Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Electronic Gaming Habits

So I briefly covered some of my table-top interests last post.  Today I want to talk about some of the online games that I've played, and that I'm looking forward to.

Lets start with the big one: I played World of Warcraft (WoW) off and on since it launched back in November '04.  And until January of this year, it has been my "go-to" online game of choice.  I've played and abandonded Everquest (I & II), Pirates of the Burning Sea, Final Fantasy 11, Fallen Earth, Tabula Rasa, Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, City of Heroes/Villains, and Champions Online.  I've beta tested several and played the full release of all of them, and they all have one thing in common: I don't play them.  With the exception of WoW, none of these games could hold my interest long term.  Sometimes it'd be an issue of over repetitive quest grinding *cough*City of Heroes/Villains*cough*, or of lack of in depth content *cough*Lord of the Rings Online*cough*.  Not that I plan on throwing games under the bus....but yeah, that's exactly what going to happen here.

Let me get back to talking about why I finally left WoW.  Up until the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard had done a fairly good job - not great not excellent, just good - of providing a fairly balanced game world with appropriately balanced quests, monsters, gear, "end-game" grinding, etc.  Once Lich King launched all that flew right out the window.  The exponential curve that came between levels 60 and 70 with Burning Crusade became an 80° slope between levels 70 and 80 in Lich King.  And the difference between someone who just popped level 80 and someone who'd been doing "end-game" (aka - heavy raiding) was simply astounding.  If you want to get into the nitty gritty of hitting "hit cap" and "soft cap" and "defense rating" and all that junk go talk to someone else.  WoW made sense to me back before Burning Crusade came out when a stat provided multiple bonuses without the need for specialized bonuses.

In addition, WoW just stopped being fun.  Once you hit 80 all there is to do is either PvP or raiding.  If you've concentrated on gathering tons of PvP weapons and armor than you stand a pretty good shot of winning almost constantly.  Or if all you do is raids then you fall into one of two groups - those who raid, and those who want to raid.  And the folks that raid don't give a good gorram about folks that don't or that want to.  You cannot get help from heavy raiders on getting into a raid if you don't have a gear score of a certain number.  Which is in itself pretty stupid.  Someone who has no strategy on play style for their character can still accumulate a wealth of gear and maintain a high gear score, while someone who can play their character better than anyone else will get passed over due to a lack in gear.  And this is the root of the problem with Lich King and why its broken:  the sheer difference in gear at "new" 80 vs "old" 80 is insurmountable.  The only hope I have for WoW in the future is that the new expansion due out sometime this year wipes the slate clean.  All gear, all stats, all classes get reset to achieve something the game hasn't had since before Burning Crusade - balance.

So at about the last part of January I finally heeded the siren song and got in on the last week of the open Beta for Star Trek Online.  I've been playing it pretty happily since.  Its not perfect, but the key thing here is that I'm having fun - something I stopped having in WoW a long time ago.  Its pretty straight forward regarding game play.  The most complicated thing about the game is the skill system for your character.  The folks at Cryptic didn't really do that good of a job in explaining how the skill system works, and what skills will cascade into future skills as you progress in rank.  But I'm sure I'll roll another character after I reach Admiral since I'll have made some mistakes with my first character.  And yes, I'm one of those folks that wants to play a character all the way to the end before starting over so that I limit the amount of screwing up I do to my characters.  I should note here that until STO launched, my favorite game to date had been Pirates of the Burning Sea.  The ship to ship combat was beautiful and was executed flawlessly.  If they had ever ironed out all the kinks with avatar-to-avatar or avatar-to-world interaction I'd probably still be playing it now.  But alas, Pirates seems to be dying the slow death.  I got an email announcing that Flying Lab is closing two more servers this past week.  Alas for such a fun game.  Flying Lab really needed to make their environments more interactive - if you're coming into port and its 3am, it really shouldn't be daylight anywhere in the world.  That's not asking too much is it?  Honestly that is something that Cryptic needs to get a hold on too - interactive environment.  But as the game (STO) is only in the first month of full launch, the jury will stay out for quite some time.  Like when you uncork a bottle of wine, you need to let a new MMO breathe for a bit before you say its a winner/loser.  The developers keep popping up on the forums giving out tidbits of info about what new things are coming in future updates, and I honestly can't wait for some of these things to roll out.  So for now, I'll be sticking with STO until further notice.

Currently I've signed up for the beta for two other MMOs that interest me - Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Final Fantasy 14.  Finally the Final Fantasy MMO is going to get a much earned face lift, and hopefully Square Enix will work out a few of the game play bugs that persist in FF11.  Star Wars: The Old  Republic looks simply amazing.  BioWare is at it once again with their crack team of writers and programmers, and all of the clips I've seen of game play and cut scenes just blow my mind.  More than any other MMO slated to release in the next year or two, its SW:TOR that I'm anticipating the most.  For one big reason: when I make a decision on what my character does/says - now think about that for a minute; every other MMO I've played "provides" responses for your character to "say" in social interaction with NPCs, and typically it doesn't matter what you say - the game notes the response and acts accordingly.  The in game example of this was provided by BioWare when they announced the Sith Warrior class.  The Sith was on a transport ship and was in a bit of a verbal altercation with the captain, as the captain did not follow his orders.  The player then noted all the responses that he could enact - one of which was killing the ship captain - and showing how the game would react to whichever decision was made.  It made me giggle...don't judge me.

I'm also anticipating the release of two non-MMO games at some point.  Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2.  Yeah I like Blizzard, they make good products.  A few years ago at GenCon I was lucky enough to play some SC2 and it was a blast.  But for every step forward that Blizzard seems to make with that game, they take five steps back.  So at this point I'm less excited about SC2, and more just wanting to have it and play it so I'm no longer waiting.  Kinda like when you have a doctor appointment that you need to go to, but you're just wanting to get it over with so you can go on with your day.  Diablo 3 is starting to get that way with me too.  I guess that I'm just tired of Blizzard stringing me along for years on end.  Oh well, who am I kidding?  I drank that Kool-Aid years ago.

Alright kids, thats enough for tonight.

Bonzo out.

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