Posted by: L1H | August 25, 2009

Champions Online Needs a Little WAR …

I have been too busy to post but I had to throw this up.

See, I have been playing in beta heaven, namely Champions Online, and as a result I have not been playing WAR, as my time is very limited lately.

Solution: Bring a little WAR into Champions Online, and I’m not talking about PQ’s!

Tell me my hero, the Warrior Priest, doesn’t rock – what what!

The power of Sigmar compels you!

I hope to update L1H this week, take care.

Posted by: L1H | August 4, 2009

WAR: Tag Team Siege

We contested IC on our server this past weekend.  While I’m still not happy with this particular “end-game” feature of WAR, the “lead up” to the city siege was awesome.

Lately I’ve been so impressed by some of the leadership and organization exhibited by certain individuals, guilds, and alliances in the tier 4 campaign: tier 3 “prior tier” warbands specifically assisting the tier 4 campaign, focused pre-made scenario parties, and a new macro maneuver for fortress sieges: Supply Line Seeding or the Tag Team Siege maneuver.

I have witnessed this maneuver twice and both times it was successful.  Because of Fortress population caps, a large force has no real advantage, but I offer a practical solution that plays to the strength of a zerg.

It’s all about overwhelming the defender’s ability to recover from Lord pushes, choking off their supply lines, and keeping a steady stream of healthy warbands stomping up that Lord room ramp.

Supply Line Seeding aka Tag Team Siege
Difficulty: Hard
Frequency: Uncommon
Type: Dynamic/Offensive
Risk: Low
Requirement: 4+ warbands
Application: An attack maneuver for when your superior force is divided due to strained supply lines during a Fortress assault.
Description: All warbands that are unable to join the Fortress assault stack on the threshold of the Fortress zone and skirmish as needed.

Once the assaulting warbands gain control of the room below the Fortress Lord, an organized push is made to kill the Lord and to gain control of the outer parapet – this is critical because the objective is to keep the NPC Lord aggro’d at all times, even if the initial assault fails.

Once the functional majority of your warband wipes instruct everyone in your warband to immediately re-spawn.  Upon re-spawning, inform a reinforcement warband to enter the Fortress, that your warband has made room for them, and immediately rally your own warband to the edge of the Fortress zone – until your warband is called back in to reinforce the assault.

This maneuver is most effective when the entire warband commits itself to sticking together: rally as one, charge Lord as one, die as one, and re-spawn as one: this immediately opens up the supply lines for a full warband.

If executed properly the Fortress Lord will remain aggro’d which disrupts defenders from rezzing reliably.  Reinforcements from the warcamp will naturally dominate the channels to the Fortress zone threshold.  Eventually the defenders will become overwhelmed and thinned out enough for the assaulting forces to gain control of the Lord room.

Remember: you might miss a bag, but you’ll get renown for being in the zone once it locks.  Giving up a Conqueror bag is a small sacrifice for locking a tier and potentially contesting a capital city.  Be a team player and re-spawn!

Posted by: L1H | July 31, 2009

Incoming: Star Wars in Concert

I don’t care how many Bothans have to die for me to see this (when it comes to a city near me):

Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch a movie while the orchestral score is played live – this will probably be as close as we’ll get for this franchise.

In this digital “HD” era I find that the visceral experience of a live band/orchestra (percussion, breath, spit, mistakes, ad-libs) satisfies me on a level Blu-Ray does not.

Very exciting.

Posted by: L1H | July 26, 2009

/deathblow Bambi for Free

The title is a joke, but I stumbled on another free-to-play game called: The Hunter.

The Hunter is the ultimate hunting simulator and, if you’re like me, the thought of shooting a deer isn’t my idea of a great weekend, but wandering in the photo-realistic forest is.

The rendered environment in this game is a triumph: swaying trees, wind, weather, ambient sounds, grass folding underneath your footsteps, buzzing bugs, shimmering fields of grass, time of day.  The developers of this title have really captured the outdoor experience.  The starting island you begin your experience on takes over an hour to walk it’s full length.  This massive virtual space is scarred by a few roads, but otherwise, is totally untouched.

I found myself breaking through the tree line and being greeted by a majestic shore line: a moment later the sky turns dark and opens up a thin shower of rain.  The UI is minimalist (there is none) and keeps you totally engrossed in the world around you.

Oh, there’s hunting too.

I’m still new to the game so I’m not sure what limitation the free account has, but I know you can level up, purchase different items to help you hunt and track your game, different weapons like a compound bow, not to mention additional licenses for different game.

I did do some hunting, which is very challenging.  You’ve got to be methodical and patient to track and eventually line up a shot.  A few times I just gave up and just started walking.

Once I found myself wandering into a shaded patch of forest that over-looked a small clearing.  I decided to lay prone and just listen, just wait, no agenda in mind.  After a few minutes a small herd of deer crossed a path not 50′ from my location, looking cautious, sniffing the air, and moving as one through the clearing before me.  It was such a beautiful moment, I equipped my digital camera and took a couple nice pictures of the herd – a welcome alternative to my bolt action rifle.

This hunter is going soft.

Below is a tutorial I found, which will prevent you from being totally lost for an hour (like I was).

It gives at least a preview of the experience of playing The Hunter, with some welcome hunting advice.

Posted by: L1H | July 21, 2009

There is no “i” in WAR.

Lately I’ve been playing WAR in smaller and smaller doses, and this I attribute entirely to AA3 and Battlefield Heroes.  If anything these two free FPS games represent a healthy alternative to help balance out my time in WAR and keep me from getting burned out.

I like choices and it’s hard to resist a free quality game.

If you add these two titles to my play-list: L4D, TF2, BFH, and AA3 – that’s four FPS games!

Also: I can launch all but one of these game from Steam which helps connect me to my friends who also enjoy a good FPS romp once in a while.

It’s shocking to go from such a balanced controlled environment like a Battlefield Heroes match to a tier 4 skirmish in WAR.  It’s like going from a ballroom dance to a mosh pit.

Likewise, to go from a “faction” based conflict like BFH and WAR to a smaller tactical shooter like AA3 can be baffling.  Ironic as it may sound, but in America’s Army you can indeed be “an army of one”, while in WAR and BFH you need your team-mates to lock down a victory.

In AA3 all the players are homogeneous avatars with similar equipment.  Your twitch skills are coupled with map knowledge and luck: the conflict is an equal playing field otherwise.  One round you could get killed in the first few seconds while the next round you could become a demigod of death and single-handedly take down the enemy team.  Achievements and Honor don’t impact game-play directly: the competition is left bare and stands on its own.

In BFH and WAR where objectives are as important as kills, you can’t be everywhere and do everything.  Your class determines your role and there is only so much you can do alone – even if you’re playing to your character’s strength.

What’s interesting to me is that in BFH my team might suck but I can have a good round.  We might lose a round, a match, but I can still rise to the occasion and score well.  Losing still sucks, but getting dominated isn’t a team sport: winning is, however.

In WAR, however, if my realm is sucking eggs one night, there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.  I can’t break off and feel heroic – even in a scenario, because in WAR “it takes twelve to tango”, if you get my meaning.

WAR is a tricky customer, I admit, because I could start barking in region chat, form a warband, push the alliance to drive the campaign, and try to turn things around, but sometimes you’re just not working with the numbers to make things happen.

Come to think of it, some of my favorite moments in WAR centered around a smaller skirmish where what “I did” seemed to have more visible impact because I was either alone or a part of a detached conflict.

There is something magical about a systemic realm conflict that everyone is tied into (RvR), but I am convinced that all these massive large conflicts, while epic, need to be balanced out with smaller but meaningful skirmishes.

Maybe that’s why some players organize dueling events, etc …

Moving forward, I would like to see WAR implement more opportunities for small parties to plug themselves into the campaign (other than scenarios).

Anyway, have a great week.

Posted by: L1H | July 7, 2009

L1H: Update

Obviously the death of the King of Pop has been dominating the news and inter-webs lately: his funeral/memorial service is playing out as I type this at work.

Last night I was watching a special on television and one comment, offered as an editorial, was that MJ’s death has liberated his art from the “weirdness” that surrounded him in life.  In other words, now that he’s “out of the way” the world can enjoy and celebrate the amazing talent of Michael Jackson the musician and not be distracted by Michael Jackson the oddity.

Imagine that.  Getting in the way of your own legend – by being alive!

I have been drafting the outline of an upcoming RL quest.  Essentially it’s about setting a goal to drive my workouts until DragonCon.  Without a goal you tend to get lost or worse: become complacent.

I’ve cut my weight-lifting to three days a week with 2-3 days of some kind of cardio mixed in.  I’m not going to name the system I’m using, but I will mention that I’ve increased my strength significantly.

Strength isn’t something that I cared much about before, losing body fat was my only focus, but strength is an exciting metric to watch grow.  

Getting stronger without injury is a delicate balance, but watching the number of plates grow on a barbell kinda reminds me of MMO character advancement.

Out of context the amount of weight you can bench is shallow, meaningless, and irrelevant.  However, if I told you that an 80 year-old man can bench 225 lbs. then your ears might perk.  Likewise, if I told you that I can bench twice the amount of weight I could a year ago, then you might be persuaded to appreciate this growth even if you’re not interested in fitness.

Another thing I enjoy about strength training is that every time you work-out you learn a little about yourself, you get familiar with your limits. 

We all have fantasies of how strong we “think” we are, how we could fend off a gang of thugs with our superior “speed” and “agility”.  What’s interesting is that the iron doesn’t lie to you: you can push with all your might and sometimes that barbell stops moving.  

The reality, the gravity, of such as simple task like preforming a squat, washes away the fantasy and leaves you feeling more “real” – which is usually less than He-Man – but at least it’s you.

It’s humbling to have a dead piece of stupid iron turn you into a quivering mass of pain, but the joy of watching the weight grow, of pushing past a weight barrier that used to hold you up: it’s amazing.

I can almost see the fly text hovering over my head: Strength +1

Yeah it’s a little hokey, but hey: it’s me.

Posted by: L1H | July 1, 2009

System Requirements: None

I found this video demonstration of Gaikai on Raph Koster’s site here.

Essentially this technology makes the concept of a software “platform” an after-thought (other than your browser): the end user is simply streamed a game, software, whatever, directly to their computer from a host server.  You “interact” with the software as if it were installed on your computer.

This video is compelling, but you have to wonder how it preforms in “the trenches”.

However, even a small disconnect between input commands and game-play can rip you right out of a game, but I have to admit things look promising.

Imagine being able to play a AAA new title with beefy system requirements on a lower end net-book? 

This is mind blowing; I’ve heard about this tech this past E3, but seeing this demo really has me interested.  

What do you think?

Posted by: L1H | June 22, 2009

WAR: Ding RR70

I dinged RR70 last night.  I stayed off vent and just rode the queue wave until I squeaked past the renown threshold to RR70.

RR70, what a journey.

To comment on the positive …

I have rolled no alts since WAR’s launch.  This is due, in part, to the fact that my current character happens to be my “spirit animal”: he gives me insight into myself, acts as a source of power, and somehow completes me.

In all seriousness, I just love my Warrior Priest.

WAR has been great.  I never liked PvP in MMO games – not in the traditional sense anyway.  I do love me some FPS, however, and strangely that competitive instinct never percolated into my MMO of choice.  WAR exists as a happy medium between a social MMO and  a competitive online game.

To comment on the negative …

CC and AoE

CC and AoE need to be tweaked.  Yesterday.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until I started experimenting with different mastery builds for my WP.  Trying to fight in the “thick of it” as a MDPS is just harsh.  You get disabled, knocked down, and dead in seconds – and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  

Too often the conflict doesn’t feel like a fight at all: more like a riot of football hooligans where the entire stadium was set on fire and everyone was dosed in gasoline.

Population / Realm Balance

Coming from a FPS player, I can tell you that I wouldn’t join a Team Fortress 2 match where my team has 3 players and the other had 12 – I would leave that server and find one where my team could stand a chance to win.

Interesting that the above example would rarely occur because most multi-player FPS servers auto-balance teams between rounds and/or won’t let new players create team imbalances to ensure a “fair fight”.

I understand the romantic notion of server rivalries and “knowing who you’re killing”, to keep the conflict local, but clearly we have to find a compromise.

I would suggest a solution similar to FreeRealms or Wizard 101 allowing players to switch servers on the fly, instances within servers, etc … but clearly allowing players to choose their “instance” would result in the realms stacking the deck and actually avoiding each other like we saw during city sieges.  

Obviously the players can’t be “trusted” with this choice – ironic since it’s a RvR game and you would think players would actually want to fight, but the desire for “progression” overrides all else, and currently WAR’s end-game is PvE centric and enemy players are just another barrier to their loot.

I’m not sure how to solve the population problem but I hope the big brains at Mythic are working on it.

Luckily my home server feels rather balanced most of the time.  Destruction and Order seem to take turns dominating any given night.  We are a “low pop” server, and this only becomes apparent when you’re queueing for scenarios or pushing a fortress – there’s just not enough players to stage an effective fort assault or to keep the scenario queue popping during off peak times.

I’m happy with my time in WAR.  If I had to guess I would say that RR80 will take me about 4 more months, given my current advancement rate.  It will be interesting to see how the game changes during that time.

Have a good week.

Posted by: L1H | June 15, 2009

Shakespeare and the Squig

The below video features Paul Barnett in Korea, making a pitch/presentation, and while I watch this video, goosebumps form on my arm.  Paul’s sunglasses are mirrors that reflect my own face.  Have you ever had to “sell” something you love to an apathetic audience, ever been “lost in translation”, or otherwise just been misunderstood?

Am I reading too much into this video?  

Probably.  For now, I offer you some Shakespeare:

“A poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
signifying nothing.”
– Macbeth

Posted by: L1H | June 12, 2009

Every MMO is a Micro-Transaction Game

Turbine’s recent announcement about their title DDO adopting a “hybrid” micro-transaction model sparked some debate in the MMO blogo-sphere.

A point of view that I see often repeated is that time spent in-game should equate to some kind of progression.  Players that simply “throw real money” at a game in order to become more powerful, or to gain an advantage, cheapen the experience of actually “earning it” the “old fashioned way”.

I want to comment on this.

This entire debate is just based on false perceptions from both sides of the argument.

The average MMO subscription cost us .49 cents per day.  That’s right: we’re paying every day – we just don’t think about it.  The entire subscription model is a clever way to improve customer retention.  Payment each month is easy and automatic – marketing terms for “out of sight / out of mind”, no pain – their gain.

With subscription plans we spend money in small invisible increments every day: even if we don’t log in.

However, this exchange of money – this paltry .49 cents a day, pales in comparison to the real resource being traded – the most important micro-transaction of our lives:

Time.

Time can never be restored, socked away, or earned back.  Jack Aubrey always says, “There is not a moment to be wasted.”  He’s right: time is precious.  King and peasant are both slaves to the clock.  What’s worse: at any moment your “time” might run out.

Trading time in our MMO games for progression is an exchange, a micro-transaction of epic proportions.  Every hour we spend in our MMO of choice we’re cashing in our “Mortality points” for in-game items, features, and access to content.  These points are indeed more valuable than ISK, crowns, gold, Turbine points, or any other virtual resource.  F2P isn’t free at all.

I won’t even touch the “value” of different people’s time – okay maybe I will.

Lunch with Bill Gates is worth more than sharing a doughnut with a gas station manager.  Likewise, it would cost Bill Gates 18 million dollars to grind his Shaman for 1 hour (it’s business, it’s not supposed to make sense), so it would be a better use of his “time” to buy a few epic items from an in-game shop and play the content he wants then to “grind it out.”

The point is: no matter if you’re Bill Gates or not, time is a non-renewable resource for everyone and should be selfishly guarded.

For this reason I can understand why some players that have invested a lot of “time” in their MMO feel that other player’s shouldn’t be able to “buy progression” with a wad of cash and a click of a mouse.  I totally get why they would feel this would “cheapen” their investment.  

Another factor that not many people address is positioning.  In our MMO games we start off practically naked, poor, and level 1.  Any visible progress you make is judged from the same starting point.  Micro-transactions corrupt the otherwise “fair” footing of the server, allowing characters to be born into privilege – just like in real life.

While I don’t agree with many of these player’s concerns, I do understand where they’re coming from.  If anything our MMO games are evolving: the more diversity of business models available will afford opportunities for many different types of companies to develop more games.  Translation: players get more choices.

It’s true that our MMO games are starting to mirror RL – for better and for worse, and there is no “putting the genie back in the bottle”, that’s for sure.

Conclusion: MMO’s are still a great value for entertaining yourself until you die, but there is no such thing as a free(realms) lunch.

Have a great weekend.

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