Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waiting for the Ball to Drop

By many standards, it has been an eventful year in my house:


  • The oldest Mini-Red is now able to legally drive and has begun receiving college literature.
  • The youngest Mini-Red has left elementary school behind for middle school.
  • The Mini-Red in the middle* reached the state finals of the National Geographic Bee.

And oh yeah, there were some games played, too.

When the year began, I had two main games --WoW and SWTOR-- and a couple of smaller games that I played in Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Age of Conan. I was content to get my regular fix of Alterac Valley, and when the PvP Seasons would restart I'd play the other BGs before the arena players got too far ahead of the rest of the more relaxed (if there is such a thing) BG crowd. I'd only finished two class stories on SWTOR, and I really enjoyed the questing and flashpoints.

In a sense, my original WoW habit had broken into two games because of my dissatisfaction with the 5-mans and the dysfunctional questing progression in Cataclysm.

Mists was an okay expansion and better than the incomplete Cataclysm, but the emphasis on Dailies, Pet Battles, LFR, and Scenarios meant that the parts of the game that I liked best (BGs and 5-mans) got the short shrift.

The Mini-Reds started the year playing LOTRO with occasional forays into SWTOR. Blizzard's subscription design kept them out of WoW --I wasn't planning on forking over around $45/month just for them to play an hour or so a day (each) in Azeroth-- and given the toxic nature of some parts of WoW I wasn't planning on letting them play there anyway. When I get a crude come-on in the middle of Isle of Conquest, you know there's just enough creeps out there to not make it worth the risk.

***

What surprised me the most about 2014 was how some issues that had been lurking just under the surface finally exploded.

If you'd have asked me about the most problematic aspect of Gamer Culture in January of 2014, I'd have mentioned the crossover area into Hentai and the seedy underbelly of child porn that thrives there. People like DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, while not gamers themselves, have spread a taint over all of Geek Culture that isn't easily removed.

So what happened in 2014? Oh, not much, only an explosion in how women are treated in the gaming world.

You know, Gamergate. Among other things.

The fallout from Gamergate will take some years to completely process. While the Gamergaters themselves are a distinct minority, they have tainted an entire industry with their nearly insane zeal to protect their Boys' Club from 'the wimminz'. The hatred and bile that the Gamergaters spewed across the internet became an eerie echo to what happened when the anti-suffrage movement took on the Suffragettes.  Spinks has referenced this quote attributed to Rebecca West, but it still resonates with me: "Women, listening to anti-suffrage speeches, for the first time knew what many men really thought of them."

In the end, the Gamergate campaign has not achieved any of their goals --if you believe the goals they lived by as opposed to the often mocked goal of "ethics in gaming journalism"-- and if anything it has hardened the resolve of people to be more inclusive.

***

Other things happened in 2014, of course.

In our household, the biggest surprise was the rise of Marvel Heroes 2015.

It's no surprise that in a household of three Marvel fans that the F2P MMO-ish game Marvel Heroes** caught on. It's Diablo meets Marvel, without all of the messiness of who owns what property in movie studios. Apparently when Marvel Heroes launched, it was a bit of a dud, but over the past year plus it has really come along (as in fixed bugs and issues with gameplay) and gained a pretty decent following.

The first boss you meet. Oh hey, Black Cat. Wasn't expecting
you at a bank robbery. Not. At. All. (from Marvel Heroes Forums)

The gameplay is fast, the cutscenes are fantastic comic book drawings, and being able to see Storm in the same cutscene as Luke Cage and Spidey is just icing on the cake.

Oh, and the music is pretty good too:

(Alas, I couldn't find a link to the 6+ minutes worth of credits.)


Oh yeah, and the Mini-Reds started their own kinship in LOTRO, and it seems to be going well for them. They're now excited enough about the four person requirement for a guild in SWTOR that we're going to get one going on one of the NA servers (I get to be the Guild Master of the group).

***

As for me, my growing frustration in BGs has been well documented, and it eventually drove me away from WoW. Considering how much I'd stuck through on the game up until that point, it's a bit of a surprise that BGs were the breaking point, but really that's all I'd been doing in WoW by then.

What I find ironic is that I've been poking around the crew portion of Star Trek Online a lot recently, and everything I read about Garrisons sounds exactly like the missions and other things you can have your crew do as a mini-game in STO. People are comparing Garrisons to SWTOR's and Wildstar's housing, but they should really be comparing it to STO instead.

***

I guess you could say that I was eventually going to give up on WoW, but I certainly didn't expect to pick up Guild Wars 2 as a replacement.

Unlike WoW's movement toward solo play, GW2 continues to buck the trend and emphasize the social aspect of MMOs, and they do it organically through the regional events that people come out of the woodwork to do.

It's not a perfect fit for me, but then again I don't think any of the current crop of MMOs are.***

***

As the year ends, I have to admit there was a lot of shakeup in household's gaming. A long time stalwart has been removed and replaced with something I'd tried out a year ago but passed on. One game came from out of nowhere to take the Mini-Reds by storm (or is that Storm?), but they held onto their long time favorites.

And after a year of turmoil, maybe we as a gamer community can finally start to move forward constructively.

What does 2015 hold? I have absolutely no idea. About the only thing I can say is that the only constant is change. (Except for Blizzard creating a controversy by creating a "Doh!" moment; they seem to do those on average of once a year.)

I hope you haven't overindulged tonight; there's games to be played tomorrow!




*Note to self, contact FOX about a reboot of Malcolm in the Middle.

**I'll drop the "2015", even though it's implied.

***If I had to guess at a perfect game for me, it's Civ IV.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Funny (Even has a Blizzard Reference!)

In light of the Sony hacking and the current down state of North Korea's internet, leave it to The Oatmeal to provide a succinct analysis of the differences between the Koreas:





F2P or P2W?

Blizzard gave bloggers and WoW players an early Christmas gift by providing a big developer post a few days ago.

There were a lot of goodies for people to read up on, but the one that seems to be causing a bit of a stir is the section that was titled "New Ways to Play":

"New Ways to Play
We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold. Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system. A few other online games offer a similar option, and players have suggested that they’d be interested in seeing something along those lines in WoW. We agree it could be a good fit for the game, and we look forward to any feedback you have as we continue to look into this feature."*

I'd posted my thoughts on a few other bloggers' commentaries, but I figured I'd summarize them here:

  • This sounds like movement in the F2P direction, but let's be realistic: WoW won't truly go F2P without replacing that lost income from somewhere. 10 million subs translates roughly into $150 million --depending on a lot of factors, of course-- and that's a LOT of money for Blizzard to replace. Even if you figure that the true number of regular WoW players who will stick with the game no matter what is much lower, say 2 million, that's still a variable amount between $30 million and $150 million.
  • Blizzard may say that they make games that they themselves would want to play --and their development staff may truly believe that, since I've seen no evidence otherwise-- but Activision/Blizzard is no longer part of a big conglomerate. They have investors to answer to every quarter, and until Warlords dropped they were starting to wonder whether Blizzard had lost its mojo. Now that Warlords is a success**, investors are now going to ask "What have you got for next quarter?" Suggesting a limited F2P option such as this one is going to bring up the inevitable "How much will Blizzard profit from this move?" To investors, this might simply be seen as a lose/lose scenario.
  • How will gold farming mutate to take advantage of this situation? Blizzard's devs will be the ones inevitably setting the exchange rate, so they'll be able to determine how much effort it would take to reap a return on investment. The seedy WoW Underworld of sweatshops won't go away, but Blizzard could make their ability to make a profit more difficult by exchange rate manipulation. If instead of a tradeable token, Blizzard decides to make any tokens Account Bound, the question then becomes whether a gold farming operation can offer enough gold for a monthly subscription at a rate less than the current WoW monthly sub rate.
  • While gold farming operations may be forced to adapt, the rewards for account hacking might just go up. There are a bunch of people who play the economic game in WoW, and going after their accounts would be a top priority for any WoW hacker. You don't even need to raid their account of gold, either, you just need to hack their account and mine data on their methods. Mimic their methods and reap a profit.  I can see the ads now: "Play WoW for free! Let us show you how!"
  • Will this system lead to a true pay-to-win environment? It just might, given that Blizzard would need to generate money from lost subs somewhere, and allowing people to buy LFR quality gear with their WoW Account would work. I'm not so sure that wrecking the raiding game is worth it, however.
***

The one thing that everybody seems to have overlooked in the great F2P/P2W discussion is this section of the post:

"eSports’in
The new War Games skirmishes feature allows anyone to run an online tournament, and we’re excited to see even more community-run tournaments in 2015. We’ll of course be running tournaments with our eSports partners as well, and will release details as those plans are finalized. As you saw at the Arena World Championship, we’ve come up with an improved UI to help viewers better follow the action, but we’ve been working on a complete overhaul for next year—with the goal of making it widely available for use in player-run tournaments, partner tournaments, and online casting. We hope to be able to share more soon."*

I expect this to be the next big direction of professional online gaming that Blizzard will move.

When news programs such as CBS Sunday Morning cover online pro gaming***, you know that it is getting pretty huge. Blizzard already has made some inroads with Starcraft 2, but I expect this to open up Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin  (among others) to eSports.

If you thought that Blizz was responding too much to the needs of the PvP community, you ain't seen nothing yet.






*From http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/13113971367, OP by Takralus. Edited by Xarishflar on 18/12/2014 19:13 GMT

**For the moment; MMO players are notoriously fickle, and have been even more these days than in prior years.

***They did kind of imply that the people who attended Blizzcon did so for the online tourneys, which isn't really the case. Aside from that, they did a pretty decent job of covering the basics. They could have gone on more about the money some of the top LoL players make --and their lifestyle-- but that they covered both LoL and Blizzcon in one breath has to make Activision/Blizzard VERY happy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bloggy X-Mas Day 15: The Reluctant Community



(Sorry this is an hour late; I was being social and working on Christmas cards.)

If you're my age, your first exposure to video games was a social one.

Typically, you were over at a friend's house or attending some family party or whatnot, and your hosts brought out the Pong game --or the Atari 2600, Intellivision, or Odyssey-- and everyone gathered around for a turn at playing Asteroids or Combat.*

MMOs tap into those halcyon days by utilizing the wonders of the internet to play with people from around the world. None of this is exactly new to anyone, of course, but it is important to remember that video games were, at their heart, a social endeavor.

We often forget about the positive social aspects to video games when buried deep in the latest Skyrim or Dragon Age game, or when we're being yelled at to "L2P NOOOOB!!!!1!!" in Arathi Basin. It is quite easy to forget about things beyond the bare bones social contract when you're trying to make your guild's raid team.*** Or when you slew the elite boss guarding the maguffin you need for a quest, and another player ninja steals the maguffin while you were otherwise occupied.

But we MMO players are a community.

There aren't that many of us out there. Sure, WoW has 10 million subscribers, and that sounds like a lot, but not when you consider there are over a billion people hooked up to the net in some form or another. Compared to the rest of the internet, we're a niche within the niche of video gaming.

It's that realization that we consciously seek out social gaming in some form or another that makes MMO gaming special. There are MOBAs and console networks, but those don't have the social interaction on the same level as an MMO has.

What do the following have in common:
  • Random Gen Chat discussions.
  • Guild goofing off nights.
  • PUGs with people who you get into great conversations with.
  • Dance-offs at random moments.
  • You're attempting to beat an elite boss, you're losing, and suddenly a random passerby jumps into the fray to assist.

The answer is something that all of us who play MMOs know:  they're all possible in MMO space. I've been there, and I've seen it happen.

MMOs offer the chance to be awesome, both in the story and between other players. For example, I'll never forget the following exchange (paraphrased) in Tatooine about two years ago:

Player X: Need an assist with [can't remember quest name]
Player Y: I can help. Invite me.
Player Z: Man, you're L50. What are you doing here?
Player Y: I PvP in about an hour or so, but before then I like to hang around low level areas and help out those who need it.

That. Is. Awesomeness.

***

Make no mistake, MMOs are just a game. We slay internet dragons with our friends. And, more importantly, they are a tool, really, that can foster relationships with others.

It's all about how we use that tool that determines the community we reside in.

Just remember the immortal words of Bill and Ted:  Be excellent to each other!




*In a way, it was a bit similar to how I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons; that was a social format too, with a friend introducing the game to me after school while playing over at his house.

**Given that a lot of people had only one television at the time, this meant that you had to work around evening TV shows.

***Office politics remind me a lot of some of the backstabbing that goes on in some of the more high drama guilds. When companies grade everyone on a curve, employees will be tempted to sabotage other employees' work just to make themselves look better.

****No, I can't remember the name of the blog, but I saw their stats.


EtA: Added the graphic.
EtA2: Corrected grammar on story.  Sheesh, how'd I miss that?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Miscellaneous Friday Ponderings

After having seen the trailer for Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, I wonder how long it'll be before we see cross bladed lightsabers in SWTOR. My guess is that it will make an appearance sometime next year in the Cartel Store.


Yeah... This.


Or maybe this one. (From Dorkly.)


***

From what I can tell, the WoW version of housing, Garrisons, is the pet battles of Warlords of Draenor. From what a local friend tells me, it's required if you want to do any crafting, but not as much for raiding at the moment. (She doesn't PvP, so that's an unknown for her there.) You set up shop in Draenor, and you pretty much go to town.

Does that mean that you'll have to start over in a new location with a new Garrison for the next expac, does the Garrison just migrate to the next expac's location (whatever it ends up being) like a gypsy caravan, or does it stay put, permanently set in Draenor?

By integrating Garrisons directly into Draenor, it seems that Blizzard is grounding them in such a way as to make them a permanent fixture of this expac.

Now, add the full Warlords leveling experience + one new expac, L1-105(or 110), and what becomes of the Warlords Garrison? Does Blizz move it out of Warlords entirely, like what they did with most of the Wrathgate event, or do they allow you to have a double dose of Garrison leveling (one in Warlords, one in the new expac)?

Yeah, it's nitpicking, but the design decisions do have a cost, and I would hope that Blizz didn't back themselves into a corner like they did with some design decisions with Cataclysm.

***

What happens in Gen Chat, stays in.... um.... nevermind.

This must have been one of the weirder weeks for Gen Chat topics.  Among the highlights were:


  • Which Spice Girl was the best one overall (don't look at me; I actively avoided the Spice Girls in the 90s).
  • Will "Han Shot First" be referenced as a joke in the new Star Wars movie?
  • Who was a better band: Doro or Rammstein?
  • What song had the most annoying lyrics?  (My vote: Careless Whisper, by Wham, although I could be talked into Girl You Know Its True by Milli Vanilli.)
Just when people thought Gen Chat was only good for racist and middle grade humor...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wanted: A Long Term Growth Plan

These are fun times for an MMO player.

Star Trek Online, LOTRO, SWTOR, WoW, GW2 and Neverwinter all have dropped major expacs (or continuing storylines) in the last few months.*

There were two major AAA releases this year: The Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar.

But all I hear from my local friends is about League of Legends. Or Call of Duty. Or Dragon Age Inquisition. Or Assassin's Creed Unity**.

Of all my local friends and acquaintances, there's two people who are playing MMOs, and one is playing WoW while the other is playing Aion. In fact, I have more friends excited about the release of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition than anything MMO related.

This is a far cry from when I first took up WoW back in 2009, when I was occasionally surprised by who I knew who also played MMOs. The majority played WoW, to be sure, but some still liked EQ and other games. We didn't exactly swap war stories, but there was a shared experience that we could all comment on. It also confirmed the size of the playerbase that the WoW commercials of the era alluded to.



Now, it seems that the genre is more of a niche these days than before.

Sure, you've got WoW back to over 10 million subs (for the time being), but how much of that is cannibalization of other MMO player bases is an unknown.  I do know of several people who returned to WoW for Draenor (Deftig among them), but WoW doesn't seem to have quite the same mojo outside of the MMO niche than it once did.

***

I think it is telling that the television spots for Draenor are vastly different than what they were a few short expacs ago.

Hard to believe this is an oldie in YouTube years.


Fangs like that, and not one 
casting callback for True Blood.  Not one!



My wife, on seeing the Warlords trailer, asked me "Are they the good guys or the bad guys?"

I get her point. While both trailers emphasize ACTION!!, the more I watch the Warlords trailer***, the more I wonder whether the trailer is designed strictly for lapsed players as opposed to recruiting new ones.

Contrast these videos with tv spots for some other, newer games:

Didn't I see this during the Super Bowl?

Yes, that really is Kate Upton. Makes me wonder just how 
much she got paid to say "Come and play with me!"


Both of the newer games are for mobile devices, true, but both also are attempting to cast a wider net than the WoW commercials. They are aiming for growth and more players (and, in the case of Game of War: Fire Age, sex appeal so blatant that Evony would be jealous), and their tv spots have eschewed the serious grimdark in favor of whimsy.

They stole Blizzard's thunder by co-opting one of WoW's greatest strengths: its ability to not take itself seriously.

In 2007, WoW had ads with Ozzy, Verne Troyer, and William Shatner, full of sly humor and the "you can be anyone you want!" tagline. 2009 saw the WoW Mountain Dew tie-in with two women fighting it out in a grocery store.

Because you can't have enough William Shatner.

And really, you can't have enough Kaldorei 
and Orcs fighting it out in the local Mega Mart.


But now, there is no humor in Blizzard's WoW advertisements. It's all uber serious grimdark.

Last I checked, WoW itself still has plenty of humor in it. Why surrender your advantage to mobile games?

***

In the end, I guess you target your audience with what you think will work. Maximizing subscriptions is the game, and investors are a fickle "what have you done for me this quarter?" bunch. Blizzard wants their old subscribers back, and as far as I can tell they're succeeding.  But new blood in the MMO genre? Not so much.

I fear that we've reached a point where the MMO market isn't going to change much in size. MMOs will be marketed to those who already play or used to play extensively. New players aren't marketed to, and a lot of really good games will be overlooked because MMOs are no longer trendy.

This December should feel like Christmas morning with the abundance of really good games to choose from, so why does it feel like Jacob Marley needs to stop by?





*There's also a new release for Rift, but I don't play the game.

**I hear about Unity for all the wrong reasons, I might add. The bugginess of the Unity release is so bad it rivals the old Microprose Darklands game for buggy releases.

***You can't avoid the trailer right now on sports channels. It's about as ubiquitous as erectile dysfunction ads.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Message, Spock?"

One of the best things that can happen in LOTRO is an impromptu concert in Bree:

Yes, the mini-Reds are in among the crowd.


I watched my kids having a blast listening to the concert while they tried to stump me with the toons the band was playing.  (One of the tunes was Birthday by The Beatles, but I'm old enough to remember THAT one.)  This is one of those moments in LOTRO where you just wonder why this has never been appropriated for other MMOs; it brings the world to life in a unique and vivid way.

Five minutes after this screen shot, I had my answer.  A troll came running into the midst of the concert, trying his best to disrupt it.*

I shook my head; I could only imagine what would happen if people tried to do this in a game where trolling is far more frequent.

Oh wait, we do.

The irony about this is that the Serenity Now Funeral Raid highlights the best and worst parts of MMOs. You have a community getting together to honor one of their own, and you have the community being ripped apart by people who have no sense of respect.

MMOs need more community building, but it also can't be forced.  Forced community building goes over about as well as forcing people into dailies just so they can gear up to raid.** Players have to want to get together to do cool things in-game, in a public space, for the culture to change. A friend who used to play MMOs was a member of The Bards of Azeroth (Wyrmrest Accord), who would put on poetry readings in Thunder Bluff. A friend of Navimie's married her real life fiance in-game in 2013. When the old tree form was going away just prior to Cataclysm, there was an impromptu Farewell to the Trees parade.

A spark is needed, but will has to be behind it. The willingness and desire to make a difference, and to keep trying.

Unless all that people want out of MMOs is to kill things. That's fine, of course, but MMOs could be so much more. Why settle?




*It didn't work; everyone put him on ignore.

**See: Mists of Pandaria.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sounds on a Thanksgiving

"Don't let him aggro!"

"I've got this."

"Stay with him, I can heal you!"

"Don't run away, stay in the area!"

"Aaaaaa!!!  We were so close!!!"

"Are you out of fire oil?"

"I'm putting my shield spikes on, wait a sec."


These sounds of a LOTRO instance were brought to you by the Mini-Reds, who are attempting to three-man a six-person instance in LOTRO, the Great Barrow Maze.


Postscript:  "Dude, I'm gonna go to the Prancing Pony and make my toon drink SOOOO much!"  (That was after a marathon 45 minute game of Star Fluxx.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let's Pretend Nobody Else Exists...

There are a lot of things Blizzard does right with WoW. Even the most ardent WoW hater has to concede that in general Blizzard doesn't release a buggy product when a WoW patch/expac comes through.* WoW also gives enough people what they want that they still dominate the MMO market, and they shamelessly steal ideas from other games and give it their own unique twist.

But there is one aspect to WoW that Blizzard has done poorly in, and it concerns how the US and European servers are configured.  Namely, that you'd never guess that the other one exists.

All of the other MMOs I've played in have at least given you the ability to create a toon on every server the game has, but WoW for some reason won't allow you to do that on European and U.S. servers.  You get one or the other, and that's it. A long long time ago, I saw the announcement of cross-server grouping as a way to finally get a chance to play with some of my blogger friends over in Europe, but I was quickly disillusioned when I realized that the US and European servers still don't seem to know the other exists.

This kind of turns the wonderful love fest of the Looking for Group documentary on its head, since I can see that Europeans play WoW via the blogs, Tumblrs, podcasts, and fan made art/videos, but I can't play with them without purchasing the game again for the EU region.

I bring this up because other games, such as LOTRO and SWTOR will let you play on European servers. Age of Conan consolidated all of their servers this past year as well.  GW2 is a bit closer to the WoW model in that you're locked into the server you start with --and creating a toon on a European server means your license gets transferred to the EU region-- but it still lets you select a European server from the start.

My kids have LOTRO toons across several servers, and they've often commented to me on people occasionally speaking in French on Gen Chat.** I recently rolled up a new Smugger on a European server in SWTOR, and I can attest how connected you feel seeing guild recruiting ads saying "we are an all Polish guild" or "we're an all Russian guild". Or that you'll see someone let loose some British slang in Gen Chat. You get that sense of togetherness, the feeling that people all over the world are hanging out in Coruscant with you right now, without having to leave the game at all.

And really, the lag for the European SWTOR servers is only slightly worse than the lag for the West Coast US server that I typically play on.

I understand that there are license issues at play here, but it still seems odd that this restriction is still in place a decade later, particularly when the world has shrunk with the advent of new social media and the explosion of smart phones and tablets. It just seems a relic of the past, when the most exotic location a fellow player might be from is Buffalo.





*Design flaws, yes, but bugs are minor compared to most other AAA software releases. Having spent time in software QA back in the 90s, I've occasionally wondered just how much pull the software QA team at Blizzard has. Typically software QA is a small speed bump to the rest of the release train, and even if the QA people are screaming that something isn't ready for release the software will ship regardless.

**Which they find incredibly cool that they're playing a game at the same time someone in France is.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The More Things Change....

I'd been watching the news about the release of Warlords*, and it seems to be a bit more difficult than the usual launch troubles.  There's the initial chokepoint of having everyone click on a single NPC to access the Warlords content, but between that and the rush of people to get in there was nothing unusual.  But then you throw in a strong DDoS attack, and you've got a real mess.

I saw some of the net traffic charts and it seems they're originating from China, which kind of puts the kibosh on any conspiracy theories concerning GamerGate, but that also makes me wonder whether the DDoS attacks that happened shortly before I unsubbed were actually a test run before the main event.

Personally, I don't think much of a Chinese hacker DDoS attempt against a game launch, because there's nothing critical there to be concerned about. It's akin to a bunch of pigeons crapping on chess tables out in the park: you shoo them away, you clean up the mess, and you can go play. There's no real reason for it other than to simply be an asshat, in spite of what Lizard Squad says about "improving server farms" in their DDoS attack on Sony's Playstation Network and phoning in bomb threats on a Sony exec's plane.

The servers will go back up and people will start playing again, so unless we see a repeat in the next week or so, the DDoS didn't really have any lasting damage.

Go play, people.




*I still think of the old Atari game Warlords when I type that, and WoD means "World of Darkness" from White Wolf Publishing for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hanging out With The Beautiful People, Part 2

In my neverending quest to be 1-2 years away from being trendy, I finally broke down and bought Guild Wars 2.

(What, you thought I was going to talk about Dragon Age: Origins? Okay, I could, since I'm finally playing a Bioware Fantasy RPG for the first time since Baldur's Gate II, but that's beside the point.)

It had been over a year since I last played around with the game on a free weekend, but I'd been thinking pretty hard about what should replace WoW* as my main fantasy MMO. Age of Conan is too grindy for me to use it as my main (although it is great in spurts of a week or two at a time), and while I like what Neverwinter is doing I'm constantly screwing up with my keyboard commands when I play the game.**

I can't justify another subscription for the time being, so that eliminates The Elder Scrolls Online. I've already outlined my opinions of Aion in two previous posts, and I've pretty much left LOTRO to the kids***, so what remained was ArenaNet's pride and joy.

Shouldn't he be in a Dr. Pepper Ten commercial?

I still have issues with all of the beautiful people around, but I've come around to liking the quest system there.  While the "heart" system for quests is a bit head scratching at times, particularly when you're not expecting to read about "hearts" in an MMO (other than stabbing an enemy in the heart), but it does do a good job of moving you throughout a region without tying you down to a specific story.

The story questlines are reminiscent of Age of Conan, where they're triggered once you get to a certain level.  The difference is that Age of Conan's entire starting zone (Tortage) is filled with both regular quests and your personal storyline's quests, whereas GW2 has you wait until the correct level (L10, I believe) until you can start up that storyline.

Also, much like Age of Conan, GW2 is very unforgiving when you attack an enemy a couple of levels higher than you. If you get three regular enemy on you and they're about 1-2 levels higher, you'd better hope that there's another player nearby to assist.

And that's the thing that surprises me the most about GW2, even this long after it dropped: people still come out of the woodwork for the (plentiful) group events.  There's no need to call out for LFG; people magically appear and assist.

If this sort of behavior had been around in Wrath, Blizzard probably wouldn't have done away with almost all group quests in Cataclysm.

***

SWTOR has spoiled me on questline interaction and cutscenes.  GW2 (and Neverwinter) don't have the lip movements in alignment with the spoken words, and that is more annoying than I expected. But one thing that GW2 is ahead of the curve on is "scout" method of pushing a player deeper into a zone.  It's very clever, and while I expected it to be very "gamey", it turns out that I really do like the methodology.

"So you've been out here for days, and you still look immaculate?"
"Well, you're not exactly caked in mud either."
"Good point. Must be my magnetic personality."

It may be a simple conceit, but I do like the Renaissance/Age of Reason look to the gear. So many RPGs and MMOs are firmly based in the Dark Ages or High Middle Ages, and when something comes along that bucks the trend, it feels like a breath of fresh air.

***

Am I going to keep playing GW2?

Yes. I've already played GW2 more than I have Skyrim, so I don't see why not. While it might not completely take the place of WoW in my current game listings, it more than stands on its own.





*I keep getting bombarded with e-mails from Blizzard to Azshandra, saying she has a free week in Azeroth and that she should come and check out the game again. The similarities to a timeshare sales pitch aside, It's starting to make me wonder if my Rogue has indeed gone Rogue on me. I might want to scan my bank statements a bit more carefully in case she's been partying with my gold or something.

**I feel like a stereotypical keyboard turner when I play Neverwinter, and I hate that. In spite of those limitations, I do have a Cleric up to L22 or so, and I intend to keep playing it on a low key basis until I get at least one toon to max level. Since I tend to play MMOs solo, however, I don't know how much group content I'll be doing on Neverwinter, as I dislike not being able to pull my weight. And with a Cleric, you can bet that any drop off in healing would be noticed by everyone.

***That's not to say that LOTRO is for kids, but more that my kids play LOTRO enough that I've taken to thinking it as "their game". Plus, the color scheme for the UI still drives me nuts; I must be borderline colorblind or something.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Short Post for a Friday

While I've got several posts in various states of completion, I really didn't have anything ready to go by today.

Therefore, I'll give you this link to Dorkly's 6 Types of Gamer Couples.  For the record, my wife and I are The Cutthroat Couple.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

You just knew it was coming...

I love Buzzfeed.

They did the Fake Geek Guys video, and now this:



I found this on Dorkly first, which I also love.

Oh, and never forget College Humor's classic Female Armor Sucks.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Just Pixels

As more crap seems to be flung over the Zoe Quinn Incident, it's easy to look at all this and think that the entire gaming hobby has turned into this putrid ooze of hatred and filth.

At times like this, I think of my kids and am thankful that I banned them from social media. I did it ostensibly because I wanted them to be mature enough to navigate the social morass of Facebook and Twitter, but I've since realized that it's social media that needs to grow up instead.

I suppose it's not a big surprise that I have found myself wondering what on earth the Internet is good for if it is filled with bile.

Do you really have to ask what movie this is from?

It's not an idle speculation, either. I've been on the internet in some form or another since the 80's, and I remember the heyday of Usenet. I remember the free flow of ideas, the fights and holy wars, and I remember the signal to noise ratio slowly degrading over time until people decided enough was enough and abandoned Usenet in favor of "walled garden" forums.

I wonder if we reached a similar breaking point in gaming.

The forces at work in Gamergate have been lurking below the surface, but Gamergate has exposed the slimy underbelly of the gaming world for everyone to see.  When Gamergate makes the front page of the New York Times, you can no longer say that the harassment inflicted on Anita, Zoe, and others is not a big deal. The harsh light of national media exposure  is now on the controversy.

And the Gamergaters are about to find they are not seen in a flattering light.

As I've said time and again, perception is everything. You can have the best argument in the world and have truth and justice on your side, but if you act like an ass nobody will believe you. Gamergaters don't exactly have truth and justice on their side, just coordination and creative editing tools*. In fact, a very very good case could be made that if it weren't for all of the bile directed their way, Anita Sarkeesian and her fellow critics would never have gotten the exposure they have.

I doubt that Anita is going to grace them with a thank you, however.



What will happen now?

Well, the dynamics that led to Gamergate --the increased participation of women in gaming and the increasing dissatisfaction on how women are portrayed in games-- aren't going to change. If anything, women will continue to participate in gaming in ever growing numbers. They're going to see the advertising, the YouTube videos, and the store displays and want to try things out too. They're going to grow up in families playing games, and they're not just going to stop because they hit adulthood.

And they're going to want games with protagonists they can identify with.

This is not a hard thing to understand.

Hell, this is not that hard a thing to program, either.

Bioware has made a living creating both male and female toons for its games. You don't see the female Trooper in SWTOR running around with a bare midriff because that'd be instant death in a firefight. Perfect World has created armor for female toons in Neverwinter that is far more realistic than what I've seen for the average WoW toon.

Wizards of the Coast, in the release of D&D Fifth Edition Player's Handbook, explicitly states that a player can play any type of character they want to.** Paizo has a long reputation for presenting women and minorities in its Pathfinder gaming materials, such as the number of women and minorities among their iconic representations of their classes.

But why don't we see more examples like this? Are we, as gamers, too focused on the next shiny to demand more? Are we going to be focused on raiding and getting to max level and all of the background art to notice that something is missing?

Or are we just content to for things to be as they are, saying that they're no longer quite as bad as Leisure Suit Larry and Spellcasting 101:

One of the less risque pics from Spellcasting 101,
which came out when I was in college.
(Yes, I'm that old.) From abandonia.

Well, um...

From WoWWiki.





*That creative editing, ironically enough, is what some of them complain about Anita Sarkeesian doing with her series.

**"You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface.

You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide."  --From D&D 5e Player's Handbook, Page 121.


EtA: added italics to the PH quote.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

News: Dragon Age: Origins is free from Origin

No, you read that right.

In advance of Dragon Age: Inquisition being released shortly, Origin is releasing DA:O free for the taking until October 14th.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Before anyone accuses me of spoilers....

...there's a new expac announced for SWTOR:  Shadow of Revan.



Yeah, that kind of gives away certain elements of the mid level flashpoints, but I'm not concerned. Looks interesting indeed, that the Revanites will have a part to play.



EtA: Removed the "the" from the title.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Oh hai, Friday. Where'd you come from?

It's been a busy week at work, and I've not had much time for writing.  Therefore, check out this female Draenei cosplay instead:

From fashionablygeek.com.

Yes, there's several more pics at the site; go see it. I'm seriously impressed by the amount of work that went into it.

EtA: Fixed the broken link.

Friday, September 26, 2014

We Got it All Wrong After All

World of Starcraft?

WoW 2?

A more robust Diablo MMO?

Well, Titan was none of the above. According to an article on Kotaku, Titan was supposed to be a hybrid Sci-Fi shooter with a heavy dose of MMO elements. More than anything else, it was supposed to be similar to the recently released game Destiny*, but with much heavier MMO interplay.

Given that this would have been a completely new property for Blizz, it would have been that fourth leg to their table that currently has Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft holding the company together. It does sound very interesting in concept --particularly the ambitious nature of the economic game-- but I know I could never play Titan since it's a shooter.**

In the end, I suppose that Destiny was the final nail in Titan's coffin, since you're getting about 75% of Titan in Destiny's released form, and why would you want to compete with a game you're releasing?

One aspect to Titan that might have been interesting would be how it would have translated into PvP. With MOBAs all the rage these days, could Blizz have turned a portion of Titan's development into a PvP game that would compete with already released MOBAs? I suspect PvP wasn't a focus of Titan's development process, and that might have hampered Titan on release as well.

Regardless, Titan is now dead, deader than Jacob Marley, but you never know when elements of it will appear in other, already released games.




*By Bungie, which is released through Activision/Blizzard.

**Shooters give me headaches. Seriously. I have to take dramamine before I can even attempt to play a shooter.


EtA: Cleared up a grammar error in the first paragraph.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday Funny

There are days when Dorkly really hits home....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall of (the) Titan

For those wondering what's next for Blizzard, it's not Titan.

Titan, the often rumored MMO successor to WoW, has been officially canned by Blizz.

What I got from the Polygon article (go, read the link, I'll wait) was that Blizz couldn't recapture that elusive "it" that they had with WoW, and decided to kill off Titan before it became an albatross and dragged down their reputation. Does that mean that even Blizzard can't put out a new MMO in this climate that will potentially topple WoW? Probably, but that's not their stated goal. Does it mean that it can't put out a new MMO that will at least be successful and not hemorrhage subscribers after a few months? I think that more likely.

If that doesn't give the MMO market pause, then I don't know what will. Even Blizzard is admitting defeat before Titan was even released.

The article also tells me that WoW is going to be the last word in the MMO genre from Blizzard.  No Starcraft MMO, no WoW 2, nothing.  What you see in WoW is what you'll get; some incremental updates, some new expacs, some other stuff from other MMOs (housing) added on, but at its heart WoW is going to be the MMO you see today.

I also suspect that the rise of League of Legends and other MOBA games has had an impact here as well.  Video game professional leagues have suddenly become big business, and money is flowing in that direction. Releasing an MMO when the money is going elsewhere isn't smart business. Of course, you can lose your way merely chasing the money; a AAA video game is often years in development, and where the money is at when you start development is not where it's at when you're finished.*

Finally, expect more small tie-in titles in the future, such as Hearthstone, but leveraging their existing Blizzard properties. It is entirely possible that Blizz isn't going to create anything new, such as completely original games with new worlds and/or properties, for a long time to come. Creating a new, original property takes some risk, and Blizzard seems to be electing to go the safe route and reuse the properties instead.

To be honest, Blizzard has been living on its existing properties (Warcraft/Diablo/Starcraft) for a while now, and Titan was going to be a fourth leg of a table. I guess that table will have to get by with three legs now.






*See: novels and movies. The time it takes for a novel to be written and then published is a couple of years --and movies even longer-- and tastes can change at the drop of a hat.

Monday, September 22, 2014

One More Post on Gaming and Misbehavior

I wanted to point out a couple of new articles on internet shaming and worse:

By Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg From Ten Ton Hammer:  Shaming and Gaming - This is Not Okay

By Spinks (Woo hoo, Spinks is back!) From Welcome to Spinksville:  Guild culture, game culture, gamer culture (with notes on GamerGate)

"Enjoyed" isn't the right word for this, but they were very thoughtful posts and I am very glad they were written.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Facepalm City

As you may have heard, Microsoft is buying the developer house Mojang, which owns Minecraft. Unless you're more plugged into gaming circles, you'd also know that the creator of Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, left Mojang the same day, citing how he'd like his life back.

Between this and other recent gaming related items, the term "we eat our own" comes to mind.

But this article by the Washington Post's Andrea Peterson, How the Gaming Community Destroys its Heroes, really hits home.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Arguing With Myself

Sir Lancelot: [Sir Galahad the Chaste is being seduced by an entire castle full of young women] We were in the nick of time. You were in great peril.
Sir Galahad: I don't think I was.
Sir Lancelot: Yes, you were. You were in terrible peril.
Sir Galahad: Look, let me go back in there and face the peril.
Sir Lancelot: No, it's too perilous.
Sir Galahad: Look, it's my duty as a knight to sample as much peril as I can.
Sir Lancelot: No, we've got to find the Holy Grail. Come on.
Sir Galahad: Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?
Sir Lancelot: No. It's unhealthy.
Sir Galahad: I bet you're gay.
Sir Lancelot: Am not.
--From Monty Python and the Holy Grail*



I don't smoke.

I used to occasionally light up a cigar (on the average of once or twice a year), but I gave that up years ago.

The tipping point for me was noticing a change in how I really REALLY wanted to smoke another one within a day of the last one. If you ever smoked a cigar, that last half of the cigar has that harsh blech taste that typically acts as a damper on lighting up another one, and when I caught myself holding a pen like it was a stogie, puffing away, I realized I was very close to a tipping point.

It's been over a decade since I experienced that sort of craving. Sure, there's that feeling of euphoria when you walk into the dealer hall at GenCon and see all of the game vendors waiting to take your money, but that wears off fairly quickly when you immerse yourself in the crowd.**

This past month, however, I've been dealing with WoW withdrawal, which until I actually unsubbed I would have laughed off.

I've been at work, sitting through meetings, when I've had the urge to go run Alterac Valley. And when I mean urge, it's not a "oh yeah, it'd be cool to do XXX," but more like "I NEED TO DO THIS NAOW!!!!"

I've been cooking and cleaning around the house when I really really wanted to stop and go sneak into Eversong Forest on my NE Rogue and watch the new toons out and about.

I've been tired and ready for bed and I've thought "Hey, what about changing my rotation a bit," and gone halfway down the stairs before I realized what I was thinking.

I've found my fingers twitching, mimicking my rotation, at odd moments of the day.

I've had a conversation with myself, eerily mimicking the Monty Python moment above:

"You know, it's not a big deal. You can resub."
"No, I've got good reasons for not doing it. I like having less drama in my life."
"Yeah, but I do miss playing Alterac Valley."
"There are other MMOs that have PvP, so cut it out."

"But it took you how long to get good at WoW's BGs? You'd have to start over with more drama. Why not stick with what you know?"
"Did you not get the 'less drama' part? I was sniping at the kids that past few months before I quit."
"That's on you, not the game. Come on, man up and resub."
"No, and that's final."

***

If you'd have told me that I'd have experienced this when I unsubbed, I'd have thought you were crazy. I take WoW breaks of a week or three all the time, so I figured this would be easy once I actually pulled the trigger. But the thing is, that's a false analogy; even if I took a break from the game, the game was still there, ready for me to play. Now, having actually cut the cord, I don't have that security blanket.

I'm hopeful that this, like the cigar thing, will fade with time. There's plenty of other games out there, and I'm sure that I'll find them interesting once I, you know, actually start playing them.





*Courtesy of IMDB.com. I have it in a book somewhere in the basement, but I didn't want to spend over 1/2 hour looking for it.

**And you also look at the prices and realize there's no way you can afford to buy ALL THE GAMES.


EtA: Added reference to IMDB.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toon Naming Rule #1...

...DON'T name your toon right before dinner.

In the span of 15 minutes this evening, I saw toons named "chuckroast" and "marsh'mallow" on Tython.

So, if you're wondering what to name that new Jedi Knight or Bounty Hunter, don't take a whiff of the smell from the kitchen and decide that the name "beef'stew" is appropriate.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Game Developers Strike Back

Just in case you missed the latest brouhaha in the gaming world, Anita Sarkeesian released a new entry in her Tropes v Women series, which was accompanied by what is becoming the all too familiar scene of bile thrown in her direction. Including the rape and death threats that some trolls seem to think are warranted.

This was the video that was the straw 
that broke the camel's back.



Well, between that and the Zoe Quinn incident, some game developers have had enough of this behavior.

Independent game developer Andreas Zecher has posted an open letter calling for this sort of disgusting behavior to stop, and quite a few development houses --including Bioware, Ubisoft, and XBox-- have signed on.

You can find the open letter here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Thursday Quick Hit: Girls on Games

Deftig's wife passed this Kickstarter along to me, and I figured I'd share it.  I recognized quite a few of the games that were shown in the Kickstarter, and I'd be interested in hearing their stories.







EtA: Changed the title to make it actually reference the Kickstarter, like I'd originally intended, before I pressed the Publish button by mistake.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gen Con 2014: And Lo, there were Gamers as far as the eye could see...

On a day with leaden skies and the omnipresent threat of rain, we piled into the van* and drove up to Indianapolis for Gen Con 2014.

Having made the trek for several years now, I made sure we were prepped the night before.  Yeah, even though it was a day trip, I know the routine fairly well: someone will want a certain shirt to wear, and someone else will be trying to find their misplaced list of vendor spaces to check out.

And I will want a good night's sleep, so that I don't konk out on the way back home. Which isn't a good thing if you're the driver.

We met up with my brother-in-law**, got our badges, and headed inside to the big hall.

***

Unlike prior years, there wasn't anything in particular that I wanted to see. Unfortunately, I didn't take very many pics either, although there were a lot of cosplayers in attendance.  Among the better cosplay outfits were a couple in Black Cat and Spider-man outfits, a woman dressed up as the Ranger on the front of last year's program book, a pack of Timelords (primarily Tom Baker and Matt Smith), and a family dressed as (Adam West era) Batman, Supergirl, and a little Supergirl.  Sure, there were the pro cosplayers, such as the Rebels and Imperials near the Fantasy Flight Games booth, the Gandalf roaming around in the outer hallways, and the Wolverine cosplayer who picked a fight with Darth Vader***, but for every Soda Pop Minis woman who did an exacting job on her outfit there were about a dozen or so kids dressed up as superheroes and Star Wars characters.

The biggest cosplay laugh I had went to the guy who ran around in a scruffy t-shirt and jeans, holding out a cardboard sign "Will GM for Beer".  My wife and I applauded that one, and he took a bow.

The Mayfair Games' sponsored Training Grounds, where kids could play board games and put crafts together, was absolutely packed. Yes, this was Family Fun Day, but seeing a couple of hundred families happily playing whatever game was available was an awesome sight.

I tried to not take any pics of the kids, but instead
I focused on the sign itself. However, imagine about
200 kids and parents between me and that sign...

As is traditional, in the exhibit hall there were a lot of demo areas for you to try a game out for a few rounds to see if it was something you liked. I really really wanted to check out some of the new offerings from Fantasy Flight Games, such as Star Wars Armada and Star Wars Imperial Assault, but those tables were almost impossible to get to. My wife and I checked out a lot of the family oriented booths for deceptively simple games that play quick, and we found a few at the Maranda Games booth. One of the games I particularly liked was called Eternas, which is a twist on the old Connect Four game.

Eternas, from marandaenterprises.com.


Instead of a grid to work with, you're presented with pegs in a circle, and each player has a limited number of wooden beads to use. The pegs only allow up to four beads at a time, and there are no edges, but for the most part it plays like Connect Four. However, you can't play to a tie: once you run out of beads, on your next turn you must select a bead of your color from the top of a row and move it to another location. It's a subtle change, and one that makes the game a lot more cutthroat.

There were other games that I found interesting, such as Freedom, which is a cooperative game depicting the Underground Railroad. It had won numerous awards this year from The Dice Tower, yet I somehow missed any discussion of it. And if you thought that the Freedom is some sort of lighthearted board game, the cards and events will disabuse you of that notion.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad, by Academy Games.


***

Geek Chic always manages to make me cry a little whenever I stop by their booth.

This is from 2012's Gen Con, but it's still accurate.

That... is what they call The Sultan.  Do you see those wooden edges?  They fold down.  Like this:

From geekchichq.com
The Sultan starts at $12,950 (US), and can go up to $16k (US).

This is one of those "If I win the lottery" items.

***

The main exhibit hall added an extra section this year, which allowed the overall exhibit space to grow by about 20-25%. And it was still packed.

That back section near the addition, which was filled with Kickstarter backed demos and products, was extremely hard to get through. However, whomever decided that the main card vendors should be there, next to the card playing area, should get a raise. I saw people go into the playing area, come out a while later, and go straight to the card vendors.

There are some very interesting games in the Kickstarter area that made it worthwhile to peruse, such as Clever.



***

Among the more traditional gaming companies, Paizo (the makers of Pathfinder) and Fantasy Flight (the makers of a ton of different board/card/RPGs) were running out of stock. Fantasy Flight had a sign at the entrance to their area so you could find out what was already sold out before you went in their space.  Both of these companies as well as Mayfair (the creators of Settlers of Catan, among other games) had lines so long they snaked around their entire areas.

A small portion of the Paizo booth. And my finger.
Another view of the Paizo booth. Five minutes after taking
this picture, the line for checkout (on the right) snaked
around the poster of Seoni and doubled back toward me.


Fantasy Flight Games' Report from Day 1 of Gen Con 2014

There were plenty of demo tables available for gaming companies such as Days of Wonder (makers of the Ticket to Ride family of games), Z-man (makers of Pandemic), and Queen games (which tend to be more hard core Eurogames, such as Alhambra and Aqua Romana).

RPG companies not named Paizo were well represented too.

While Fantasy Flight is more well known for their boardgames, they were well represented in the RPG area with the release of the beta of the third volume of their Star Wars RPG, Force and Destiny.**** This third volume covers the Jedi and the Sith in an environment around the events of the Original Trilogy, so any force users out there will be (for the most part) on the run from the Empire. This beta release was so popular that FFG sold out of it by Sunday, and players were queueing up to try out the game at their demo tables.

Pinnacle Entertainment had their Savage Worlds products out in abundance, as did Catalyst with their Shadowrun RPG, and the Shadows of Esteren team with their RPG. There were even some really old time RPGs, such as Flying Buffalo's Tunnels and Trolls and The Design Mechanism's version of Runequest.

But what about Wizards of the Coast and the 5th Edition of D&D?

"Gonna need a bigger boat," my ass.
From dnd.wizards.com


WotC had an entirely separate hall to themselves this year, and it was packed with gamers trying out the new 5e. You could purchase the game there as well, but given the discounts via Amazon, there weren't as many people queueing up to purchase the new Player's Handbook right then and there.  However, there was a huge release party on Friday night outside of the convention center.

***

There seemed to be an increase in the LARP vendors this year, as opposed to other years. I'm sure someone probably got all huffy about the corsets for sale being too stereotypically feminine, but given the amount of steampunk cosplayers wearing them, the vendors were just giving the people what they wanted.

***

According to the press release after the con finished, there were 56k+ attendees this year, and Gen Con has doubled in size since 2009. Things seem to be building up toward the 50th Anniversary in 2017, but now the question becomes whether Gen Con can maintain its momentum while remaining a fun con to attend. I think they can, and seeing the crowds of families and kids enjoying themselves on Sunday gives me hope for the future.

If you're looking for more coverage of Gen Con, you can find plenty of pics at Zachary Houghton's RPG blog:

Gen Con Blog: Gen Con Eve
Zack's Gen Con Blog: Day 1
Zack's Gen Con Blog: Day 2
Zack's Gen Con Blog: Day 3
The Best of Gen Con 2014

The Roo Sack Gamers have a podcast of interviews of some of the vendors at Gen Con this year:

Side Hop 8: Gen Con 2014 Interviews*****

In addition to the first YouTube video listed above, Fantasy Flight Games have a production of each day at Gen Con. No, you won't find us in the video this year (unlike in some prior years), but they still capture a bit of the zaniness at Gen Con:

FFG at Gen Con - Day 01
FFG at Gen Con - Day 02
FFG at Gen Con - Day 03
FFG at Gen Con - Day 04

And finally Drive Thru Review has a playlist of various games that they'd demoed during Gen Con.

Gen Con 2014





*Without air conditioning, as it is on the fritz.

**Who also runs the actual play podcast Roo Sack Gamers (look to the right for the link). What is an actual play podcast? It's a podcast where a gaming group records their gaming sessions for post later. The Roo Sack Gamers --so named after the roo sack dice bag (don't ask)-- run RPGs that are on the more narrative end of the RPG spectrum, such as Burning Wheel, Dungeon World, etc, that could use a little attention. Why listen to an actual play podcast? Well, if you want to run or participate in an RPG but you're not quite sure how the game will play out, you can listen to an actual play podcast and get a feel for things.

***All in jest, and it would have made for an excellent pic but I came out of the exhibit hall just in time to see them leaving.

****From what I've been told off the record, there's a LucasFilm requirement for any release --beta or not-- to be done via print. I'm not entirely confident about whether this is truly the case, as I'd prefer more evidence, but the reality is that FFG had come out with a print version only for every beta release.

*****And yes, before you ask, the kids that were interviewed at the end of the podcast are the mini-Reds.


EtA: Forgot the Paizo pics.
EtA: The Roo Sack Gamers had to re-upload the podcast, so I had to fix my link.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mark Your Calendars

Warlords of Draenor will drop on November 13th, 2014.

Here's the trailer:



All done?  Good.

Given the focus of the cinematic, I think it's pretty plain we're back to a Horde-centric story.  It also feels like, well, a bit like this:



That doesn't mean that all that's old is new again and we're back to the original Warcraft stuff, but it is definitely a throwback in design.

But I just can't get excited for it.

No demons here, move along. Nothing that says "the Alliance will play an integral part of this expac," either.

Welcome to Draenor 2.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Play it again, Sam...

There's a Change.org petition for Blizzard to immortalize Robin Williams in WoW.

I would like that, but within the past hour it was announced that Lauren Bacall has passed away today as well.  If Blizzard does immortalize Robin Williams at the World's End Tavern, I would also like them to have Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart at a table nearby, watching the show.




EtA: Yes, I know that my title is a) a misattributed quote, and b) from Ilsa Lund in Casblanca, played by Ingrid Bergman. However, it didn't feel right referencing a bar such as World's End Tavern without using that quote. I suppose I could have used "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?", but that scene isn't from a bar.

Monday, August 11, 2014

RIP, Robin Williams


Robin passed away today, the victim of an apparent suicide.  While he was most well known for his comedy and acting, he was also an avid gamer. He played Warcraft 3, D&D, sand table tin soldiers, and a variety of video games.

He battled his demons, depression and drug addiction, until the very end.

Robin, you will be missed.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

"I attack the darkness!!"

In honor of the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, I figured I'd post an oldie but goodie from the Dead Alewives, their classic Dungeons and Dragons sketch.*



And, well, whaddya know.  Gen Con is next week. I'm looking forward to checking out the games, watching the crowd, and seeing the previews with the family.  Among what I'm hoping to see are a preview of Fantasy Flight Games' new Star Wars miniatures game, Armada. I've always wanted to yell "IT'S A TRAP!" during a game, and now it looks like I'll get the chance.

THIS.  This looks cool. From fantasyflightgames.com.






*I have to confess when I first heard it, I cringed because I lived through the Satanic Panic back in the 80s, but then the transition to the gaming happened, and I lost it. If you replace Mountain Dew with Milwaukee's Best Light, then you have my gaming group from back in college...