Alaron

Sep 082014
 

George_McGovern2About 40 years ago, there was a presidential election. It wasn’t much of a contest; on one side was a popular incumbent who had just signed peace agreements with two other major world powers, while the other had a candidate who barely scraped through his primary. Following the primary, the upstart challenger continued to make several political missteps, dumped his VP candidate for health reasons three days after stating that “he backed him 1000 percent,” and was widely perceived as a lock to lose heavily.

There was no Cinderella story; the challenger did indeed lose the vote by 23 percentage points. That’s not the interesting part. Here’s what is: after the election results were announced, a prominent journalist who supported the challenger was quoted as saying “How could he lose? Everyone I know voted for him!”

The year was 1972; the incumbent was President Richard Nixon, the challenger (pictured here) was George McGovern, and the quote, though more of a paraphrase, is completely real.

(“Alaron, what does an old white guy have to do with an Internet scandal in 2014?” “Shh, I’m expositing.”)

Gamergate

…it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. -Macbeth, Act V, Scene V

In case you’ve (wisely) been ignoring the whole thing, the entire gaming world has been rocked by controversy over…dudes behaving badly. Okay, it’s more than that, but that’s basically what’s been going on. Dudes sexually harassing a female game developer after her ex-boyfriend accuses her of sleeping with game journalists for favorable press. Other dudes sexually harassing a female media critic after she posted a video on Youtube criticizing how women are portrayed in games. Another group of dudes calling in bomb threats to ground a plane because the president of SOE was onboard, and temporarily shutting down PSN, Xbox Live, and Battle.net just because. Someone else, probably a dude, calling in SWAT to raid the house of a popular Youtube streamer.

This has led to counter-dude. Numerous online sites have written tons of editorials criticizing the vicious misogyny and general boorish behavior being shown my those self-identifying as gamers. Several sites took it a step further, however, declaring an “end to gamers,” such as with these editorials on Gamasutra and Ars Technica.

Naturally, the dudes didn’t take this calmly, declaring this wasn’t about misogyny, this was an issue of journalistic ethics and corruption! A guy by the name of InternetArchitect made a few youtube videos making this point, actor Adam Baldwin tweeted out the videos along with the hashtag #Gamergate, and that’s when the Internet exploded.

Dueling Narratives

Here’s the thing. In a lot of these cases, the Gamergate folk have somewhat of a point. (Not the hackers and the SWATters, though, those guys are just assholes.) There’s a legitimate discussion that could be had over whether games journalists are too close to game developers to report ohjectively. Lord knows there’s plenty of examples of game developers crossing the line; from cutting back advertising after receiving a poor review, to a writer being fired for giving a poor review to a title that had prime advertising space; to the 2012 Games Media Awards, where journalists were given free PS3’s, among other things (and subsequent firing of the person who wrote that critical article).

Unfortunately, though, the argument never gets made like that. Gamergate supporters like to complain about a giant “conspiracy.”

The reason many websites have turned off comments, deleted/blocked threads, etc. is not to be gleefully conspiratorial; it’s because the discourse is 80% toxic misogyny. It’s like that Tide commercial; if you have a big stain on your shirt when you get up to speak at the big company presentation, nobody’s going to listen to you, they’re going to sit there and think “Man, if this dude can’t even dress professionally, why should I take his words seriously?”

I’d like to dig a little deeper, though. I think there’s an indictment of our culture to be made here. When insults are your normal discourse, you don’t know what’s professional speech and what’s not, and you don’t know how to have a civilized debate.

Modern Tribalism

Look. I’m in the Army. The attitude, language, and threats that you see people spew online is nothing compared to your average military barracks bay. We (gently) abuse people during basic training deliberately in order to build up a sense of brotherhood. (Or, alternatively, to gauge their level of bullshit tolerance prior to giving them things that go bang bang.) I’m not too far removed from going through a version of that myself, and I see it in my soldiers every day.

What these guys do know, however, is their audience. They give each other shit all the time, but when an officer comes by? “Good evening, sir. What are we talking about? Um, some strategies for doing better at Call of Duty, sir. Roger, sir, we’ll keep it down. Have a good night, sir.” …officer walks away… “Dammit Jones you fu*king faggot you TK’ed me again!” “Haha, pwned you bitch just like I did your mom last week.”

This is not a new thing. I’m sure Roman soldiers pretended their hasta were dicks and poked each other with them too when their superiors weren’t around. They grew up, became those superiors, and similarly got frustrated at their new soldiers who were now pretending their new pila were dicks.

What has changed, however, is the Internet, and how it has connected and divided us at the same time.

Echodit

That journalist I cited in the introduction lived in an early “echo chamber.” Everyone she interacted with had similar opinions and beliefs, so the opinions and beliefs that diverged from the group consensus were automatically rejected.

What the Internet has done, however, is to narrowly cleave groups into thousands or millions of these chambers. Reddit is the perfect example of this. Fan of something? There’s a discussion group dedicated to it! Others exist that have the same tastes you do! There’s never any reason to go anywhere else!

Unfortunately, living in an echo chamber gives you no skills to respond effectively when something challenges those views. Instead, you respond as the group does; harassing the outsider until they go away, and coming up with crazy stories to justify why those outsiders’ views are wrong. Combine that learned behavior with the assumed anonymity of the Internet and you have the perfect recipe for jackassery.

Is there an easy solution? I don’t think so. We’re conditioned to think in terms of fast, instinctive decisions, which games only accentuate. Friend! Enemy! Fight! Run! Somehow, “well, both sides have valid points, let’s talk this through and find consensus” doesn’t enter the gamer consciousness very often.

Kill ‘em with Kindness

I’m not going to propose some bullshit Synthesis ending here that wraps everything up neatly; if there was an easy solution, it would’ve been done already. (Seriously, ME3, come on.)

Most of you are familiar with John Gabriel (Penny Arcade) and his Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. According to the GIFT, it takes 3 A’s: average person + anonymity + audience = fuckwad.

He’s right, but there’s one term missing: acceptance. Fuckwads act like fuckwads because they get away with it. Want to curb the behavior? Start checking it at every turn.

Now, this doesn’t mean stooping to their level and throwing insults; that’s what they’re used to, and that just confirms that this kind of discourse is effective. (That’s partly why this thing is such a ugly mess, because some of the people criticizing the misogynists for their language are condemning them with their own language. Pot, meet kettle?) Instead, find the lever. It might take some work to do, but it’s always there.

Let me share a quick story. I was putting together a public 25-man raid for Onyxia, back in 2009, when she had just been re-designed and was current content. As was my luck, I got one of those; a decked-out raider who insisted on repeatedly wiping the group by feigning death in the egg piles. Other members of the group started berating him, and he laughed at us, calling us “noobs and casuals.” Did I rage at him? No. I found a lever.

I tabbed out to wow-progress, looked up his guild, and found his guild master’s name. Tabbed back and whispered him “Hey, I know XXX, the leader of <Your Guild>. I’ve been logging your actions and chat, and I’ve got it all typed up to send his way. Want me to send it?” Instantly, he shut up, apologized in /raid, apologized privately to me in a reply, begged me not to tell his guild, and dropped group.

Is that going to work every time? Of course not. Sadly, sometimes you can’t reach the lever, or it’s broken. Sometimes it’s a lot of work to find it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is leave and come back another day, because the griefers own the whole map. Do it. Remember, games are supposed to be fun. Stand up to the boors if you can do so lovingly; otherwise withdraw peacefully. Either way, make the point that you won’t tolerate that kind of behavior around you.

And with that, I’m done with ranting about social issues. Anyone up for a game?

 Posted by at 11:54 am
Sep 032014
 

In an effort to shake off the doldrums, a banal post of what I’ve been up to lately.

Hearthstone

I’m still playing and thinking about Hearthstone a fair bit. I’d play more, but the game has a couple of disincentives that’ve caused me to cut back my play time significantly.

First, the ranked mode has two reward “tiers.” Every season, which resets monthly, you can earn a card back by achieving rank 20, which is trivial. After that, the next “reward” isn’t until you reach Legend (aka Rank 0) where you can actually see how you stack up against all the other Legendeers that month. Unfortunately, the grind to get to Legend is pretty rough.

Based on anecdotal data and some math, I figure it takes most between 300-450 games to get to Legend, for those that are capable of achieving it. That roughly correlates to a winrate between 55-60%. (Theoretically, a 50% player could get it, but they’d have to get very lucky from Rank 5-Legend, where the bonus win for winning two games or more in a row goes away.)

If a game averages 10 minutes, that’s 50-75 hours of play. Could I do it? Probably, but I’d have to play exclusively Hearthstone for the entire month. I just don’t see the appeal of something that’s going to reset so quickly.

Second, Blizzard allowed players to buy Naxxramas (the first expansion) with in-game gold. As someone who has most of the cards in the game already, it doesn’t make sense for me to spend money on additional packs when they’ve already revealed 100+ cards coming in the expansion, likely with a new pack type.

Kingdom of Amalur

Remember this company-killer? I played it for a while on Xbox when it came out, but it didn’t hold my interest, due to significant scaling problems. I purchased it for PC during the last sale, and spent an hour getting the “YSA” trainer working to significantly up the difficulty and lower the XP/gold gain.

It’s been wonderful; kind of a Dark Souls-lite, but with quicksaves. All the systems that I ignored the first time I played, like blocking (heh) are now much more relevant, and I’m constantly running low on potions and the gold to buy them. I’m currently stuck on the Maid of Windemere, but I think if I go farm a few alchemy mats, I should be able to buff up enough to burst her down.

WoW

I haven’t touched the live game, and have no real desire to at this point pre-Warlords. Trying to nail down uninterrupted time remains difficult, which eliminates things like challenge modes and raiding. I never did finish Brawler’s Guild, however, so I’d like to give that a go pre-6.0, as well as taking another shot at the Doing It Wrong achievement for Proving Grounds.

As for the beta, it’s been fun, but I’m actively curtailing playing it because, per my usual, I’d like to save the discovery process for the live realms. Pretty much, all I’ve done is create premade druids for testing abilities. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ll be doing a full guide for feral for 6.0, as well as short guides for the other 3 druid specs. With stats being shared between gear, it’ll be easier than ever for druids to respec, so I need to teach myself how to be fluid (TM) again. :)

Site Updates

Last but not least, I’m poking around at updating the blog. WordPress 4 will be released soon, and with that, I’m looking to make some improvements to readability. Don’t really have a clear idea as to what I’ll be doing yet theme-wise, so you may see a few things change if you’re visiting the blog directly and not subscribing via a feed. Always interested in suggestions, so send them in.

I also need blogroll updates! If you have a druid blog (or there’s one you read regularly), then I want to know about it so I can plug them in. I’ll also take any general WoW sites, anything you think is cool. Let me know!

 Posted by at 4:47 pm
Aug 142014
 

EDIT: Didn’t realize it, but November will be WoW’s 10th anniversary, and WoW was released on Warcraft I’s 10th anniversary, so it makes sense they’d keep that going. If this keeps up, we’ll see WoW 2 in November 2024.

13:20 That’s it, folks. Some quick mental math gives us 428 days (ish) between 5.4’s release and the expansion, which will rate as the longest time between tiers ever. So much for attempting to avoid that. (ICC was 343, Dragon Soul was 301.)

13:17 November 13th, 2014 listed at end of trailer!

13:12 WoD cinematic trailer starting.

13:11 Metzen gives a shoutout to the guy who was first in line to get in to the theater, awkward camera zoom ensues.

13:10 Gameplay trailer over, Metzen back out to introduce the cinematic trailer.

13:08 Leeroy Jenkins sighting!

13:06 Blizzard really needs to stop showing in-game NPC swordplay in the trailers, as it just looks ridiculous.

13:05 Watters back out, gameplay trailer coming up.

13:03 Four more LoW eps coming out. Showing teaser now.

13:02 Cinematic over. Nice Metzen line, “No more whimsical pandas!”

13:00 (LoW) If only jump attacks worked as well in real life as they do in cinema.

12:59 (LoW) Maraad pressuring Varian, okay. whatever. Setup to talk about Kargath.

12:57 First episode of Lords of War (animated shorts) starting.

12:55 Lost connection for a sec.

12:54 Metzen asking how many people saw Burdens of Shaohao, says it went well. (Note: he didn’t say it was “popular.”)

12:53 Chris Metzen comes out to introduce the new animated series. Must every presenter do a Horde/Alliance shoutout?

12:52 Some talk about the new version of Draenor.

12:51 Temporary Level 90 version of UBRS. Cool!

12:50 6.0 patch – initial Iron Horde invasion to Blasted Lands and UBRS, you respond.

12:48 Back to Hazzikostas talking about the Dark Portal. Ion, you lost the audience at “existential.”

12:47 Mild crowd response to being able to loot Ashran Fragments from other players.

12:45 More on Ashran, the tech to keeps things faction balanced, and some of the cool abilities they give to classes. I’m not much of a PvPer, but PvEvP (if that’s a thing) is something I enjoy, so I might give it a shot.

12:43 Holinka now talking Ashran PvP. Comparing it to the long-running AV’s of yore.

12:42 Have to raise an army to defeat the Iron Horde. Yawn. Wake me when I can take my army into the raid zone.

12:40 Talking about cleaning up action bars, better graphics. Very ho-hum so far.

12:39 Talking up the boost to lvl 90. (EDIT: Nobody ever gets stuck in Grizzly Hills, that zone was awesome.)

12:38 Waters brings out Holinka and Hazzikostas.

12:36 Back to the call outs of Horde and Alliance, yawn.

12:34 Mike Morhaime out in an interesting shirt. Blue stripe down the right-hand side, mmkay. Looks like a Windows 8 Snap.

12:34 First accidental calling it Worlds of Draenor.

12:33 Chris Watters out to talk now. Also, the person who was responsible for the overuse of ellipses has been sacked.

12:32 That…was a very short cinematic. I’m guessing that’s just the intro.

12:31 War is the lifeblood…yay.

12:30 Lovely ESRB Rating…thanks, guys.

Just happen to have the day off from work at the same time of the cinematic! (Times in EST)

 Posted by at 12:31 pm
Jul 242014
 

Curse-of-Naxxramas-Logo

So, I’ve poked my head into Hearthstone again with the release of the Naxxramas expansion pack. My favored mode  of play remains Arena, so I figured I’d put together all the new cards along with a rough idea as to where they’ll fit in the current tiers, using the liquidhearth tier list for reference. (Remember that not all of these are available yet – about 20% unlock each week and will be available in Arena once they are unlocked. The Hearthstone wiki has the full list of what unlocks when.)

EDIT: I’m tweaking this list as of 26 August. AntiGrav1ty has ranked most of these now as well, so I’ll be adding his ranking along with some additional reasoning. Additions in parentheses.

Best/Excellent

These cards should be picked above all else.


Dark Cultist (Priest, Common, 3 mana 3/4. Deathrattle: Give a random friendly minion 3 Health.)  Similar to an Earthen Ring Farseer, but better. A 3/4 for 3 is great stats, and the health bump is almost always useful, unlike ERS’s battlecry heal. (AG Ranking: 10/10.)

Death’s Bite (Warrior, Common, 4 mana 4/2. Weapon. Deathrattle: Deal 1 damage to all minions.) The middle brother between Fiery War Axe and Arcanite Reaper. The deathrattle is generally good due to all of Warrior’s enrage/pump cards. Great card, but remember you need minions too. (AG Ranking: 9/10.)

Kel’Thuzad (Legendary, 8 mana 6/8. At the end of the turn, summon all friendly minions that died this turn.) Amazing legendary, since you’ve got a good chance to bring back a beefy 6 or 7 drop and win the game. Even if you can’t get an effect that turn, stats are decent and sticking it means you win. Not as good as Cairne, Rags, or Ysera, but probably better than Sylvanas or Onyxia. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Shade of Naxxramas (Epic, 3 mana 2/2. Stealth. At the start of your turn, gain 1/1.) Better than Questing Adventurer since you can choose when he trades. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Sludge Belcher (Rare, 5 mana 3/5. Taunt. Deathrattle: Summon a (1/2) slime with taunt.) Like Stampeding Kodo, the killer of two-drops. (AG Ranking: 7/8.)

Spectral Knight (Common, 5 mana 4/6. Can’t be targeted by spells or Hero powers.) Faerie Dragon‘s big brother. Solid but unexciting card. (AG Ranking: 9/10. Probably my biggest whiff calling this average. This thing is a beast.)

Good

Not good enough to plan your deck around, but everything in this category is a strong choice.


Anub’ar Ambusher (Rogue, Common, 4 mana 5/5. Deathrattle: Return a random friendly minion to your hand.) A less controlled version of the Ancient Brewmaster. For most classes, it doesn’t work too well, but as a Rogue card, it’s pretty sweet because you’re likely to have either nothing or a comboable card hanging around. (AG Ranking: 7/10. Demoted to good. Rogues frequently play more aggro than other classes in arena, and AA can kill your tempo.)

Echoing Ooze (Epic, 2 mana 1/2. Battlecry: Summon exact copy of this minion at the end of the turn.) Great card. It’s basically a 2/4 for 2 by itself, and is an incredible combo with buffs. Only downside is it’s not very impactful. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Haunted Creeper (Common, 2 mana 1/2. Deathrattle: Summon two 1/1 Spectral Spiders.) Good card, basically a cheaper Harvest Golem. A bit harder to use, however, since you typically won’t be able to trade with it by itself. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)

Loatheb (Legendary, 5 mana 5/5. Battlecry: Enemy spells cost (5) more next turn.) Better than Harrison Jones, not as good as Sylvanas. Mages HATE him. (AG Ranking: 4/7.)

Webspinner (Hunter, Common, 1 mana 1/1. Deathrattle: Add a random Beast card to your hand.) Free card for 1 mana, can’t beat that. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)

Average

These cards are either meh or have a strong downside to go with their upside.


Duplicate (Mage, Common, 3 mana. Secret: When a friendly minion dies, put 2 copies of it in your hand.) I prefer Arcane Intellect for card draw, which is effectively what this is. (AG Ranking: 6/10. AG ranks this 6 and AI 7, which is pretty much what I think. bumped up to Average.)

Feugen (Legendary, 5 mana 4/7. Deathrattle: If Stalagg also died this game, summon Thaddius.)
Stalagg (Legendary, 5 mana 7/4. Deathrattle: If Feugen also died this game, summon Thaddius.)  Essentially blank since the odds of seeing both Feugen and Stalagg in the same Arena game are virtually nil. A 5 mana 4/7 is a solid card, though, and worth taking for stats alone. Stalagg’s 7/4 is not as good, and should be considered Average. (AG Ranking: 3/8 for Feugen, 1/8 for Stalagg. Huh. I don’t think they’re THAT bad. Is Stalagg worse than Nat Pagle, Captain Greenskin, and Lorewalker Cho? Is Feugen worse than Baron Geddon? Still, demoted to Average.)

Maexxna (Legendary, 6 mana 2/8. Destroy a minion damaged by this minion.) It would be a great common, but it’s just an average legendary since it has no immediate impact on the board. Likely to get silenced and ignored. (AG Ranking: 4/7.)

Zombie Chow (Common, 1 mana 2/3. Deathrattle: Restore 5 Health to enemy hero.) A much worse version of Flame Imp. Great early-game card, terrible late-game. (AG Ranking: 7/10.)

Poor

These cards are generally situational; there are better all-round options.


Avenge (Paladin, Common, 1 mana. Secret: When one of your minions dies, give a random friendly minion 3/2.) This card is great from a mana perspective, but requires you to have 2 minions on board, does nothing against people attacking you directly, etc. Better than the other Paladin secrets, but still not that great. (AG Ranking: NR.)

Dancing Swords (Common, 3 mana 4/4. Deathrattle: opponent draws a card.) This an interesting card, basically an inverted Gnomish Inventor. I’m still undecided as to whether the board control is worth the card draw, so it’s here by default for now. (AG Ranking: 3/10. Agreed, demoted to Poor.)

Deathlord (Rare, 3 mana 2/8. Taunt. Deathrattle: Your opponent puts a minion from their deck into the battlefield.) This card is tailor-made for dealing with aggro decks. The downside is giving your enemy a free Mindgames. People tend to pick big creatures in Arena so not a fan of the odds here. A bit better for Priest who has some nice combos. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Nerub’ar Weblord (Common, 2 mana 1/4. Minions with Battlecry cost (2) more.) 1 attack does you no good and the ability hurts you just as much as the enemy. Pass. (AG Ranking: 3/10. Promoted to Poor because you can play around the ability a bit better than your opponent.)

Nerubian Egg (Rare, 2 mana 0/2. Deathrattle: Summon a 4/4 Nerubian.) Normally this would be down in Terrible land with the other gimmick cards like Ancient Watcher, but AoE sweepers are so common in Arena that this will almost always get popped. A bit better in Paladin/Shaman/Druid due to multiple buff cards, and Warlock due to self-harm cards. (AG Ranking: 3/8.)

Reincarnate (Shaman, Common, 2 mana. Destroy a minion, then return it to life with full health.) This card has so many possibilities. Combo with a charge minion is my favorite, but can restore divine shields, trigger deathrattles on command, be a minion heal, debuff, etc. That said, it still doesn’t actually do anything on its own. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Stoneskin Gargoyle (Common, 3 mana 1/4. At the start of your turn, restore this minion to full health.) This card is either amazing or useless. Like the Egg, probably only worth it for Paladin/Shaman/Druid. (AG Ranking: 2/10.)

Unstable Ghoul (Common, 2 mana 1/3. Taunt. Deathrattle: Deal 1 damage to all minions.) A mini-abomination. Not worth it for 2 mana, though Warrior could make it work. (AG Ranking: 4/10. Promoted to Poor because it effectively works as a 2/3 Taunt, which is okay.)

Voidcaller (Warlock, Common, 4 mana 3/4. Deathrattle: Put a random Demon from your hand into the battlefield.) With Warlock hero power, you’ll likely have at least one Demon in your hand, and summoning one this way lets you skip the nasty Battlecries. Would be higher if it wasn’t for the crappy stats. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Terrible

Extremely situational cards that should be avoided.


Baron Rivendare (Legendary, 4 mana 1/7. Your minions trigger their Deathrattles twice.) There aren’t enough Deathrattles in the commons to make picking this card worth it. A worse Mogu’shan Warden. (AG Ranking: 1/7.)

Mad Scientist (Common, 2 mana 2/2. Deathrattle: Put a Secret from your deck onto the battlefield.) In general, this card is terrible. If you’ve already picked at least 1 Secret, though, his value jumps all the way up to Good. (AG Ranking: 2-3/10.)

Poison Seeds (Druid, Common, 2 mana. Destroy all minions and summon 2/2 Treants to replace them.) Dead card if you’re ahead, doesn’t do enough when behind, doesn’t fit the class archetype, terrible card art. Seeing a trend here? I hate this card. (AG Ranking: 3/10.)

Undertaker (Common, 1 mana 1/2. Whenever you summon a minion with Deathrattle, gain 1/1.) Not enough Deathrattles. Skip it. (AG Ranking: 1/10.)

Wailing Soul (Rare, 4 mana 3/5. Battlecry: Silence your other minions.) Constructed card only, not worth the downside. (AG Ranking: 3/8.)


That’s all 30! Peering into my crystal ball, I expect Priests to make a comeback in Arena with lots of new synergies available to them; couldn’t tell you about the other classes fow now. Have fun at the tables!

 

 Posted by at 10:49 am
Jul 222014
 

In case you missed all the banners and announcements and such, the first Hearthstone expansion pack, Curse of Naxxramas, went live today. The first wing is free, so it’s worth checking out. Playing against Maexxna, I was reminded of the old Scourge chat log from WOTLK days. Here’s an excerpt (the whole thing is here, go check it out)

 

***User “theLichKing” has entered the chat.***

[theLichKing]: Hey

[theLichKing]: Anyone there?

[theLichKing]: *drums fingers*

***User “Kel’Thuz4d” has entered the chat.***

[theLichKing]: Hey man.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: my liege

[theLichKing]: Listen, there’s this thing I need you to do for me

[Kel’Thuz4d]: anything my liege

[Kel’Thuz4d]: what army must i lay to waste

[Kel’Thuz4d]: whose lands shall i decimate for ur glory

[theLichKing]: Um, yeah, I’m good on decimation for today. We’re going to hold off on the decimation for, like, a week or so.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok?

[theLichKing]: I was thinking. How much trouble do you think it would be to have a thermostat installed in the Throne Room?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: …

[Kel’Thuz4d]: y?

[theLichKing]: It’s really really cold in here.

[theLichKing]: I’m Lord of the Scourge. I think I should get a thermostat.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no its a frozen throne

[theLichKing]: Right

[theLichKing]: See that’s exactly what I’m talking about. The throne is frozen. The chair that I sit on all day? Literally a block of ice.

[theLichKing]: It is so very, very cold.

[theLichKing]: I actually cannot over-emphasize how cold I am on a daily basis.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: but its supposed to be frozen

[Kel’Thuz4d]: its the source of ur power

[theLichKing]: About that. Can I get my power transferred to some other source?

[theLichKing]: Something that isn’t made out of ice that I then have to literally sit on?

[theLichKing]: Someone dropped the ball there.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok so like what should it be then

[Kel’Thuz4d]: like a ring?

[theLichKing]: A ring?

[theLichKing]: Seriously, a ring.

[theLichKing]: Do you _read_ history?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: so what then

[theLichKing]: I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Maybe an armoire.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: armor?

[theLichKing]: No, not armor. An armoire. The furniture.

[theLichKing]: Oh but speaking of armor

[theLichKing]: I have skulls on my kneecaps.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ok?

[theLichKing]: No, it is _not_ okay.

[theLichKing]: I have skulls.

[theLichKing]: On my _kneecaps_.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: well for the thermostat i think u need approval from a supervisor

[Kel’Thuz4d]: ill just get kiljaeden in here and well sort it out

[theLichKing]: No!

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no its cool

[theLichKing]: No, don’t…

[theLichKing]: Ugh, my old boss. I hate this guy.

[theLichKing]: Ok I’ll just…I’ll act casual. Like old times.

***User “Killzone’jaeden” has entered the chat.***

[Killzone’jaeden]: This had better be important.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah lich king here just wants a warmer throne room is all

[Killzone’jaeden]: Warmer?

[theLichKing]: No it’s really not necessary sir

[Killzone’jaeden]: You want a warmer throne room?

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah

[theLichKing]: No

[Kel’Thuz4d]: yeah he does

[theLichKing]: I really don’t.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Ok sure let me just get right on that

[Killzone’jaeden]: I actually know these guys, they’re really great, literally made out of fire

[Killzone’jaeden]: They could heat your room right up for you

[Killzone’jaeden]: They’re called the Burning Legion…why don’t I just invite them to Azeroth so they can come and

[Killzone’jaeden]: OH WAIT

[Killzone’jaeden]: Someone’s too busy being Chatty Cathy to PREPARE HIS WORLD FOR AN APOCALYPSE

[theLichKing]: So sorry sir

[Kel’Thuz4d]: hey cmon though its not like weve just been sitting around

[Kel’Thuz4d]: were spreading plague and stuff

[Kel’Thuz4d]: we totally spread a lot of plague

[Kel’Thuz4d]: and dont forget the spider war

[theLichKing]: Actually I wouldn’t mention that…

[Killzone’jaeden]: Oh yes. The “Spider War.”

[Killzone’jaeden]: The “war” where you spent ten years getting rid

[Killzone’jaeden]: OF SPIDERS

[Killzone’jaeden]: Check it out, I had a Mosquito War last night. Mosquito lands on me, I squish it. Done. Two seconds.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Didn’t take me ten years

[Killzone’jaeden]: BECAUSE I’M NOT AN IDIOT

[theLichKing]: Yes sir

[theLichKing]: Very sorry sir.

[theLichKing]: I’m on it.

[Killzone’jaeden]: Y’know what, you know who else might want to hear about this

[Killzone’jaeden]: Maybe I shold get Sargeras in here

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sure

[theLichKing]: NO! That’s not necessary

[Killzone’jaeden]: Hold on I’ll go get him.

***User “Killzone’jaeden” has left the chat.***

[theLichKing]: ARE YOU CRAZY

[theLichKing]: “Sure”? Do you know who Sargeras actually is??

[Kel’Thuz4d]: i think so hes alliance right

[theLichKing]: …

[Kel’Thuz4d]: horde?

[theLichKing]: *headdesk*

***User “An00b’arak” has entered the chat.***

[An00b’arak]: hay guise whats goin on in dis chat

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sup

[An00b’arak]: sup

[Kel’Thuz4d]: sup

[An00b’arak]: sup

[Kel’Thuz4d]: whaaaazzzzaaaaaap

[An00b’arak]: what are yoooooou doing

[theLichKing]: GUYS

[theLichKing]: SERIOUSLY

[An00b’arak]: whats his problem

[Kel’Thuz4d]: hes cold

[An00b’arak]: well yeah he sits on a frozen throne inside of icecrown glacier with a sword named frostmorn

[An00b’arak]: the name icecrown glacier can only imply that among glaciers, which are themselves made of ice, this one is especially icy

[An00b’arak]: its possible there is some coldness involved

[theLichKing]: _Thank_ you!

[theLichKing]: Ok, so install me a thermostat pl0x.

[Kel’Thuz4d]: uh boss ixnay on asking him to install stuff

[An00b’arak]: what is that supposed to mean??

[Kel’Thuz4d]: uh

[An00b’arak]: oh i get it

[An00b’arak]: bc im an arachnid?????

[An00b’arak]: and how could i possibly install a thermostat without thumbs

[An00b’arak]: racist

[Kel’Thuz4d]: no no no

[Kel’Thuz4d]: well ok yeah how would that actually work

[An00b’arak]: im sure i dont know…im just an arachnid

[An00b’arak]: guess what im not ashamed of what i am

[An00b’arak]: >8< spider pride

***User “An00b’arak” has left the chat.***

 

 Posted by at 4:06 pm
Jul 102014
 

With my move complete(-ish, opening boxes in RL is much less fun then in-game), I’ve had some time to check back into the gaming scene. With the majority of my guild hooked on Wildstar and tons of people singing its praises on Twitter, I figured it was worth a shot. Thanks to a Guest Pass hookup from @vosskah, I’ve been playing extensively for the past week. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much here to convince me this game will survive long-term.

Annoying/weird animations, especially female

All I wanted was a cool Stalker (aka Rogue). I came away from an hour of character creation wondering exactly what the Carbine animators were going for, as every race had at least one animation that just looked bizarre, especially the stealth movement animations. As for the females…well, let’s say that every female character (excepting Aurin) has Sir Mix-a-Lot jiggle, which probably plays well with a younger demographic but to me just feels totally tasteless. There’s no way, as a happily married man, that I could play Wildstar with a female character and live.

Tone-deaf storylines

A lot of people skip WoW’s quest text and go right for the killing of the ten whatsits, but there’s generally a very coherent storyline to be found for each zone. Humor is there in the occasional quest, but in general, things are played pretty straight.

Borderlands (and especially Borderlands 2) is the opposite. It goes for maximum zany/crazy, gleefully subverting plot elements at every turn. It works because you know nothing is serious, with makes the few elements that ARE played straight more impactful.

I bring up these two games because Wildstar can’t decide which approach it wants to go for. The Dominion are cartoonishly evil; hell, you’re (minor spoiler) pressing buttons to execute groups of people within the first five minutes. That’s almost preferable to the Exiles, though, who get the sterotypical and insufferable cowboy/environmental archetypes. I get that it’s not worth writing a good storyline when most people skip it, but I can hardly remember the zones I just played through, which is not a good sign. I’m sure lots of people will tell me “it gets better later,” but as it stands, I just can’t see myself identifying with any of the characters.

Unsupportable PvE endgame

A lot of people are calling it a World of Warcraft clone…and it is, but it’s a bit more complicated then that. The vision for WoW pivoted significantly after the Burning Crusade expansion to making the game more accessible to a wider audience, as anyone who remembers the frequent invocations of “bring the player, not the class” can attest. Wildstar looks to revert that change, as this 12-step(!) guide to attuning for the first raid shows.

While this gives you the opportunity to design more…unique…challenges, it also means that you’re significantly limiting your audience to the more hardcore players. This works for a game like EvE because of its sandbox nature, but I foresee Carbine having great difficulty pushing out PvE content updates at the speed demanded by said-hardcore players. THAT means subscription numbers falling off drastically, which means the client will eventually be free to drive subscription sales. Lock it in – I’m predicting at least levels 1-20 will be F2P within a year.

Now, Wildstar does have a lot going for it. The Path system, in where you pick one of four sub-classes (Explorer, Scientist, Settler, or Soldier) to give you bits of extra content in each zone, is clever and reasonably well done. Addons are well-supported out of the box. Challenges spice up questing a good bit, tossing in random jumping puzzles and timed-kill bonuses. The combat system itself is also very well done – being able to see and dodge enemy attacks remains fun.

Overall – the game is competent, but in today’s PC gaming environment where competent games are nearly given away, it needed to be more, and it doesn’t quite get there. If you’re playing with a good group, it’s fine…but then, if you’re playing with a good group, all of the major MMO’s are fine, so pick your flavor and have fun. :)

 Posted by at 7:06 pm
Jun 052014
 

Still around and kicking. Without going into too much detail, I’ve been selected for a new position in a different location that requires working with sensitive material. As such, I’ve been keeping things quiet until I get established at my new assignment and get the lay of the land. Don’t think anyone’s’ missed much, since as far as I can tell, WoW’s exactly the same as when I left it.  (I’ll quote Azuriel here and express incredulity that 7 million people are still playing a game that hasn’t seen any content updates since September.)

 

 Posted by at 4:43 pm
Apr 032014
 

Shortpost to let those who’ve asked know that I’m fine. I was about 1/4 mile away from where the shooting went down; the alert sounded, we locked the doors, sat down and watched the news like everyone else. Didn’t know the guy or anyone involved.

 Posted by at 10:16 am
Apr 012014
 

In case you missed it, Tinderhoof wrote the feral class guide for Wowhead. A good start for those who are new to the class. Really appreciate how it breaks down how X rotation is for new people, while Y rotation is for experts…too many people jump right to GIEF MAX DPS ROTATION PLOX with no consideration of the complexities involved.

 Posted by at 1:06 am
Mar 202014
 

Last weekend, my wife was out of town visiting family, so I had the unexpected chance to pretty much do nothing but play games all day. I played a good bit of Diablo 3 and realized two things: first, the changes made in ver2.0 fix the vast majority of what’s wrong with the game; second, the fact that it’s still permanently online for single-player (and laggy/flaky, when I was playing)  makes me still not want to play it. Eventually, I decided to attempt to trim down my Steam indie game backlog as much as possible by trialing as many games as I could. Here’s what I thought, in no particular order:

Sequence Okay, I cheated on the first one; I just replayed Sequence because I played it pre-Steam cards. Still an amazing game (it’s a DDR-like rhythm game with RPG progression) and you can pick it up for a buck during the current Humble Bundle sale. Highly recommended.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons This game reminds me quite a bit of the movie Lost in Translation–critics and auteurs call it a masterpiece, but I just call it a nice nap. Seriously, this game has a very distinct narrative tone and focus, but after finishing it (it’s short, took me about 3 hours), I didn’t feel touched, I felt “well, that’s over.” I admire the dedication to the setting to have the characters speak a gibberish language, but it sure didn’t help my immersion any. I’d rather go back and play Ico instead.

Gone Home Now, THIS is how you tell a story. The genre can best be described as “first-person story;” the story starts and ends with you exploring a house and learning about the lives of the occupants. The story itself is a bit trite, but the attention to detail is amazing; just about every object in the house can be picked up and examined, and has setting-appropriate art. There’s no action whatsoever, but if you love storytelling and/or metafiction, this game’s got it.

Bionic Commando Rearmed I never played the original, but after hearing it frequently referenced and seeing good reviews of the remake, I figured I’d try it. Not bad, but I have to feel comfortable with a platformer’s controls to have any enjoyment, and I was still struggling with the grappling hook after more than an hour. Uninstalled.

Thomas Was Alone This game doesn’t look like much, but it’s surprisingly well-polished. Sure, all you’re doing is moving around shapes to fit them into various holes, but they’re all voiced by charming English accents, and the play itself is solid. Definitely worth a look.

Guacamelee! Remember what I said above about solid platformer controls? Guacamelee nails it. One of the best Metroidvania-style games I’ve played in a long time. Fairly difficult, though.  Definitely a game I’m coming back to.

Starseed Pilgrim This game falls into the newish genre of “the game is figuring out how to play the game.” I figured out how to play it, and didn’t like it much. Worth a look if you’re into procedurally-generated stuff, otherwise, stay away.

A Valley Without Wind I think every game designer has this dream where they have unlimited time and money to add as many features into their games as they want, and never have to cut anything. This platformer  feels like the result of that dream. It’s kinda like Terraria, except there’s no building, and there’s no fun. Sure, there’s 27 million things to do, but if your game doesn’t pass the basic “is it fun?” test, there’s not much point.

A Virus Named TOM I got a good chuckle out of this game’s art. It’s a puzzle game, though, with a mechanic we’ve all seen before (spin the tiles to connect the pipe…err, “circuits”). Not my thing.

Antichamber This is a Portal-ish first-person puzzler, and yet another game where you have to discover the rules (and then figure out which rules can currently be broken). It’s good, but at the time I played it, it just made my brain hurt.

Rock of Ages I totally dig the style of the game. The concept is simple; you and an opponent roll boulders down a steep hill, attempting to smash down their gate. While “reloading,” you have the opportunity to set up defenses to slow/shrink the enemy boulder. Sounds great; unfortunately, the decision to do everything in real-time makes it hard to get feedback on how well everything is going. When you’re rolling your boulder, you get a picture-in-picture view of your opponent’s boulder so you can sort of see how your defenses worked out, but you’re likely too busy dodging your opponent’s defenses to notice. I played a few matches, won/lost and had no idea why I won/lost, and then stopped.

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians I like games with music/rhythm elements (Pata-Pata-Pata-PON!). This game – not so much. It seems like they started out trying to make a music-based puzzle platformer, struck out, and ended up with a music-themed puzzle platformer. It’s not terrible, but ir’s kinda generic, and I quit after one level. Definitely worth a look if you’re into electronic music.

Hack, Slash, Loot Install, Try, Uninstall. A very bad roguelike. I see no reason to play this when there are other strictly better roguelikes out there.

Paranautical Activity I’m not really into FPS’s, though I play a few from time to time. This is a roguelike FPS; pretty much first-person Binding of Isaac (which I greatly enjoyed, btw).  For what it’s worth, it seemed pretty well designed, but after dying on the (randomly generated) first level repeatedly, decided that this was not the game for me.

Master Reboot Of all the games on the list, this is the one that I have no idea how to categorize. It’s a first-person…exploration? Puzzle? Horror? Mystery? All of these. The sound design is GREAT. Unfortunately, the graphics frequently cross the line from “darkly symbolic” to “looks like shitty first-generation 3D” and it seemed pretty buggy. Good concept and story but could have used some more polish.

Retrovirus Hi, Descent! I’ve long wondered why nobody tried to make a modern Descent, which I had a lot of fun with as a kid (only the shareware version, though). Well, this is here, and this is pretty good, but the pacing/level design isn’t as tight as Descent and the sound is meh. As I write this review, I realize I have no idea what happened story-wise; something about a virus that I’m chasing through a computer when I started, then lots of shooting glowy pink bits. Okay, not great.

Space Pirates and Zombies My current jam. I’m massively conflicted about it, really; there’s lots of design nitpicks I could throw at it, but it’s in one of my favorite genres (top-down space shooter/adventure, aka Elite) so I let it get away with a lot.

Yay! So…20ish games down with one or two I’ll come back to, which leaves me with still more than 100. Whee.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 11:54 pm