EverQuest 2 Anyone?

[EverQuest 2] I was at Fry’s Electronics today seeing what games I could get for $9.99. I love those “Value Priced” games. Most of them aren’t that great, but I get my $9.99 worth of entertainment out of them ($9.99 is cheaper than a movie in LA nowadays). I came across EverQuest 2 for $19.99. They had a ton of these things. Some poor purchasing manager probably over estimated the popularity of these things.

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Sony Take Over The Matrix; Comic Based MMO Wars to Follow?

[The Matrix Online] OK, everyone has probably heard about Sony Online Entertainment aquiring the rights to The Matrix Online from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. I played The Matrix Online for a while and I thought it had the most potential of any MMO. But, like the Matrix movies, potential was not realized.

Remember at the end of the original Matrix movie? Neo was stopping bullets in mid-air, beating the crap out of agents, and flying around in full view of the public. You got the feeling that in a sequel with a bigger budget they could do amazing things. Plus you had the very interesting story of how the world (well, those “blue pills” in the Matrix anyways) would react to seeing a flying man. Instead of showing us any of that, in the sequels Neo pretty much just goes around kung fu fighting more people.

Instead of one agent he takes on hundreds, plus two ghosts for good measure. We don’t learn how the world reacts to flying Neo or seeing Morpheus swordfight on a moving truck. By the time the third film came along, they basically gave up everything they set up at the end of the first film and focused on the real world (Zion). I actually enjoyed the last film a lot and I think the people making the new Superman movie should watch that final fight between Neo and Smith. The second film actually isn’t that bad either if you try and ignore all the pretentious pseudo philosophy talk. However, neither film lived up to the potential of the first one. Why is Neo even worried about agents when he could stop bullets and easily defeat them at the end of the first one (the answers is probably because they didn’t want to make him too powerful, which would be boring to watch since he would never be in danger)? Well, the game pretty much suffers the same fate as the film series.

The game is based on a great premise that it never really lives up to. Maybe I’m just missing the whole techno punk aesthetic, but the game is very depressing to play. The gloomy, green tinged cityscape aside, the central concept of the game is to maintain the status quo. The three factions (Machine, Zion, and Merovingian) have a peace which you must maintain although you spend much of your time killing operatives of the other factions. While it makes no real difference which side you choose in the game, if you look at it logically, why would anyone side with not Zion? Before you point to Cypher, who betrayed everyone and worked for the Machines in the first film, realize that in that film the Machines agreed to let him re-enter the Matrix and live a happy life with no knowledge of the real world. Which mean the motivation (storywise anyways) for joining the Machines in game is to… one day not have to play the game? Maybe I’m just taking the story aspect too seriously. Some people probably just get a kick out of working for the Machines, but for me I must be emotionally invested in the story to enjoy the game.

In WoW I truly have moments when I feel bad for the Undead and want to kill those Scarlet Crusade bullies picking on them. In MxO the most sympathetic faction is Zion, but they admittedly cannot win and their goal is to only maintain the status quo, which isn’t exactly the most exciting of motives.

MxO was probably designed to have murky motives that might appeal to some. The incredible ammount of customization of wardrobe and abilities would definately appeal to more hard core gamers. However, the game suffers from more than just a tedious storyline. The finished game just wasn’t polished. It was confusing as hell and it was harder to get into than Guild Wars. To be fair, I did not experience any of the live events that MxO is know for. Friends who have told me those really shined and alone are enough to justify the monthly fee. If they are as fun and involve as many famous actors from the film as I’ve heard they are, I would agree. (BTW, what ever happened to those elemental attacks promised in the last, last WoW patch?) I love in game events. I even liked the lack luster Children’s Day WoW had a while back. It was lousy, but at least it was something new.

Getting back to MxO: under Sony I’m not sure the special events will continue. They were probably the main reason to play to game to anyone outside die hard Matrix fans. Over the past few years Sony has actually gone from electronics company to major media player. They bought out Columbia Pictures and are now a major Hollywood player. I would imagine that they could definately continue putting out decent MxO events. They got Heather Graham for EverQuest 2 so it isn’t as if they haven’t involved famous actors with their online games in the past. I’m just not sure MxO will be a huge priority for them. The game doesn’t have huge subscription numbers and their flagship title is EQ2, which has had live events as well, although, by all reports, not as fun as the MxO ones.

It’ll remain to be seen if SOE is commited enough to continue producing live events for MxO. Remember, the MxO live events involve must be approved by the studio (Warner Bros. would probably not be happy if they had a live event where everyone dies and they can never make another sequel), the creators (who have been said to have wanted to continue the Matrix storyline in the game and were active in the games development), and actors (who would get hefty paychecks and some creative input). How difficult will it be for SOE, which is owned by Sony Pictures, to work with Warner Bros., a rival studio? Then again, SOE seems to get along fine with Fox, which owns Star Wars, but everyone knows Lucas really owns Star Wars.

I was going to write about SOE aquiring the rights to a DC Comics MMO set to be released in 2007, but didn’t realize that I’d write so much about MxO. I’ll do the DC Comics thing later this week. For those keeping score: DC Comic is at Sony Online Entertainment. Vivendi Universal has the rights to a Marvel Comics MMO.


More Battlegrounds

[World of Warcraft] Battlegrounds has been around a little over a week now. Most blogs seem to be blasting the system, but I’ve been a big fan of it. Yes the system has a lot of flaws that I will get to. However, battlegrounds has done what new raid instances (which cannot be experienced by anyone who is a casual to moderate player) never could. Battlegrounds has brought people who had stopped playing and considered cancelling their subscriptions back to the game. During the past week or so I have been seeing a lot of people that I quested with way back when. Admittedly, many are there just to see what the fuss is about, but those who have gotten into battlegrounds, like myself, are pulling all nighters again just like the first week we had the game.

As mentioned earlier, while I personally enjoy Battlegrounds, some people are put off by the many bugs and poor design choices. The top 3 seem to be:

1) Lack of any organization: I mentioned this in my previous posts. When you enter Battlegrounds you are not placed into any sort of group unless you were already part of a group when you enter. I’m not sure if its laziness or selfishness, but most people seem content to just kill things on their own or with a small group. Even when a raid group gets going, you can be sure that about half of the people on your side in the instance will just continue to go about doing their own thing. When you do get a decent sized group, it is another monumental feat to get more than 3 people to charge with you. Despite the lack of any penalty for death (aside from a walk from the graveyard) a lot of people aren’t willing to put themselves on the line.

2) Queues/Game time: They can’t really do anything about the wait times, but I agree that the games take way too long sometimes (more so Alterac than Warsong). This is a problem because certain NPCs in Alterac that give side quests do not respawn. On our server we’ve had a battle going on its third day now where the Alliance has not lost one bunker and have been at the gates of Frostwolf Village since day one. To win and reset the instance they must kill our leader in Frostwolf Village. They’ve summoned their calvalry and elemental and yet the Horde have held them off for 3 days. The Horde’s chances for victory, with the Alliance still having all their bunkers in tact, is slim (although it has been done on our server under similar conditions before), but those who need to turn in quests to dead NPCs are pretty much out of luck until one side finally wins.

3) Imbalances: Alterac seems fairly balanced as far as player classes are concerned. Warriors are still getting most of the killing blows, but I’ve gotten quite a few and I’m a priest. The map is, I think, a bit unbalanced, although I think that may be part of the design. In my experience the Alliance base has been very difficult to get in to (without an elemental anyways), but once we took out the two bunkers and crossed the bridge, it has fallen easily. The Horde base, on the other hand, has been breached many times by the Alliance, but getting to that final room where the Captain is has been difficult for the Alliance. In Warsong, the map is balanced, but both sides must employ a different style of play. The Alliance has the paladin, who, when paired up with a priest or two, is a pretty unstoppable flag carrier. When a guy who wears plate armor, can heal himself, can become temporarily invincible, and can cure himself of damage over times gets the flag, it is pretty hard to stop him. While the shaman’s ghost wolf form is useful, the shaman is much weaker than a paladin and must rely more on the team’s ability to keep enemies away while he makes a run for it compared to the paladin who is more of a walking tank.

Well, that’s just my two cents on the issue. I’m sure I’m wrong about some of it and there’s probably much deeper problems out there that I missed, but for me these have stood out. Despite this, I am a big fan of BG and they have reignited my interest in the game. Blizzard will be getting my $15 for at least another month. More are said to be on the way (hopefully one with the Undead as faction leaders), plus siege weapons are in the planning stages.

Battlegrounds Day One

[World of Warcraft] The long awaited patch with Battlegrounds was finally released for WoW on Tuesday. I’ve been playing on the test server so I had seen a lot of the new content before, but it was good to finally experience Battlegrounds with friends on my server (and thank you Blizzard for making wands auto cast). In my last post I had wrote about how all but the most dedicated of players I knew were getting a bit tired of WoW. Those most dedicated player being in large guilds who were basically raiding nightly. Meanwhile, casual players like myself and some pretty diehard players that simply did no join a large guild were running out of things to do. Most of us were stuck doing nightly Dire Maul raids and dueling in front of Ogrimarr.

Now that Battlegrounds is out I take back much of what I said. Although the waits to get in to an instance are long at times, once you get in it is very fun. Even Alterac, which was almost unplayable on the test server due to lag is running well and generally very fun. Most of the people I knew who got bored of the game are back playing Battlegrounds. Yes, there are still many bugs and lots of things I wish they could change, but I think they’ve got me for another 3 months or so at least with this new patch. Hopefully, more Battlegrounds will be release to compliment Alterac and Warsong. However, the preview page indicates that the next big content addition will be the Blackwing Lair raid instance. Not having 40 level 60s in my guild, I will probably never see the inside of that instance.

For the record: I’ve only played Alterac and Warsong once each since they went live. Horde won both times. Now excuse me while I go play some more.


The Final Countdown

[World of Warcraft] Well, I’ve been level 59 for about a month now. I hit it right before finals week and my camping trip so my efforts to hit level 60 have been somewhat slowed. While I still enjoy playing the game, it does seem as if a lot of people are quitting. My realm is often empty and the people on my social list aren’t logging on as much as they used to. Even my real life friends have been largely taking a break from the game.

Maybe it’s just the people I play with or just my realm, but from what I’ve been reading on the MMO blogs it appears as if WoW may be dying a bit. As a guy that has owned a PS2 for the past 3 or 4 years and has yet to beat a game, I consider myself a pretty casual gamer. I don’t know what I’ll do when I hit level 60, but what most people seem to do is either concentrate on PvP or start raiding to get the the high end gear. I’m not sure those goals appeal to someone that enjoys a more casual experience. Several of my friends who are fairly casual gamers have quit the game already. With the exception of a few people I know who are very hardcore players, everyone else that played with any regularity is either taking a break or playing with alts.

The overall problem seems to be that there isn’t much to do for those gamers in the middle. Much like you’re stuck pretty much being a Republican or Democrat in the United States, in WoW you’re either a guy that has fun taking a month to get to level 10 or you’re someone that plays 5 hours a night every night. Those of us who play with some regularity, but lack the ability or desire to devote that much time to the game are usually not asked to join large guilds. Without a guild it is near impossible to do raids that require 30-40 people (and if you do you know you’re going to get ninja looted). The attitude a lot of people have (Blizzard included) is that things are the way they are as to encourage people to socialize and work together. I can see their side, but since I am personally clearly not able to do this; perhaps the game is not for me. My plans for now are to hit 60 and see how things are once they release Battleground (tomorrow maybe? hope hope). If things don’t improve, the end of my account may be near. Until an expansion comes out of course.


Argh :(

[World of Warcraft] After returning from my camping trip I looked forward to playing some WoW. However, I noticed my computer was much more sluggish than usual. It seems I was down to 2 gigs of hard drive space. So I go in and delete some files and run defragmenter and disc clean up. After that, my WoW won’t load properly. I might have to delete and reinstall the game, but I hate doing that especially with MMOs where that means downloading all the patches again. But unless I figure this out soon, that’s what I’ll have to do… argh.


It was worth a shot

[World of Warcraft] Well, if nothing else, my friend talks a good game. He managed to talk 2 level 60s into quitting their guild and joining up with ours. Unfortunately, he chose a horrible week to do it since half of our guild is camping right now (and not as in corpse camping, they’re real life friends who are roughing it for the week). Another guild member and myself will be joining them tomorrow. I haven’t had a chance to play as much this week either since it is finals week. So with most of the guild gone this week, the 2 level 60s left the guild today. Oh well.

Anyways, as mention earlier, I will be camping this weekend so no WoW, ESPN Fantasy Baseball, e-mail, posting on this site, or E3 news for me. I guess I’ll have to wait until Monday to find out more about Civ4 and download pictures of e3 booth models.


Tuesday Night Drunk

[World of Warcraft] My friend loves his alcohol. A lot. This guy once got so drunk on New Years Eve that he unzipped his pants on the Las Vegas Strip 30 minutes before midnight and relieved himself on Caesars Palace while random tourists took pictures. Now that you have that delightful image seared into your memory, we jump to last night. My friend, decides that Tuesday night is a great night to go to a bar. I decline his invitation, but he finds some drinking buddies and they set off. Around 1AM I get a drunk dialing call from him. It’s the usual how much he misses his girlfriend type stuff, but then he starts talking about WoW.

You see, my friend, unlike me the dilettante, pretty much concentrated on just playing WoW and only having character and an auction house guy. Even though he started playing at the end of January, the guy has hit lvl 60, bought an epic mount, and has enough money to buy another one if he feels like it. I have many friends that play the game. Some are in well organized guilds that have killed Onyxia several times. However, those guys all pretty much joined the same guilds they joined in beta, assuring that their fellow guildmembers would be fairly hardcore gamers. Myself and four others wisely cordinated and ended up on the same server (unlike my other friends), but we are casual players compared with the others. My drunken friend plays a lot more than us so he is frustrated. Hence the drunken call.

Ever since getting his epic mount my friend has been bored out of his mind. He wants to go try and kill Onyxia and run Molten Core, but he knows he won’t while he stays in our guild, yet he doesn’t want to leave his buddies since middle school. So he calls me and lays out the plan he must have been formulating for quite a while now. Using his advertising background he plans to turn out little guild of five guys from Orange County and a couple of Australians that don’t mind playing with us American insomniacs into the greatest guild ever. It’ll be interesting to see how far he goes with this, or if he’ll even remember tomorrow morning.


Testing Battlegrounds

[World of Warcraft] Over the weekend, the test servers with battlegrounds went live. When I logged I headed straight for Tarren Mills and then Alterac. It was unplayable. Pure and total chaos. People were yelling orders at each other and just running around doing their own thing. There must have been 4 or 5 different raid groups.

The Alliance seemed to be much more coordinated and one waypoint after another fell to them. I tried my best to fight back, but it was pretty much worthless. Adding to the problem is that you begin in a cave not too close to the front lines. In addition to the general confusion, the server was lagging like crazy. People were floating around and instant casts were taking several minutes. It was the first day of the Honor System all over again. One Night Elf rogue tried to gank me, but I feared him and he ran off never to be seen again.

I decided to quit and spent the next 10 minutes trying to log off. I eventually just alt tabbed out and closed game. OK, that was rough. It was a huge let down. Battlegrounds was supposed to be the savior for some of us.

My guild is basically myself and about 4 of my real life friends. We’ve picked up a few along the way, but we’re a small guild and we like it this way. We know that unless they change the way the game is played, we’ll most likely never be doing Molten Core or see Onyxia and we’re content with that. Battlegrounds and the Honor System was to be an alternative way to get the top gear and without having to join a huge guild, which many don’t have the time or desire to commit to.

Here it was and after a while I realized that it might not live up to the potential. I could let the lag and bugs slide. I’m willing to give them a chance to work it out a bit. Even with all their internal testing, I can understand that once this thing goes live they’re going to encounter unforseen problems. However, that was not my problem. It seemed as if the idea itself might not work. I think my friend described the concept best as a MMO version of the Defense of the Ancients custom maps from WC3. That was probably what they were going for, but this was nothing like it.

Today, I decided to log in again and give it another try. Instead of Alterac I headed to Warsong. While Alterac is 40 vs 40, Warsong is only 10 vs 10. There was a big group hanging around the instance entrance at 1AM waiting to get in. There was only 1 instance which meant only 10 could play at a time. After adding myself to the waitlist an icon came up and gave me an estimated waiting time of 40 minutes. I was in about 3 minutes later. Warsong drops you pretty much right into the action.

There was only 1 quest that I found and it was given by a NPC outside the instance and basically all you had to do for the quest was to win a round of the game. The game is a 10 vs 10 capture the flag, best 3 out of 5. Let me say that this is probably the most fun I’ve had in WoW ever. It was a combination of Guild Wars and Counter-Strike. With only 10 people and a fast pace it was easy to communicate and plan strategy. In fact communication was very important.

Unlike Alterac, this was fun PvP. A lot of 1 on 1 situations occured (Shadow Priests rejoice!) and the mad scrambles to get a flag back from the enemy was very exciting. When I entered, the Horde was down 0-2. If the Alliance captured one more flag it would be over, but we came back and won the thing 3-2. I can imagine myself playing this over and over again. Although, outside of honor points, there doesn’t seem to be a too many rewards for doing these 10 vs 10 games. The one quest yielded 2.5 gold and that was it.

After having fun in Warsong, I decided to give Alterac another try. Maybe it was the time of night or maybe there were some server upgrades, but the thing ran well. No more laggy than a typical day at Tarren Mills. This made the game more playable, but many problems still exist. The main problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a focus. People are just running around doing their own thing. It is just like the back and forth of Tarren Mills PvP.

There are several side quests available in and out of the instance that cause things to happen in the game. The Alliance seemed a lot better at triggering this than our Horde side, but all the extra help they had was easily repulsed. The lvl 62 Elite and above bosses did drop some good items, but looting is going to be a huge problem. Ninja looting is going to happen a lot I promise you. I played for about 90 minutes without a waypoint changing hands or much of anything else happening. Both sides just pretty much took turns zerging and getting pushed back.

The 40 vs 40 epic battles do more closely resemble traditional grouping. I was doing a lot more healing and shielding compared to Warsong. Alterac was better this time around and I think it will get better down the road as people figure it out. However, unless you get lucky and come on right before a victory, it will take a considerable amount of time to get anywhere in it. Also, a large, well organized guild will have a considerable advantage over a pick up group in Alterac.

I won’t go into the bugs and problems. Lots of other sites and forums are covering those. There are some pretty obvious problems that could probably be taken care of with a simple fix, but again this is just test server. Battlegrounds will definately get me more excited about the game, although it isn’t what a lot of people will expect. Alterac is not going to be fast paced PvP action. If you like participating in those Tarren Mills/Southshore raids you will enjoy Alterac. Personally, I enjoy the Guild Wars/Counter-Strike style of Warsong.

To each his own :)


Obligatory Introduction Post

Good day gentle reader. This will be the first of hopefully many more posts to come. My hope is to be able to comment about MMOs in general, but for the most part I will be talking about WoW. It is the only MMO I currently subscribe to and therefore know the most about. I have played just about every major MMO out there. Usually I preorder games and play the betas ($10 for 3 or 4 months of play is a bargain) or I buy the full retail version on Ebay once the game has been out for a while. That being said, I have yet to “invest” in a copy of Mourning. Of course the downside is that I am usually spread pretty thing playing WoW, whatever Betas I can get in to, and my PS2. However, it does give me a pretty decent understanding of where each game is strong and weak. I have friends that complain about every little detail in WoW and I have friends who are Blizzard fanboys that would not talk bad about the game even if Blizzard decided that all Horde characters should move at 1/2 speed.

As much as I like WoW, I must admit that the fantasy genre isn’t really my thing. Sure, I can play fantasy games and I have nothing against them, but at heart I’m a sci-fi geek. I’ve tried AO, EVE, and a few others (not SWG though, I’m a Trekkie) and I haven’t found a sci-fi MMO that has really made me want to pay a monthly fee yet. MxO was fun and I think has an amazing ammount of potential, but I’m not too big on the hacking/cyberpunk thing. I thought the game would be set mostly in the “real world” and you could go around Zion and the tunnels, with an option to go in to the Matrix. In hindsight, that probably wouldn’t have made for a better game than what they came up with.

Also, I was a big comic book geek back in the 90s where every 5th issue of a Marvel comic had 2 or 3 covers (regular, hologram, foil, etched, chrome, etc.). I got a chance to play CoH a while back. I bought the special edition on Ebay for $20 off some guy that just bought it for the Heroclix figure. The game itself was pretty fun, but not enough to get me to pay $15 a month just yet. I’ll probably give it another shot once CoV comes out.

So that’s pretty much where I stand with MMOs for the moment. The fantasy games are tops despite not being my favorite genre. I’d like to see more sci-fi games and would like to see CoH polish itself a bit. My most anticipated game is Star Trek Online just because I’m a Trekkie (but boy, that was an awful final episode of Enterprise). But for the moment I’m sticking to WoW.