“No Cover Charge”

Informis, commenting at Keen and Graev’s:

Apparently, “free-to-play” these days really means “no cover charge.”

I assume it has been said before, but this is my first time seeing this phrasing, and I like it. Can we all start using that to refer to Wizard101, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and other games with the not-quite-F2P pricing model? I’m not sure that “NCC” will catch on as an acronym, although there would be a special glory in applying it to Star Trek Online…

: Zubon

Early, Middle, Late

For a game that depends on a stream of income from subscribers or RMT shoppers, the first hour of play must be the top development priority. This is where you hook players. After that, the endgame is important because that is where your players will be spending time indefinitely and where your game’s chatter will come from in the long run. Next is the early game, when you build momentum. The mid-game has already fallen this far down the list, as you have certainly seen in a lot of MMOs, and frankly few care much how good the late-game is because they are already fully committed and racing for the end-game.

I stand by my repeated claim that optimizing the new player experience is of paramount importance. You must grab my attention within five minutes, and you must deliver a satisfying hour or two for my first play session. Without that, any free trial is worthless, and you may even lose some people who have thrown down $50 for a box. This is the part of the game that every single player will see on every single character, and if you cannot do a good job here, I have no hope for the rest of the game. Yes, it is hard to make things interesting while giving the player only a few buttons to play with. Suck it up, we all have hard parts in our jobs. That’s why they pay us. Continue reading Early, Middle, Late

Leashed to Marleybone

This weekend saw a lot of Wizard 101 play.  Obligatorily, the joy I get from opening a load of presents every time I log on is pretty compulsory.  Anyway, I have been zapping away at the O’Leary rats (and cats?) mucking about on the rooftops of Marleybone.  Right now, I’ve been getting through the Hyde Park zone.  I made it to the last boss of the zone, but he kicked my butt pretty hard.  The rest of the zone has kept me lightly on my toes.  At level 30, however, I think I might be a tad overleveled.  I am not sure.

Unlike the sidewalk safe Wizard City and Krokotopia, Marleybone’s safe areas are not as clearly marked.  In Hyde Park the whole zone happens across the rooftops, and the corners of the roofs are pretty safe.  However, when moving from rooftop to rooftop I had to be more careful watching mobs.  As a veteran MMO player, I am not finding this exercise very hard or tiring.  There are plenty of MMOs where I’ve had to visualize agro bubbles in order to quickly move past a throng of mobs.  I didn’t find Hyde Park much different.  Perhaps as I move in to the next Marleybone zones, they will continue to switch up mob pathing and available safe areas.

I plan on continuing on with the Marleybone story.  Grizzleheim remains calling to me in the background.  I’ve completed the first content chunk of Grizzleheim (Sv. Pass), and I think I have the Vigrid Roughland zone next.  Any tips on a good time to make a waylay to Vigrid Roughland are appreciated.

–Ravious
lookin for the place called Lee Ho Fooks

Famou$ Credit

I can’t stop raving about Wizardblox.  Other MMOs need this pronto.  It gets even better when my wife plays Wizardblox and all of the sudden I see a gift pop up on my Wizard101 screen telling me she just sent me 100 gold or so.  It’s a funny hypocrisy, but I hate getting crap in game – like for Lord of the Rings Online festival gifts where I get some crappy food I will never use.  Yet, when I can accrue some crap and some other niceties out of game… it feels nice.  It feels rewarding.

Anyway, one thing I received through Wizardblox was a transformation potion that changed me into a Krokotopian mummy for an hour (I love how they run with their little Krok legs).  I landed in the commons area of Wizard City, and my screen blew up with friend requests.  I couldn’t hide in the mass of players when I was standing twice as high as them.  I had to quickly run out of the zone with the annoying friend request in the middle of my screen. Continue reading Famou$ Credit

Wizard 101 – A Hard Return

I decided to fire up Wizard101 after being reinvigorated by WizardBlox and having a bit of downtime in other games.  In Lord of the Rings Online, I am tired of the solo end game (Legendary Items), and I have for the most part stopped playing except for kinship events where I still have a blast with group play (even at just three).  In Guild Wars, I am trying to work on getting the elite skills titles, and I just ran out of money with just 15 more Signet of Captures to buy.  ArenaNet really needs to consider more ways to spend my skill points.  Anyway, I logged on Wizard101 and saw my Storm wizard ready to roll…  and hit a brick wall.

Continue reading Wizard 101 – A Hard Return

Wizardblox Code Contest

Congrats to Arkenor, Jeco, and Ryver.  You should get the code shortly.  I’ll try to do this again sometime for those that didn’t win, and next time I’ll amass more codes. :)

It’s been a slow week of thought and news.  What’s really happening just doesn’t move me to write, and all the podcasts I am listening to I just find myself nodding in agreement for the most part.  So….

Want to win a few Wizardblox Codes for Wizard101?  I have three 400,000+ points codes (which may be a minion booster pack)  that I have won myself to give out to you.  I’ll run this contest until 8:00 PM EST today.  To enter either tell me here in the comments or on Twitter why your School of Magic is best.  I’ll pick three at random.  Please use a valid email here or follow me on Twitter so I can send you direct message with the code.

–Ravious

MMO on the Go

My wife gave me an iPod touch for Valentine’s Day.  I was so surprised I was speechless.  I don’t think I have ever received such a nice, unexpected gift.  She gave me an iPod case first, and my first idiotic thought was not that I would get an iPod touch next… it was “well this is weird, I guess it might work with my iPod shuffle.”  That’s how surprised I was.

After setting up TweetDeck and buying Wine Snob, my third thought was “how will this feed me my MMO hobby?”  I tried to look for an iPhone MMO through the App Store search, and I was bombarded with what appeared to be microtransactions for some Facebook game knockoff.  Searching through Google didn’t help much either. I was about to give up hope when KingsIsle posted a Facebook article on their new WizardBlox.

Continue reading MMO on the Go

Soloing Difficulty

To the chagrin of many of the old school, whatever games we see inclusive of the MMO genre now have soloability as a necessity to gameplay.  Many of the millions are playing their own little game where a bit of social contact is never more than a Party-With click away, should they choose.  Even those that crave group challenges as the epitome of their MMO gameplay will find themselves crafting, leveling alts, or advancing rep until the event group starts gathering.  Raids have become some paramount achievement because they are easily made difficult requiring a herding of cat-minded guild members to a number of dance steps.  Yet, solo content is often just considered going through the grind.  “Exalted rep with all the factions,” you say to your guild mate of leisure, “glad you had the time to do that.”  The connotation that skill was not required for the achievement would not be missed between the lines of congratulations. Continue reading Soloing Difficulty

Krokopatra Down

This past weekend I finally bought and pushed through the final two zones in Kroktopia.  It was actually quite difficult for my Storm wizard because the final quest hub in Kroktopia is full of Storm creatures (which are, as one would expect, resistant to Storm spells).  I thankfully had a spell that converted Storm damage in to Myth damage, which Storm creatures are weak against, but then of course the Storm creatures cast spells to protect themselves against Myth damage.

There were some pretty rough fights, with glass jaws going against glass jaws.  Being on the other end of a lightning shark bite was not very fun, especially when it took off 1/3 of my life.  I could have done a lot better with deck-building, but I eked by every boss fight.  The Krokopatra fight was filled with edge-of-my-seat goodness where I luckily got off my one pet skill to diffuse the incoming damage enough until I killed her minion.  Some other fights were over in five turns through clever use of buffing (first in, last out for buffs is very good knowledge to have).

I am having a really tough time deciding where to head next.  Grizzleheim is new and shiny, but a branch off of “the first chapter.”  Marleybone follows the storyline, but I hear it can be frustrating.  Where should a level 26 Storm wizard go?

–Ravious
all strange and terrible events are welcome

Shallow Thoughts by Ravious

PC gaming is just starting to pick up again.  The Ravious Conglomerate moved from a being-foreclosed-on apartment condo to a nice, shiny townhome in order to give Daughter #2 her own room.  I love that Daughter #1 can now dance, skip, and sing all she wants without a crabby, lonely lady banging on her ceiling below us.  I hated yelling at Daughter #1 to not do what a young kid should always be allowed to do.  With the move and ensuing chaos, the past few weeks have been gaming light, but forsooth, I say, there was gaming nonetheless!  It was all just in bite-size form.

Guild Wars: Oh how I love your little Dibs of enjoyment.  The small amounts of farming and bartering at the weekly Traveler’s Market to get the precious gifts are nice quick hits, and I am forever in love with Fort Aspenwood.  It lets me jump in to some fun, casual PvP instantly.  Deathmatch gets old for me, but objective based PvP seems to always be fun (95% of my TF2 time is payload maps).  I put up the build I always play in Fort Aspenwood here

Wizard 101: I hit a stopping point because the evil overlord in charge of the Conglomerate’s accounting (read: wife) says I can’t spend any more money because of the move, security deposit, and feeding/clothing children costs.  I am right at the end of Kroktopia too!  Don’t overlords understand gameplay flow?  The lightning cave in Karanahn Barracks was seriously breathtaking.  I stood upon rocky platforms while a silent lightning storm occurred below; I logged there in quiet contemplation.  Great artistic direction for that one.  Fortunately, a bonus check is headed my way so Mass Effect and a bajillion Wizard 101 crowns will soon be mine.

Lord of the Rings Online: I don’t know how I managed to sneak this one in given the higher activation energy to play, but I did.  Two kinnies and I started on Volume 2, Book 8.  We entered the Hall of Mirrors with nary a walkthrough, and had a blast figuring the puzzles out (even with a 600 silver repair bill each).  Hall of Mirrors is a three-man dungeon with a dungeon-long puzzle of repairing reflecting mirrors to send light to Moria below.  It is fantastically designed and just challenging enough.  Hall of Mirrors and developer blogs get me very excited about where Lord of the Rings Online is headed.  Unfortunately a serious bug at the Defiler/Mistress encounter wiped us to the point where a full, tactical retreat was required.  We are armed with better knowledge (of the instance and bug workaround), and are all excited to return.  Once I have time.

–Ravious
Repent, Harlequin!