Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Signs You Should Leave The Raid

One of the many very good things about playing WoW was what a good source of blog material it turned out to be. I literally had notebooks filled with ideas to write about, based on pretty much anything that happened to me in the game. I'm not saying that life in general can't be a good source to write about if you just think about it, but to me WoW always worked like a charm. The fact that I don't play it anymore is a small reason to why I write blog posts so rarely nowadays, but turns out I've got a load of WoW posts actually lying around. The other day I was checking through an old notebook I found and I read through some of the ideas I had that never made it into a proper blog post for whatever reason. Most often I am guessing I didn't think it was much enough of an idea to become a post but sometimes it might've just been lack of time. This post is one of the latter I am guessing, as it was basically done in my notebook and just needed to be written down digitally to be bloggified. Since I haven't played WoW for over a year now I don't know how much any of these hold up, all of them aren't exactly laugh out loud material either, but it might at least put a smile of recognition on your faces. So here it goes;

1. The hunter says he's a melee hunter

People have been making fun of hunters throughout the history of WoW for many reasons. From "everything is a hunter weapon" to the fact that you could just sic your pet on an enemy and roll your thumbs to profit. Fact is that really early on in the game I could swear that Blizzard at least thought about making melee hunters a viable choice, the same way they sort of tried shaman tanks. So maybe we can cut some confused hunters out there some slack. To someone well versed in what WoW is all about, the mere idea to play your hunter without a ranged weapon sounds just about as ludicrous as playing a melee boomkin. Yet there were some rebels out there that thought exactly that would be a good idea. At least there is kudos on them for trying to up the difficulty on the hunter class.

Even Blizzard agreed it had to stop -

2. Raid Leader only knows how to speak in /s

I encountered a lot of people who didn't seem to fully understand how to use the chat system properly, or more often how to turn off caps. In the early levels this is forgivable. But if you've made it all the way to raid level, it is time to learn. Especially if you hope to lead.

Or if this happens -

3. Main Tank says "mom says dinner is ready"

It's easy to make fun of young kids parents that don't understand that WoW isn't pausable and what tremendous issues it can cause a lot of other people when their kid has to come to dinner right that second. But maybe the kid is at fault for not warning the parents about their commitments and keeping a dialogue on game time vs dinner time.

4. People try to lose aggro by running away from the tank

I find this funny because it's such a rooted reflex in human behaviour. To get away from danger you need to run from danger. Unfortunately this means also running away from the person that could possibly save you and when raiding this can be especially troublesome. This got frustrating enough for Thoryana to write a pretty good song about it. Yet I've done this myself many, many times.

5. The Raid Leader isn't part of a guild

I don't know if this is still true, but there was a time while I played where being part of a guild was the way to check if someone was morally ok or not. If someone wasn't part of a guild they probably didn't care about people! And if they don't care about people they will greedily ninja everything they see! Also if they were part of a guild they could be punished by that guild when they did something wrong, so obviously the fancier the guild the more trustworthy you'd be. Obviously this system didn't work too well since it's easy to just create your own guild to be in all by your lonesome and I came across plenty of huge guilds where everyone was basically a douche (Ye Olde Goone Squad, I am looking at you!).

6. Main Tank/Healer uses the Jenkins title

When titles were introduced, one of the easiest to get was the Jenkins title. So of course, having it up came to symbolize someone who didn't try very hard and/or didn't know much about the game. Then came the people who used it "ironically". And then we stopped caring I think.

Just one step closer to getting his own game -

7. The paladin only uses minor blessings

Paladins have been changed so much I can't be completely sure what I meant when I wrote this one. It was probably when minor blessings were 5 minutes whereas major were 30 minutes. But then they changed it so that everyone of the same class shared major blessings which meant that some people needed to get minor once to get the right blessing, and that's totally legit of course. I have no idea how it works nowadays.

8. The Main Tank only uses BoA gear

I'm going to guess that LFR has become easy enough that this might not be much of an issue, but a couple of years ago or just after BoA had been introduced, you did not want to see any of that gear on the person who was going to take big hits from the big troll. This was especially true before BoA tank gear was even implemented.

What I get for Googling "boa" -

9. The Moonkin hasn't specced moonkin form

In line with the melee hunter, it always fascinated me how some people could misunderstand their class and their talents so tremendously (eventhough I've been there myself!). I'm not talking about nitpicky stat optimizing, but somehow not looking at your fellow players and seeing they are all doing it one way and you're not. Doesn't that make you wonder? I'm all for trying new things (and did occasionally), but unfortunately that is rarely rewarded in WoW.

A good reason not to spec moonkin -

10. Tank Healer says "I have really bad lags"

This is just one of those famous last words kind of phrase that probably doesn't need much more explanation.

I knew it! -

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Baby & Game

Whenever me and the bf have some free time, we pretty much use it to game. We do watch the occasional series or in my case write a bit (reading has unfortunately been put on the back burner for now) but for the most part we try to get some game time in. It's funny how we try to maximally utilize the baby sleep time by pretty much cutting out anything remotely irrelevant and cram in more game time. Make tea? No time. Go to the bathroom? Not now! God forbid he falls asleep while we're out. Run home and maybe there is still time for some minutes of gaming! This is not the actions of addicts, but of gaming deprived individuals (that's what I'm sticking with at least).

Which is why I don't play sim-games -

It's inevitable however that we go bold enough to try and do something gaming related while the little guy is awake. As much as I love playing "spin the shiny thing", "rattle the plastic thing" or "bang the hard thing", every now and then you need a break from those thrilling games and do something mommy wants to do. This is when the hunt for baby entertainment begins. And I've made some nice discoveries.

Growing up owning a Nintendo 64, I was one of the people who never liked it when other people said that Nintendo only made "kids games" like it was a bad thing. They didn't get it all wrong however. The N64 games are perfectly suited for infants and toddlers!

Watching a Let's Play of Banjo & Kazooie, a game I always liked but found way too difficult for myself to ever finish, I noticed how my little son (currently 8 months old) loved to watch it with me. And not just Banjo & Kazooie, but pretty much anything with big, colorful sprites/figures and not too quick movements. The whole mid-90's segment of video gaming is filled with games that fill that criteria - games like Croc, Spyro, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose and Lester the Unlikely. These are examples of games at least my kid thinks are absolutely hilarious to watch, often having him even laugh out loud at the funny sound effects and animations (or whatever it is that amuses him, I don't actually know!).

Giant carrots are hilarious to a baby -

My bf who is a massive Sonic fan was also happy to notice that our son loves to watch him play Sonic. At least Green Hill Zone and definitely the bonus stage - especially in Sonic & Knuckles (I guess he likes the "booap booap" sound effect the balloons do). He snaps his head towards any direction he hears the Sonic tune from, his entire face turning expectant, hoping to see some Sonic action.

In non-gaming but still baby-related news we've also managed to identify at least two songs he enjoys listening to, not counting all the actually-designed-for-children-but-nauseating-for-adult-tunes he likes;
Psy - Gentleman, which almost always silences him when he's cranky and
James Blunt - You're Beautiful, maybe that is mostly because of how horribly highpitched the bf tries to sing along.

Me and the bf have discussed how we want to introduce video gaming to our son, when the day comes that he actually wants to play some himself. He is already curiously investigating our controllers (admittedly he is curiously investigating pretty much anything at the moment) and it's not too far off before he hopefully wants to give gaming a try. We both feel that starting out on the older consoles could be a good thing, as the games often are straight forward and designed with small children in mind - Sonic again as an example. Really older games, talking about NES here, might be a bit too unforgiving and difficult for a really small child to enjoy (or maybe that's just my impatient ass who thinks that, the kids back in the 80'd didn't complain!), but the SNES/Mega Drive era could be perfect for a small kid to start with (although in all honesty a lot of those games are pretty tricky as well).

This is where anger is born -

Maybe the most important thing I hope to teach him is a respect for where gaming is coming from and different styles of designs - a time when instant satisfaction and reward wasn't as prevalent as it is today. Just looking at my own gaming experiences I can see how the instant gratification system has affected me. I don't want to be one of those people who needs a game to be super fun the first 10 min or throw it out, and I don't want my son to be like that either. It's always easy to think you'll do things one way of course, but we'll see how easy it is to put into practice once we get there. Most likely it is something that'll come naturally. Either he will show an interest for the old consoles or he won't. I just hope I can fill his head with some classics before he gets to the age where he feels the need to play whatever his friends are playing. I have really fond memories of watching my mom play games and I hope I can share the same thing with my son.

It'll be very interesting to see what kind of games he eventually enjoys playing, as me and the bf are quite different in tastes. He likes the late 80's-early 90's console platforming games the best and I prefer the late 90's-early 00's pc games the best. It'd be funny if he decided to fill out some genres currently unrepresented in our household - racing and sports games. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are Video Games Going Full Circle?

My father, who's never touched a video game in his life as far as I know, helped me realize something regarding the video game industry and the state it is currently in. The reason for this post was an article I saw in a magazine regarding the massive interest people are having in Early Access, games that in essence are unfinished. Then there is also an interest in indie games big enough that Steam feel obliged to create something like Greenlight. We also have a sentimental wave going through the video gaming community allowing for a page like (that's good old games) thrive (as I assume they do, they sure seem to). To this is added an equally big interest in Kickstarting projects, aka throwing money at things that don't even exist yet and possibly never will. All this points at an increasing distrust in the big companies being capable of creating games that are going to be fun. Although the furious kickstarting has subsided a bit, it seems every other game I check out on Steam nowadays is Early Access. I'm personally not particularly keen on buying an unfinished game (although I have) but there is no denying that there is a big interest in these games, and in all honesty it looks like the more broken the game is the more people want to play it, how else can you explain why so many people have paid for a game that is still as broken as DayZ? There is something alluring about the concept and I have been trying to figure out what it is.

Back to my dad, who doesn't care for video games but has a huge interest in music instead. He told me a while ago that vinyls were back "in" and he was very happy about that since he had always preferred those anyway. But there was a time when vinyls were uncool and casettes were all the rage (remember those?! My entire childhood was all about casettes). That didn't last long though until cds were all the rage. And now I wonder if anyone still buys cds anymore, although they're still sold in stores for some odd reason. Nowadays you either get music on mp3 or if you're a connoisseur on a vinyl. There are systems even older than the vinyl, but there is something about the vinyl that eventhough it has its flaws (size and storage capacity) it still perfected some areas that true music lovers hold in high regard (sound quality I think). Sure with vinyls you get some raspiness, but I think that adds to the charm. (Then with a vinyl you get a nice big case, the slip and something substantial to hold and look at. You don't get that with an mp3 and you barely get that with a cd).

And they come in funny shapes -

But what has that got to do with the video game industry? I believe the video game industry has been around just about long enough now to start making its own cycle, just like the music storage industry. An old system has gotten a renewed life because people were bored or otherwise unsatisfied with the modern option.

Eventhough there were systems older than the NES, I think most people would agree that the 8bit era, and particularly the NES 8bit era got a lot of things right. Some people would maybe say that things were truly perfected in the SNES era, when 2d gaming was done absolutely right in terms of inventiveness and boldness. Or was it? At the time people were clearly not satisfied. The 3d revolution had to come and some games benefited from it and some games not so much. Few were the developers however who dared to stray from the 3d path, everyone seemed dazzled by it and many games were forced into it although they definitely should not have (I am looking at you poor Sonic). Fortunately 2d wasn't completely abandoned thanks to the Game Boy consoles and the success and incredible library of the Game Boy Advance show that many people still harbored a great interest in this type of games. The GBA was released in 2001 or just about when people would have started getting over the initial 3d hype. On the PC and stationary console market however, the quest for the best graphics and most frames continued.

Not like 16bit Mario to 64bit Mario -

Graphics has always mattered to the video game market, I'm not saying this is something new. All the way back in the 80's companies were talking about how many bits their consoles could produce or how fast their consoles were (I am looking at you SEGA). But after a while I got the feeling it started getting more important than good gameplay and when the ps3/xbox360 were released it felt like they talked more about how pretty their games were going to be rather than how fun they were (although that might be because "fun" is difficult to put down in simple numbers). I don't think I was the only one who looked at the new gen (now previous gen) thinking "yes there is better graphics, but not enough for me to be wowed anymore".

Before that the console gens had enough of a step up in graphics for us to be amazed and probably a bit blinded by the difference, allowing otherwise shitty games to make it into stardom (I'm not going to name any names because I am sure to step on some toes) - NES/MS to Snes/Mega Drive to N64/PS/Dreamcast to Gamecube/PS2 were still big leaps graphic wise. In the details there is a big difference between a ps2 and ps3 game I am sure, the amount of hair on the head/pebbles on the ground/leaves on the tree that you are able to show or the frame rate differs of course. But it's just not enough to cover bad game play or yet another sequel anymore.

Can we even see that many colours? -

People started to look elsewhere for what the big AAA titles lacked and indie developers suddenly found a huge following in their type of games (which sort of coincided with better game creating tools and better ways of disitributing for indie developers). Games that because of lack of funding often had to cut back on the expensive things like graphics. Instead they could offer something that was free and in fact desperately difficult to pay your way into - imagination and inventiveness. Gamers were even willing to pay up front for not-yet-created games just so they could get something else, something different or possibly something that reminded them of what they played many years ago. And they were willing to play these games before they were even finished just to get into it as fast as possible.

Eventhough Early Access might have started as a way for the small developers to get feedback on their games (Minecraft might have been one of the earliest and most popular examples of Early Access) I don't think that is the reason for its popularity today. To me Early Access is a way to get to play a game that is still in changing, where I might have one experience one day and get a new one the next. There is something attractive about a game in change and about being the pioneer who gets into the grit to sort out the issues. It turns into team work where I get to have fun and play a game all the while helping someone at the same time. And who didn't dream of getting to work as a game tester as a kid (I know I did)? It allows for a completely different kind of gaming, one that is somewhat similar to what mmorpgs offer with their patches that often change gameplay a lot. It seems like people enjoy the idea that what they have is not all there is but that there will be new things to learn and discover as time moves on. It is definitely one of the things I can see is fun about Early Access.

Something I've also seen on the rise are people who actually enjoy the Early Access games because they are broken. Games like Rust and DayZ seem to be so popular because of their unreliability and unpredictability and the whackiness that comes out of it. I honestly wonder if these games will retain their popularity once they are done - if nothing else people might feel like they've played the game enough at that point and we'll get the weird situation of a game being abandoned when it is finally finished. This is something that must be insanely difficult to try to replicate, as actual broken or otherwise horribly bad games like Ashes Cricket 2013 or Day One: Garry's Incident just seem to get a really bad reputation and then no one gets near them. Although maybe in those specific cases there is a difference between broken and unplayable games vs broken games released by nice game developers and broken games released by douche game developers. 

That looks painful -

In any case it seems like the playerbase wants to revert further and further back into gaming history. There doesn't seem to be much of a limit to how scaled down the graphics can be, just look at a game like Nidhogg or Minecraft, as long as the game play delivers. 2d, pixel or otherwise retrostyle graphics and now even broken games, linking back to trying to get your games to work or badly coded games from the AMIGA era and similar, are making a huge come back. Will it stop at this however? Or will the next big thing be everyone playing MUDs? Because that would be pretty cool.