July 31, 2009
Just to get it out of the way... Fury, Blizzard has already done a magnificent job for. The Titan's Grip talent, allowing you to dual-wield two-handed weapons, was in fact the inspiration for this entire series, and is amazing. It is, in my mind, the single coolest talent in the entire game. Job bloody well done there, Blizz. I don't even think it's that unbalanced anymore- newer gear has made it excel. Yes, it used to be god mode, and now it's just an amazing talent. Suck it up, fellow Fury Warriors.
Arms, currently, has its 51 point talent as Bladestorm. Bladestorm is basically the Fury trademark ability Whirlwind, only it lasts longer and hits more times. Good ability? Yeah. Holy god it's unimaginative, though. The Arms Warrior is supposed to be a soldier, a grizzled veteran knowledgable about combat and an expert in all sorts of weapons. There are a few talents that demonstrate this, but mostly, it's just become the PvP tree. And this is silly. Fortunately, I have (what I feel is) a great idea for a trademark talent. It would require changes to the entire rest of the tree, though. Basically, you would change all abilities (not passive talents, only the ones that give you new attacks) in the Arms tree to act differently depending on whether you were wielding a two-hander or a pair of one-handers. The two-hander versions would be more single-target and bleed effect based, and the dual weapon versions would be more AoE based. The core of the ability would be the same, but it would amount to dual wielding being great for trash and qeusting, and single wielding being great for boss dps.
Then you would have the 51 point talent... one that allowed you to equip both a two handed weapon and two one-handers at the same time. Obviously, you'd only be able to be actually fighting with one of the sets at once... but you would get full stat bonuses from both, and be able to switch them with the press of a button. This gives Arms a distinct look- two hander on back, one handers on the hip- as well as emphasizing using the right tool for the job, and weapon expertise. I really, really like this idea. My gamer sense tells me it would be hard to implement, but I don't care.
Last, there is Prot. Honestly, though I do like my idea for Prot, I think I (or someone else) can do better. Prot has DPS problems, and to fix that, as well as go along with the idea of modifying equipment that I've used for the other two Warrior specs, I thought it would be a good idea to have them be able to equip a fist weapon in addition to a sword and shield. After all, fist weapons are more worn than wielded, and thus it's logical that one could wear them without it impeding their wielding of a sword or shield too much. I would like it especially if the fist were on the shield hand, but that might create graphical clipping areas too hard to fix- fists often have very big flashy models- and if it did, you could just change it to the weapon hand. Shield hand makes more sense, though, and is cooler. So let's hope that works.
Really, the big one here (obviously) was the Arms. I really think that's a dynamite fuckin' idea. We'll have more of this series periodically, so look foward to it!
July 30, 2009
First of all, gamer sense comes from a basic understanding of code, and how it works. It doesn't teach you C++, but gamer sense gives you a vague guideline of code's limitations. Gamer sense tells you that the reason enemies don't react to what weapon you're wielding (say, charging you when you have a shotgun) is because that would be a bitch to code. Seeing what good games do, what bad games don't, what NO games do, and what catches your eye gives you a feel for the limits of game creation. It's one of the most basic, no-nonsense parts of the gamer sense. It doesn't necessarily come in handy very often, but it does help you appreciate the plight of the game developer, and understand when you're making an unreasonable request. For example- no, WoW players, allowing flying in regular Azeroth is NOT as simple as just changing a few ones and zeroes. It's a freaking code nightmare.
Another part of gamer sense is understanding the developer mind. This one is a bit harder to explain- basically, by playing lots of games, especially by a certain development team, you get a feel for the kind of decisions they tend to make. You can predict some plot twists, because you can see the telltale signs of a villian, maybe. I know I'm not the only one, playing though FFX (kinda spoilers, I suppose) that knew that Seymour Guado was a bad guy from the moment I saw his Final Fantasy villain long hair. You can also intuit layouts and organization of areas, just because you recall, on some level, what they tend toward. Again, this one is a bit more... mythic. I really cannot explain very well why I know my way through a dungeon in a Square Enix game I've never played before... I just do.
I'd say the final part of gamer sense is a sort of understanding of AI- its limitations, and how it works. You know what actions will trip up the AI, you know what it's good at, and what it sucks at. You know that when you've fired a few shots, and no one has fired back, you're about to get shot in the back of the head. It's almost like a sixth sense- I remember one time, I was playing FEAR, and I was rummaging through a cubicle, looking for gear, and I suddenly got this weird feeling, and I spun around, and there was a trooper about to lay into me with his assault rifle. I gave him a blast from my shotgun, and then paused... how had I known? There was no shadow, no sound, nothing that gave him away. I just... knew. And it happens to gamers everywhere. Gamer sense is an interesting thing, ladies and gents. I'd be interested to hear your stories and theories.
July 29, 2009
What is my solution? Well, I think that politics need to be more a part of it. The idea that a faction only offers you things to buy, even when they nearly worship you (Exalted status) is silly. A faction that really thinks you're the shit should offer you services. Repairs are a necessary gold sink, sure. But how about some other interesting options? Maybe you could (on a cooldown) summon some NPCs from that faction to help you fight. You wouldn't be able to summon them in an instance, so it wouldn't affect game balance, but you would be able to have, say, a few Stormwind knights come to your aid for a hard quest. Maybe you can only summon one faction's aid per cooldown, and can only choose factions that you are exalted with. I think it would be cool if different factions actually had different NPCs- like the Kirin Tor had mages, and the Wyrmrest Accord had dragonkin, and so forth- but just giving them different skins and names would be fine. Only major factions would have this, of course- I can't imagine what Zandalar Tribe would have in the way of NPC aid, for instance. Maybe keep it to the major cities, and major neutral factions.
Other things would be necessary, of course, and that leads us to a special idea of mine. Currently, if one gets Exalted with all of their home cities, they get the Ambassador title. What if it wasn't just a title, though? What if it allowed you to use, on a cooldown, of course, a day's worth of diplomatic immunity? Imagine it- once a week (or month, or something), you could use a cooldown to make it so that you could enter opposite faction cities without getting flagged, and even hang out there. Once the buff it gave you wore off, so you'd have to be careful not to overstay your welcome... but it would be a really cool little way for the non-PvP types to explore the other faction's city. You'd be able to use the other faction's auction house and vendors, perhaps, and maybe even take some minor quests- that's a big maybe, though. Diplomats talk to the enemy, they don't necessarily aid them.
Honestly, as much as this is the World of Warcraft, it's a little silly how it's impossible to use diplomacy or politics at all. It bother me that though you're supposed to be a hero of your faction, besides selling you things and telling you to do jobs for them, the people of your own faction don't seem to give two shits about you. They don't mind watching you run off and get lynched by a pack of gnolls. And though the diplomatic immunity would probably lessen faction tension... adding the summonable NPCs (which could be used for world PvP, of course) would significantly add to it. You thought it was bad when you got jumped by a Tauren five levels stronger than you... well, now he has a patrol of orc warriors with him. Are their potential problems?
Do these ideas need balancing? Well, sure. But politics and loyalties were massively important in the medieval world, and I see no reason why they shouldn't be here.
July 28, 2009
Heroes is an interesting example of two trends I think of as contradictory working in the same game- the idea of simplifying mechanics to minimize the learning curve alongside adding RPG elements for complexity and depth. And frankly, though it's an interesting game, I feel like the conflicting philosophies work against it. It's a good game, and certainly both the simple mechanics and the RPG elements make it better... but not as good as truly emphasizing on one or the other, because they sort of counteract each other.
I'll give you an example. In the previous Battlefield games, we have had 5 classes- Assault, Anti-Tank, Engineer, Medic, and Sniper. The series has had some 5 entries before Heroes, and in some of these, there were variations, but overall, that's usually the class roster. It took a few titles for DICE (the creators of the Battlefield games) to get the balance right, but by Battlefield 2 (which wasn't actually the second Battlefield game- confusing, I know), the classes were pretty balanced, and useful in most any situation. Heroes scraps this for a 3 class system- Soldiers, Gunners, and Commandos. The functions of all five older classes are implemented in some way into these newer classes. What this means, though, is that what was designed to make things simplier actually makes them more complex. All three classes have a plethora of abilities, some of which are confusingly similar to another class's (Gunner speed boost vs. Commando speed boost, for instance).
The end result of this is that you cannot tell what someone is capable of at a glance. It's nice to give people tools for any situation. It's ridiculous when you do that, but still expect people to know by silhouette what class someone is and what that means. Commandos use stealth and sniper rifles as their trademarks, but maybe this particular commando put all his points into his poison knife and speed boost, and suddenly the whole battle has changed- and not for the better. It's the same problem Call of Duty 4 struggled with- when you give people the option of using a wide variety of dynamic abilities, you need to give them some way of telling what the other guy has. The best example of this is the perk Martyrdom- one that makes it so that you drop a live grenade on death. That is the single most hated perk in the game- you NEVER know if someone has it, and so everyone gets into the habit of running the hell away from every kill they get. It's ridiculous, and completely obnoxious. Personally, I think it's a bullshit perk too, but there are obviously those who disagree.
Likewise, the game tries to make things more forgiving by making NOTHING instant kill- sniper rifle headshots, point blank shotgun shots, getting shot by a tank's main cannon, none of this does more than a third of your health. But this doesn't make the game easier- for a great many classes, it makes it way harder. So a headshot doesn't kill anymore? Gee! Why should I bother with a sniper rifle again? Because it seems to me like Commandos just became so situational as to be shit. And surprise! That's true. Commandos have to be right behind you or a mile away, or they die.
My point here isn't to bitch about balance. My point is to say this- yes, stripping away unneccessary features and content is a great idea. Hell, I love TF2 miles more than I did the original, and until the class updates, that's mostly all the game did- simplify the original. But it's really, really important to give the players to tools to judge a situation, handle it, and succeed. If they can't, you're really just kicking them in the crotch.
July 24, 2009
July 23, 2009
July 22, 2009
With its dual-wielding, bunny hopping, and slow movement speed, Halo is, surprisingly, more like a traditional fragfest shooter, when you get down to it. It has powerups, weapons scattered about the map, and run-and-gun action. Halo was revolutionary, but it didn't create a new style of game, not at all. It took the old recipe of Doom, Quake 3, and Unreal Tournament, and modernized it. Sure, the mega-hardcore still prefer health bars, but Halo health rewards smart, tactical play over map memorization. And the two-weapon system was just the only way to handle weapons practically on a console. On the PC, you have the whole numbers row to play with, but on the console, you do not have such a resource. In multiplayer, you need to be able to select the weapon you want quickly and efficiently. Thus, the two weapon system.
The problem with Halo, in my mind, is that it draws all the elements of old fragfests without nailing the most important one- chaos. Sure, any time you have 16 players going at it, there is going to be some chaos, but games like Unreal Tournament nailed it by having superior control with fast movement and great jumping ability, and having weapons that were devastating and wild. Remember Unreal Tournament's rocket launcher? The one that could chamber five rockets and launch them all at once? There really is no Halo equivalent to that. Unreal Tournament was not designed for genuine competitive play. It wasn't designed for pro tours. Halo was, and yet it tries to be a fragfest at the same time. It is in this that it truly fails.
Compare this to Call of Duty, which can hardly be said to be the same series it started as. At first, it was basically like Medal of Honor, but better- a World War 2 shooter with a health bar, plenty of weapons, all that jazz. But the things that made it really special, even then, are still a constant- first, no weapons scattered across the map. What you start with is what you stick with. Because of this, you also had much less downtime after respawning- you didn't need to run to this area to get a good gun, then run to that one to get body armor, you could just get into position and start shooting. The other innovation- let's be clear, I know other games did these first, but CoD made them popular- was iron sights. The concept that with any weapon, not just a sniper rifle, you actually had to stop and aim to have any kind of accuracy, was novel and genre-changing.
For years, we'd been content playing as a superhuman who could snipe enemies from a mile away with a pistol without even lifting it to his eye to take aim. Suddenly, we had to play like real human beings- balancing mobility, accurracy, and cover as best we could in order to stay alive. Call of Duty 2 added Halo health and the two-weapon system, and boom, you had the recipe for fantastic, amazing gameplay. Then you add Call of Duty 4's class system, and it's no wonder that many (myself included) consider it the best console FPS this generation (because, come on, even if it was better than Perfect Dark or Goldeneye, I could never bring myself to admit it).
And what does all this teach us? Well, basically, that reality can be fun, that it doesn't have to hold back a game. Similarly, it teaches us that some things, some realistic things that we cling to because we're just so used to the idea... really just don't need to be in games. Like health bars- they have their place, but there are not a lot of games where I feel that regenerating health wouldn't serve better. FPSes are moving forward, and let's hope they continue to do so.
July 21, 2009
So, used game sales. Before I get too crazy, let's just look at the straight facts. When you buy a used game, the people who made that game get no money. None. The only person who makes a profit is the game store- the middle man. With games that have already made a huge profit- Greatest Hits/Platnium Hits/Player's Choice/What-Fuckin'-Ever titles, this isn't such a big deal. And some games are out of print- they can't be found new, at least not without paying collector prices, and those just aren't worth it. You may ask yourself, well, how much do used game sales affect the industry, really? Well, let's look at some examples.
Crackdown was a badass Xbox 360 exclusive, a truly awesome open-world title. And fortunately, at this year's E3 they announced a sequel to the game. Yay! I mean, they'd be crazy not to, given what a success the game was, right? Wrong. Crackdown was a high-budget next-gen title, and it sold 1.5 million new copies. In the words of the developers... "we pretty much only managed to break even." That's over the whole life of the game until now. For comparison, Halo 3 sold over 8 million copies in four months. And it wasn't even as good (if you ask me). But if you add in Crackdown's used game sales? Then that's a total (used + new) of 3 million copies. That's right... effectively, the devs only got 30 dollars per sale, instead of 60. And that's not even true, of course, because of that money, the developer's cut is much, much smaller than that.
Another good example: Dead Space, a survival horror shooter that was applauded both as an action title and as an original intellectual property. It was also one of the first examples of what some are calling the "new" EA- that is, an EA willing to try new things and advance the industry rather than just soullessly take advantage of consumers. It was risky to make a new IP at a time like that, when they could just as easily pump out two generic titles. So how much of a profit did they make from it all? They were in exactly the same situation- 1.5 million new, 1.5 million used. And that's across three platforms, mind you- it wasn't a platform exclusive.
So really, if you try to argue that used game sales don't affect/harm the industry, it's pretty easy to see that you're just wrong. But here's what gets me- yes, I understand that you save a few bucks, yes, I know that it's a good tool for those who don't want to go through the trouble of proper resale. But come on- you're cheating yourselves! You're trading in something for 25 dollars for them to immediately turn around and sell for 55! That is thirty dollars, straight in the trash. Wasted. You're paying Gamestop to have more patience than you, and they're happy to do it. You could sell that game on Amazon, Ebay, or some other online site for 50 bucks, easy. Hell, if you're trading in a title that just came out (who the hell trades in Street Fighter IV on the same day it comes out? I swear to God, I saw it happen.), you could just stand outside the store for ten minutes and offer your copy to someone that was about to enter the store!
Laziness is the only excuse, and it's a terrible, terrible excuse. Come on, you guys. We can do better.
July 20, 2009
Brought before the meager remains of Gilneas's government, Velinde Starsong introduced herself, and explained that she had come because she sensed the Worgen's presence. After all her study into the Worgen, their nature, how to summon them, and personal experience with them, she had become attuned to their unique, magical signature- since they were not from this world, they stood out. But, she explained, it was really luck that she had found them... she had come to this part of the world in search of the Archmage Arugal in Silverpine Glade, and had she not been so close, she would have never noticed them.
The Worgen of Gilneas, she explained, were different. She didn't know why, but they were like a different species of Worgen... their unearthy signature far less pronounced, their forms more human-looking. A sign of some sort- whether of the Curse's adaptation to its new environment, of Gilnean resistance to the Curse, or of something else entirely, she wasn't sure. But for whatever reason, this breed of Worgen that had consumed their land was no longer alien, it was truly Azerothian.
She offers her aid, and convinces the remaining mages, paladins, and priests to work with her to find some kind of cure for the people. Tensions are high, time is short, and the wizards and the Light Bearers are at each other's throats constantly. Finally, the mages, with Velinde's help, theorize a way that would revert the minds of the Cursed to their old selves, but have no effect on the body.
The paladins and priests are livid. It is not good enough, they argue. They have to make everyone as they were- being forced to live as monsters is no cure at all. The mages try to convince them that such a cure is impossible- indeed, the Curse's mutation within the Gilneans is the only reason they can even do this much. But the believers are unshakable, unwilling to go through with a "half-cure". They press the mages for more time, for more research, but the mages have had enough. Over eighty percent of the nation are now Worgen. The curse's march has slowed in the face of protective measures, but it is still advancing.
And to the masters of the arcane, after the stress of repeated failures, watching their friends and family fall to the curse, living in a situation where at every moment, they could be swarmed by the Worgen, but they must continue their work anyway... finally having found a cure, and then not being allowed to use it is just the last straw. They accuse the Light Bearers of treason, of obstructing their noble efforts to heal their country, and demand that they be arrested. They appeal to the populous, and a mob seizes the worshippers of the Light, and locks them in a magically sealed prison. The priests and paladins are just stunned... too overcome with despair and shock to resist.
Velinde is deeply disturbed by this turn of events, but knows that they must proceed- they must cast the spell to heal the land at any cost. The mages prepare their runes, and the ceremony begins. They pour their magic into Velinde, and using the lingering magic of the Scythe of Elune, the traces of it that still cling to her, the Night Elf shapes the massive amount of magic, and casts. A wave of magic rushes over the land, and for the first time since the Worgen entered their lands... peace falls over the Gilneans.
The magic worked, the Cursed's minds are their own again... but the magic was not without its side effects. The wave of magic did not act exactly as intended... true, it helped the cursed, but it also turned those not cursed into Worgen. Now, it is truly an entire nation of wolfmen... save for the Light worshippers, protected from the spell by their magically warded prison, and Velinde Starsong, mysteriously untouched by the spell despite being at ground zero. And even beyond their physical forms, the Gilneans' minds have been changed. Their personalities and memories are once again those of their old selves... but their bodies are still those of Worgen, and as such, their bodies produce the same chemicals, causing them to be more aggressive and instinctual. Living in fear for so long, too, took its toll on their minds... they are more distrustful, independent, and suspicious. Certainly, they are still intelligent beings, but even mentally, it's hard to say that they are truly still human.
The paladins and priests, freed from their cell, are horrified. All their fears about the spell have been terribly confirmed. These are not their people, not anymore. Some of them sink into despair, but one young, bold paladin rallies the worshippers of the Light. Yes, he says, this nation has changed. Yes, this is its darkest hour yet, as one cannot say that they are even human anymore. But isn't it all the more the duty of they few, those unaffected by the Curse, those still human, those still bearing the Holy Light, to aid this country in a time of such need? Paladins, priests, the Holy Light, all are to bring hope and peace to places of chaos and strife. This is exactly where they need to be. And their country needs them now more than ever.
The Worgen are distrustful of the paladins and priests at first, but the humans manage to convince the wolfmen to send them as envoys to Stormwind. Through their passionate debate, especially that of the young paladin that rallied them, they convince the Alliance to accept their former brothers into the Alliance. The grateful Gilneans- for they were prepared to have to stand against a world that did not, would not trust them- appoint the young paladin as their new king, and the Church of the Holy Light works within them, helping them rebuild their ravaged land, and slowly opening some of the Worgen to the Light. And in the midst of all this, Velinde Starsong disappears, her heart lightened a bit to see the direction Gilneas is headed in.
Suggested classes: Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Rogue. No DKs, because canonly, the Lich King would be beaten by this point.
There, that was a fun game of what-if, wasn't it? Now I'll shut up about Worgen and Goblins and all that, as promised.
July 18, 2009
Okay, so we start off with Gilneas... it's near the beginning of the Third War, and they've shut themselves off from the rest of the world. They're a very self-sufficient nation, and unbeleaguered by the Horde or Scourge, they're doing just fine on their own. They no longer have access to the finer goods as might be crafted by the other nations, but in their minds, it's a small price to pay to not have to deal with petty politics and war- and make no mistakes, the politics of Azeroth are often very petty indeed.
But one day, just coincedentally... wandering Worgen happen upon the untouched lands of Gilneas. The nation is surronded by the tall Greymane wall, and left very lightly guarded, for what would they need to guard it from...? Worgen, lest it be forgotten, are vicious, but quite intelligent- they wear primitive clothes, travel in packs, display surprising cunning, and some even wear primitive weapons, and speak Common/Orcish (depending on your faction- both sides can understand them when they speak). And to them, this wall is initially merely an intriguing oddity, but after a little investigation, they find a way in. Here, I can't even guess how, I just don't have enough information to work with- hole in the wall, gap in the wall, climb over the wall, maybe swim AROUND the wall... something. It's sort of the classic horror situation- you create this nearly impenetrable fortress, but when chance has it that something slips through the one flaw in the design, it suddenly becomes your cage- just as it kept the bad out, it keeps you in, and you can't escape.
The Worgen move into the woods of Gilneas, upsetting the wildlife, but not having any significant encounters for a while, until they run into a hunter travelling through the woods. And again, now we come across one of the mysteries of this situation- we know that Worgen can turn people into other Worgen, but we have no idea how that works. Magical curse, disease, do they actually cast some magic, how does it work? I'm going to just call it the Curse for now, but this is one field that we would really need to learn more about. They give the hunter the Curse (which, of course, would take time to kick in), and he runs home scared and a little injured. He's got a fever, he's ranting about these huge wolf-men, and so the doctors decide he was attacked by a wolf, and his injury got infected. Not at all a rare condition, though certainly a dangerous one. And for a little while, life goes on.
Finally, the hunter's fever passes, and he feels okay again. He gets up, and prepares to go out for a day's work. But something is different. He feels... different. Enough cheesy exposition- he's turned into a Worgen, and pretty quickly falls into the Worgen line of behavior, attacking people. Only this time, it's not some guy in the woods getting attacked, it's lots of people, right in the middle of town. And just like an outbreak of the plague, the Curse spreads, quickly and efficiently. These people know nothing of the Worgen, have no experience with fighting them or their Curse, and thus are defenseless against it. And one by one, people turn into Worgen. And after that... ten by ten, and more.
The Gilneans are panicked. This Curse is consuming their country, this epidemic threatening their very humanity. At the beginning, they refuse to contact the outside because, as ever, they think they can handle it themselves. But later, they refuse to contact the outside because they're afraid of what would happen. How does one stop a plague? Quarantine, and wait for everyone infected to die. And they don't want that to be them. They want to stop its spread... they want to cure the infected. And they cannot stand to just kill the Cursed. It's not like these creatures are just bloodthirsty monsters- they were once their neighbors, their friends, their family. They can't just kill them. They need to cure them. And so the quest for a cure begins.
Medicine proves its failures early on, having absolutely no effect on the rampaging Curse. A very small percentage of people are shown to be immune to the Curse, and so they are studied, and determined to all have some inherent magic resistance. As it a magic problem, the mages are called in, and after numerous spectacular failures, they sadly admit that they are beaten. And so the nation is faced with no cure, no way out, and no hope. And in this most desparate hour, the priests and paladins of the Holy Light join together, and lift their hands to the skies, praying for an answer, praying for help. Praying for some way to cure it all.
And miraculously, their prayers are answered, in a way. As the Curse spread, early on, Gilneas realized how dangerous the Curse could be were it to spread to any outsiders... and also, how some outsiders might take advantage of their country's weakened state. So in response, they placed hidden sentries on the Greymane Wall- skilled rogues who could watch and guard without being seen, for Gilneas did not want to even indicate that anything had changed. They had used no guards in the past, and a sudden heavy presence on the wall would be a red flag to the rest of the world. And one day, a Night Elf woman began beating on the gate, demanding entry, and claiming that she knew about their wolf-man problem, and that she could help. The sentries were alarmed, and captured the woman, and let her inside, escorting her to the new head of state (ironically, the stubborn monarch Genn Greymane was naturally resistant to the Curse, so the Worgen simply killed him).
She introduced herself as Velinde Starsong....
(To be continued in another post. Damn, I am really getting carried away. The next post will be the last time I rave about this, I promise.)
July 17, 2009
This does open up the possibility of other posters as well if I encounter willing people who are verifiably awesome, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
Okay. So when I post about WoW, I try to make it so that non-WoW players can have some idea of what I'm talking about in the post. With this post... I'm not really gonna make that effort. I'm too excited, there's too much to discuss. Explaining everything would just make this post two times (at least) as long. Because we're gonna talk about the big discovery- possible evidence of two new playable races that will be added in the new expansion pack.
At this point, it's more or less a given that a new expansion will be announced at BlizzCon. If it isn't, everyone will be massively disappointed. And heck, we're due one, anyway, by the schedule that Blizzard themselves announced a while back. A lot of people are taking it for granted that the new expansion will be a Maelstrom expansion, with additions to old world Azeroth- I think it quite likely, but let's not cement that idea in our heads. Certainly Blizzard has hinted this strongly, but we have to remember, this is Blizzard. This is the guys that kept Starcraft 2 a complete secret for nine freaking years. They are pretty good at keeping stuff under wraps. And that's the only reason I'm still on the edge about these supposed new races, as well. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, a dataminer found some new face textures for the Hallow's End masks, modeled after Goblins, and what is likely a species of Worgen (since they don't look like regular Worgen).
I'm pretty sure that they are, indeed, Worgen, despite how unusual they look. They do rather look like cat people, but given Blizzard's repeated declarations that if they added new races, they would be drawn from existing lore and set up to succeed, thus avoid what many people consider the "lol lore"situation of the Draenei, WoW's biggest retcon, I am pretty confident that they are Worgen. Consider A) that those are flat textures, and once applied to 3d models, the added depth will change the look, and B) that they could well be concept art, not finalized skins, especially considering how similar they look to certain pieces of noted Blizzard artist Samwise Didier. Add to that the fact that every Hallow's End mask thus far has been of a playable race, with every race represented- Blood Elf and Draenei masks were added for Burning Crusade, just as Blood Elves and Draenei were made playable- and you have yourself a pretty compelling argument for Goblins and Worgen becoming playable.
Smart money is on the Worgen being Alliance, and the Goblins being Horde. Why, you ask? Well, for Goblins, even though they currently exist as a neutral faction, a lot of them were members of the Horde back in Warcraft 2, so it's not so hard to imagine them rejoining, especially if this does turn out to be a Maelstrom expansion... as their home, Kezan, is an island nation, they are dangerously close to the Naga threat in the middle of the ocean, and would probably need some help. Needing help in WoW means picking a side, and you better believe they have more reason to go Horde than Alliance. And of course, there would be no need to alter the existing Goblin factions to be meaner to the Alliance or nicer to the Horde- races are rarely a united front, least of all the mercenary, opportunist Goblins. They're easy to lore justify.
The fun- and I really do mean fun, I love this stuff- comes in justifying the Worgen for Alliance. A lot of assumptions have to be made, at this point in time, to link them to the Alliance, and that sounds like a blast to me. But first, we have to get a basis in facts. So let's do that.
So, the Worgen are primarily present in three areas in the game- Silverpine Forest, Darkshore, and Grizzly Hills. In Grizzly Hills, the Worgen demonstrate an ability to infect/curse humans, and thereby turn them into Worgen. No other races have been shown as being turned into Worgen. In Darkshore, an Alliance questing area populated by humans, we learn the story of Velinde Starsong, a Night Elf Sentinel who brought the Worgen into this world via the Scythe of Elune. And in Silverpine Forest, we have the Undead and Kirin Tor mages both fighting the Worgen as they roam the forest... and, of course, the instance Shadowfang Keep, in which the (human) Archmage Arugal resides with his army of Worgen. So though the Horde has certainly fought the Worgen a few times, they just don't have the deep lore connection with the Worgen that the Alliance does. The Worgen were summoned by the Alliance, controlled by an ex-member of the Alliance, and turned members of the Alliance into more of their kind.
And that's not even mentioning Gilneas. Gilneas is a human nation that has shut itself off from the rest of the world for quite a long time. Near the start of the third war, the leader of Gilneas basically declared that they weren't going to help the Alliance, and they didn't need the Alliance's (or anyone's) help, that they were strong enough to shut themselves off from the world and be perfectly self-sufficient. And then they promptly closed their gates, and no one has left, entered, or heard from them since. That was years ago, and as cited above, Blizzard has hinted that some very interesting things have happened behind those closed doors, and that we will soon learn about them.
Okay, that's pretty good grounds for a little conspiracy theory, but what does it have to do with the Worgen? Well, Shadowfang Keep is approximately a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Gilneas border (that's a technical system of measure). A whole army of Worgen, who have proven their ability to turn humans into more of themselves, right around the corner to this nation that has gone dark for years. What would happen if a few Worgen managed to get inside? Unlike the rest of the world, they would have no idea what they were dealing with- everyone else has fought the Worgen, knows how dangerous they are and how they can spread, but the Gilneans would likely just treat them like any other monster. And when they did so, someone would inevitably get infected... and just like a plague, the infection would spread like wildfire. Extremely contagious condition + ignorant public + isolation. Do the math. Gilneas would be Worgen-ized inside of a few years.
You think that's fun? Tommorow, I'll post a little made-up (but logical) lore background to how it could even happen, how it would go. Look forward to it! Especially since it has me so excited that I'm posting on a Saturday.
But my actual topic for today is going to be something non-nerdragey. It's the start of a new series I will do for my WoW posts periodically, when there's nothing topical that I should discuss. Note, I said "should"- I would love to rant and rave like a madman about the Warrior Q&A posted on the official forums, and how useless I found it, but I don't see how that helps anybody. Instead, I will kick off this series. The premise for this series is pretty simple- I feel that every spec in WoW should have some visual trademark that makes them immediately identifiable for what they are. The perfect example of this is the Druid forms, or the Fury Warrior talent Titan's Grip- very, very distinctive, and frankly badass. I need to pause for a moment, and thank my Steam buddy, Timmy, for his help with this- all of these were done with his help, and plenty of them were his idea to begin with. Thanks Timmy! So I'll start off by talking about my ideas for class that's very near and dear to my heart- one of the classes I could never stand to level, the Mage!
So, basically, the idea is that each of the three specs will have something visually unique to identify them. Admittedly, I picked Mage to start with because it's pretty easy- Frost's is a gimme. Frost should have, via talents, the thing that everyone has been suggesting for a while now- the ability to make their Water Elemental a permenant pet, not just summonable for short periods of time. Frankly, Frost PvE isn't doing so hot to begin with, so they could use the boost. And hey, it's not my job to balance it, anyway. I'm just the guy with kooky ideas.
Fire is also fairly simple, in that it would not require an actual new talent or spell. Basically, one would just apply the dancing flame effect used by Grand Warlock Alythess (http://www.wowhead.com/?npc=25166), one of the infamous Eredar Twins, to the mage spell Molten Armor. It's a spell Fire Mages keep on them all the time anyway, and now it would have a really awesome visual associated with it too. Alright! Fire Mages done!
Here's the fun one- Arcane. This one would require a unique talent, and honestly, I'm not certain how it would work. But here's the idea- you know Kael'thas Sunstrider (http://www.wowhead.com/?npc=24664)? The elven hero (and eventually villain) that's been with us since Warcraft 3? Well, he always has three of these awesome looking orbs orbitting him- three glowing, magical orbs. In what little research I did on them, I couldn't find any additional information, but basically, they enhance his magical power, and are one of the most badass effects in the game. So why not give them to the masters of magic, Arcane Mages? They could be a buff or equivalent for mages, adding to their crit or spellpower, but it would be neat if they were more than just that. I'm not sure what. If you have any ideas, reader, just leave a comment! I'd be more than willing to edit this post with the new idea, and give you proper credit.
So that's it for today's spec improvement post! I'll probably post later about the used game business I left unmentioned yesterday, but don't hold your breath- a post every weekday is all I promise. I'll try to squeeze in more as things come up, but I'm a busy man! No I'm not, that's a lie. But I'd like to be.
July 16, 2009
Preorders first, cause they're easier for me to discuss without devolving into mouth-foaming rage. Preorders were originally created so that both the story and the game's developer would be able to get an idea of how much demand there was for the game, and that purpose lives on today. At first, gamers used it so that they could be certain that they would get a copy on release day, and that was the sole motivator, but let's be honest- though stores like Gamestop preach gloom and doom, it's total bullshit. Very, very few titles is there any legitmate threat of you not being able to walk in and buy it when it comes out. Bioshock, Halo, Call of Duty. These, preorders might be warranted to guarantee that you get the game. Pretty much anything else, all you're doing is giving the store your money, so that they can drop it in the bank, and collect interest on it instead of you while you wait for the game to come out.
And gamers have, to some extent, realized this. So those corporations had to come up with something new, and what did they come up with? Preorder bonuses! Hurray! Now, preorder this game, and you'll get a special demo/in-game content/art book/gimmick! Two of those I think are good, two are bad. First, let's discuss the "preorder demo" phenomenon. A lot of games have demos that you can only play if you preorder. This. Is. MORONIC. For god's sake, demo is short for demonstration! You're showing what your game can do to convince people to buy it! What is the fucking point of that when you can only try this demo when you've already put money down on the game?! So incredibly stupid.
Well, what about the in-game content? Name me one, one single example of where this wasn't bullshit, and I'll concede, but I don't think you can. There are two strategies developers take with preorder game content- one, take something OUT of your game, and only offer it to preorderers. Well damn, that really fucks the rest of the world, doesn't it? The second option is to artificially allow earlier/less limited access to content already in the game. Get this gun two levels earlier! Start the game with this powerful sword! Again, this is a shit idea- it breaks the game experience and balance, besides just feeling artificial as hell. That's what it comes down to with in-game preorder bonuses- you're fucking the preorderers, or the late adopters, but somebody gets screwed.
Art books and gimmicks, I like, but they are falling out of style. The thing about them is 1) the sort of person who would preorder your game is likely an enthusiast, and therefore more likely to appreciate something like a collection of your team's concept art, and 2) they add to the experience by being interesting and useful while you wait for the game to come out, making the wait less tedious. You could also argue 3) that they provide these benefits without screwing over anyone who doesn't preorder. That doesn't sound like it should be a pro, but the other two didn't manage it, did they?
You know what? I'll post about used games later- either later today, or Friday. This preorder rage is plenty long enough of a post already. EDIT: Or Monday, cause I've got so much to talk about all of the sudden.
July 15, 2009
It's been nearly five years since WoW took the industry by storm, and seized the title of Biggest MMO Ever. Interestingly, the previous title holder, Everquest, also ran for five years before being dethroned, and produced eight expansion packs in that time. WoW, for comparison, has only produced two, and if they do announce a third, we likely won't see it for at the very least half a year anyway. Blizzard is the king of "when it's done"- they really have no qualms at all about pushing back release dates. But back on topic- five years. Five years of improvements to the game, five years of growth and additions. And after five years... the content that made the game great originally is starting to feel stale.
Really, it's a testament to how much Blizzard has grown as an MMO studio when you compare their newest continent, Northrend, to their oldest (or what I would assume is their oldest), Kalimdor. It's not just "Wow, Northrend is so much better!" It's also "Wow, Kalimdor is so terrible." The area design, the quests, the writing, none of it comes close to the level of quality that more recent content offers. It was good for its time, certainly, but now it's outdated. But so what, you say. Who cares? You level past that content, and you never have to worry about it again! This is not only incorrect, but it's also the wrong attitude entirely.
Why is it incorrect? Well, for starters, I've seen plenty of new players be so discouraged by the lower-quality early content that they quit before they ever do see the good stuff! The one month free trial, for instance, has a level 20 cap- thus guarenteeing all you get to see is the first stuff they ever made. WoW was Blizzard's first try at an MMO, and as good as it is... it shows! Areas like Mulgore, the Barrens, Dun Morough... they're boring! The quests are uninspired, far apart, and lacking in variety. The area maps are confusing, and hard to navigate. They just aren't very well designed, meaning no insult to their designers. I couldn't do any better, I'm sure. But the new MMOs that are being released, like Champions Online, like WAR, like (eventually) The Old Republic? They can, and they are doing better. Their newbie areas blow WoW's out of the water! And you know what they say, you never get a second chance at a first impression.
But it's more than that, too. Just because you level a character past the old world Azeroth doesn't mean you'll never go back, far from it. There are achievements that require you to go back- the Explorer and Loremaster achievements, for instance. And even if you choose not to do those, I don't know a single player that doesn't have a low-level alt. Everybody rolls another character, of another class or race or faction, to experience that difference. And that means having to go through the bad design all over again. Blizzard has tried to bandage this by offering new ways to level faster, but that's no fix. It's nice, but basically what they're saying is that they don't intend to fix the old world, that they are content to allow the majority of their game to be subpar, and that's just not okay.
What do I want? I want Blizzard to commit to redesigning old areas. Maybe not complete remakes, but new quests and quest givers, cleaning up the maps (the Barrens... oh god, I have nightmares about the endless stretches of NOTHING in that hellhole), updating some graphics... just making old content good again. Blizzard doesn't want to do this, because it's not exactly something they feel like they can flaunt. They say to themselves, "But we can't use that as a bullet point on the box- wouldn't the time be better spent adding higher level content?" No, no it wouldn't. Because you know what? I know plenty of people who would be overjoyed to try WoW again if the low-level content was made more compelling. Blizzard seems to think of people as either playing WoW or having never given it a shot, and I'm here to say, there are a lot of people that tried it, wanted to like it, but just didn't.
So before you announce your Maelstrom expansion pack, or whatever it turns out to be, Blizzard... let us know that you're not going to continue this ridiculous policy of simply ignoring several thousand quests and two whole continents that are not up to the standards of quality that you yourself have set.
July 14, 2009
Your final scream sounds as I pull it loose
A flick, a click, and thus ends your abuse
My balisong, to you a hangman's noose
I'm back again, but now you aim and shoot
I drop, quite dead, my corpse loaded with loot
It does not fool you long, you're quite astute
"A Dead Ringer!" you gasp, and then fall mute
I grin, and block the way back to the resupply
You grit your teeth, swallow, narrow an eye
Then draw your gun and make a sharp reply
It takes no time for the clip to run dry
I grin with confidence as I block the corridor
Then reach into my coat. "Meet the Ambassador."
With a bang, you die to its splendor.
I play the Spy. Not that I like generalizing about a person from the way they play, but I think it's pretty fair to say that it says a lot about me that I love playing as a Spy. I don't mean that it says I'm suave or clever or any of that crap, but I think it's totally fair to say that I enjoy mind games way more than I should. Cloaking, disguises, and of course the delicious butterfly knife. Oh the knife... I could write poems about that thing. In fact, if I need a quick post later, I may.
The thing about playing the spy that is so delightful to me is the mind games. When I first got the Dead Ringer, the unlockable item that lets you feign death, I let the same sniper nail me five times in a row just to eff with him. Another time, I disguised myself as a heavy from my own team, with his boxing gloves out, and ran into the enemy base screaming battle cries. When they, naturally, immediately blew my brains out, I feigned death, and while they were marvelling at how weird the experience was, I reappeared behind them, stabbed one, and then bolted.
What's my point here? Well, partially, I wanted to share fun stories, and to chide those who haven't picked up TF2 (seriously, if you don't have the game, you're nuts), but mostly I wanted to say this- first person shooters are fun, no doubt about that. Games like Call of Duty and Killzone are, to my mind, the pinnacle of the conventional multiplayer shooter. Intuitive, fast paced, rewarding, and fun. But sometimes offering the option for atypical play is the best choice that can be made.
In Team Fortress, many players who typically resort to harassing and griefing other players just play Pyro or Spy, because that's how those classes are designed to play. Left 4 Dead allows players to play the part of special zombies who are designed specifically to appeal to disruptive players.
Certain players do not like playing by the rules. They will always be part of your community, you cannot stop them. Even Team Fortress still has them. But by providing them with a way to enhance the experience of other players with the way they normally play, you bring out the best in them... and also help regular players realize the joy of playing like a jerk.
Because really, nothing satisfies quite like the perfect backstab.
July 13, 2009
In the video, they repeatedly referred to the game as a massively multiplayer game... and I really didn't like that. Yes, it has 256 player battles. It's hard to argue that 256 people blazing away at each other is not massive. It most certainly is. And obviously, it's a multiplayer game. But to me, there are connotations, assumptions, heck, I would even go so far as to say the phrase "massively multiplayer" does not simply mean multiplayer with a lot of people. I don't think it should be taken literally. And from what I've seen of MAG, I don't think it should be called an MMO.
This comes at an interesting time for MMOs, where the genre is changing rapidly with the advent of free-to-play MMOs, which are bringing the genre's definition into question all the more. Originally, MMOs were pretty simple to define- large-scale multiplayer games that required a subscription to play. An overgeneralization? Sure. But if you were just trying to explain the concept to someone who'd never played one before, that explanation worked pretty well. Now... it means something totally different. Calling something a MMO indicates more than just scale and subscription- it means that the world is persistant, that it keeps on going after you've logged off, and that your progress remains. But there are persistant multiplayer games that definitely aren't MMOs- Call of Duty 4 allows your efforts in multiplayer to earn experience, and help you gradually gain in rank, thus unlocking the privilege for new weapons and abilities. Many other games have copied this style, but that doesn't make them MMOs.
Another significant trait of MMOs is that they offer progressive growth of character not just in equipment and abilities, but in statistics like strength or stamina, that they grow very measurably stronger as you play them in multiplayer. A level 80 player simply cannot lose to a level 1 player in World of Warcraft unless they try to- the same cannot be said between a private and a general in Call of Duty, not in the least. But again, there are exceptions to this rule. The Diablo series has been around for quite a while, and its multiplayer mode has the player starting a fresh character, gaining levels and gear in much the same way as an MMO. In fact, Diablo is perhaps the best example of how blurred the line can be- it has pretty much EVERY element of an MMO. Large, persistant world? Check. A character that grows in gear and strength as you play? Check. An abundance of other players? Check.
So what, then, makes a game an MMO? What makes it not an MMO? I think if Diablo 3 were to call its multiplayer mode an MMO, people would object... but they wouldn't really know how to prove it wasn't. There is sort of an insubstantial something to MMOs- a feeling that you are playing in a world, not just a virtual playground- that few other games have. Your actions have lasting effect, you grow and mature, you can make money and spend money, and you're not the most important thing in the world- you're just like everyone else, just one of the crowd. MMO veterans know exactly what I mean, and can appreciate the difference... but what about someone who doesn't play MMOs regularly? How would they tell the difference? And this is the industry's problem- it's agreed among the hardcore that free-to-play MMOs can't match the quality of paid ones, but in ways that the casual have trouble understanding and appreciating. That's why WoW's population has stopped growing, that's why games like Tabula Rasa find themselves closing down, why Age of Conan finds itself closing servers en masse. They drew in a decent crowd initially... and then just fell off the radar, because the casual just don't see what they're getting for their money that they couldn't get from a free-to-play game.
It's not that the games aren't worth the money... they just need to learn how to communicate the difference between them and their cheaper cousins.
And this here? This is "Justice Per Second", a blog that comments and observes games and game theory. Gaming culture is interesting, but frankly, there are already really amazing sources for that information. What JPS is here to do is try and provide insight into gaming- about new games that are trying new things, about old gems that were overlooked, and just good stories from my gaming experiences. I'll try to update pretty regularly, and warn you when I'm going to have to miss updates. Mostly, the purpose of this blog is for me to work on my writing in a way that others can enjoy. My posts will pretty much always be a few paragraphs, because I just don't think you can make an effective point in less space than that.
The name comes from World of Warcraft- not something widespread, just something me and my friends use. Basically, you usually have DPS, right? That stands for Damage Per Second, or a measure of how fast a specifc character is doing damage. I was fine with that term for a long time... until I made a Fury Warrior. Suddenly, it seemed inadequate. Damage Per Second? That's what you call it when I cut through 3 guys with one slash of my battle axe? No... no, we needed a more dramatic way of saying it. Something more... weighty. This isn't just damage I'm dishing out. This is judgement, this is devastation, this is... justice. So I started calling my DPS "Justice Per Second" instead. It just seemed... more appropriate.
Seeing as this is just an introduction, I'll post this, then get started on a content post. Alright! Good ta meet ya, and stick around! Comments are always appreciated, criticism will be considered, praise will go straight to my head. Be ye fairly warned.