Blame November Rain

This week has been really “blah” all around.  There have been some exciting things.  Like a possible new boss battle in Guild Wars.  The Volume 1, epic quests becoming soloable in Lord of the Rings Online.  And of course, the Evil Empire’s RMT sale of drunk panda pets.  It’s all great, I guess.  I would probably care more if it had not rained the past two weekends.

Mostly I have been plugging away at Borderlands.  I gave up on multiplayer.  Yes, I have tried every suggestion (GameRanger, Hamachi, port opening, etc.), and 90% of the time the system refuses.  What drives me absolutely batty is that 10% of the time it lets me co-op and nothing has changed!  Until I see a fix from Gearbox, I am just going to assume I bought and am playing a singleplayer FPS.  And, quite a good one at that.

Last night I decided to head off to bed after turning in a quest, and along the way I got a purple-named revolver that shoots AoE electrical bursts.  I stayed up for another half an hour just roaming around the main zone looking for bandits to electrocute with magnum bullets.

she sure got the boogie


My buddy invites me to his Ventrilo server, so we can chat while we are in our respective games. He is running his five-man dailies in WoW, I am starting a second playthrough in Borderlands.

“So, what’s this ‘playthrough’ BS? Does anything change, or do you just do the same boring-ass quests over again? Who wants to do that?”

“Aren’t you playing WoW right now?”

: Zubon


You may have expressed your sympathies for the NPCs in your favorite MMO. They never get to leave their shops, and their families miss them. Perhaps they do not even have shops, eternally standing in the sun and the rain in the hopes that someone will come by with frayed rat tails to sell. The lucky ones get to wander along a track, but most of them might as well be vending machines.

Borderlands takes that step. Shopkeepers? You can meet both of them, but mostly you deal with the vending machines they set up around the world. Drop your money in and grenades come out. Drop your sniper rifle in and money comes out.

How does that work? In a sci fi setting, you can have good computers in a box that huge. How do they empty/restock them, how did they get them in these forsaken corners of the world, and why don’t they get robbed? Look, this is a game where shotguns can fire electric rockets and pistols can generate their own ammunition. Being nitpicky about vending machines will not help you when you want to set fire to the acid-spitting dog-thing.

: Zubon

Bad Design or Buggy Implementation?

Continuing Borderlands/Torchlight week, there is an oddity with the scavenger quests (and possibly others), and it does not seem to affect everyone, which implies “bug” to me. It seems that, if you pick up quest objectives in an order other than the one in which the quest guide points you to them, the quest guide breaks. The little diamond on your map points to nothing in particular or perhaps one you already picked up. Luckily, the item(s) will still be in that general area, so you can just look around for a while; it helps to do this at night, when the green lights stand out.

Checking if I was the only one with this problem, I found many defenders of the current implementation. Their theory is that this is intentional behavior, that the quest guide is only supposed to point you in the general area. Some lean heavily on “scavenger hunt,” which is arguable even though scavenging has a meaning prior to (and hence yielding) scavenger hunt. They must believe that the first few quest points are exactly on the right spot as a way to ease you into it, at which point the real difficulty kicks in with no notice.

The sad thing is, I cannot say with surety that they are wrong. (Some of course claim surety that they are right. Dev comment, anyone? [Update: Scott provides, yes, a developer “known bug” quote.]) I have seen far worse “working as intended” statements. Anyone have the classic CSR response quote on the Everquest raid boss that spawned below the world, something like, “This is a challenge!”

: Zubon

Borderlands – The Almost MMO

Welcome to another exercise in the futility of defining an MMO.  It’s one thing in the MMO ‘sphere that we just cannot seem to stop doing.  My whole job is based on the power of words (the difference between “a” and “the” can destroy companies), and that just makes this whole conundrum worse.  Anyway, forewarned and caveated ye’ be.

Borderlands could be an MMO.  I am sure Gearbox is cringing right now, but the game came so close.  Borderlands came to the MMO meeting.  Sat down, drank coffee.  Listened to Habbo Hotel cry.  Ignored World of Warcraft.  Laughed at Darkfall’s jokes, and generally had a good time.  But, when it came for Borderlands to step up to the microphone and say “My name is Borderlands, and I am an MMO.”  It ran out of the conference room instead leaving all its good notes on MMOs and many on RPGs behind.

Gearbox Software make FPS games.  They make good and great FPS games.  I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since Half Life: Opposing Force.  Yet, there is no excuse for this.  They chose to dabble in the dark arts of RPGs and will be held accountable.  My bottom line in case you tl;dr redline on me is that Gearbox tried to create their FPS-RPG-[MMO] mashup like an American baseball fan trying to recreate cricket from watching just a few bowls.  (I’ve tried to understand cricket; I’ve tried so hard.) Continue reading Borderlands – The Almost MMO

Borderlands Bulletpoints

Actually just for Bonedead, it will be a numbered list.  Heretoforth:

  1. It is very much in some large venn-diagram with MMOs, but the face of its father is squarely in an FPS.  It has kill ten rats quests, pick ten flowers quests, and quest chains.
  2. It would be an MMO if persistence was irrelevant.  Up to 4 players can play at any time, but one player owns the persistent world.  All players will still advance their own quests, achievements, etc.
  3. The gun-porn loot pinata is crucial.  The more people playing the better the loot.  Solo players might get bored pretty quickly.  If opening up an MMO loot pinata does not give you some twinge of serotonin, this game might not be for you.
  4. PC users have to deal with opening ports. GAH!
  5. The graphics are great even at low settings.  I’ll take cell-shaded stylized graphics over hyper-realism anyday.
  6. The level disparity is ridiculous.  The game punishes players for going much above their level, but anything below the level gets popped pretty easily.  I’ve also heard that grouping up with a higher leveled friend equals advancement city.
  7. Did I tell you about the magical gun-porn loot pinata that can give you a shotgun that shoots rockets!?
  8. The story is good, in that, there is just more reason to use the brand new guns that dropped out of the vending machines and puke piles to put more bullets in to enemies.  It doesn’t pretend to be any heavier/complex than the actual game is.
  9. The classes are generally good, but some seem a lot slower due to the cooldown on each class’s one skill.  I am sure it is balanced on some level, but it doesn’t feel that way when I have to wait nearly two minutes to use mine every time while my Siren friend pops hers every half-minute.
  10. For Bonedead especially, Nine Toes has three balls.

and that’s why we call it a “zoo”

The Tyranny of Habit

Looking at Borderlands, I was immediately drawn to the class that gets a turret. Ooh, and they can heal! I was secondarily drawn to the sniper/pet class. It took me a few minutes to realize that I had just picked exactly the same thing that I play in every game: support, ranged DPS, pets and tower defense.

Freakishly, playing World of Warcraft was something new for me. My Paladin melees. (It is my wife’s approach: “I have a sword. I hit things.”) I am still not one to tank, but I could.

: Zubon

What’s Wrong With Borderlands?

The quick description seems to be “a FPS with Diablo-style loot and questing in the Weird West.” Every comment I have seen has been positive, along the lines of “it is pure, concentrated, liquid awesome, with a side order of flaming orgasm.” The most negative I have heard is “moar!” Heartless has been blogging it since he got his new URL, and I am particularly fond of this video. Steam will give me 10% off if I pre-order and buy-3-get-1-free so I can bring in all my friends for the coop mode.

Having played with Heartless and seen him go through a couple of other games, I expect that I will know what is wrong with Borderlands in about a month. Few people effectively express that anguished rage after initial enthusiasm that comes from a dream not quite fulfilled. It really is an art, and my version is just pissy analytic verbosity. Like that phrase right there. Anyway, maybe this is what we have all been waiting for, or maybe we will find that we did not miss Diablo-style loot after all. I’m thinking of picking it up, maybe getting the 4-pack so I can gift some friends, and I want to know if you know any landmines.

And if you haven’t heard of it, hey, crazy fun.

: Zubon