternatives to the kill-things-for-experience grind. For example, make crafting a real help to characters, instead of such vapid use. Put more emphasis on economic gain from crafting (with security against gold selling). Enable more types of crafting, like building guild halls or personal homes or castles. Enable dying of items through crafting. Various game makers have tried some of these ideas with varying degrees of success.