September 28, 2009

World of... Alliance.. Craft? I Fail at Puns

So, more World of Warcraft stuff. I'm trying to keep a 1-to-1 ratio or less of WoW stuff to regular stuff- I play a lot of WoW, and its world is fascinating, but if you don't like it, I don't wanna bore the shit out of you. Plus, if this just becomes another WoW blog, there are a LOT of other WoW blogs that are way better, and I don't like those odds. Anyway.

So thanks to PC Gamer, we now are aware of more of the plot of the upcoming expansion, Cataclysm. And we are not happy. Royal "we" there. Y'see, there are some cool details about the plot of the starting areas of the new races, and that's all well and good. And then there is a little tidbit about the fate of the Horde- that is, that Garrosh becomes Warchief and starts kicking everyone but the orcs and tauren out of Orgrimmar.

Okay. Let me get this out of the way. I'm pretty sure EVERYONE who does not work for Blizzard thinks Garrosh is an annoying piece of shit. The first time you meet him is as a Horde player, and he's a whiny little bitch. Through a long quest chain, you manage to get him the confidence to lead. Turns out, this was a big mistake. Not only is he a complete asshole to you (even if you did that quest chain) in every occasion from then on, he's also a racist, smallminded, tactically inept dipshit. That they have Varok Saurfang, god-lord of Warcraft badasses, serving as his adviser only serves to underscore his retardedness.

Originally, we all thought that Garrosh was either A) grow half a brain, because jesus christ or B) by challenging Thrall, thereby help Thrall grow a pair, and then get out of the way so that real characters can have the spotlight. Neither of these have happened. The gunshy Thrall has not learned to be more decisive, and Garrosh has not gotten any smarter. Thrall has his problems, but he's a beloved character, and one of the main characters from Warcraft 3. I really, really doubt they're going to just kill him. So if he's not Warchief, it means he left the post. And if you leave the post, you can appoint a replacement, and why, why, why, why would you appoint Garrosh and not Varok? It's not like Thrall doesn't notice Garrosh's faults. He spends half his time telling Garrosh to shut the fuck up and stop embarassing him in front of major world leaders.

And it's clear, from the fact that he's declaring more than half the Horde "not strong enough" to hang with him, that he's no brighter than he was when he proposed attacking the Alliance and the Lich King at once when they had the strength to beat neither. Blizz has said they want to keep the "war" in Warcraft. But do you really have to do that by making one faction have a universally detested leader?

And to top it off... he IS Horde. And unofficial censuses have shown, the faction ratio is noticably in the Alliance's favor. The Alliance, by and large, are a very classic fantasy organization- the idea of humans, elves, and dwarves teaming up is as old as Tolkien, older actually. The Horde, though certainly not unique, is a far more interesting group, as far as composition and culture. The Horde has always been, culturally, more interesting.

And yet Blizzard's move, for Wrath, is to give the undeniably more popular new race to the Alliance (does ANYONE think more people will roll Goblin than Worgen), which ALREADY has a larger population, and then strip the Horde of its interesting culture and leader. I know the game isn't out yet, and we don't truly know how it will all pan out, but it seems to me this is the point where you start up the slow, sarcastic applause. I am an Alliance player. I am looking forward to the expansion. But I'm also a lore buff, and this whole move just seems idiotic to me. The LAST thing the Horde needs right now is more stupid stuff. The Forsaken were just starting to come into their own as a truly interesting race, thanks to the events of Wrath, and the new Tauren classes in Cataclysm will really make a big difference, as well as getting rid of the terrible starting areas.

My advice for the expansion (not that they'll listen to me, I'm just some fan)? First off, get the blood elves back in the game. Politically, they didn't do SHIT for all of Wrath. Get Lor'themar new voicework, a new model, and have him, you know, do something rather than sit in his empty city and look smug. Either make Garrosh grow up, or have Varok, very early in his rule, pull a coup. Varok is, seriously, one of the most interesting characters in WoW. Beyond the long list of Saurfang jokes (he's the Chuck Norris of WoW), he's an ancient orc warrior who has just seen it all. He's fairly smart, but mostly he has just experienced so goddamn much, and lived through it all, that he's a force to be reckoned with. Yes, he is a voice of moderation, because he sees the wisdom in peace. And I understand, if you want the two factions at war, that's a problem. But really... it's not like Saurfang is a stranger to war. Have King Varian pull some stunt that Varok just will not tolerate- I would imagine an assault on Durotar would suffice- and he will declare war. He's better at that than Thrall, anyway.

Just please, please don't give us Garrosh. I'm not even the same faction as him and his existence in the game causes me no end of pain.

September 25, 2009

Bang for Your Buck

Having seen all the recent info about Modern Warfare 2, I am greatly encouraged about it- far more optimistic than I was. It's going to be very good, and it IS mixing things up, my claim was unfair. Anyway. Enough humility, I'm no good at that. And it's not very fun anyway.

So there's a lot we still don't know, and as an enthusiast for simulated firearms (read- I like lots of guns in games), I am particularly interested in seeing a final list of weapons in the game. But until we get that... here are a few that have not been confirmed as in that should be added, and why.

First off, we have the AN-94 Abakan. A Russian-made, state of the art 5.45mm assault rifle, designed to replace the AK-74, the AN-94 looks rather like the AK family of weapons in its basic layout. However, the individual parts all have a distinct look, a measured mix of black metal and plastic, with a very unique muzzle. So it would look interesting, and unique, which is important in a game. But that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is its firing mechanism- its two round burst fire. Plenty of weapons have burst fire, but the AN-94's burst is so fast firing, a skilled shooter can put both bullets through the same hole. It doesn't look or sound like a burst at all. A very unique, excellent weapon.

Next, a true classic- the Makarov PM. A 9x18mm Russian semi-automatic pistol from the Cold War, the Makarov is a very small, compact pistol with a... I hesitate to say cute, but certainly appealing design. It's not incredibly accurate, but it's a pistol. It works at the ranges it should be used at exceeding well, and its recoil is minimal. And, I mean... Revolver Ocelot used to use one (back before he got the revolver part of his name). Come on. It's a great Commie weapon.

The PSG1... it hasn't been confirmed as in game, but if it isn't, then there is something WRONG with Infinity Ward. Perhaps the greatest sniper rifle in service, the PSG1 is a precisely crafted weapon by the German gun masters Heckler and Koch. It was designed as the ultimate sniper weapon... and it does not disappoint. It matches the most rigarous accuracy requirements in the world while still offering semi-automatic fire with almost no recoil (due to its weight, mostly- thing is pretty darned heavy). And with twenty perfectly accurate semi-automatic shots, if you can't drop your target, you fail at life. It's a good thing this is for the game, though, not real life- this sucker costs ten thousand dollars. Ouch.

And last... another Soviet gun, what can I say, I'm a sucker for them. The PP-19 Bison is a submachine gun that fires the 9x18mm round from cylindrical magazines loaded in front of the trigger. Distinct look. Distinct feel. And thanks to a sixty-four round magazine (!) all those P90 spray-and-pray gunners from Modern Warfare 1 will feel right at home. Though I'm one to talk, with my Skorpion no-ironsights style.

Anyway, there we have four wonderful weapons that should be in Modern Warfare 2. Note that none of them were in the first- Infinity Ward, if you really don't bring back the Skorpion I WILL track you down and get arrested before I can manage to kill you. Hey, it's not much of a threat, but I least I know I can do it if I try.

September 23, 2009

Piecemeal Patchwork

Another major patch has come for World of Warcraft, and you know what that means (if you play it)... another complete mess. Every single content patch manages to screw something up, break some part of the game, or just overload servers with... something, be it inefficiency or whatever. It's maddening. Basically, it means that the game becomes unplayable for the day of the patch, and that's if you're lucky. More often, it's unplayable for several days.

Am I mad at Blizzard for this process? I think they could do more to prevent it, but I think no matter what, adding large, exciting new content for eleven million people to download and try out in one day (obvious exaggeration, they do the patches on different days for different locations, but anyway) is going to lead to disaster. Blizzard has never much pandered to its fans, they've always thought that the game was far better off in their hands, and it's pretty hard to argue with that, honestly. However, they are quite exceptional at customer service, and though patch day sucks, Blizzard does appreciate that it sucks, and is willing to lend a hand. Couldn't loot an epic item because of bugs or whatever? GMs help you out. Lost an item that you were trying to trade in the overwhelming lag? They'll get it back for you. And just plain couldn't log on at all, because the server was literally offline all day? Usually, when that happens, they'll add another day of service to your account. Customer service is great at Blizz.

So the other patch day consideration, of course, is the coding. Is there something in the delivery process or something that makes patch day such hell? ...No, not really. They don't announce patches, partially because they don't wanna be yelled at for a patch being late, but I think also so that those not in the know won't realize the patch has dropped, and thus won't even experience the patch day torment... or maybe more importantly, by not rushing online, won't contribute to it. They give us patches in bits and pieces through their background downloader, usually before the patch actual goes live, and that too saves on bandwidth.

So really, it looks like Blizzard is doing everything right. Is the suckage of patch day unavoidable, then? I don't feel like this should be the case, but damn if I know how to avoid it. Any ideas?

September 20, 2009

World at... Hmmm, No Good Puns to Be Had

So, after a long time away, I started playing Call of Duty again this weekend- both Modern Warfare and World at War. It's been good times, to be certain. But one... definitely more than the other. You see, when World at War came out, I thought it was great. Obviously, not the big evolution that MW was for the series, but it took steps in the right direction, and was an excellent game. Coming back now... Modern Warfare still blows me away. WaW, however... does not. It is, in fact, a very troubled game. I'm going to talk about the multiplayer side of it- the single player is a whole different story, and maybe I'll talk about that some other time.

Let me explain. There are some things that World at War tried that I still agree were great. The dogs, as a killstreak reward, are just plain better than the chopper. Consider, if you will, that the chopper did not miss, headshotted people with frequency, and took a LOT of effort to shoot down. Also, on some maps it was god, some maps it was worthless. Badly designed. The dogs, on the other hand, while not perfect, are quite counterable by a skilled player, about equally good on all maps, and encourage people to work together to watch each other's backs. They also encourage conflict rather than camping- the side that summons the dogs nearly always will follow the dogs to reach the enemy. It keeps things fresh, and is relatively fair. I really like the dogs. Another thing it tried, and was right about, was bolt-action rifles. They just feel good. One shot, one kill on most enemies. They could have made them a BIT more powerful- every time I plug someone in the gut with my Mosin-Nagant at twenty yards and he doesn't drop, I die a little inside (and die a lot ingame, because he's usually brought his aperture sight MP40 martyrdom ass to bear on me with some from the hip spray and pray, oh I'm not bitter).

But it did some very, very stupid things, too. For one... it stuck to the formula in lazy ways. Making it familar to Modern Warfare fans is one thing. Giving it the exact same UI, not even recoloring it, and the exact same challenges, is lazy. And it's irritating. We bought the game hoping that it would be something new. Otherwise, we'd still be playing Modern Warfare (in fact, many went BACK to MW, and I can hardly blame them). Another thing, a lot of its new perks were just plain stupid. Toss Back is good. I like Toss Back. Shades and Gas Mask are perhaps the two worst perks in the game. They are both hard counters to underused special grenades... and that's it. They do nothing else, and yet you expect us to chose them, ever, over a perk that multiples our health or damage, or a perk that gives us two primary weapons? Those two are awful. The Bouncing Betties are even more annoying than the claymores of MW, not to mention historically inaccurate, and Second Chance misses the point entirely, being unbalancedly good.

Oh, and since we mentioned historical inaccuracy... suppressors and aperture sights? No. In fact, I don't know what kind of freak love child aperture sights are anyway- I don't think anywhere in history is there an army that had soldiers so mentally deficient that they had to buy glass lens the diameter of a grapefruit with a "shoot here" mark on them. The red dot was one thing, this is idiotic. If you couldn't figure out how to shoot with the effing iron sights in World War 2, your commissary shot you so that a more intelligent man could take your gun. There were a few silenced weapons- very few, since they were invented by the Americans in WW2. None of them were rifles, none of them were automatic, and CERTAINLY none of them were the modern screw-on silencer, they were built in. In short- Treyarch, stop being so stupid.

I get it, Treyarch. Those bastards that made weapons in World War 2, eh? They didn't make enough attachments for their weapons, and now your photocopying of Modern Warfare is at risk. But you know what? There are other things you could have done. Pretty much every gun used in WW2 went through several, visually distinct iterations. You could have had those be unlockable, with varied attributes from the base version of the gun. Heck, I would have loved to have been able to unlock the Thompson M1928, that's the one that looks awesome (look it up, it really does). But in the end, even this flaw falls behind the wayside. I mean, really, they just can't live up to the three hundred pound gorilla in the room.

Vehicles. Okay, Sequels 101: need to add something to make your game feel different than its predecessor? Add vehicles! No seriously. That must be what they tell developers, because Jesus Christ do they love to shove that shit in our faces. Okay Treyarch. Listen up. Call of Duty. Is not. About. Vehicles. Do you really think that Infinity Ward didn't think of adding vehicles? I promise you they did. And they realized it was a retarded idea. And you didn't.

Okay. Here are the facts. In real life, an infantry gets the shit kicked out of him by a tank. They're no freaking match for them. In Halo or whatever, you're a super soldier with awesome armor, that you can take on a tank and win is a little silly, but okay. In Call of Duty... you're a grunt. And just like a grunt, you die like a little bitch when you fight a tank. Over and over. And that is NOT fun. Hell, it's hardly fun for the guy in the tank, because there are a dozen guys popping out of nowhere like Whack-a-Moles to pop him once with their rocket launchers and then duck back into hiding. Oh, and another thing? The game is played in first person... but the tank has third person view. ...What? So climing into this lumbering hunk of steel, and staring out through a one foot steel slit in the front gives you BETTER perspective? Idiotic.

Basically, there really were a few good ideas at Treyarch when they made this game. But as it turns out... way, way too few. It's better than CoD3, that's for certain. Maybe next time they will produce something good? Who knows.

This bitter, after-the-fact review brought to you by Mountain Dew, the only reason this post is gonna be up before noon. Though, 4 am is pretty damn good, if you ask me. I'll start trying to post before noon now, maybe that'll keep me honest.

EDIT: Correction- the Sten had a few silenced versions, which were automatic. My mistake. Funny that they didn't see fit to put any British guns in the game, though, eh?

September 14, 2009

One A.M. Pessimism

I've kind of put off this post... because I've had trouble finding something to talk about. I haven't been playing a hell of a lot because of trying to start school up properly, and what I have been playing is "let's gear up my tank" in WoW, which does not make for a particularly interesting discussion. Now, I could bore ya with the details of trying to stay defense capped while having enough DPS to generate good threat... but I have a sneaking suspicion you wouldn't give a shit, and I KNOW you have no reason to. So we're not gonna do that. Maybe when I'm feeling more intelligent (aka not at "what the hell a.m.") I'll write something about the experience of tanking, dpsing, and healing- all of which I have now done in a raid setting. It's weird. Anyway.

What I decided I would actually talk about... is why I worry about the upcoming blockbuster titles for this year. In turn, why the big releases don't look so great to me. Yay raining on parades. Stick with me, though- I'm not a whiny pessimistic, I'm just gonna note some things that have me concerned.

First off... Modern Warfare 2. Okay. This is Infinity Ward, this is Call of Duty. That's awesome. I loved 1, 2, 4, and even one of the ones they didn't make, World at War. But MW2 looks to mess up the magic. Why do I say this? Well, for starters, every one of the series that IW has made so far has had some major innovations. 1 introduced an emphasis on iron sights and long-range gunplay. 2 brought in some Halo staples in a masterful way- limited weapon loadout, regenerating health, dedicated grenade buttons. And of course... 4 gave us the Create-A-Class, and that was just freaking amazing. This one adds new stuff... but we have yet to see any real innovation or development of the core gameplay.

But that's not all that has me worried. Two words- akimbo pistols. Okay. It's an arcadey shooter, but its basis is in realistic, modern military combat. In realistic, modern military combat, using two pistols is akin to firing your assault rifle one-handed. Yes, you can do it. But it is incredibly ineffective, and a waste of bloody bullets. It's for action movies, not anything that takes the military even remotely seriously. And medium-range instant kill throwing knives? No. Just no. Do you KNOW how much kevlar these guys wear? You'd annoy them at best.

Next game... Halo: ODST. I am interested in the single player campaign, but A) an insistence to package DLC that many fans have already purchased seems a pretty bullshit move and B) declaring that there is no way it would be full price... then making it full price... smacks of massive corporate exploitation. It feels like Microsoft is trying to turn Halo into the Madden of shooters- a release every year or else, quality/content be damned. And that pisses me off. Also, it STILL has rebounding health. I don't mind rebounding health, but their whole deal was telling us we'd have to fight differently than Master Chief, and it looks like that was just bullshit.

Left 4 Dead 2... I'm not mad at Valve for making a sequel with such speed, they certainly seem to have added enough content... I have other problems. One, I don't like the characters, at least not yet. I loved the cast of Left 4 Dead, dammit, especially Louis. If we don't get some kind of "grabbin' peelz" meme out of 2, I will cry. But it's not even that... it's that I don't actually LIKE the sound of most of the new content. The Jockey, the Spitter, I don't LIKE the idea behind them. Don't let people stop moving, and force them to split up? No. No thank you. And melee weapons are neat, but I really don't care that much.

Just Cause 2. Some critics and reviewers are excited for this title. I would like to remind them they were excited for the first as well. Enough said.

There's probably more I could cry about, but I just can't think of it all right now. There are plenty of titles I'm unquestioningly excited about (Mass Effect 2, Brutal Legend), but I also have plenty of reservations. Maybe all my excitement for Assassin's Creed and inFamous across this generation has made me wary of getting kicked in the balls again (I enjoyed both titles, but... they were NOT what they were supposed to be).

September 9, 2009

I'm the Goddamn Batman

Yes, the quote is overdone, but man is it hilarious. Anyway, I picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum last week, after reading rave reviews and thoroughly enjoying the demo. Mostly, I'm going to focus on what could have been, so let me get this out of the way- it is an excellent game. If it had been a bit longer, and hadn't puttered out at the end like it did, it would be one of my game of the year contenders. Actually, if some of our end of the year titles disappoint, it may be yet. It's action-packed, fun, beautiful, well-designed, and wonderfully acted. This is one of those rare cases where the American voice acting is an absolute treat. It does a lot of things very well. But... I would probably give it an 8.5 were I the sort to give scores, maybe a little higher. Scores, all too often, seem arbitrary, though, so don't take that as my set opinion. Just take it as a guideline to how I feel, which I will explore in more depth here.

Okay, first off... the story. Batman captures the Joker after an astonishing simple fight, and cautiously takes him back to Arkham Asylum. He knows that something isn't right, but he's not sure what... and indeed, the moment he's seperated from the Joker, the madman escapes his guards, and manages to take over the Asylum, releasing thugs, crazies, and supervillains... and the Dark Knight is trapped with them. It's a simple, but thoroughly enjoyable setup- it feels very Joker, very true to the character and his style of plotting, and the real meat of the characters come from their interactions- everyone involved knows Batman, and most of them are trying to kill him... but the way they do it, the way they talk with him, and the minions (or lack thereof) they command give them all a very definitely flavor. I would say the only overlap that bothered me was how overly similar they made Killer Croc and Bane... and frankly, that's more a problem of their origins and abilties than of the writing of the game.

The story does really come apart at the end, though... it all comes down to a super-soldier serum, Joker wants it to make an army, Batman needs to stop him. Seriously. The first time comics used this, it was a boring plotline, and it's been used so many goddamn times. I don't care. It's a mega yawnfest at the end, and the focus brings down an otherwise stellar story. To put it another way... the story is minimalist, the focus is on the characters, and those characters are excellent. But in the end, the game shifts to focus on the story... and since the plot was designed as background, it really doesn't do well in the spotlight.

Side note here... the game was short, and you could say, "Well Six, how could they have made it longer in a natural manner?" The answer is pretty simple- more villains, and don't kill off Killer Croc without even a real fight. I know he's a moron, and I appreciate Batman casually besting him with a trap, but it made for a pretty dull level. Draw that out a little more, and having a boss fight where you had to dodge around while setting up a series of traps would have been excellent. And as for more villains? Heck, you even get bios for most of them as rewards in-game! Prometheus, Deadshot, Ra's al Ghul, and Two-Face all would have made for excellent fights and levels, Ra's al Ghul especially, though he would have little reason to be in Arkham.

Let's talk about gameplay. Arkham Asylum is a blast to play, in just about every element. It has the classic brawling segments so prevalent in superhero games, but a simple yet competent counter system, combined with the need to takedown an enemy (that is, actually knock them unconscious, not just knock them down) and a wonderful emphasis on the flow and momentum of combat makes these fights a simple joy. As Batman, a master of unarmed combat, fighting multiple enemies becomes preferred to fighting one-on-one. When surrounding, Batman can spin and flip, punch and kick, and interrupt any of these moves with a seamless, contextually appropriate counterattack. If this was the entirity of the gameplay, it would lack a little depth, but would suffice. But it isn't. We have the investigation mechanic, which is well done... and the predator gameplay.

You know that bit, in Batman Begins, where Batman's fighting some thugs at the docks, and he's isolating them, taking them out one by one as their buddies panic, and finally one of them screams in frustration and terror "Where are you?!" And then he bursts out of the shadows, declares "here", and then takes him out. That's how Batman does business... and that's how the predator action works. You hide in the shadows, scaring and tricking thugs into splitting up, and then oneshot them, and use that to further terrify your enemies into making more mistakes. Does it work well in gameplay? It is the most fun I have had all year. It is amazing. The game gives you plenty of tools, batarangs, explosives, grabbling hooks and such, and they work spectacularly, allowing you to perform all sorts of delicious takedowns.

There are three problems with it, though. One is that though it gives you the tools... it doesn't give you a lot of ways to apply them. You can use your cable launcher to pull people off cliffs, but not, oddly, to lift them off the ground. You can use your explosive gel to drop ceilings on baddies, or straight-up concussively blast them in the face, but you can't use the detonations to scare enemies away from an area. Really, they're not unreasonable limitations, but when you start capitalizing on the psychological aspect of combat, every missed mindgame begins to stand out. For all I could do, the functions of the tools suggested so much more. And I'm sorry... if I can lift up the entrance to a ventilation duct, and jump in or out in a mere moment... why, why, why would you deny me the chance to play shark, popping out just long enough to seize someone and pull them under with me?

The second problem is the escape mechanic- Arkham Asylum, like most things in Gotham City, is styled with gothic architecture, and there are gargoyles up in the ceiling for you to hide in, unseen. This gives you a great vantage point, both for scouting and for striking... but to put it bluntly, it makes things a little too simple. Sit up there, wait for someone to wander off, pounce, head back to gargoyle, repeat. The game does mix it up near the end- there is one room where the gargoyles have proximity explosives on them (the Joker's figured out your game), and you must therefore fight on foot. This part works tremendously well, and when the game then just goes right back to regular gargoyles again, it's a disappointment. I liked the idea that this sort of easy mode was gone, that I was expected to play better and smarter now. But alas, not a chance. It seems like the refrain of Batman: Arkham Asylum... every element of the game is awesome, but underexplored.

And the third problem is quite simple... the game is too short, and thus the predator segments too few. Far, far too often, you'll notice a pack of enemies, and get excited about the thought of a predator section... only to realize that they are just going to stand there until you get close enough to trigger a brawling segment. It's a disappointment and a missed opportunity, to be sure, even with as good as the brawling is.

Those are pretty much my only complaints with the game. I have finished it, yes, and I would like to play back through it again some time... but I would also greatly, greatly look forward to a more realized sequel using the same engine and mechanics. Fifty points if you let me do a flying kick with my portable zipline this time.

September 2, 2009

Injustice for All

Team Fortress 2 ragepost. Well, not really. As much as any post I do is a ragepost- I know my feelings on the matter, and those feelings are pretty strongly negative, but I can, as ever, appreciate the feelings of the other side. But this is just pissing me the hell off.

So, Team Fortress 2 has a problem. It has unlockables- two categories of them, really. One category is the unlockable weapons- they are pretty awesome, and offer different functionality than the regular versions. You could unlock a flamethrower that always gets a critical hit when you burn a target from behind (the Backburner, what a delicious tool), and that's just one example. Each class is getting 3 unlockable items, and 6 of the 9 classes have gotten them thus far. You can earn these unlockables through achievements, or... through a random drop system, that generates them spontaneously through a system of variables. And yes, you can get the same one over and over with this system, so it may not surprise you that most opt to try for achievements. The drop system, frankly, kind of sucks. But hey, at least there's an alternative.

More recently, though, Valve added hats. Wearable hats, 3-4 for every class, that are AWESOME. And in a game that, thus far, has had NO visual customization, the hats are a big freaking deal. And the ONLY way to get them is through the hated drop system, and they drop at a very, very low rate. The thing is... you don't actually have to play to get them. You just need to be in a server. Some of you may be seeing where I am going with this... people began to open up "idle" servers, where you could simply log in, and walk away, and let the items rack up.

People used these idle servers before the hats were added a few months back, but hats really made their useage spike, because there was no alternative. I have played TF2 at least 3 times a week, several hours every session, since the update, and I have not gotten a single hat, because the random number generator (RNG) does not love me. And this is INCREDIBLY frustrating, and pisses me off to no end. I did not use idle servers, though. It just... it seemed, to me, to make those items lose their value. That they weren't as special. Valve expressed sadness at the idea of idle servers, but seemed to consider it a necessary evil, because while in the past they were quite quick to take action when something displeased them, they did nothing of the sort here.

Then, someone came up with a special program- basically, you ran this dos-window style program, and it logged you into an idle server without wasting your system's resources on the none-too-shabby graphics of TF2. That was... a month ago, I think? And again, Valve did nothing. And I continued to hold off... until last week, I snapped. I think it was around the time the RNG decided to give me my SEVENTH pair of the boxing glove item (and no, the duplicates do NOT benefit you in any way- Valve claims they will someday, but for now they are just a slap in the face), and I still had NONE of the thirtysomething hats in the game. I was livid. And so I broke down, and downloaded the program. It wasn't that I had been holding off because it seemed wrong, against the rules- Valve had let it slide for a MONTH. Last time a program did something they didn't like, everyone that used it was punished inside of a week. I just wanted to earn the items. When I finally accepted that there was no such THING as earning with this terribly designed system, I got the idler.

The idler earned me no hats, in the time I have used it since, just more and more duplicates. And Valve has suddenly pulled a policy about-face, and stripped anyone who used the idler of their unlockable items. It was supposed to be just the ones gotten through idling, they say, but at least to me, and those I've spoken to, that's not what happened. We are missing way more than that. And it's not even about that anymore. It's about retroactive rule enforcement (they admitted themselves that they had no previous policy about it, and yet are suddenly taking action), and just plain insulting customer service.

I bought this game. Twice. I own it on 360 and on PC. I've convinced other people to buy it, to play it. I've never used any of the multitude of exploits that have been discovered- no building sentries under the map, no command console usage, no autounlock programs or data file editting, none of that. I finally used ONE piece of third party support because Valve seemed cool with it, got nothing from it, and then got smacked on the nose with a newspaper for accessing content that I own, bought and paid for. Valve is going to give us back the unlockables they didn't mean to take away. That's not what this is about. This is about them telling the community how they are permitted to play the game. We did nothing that gave us any kind of in-game advantage. And the in-game idle servers? They're doing better than ever! We are being punished for saving system resources, plain and simple.

Oh, but it gets better. Everyone who didn't use this idler program got a special halo for their "good behavior" and for taking the "moral high ground". Okay. This is where this stops being a debate on policy. This is where it becomes a straight-up "fuck you, Valve." You're giving halos to people who didn't use this idler, even those that previously used map exploits, data file hacking, third party unlocker programs, or are in idle servers right now. I would stake my goddamn life that there are people hanging out in in-game idle servers wearing their halos. I say again: Fuck you, Valve.

I am not a criminal. I am not even a rulebreaker. I did something that was entirely okay by your own rules until you decided to change them, and on the day that you changed them retroactively punish everyone who had done it the other way. I own two copies of TF2, I own Left 4 Dead, I own Half-Life and Half-Life 2. And until there is some apology or reconciliation, that is ALL I will own of Valve's products. I love their games. I love their design. And I will continue to play these games. But their customer service is straight up tyrannical, and it disgusts me.

And until they mend their ways... remember, Don't Fire Till You See the Tops of Their Heads.

P.S.: Every Valve employee has full hat access, and even access to weapons that the rest of the community can't touch. Are you going to ban them too?

September 1, 2009

Here Comes the New Rogue, Same As the Old Rogue

Okay. This is a warning- this is a post about RPing, as well as MMOs. So, that's a pretty niche audience right there. I would like for everyone to find this interesting, and will write it to be of interest to all... but that's what we're working with here. See, one of the announcements with the new WoW expansion was the new races, as well as the new race/class combinations. Some of these I will wait until the expansion to try out- I have never been able to take Shaman seriously, nor Mage, but playing a Dwarf Mage or Dwarf Shaman sounds absolutely fantastic to me. I also can't wait to try a Worgen Druid (can you tell I'm Alliance?). But the one that really gets me... is Worgen Rogue. I have to have one. And the only problem is... I already have a rogue that I like quite a bit, and I am NOT gonna have two of the same class, that's just wasteful.

My rogue is level 26, not too high, it won't be that awful to start over. Whatever. That's not my concern. I have deleted significantly higher level characters to restart them, that's for sure. My concern is this... I like my rogue, as a character. The characters that I really, seriously play always have an RP background, it's the only way I can enjoy them. I deleted a level 40 paladin not too long ago because I realized she just had no personality. She was retadin #782439, and that's not good enough for me. I just don't enjoy playing that character if I can't justify their background, and appreciate the way they think.

So far, I have a priest and a warrior at 80. My warrior has a lot of personality- let's just say that the quest where she was sent as a diplomat to the orcs was an exercise in self-restraint for her. I'd be happy to rant about each character's background, but I think it's likely more interesting for me to discuss the overarching problem- rerolling an alt you like.

My human female rogue has a pretty simple background, but I like her a lot. I like her name, I like her appearance, and she's overall just fun to play. Interestingly, she's actually one of the nicest characters I have... which is a pretty interesting characteristic for my rogue. Very pure of spirit. Anyway. The thing is, when I saw the picture at Blizzcon of the Worgen rogue in full tier 9... I knew there was no choice. I was going to reroll as a Worgen as soon as the expac came out. Period. And since I did really like my rogue's name (and I always have a hard time finding a name I like), and her appearance, I definitely wanted to reproduce that. But a Worgen is a pretty different person than a simple human lass from Elwynn Forest who realized she was good at sneaking. True, Worgen were human once, and retain much of that mindset... but it is very noticably tinged by the vicious instincts of their wolven forms. They are not human. They are close... but they aren't. And it is that very closeness that makes the differences all the more noticable.

So then, perhaps my new character could be my old rogue, Worgenized? But no- the Worgen are Gilneans, and while I could pull some fanciful crap wherein my rogue infiltrates the border only to be Worgenized, A) the characters of WoW are supposed to start out as fairly ordinary people. It is the course of the game that turns them into heroes- they do not start out being amazing exceptions to the rules, except for the hero class, because that's kind of the concept of that. That's why there are no human shamans- sure, there are probably humans out there that are in tune with the elements, but they are anything but common, so you can't be one. Worgen (ones that act civilized) that aren't Gilnean are rare, and besides, that would contradict the entire starting zone, as I understand it.

And B), doing that undermines the worth of the Worgen. Part of the thing of the Worgen is that they are questionably humane- this is a nation that once said that the rest of the world could burn so long as they were safe. This is a nation that let injured, dying people sit outside its gates, and never let them in, or even acknowledged their existence. Yes, they are part Worgen now... but that brings up the interesting question, what part of them do certain questionable acts orginainate from their lupine savagery, and what from their calculating human nature? Having a character that was innocent of heart, but corrupted by this curse is not nearly as interesting... and overdone as shit as well.

So I suppose my point is something more of a question... how much can you change while still holding onto the original idea? Are similar looks and the same name enough to consider it just a new iteration of the old character? Perhaps it's not an intellectual question. Perhaps what matters is how that character feels to their creator... and in that case, I guess we'll just have to wait for the expansion, so I can create my new rogue, and see if it invokes that old feeling.