March 2011

Some of you may be aware that a new Conan movie has been in the wings for some time. I had been following its progress, (or terrible lack of any decent progress), on The Cimmerian blog, but when it shut up shop last year the movie kind of disappeared off my radar for a while. That is until I saw this teaser trailer for it the other day.

The question is not whether this is a bad teaser trailer. The question should be whether it is worse than this:

I’m having a hard time deciding which one is worse here.

In other news, I got my new computer. You can check out its specs and drool over it here. So I’m presently trying to download a whole bunch of games and should begin posting regularly soon. That is unless I suddenly decide to start collecting barbie dolls, man those things are expensive. Going back out to the drilling dig tomorrow, going to take a camera this time so as to give you all some snappy pictures of snakes and goannas, gonna sit with my friends in the plane …

Posting on a Sunday because nobody posts on a Sunday because there aren’t enough hits to justify it. Well, fuck the hits, I’ll give those of you afflicted with the Sunday boredom bug something to peruse. What a guy I am. So here’s a random Sunday post full of random bits. It’s not a good idea to have more than one central idea to a post, as invariably the bit that you wanted everyone to discuss gets forgotten amid the tumult of the offhanded bit that you threw in there at the end just for kicks. But the masochist in me can’t be kept under control.

I am missing my gaming. My gaming computer is still not here. I’m missing it so much that I am very close to walking into a store on Monday morning and buying this little beauty. I need it for work anyway, so I can write most of it off to the nasty taxman. If I do go and buy it I am still faced with a quandary; I won’t be able to download WoW, as unlimited internet broadband in Australia is very expensive, (oh I miss thee, Europe), and the deal that I am using now would laugh in my face if I attempted to download the entire WoW package in one hit. I don’t like the look of Rift as it just seems to be the same old same old all over again, with a nice little original bit to spice things up, and no thought whatsoever put into the end game. Added to that all the zealous fanboy nonsense and … meh, I pass.

Nils has posted some really interesting posts over the last few days about what sort of MMO he would design. You should really go and check them all out, and I want to say, Nils, if you ever make the game can I be on your dev team pretty please? He’ll need someone like me to keep them all on the dial. Just call me the reality check.

I’m thinking maybe of having a look at Shogun Total war 2. I would love to play that in the nights out in the desert after I finish work. It would be just the thing to wind down after a long day, a really groovy single player game … that requires you to log into steam to play it. Which is somewhat difficult out in the middle of the fucking desert. What has happened to our hobby??

If I do play the new Star Wars MMO I’ll be either a bounty hunter or a smuggler. That will at least help me to stand out from all the Jedi and Sith. I’ve been reading some hilarious pieces over the last few weeks from people determined to convince us that everyone will not be playing some form of Jedi, while simultaneously cooing over how awesome their Sith or Jedi is going to be.

Finally, I wish to understand why the fuck people require you to take your shoes off when you enter their home. Because your home is not my home, so I feel pretty uncomfortable walking around in my socks. Perhaps it is the fact that my presence in your home does not warrant enough effort on your part to sweep the floor or give it a mop after I leave. Why don’t I just do the washing up before I leave so as my visit does not disturb your carefully ordered life in any way? Oh, I don’t need to; you made me drink out of a disposable plastic cup, while lecturing me for half an hour on the importance of recycling.

A couple of interesting posts on the blogosphere, one from Nils and one from Tobold, have both raised an interesting issue: the use of story in video games. In Tobolds case he talks about the Star Wars MMO and how the team at Bioware are putting a lot of their socks into the story-telling basket, and he ponders if this is such a good idea. Nils has been playing, and hating, Dragon Age 2. Apparently there are lots of cut scenes, and the gameplay boils down to setting your party up and sitting back and watch it all unfold.

This urge to tell a story on the part of game designers is interesting, as in watching a train wreck is interesting. What seems to have been forgotten is the fact that when you are playing a game, and in particular a role playing game, then the player needs to be the driving force behind the story. Sure you can set up some form of broad outline for the player to habit within, but it is the experiences of each individual player and the choices that they make which give a game depth and long life. Witness the almost total unreplayability of the new zones in Cataclysm. Running subsequent characters through those new levels takes repetition and boredom to startling new heights. And the primary reason for this is the fact that the railroading and tight scripting leave the player with only one road to take. Do it once and you’ve done it. Which is extraordinary bad game design for a game needing to hold players for a long period of time.

Games are not movies where the viewer watches in a passive state. A game is something that gives players interesting choices, and more importantly, the consequence of choice. By playing the game you can also learn something. Unfortunately, with a great many of todays games, the only thing that you learn is that once is enough.

I have a new job that requires that I go out into the desert working with geologists who are looking for mineral stuff. Not thorium or whatever the hell we’re looking for in WoW at the moment. Let me tell you that looking for minerals in the real world is a little different from looking for rocks and shit in WoW. I mean, when you go dig up a copper node do you have to get the heritage people into the area to tag off a tree with black and yellow tape because it has what maybe looks like a point where somebody may or may not have stuck an axe into the tree a few hundred years ago?

No, you don’t. You also don’t have to deal with bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Today I had a bug inside my shirt. It was a very large stink bug and it was crawling around inside my fucking shirt. So I ripped my shirt off but it was buttoned up on the end of the sleeves so the fucking bugs wouldn’t got in but this enormous bug of death got in anyway so it took me ages to get my shirt off while the horrible bug was crawling over my back, ewwwww!!, and then when I finally got my shirt off he wasn’t even there, we couldn’t find him, so eventually I put my shirt on and buttoned it up and drove around in my big 4X4, but then about twenty minutes later I felt it again!! And once again I ripped off my shirt after undoing the awfully placed wrist cuff buttons, and once again the bug was nowhere to be found, I turned my shirt inside out and back the front and you fucking name it, until finally i was putting my shirt on once again and I saw the bug!

It got stepped on big time.

I am out here in the middle of the desert for two weeks. It appears that my hotmail isn’t working, i can’t access it, so don’t send me any emails, or if you do just have some fucking patience until I get back to some bug free civilization and if you don’t have any patience then I have a bug pie coming your way.

Patch 4.1 is going to introduce a looking for guild feature. This move does not surprise me at all. If any of you are surprised then I suppose that you’re the type of person who reacts with shock after the girl you just slept with asks to be paid. Blizzard’s relentless march towards their un-stated aim of removing every part of the game that requires players to make some sort of social effort has at last come up against that granddaddy of all social networks, the guild. You can presently experience the entire game without interacting with another living soul. But if you want to join a guild however, you must actually force yourself to make the effort to communicate. Hands up those who don’t know what that word means.

So now we have the looking for guild option. It’s in its infancy stage at the moment, so there are no options to choose PvP or PvE, times of the week, etc, but the general gist is there. You say that you’re looking for a guild, you find a guild that is desperate, and you have a perfect fit.

Except, none of this makes sense. Who would use this feature? Well, first of all they would have to be people who were unable to find a guild on their own or who didn’t care about losing all their present guild perks when they guild-hop. Then they must be completely unaware of what guilds are on their server. Then they must be the type of person who is unable to jump online and look at the guilds that are on their server and then contact a guild that looks nice to them. So we’re looking at a typical user who cares so little about finding a good guild to put effort into the process that all that they could possibly be bothered to do is to open a window, tick some boxes, write something inane in the comments box and then forget about it until someone else equally as desperate to find warm bodies just so their guild can go up in level will accept them because there is nobody else out there.

Now I know that you’re all sitting there thinking that this is a good thing because it will keep the social nitwits together and out of our hair, and you may be right. But the eternal cynic in me views this as what will become the norm, just as what has happened with every other thing like this that has been introduced into the game. Joining a guild is the only remaining area left in the game where a player has to make some sort of effort to interact with other players, and Blizzard want to reduce this. It boggles the mind. This is the Claytons MMO. The MMO that you’re playing when you’re not playing an MMO.

The test notes for patch 4.1 have some pretty jaw dropping changes lined up for rogues. Not only do rogues have no movement penalty when stealthed, but with the revised nightstalker talent a rogue will have no cooldown on stealth at all. Not only that but with nightstalker a rogue will move 10% faster when stealthed, which also stacks with sprint. Which means that a rogue will be able to catch a mounted player while in stealth. Think about that for a moment; a rogue will be able to catch a mounted player while in stealth. That’s unbelievable.

These changes will have a few effects. PvE won’t see any big changes, particularly for combat rogues who are normally better off starting a fight while out of stealth anyway. It will definitely make manoeuvring into position while stealthed much easier, particularly so with Tricks of the Trade having its range extended from 20 to 100 yards. But the real changes will be in the PvP environment. These buffs are going to make rogues the most feared class in battlegrounds and arenas. There will be no reason at all for a rogue not to be stealthed at all times. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I think these changes have been poorly thought out. Rogue players are going to have a fantastic time with these improved abilities, but everyone else will have a giant headache. I cannot for the life of me think why this is being implemented. Were rogues broken that much in PvP? If this change is coming in to counter other classes being too powerful in respect to rogues then where does it stop? Why not bring other classes back into line? But that is not fun. The classes that have been nerfed will cry and wail, and thus we are locked into a continuous inflation of ability powers.

The only reason that I could maybe, just maybe think of for this change to stealth is to attract more people to play the most under represented class. If that is the case then this change will definitely boost rogue numbers on the battlefield. Experienced rogue players however will have a field day with this change. We are used to having to make all the compensations required on the battlefield for the movement restrictions associated with stealth. With those restrictions blown out of the water experienced rogues are going to be very, very deadly indeed.

I have to admit at being taken completely by surprise by the negative reaction to my review of Garona’s rogue guide the other day. And at the beginning I felt vaguely uneasy: was I selling out? Did they have a point? But after a little introspection I was content in the knowledge that my motives were clear – someone had asked me to review something, I had accepted, found it to be good, and reported as such. So why such a hostile response, particularly from people who have been following me for quite a while and through some fairly messy situations?

Then I looked at the situation from a different angle; would I have read this guide, in other words paid for it, if Garona hadn’t put me up to it? I immediately knew that the answer would be in the negative. So why is that? It could have something to do with the very poor reputation of people trying to sell gold-making and levelling guides. We all know the immediate image that these conjure, and I am sure that reading this you already have certain websites in mind. Could these types of sites have poisoned the well so completely so as to spoil it for everyone else?

The answer is tied up with Gevlon’s post from yesterday titled, ‘The Smell of the M&S.’ In it he described a situation where someone applying for the guild gave off certain behavioural patterns of being a moron and a slacker, but on closer inspection, (due to Gevlon not being quite sure), he discovered that the person could well in fact be just the sort of player that he is always looking for. A lot of people give me grief for being a so called, “blind Gevlon supporter”, but the fact of the matter is that he has certain qualities that I hold highly in a person: he admits when he is wrong and is not afraid of doing so, he asks for help when he doesn’t know something, and he does his best to learn from his mistakes. This post was an excellent example of this in action.

Gevlon is discovering that people cannot be easily placed in one of two extremes, ie black and white. They are all made up of differing shades of grey and it is our responsibility to dig deeper and discover the true reality. What holds for people also holds for situations, as in Garona’s rogue raiding guide. We are clouded by our preconceptions and prejudices, and this can cause us to misread a situation, which could result in missed opportunity. Taking the time to dig deeper is taking power into our own hands. Instead of relying on what we have found in the past, or simply relying on what others opinions are, we make the effort to find out for ourselves. It is all too easy to just sit back and throw aspersions from within our nice safe bubble of experiences. Breaking out of that bubble is key to having your own power in life.

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