September 2011


Even the most die-hard Blizzard fan is no longer under any illusion that Cataclysm has been the Grade A cluster-fuck of all time. Not up there with Sony and what they did to their Star Wars MMO, but still an awesome level of cluster-fuckedness nonetheless. Have you seen many WoW clones being released lately? Oh yeah, that other Star Wars game is on the way. That is going to be a level of epic fail not seen, well, since the last Star Wars MMO epic fail.

Blizzard has made bad choices in many different areas. The question now is whether they have the will, the courage, and the conviction to fix them in their next expansion. They might, or they just might leave their C team to carry on screwing it all up while their A team works on Titan and their B team makes love to Diablo 3 and Starcraft releases. Whatever the future holds, if there is one thing that they will have to drop like a red hot potato it is the following:

Remember good old Ghostcrawler and his ‘Bring the Player and not the class’? Well, I’m pretty sure now that they got it all wrong; it should read, ‘Bring the Class and not the Player’. This blog is called ‘The Noisy Rogue’, but it’s not about rogues any more. Even if I were still playing WoW it wouldn’t be about rogues. What’s the point? All the classes are effectively the same. Raid fights have been made into a barrage of dance steps that would leave even the most advanced all male ghetto dance groups on the X Factor shaking with fear. Whether you’re a hunter or a rogue or a mage in that situation, you’re all the same. Class abilities have been stripped back, scaled down, or just outright eliminated over the past two expansions.

If bringing a particular class doesn’t matter then no classes matter at all. And one of the most important interesting choices of an MMO is gone: which class shall I play? Because at the end of the day the class that you choose is a reflection of your personality. It is how you picture yourself, and what you associate with. By making classes homogeneous, Blizzard made players homogeneous as well. Gone are the days when someone says that another player is a really good rogue. Now they’re a really good dancer.

So many blogs were made with the blogger identifying themselves with a particular class. Do those bloggers that are still going even associate themselves with that original choice? Most bloggers that I read now, even if they were once only blogging about a single class, now blog about a wide range of general topics. After all, it’s hard to blog about essentially nothing.

There have been a hell of a lot of posts around the blogosphere lately concerning choice, the lack of it, what it means, is there a god, if there is would he give you a choice, etc. There have also been some posts about FTP vs subscription, which one is more evil than the other, was there a second gunman on the grassy knoll. And I have been reading these posts, for want of something better to do, I have been absorbing them as such. There was also an interesting post about Hogger over at Hardcore Casual, wondering why Hogger is so memorable. Lots of people chiming in to say that he was their first elite mob, so you always remember the first one, blah blah blah. I tell you right now; the first girl I bonked I don’t remember it all that much. The other night with you-know-who? Oh yeah, I remember that.

The thing is, in any game it all comes down to the known vs the unknown. How much is there for you to discover? How exciting is it to discover stuff, and how much fun is it to work towards discoveries? If everything is known then what is left? There has been a lot of talk about how present day raiding in WoW is just about learning a dance. But the dance is scripted and not only is it easy to find information about it online, you’re viewed as a noob for wasting everyone’s valuable time if you don’t memorise it before you rock up for a brand new boss. There’s not much discovery going on here. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sites like wowhead and wowwiki are the deathblow for trying to discover and enjoy a game.

But the question remains, how do you enable an atmosphere of discovery when everything can be so easily sourced and found online? It’s a tough question, but the other day I was playing a little computer game that I’ve been playing on and off since 1986. It hasn’t changed in that time, and I’m still not bored of it now, on the contrary. It’s called Nethack and it’s a simple dungeon crawl. Well, simple on the surface, but scratch that surface and there is a lot to discover. So how do they stop players posting everything online and making it trivial? (To be fair, a lot of Nethack strategy is posted online, but it’s impossible to memorise and it doesn’t come close to letting you beat the game).

They random it up. Take wands for example. Lets say you find an iron wand. What does it do? You don’t know, so you zap it and a lightening bolt comes out, hits the walls, and deflects back at your little warrior, killing her instantly. Oh dear, you say, but as you do so you’re writing down in a little notebook the words:

Iron wand – Wand of Lightening.

So you start up another game and sure enough you find another iron wand. Brilliant! But you’re not going to waste some charges testing it, you know what it does. Save it for a special occasion when you’re getting pummelled by some monsters in an open space. And then you take out your iron wand and zap the monsters. Which don’t get zapped at all, but suddenly speed up very fast and kill your character in no time at all.

Every game the wands are randomised. As are the scrolls that you find, and the armour effects, and the books of magic, and the list goes on. So you have to carefully plot your way and test things with great caution. And it all adds up to interesting choices as nothing can be taken for granted. And even if you have a mega-supa strong character they just might die to a little puff-ball since you forgot to eat a dead monster that would give you poison immunity.

Meaningful choices, the ability to discover new things even after so long playing the game, nothing spelt out for you. This is what playing a game is all about. I encourage you to download Nethack and give it a try. I recommend a Valkyrie for a new player. Tell me what you think. Oh, and it’s free.

It’s been a good long while since Civ V was released, as well as a bunch of patches to try and fix some of the terribad problems that the game had on its release. So I’ve gone back to playing it as I’m STILL waiting for a decent internet connection to get my MMO fix. After quite a few hours of game-play I thought that I’d share with you all what I truly hate about this abomination to the glorious Civilzation franchise. Lets start from the beginning, literally:

The opening video intro thing:

The opening video is lush in graphics and visual and audio effects and low in making any sense whatsoever. So you start off with some old fart in a smoky tent, and then he tells you that you’re going to be a Viking, no no wait, you’re going to be an Egyptian, oh crap sorry you’re actually going to be a Turk, ha ha we fooled you, you’re actually going to be Japanese …

The worst thing about this? It’s also the loading screen so you have to sit through it every single fucking time you go to play the game. The trick is to sit at your computer with your left hand mashing the ESC button to death and your right hand hitting every mouse clicker that you’ve got. Sometimes it breaks before you get to the Viking bit, usually you’re left sitting there waiting for the pain to end. Shoot me now.

The Time between Turns:

I worked out that on an average game played to its full term you will spend over two hours of your life sitting there waiting for the computer to finish its turn. I have a brand new top of the range computer that does everything from darn my socks to jerk off the dog at the speed of fucking light, so there is no excuse for this miserable use of resources. Whoever wrote this code should be made to play Final Fantasy 14 for the rest of their miserable life. It might be okay if the AI was any good at strategy but, well this leads me on to my next point …

The AI “Strategy”:

It doesn’t exist. If the AI suddenly declares war on you and you have a miserable 5 units to its 50, you will still win. Every time. It will march its armies up to within range of your cities, (helpful tip: placing your cities within three hexes of each other gives you interlocking fields of fire that is just about impossible to get through in one piece), where you can casually blow them to pieces with whatever it is that you’ve got. Even more funny is when they sail an expensive unit to within range of your cities. I have never lost a city to the AI, never ever ever and I am at war a lot because …

The Diplomacy System is a load of Shit:

You would think after five shots at the titles that the makers of this game would make some small effort at diplomacy. Put it this way, if you never attack another Civ and only defend yourself against attacks you will be labelled a warmonger. That’s nice, isn’t it. The thing I really hate about diplomacy is that every now and then the AI will pop up with a screen showing a leader telling you how much they hate your guts. This serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever to the game. Oh look, hey Catherine is telling me how much she hates me again but hey, at least I get another look at her tits. You don’t get to trade maps or techs any more either, so all you can do is sell your luxuries for a huge stack of gold and then declare war on them so you get all the trade back, hahaha, that was well thought out of the designers, not.

Game Balance:

There isn’t any. If you want to win just play France. If you want to lose play America. All of the other civs are on one fence or the other. I suppose you could play some of the brand new civs like Korea but you can only do that if you give them more money. At least when drug dealers want you to get hooked on their product they give you some decent shit first before jacking up the price.

You have to pay road and rail upkeep now:

Really, it’s true. For every little square of road that you build they charge you a gold piece per turn, every single turn. This is beyond bizarre. This is a prime example of a rule that is not fun at all in any way. Why did they do this? Because they didn’t like the look of the other Civ titles with roads on every space available. So their reaction to a graphics problem is to make a major game changing play that punishes the player for wanting to like, actually link his cities up to trade. Please go and fuck yourselves. Oh and add upkeep costs for buildings to this as well. Why, for the love of Buddha, why?

Only one unit per tile:

This ludicrous rule means that if you play on a water map with islands and you get stuck on a small island then you are totally screwed due to the fact that you’re limited to one unit per hex. Try manoeuvring that lot around when an enemy attacks. Oh wait, they can’t even land because I have units in every single hex. Well, that was a pretty easy attack to defend against, wasn’t it. It is really quick to build things in this game as well. It’s nothing for an early city at the beginning of the game to knock out a top wonder in 16 turns. So how long does it take to knock out a warrior? About 6 turns. Well, think about it; they had to give us something to do as all strategy has been taken away from us and if they hadn’t put in these build decisions the game would only consist of you sitting there pressing the Enter button and waiting for 30 seconds. So low production costs and one unit per hex … yes, you’re right – it takes exactly three fifths of fuck all to fill up your entire map space with units. And they thought roads on every hex looked bad?? I suppose that this would be okay if the AI was good at strategy …

Yeah. Remember how earlier I said that the AI sucked at this? Well it’s doubly stupid at moving its own pieces around. The developers have been hiding behind the white lie that it’s very hard to get an AI to be good at this, but tactical simulation computer games have been around for quite a while and they’re quite a bit better than this miserable excuse for an opponent.

There is much more wrong with this game, (the happiness system can go and suck my cock), but this is all I’m good for right now. This game is an abomination. Avoid it at all costs. And pity me as it’s all I’ve got to play at the moment.

Dear Gankalicious,

I noticed yesterday that you have removed your link to my blog from your own blog. This was a little disconcerting for me. The first thing I did was to spend almost 20 minutes clicking around your site in the vain hope that the link had just been moved or even temporarily misplaced. Maybe I would have felt better if I had found it hidden in a drawer in a box marked “links that you wouldn’t want to click on which is why I’ve stuck them here”, but somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, that is all simply conjecture as my link was nowhere to be found. This leaves two possible options. Option number one is that someone has stolen my link from your blog. I’m not sure how this could happen, but there are lots of things in the world that I don’t understand, such as why do ducks shit themselves so much. So lets just go with the possibility that the link has been stolen. This is a very serious and disturbing situation; if links can be stolen then maybe they can also be substituted! Some devious and sick individual could change a link on your site and then I would click it and go to killthekittenswithrabies.com and then the RSPCA would break down my door and I would end up in prison doing the buttsex just because I happened to click on an innocent looking link on your site and then spend three hours on it. If this is the case that the link has been stolen then we should call someone immediately. Let me know if you have someone’s phone number.

The second possibility is that you took the link from my site down because you don’t like me any more. Quite frankly, this is the option that I had been dreading the most, not least because it takes me back to my school days when not only was I the last person to be picked for team sports, but the captains in question who had to choose would both bribe me to conveniently disappear when the selection process was happening. Finally the PE teachers noticed what was going on and made me the referee, which was even worse, as whenever I gave a batsman out he would say something like, “See you after school when I smash your face in” or something like that.

It’s actually hard to believe that anyone on the internets would hate me enough to take down my link. But the fact remains that my link is no longer there. But this leaves me with a quandary; do I now need to take down your link as well? I know that you depend on the 1.2 visitors per month that accidently find their way to your site from mine, so I would probably feel somewhat bad if I removed your link. That and the fact that I can never remember how to do it. Perhaps you could come over to my place and show me how and then we could have a cup of tea. Tobold thinks links are stupid and is proud of the fact that he links nobody ever, ever ever on his site, which is convenient for him I suppose as everyone has already linked to his site.

Anyway, let me know what to do as I’m unable to do any work at all today and have chewed my nails on the cat down in desperation.

Adam.

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