Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • As in all things, there are high and then there are lows. Just because World of Warcraft is a video game (and thus, fun!) does not mean that it is excluded from this truism. In fact since they are such highly social games, MMOs are subject even more intensely this roller coaster. Since my last post, I've been facing those highs and lows square in the face.

  • On the high side, I finally completed my Master's Key, and thus can enter Karazhan. That is, of course, if I can get into a Kara raid group. That does not seem to be as easy as I hoped. Within days of receiving my Kara key, my guild disintegrated, leaving only the casual and pre-raid contingient behind. All the raiders fled to a new guild.

  • I also finished my Frozen Shadoweave set, decked in out in rare gems, and the best enchants I can get. Of course, now there is nothing to kill with my new goodies since I've run out of solo player quests. The most recent patch added a single new daily quest that randomly rotates the objectives, but one new quest does not a play experience make.

  • Finally, I have been playing on my alt. But not really that much. Sure there is new content to see with the revamp of Dustwallow Marsh and nerfing of pre-60 group quests that I never did before. However I'm finding it difficult to play another character that is going to face this casual player ceiling.

  • Here's a little proposal to Blizzard for opening things up for us casually: allow access to the Ogri'la and Netherwing quests to soloers. There is no reason a solo player should be forced to group up just to experience more solo content.

  • In the mean time, I'll be playing Mass Effect, maybe twice. Maybe I'll get back into Phantasy Star Universe. Maybe I'll give that Lord of the Rings game a second try. I've heard the new patches are pretty good.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

By Request: Bullet Points, a definition

  • Looking over the web stats, I've been dismayed to discover that people aren't coming to my blog for my scintillating wit or insightful views on video games and comic books. Evidently, most people are trying to figure out what a bullet point is. Not the audience I was seeking, but I feel that I must serve this accidental constituency just the same.

  • See that little dot of to the left? That's a bullet point.

  • The snarky part of me really wants to leave it there. And yet I'm oddly compelled to continue.

  • I don't use bullet points the way they're supposed to be used. Normally a bullet point is used to identify a single idea, thought, or concept in a few, concise words. Primarily this is because bullet points are supplementing another method of information transmission and the bullet point serves as a focus and as recall device.

  • Concise, I am not. Like I said in my first blog post, I just like having a device that allows me to throw a jumble of thoughts together while the appearance of continuity and adhesion between them. Not that I take advantage of that fact, but there you go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Now that I've hit level 70 on a second character in the current favorite, my thoughts automatically drift to the conundrum that in endgame content. The primary motivational driver in massively multiplayer role-playing games is gaining experience to increase your level. It's a strong motivator because it's easy to implement, easy to follow, and easy to expand when necessary. That's why just about every expansion pack ever released features an increased level cap. They're just hanging that carrot on a longer stick. But what do you do when you hit the level cap. I've already done so twice in WoW and each time it has made me reevaluate what I want to get out of the game.

  • The endgame, then, is really about finding alternate ways to advance your character. In many games, the secondary driver of advancement is upgraded equipment, the "phat lootz" and "purples" that improve your abilities without adjusting your level. In WoW, there are three primary ways to improve your gear: crafting, PvP, or raiding. Everquest 2 has an Alternate Advancement system in place to improve your abilities after you've capped out, though they introduce you to this quite early. Like gear improvements, they put you on training wheels for this endgame content while you're leveling so you know what you're doing once you hit the cap.

  • Some people will tell you that the endgame is the "real" game and leveling is just preparing you for that. It's a valid viewpoint, and games like Guild Wars readily embrace the concept. However there is something visceral about leveling up that can't be discounted as merely a grind.

  • This is the dilemma I'm facing again. How do I stay interested in the game when I'm running out of things to do on my own? This question has actually clarified a little in the last week so I'll just list what I'm working toward. This shouldn't be taken as a prescription for everyone, but might give you an idea of what options are available. Essentially, I'm doing a little of everything.

  • First, I set a goal to craft a set of Frozen Shadoweave armor. This three-piece tailored epic set is practically fated for my frost-specced mage and I've had a good time crafting the first two parts. The robe of this armor will be quite a challenge since I have to improve my tailoring skill and gather the resources to craft it, but the goal will be well worth it in the end. I did this with my paladin, crafting a Breastplate of Kings, though I didn't get much use of it when I switched to my healing role.

  • Second, I've joined a new guild with people that have similar goals and are relatively helpful in achieving them. My personal goal for the game (and I've probably said this before) is to see the inside of Karazhan. Funny enough, I'm at the exact same stage of my Kara attunement quest as I was with my pally, but I feel more assured of closing the deal this time. Now that Patch 2.3 has rolled out, I'm hoping the Kara will lead into Zul'Aman and more fun, but that is my "stretch goal."

  • Third, I started an new alt, a blood elf warlock named Kesandru. When I got sick of my pally, I returned to leveling my mage. And now I have a warlock in case I get sick of Ashlynh. Again, Patch 2.3 has made the alt leveling experience better, but I'm hoping that I have too much fun raiding so I don't have to move on to a new character.

  • It is difficult to know if I am making the same mistakes as before. Maybe I'll hit my head on the endgame ceiling again and it'll be all alts, all the time. However I'm hoping that I will finally see this endgame everyone keeps talking about. Imagine me being the optimist. First time for everything I guess.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Read Lately: Astonishing X-Men, volumes 1-3

  • I'm secure enough in my manliness to admit without reservation that I love Joss Whedon. I am reasonably certain I'm not the only man to have made this declaration, but Google only turns up like one guy willing to admit it. (In the first hundred results at least. I'm lazy.) I mean, this is guy who did Buffy and Firefly. What more could a geek want.

  • Actually, he could want to write a comic of his own (I have the scripts to prove it.) John Cassaday is on the very short list of artists for which I would sell my (currently non-existant) first-born to work with. I've thought so ever since I first saw his work in Desperados, while Planetary went on to prove the point.

  • When it was announced that Joss and John would be working together on the successor to Grant Morrison's famed X-Men run, I knew it couldn't disappoint. Unless you're a big crybaby forum whiner, it doesn't. And if you are a big forum-whining crybaby, grow the eff up.

  • The first volume, Gifted, reintroduces this incarnation of the X-Men and gets them back in the super-heroing business. In doing so, they confront an alien bent on destroying mutantkind and face the discovery of a cure for the mutant gene. If that later sounds familiar, it is because the third X-Men movie borrowed that plot.

  • The second volume, Gifted, introduces another new villain, though it turns out to be someone we are all familiar with and would never expect. Sorry to vague that up so much. This story was not as strong as the first and would have been a week point to end on if JW and JC followed their original plan of 12 issues and out. However they decided to run out to 24 issues, which instead makes this a decent setup for future payoffs.

  • The third volume, Torn, gives us the trippy return of Morrison's villain, Cassandra Nova. The X-Men face psychological attacks the expose their greatest fears, though in Wolverine's case this comes across as extremely humorous. Each hero finally overcomes their decent into madness to help thwart the plot.

  • At the end of Torn, the X-Men are whisked off to outer space and the resolution of the plot initiated in the first volume. We're now 4 issues into this finally story line and and exciting conclusion is in the offing.

  • If you enjoyed the X-Men movies at all or superhero comics in general, this is a series that will not disappoint. Between the beautiful writing and art, the only weakness is that it will end all too soon.

  • Note: I started writing this post 3/24/07. In the meantime, I've reread these three books twice more in preperation of this post. It's that good.

Random Shots: Complete and Utter Failure

  • Although I'm not throwing in the towel yet, the bookies are already setting stupidly long odds on my completing the goal for NaNoWriMo. This should not be surprising to anyone, least of all me. Since I've already written a book of similar length that took me eight months to complete, 50,000 words in 30 days is the very definition of a pipe dream.

  • There are two things working against me in this. First is that writing, as much as I enjoy it, is very much work to me. When I sit down at a keyboard to write, it feels like I'm tacking sentences together, one agonizing word at a time. Sometimes a particularly nice phrase will just slip out. But usually I'm fighting to get all them words to line up right. When I was really writing, my goal was 600 words a day. On a bad day I'd usually get 300; on a good day I could do 1200, sometimes more. Consistantly hitting 1667 words a day (and being happy with those words) is pretty much beyond me.

  • The second thing against me is World of Warcraft. I just can't stop playing the game. Hmm. I keep trying to say that this doesn't mean I'm addicted, but all my denials come off as me being in denial. So either I'm not addicted to WoW, and you can just accept that or I am, in which case who cares.

  • Either way, this novel sprinting business was a fun lark, but the high is over and I'll just have to finish at my own pace.

  • P.S. Stand strong, WGA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

News Filter: Dollhouse

  • In what has to be the best television news since Firefly got turned into a movie (which wasn't strictly television news at all), Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku are launching a new television series. Dollhouse, will portray Echo, a character who is loaded with a personality to fulfill any client's particular fantasy. When the job is over, her personality is completely erased. She lives in the titular Dollhouse with others like her. The big twist comes as Echo starts to remember bits of herself that should have been erased.

  • Joss Whedon is amazing. I pretty much follow him anywhere his creative journey takes him, from Buffy to Firefly to Astonishing X-Men and more. So I'm very excited to see how this turns out. The fact that the studio is skipping the pilot and jumping in with a seven episode orders means they must have been impressed with the show's potential.

  • Fingers crossed everyone.

  • Oh in other news, I'm unofficially participating in National Novel Writing Month. I'll share updates here as I go.

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