Saturday, January 31, 2009


Finished off Mooshu and got to Dragonspyre. I celebrated by going back to Sunken Temple and soloing that annoying instance. So good to finally get that entry out of my logbook. For an encore, I then went and dinged 45. A pretty productive day, I'd say.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

WAR Update Plans

Mythic hinted that a big announcement concerning future WAR content was coming today. They didn't actually say where it would be coming from. The first salvo seems to have been fired by According to this post credited to GOA, it reveals the following revelations:

GOA has announced that a great big "Call to Arms" update for Warhammer Online will go live from March.

Top of the bill are re-instated classes Orc Choppa and Dwarf Slayer. Both are mirrors of one another: berserk, up-close brawlers with little regard for their own safety.

These will be introduced properly in March, but players can get a head start with the new classes by completing a live Bitter Rivals event slightly earlier. This event opens a Chaos-themed Twisting Tower RvR battleground, too.

The other big feature will be a Land of the Dead zone, home to an enormous new Tomb Kings dungeon that Mythic claims to be the spiritual successor to Darkness Falls from previous MMO Dark Age of Camelot. Here, remember, all factions fought openly - albeit after starting from separate corners of the immense underground chasm.

There were also tokens to collect from hellish enemies that could be spent on equipment sold by imps. And the further down players descended the much more difficult life became, culminating in an enormous boss encounter with the Legion - a screen-filling monster made up from thousands of corpses.

The Land of the Dead will be openly contested, then, and whoever controls the area will unlock the numerous public quests and instances associated with the zone.

The Land of the Dead opens fully in June, but realms will need to complete two previous live events for access. The first, Beyond the Sands, has yet to be detailed, but will happen in April.
The second event, Rise of the Tomb Kings, unlocks the Land of the Dead for each faction, and takes place in May.

On top of all this, Mythic will be finally implementing official Warhammer Online forums, adding extra Realm Wars functionality to the website, and offering a free trial versions of the game.

Plus, this Call to Arms update is just the first of the "live expansions" planned for Warhammer Online.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Planetside: Then and Now

Good news. SOE was able to get back to me with the information of which one of my two old accounts has my Planetside character on it. Time has a way with fooling you sometimes so I got curious and dug up the character info page on WingedNazgul. Last logged on over 5 years ago when I left the game for City of Heroes. Back then, I was part of the Sturmgrenadier outfit which was infamous for their recruitment video. If you look real closely, you can see my tag around 3:55 and in other parts of the video. I seem to remember driving some of the Galaxies and Vanguards in some of those shots as well. As an aside, the guy who talks about nuking the tower would go on to be the guild leader for my first ever WoW raiding guild.

Cheesy voice acting and attempts at roleplay aside, the video does do a good job at depicting the level of organization we had in those halcyon days. At the height of the outfit and game's popularity, we had the ability to population lock whole continents (now planets it seems) by ourselves. Everything from teamspeak protocol to battlegroups organized around similar certs was handled with ruthless military efficiency. Sturmgrenadier started out in WWII Online and many of its founding members came from military backgrounds in real life. So it wasn't too much of a stretch to apply familiar doctrines to the new game. It was hardcore and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

When I log on to Planetside now and play, it's a whole different experience. It's a lot more casual now. You find out where your outfit squad is and go join them. If there isn't an outfit squad formed, you can pull up a list of squads and put a request in to join those instead. It's very similar to the open group mechanic in WAR. You get a feel for where the action is by where the majority of squads are operating from. But even if I join a full platoon of squads, there's very little direction given by the squad or platoon leaders. Everyone pretty much does their own thing although the CR5's still try to direct the flow of the war by barking out over global every once in a while.

But, hardcore or casual, the action in Planetside remains the same. Depending on enemy activity, it can range from boredom to frenetic scenes of carnage straight out of the best war movies. I just wish they would take a page out of Wizard 101's book and price their MMO more realistically. At $14.95 a month, I can't just can't see it. But at $9.95 a month, it would definitely make me think about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm Not Dead Yet

Just haven't found anything interesting to write about apparently since I left WAR. I guess I could regale you all with tales of deck construction and synergy in Wizard 101 but I doubt that would excite many of you out there. Or how I fell in love again with the Phoenix Launcher and Gauss Rifle in Planetside. Yes, the Gauss Rifle. That much-maligned instrument of doom. Not as flashy as the Cycler or Pulsar but it gets the job done in the hands of a skilled user.

I had a very productive weekend on the Wizard 101 front. Dinged 35 and got to Mooshu with the help of some great friends, Suri Jadeshade and John Lifesinger. I know it's primarily a kid's game but soloing the instances you need to advance the storyline and move on to the next world is about as tough a challenge as any gaming achievement out there. Having them help me complete the last two instances I needed in Marleybone was a refreshing change of pace but the truth is I would've completed those instances solo if they weren't around and willing to lend a hand. I just wouldn't have blasted through them as fast as I did. Looking back at it, the gauntlet I had to run through would've been brutal to solo and any wrong decision on any single turn would easily have been fatal.

On the Planetside front, I hooked up with the RPS outfit and we went on our first major excursion as an outfit on Saturday. You can read about it here and I took a few screenshots of my own and placed them here. Dinged BR6 and got my first implant to be able to view the enemy's health finally. Juggling the certifications I needed for a viable skillset made me pine for my old BR20 CR5. So I put in a ticket to Sony thinking that they had deleted my old character but it turns out that the account I was using was not my old Planetside account. There are two accounts associated with an old email I was using at that time. Now I just need Sony to figure out which one of them has my old character in case I ever want to re-activate Planetside.

Speaking of which, SOE really needs a better pricing plan for PS. Bundling it up as part of a Station Access pass doesn't work for me as I'm not interested in any of their other games. And paying the normal $14.95 monthly fee for it alone doesn't work either. Sorry, but that's not a lot of value compared to what you can get elsewhere for the same amount. Judging from the player population the past week, Planetside is still a very popular niche game. I would imagine a more creative pricing plan would boost the paying population even more.

As for World of Warcraft, I have barely logged on since I bought the expansion. I just couldn't muster the minimum effort needed to even level my Paladin past 71. Not a good sign and one I took to heart as I cancelled my WoW account yet again. At least I'll have the expansion installed in case I ever decide to return to Azeroth.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From one WAR to Another

I got an email this morning from one of my favorite e-columnists, Jim Rossignol. It seems I was chosen after I put my name into consideration to be one of the seventy representatives of Rock, Paper, Shotgun in their 3-way vs. The Escapist and Boing, Boing Offworld. The arena of choice: Planetside. The details of this event can be found here.

Believe me I didn't need that much of an excuse to check out Planetside again which was responsible for hooking me into the world of MMO's. Before Planetside, I had eschewed MMO's being happy with FPS'es as my online games of choice. The opportunity to represent RPS as well as free gaming time which included the latest expansions was too good to pass up. I was really hoping we'd be fighting on the Emerald server where I have a BR20 CR5 on ice unless SOE decided to delete him. But it looks like it's the Gemini server so I get to level one up from scratch.

So I sit here with the Station updater informing me my download is at 94% and reading various horror stories about Vista and its effect on this game's performance. Hopefully, I can rediscover some of my long-unused FPS skills to give a good account in this war.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Exit Survey - Warhammer Online

Since there didn't seem to be an option to fill out an exit survey when I unsubscribed to WAR this morning, I thought I'd leave my thoughts about it here.

What was it you liked about WAR? Warhammer Online is an absolutely gorgeous game when you run it at the highest settings. The art and animations combine to make you feel as if you have stepped foot into a world only hinted before in lush tabletop battles. The character classes and customization are top-notch. The much maligned PVE, is for the most part, very well done with some unique innovations in the form of public quests and map rings. The PVP scenario designs and matchmaking system were a cut over those provided by previous games. Other innovative features like the Tome of Knowledge and the Bolster system deserve praise as well.

What was it you didn't like about WAR? The system bogged down whenever you get more than 2 groups on each side in close proximity to each other. Even though I could run the graphics on the highest settings while soloing in deserted zones, I was forced to run it on the lowest setting and animations disabled for most of the time if I wanted to see more than a slideshow. The keep and fortress designs need a revamp badly in my opinion. One can look at the High Elf fortress grounds and imagine a pitched battle like Helm's Deep occuring outside the main keep. But the reality is it's just so much wasted space as the real fighting in a contested keep always devolves to the stairway before the keep or fortress lord. A redesign of the zone locking system with more options and incentives for groups besides zerging is probably needed as well. While the gear grind for the sets you need to acquire to move through the endgame isn't as harsh as other games, it can still use some tweaking to remove some of the randomness. I'm fine with PVE or PVP, but I'm way too old for PVRNG shenanigans.

What games are you planning on playing after WAR? I have some unfinished business in WoTLK now that they raised the level cap to 80 and now's a good time to head back to WoW to check out the new goodies. I'm going to try and take it easy this time around which will leave me time to also enjoy the various free MMORPG gems I've discovered out there. Hopefully, Mythic will be implementing changes sooner rather than later to their game and I will be back to WAR before I know it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wizard 101 First Impression

I kept saying to myself several times while I was playing Wizard 101 that I really should stop this and go do something else. But it was always just one more quest, one more boss and eventually I just gave in to just having fun in this game.

So this weekend was supposed to be where I'd get my White Lion to 20 and get the mount to make my leveling life a little easier. Instead, I decided to check off a couple more games on my to-do list and installed the free-to-play MMO's Atlantica Online and Wizard 101. Even without the updates on the game from Saylah and Tipa, I knew this was a title I would eventually check out on my own. Many moons ago, I had a voracious addiction to Magic: The Gathering and spent quite a bit of time playing the collectible card game. Also, while I've never read the Harry Potter books, I knew basically what the genre was about from the movies based on them.

Based on the little quiz that is given in the beginning, it turns out I was a Fire Mage. Since I had next to no clue what the different schools were about yet in the game, I just went with that result. As a secondary school, I picked Thunder thinking the best defense is a good offense. Now that I'm close to level 15, I'm thinking this build might not be all that suitable for soloing which I plan to do a lot of in this game. So I'll probably reroll as Thunder/Life before I get too much further in the game. Strange that in a game with such a young target audience, there isn't a respec system to redo bad decisions regarding your character class selection.

While the game is free to play, the amount of free content is pretty meager and it won't be long before you exhaust it all. I opted for the pay as you play option instead of a regular subscription but I knew in the first hour of playing that I'd eventually be plunking some money down to unlock the additional content.

Kudos the developers at KingIsle Entertainment for creating a game that appeals to both the young and young at heart. The graphics and animations are suitably bright and colorful yet look like they could run on almost any system. The world looks alive as you see tons of players run around. I must admit to feeling a little uneasy at the thought that most of these were really young children and I've found myself being more reticent than normal. The ability to jump in and help out in fights is fantastic and the cardgame mechanic is solid if a little elementary. I still need a guide to decipher all the card symbols and it won't be long before I pore over card lists and come up with the ultimate deck design. I can't wait.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Clarifying the Grind

It seems I hit a hot topic with my stance towards the gear grind in WAR. I think some points were missed about grinding that were lost in the mad rush towards the torches and pitchforks to vilify the monster called Wards. So I'd like this opportunity to clarify my stance on grinding.

It is my belief that MMO game designers and developers are not the clueless sadists that most people make them out to be on the Internet. I believe they take pride in their work the same as everybody else. It's up to them to design the challenges and rewards that we as players must face in their games. But they can't account for how every single person will react to the content they design. Obviously, there will be those who find the challenges too easy and some too hard. As well, there will be those who think the rewards appropriate and those who think they aren't.

The grind is the feeling individuals get when they feel the reward doesn't quite fit with the effort involved in getting it. Normally, if you felt this way in a non-MMO game, you would just stop playing it altogether and look for some other way to waste your gaming time. But the subscription model of most MMO's means that this option is not taken lightly and is usually reserved as an option of last resort. And so are born the grinds that are undertaken in the name of character progression.

In summary, grinds are here until the day developers can develop mind-reading technology to custom-design every facet of their game to individual tastes. It's up to you to either embrace or reject these grinds. Nobody else can make that decision for you. For me, I enjoy leveling characters to max too much for it ever to be a grind. In much the same way, I just can't see grinding PVE instances over and over with the ultimate payoff being more glorified PVE encounters. That's not what I signed up for in this here RVR game.

Your mileage most definitely may vary.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Daily Grind

Grinding: Any activity which is not enjoyable but is tolerated because you know that it's good for your character's progression. That's my definition of grinding. Note this means that grinds are highly subjective and what is one person's grind can be another's font of enjoyment. This is why I can level so many characters to max when the thought of this is enough to make most people nauseous. For some strange reason, I love the sound of the ding and look forward to using the new abilities I gain every level. There's just something about completing quests that tickles the achiever in me. When those completed quests turn into the experience bar growing towards the next level, it's a double bonus to me.

On the other hand, I took one look at Mythic's setup for the endgame gear grind and just said pass. Basically, the ward system means you need to grind the lower level wards in order to tackle the next content in line. This ultimately leads you to equipping a set of gear that will enable you to survive the encounter to take down the opposing faction's king. While, in theory, this sounds glorious. The reality is that in order to do this efficiently you need to run around to different zones capping undefended battlefield objectives and keeps and hope you can win some gold bag lotteries. Then you have to hope to win the RNG lottery in the 3-day lockout instance of your choice. No thanks.

I'd rather just RVR for the sake of RVR. I'll check out those end-game instances eventually but I'm in no hurry to do it. If I happen to have a set of gear which will enable me to survive a fortress lord or city PQ or even a Chaos king when it's time to tackle them; great. If not, I can always help out in the defense of said encounters. You don't need wards to do that.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Clean Slate

That's what Tabula Rasa means in Latin.

Before the news broke about Tabula Rasa shutting down for good in February of this year, I really hadn't heard much about this game. What I did hear consisted mainly of advice to stay away from it and what a huge steaming pile it was. Since I like to form my own opinions, I decided to check this title out for myself before its self-destruct date. According to the official website, they had opened up free play from last month to February 28, 2009 which would be the last day for TR.

Here's the link with all the details. You will need to create a PlayNC Tabula Rasa account first. Then, you go to their support site and ask for an activation code. You can download the game client from the link or if you already have the PlayNC launcher installed you can install it that way. The request took just a few minutes for them to give me a code even though they warn that it could take up to 7 days because of the backlog of requests.

Here's an awesome site that will help you take your first few steps in this game. I've got to say that the limited time I was trying out this game made me sad that it would all be going away soon. The art direction and the world looks incredible. The unique FPS/MMORPG hybrid really works due in no small part to the work put into making a UI that would be comfortable to players coming from both genres. I understand that it's been polished quite a bit from its rough start which was responsible for scaring off the player base. If so, now's the perfect time to try it out before it's too late.