Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MoP: Does Beta Archeology Still Suck?

No idea.

Here's the only thing I learnt from the Beta before realizing it was going to take too much of my time now to get a feel for it: the prof is still pretty much so only a max level prof. Perhaps when 5.2 hits and they go "oh, ok, now you can have heirloom Tomes of Pandaran Flight", it won't be but, for now, trying to grind arch while running all over the place ground-bound is just painful as you level.

So, knowing that I'd have to either level my Archeologist to 90 to be able to test properly (especially since the Lorewalker functions don't really become available until 89/90), or level Arch on my other 90 I'm gonna wait until some point in MoP to get around to addressing this; assuming I find time to get around to it at all. Just throwing that out there in case anyone's waiting for an update.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MoP: The Little Things Matter Too

In Beta a lot of people get focused on the bugs and "MY DPS IS NOT HIGH ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!" x is better than y ish stuff but you also need feedback on just plain old fashioned playability; what are minor quirks in the game that you think need to be addressed. For example:
I noticed that we've got all this new stuff around the Eastern Earthshrine in Stormwind (pet battle trainer and Panda village/Monk trainer), but the area hadn't been tied into the city all that well for the low level characters who'd now need to get there.

One suggestion later...:
... and we have a nice path up there for the new players to easily find their way in.

So, don't just be focused on what's "broke" - if you see something minor that just needs tweaking make your case clearly and it might just get done. But remember, the crowd, or Blizzard, could have a different opinion than you so be prepared to defend it clearly and without devolving to insult spam either.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TotD: It's a Man's World

I'm kinda indifferent on Kristen Stewart's talent - the whole debate over it's existence or not is largely fanboy driven - and the whole fiasco circling her and Patterson right now is just background noise one expects in a gossip driven industry these days but...
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the sequel to June's Snow White, which starred Stewart, Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, is being reconceived as a spinoff movie [starring Hemsworth's character only]. It's unclear whether director Rupert Sanders will return, though one source with ties to the production says he will.
... this would be an entirely one sided asshole move by an old school "blame her for spreading her legs" misogynist bean counter if she's booted and the later comes to pass.

RFTP: The Bourne Legacy

I've often wondered if reading advanced press about a film influences my interpretation of it; in this case it's hard to walk out of the theatre without saying it has 'cause if I hadn't read about Gilroy's getting called out by Damon over the last film I'd probably not read anything into what's going on here.

As it stands, the film has some good action but... dear god, it's a mess script wise, it essentially retreads the first film with a new character, the ending is anti-climactic, and you get the distinct feeling that elements of it are an open challenge to Greengrass and Damon to get back in the saddle - particularly a drastic reversal of fortunes facing a character from the last film who now finds themselves in dire straits in the closing seconds of this one for no justifiable reason other than a "please come rescue me!!!" plea given that they have no presence whatsoever in the rest of the film other than as an entirely off screen impetus for other characters behaviour.

I hope they were at least paid well.

So, this little piece of blackmail passing as a film ends up wasting a pretty good cast as it meanders between set pieces; the first 1/3 is all cuts between locations and scenes of people talking about things we already know, the middle third is the "our leads finally meet" section, and the last is almost entirely an insanely long chase sequence in Manilla. It's a film that's full of words but remarkably empty of content for being so. You get the feeling that Gilroy was more caught up in the politics of super-spies than introducing his own character because at the end of the movie Aaron Cross is not remotely defined clearly or changed from the person you meet 15 minutes into the film. And the ending... it's like something straight out of a 70's Bond flick; the very masthead whose tropes the first Bourne movie drove so far into the ground when it was released that the license was remodelled around Bourne's more "realistic" take when it was revived. Worse, it's basically all setup for more films and when writers forget that films are supposed to end is when you often end up unsatisfied because assumptions have been made that there will be sequels to answer everything they leave up in the air.

Note to writers everywhere: unless you're working on guaranteed a three movie license for Lord of the Rings; close your fucking film. Even then, each film should have a clean break point that feels satisfying with regards to "the story so far". That's just common sense and this film leaves so many balls up in the air at the end that they miss that by a mile even before the cheese is laid on thick.

If there's a 5th Bourne film with Renner, hopefully they hire someone to write and direct who can leave the office politics at the door - and I'm not talking about the CIA. I'd ask for a new set of producers too so we can have a fresh set of eyes across the board, but I suspect those contracts are tight...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

TLU: Being Old Has an Over Under (2)

Her: no way, you totally look 19...
Me: Um, ok...
Her: no, it's good thing..
Me: Depends on your point of view.
Her: Huh?
Me: Well, consider this: if I look 19, then I look way too young for the women my age and the ones I'm the "older guy" to are almost entirely illegal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rant: On Old Republic and F2P

The problem with Old Republic wasn't that it was a subscription game and the whole "Oh, this is a the era of F2P" talk is just that: talk.

This is not to say they won't improve their numbers by going F2P (and dropping the price of the game to $15, that won't hurt either folks); that's actually fairly likely. But, the bigger reasons why they're in this position are the same ones that every other "WoW Killer" has fucked up in the last half decade or so and the fact that none of them learnt from their collective mistakes - even more-so when you consider that Bioware is considered to be top tier - is kinda surprising. That said, since they seem to be unable to learn on their own, lets explain it to them:

Lesson The First:
Your game must be finished. Yes, yes, these games are never "finished", but the days when you could launch with a leveling experience and some dungeons and: "we'll tack a proper endgame on in 3-4 patches", are gone. Your benchmark now is a WoW Expansion because the simple reality is that people are going to level to 50 in 4 days regardless of how grindy you make it, kick around your dungeons a bit, and then go "well, nothing left to do here for 8 months", and then walk out the door taking their friends and negative word of mouth with them.

In case you haven't noticed, they don't come back in great numbers either because the next new shiny is right around the corner to pull their attention.

As such: Endgame. Level 1. Must. Be. Finished. At. Launch.

Old Republic made an attempt at this, but in making everything heavily story driven they were limited to one Operation and 5 bosses. That's a shortage of content that's going to be ground into dust in short order.

Likewise, while no software is ever bug free, you've gotta nail those game killers. Old Republic lost a friend of mine when they were doing the final quest for their class, got half way through one of the events, and then the whole thing bugged out; placing them in a position to start all over again.

I shall quote: "Fuck That".

And, out the door they went.

You've got your 60 days folks: get yourself off on the right foot or it's all for naught.

Lesson The Second:
You can have too many servers. The one thing we've learnt from all the "WoW Killing" (1 2 3) that's been attempted over the last few years is that there are at least 1 Million players you can count on to try something new. Old Republic was able to leverage their license to 2 Million. Then half left and most of the servers became ghost towns.

Sometimes I think developers get too excited when they see a whole pile of initial subscribers so I have a bit of advice for them. The trick to a new launch is now as follows: enough servers that people can play, not so many that when the inevitable happens and folks bail your MMO turns into a single player game most nights. Hell, sometimes people complaining about how hard it is to get in is a good thing if it results in a general feeling that people are playing the game en-masse. Even WoW is having to make concessions to the reality that not having people to play with provides a disincentive to continued play via cross-realm zoning; a change that could allow them to eliminate the concept of "server" altogether if they wanted to.

Side note: If you're a competitor working on the next-next WoW Killer, don't be surprised if Titan comes along and doesn't have "servers" at all. Cross Realm Zones is as close as you're going to get to an advanced warning.

So, if you want to avoid server merges on the principle that they make your game: "look like it's dying", don't have too many servers to begin with.

Lesson The Third:
I think the big lesson is that trying to "kill WoW" is pointless.

This is more a conceptual problem for fanboys, investors and media than the developers themselves; they've likely some idea at this point that this is unlikely. I'd suggest WoW's more likely to kill itself than be killed. It's approaching 10 years old, people's /played is getting up there, and general life changes for folks playing since vanilla and are now almost a decade older are going to move them along into other interests with no intervention required from anyone else.

To a certain degree, this is why Blizzard is working on making the game more accessible: the 24-28 year old with work, significant other, and potentially kids to wrangle is harder to lock down into the stock raid night login pattern than the 14-18 year old they were when they first logged into the world and this is even more true for those who are older than that. So, they need to find ways to keep those players involved and feel like they have a reason to log in with the limited free time they may have. In this way Blizzard keeps their community involved in the game, even if they're not digging heavily into the endgame, and it's that community of friends and links that keeps the game at high levels of subscription - even after the drop-offs - and helps to attract even more new people to the game by keeping it in the public eye.

The hardcore may bridle at it, but it's these concessions and new things to do on the side that are likely to keep the game alive.