Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Old Republic vs WoW

So, for the last few weeks I have been playing a sizeable amount of SWTOR. The newest Star Wars game is a double successor. It's the next Knights of The Old Republic, but it is also the replacement for Star Wars Galaxies, the previous Star Wars MMO.

TOR is very much the same as KOTOR, except with more players. Unfortunately it is also WoW.

For most people, WoW is the pinnacle of MMOs and with a peak of over 11 million players, one can safely say that it is. But the design of WoW is extremely straightforward and therefore has a ton of clones, andhas lost all sense of innovation.

TORs only real advantage is this regard is voice acting and Star Wars, the design is simply a copy-paste of WoW. It's a solid game, don't get me wrong, but it has very few things going for it beyond that. WoW is simply too big to be beat on it's own playground and I suspect that once the main bunch of TOR players play out the end-game content, then just like Rift, the game will be tossed into the trash and people will return to WoW.

This is my biggest gripe, and fear, with regards to TOR - A game that is so incredibly similar in design with very few real improvements, will likely not last once the glamour of "fresh game" disappears.
Could it be done better? Possibly so, but perhaps better is the wrong word, differently is more fitting.

It may not be the best solution, but if this line of design is to survive, then it is absolutely vital that it is either improved, rather than hijacked from WoW/Everquest, or done in a very distinct manner.

So, that is it for my rather messed up post - I will delve deeper into the topic of SWG vs SWG at a later date.

See ya all on the bounce!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

UPC - Utterly Pointless Crap

So seeing how I am moving to another country soon, I have obviously attempted to make arrangements for having my internet and TV lines disconnected. This has been a rather intresting display of complete incompetence from the staff at UPC.
The story begins with their website, which has these words of wisdom for the FAQ entry for cancelling and account "Call us on xxxxxxxx". So I did. I then sat for 30min waiting, while listening to a pleasantly calm, female voice telling me that if I had any unresolved issues I could call them. On the number which I had just used. "Please press 1 to press one." No shit sherlock...

After sitting for a good 20 minutes waiting, I was finally allowed to trudge my way through the abysmal phone system and talk to a support agent. At which point I was informed that in order to cancel my UPC account I had to specifically send them a regular, old-fashioned letter stating that I wanted the account closed. This she said, after spending 10min taking down everything from address to account number to confirm my identity.

Ok, so I send a letter. To the Internet Service Provider. I describe the exact dates I will be leaving, the dates I would like my connection terminated, my understanding of their ridiculous TOS and when they can pick up their routers and other crap. All of which should, must and have to take place at the end of the month, so I have time to do all the things I need to deal with in order to move country.

I then get a call from their technicians confirming that they will be picking it up. 3 weeks prior to the date I have requested. I say no. I then get a call from their sales department confirming that the connection will be terminated 2 weeks before the, now agreed with the technician, date. 1 week later I get *another* call from a technician saying they will be around to pick up their items later that day. While I am working.

Is the pattern beginning to show yet?
Over the next 2 weeks I get 2 more calls from technicians asking why I am not in when they try to pick up stuff. Each time I go over the situation. I want the connection removed on the 29th and the items picked up the 31st. Each time they state a completely different date and claim that "it has already been agreed on with you".
This Monday, I get back from work only to find my internet dead, my TV stating my line is terminated and no warning. Calling tech support (again spending 30min trying to get through) I sit for a good 20min while the support personnel try to save their own ass and pass the buck onto someone else.

Finally I am transferred to sales, which are adamant that unless a date is agreed upon already, it is standard procedure to cut the connection a month after the letter is received. Apparently completely ignoring anything that is actually written in the letter, alongside any agreements already made.
At this point my patience is getting somewhat thin, so I simply tell them to get my f**king crap back online if they want their money. A few hours later I can finally get online as well as watch TV again. I then ring their techie department specifically to arrange the pickup of my router and TV box from my rental agency.

Yesterday they called me. Again. Asking when I would be home so they could pick up their god-forsaken shit boxes. I told them to sod off and not call me again ever since things were already arranged.

If you are using UPC, prepare for more stress caused by UPC then by your entire family dying right in front of you if you ever try to cancel it and if you live in Ireland and are looking for a solid internet connection, stay the hell away from the company UPC.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back in the saddle

So, some of you (all 2 of you that I think reads this :P) have probably noticed that I stopped posting here...
I could come up with a bunch of excuses for this, work being crazy, preparing to move back home to Denmark and tons of other reasons, but the truth is it the inspiration simply has not been there. I run this post as my own little sanctuary so if I don't have anything to write down well.... nothing will be written down.

But, today I do have something to post about. This weekend, Assembly 2011 was run in Finland, a large media-arts convention that over the years have grown into a central avenue for E-sports, in particular this years Starcraft 2 tournament, bringing some of Europe's best players together for a weekend of challenges and matches. I had the immense pleasure of watching this being streamed live by Total Biscuit and co-commentated by Starcraft 2 E-sports player, dApollo. I highly recommend checking out TBs Youtube channel by the way, he is incredibly entertaining, even if you aren't that interested in video games. Check him out at http://www.youtube.com/user/TotalHalibut

Well, that was kind of a long-winded introduction to what I actually wanted to talk about, critique. We've all felt the harsh sting of truth when people tell us we suck at something and we've all felt the desire to defend ourselves.
However, looking at the chat during the livestream, I saw too many damn idiots complaining that this and that player "sucked".
Now sucking at something is an objective statement. Either one is good at something or one is not, so I consider it odd that people, who for one reason or another, wants to denigrate others in this fashion. What is it about success that makes people so keen to criticize others? Stephano, a world class SC2 player does not suck. Do you know how I know this? Because he plays the damn game in an environment where the top prize is 8000 Euro. A massive sum of money for a weekends dedicated gaming.
And yet, both him and so many others are often named as crap players.

 I suck at Starcraft 2 miltiplayer. Do you know why? Because I've played all of 3 matches in total, none of which I won. The people who play Tennis, soccer, paint or play video games at such an incredible level that they are often capable of making a living out of it, does not, in any sense of the term, suck at what they do.

What is it about humans that makes us so incapable of accepting the success of our peers? Is it some vague aspiration to elevate ourselves above all others? Or simply a desire to lash out at anyone that could be construed as superior at something. I don't know, but this problem flourishes to a dangerous degree on the internet, where you can criticize someone as much as you want, using as many personal insults as you desire simply because no one is going to bother confronting you about it.

Why can't you asshats just accept the simple fact that these people are about a billion times better than you will ever be? By all means, comment on their gameplay "I think he is having a bad day" or "He really is not playing very well today". These statements at least acknowledge the fact that yes, they are normally extremely capable individuals, rather than simply bashing them for not doing things like you would.
And always keep in mind, whether it is a soccer match, an artist creating a painting, or an E-sports tournament player in League of Legends, it is always much easier for us as observers to get a full picture. This is not the case for the person sitting in front of the PC, running on the field or going through the thought process of choosing the correct colour.

It's easy being a critic. And even easier to be a complete fucking asshat with no reason to exist. Be the former, not the later.

See you all on the bounce.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There and Back again - a round trip of Ireland

June 8th, 2011

So I'm sitting here at a webcafe because my silly computer won't do as I tell it to, as usual. As some of you may know, I have taken on a little trip around Ireland, following the coast and going straight through the centre of Ireland before returning back down to Cork. Pictures will follow at a later date, my time here is pretty limited.

I started out seeing Killarney and the national park around it, will see more tomorrow. Initially I went for a trip to Ross Castle and the Yew Woods in the area, as well as a boating trip to a small island called Innisfallen. Lovely ruins there, with some amazing landscape shots as I went across the lake.

For the time being I will rest my sore legs, get some dinner and head back to the B&B for a good nights sleep. More updates will follow in the days to come.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Life is a funny thing sometimes

I travel by bus to get home from work every day. This means that I get to see a fair few different people getting on and off. Last week though, was a very interesting spectacle. The bus stops, as usual and a bunch of people get on, but one man, very old and feeble-looking simply stands there, helplessly looking at the door. The driver, being a good sort gets out and offers to help the old man in, but he simply shakes his head.

Moments later, a 20-something year old girl walks up to the bus. With crutches. As the driver stands to the side scratching his head (and most of us passengers sitting inside grinning like idiots), the old, feeble, weak man proceeds to lift the girl inside. Not help her you see, actually grab her by the hips and lift her inside like she barely weighs more than a bag of groceries. He then moves to the rear seats, completely ignoring the girl as she tries to sit down in an empty seat, with a bit of help from yours truly.

Arrogant bastard, retired superhero or just life being its own silly self? You decide. Me, I got some more user accounts to set up.

See ya all on the bounce.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning to live addon-free

A few weeks ago, I participated in a very interesting discussion in guild chat in Rift. The topic was the use of meters and, by extension, other addons to improve your ability in the game.

One of the reasons I abandoned WoW was the fact that the core game was no longer considered playable. Only through the use of a dozen or more addons, did people consider the game enjoyable and playable.

Obviously this was not the case, WoW is an incredibly sturdy and well-designed game, addons were never meant to replace features to the extent that they have done and due to the popular addon-culture that have sprung up, I suspect too many people have started to rely on addons to play the game for them.

Threat meters, dps meters, ability warnings from bosses, all of these serve to reduce your own need to learn how to play and increases your reliance on features that aren't normally part of the game (ie, features which can and will be lost for various reasons from time to time). A dangerous practice at best since it created a generation of "hardcore" (read: useless) raiders who, when taken away from their precious addons, failed so hard that it gave George Washington a headache.

Having played MMOs for as long as I have, I have learnt, to a certain extent, how to "read" a game. All games give you subtle clues regarding your ability compared to others, but it takes time, dedication and a willingness to stand up and say "ok, I suck at this part of the game" to find them.
Unfortunately most people will, rather than admit this and work to improve themselves, simply go "this game sucks for not telling me this, I want an addon."

If the game does not tell you explicitly how you are doing, then you need to watch your companions, your guildies and random group members more closely, see what rotations you use and which does that job faster, check to see that your tank rotation reliably keeps the mob on you, as opposed to someone else.
Depending on your role, the signs are different and can be quite hard to spot, but trust me when I say they are there.

Are add-ons inherently evil? No, far from it, but as with so many things, addons need to be carefully monitored and throttled, both by the community and by the developers. Large numbers of addons create a sense that the game is flawed, that it needs these extras in order to function, which is patently untrue.
A fine example is Gear Score. At it's heart, gear score is simply a tool to let you easily determine what level of gear a player currently has equipped, but due to it's easy of use, it became more, it became a tool to determine a players worthiness to join your group. I won't waste time here describing in how many ways that is wrong, but suffice to say that it (and the automatic dungeon finder that blizz introduced) killed off random pugs as I knew and liked them.

Sometimes the best way to learn a game is to play it, not to let your computer play it for you.

Once again, that's me done babbling. See you all on the far side.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rifts & Invasion

So, last time I briefly mentioned that Rift has two different uniques features, one of which are souls. 

The other feature you might want to know about, are invasions and rifts. Invasions are a small group of enemies that spawn, either at a Rift or at a planar Foothold (which are created by invasions that destroy the guards in a given area). A single invasion is rarely much of a challenge and can be soloed by any reasonably competent player without too much fuss. Multiple invasions converging on the same location, however, is an entirely different thing. 

The goal of an invasion is to kill NPCs in a quest hub and then create a Foothold, a structure that continually spawns defenders and, rarely, more invasions. Once this is done, all quest NPCs, traders as well as most of the guards either despawn, or are killed so fast that they can't really do anything helpful. 
In the really big areas, a foothold is not a big deal because NPCs are spread out enough that most players can move about without getting into trouble. In a minor camp with a couple of guards and 2-3 quest givers... well, hope you brought your sword along.

Rfits, are an entirely different idea and is part of the core gameplay concept of the game. Rifts are holes in reality, or in MMO-slang, a public quest. Each spawns through a tear in reality and will send out invasion forces on a regular basis. If lots of rifts are open, you get lots of invasions. 
A single Rift is no big deal, and minor ones can be closed by 1-2 players in perhaps 10min or so. A major one however, needs a strong group to finish it and get the best rewards. 
Raid and Expert level rifts are even more difficult, for obvious reasons.

One thing that is interesting, is that tears are damn near impossible to predict and the invasions they send out are all too happy to gank any and all players that get in their way. While not a big deal usually, it's not uncommon to log out in a camp and then log in the next day, only to find a dozen or more mobs ready to cut you into pieces when you finally load into the zone. 

It takes some getting used to, and since players aren't really allowed to escape from fights in Rift (you get a pretty severe runspeed debuff if a mob hits you in the back), it will guarantee that you log in and then spend the first minute corpse-running and getting clear of the enemies, at least once in a while. For some, that is not really a fun way to spend their time. I personally love it though, makes even logging in a gamble.

Whether or not these 2 (or maybe 3) features are enough to keep Rift going is something we will just have to wait and see. For now though, I can only recommend it if you are looking for a new hotbar-style fantasy MMO.

That's me done for now, see ya all on the far side!