Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Played Lately: Dragon Age: Origins

  • I'm still playing Dragon Age: Origins, amazingly enough. I wouldn't be if I weren't playing on Easy. But I'm not here to complain about that. Once again spoilers lie ahead, this time for those of you who have not experienced the Mage origin.

  • One of the things I've enjoyed about Dragon Age is discovering who my character is. In a prior post, I talked about meeting a game halfway and that's the tack I've taken here. Instead of trying to make decisions around who I think my character is, I'm discovering the type of person she is by the decisions she (yes, of course it's a she) makes.

  • The Mage origin did a great job not so much with the story telling, but by informing me what the life of a mage was like in this world. The first thing you experience is the Harrowing, a trial where a prospective mage is sent to the Fade (don't ask me) to fight a demon on its home territory. Win and you graduate to magehood. Lose and the templars kill you to prevent the demon from possessing your body. This impressed upon me that being a mage was dangerous, both to my character and to those around her.

  • Bioware immediately puts this understanding to a test. When the Harrowing is over, your friend, Jowan, asks you to help him and his lover, an acolyte of the Chantry, to escape from the tower so they can live together. While in another game I might have helped the lovers gain their freedom, my character had other ideas. A mage running free was a danger to everyone, not just because of their destructive potential. My character understood that a rogue mage made the political situation more difficult for mages like herself. So she immediately reported him to the First Enchanter. When Jowan turned out to also be a blood mage (look, I'm not making this up), it only proved my character right.

  • Letting the character take over has opened me up to new possibilities. I'm no longer forcing my character to behave a certain way. She still tries to help the downtrodden like any hero. But whenever the subject of magic comes up, she has a very cold view of those who step out of line.

  • There is a rule of improvisation that says when some one puts an idea forward, you should reply with a "Yes, and...." This allows a scene to build instead of the actors arguing about what is going on. I think we can do this with our video games too. This is what I meant about meeting the game half way. If we take what is offered to us and build on it, we will have a greater experience than if we struggle against it. My experience with Dragon Age has shown me that it can work.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Played Lately: Dragon Age: Origins

  • Warnings first, then we get to the good stuff. The good stuff being my humorous but illuminating bloginations. There be spoilers about Dragon Age ahead, though they're pretty weak ones. Turn away if you've never given serious thought to the title of the game.

  • Were it not for my stringent blog titling constraints, this post would be called "Anjin and the Art of Dragonslaying." I finally got to that point in the game where I'm ready to start hating it. If you remember my previous post about Dragon Age, you won't be surprised.

  • So far I've had the opportunity to take on two dragons and they have each been stupidly annoying fights. I've been playing on easy because I don't want to be frustrated by the game. These fights have tested the bounds of that. I understand wanting to make these key battles challenging, but.... If this was an MMO chat, I'd go with /sigh, /grown, /wrist. Something like that.

  • So if you want to slay dragons the Anjin way, try this:

    1. Everyone rush in.

    2. Stop the mage from rushing in.

    3. The rogue dies from one massive attack. Why is the dragon not attacking the warriors?

    4. First warrior dies while you're group healing. So much for all that armor.

    5. Concentrate on keeping the second warrior on his feet since there are fewer people to heal.

    6. Doesn't matter. Warrior is dead again.

    7. One on one between dragon and mage. Woo hoo!

    8. Heal self after every second hit. Hope you have a stack of lyrium potions.

    9. Wand dragon to death.

  • And that's how I've been playing Dragon Age. By the way, there is no kill shot for wanding a dragon to death. Even Bioware thinks that's lame.

  • P.S. If you haven't read Tipa's review of Dragon Age, you really should check it out. Best overview of the game I've read to date.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • I said in my prior post that I was looking forward to playing Lord of the Rings Online again. So, of course, I find myself resubscribed to World of Warcraft. If that sounds strange to you, imagine how I feel.

  • I'll keep this short: I have a hardware issue where certain games tax my video card in some way so that it essentially shuts the video down. It happened in Free Realms and The Sims 3. And it's started happening in LotRO. However since it doesn't happen in WoW and I'm looking for a fantasy MMO fix, my gaggle of blood elves welcomed me back with open arms. (And yes, gaggle is the proper term for a group of blood elves. I swear.)

  • I've only spent a little time in the game. Let me rephrase that. I've already spend several hours in the game, but only over the weekend and only with one character. I'm hoping to finally finish off all of the Icecrown quests in anticipation of patch 3.3. I'm slowly making progress and I'm trying very hard to ignore all the daily quests that distract me. There will be plenty of time to do that sort of thing later.

  • I got into a Heroic Trial of the Champions group yesterday. That ended up being pretty fun. The last time I was in the coliseum (on normal mode) was a much closer thing. Evidently the quality of player has gone up, the difficult of the instance was nerfed, or the proliferation of gear has trivialized it. Whatever the reason, I ended up with a sweet epic dagger that was better than my two-handed staff all by itself. Very strange. Cool, but very strange.

  • So, yeah. Playing World of Warcraft again. I don't know what's wrong with me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Shots: Many, Many Things

  • As I write this, my computer is in the midst of recovering from a reformat-and-reinstall session. I finally got so fed up with the instability that I decided to start over. I guess this is my way of keeping the beast in its place. Unfortunately the joke is on me because getting my MMOs back up to spec has been torture.

  • The one MMO I want to spend a little time with, once this self-inflicted fiasco is over with, is Lord of the Rings Online. LotRO is in the middle of yet another free-to-play weekend. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm trying to decide whether to resubscribe now that the epic quest line will be made fully soloable. On top of that, there is the deal to get Siege of Mirkwood along with a multi-month subscription. I rolled a new Warden (the best class ever) on the Landroval server named Ashlynh. Look me up if you want to spend time with a perpetual LotRO newbie.

  • On a completely different front, I'm finally approaching the end of Pangya: Fantasy Golf on the PSP. I'm just eighteen holes away from winning every tournament in the game. Of course, those are the hardest, most competitive eighteen holes, but it shouldn't take me more than a couple tries. I rarely finish games, so the fact that something like a golf game has held my attention for so long is amazing to me.

  • I also completed the main story dungeon in Torchlight. It's not a game that's meant to be played over eighty to a hundred hours like some monsters, which makes it perfect for me. The real longevity will come from the alternate dungeon that opens up and from the modding community. I even downloaded a copy of TorchED myself to give it a try. Don't count on anything astonishing from the Bullet Points Mod Department just yet. But I would like to get my own story into the game somehow.

  • Finally, NaNoWriMo has kept me excited and flustered all at once. I'll probably break ten thousand words by the end of the month, which would be great for me. As long as I have a firm foundation, I'll be able to see it through to the end. It may not be the letter of the law in NaNo, but I think the spirit is still there.

  • So enough about me, what have all you been up to while I was away?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Shots: Asking Too Much

  • Once again Green Armadillo from Player Versus Developer hits us with an insightful piece on the financial state of the MMO industry. And once again he makes me put on my blogger cap. I can't keep my thoughts to myself. Guess it's a good thing I have a blog.

  • The big news of the day is that Mythic is losing 40% of its staff. Everyone has their theories, but the prevailing one is that Warhammer Online is going on life support and someone signed a DNR. (I've been watching too much Grey's Anatomy, I see.) If true, they might as well turn the servers off the save everyone the heartbreak. I guess EA wouldn't turn down a few more months of subscriptions (even as people stop renewing) as long as there are fewer mouths to feed. But instead of mourning the loss of one MMO, it might be time to look at them all.

  • Everyone agrees that World of Warcraft has set unreal expectations for what an MMO game should be. It's that number: eleven million (however true it may be now). Every developer has to build a game that will compete with that number, even as they tell us in interviews that they are most assuredly not trying to be the next WoW Killer. And the reason they have to do that is because of us. We expect too much from our Triple-A MMOs.

  • The signs are everywhere that fifteen dollars a month is not enough money to compete in this market. With Blizzard finally joining the cash shop movement, every major MMO has additional sources of revenue outside of the subscription and boxed expansion model. I don't think these people are greedy (at least, not all of them). I think that we as consumers ask so much from our games while at the same time balking at the idea of increases subscription costs that developers have to fund their games with alternate sources.

  • You'll notice that it's not just Mythic that got cut. EA slashed employees in several underperforming studios as well as at least twelve unannounced projects. (You'll notice Bioware was never mentioned. However SWTOR better hit it big or their Austin studio will go up in a cloud of smoke like Alderaan.) That means more sequels and less something amazing and new. It's the same with television and movies. If you're not going to produce a blockbuster, you may not get produced at all. As much as I want to blame the studios, it all comes back to the public that only wants to go with the sure thing. Just watch what happens with Modern Warfare 2 over the next week. MMOs are going down that same path. I don't think they have to.

  • Every medium I just listed except for MMOs has an indie scene. They make small products made on a limited budget that don't compete with the blockbusters. And those mediums are flourishing because creativity can trump a huge budget every time. At least for the people that prize quality over spectacle. MMOs are all spectacle now. We need to encourage developers to think smaller and more creatively.

  • We, the MMO players, will be the one who decide if that is what we want. Do we keep asking so much from our MMOs that they have to beat WoW or die trying? Or do we encourage developers to make smaller, more focused games? The masses will flock to the next-big-thing, but we have the power to make sure indie development can flourish. But only if we can change our expectations.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Friday, November 6, 2009

News Filter: Soloing LotRO's Epic Quests

  • By way of Ravious at Kill Ten Rats, we get a blog post from Orion on the Lord Of The Rings Online site announcing that the Volume One epic quests will gain a solo option.

  • I think at some point, I mentioned that this was the very thing that would get me to try out LotRO again. I enjoyed the game, but I was always annoyed that I could not participate in the main story just because I didn't play in a group. Well, it sounds like Turbine feels the same way.

  • So, I may be playing LotRO come December 1. Who would have thought?

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Random Shots: NaNo Ate My Life

  • Only five days into NaNoWriMo, I'm ready to give up. I'm not going to, but I'm ready to. Heck, I just discovered that Ysharros has effectively stopped writing and I only caught up with her word count last night.

  • I am a slow writer. Writing is fairly difficult for me because I think about every word I'm going to write as I write it. And I self-edit as I go. I can't edit after the fact because reading anything I've written is just as painful as having written it. Actually, I can go back and reread something if at least a month has passed. I need a lot of distance.

  • What I'm trying to say is no, I am not quiting NaNo. What I am doing is announcing my true expectations. I'm never going to write fifty thousand words this month. I'm too deliberate (that's my codeword for plodding) and too self-critical to write with such abandon. Instead, my goal is to still be writing come November 30. If I can write regularly for a month, even if its not 1,667 words a day, I'll be able to see the project through to the end.

  • So that's my goal: don't quit. Of course, I also want to play Torchlight and Champions because I miss them.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.