Snap Judgment – Kritika Online

I alluded to trying out Kritika Online in my last post, so I thought I would write a bit about it. For one thing, I want to have a post to link to later in the year for my “Game/MMORPG of the Year” post, and for another thing, Friday is looming, and I don’t have anything to post yet.

I downloaded and played Kritika on November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving.  I uninstalled it the same day.

Nevertheless, I will try to think of some positive things to say about this game.

  • It was free.
  • It successfully installed on my PC.
  • It did not crash.

I’m aware that just completing those three things is a major accomplishment for any game developer these days. It is not lost on me that real human beings put in a lot of time and energy to make this game, and I’m sure they are very proud of their accomplishment, and they should be proud of it.

But I’m not the right target audience for it.

According to Syp’s MMO Timeline (an invaluable resource), Kritika Online launched in September. I was reminded about the game on a recent MassivelyOP podcast because The Psion class had just been released. I had heard about this game once or twice before, but it did not even make my Games On My Radar 2017 post. So it was largely unknown to me.

That might be because this is not an MMORPG at all. At least not what I would call an MMORPG. In terms of player interaction, it is more like Guild Wars 1, which I also would not call an MMORPG (now) either. Other connected players can only be seen in very small “hub” areas before you go off into instances by yourself, or presumably in coop groups. The instances are known as “danger zones” in Kritika Online. They are a bit like dungeons, except about 1/10th the size: You follow along a path, kill trash mobs, and then confront a boss at the end.

To be fair, the “About” page for Kritika Online does not make any claim that it’s an MMORPG or even an MMO for that matter. It describes itself as a “3D RPG.”

Personally, I struggle to even call it an “RPG” because I feel like character customization should be a large component of an RPG, and there is very little to be found in Kritika Online. You pick from one of five gender-locked classes, each of which has a very distinct anime look that you can adjust only a tiny bit. Even more disappointing, equipping new gear in the game does not change your appearance.

Visually, the game looks like a Saturday morning anime cartoon. It sounds like one, too. That design aesthetic unfortunately does not resonate with me.

The game describes itself as a “brawler.” I have no idea what a brawler is, but if this is an example of what brawler combat is like, I find it somewhat lacking in complexity. I played a Gunmage, and I didn’t have to do anything to kill mobs except point in the general direction of the bad guys and click my left mouse button repeatedly. There was no discernible targeting system or crosshair. Just click your left button and things died. For variety, you can also press some number keys and watch things die with different visual effects. There was no gameplay challenge at all in the first half hour.

It seemed so easy that I experimented with pointing 90 degrees away from the enemy, to see if it mattered at all where I was looking when I pressed the left button. It turns out that yes, you do have to point toward the enemy. But there is a good 5-10 degrees of leeway in where you point. You can point far enough to the side that if there was a crosshair, it would clearly miss the target, and still hit the target.

The soundtrack consists of high-energy music with metal-sounding guitar solos. It’s very, very loud, as in highly compressed. It pegged all my meters and I had to turn the “master volume” down for, I think, the first time ever. Certainly the first time on this PC.

In fact, when I first started this game, it launched into a high-energy, super-loud advertisement for the Psion class. This was literally the very first thing I saw when I launched the game, and it looked something like this, but actually went on much longer:

On the character selection screen, each class has its own vignette like the one above that plays in the background while you peruse the class’s capabilities.

This game seems like it would be much more at home running on a cabinet in an early-90s arcade than on my PC.

Did I mention this game is not for me?

I don’t really know who this game is for. Except maybe kids. That’s probably it. This is a kid’s game. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I don’t get it. I have little or no frame of reference for how to evaluate a kid’s game. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t challenging. It wasn’t interesting. It wasn’t engaging in any way. Such things didn’t exist when I was a kid so I can’t even say if I would have liked it back then.

In the end, I played for about 30 minutes–about the length of a Saturday morning cartoon–logged out, and uninstalled it.

The Blogosphere Strikes Back

Image stolen from Wookiepedia. And, you know, that movie.

Tobold recently declared that the MMO blogosphere was dead to him (paraphrasing slightly), so I suppose it’s my duty to point out that we’re still here, sort of.

Tobold was one of the first, if not the first MMORPG blogger I read, way back in the olden days when he talked about Vanilla WoW all the time. He was one of the original models for how I thought a blog should look. Then he sort of lost me in the last five years or so when he started panning every single new MMORPG that came out and embraced the jaded “everything used to be better” schtick and moved into pen-and-paper games. I haven’t read him much since then, but I see most of the titles of his articles going through my feed reader, and it’s hard not to notice one that reads, Is the MMO Blogosphere Still Alive?

Hey, I’m in that!

But by Tobold’s likely definition of “alive” (that is, generating ad revenue and getting free stuff thrown their way), probably not. The only way to get to that level is to a) start ten years ago, and b) embrace controversy early and often (like, say, talking about politics, which I’ve noticed from some EVE bloggers). Otherwise you have to branch out into other mediums like podcasts, streaming, or whatever.

But there are plenty of people still writing about MMOs. And even the subset of MMOs known as MMORPGs. (Here on this blog, the editorial standards are that an “MMO” means something very different from an “MMORPG.”)

I’m not particularly good at maintaining my own blogroll (because it is an incredible pain to manually make a big list of blog links in WordPress–for roughly 10 years I’ve wished for a reliable way to tell WordPress “just get your blogroll from my feed reader list and stick it on the side”), but I think the majority of mine still post relatively often. I also have a list of new blogs in my feed reader that I keep wanting to add to my blogroll.

The thing is, though, most blogs talk about their experiences in-game (including this one). Not very many talk about MMORPGs from a wider or philosophical or meta perspective, as Tobold used to do back in the day. There just isn’t that much to talk about on a daily or even weekly basis, that hasn’t already been said a million times before. I’m struggling to maintain a 3-posts-a-week schedule of interesting material here myself. Thankfully Tobold came along with this “blogs are dead” post to give me something to write about. :)

Most blogs tend to stick with one game, too. I jump around to different games a lot so I’m able to change up topics now and then, but it seems like a lot of people park themselves in one game for years on end. I can’t even imagine doing that, myself.

I think Twitter also cut deeply into a lot of blogging. Once potential bloggers discovered that they could be part of a community of their peers while only having to write 140 characters, instead of 500- or 1000-word articles, I think a lot of people said why bother? I can certainly understand the temptation myself. Why write an entire blog post about Kritika Online when I can tweet:

I can also comment on other stories around the gaming world without the effort of writing an entire post:

Those could have been two entire posts, but I couldn’t think of anything to write other than a sentence or two, so that was that. (I still might do a Kritika Online post, but the difficulty will be to avoid sounding like I’m bashing it to death just because I don’t “get it.”)

Not even mentioning streaming and YouTube, which is effectively blogging without the pesky need for structure and grammar.

So yes, there is still an MMO Blogosphere.

Ugh. This one is going to be hard to find a picture for. Another good reason to focus on in-game experiences–you can just use a handy screenshot!

Belghast also wrote about this.

GW2 – Living World Season 4, Daybreak

This seems like a decent non-spoilery picture for this post because I have no idea what it is or when I took it.

I finished up the Living World Season 4 episode Daybreak over the weekend. This post is going to contain story spoilers, so if you haven’t finished it yet, look away!

My thoughts are pretty similar to Bhagpuss’s.

But I’m going to start with the things I liked about Daybreak.

I really liked the quality of the cut scene at the end of the first chapter, Eye of the Brandstorm, when Aurene showed us that vision. It was one of the best cut scenes produced to date, I think. Naturally, I didn’t understand a single thing in the vision, but it looked neat.

I saw this on Twitter sometime before I reached the end, so the seed was planted in my head and it’s possible this is just some confirmation bias happening, but: Taimi’s voice acting was really good. She seemed like a person with thoughts and feelings instead of the standard cardboard-cut-out “quirky kid on crack.” I am just now reading that she is voiced by Debi Derryberry, or at least she was in Heart of Thorns, the most recent entry for Taimi I can find on IMDB. She is a veteran voice actor, so it makes sense it would be a good performance. (Incidentally, Canach is/was voiced by John DiMaggio aka. Bender!)

There were some good one-liners among the various cast members. Although I’ll be honest, I quickly tire of the jokey-jokey stuff in fantasy games. GW2 especially has a bad habit of using modern Twitter-esque slang in their jokes, which makes it impossible to stay immersed in the Guild Wars universe. (Eg. “It escalated… quickly.” Ha-ha-ha! That’s what millennials say! In those memes!)

I liked that I didn’t die 50,000 times. I was only “defeated” once by the Branded Wyvern, but you respawn literally right next to it so it wasn’t a big deal. The practice I’ve been putting in with my character over this past year has finally paid off! So if you’re coming back to GW2, take heart, because it only takes a solid year of practice before you can have fun again.

I really enjoyed recording my videos for Daybreak.

That’s about it, I think. The rest was a firm “meh” or “what the actual hell.” It’s good fodder for a blog post, though. :) And hey, it was free!

I was very excited to dive into Season 4. It was the first time I’ve been “caught up” enough to play one on launch day since the early days of Season 2 I think. The future looked bright, as I watched the download status bar on Tuesday.

All that optimism died about twenty minutes into the Brandstorm. It’s the same Living World as before.

Gameplay-wise, I thought it was par for the GW2 course. It was more of the same GW2 that we’ve all come to know and despise–I mean, love. Made peace with? Something like that. I was right in my prediction that there would be a ramping up in difficulty from the Path of Fire gameplay. Not as bad as Living World 2 and 3, but definitely harder than the bosses in Path of Fire.

There were no weird new mechanics to deal with, although there were a lot of Branded Crystals inexplicably laying around to pick up. There was a new mastery skill thingy but I never needed it so I guess it wasn’t important for the story. The new map is not bad, although I didn’t spend a huge amount of time exploring it. I don’t care about new achievements or mastery points or whatever. I don’t feel any compulsion to complete all the hearts and vistas and events on this new map, at least not at the moment. (I’m more into Guild Wars 1 right now hehe.) What time I did spend, I enjoyed, though. There were some beautiful sights, particularly around the Astralarium.

I absolutely hated the first chapter of Daybreak, Eye of the Brandstorm. I wrote a lengthy post about it that I’ve since scrapped. The gist of it was that you had to suffer through forty-five continuous minutes of high-energy combat, complete with flashing screen effects and blaring music. Forty. Five. Continuous. Minutes. It was exhausting, and the only real story payoff was Aurene’s vision.

Fortunately I know from Living World experience by now that even if one chapter is awful, it doesn’t mean the entire thing is awful, so I pressed on ahead even though I would have been fine never playing GW2 again after that ghastly abomination that I would rank among some of the worst combat experiences in Guild Wars 2 history. I had to take a day off from the game after Eye of the Brandstorm. Fortunately there were no more combat death marches, although the final boss fight in the last chapter had plenty of annoyances.

Now let’s start the litany of issues I have with the story. In short, they are continuing the Living World tradition of using random dice rolls to structure the plot. “This time we’ll be going to *rolls dice* the City of Fahranur! And the player’s healing companion will be *rolls dice* Rytlock! And the character who will deliver the important dialog will be *rolls dice* Agent Kito! And the surprise appearance will be from *rolls dice* Braham and Rox!”

Speaking of Rytlock, at no point did he use his incredibly powerful flaming sword, which has the power to wipe out huge swaths of enemies. I kind of wish he would accidentally break that sword, just so I won’t constantly look at him for the rest of the life of this game and think, “Would you please help me with that uber-powerful sword??”

I think the first odd thing I noticed is that everyone experienced Aurene’s vision. Previously, I think in Living World Season 3, they established that our character had some kind of special bond with Aurene, so that only we could see her visions. Not anymore, apparently.

At first, it seemed like they were setting up Order of Shadows Agent Kito to be a major new character and our “man on the ground” in Elona, although we barely knew him from Path of Fire. (I had to look up who he was. He had about two lines of dialog near the beginning of Path of Fire, and helped us get from the first map to the second map.) Agent Kito recognized a place in Aurene’s vision as a city called Fahranur (not Faramir), which set up the majority of Daybreak. Then he disappeared again, and so did his dream of becoming a major character. But then, a few chapters later, Agent Kito LITERALLY APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE to deliver a few lines, then vanished again, never to return.

Most of the rest of Daybreak was spent trying to find this city of Fahranur. Why? I have no idea. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik is about to destroy the world, we just had a vivid demonstration of that power in a Brandstorm, but we decided we needed to drop everything to find this city from Aurene’s vision. The only thing I can figure is that we implicitly trust Aurene to know what to do about elder dragons, so we do whatever she tells us, even if it’s vague and obscured in visions. There is also that issue where we’re still waiting for Taimi to figure out how to kill elder dragons without destroying Tyria (she has been working on this since the beginning of Living World Season 3, so no hurry or anything), so I guess we have time to kill chasing down secret cities.

We were told repeatedly that there’s only one person who knows how to get into the city of Fahranur, and his name is Spearmarshal Zaeim (the “Hero of Istan”). We spent quite a lot of time finding this guy. First nobody knew where he was, then we found out he’d been captured by pirates, so we needed to fight a guy to get a coin so we could negotiate with the pirates, then we found out the pirates had already turned him over to Joko, so we had to break him out of prison.

I’ll get to Joko in a bit.

The point is, Spearmarshal Zaeim was supposedly the only way to get into the city of Fahranur, and they dragged out Daybreak for quite some time to drive home this point. Imagine my surprise to see this quest directive up in the corner of the last chapter:

“Find the entrance to Fahranur.”

“Find the entrance to Fahranur,” it said. SPEARMARSHAL ZAEIM IS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO ME! Why can’t he just tell me where the entrance is? Why doesn’t he lead me to the entrance? I’ve literally just spent the last several game hours tracking this guy down for the express purpose of getting into this city!

By that point I had given up on a coherent story, though, and just said, “Whatever.”

Now about Taimi. Again, the game spent quite a few chapters telling us that Spearmarshal Zaeim is the only guy who can get us into this super-secret city of Fahranur. But then out of the blue, at the end of chapter 5, here comes Taimi saying she’s in Fahranur and Joko has her. How did she get into Fahranur before we did? Why was she even trying to get into Fahranur? I thought she was researching how to kill Elder Dragons without destroying Tyria? They never explained that.

Also, why does it always seem to be Taimi who needs to be rescued? She was a bit of a “helpless damsel in distress” character in Daybreak.

Also, how is this Palawa Joko guy able to reprogram Taimi’s golem to suffocate her? Did she not use a strong password on the administrator account? Why can’t she override Scruffy’s defense protocols to tell it not to kill her friends? She was right there. Did Palawa Joko change the password on her? How does a dead lich king know more about programming golems than Taimi, the Prodigy? The more I think about this, the more questions I have. :)

(While editing my video, I noticed that Taimi was surrounded by “Awakened” asura right before the fight, who delivered a difficult-to-hear declaration of war from Elona on Tyria in retribution for “the Commander’s crimes.” I suppose the inference is that those golem-saavy asura are the ones who hacked Taimi’s administrator password and reprogrammed Scruffy. There is no way that I would have been able to figure that out without a video instant replay of the event.)

I thought this weird dialog was inexplicably coming from Scruffy, but I guess it was supposed to be coming from that collective of asura around her.

(While further editing my video, I wondered why Scruffy’s defenses did not activate against Palawa Joko or the Awakened Inquest Asura that hacked her password. They were, uh, formidable.)

Also, why does Taimi have a limp when she’s not in her golem? I noticed that at the very beginning, before the Brandstorm wiped away any interest in the story. Have they ever explained that? Is she disabled?

Okay, now about this Palawa Joko, the character with the name I vote most likely to have been created by a random name generator. It was not at all surprising to find that he had returned from the dead by the end. (Although now that I think about it, I don’t think we ever actually saw him. Only Taimi saw him. So maybe they’re going to pull another one of those it-looks-like-this-one-guy-but-it’s-really-this-other-guy moves like they did with Lazarus.) Every person that we encountered said, “Oh, I recognize your face! Joko is looking for you!” They made a point of having your character say, “Oh, I left Joko back in the Land of the Dead or Whatever, so it can’t be him.” So obviously it’s going to be him.

I don’t have a problem with Palawa Joko as a bad guy or anything, but again, it just seems like a huge, massive distraction from what we should really be focusing on: You know, the huge dragon destroying the world. By the end of Daybreak, Kralkatorrik is completely forgotten, and we’re off and running on Palawa Joko’s plot to send his army of minions to attack Tyria. (Well, at least, I assume that’s what we’ll be doing in the next episode.) It’s like, can ArenaNet please just finish a story? Maybe once? Without getting interrupted by some other seemingly unrelated plot line?

Then again they might tie these two plot lines together at some point. We’re probably going to find out that Palawa Joko is in league with Kralkatorrik, or vice versa, or something. Way, way back at the beginning, before the Brandstorm-of-doom, I think it was mentioned that Kralkatorrik had some “new tricks,” and it seems plausible that Joko could be one of those new tricks.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Braham and Rox literally dropping in out of nowhere to join the fight at the end. By then I was firmly in my “okay, whatever” mode and not really caring what happened in the story anymore. They sort-of-kind-of explained their presence, I guess. Apparently Joko has opened “portals” from Elona to Tyria in order to attack with his armies, and Braham and Rox just happened to find the one portal that led directly to us and our boss fight.

They did not explain why Braham was so mad at the Commander, so I guess anyone who didn’t play Living World Season 3 is probably scratching their heads about that. (*Cough* Braham’s angry outburst from my Living World Season 3 video *cough*).

Oh and one last thing, I’m starting to get on board with Bhagpuss’s conspiracy theory that they are going to bring back Scarlet:

The very end of Aurene’s vision. Who dat?

I think that would be pretty cool actually. I barely even remember her from Living World Season 1. It would be cool if they sort of re-did the first season so we could experience it again. :) From the perspective of recently playing seasons 2, 3, and now 4, I might be prepared to say that season 1 was the best one (even though I barely remember it–I at least remember being excited to play it, as opposed to feeling like the current seasons are mandatory homework).

I’ll be honest: I’m a little worried about Guild Wars 2’s future, given Path of Fire’s poor performance, and ArenaNet’s fairly obvious and unapologetic gambit to try to get people to buy more stuff in the gem store with these mount skins. I don’t think they are doing very well financially, and this game’s days might be numbered, at least under the current business model. So it pains me a little to ding Daybreak. But yeah, it could have been a lot better.

Social Jumping

Shadow added in post to enhance the illusion of height :)

I’m not going to write about how thoroughly exhausted and beaten down I was last night after completing the epic ~45 minute death march of a fight in the first chapter of the first episode of GW2’s Living World Season 4.

Instead I’m going to keep it light and talk about jumping. I saw a remark somewhere in passing about jumping in MMORPGs (apologies but I can’t remember where) which inspired me to write this.

A lot of people jump around a lot in games. I don’t know about anyone else, but I immediately assume the person behind the so-called bunny-hopping behavior has very poor impulse control, is a child under 16, is drunk, is impatient, has no historical appreciation for the real purpose of bunny-hopping in games, or any combination thereof. I only jump in very specific circumstances and very specific ways.

Mainly, of course, I jump if I need to get over an obstacle.

The more emotional or let’s say “social” reasons I might jump are the following:

If another player has done something nice for me while I’m out and about in the world (like helping me kill a mob, or waited patiently for me, or something like that), I will often jump exactly one time as a way of saying, “Thanks.”

If I’m mad about something the game has done to me, I will often run around in circles and jump up and down to simulate a temper tantrum. The avatar looks mad to me during this process. It sort of looks like he or she is stomping their feet.

(Incidentally, Dark Souls allows me to accomplish the opposite maneuver, which is to display happiness: Performing forward rolls in circles, accomplished by moving in a circular pattern and using the dodge-roll button. This is most often displayed after beating a boss. I don’t think there are any MMORPGs where you can do anything like this.)

If I’m in a group and I want to demonstrate the proper place to stand, or draw attention to my location, I will jump up and down a few times.

If I’m in a group, and someone asks if everyone is ready, I will jump once to indicate I’m ready. It’s a visual indicator to the group that I’m at the keyboard.

Sometimes I will jump once as a visual way of saying, “Yay!” For example, after beating a boss or winning a loot roll.

Sometimes I will jump over a shape or line or a rock or a log on the ground just for the fun of it. This is usually done while running from one place to another in a dungeon that I’m very familiar with because there is nothing else to do. In these cases I only jump once at the precise moment required to get over the imaginary obstacle, because I’m an adult.

Sometimes I will jump once at the top of a set of stairs or a slope going down to heroically launch myself higher into the air, or at least so it looks to me. In games that have gliding, this of course gives you a little bit of a longer gliding path.

That’s about all I can think of. I’ve always tried to optimize my finger movements when playing games. :)

I wish game developers would add emotes that are much more subtle than the ones that are usually in games. Every game has “thank you” emotes that I could use instead of jumping, but they are really extravagant bows or salutes–things that I would never do in real life in a million years. I want something like the quick wave of acknowledge you would use when signalling another driver on the road, that is sometimes no more than raising up your fingers a little bit.

Writing versus Story

Bhagpuss said something interesting in his last comment:

In general I think the idea that GW1 had good writing is fanciful. Much though I like Prophecies, the writing is pretty shoddy. I think when people praise the writing they are mainly talking about the plotting, which is fairly coherent. The dialog is mostly stilted and unconvincing, often risible.

First, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “risible” in my entire life. It means laughable, as in, “It’s risible that I’ve never seen the word risible.”

Secondly, he brings up a really good point: Does a good game need good writing?

For myself, when I mentioned that I had heard Guild Wars 1 had a good story, I wasn’t talking about the writing at all. I was talking more about the “immersive experience” or something along those lines. The world, the people in that world, the things those people are doing, and the way that my character interacts with them.

I honestly can’t think of a single RPG I’ve played in over 20 years where I looked at the quest text in a dialog box and thought, “Wow, that’s really good writing.” At best it’s totally transparent to me (which I consider good), or at worst the font is too small to read, it’s full of grammar errors, or it’s an assault of bad puns. Yes, I mean World of Warcraft when I’m talking about the puns.

I mean, I’m sure I must have occasionally thought to myself, “Nice turn of phrase, there.” But it’s so rare that I don’t even remember it.

Actually I can think of one game that I would praise the writing: The Secret World, because those cut scenes are often riveting, but they are more of a combination of good writing and good voice actor performance.

And now that I think about it even more, Lord of the Rings Online consistently has pretty good writing in their quest dialogs, at least in the areas that I’ve played, which is generally up through the Mines of Moria.

I think the issue of writing quality might be a moot point for the upcoming waves of MMORPGs, though. I’m reasonably confident that the days of reading quest text are coming to an end, if they haven’t already ended.

Guild Wars 1??

Since I’m done with Guild Wars 2 until November 28th (I got bored with dailies), I had a crazy idea a few weeks back to re-download and play Guild Wars 1 to have a look at the story. I’ve always heard it’s good.

I own this game. So why not play it? I’m not entirely sure, but I think I own all of the available GW1 content. I originally bought it somewhere around 2011, and later I think I bought all of the expansions sometime after Guild Wars 2 came out when I saw there were some achievements and titles that you could get from linking your accounts or something.

I never got very far in GW1. My highest-level character is a Necromancer that I got to level 17 in the “Prophecies” campaign. I logged into that character and had absolutely no memory of getting to where he was. He was in a place that I knew nothing about, standing in front of a row of henchmen that I didn’t know what to do with.

“You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you all here. Actually, can you explain it to me?”

So I started a new Ranger.

At first, I didn’t care much for the game. It’s clearly from a bygone era, when men were men and MMORPG players used arrow keys to turn and move. You can use the right mouse button to look around (not the left button) but anytime you walk up or down a plane, the camera shifts by itself to compensate, which is very disorienting. I can’t find any way to disable it.

Combat is very much of the “inactive” style. You stand in place and push your hotbar actions until either you are dead or the other guy is dead. As far as I can tell, you can’t do a single thing while you’re moving.

It’s fairly common to get stuck in the terrain. Don’t walk too close to any “edges” or you’ll find yourself rooted in place, bound by invisible forces. Once I tried to make my way to a river, and couldn’t go any farther, so I tried to turn back only to find that my little follower Gwen had blocked me there. I had to stand there until Gwen finally decided to move and free me. I couldn’t even jump up and down in frustration! I’ve tried to stay on the roads and obvious paths since then.

It’s pretty obvious why they decided to make a Guild Wars 2, from a technical perspective.

So with all those complaints you might think I gave up pretty quickly.

Guild Wars 1 actually doesn’t look terrible, either.

Actually, I kind of love this game. I got used to the quirky limitations after only a couple of play sessions, and after about a week I found myself running to the computer to log in and continue where I left off.

Admittedly it’s probably because a) it’s largely new to me, and b) I’m recording yet another video series and I just love reading RPG quest text in funny voices. Editing these videos is also quite fun.

But beyond that I’m finding myself engrossed in this little world around Ascalon City. It’s very interesting to see how the world changed from Guild Wars 1 into Guild Wars 2.

There is a whole lot of combat to wade through, though. It’s sort of like Heart of Thorns in that regard. But at least it’s tedious and easy, instead of tedious and hard.

WoW – What I Thought In 2006

In light of the announcement of World of Warcraft Classic, everybody’s abuzz with WoW nostalgia, so I thought it would be fun to re-post my very first thoughts about WoW Vanilla from 2006.

From blizzard.com – I can’t find any screenshots prior to 2014.

World of Warcraft

October 10, 2006

Inspired by the recent episode of South Park, and being bored with FlatOut2, I finally installed my trial version of World of Warcraft yesterday, which I’d gotten with a video card about a year ago I think. I’ve been trying to stay away from MMORPGs because, as South Park indicated, you really can’t play them competitively unless you’re willing to join some kind of guild and give up your life, and really, what’s the point in playing a game if not to win? :) But I’ve heard repeatedly that WoW was particularly good for so-called “casual gamers” and people who liked solo adventuring, so I gave it a shot.

First of all, installation is not for the faint of heart. It took about two hours to complete the installation and updates. It was roughly like installing Windows. I should have expected that, but it was still annoying. Especially the part where you have to forward some ports to help the silly peer-to-peer update downloader.

Once I was in the game, I was immediately struck by the physical similarities to Asheron’s Call (the first one – I didn’t play the second one). The running mechanics are the same, the falling mechanics are the same (the way you sort of blink back and forth between the falling stance and the running stance when you go down a steep slope). If they’re not the same engine (and there is no mention of it that I can find), Blizzard clearly modeled their engine to work like Turbine’s engine. This is not necessarily a bad thing, btw, I was just expecting something, well, different.

Gameplay is about the same as Asheron’s Call, too. And this is a criticism. Because at first, your focus is basically on getting the hell away from the starting town as fast as humanly possible, before the n00b stupidity plague infects your brain too much.

All the standard n00bs are represented: The people standing around begging for weapons and armor, the people standing around begging to know where quest items and places are, the people standing around trying to sell their useless wares they crafted, and the ever-popular people begging to team up for adventure. I frown on such people because all you have to do is get off your lazy butt and explore the world a little bit to find the information you need.

All the standard n00b exploiters are there too, like the people selling items at ridiculous prices and the people talking about how stupid n00bs are (those people invariably end every chat line with “lol”: “u noobs r so stoopid lol”).

Which brings me to all the people who act like asses when you put them in a virtual 3D environment: The people who run around with no clothes on, the people who talk about how drunk they are all the time, the people with dirty names, etc. We didn’t have dancing in AC, but you’ll see plenty of it in WoW: There’s usually a group of people in town just standing around dancing. (As a bonus, at the local inn, you can almost always find one or more people standing on tables dancing with no clothes on.) It’s funny for a few seconds, then it’s just stupid. For those people, the game is essentially a glorified $15/month chat client.

Moving on. So far, I can say that the claims of satisfying solo adventuring are rather exaggerated, at least through level 8. I don’t know where the whole “instancing” thing is supposed to be. I guess that’s only for the high level people. In my adventuring, I had to deal with plenty of the standard lot of n00bs and dorks hanging around with me in the Farigold Mine (or whatever it was called). Those most hated dorks of all were there too: The people trying to steal your kills. I hate those people. Hate them, hate them, hate them. At least in WoW you are assured that you get the loot from your kill if you do the most damage. But it is so annoying to share the experience points with some twink running around with a super-weapon and no clothes. And there was only one Goldtooth Kobold dude that everyone was trying to kill for a quest item, so there was the obligatory “circular firing squad” crowd hanging around his area waiting for him to spawn. In a nutshell, it’s the usual crowd of fellow questers in every quest area fighting for the same quest items, just like in Asheron’s Call. Lame.

On the plus side, it was worth a lot of experience to do the quests, so at least you don’t have to stand around repetitively killing monsters all day to gain experience. (Though you’ll get much better loot that way.) Unfortunately, it takes forever to complete the quests because you have to run all over the countryside (and contend with the other dorky questers), so I’m not sure it’s really worth it. You just have to figure on X amount of hours of gaming to acheive level Y, no matter what you do.

Overall, I can’t figure out why it’s so popular. Through level 8, it’s almost exactly the same as Asheron’s Call from, like, six or seven years ago. It’s fun if you’re bored I guess, but you’ll still be spending a lot of time wading through hordes of idiot gamers, and staring mindlessly at the screen while running from place to place.

I give it a 3… out of 5.

World of Warcraft Addendum

October 11, 2006

Addendum: So I go to login to WoW last night to see how many levels I can acheive with a 14-day trial account, and it says the server is full and I have to wait in a queue for some 30 minutes to get in! You have got to be kidding me. That seals the deal. There is no way I’m going to pay $15/month for the privilege of not being able to get on the freakin’ server! That is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. I’d much rather play in severe lag than not be able to get in at all.

You can pick another server to play on, but, of course, you have to start a brand new character. Remembering that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is the same as the one for “opportunity,” I took the opportunity to try out a gnome rogue who looks a little bit like Mario. It was actually kind of fun waddling around killing wolves, and not very crowded up in the snowy mountains. It was more fun than starting out as the human warrior, actually. There aren’t as many gnomes running around without clothes, at least. :) And I only saw one person with “spooge” in his name. Maybe it’s just because it was a new server.

One thing that’s different from Asheron’s Call… it’s way easier to start from scratch in WoW. There’s not much danger of dying from any of the early monsters; they don’t even attack unless you attack them first.

World of Warcraft Redux

October 23, 2006

Perhaps this was inevitable, but in the absence of anything better to play, I’m reversing my stance on World of Warcraft. It’s grown on me like an infectious fungus, so I paid the $20 activation fee so I could keep playing past the free trial period.

I got my original human warrior up to level 14, but I was having a lot of difficulty soloing in Westfall against the stupid Defias mages that shoot freakin 75 point fireballs at you, and against those stupid Murloc frog creatures at the coastline that gang up on you with their pet crabs. Soloing more than one monster near your own level is almost impossible in WoW, unless maybe you have a huge stash of healing potions, which being a new player I obviously don’t. Anyway, those obstacles brought my ability to complete quests to a screeching halt, so I started thinking about a new character template.

I did a little web research and found that hunters and warlocks are the most recommended classes for solo play, because of their ability to use combat pets. So I started a new floppy-eared night elf hunter.

In a nutshell, a hunter with a pet just plain rocks for solo adventuring. It’s a huge improvement over the warrior, and I can’t imagine life without a pet now. I send my pet owl to attack a monster, then stand back and fire arrows from a distance while the monster battles my owl, and I don’t get a scratch. It’s awesome. This is no wimpy owl, either — it can dish out some damage. Between the two of us, the poor monster is usually dead in seconds. Most of the time, the owl can handle itself just fine even without my help. If I end up fighting multiple monsters, I’ll direct the owl to fight (and distract) one monster while I fight the other, and the owl usually kills his monster before I finish mine.

Catching Up – CCP, Gazillion, etc.

Literally my only screenshot from Marvel Heroes.

I mentioned that there was nothing to blog about. Then I started catching up on all the things I’ve missed in the MMO landscape over the last month or so.

CCP VR Layoffs. Apparently CCP decided they didn’t want to be a pioneer in VR after all. Presumably this means they’ll need to figure out how to increase revenue from EVE, a fourteen-year-old game that new players run screaming from. (Incidentally, I keep meaning to try out the free version.)

Voice Actor Strike Ends. I’m glad this is over. I don’t know all the details but I assume everybody is happy with the results. I love good voice acting, and voice actors deserve not to be treated like cattle by game companies.

Lord of the Rings coming to Amazon. Not quite game-related, but Christopher Tolkien retiring from his watch over the Tolkien estate might one day affect Lord of the Rings Online in ways we can’t predict. (Incidentally, I have no plans to watch Lord of the Rings on Amazon without a lot of convincing. You can’t just wave the words “Lord of the Rings” in front of my nose like candy before a toddler to get my attention.)

Marvel Heroes Shutdown. This was a huge surprise to me. After a month of silence, Disney and Marvel cut ties with developer Gazillion, and Marvel Heroes is shutting down on every platform. I’m pretty much over Diablo-style ARPGs, but I played this game a little bit in 2015 and I enjoyed it, and I thought it had been doing well all this time.

MXM Shutdown. And this just in.. NCSoft MOBA MXM is shutting down, too. After, like, a month? Or something? I don’t know anything about this game except that every time I heard about it, I thought, “Huh? Why?” Still, you hate to see anything tank in the games industry. It hurts everyone.