Friday, May 22, 2015

News Filter: No More Flying in World of Warcraft

  • In an interview with Polygon, lead designer Ion Hazzikostas revealed that Blizzard will no longer allow flying in future expansions.

  • 4. There's still no flying in Tanaan Jungle ... and there probably won't be in any new zones or expansions

    When Warlords of Draenor first hit, some fans were surprised to discover that even upon reaching the new level cap of 100, they couldn't fly with their air-based mounts in the new zones. Initially Blizzard expected to patch in flying at some point, but now it has changed its mind.

    "Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways," Hazzikostas explains. "While there was certainly convenience in being able to completely explore the world in three dimensions, that also came at the expense of gameplay like targeted exploration, like trying to figure out what's in that cave on top of a hill and how do I get up there."

    Hazzikostas gives an example: Before flying was introduced to World of Warcraft, if you got a quest to rescue a prisoner from an enemy encampment, it would play out a certain way. Players would need to fight their way through the camp. After flying, players could just fly into the center of camp, land on top of the hut where the prisoner is, free him and fly out.

    "It made the world feel in many ways much smaller," he says.

    Originally, Blizzard took out flying in Warlords of Draenor as an experiment, and Hazzikostas says he would have bet "slightly better than even money at the time" that they were going to bring it back eventually. But as they played the expansion and watched others play it, they discovered that they liked the game better without flying.

    "The world feels larger, feels more dangerous," he says. "There's more room for exploration, for secrets, for discovery and overall immersion in the world. At this point, we feel that outdoor gameplay in World of Warcraft is ultimately better without flying. We're not going to be reintroducing the ability to fly in Draenor, and that's kind of where we're at going forward."

    Hazziokostas confirms that this direction includes future expansions, though he doesn't discount the possibility of adding flight options in to specific expansion ideas or zones that would benefit from it. In general, though, he believes that exploration in Blizzard's massive world "works better and feels better in our view when you're doing it from the ground."

    He also promises that Blizzard will continue working to improve its network of taxi flight paths in the game to prevent any major frustration from this change: "The goal is to maximize convenience in getting from point a to point but retaining as much of the gameplay and depth as possible once you do get to that point."

  • Flying has always been better in theory than in practice. Blizzard realized very fast that flying mount broke their game, but have waited (what is it now?) eight years to reverse their decision. I appreciate that Blizzard knows how to rip out systems that aren't working. But doing so after you've sold flying mounts in their cash shop makes this a little strange.

© 2015 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top Five: Video Games of 2014

  • It's not too late for a best of 2014 post, is it? It is? Goddamnit. Oh well, as long as I'm clearing the queue...
  • Do you remember when the Nintendo 3DS was first released back in 2011? The launch line up was lousy. The next year was a gaming wasteland with few titles to remind us why we wanted the systems in the first place. Now when I look at the 3DS library, I see more great games than I could ever play. But it did not always seem this way. For a long time, I regretting impulse buying that little device. That is the same feeling I have as a PlayStation 4 owner. Sure, there is a game here or there that I greatly enjoy. But it is still in the process of becoming a console worth owning. As such, most of my favorite games were played on PC, Xbox 360, or the afore mentioned 3DS.

  • Tomb Raider (2013) - When I picked up my PS4 last year, I looked forward to playing an updated Tomb Raider on the new console. Only I discovered that past me picked up the game during a Steam sale. I thanked past me and started playing. Tomb Raider was a great experience. It was just broad enough to allow for exploring, even though the main path through the game was entirely linear. The story was really good, even though it pushed Lara into cold-blooded killer mode much too quickly. It's the most fun I've had with a Tomb Raider since Legend and I'm looking forward to the sequel, assuming it comes out on a platform that I can play it on.

  • Dark Souls II - It is strange to say that Dark Souls II was a disappointment and then put it on my list of top games of the year. It was the hollow to Dark Souls' humanity. Nonetheless, I played from start to finish and keep my attention the entire time. It was a game that I wanted to fall in love with. Like its predecessor, the combat was measured and brutally punishing. Overcoming its obstacles felt like a genuine triumph. It may not have been everything I wanted it to be, but it was still worthy of the Dark Souls name.

  • Destiny - Another best game of the year that pales only in comparison to what could have been. Destiny should have been the game of the year. All the pieces were there, but it didn't come together. But even though it wasn't the game many of us wanted it to be, I find myself going back to it time and again. I compare it to the first Assassin's Creed. That was a flawed game that taught Ubisoft how to make an amazing sequel. I strongly suspect that Destiny 2 will be the game we all hoped for. But in the meantime, I have patrols to complete and bad guys to punch.

  • World of Warcraft (Private Server) - So, I reached level 60 on my home WoW server and took my character into Outland. From one point of view, that means I am absolutely crazy for playing a massively multiplayer game in a way that defies the genre. On the other hand, it is gratifying that I can bend the game to my will. It may not be more than a curiosity, but it has been one that kept me entertained time and again all year.

  • Disney Magical World - I didn't expect to fall for Disney Magical World the way that I did. It looked like a Harvest Moon game with Disney characters. But it turns out to have a lengthy quest system and a surprising fun combat system. Also, I had a lot of fun playing dress up for Cinderella's various balls. I haven't finished it yet because there is so much to do. But I was happy to find a far deeper game than I expected.

  • It has been a strange year for gaming, and a terrible one for the gaming community. I hope 2015 will be brighter for all.

© 2015 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Random Shots: In Memoriam - 2014

  • Once again, it is time to look back at those we lost in 2014, the people who made our lives a little brighter

    • Justin Carmical, 42, aka JewWario, YouTube instructor on playing Japanese games on western consoles

    • Greg Martin, box cover artist for several Sega, Hudson, Capcom and Namco games

    • Kenneth Melville, 65, co-founder of Digital Pictures, developer of several FMV games including: It Came from the Desert, Sewer Shark, Make My Video: INXS, Make My Video: Kris Kross, and Corpse Killer, as well as developing Total Annihilation: Kingdoms.

    • Joel Green, 5, the inspiration for Ryan Green's game, That Dragon, Cancer.

    • Matthew Crump, 40, game developer, coordinator of the SXSW Gaming Expo

    • Masato Masuda, 48, game developer, creator of Pro Wrestling (NES) and the Fire Pro Wrestling series

    • Python Anghelo, 60, artist, game and pinball designer, best known for Joust, Bubbles, Pin*Bot, Cyclone and Taxi

    • Douglas E. Smith, 53, creator of Lode Runner

    • Ralph Baer, 92, developer of the first video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey
  • Farewell. You will be missed.

© 2015 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 7, 2014

News Filter: Blizzcon 2014 - The Ongoing Saga

  • It's Blizzcon time again and I can't help but get excited. I'm going to use this space to blog about the news as it happens. Is there anything you're looking forward to?

  • The biggest news is obviously the announcement of Overwatch. It's a Team Fortress 2 inspired shooter that I will probably never play, but it sure looks beautiful. The cinematic looks like something I would watch in a theater, it's that good.

  • It was good to see a bigger announcement about the final Starcraft II expansion, Legacy of the Void. If anything, I'm glad that they are finally bringing that game in for a landing. Blizzard does things on ValveBlizzard time, but I'm still glad they are done. Maybe I'll try playing the campaign one of these days.

  • And, of course, more news about Hearthstone. I continue to bounce off that game every time I try it, but I'm glad it's being supported in several different ways. I thought the Curse of Naxxramas expansion was fascinating, but a traditional expansion seems like a good move.

  • So that was Blizzcon. What did you think of the announcements?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Random Shots: Failure of Character

  • About two months ago, an eternity in internet time, I wrote an impassioned defense of the term "gamer". I have always identified as a gamer. Games have helped me through hard times. Games have given me opportunities to make friends when I might otherwise find it difficult. So as the GamerGate mess was just forming, I decided to toss in my two cents.
  • I was wrong to do so.
  • A lot of what I see in GamerGate is people in pain. People like myself, hurt by the very people that they thought of as allies. I understand it because that is what I felt. I was confused because I did not know why I was being attacked for being even tangentially tied to the horrific events that were underway. In the midst of all that, I rushed to my own defense as though it was ever really about me.
  • But instead of speaking, I should have been listening. Instead of writing, I should have been reading. GamerGate has never been about me. It is about the pain and suffering inflicted by people I might once have called friends.
  • And so, far too late, I apologize. I hope that those who identify with GamerGate come to realize that their lashing out as though they are the victims will do more harm than good in that long run. The gaming community may be irrevocably damaged now, but I don't think it's too late.

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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