WoWed Out

I cancelled my account today.

I realized this morning that I hadn’t logged in at all this month and I wasn’t sure what the renewal date was (turns out it’s February 13th), but I wanted to make sure I didn’t give Blizzard money when I wasn’t even playing. It’s not like they need donations.

It’s not that I hate the game, I’ve just had no interest in finishing the Worgen starting area or trying a Goblin. Everytime I’ve sat down to play something recently, I’ve found myself clicking on either Minecraft or Star Trek.

So, why hasn’t it clicked for me?

I’ve felt very little nostalgia on my return to Azeroth. I think there’s two reasons for this. One, Warcraft was not my first MMO so there’s none of that first love feeling. Two, in my opinion the lore has taken too much of a beating over the last few years. So there’s been no emotional connection for me while playing.

Besides the nostalgia, I’ve noticed I spend more time thinking about features that are missing than having fun. I still like the stylized cartoony graphics and I was impressed with the no-modded UI improvements, but every time I get a quest reward I start missing LotRO’s cosmetic system. I’ve never been a fan or giant shoulder pads, and I miss being able to dye my armor. WoW is not a game for someone like me who will vendor better armor than I’m wearing because I don’t like how it looks.

So I’m letting my subscription run out, I would like to jump back in and at least finish the Worgen starting area just to say that I did, but I’m not sure that’ll happen. Magicka just released. I’ve gotten back into the deep end of the Minecraft pool after splashing around in the shallow end for a few weeks. Champions just went F2P and I hope to roll some alts to play with friends that are returning to the game. Star Trek has their third Featured Episode series coming out this week, and lot’s more exciting changes are coming soon. You get the picture.

Looking Back at 2010

December is done and 2010 along with it. Seems like a lot of people are happy to see 2010 go, but the last twelve months of gaming here in Kae-land have been pretty good.

New MMOs in 2010

There were four MMOs scheduled or rumored for 2010 that I was keeping an eye one.

Star Trek Online

The game launched on time and pretty smoothly. At least smoothly enough that I don’t remember encountering any problems eleven months later, unlike Anarchy Online’s launch which I still rememberyears later.

The game had a larger flood of launch players than I expected, but it seemed like that initial wave passed through pretty quickly. Say what you will about Cryptic, but I do like their single world architecture. Not only do you not have to play the server-coordination game with your friends, but there’s also no drama over server queues or merges.

For such a new game, not quite a year old yet, STO has made a lot of improvements. Cryptic has added a diplomacy system (months before I expected them to), several new sectors of content, revamped the crafting system (twice, although more work needs to be done on it), updated sector space, done two month’s worth of weekly episodes, and done an excellent job of following through on their promises of transparency with their Engineering Reports. They’re also close to releasing a user-generated content system, the Foundry.

Of course, Cryptic has caused a lot of drama and made a lot of mistakes this year as well, but I have to give them credit for their responsiveness. The Star Trek team has been especially good at gathering community feedback and then acting on it. Daniel Stahl has done an excellent job since taking over as Executive Producer, and I’m very optimistic about the future of the game.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Even with all the new information this year, my expectations haven’t changed much.

I like the emphasis on story. Going fully voiced will be an interesting experiment to see how players react and the impact on adding content. I’m sure I’ll buy this even if I don’t subscribe past the first month just to see for myself how Bioware did. Besides the original Knights of the Old Republic was one of my favorite games on the first Xbox.

One thing has changed though, I’ve been surprised about how poorly Bioware has managed the hype for the game this year. In 2009 they’d been doing an excellent job of keeping people excited for the game without letting community expectations get unreasonable. I can’t say the same about Bioware for 2010. It seems to me like the backlash I was expecting to follow the game’s launch has already started.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

My expectations for Cataclysm were set at “wait and see.” That was where they stayed right up until the expansion launched. Despite my general lack of enthusiasm, I did end up buying it. I blame Twitter.

I played through the Dwarven starting zone again (up to level 11) to see what the old world was like now and came away pretty disappointed. It was different, but it was just streamlined a bit and not the Azeroth shattering new experience I expected.

I also started a Worgen Mage and I’m about halfway (just judging by levels) through their starter area as well. I have to say, it’s fun so far but it’s not living up to the hype. That’s the tricky part of this. There’s a lot of hyperbole out there about how amazing Cataclysm is and how fantastic the new zones are, and I don’t think that the game lives up to it’s reputation.

Who knows, maybe I’ll change my tune once I finish the starter area. December just hasn’t been a good month for me to spend enough time with any MMOs.

DC Universe Online

DCUO was supposed to release in November, but SOE pushed it to the beginning of 2011. I think this was smart for two reasons: Cataclysm was scheduled for December (duh) and they listened to the feedback from their beta testers (something more developers should do).

I said back in January that I would wait until I’d had a chance to beta the game and make a decision close to launch of whether or not I’d play it. Well both of those things have happened, and I’ve decided to give it a pass. The reasons for that decision deserves a more in-depth treatment than I want to go into just now, so let me just say that there’s nothing that DCUO does for me that I can’t already get from playing either Champions Online or Arkham Asylum.

Old MMOs

At the start of 2010, there were three MMOs that I was playing regularly and/or subscribing to: Lord of the Rings Online, EVE Online, and Champions Online. (I’m thinking of making a New Years Resolution soon to boycott the use of the word Online in MMO titles.)

Lord of the Rings Online

Whew, what a year it’s been for LotRO and Turbine. It started out as my favorite MMO. I was (and still am) in a great Kinship (which it still is) and was having lot’s of fun in the game. Then came June 4th and the Free-to-Play bombshell. I was completely blindsided by the announcement. Maybe it’s because I played on Landroval, which was always one of the most populated servers, but I had never considered the possibility that Turbine would go the DDO-route for the game. Eventually, after the shock wore off and I was able to look at the details, it really didn’t seem like the F2P change would have a huge impact on my playing experience.

Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be quite correct. My minute to minute playing experience is mostly the same as it ever was, and I’m not paying any more to play the game than I was before, but the level of store integration into the UI really started to get to me. Between the alert that shows up anytime I do something that earns Turbine Points and all of the little gold buttons that link to the store (of which there are three on the crafting panel alone), I’ve found that my interest in logging in and playing as dwindled down to nearly nothing.

EVE Online

I was doubtful that I would still be subscribed to EVE by the end of the year. I did end up stopping the subscription on my second account, and would have canceled my primary except that it renewed before I got around to it. That’s not totally a bad thing as I’ve continued to train skills (towards no particular goal) and I’ll get a chance to try out the new character portrait generator when it comes out. Regardless though, I’m definitely letting the account lapse in March when the current six month cycle is up.

Champions Online

My plans to have this be my other primary game besides LotRO turned out to be true until I go my first hero to max level in March. After that, I played with some alts and returned for the Serpent Lantern Adventure Pack, but my playtime has dwindled down quite a bit this year. I have to be in a certain (rare) mood to enjoy re-experiencing content, so once I’ve been through the game once my playtime almost always declines (which is true for me in all MMOs).

Console Games

Mass Effect 2 was my favorite console game of the year. Great story, great graphics, and much improved combat over the previous game.

Red Dead Redemption was my second favorite console game, and one I almost missed. I hadn’t paid any attention to it at all until Scott from Pumping Irony asked me if I was getting it. I’m glad he did, because it turned out to be a really good game and the first Rockstar game I’ve ever finished.

Star Wars: Force Unleashed wasn’t new but I’d skipped it on release because of poor reviews. I ended up picking it up after news that a sequel was going to be release, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. So good, actually, that I was able to add it to my very small list of completed games. Ironically, based on several trusted sources, it seems like the sequel is a stinker. That’s too bad, but at least it got me to buy the first one.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions turned out to be a disappointment. The game was way more linear than I wanted it to be and has ended up in my limbo games stack. These are games stacked up next to my 360 that I feel I should finish but probably won’t.

Fable 3 was also a disappointment and will likely be joining Shattered Dimensions in limbo soon. It’s really too bad considering how much I loved playing Fable 2.

PC Games

Minecraft! Minecraft! Minecraft!

I’ve played and enjoyed a lot of PC games this year, most of them acquired via Steam sales, but the stand-out PC game for the year for me has been Minecraft.

I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy this game. I’m usually a shallow gamer. Good game-play is important of course, but no more so to me than the good graphics. Generally when a sequel to a game comes out I stop playing the older version, even if I don’t enjoy the new version as much, because it just looks better. What can I say.

If you qualify as a Crafter or Explorer personality type, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you do end up liking it, come check out the multi-player servers I’m running.

Playing WoW… but not wowed yet.

I did decide to upgrade my account to Cataclysm, which means I also had to buy Wrath of the Lich King as well, and getting a month-at-a-time subscription.

As you can guess from the title above, even though I did decided to subscribe and (hopefully) play, I wasn’t very impressed with my 10-day trial experience. The first nine levels of the Dwarf zone were not as different as I expected. They have definitely been cleaned up and some of the more generic side-quests removed, but I expected more somehow.

So why did I end up spending the money? I was been back and forth about a dozen times over whether or not to subscribe. While I’m interested in seeing the Worgen starting zone, that’s not really worth the $60+ it cost to upgrade my account. I’m also not certain how much time I’ll really get to play in December, it is going to be very busy month for me between work and the Christmas holiday. I decided to go ahead now, rather than wait until January, because now is when most of the people that I know are playing and I expect that come January quite a few will have moved on to other games.

See you in Azeroth, or you will once I decide where I’m rolling.

To WoW? Or not.

I haven’t subscribed to WoW since March 2009, and that was just for two months, although I think I only played a week or two.

I haven’t seriously played WoW since 2006. I enjoyed Burning Crusade for the first 20 levels as a Draenei, but I skipped Lich King entirely.

I’ve been curious if Cataclysm would finally draw me back into the game, but I really hadn’t been excited by any of the news or announcements I’ve seen. I an interested in the idea of Worgens as a race, but having them belong to the Alliance seems odd to me.

I have actually been playing WoW a bit for the last week. I hadn’t planned to but I was curious about the new 1-20 experience after reading Pete’s thoughts, and I was eligible for a 10-day free trial. So I figured why not and rolled a Dwarven Hunter on Silvermoon. Quick digression: I agree with some of his points but so far I don’t think Blizzard’s new 1-10 experience holds your hand much more than the current LotRO tutorial, except that WoW’s might be longer.

Still, a free trial is a long way off from buying Cataclysm and actually resubscribing.

Seeing comments from friends on Twitter and blogs, has a couple of times taken me to the site with the intent to buy in. But then I see long discussions about what plugins to use, tales of account hacks, or the news about GearScore, and I remember why I don’t play. I assume I’d also have to buy WotLK since Blizzard isn’t good about rolling up expansions like SOE has been. Even playing through the old dwarf started zones on the 10-day trial hasn’t awakened any feelings of nostalgia for me.

So will I play? I won’t say no yet, and I’m open to convincing, but if I do it’ll end up being an impulse buy. Besides I have dozens (literally) of other games that I can play.

Looking Forward to 2010

If the release schedules and expectations hold, 2010 will be an interesting year. There are the two huge science-fiction IP’s coming via Star Trek Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Blizzard is doing something of a reboot of the Warcraft world, and the DC/SOE juggernaut is expected as well. SWTOR is also interesting since it marks Bioware’s entry into the MMO genre, and I’m very very interested to see how well they are able to bring a focus on story over to a massively multi-player environment.

My biggest concern for 2010 is a repeat of the Warhammer effect on SWTOR.  Warranted or not there seem to be a lot of players who are expecting SWTOR to revolutionize MMOs, kill WoW, and possibly cure cancer. I hope I’m wrong, but I think that most of the gamers disappointed with 2009 will also be disappointed with 2010.

So here are my bullet points for the coming year. (more…)

Looking Back at 2009

I think 2009 was a good year for games, even MMOs. Sure WoW is still on top, Warhammer continues to struggle, there’s not been any revolutionizing innovation in the MMO genre, but I don’t really care about any of that. All of the games I started the year playing (EVE and LoTRO) I still enjoy, and I found a new game (Champions) that I like an expect to be playing through the whole of 2010. (more…)

Account Security

I was just reading Colin Brennan’s account on Massively about getting hacked.  Of course it was a WoW account.  Account hacking has become so common that Blizzard started offering authenticators.  I’ve played a lot of different games online for quite a few years now, and I’ve never had an issue with having my account broken into.  Have I just been lucky?  It also seems to me that 99% of the hacking stories I’ve heard in the last year or two have been for World of Warcraft.  So I wonder, is it really primarily WoW that has this problem?  Maybe the reporting rate is so low that we only hear about the WoW hacks because it has so many more subscribers than other games.  Could it be the pervasiveness of add-ons in the game?  Maybe it’s just the fact that WoW being so large makes it more of a target than any other game, I mean why focus on a niche game when you have so many more targets in Warcraft?

Regardless, I’m feeling a need to change all of my account passwords and do a couple of virus scans.

Why I’m Not Playing Lich King

I have considered getting Wrath of the Lich King several times and resubscribing to WoW.  Each time I do, I think about what level my characters are, and that kills the impulse.  Se, my highest level character is in the mod 40’s.  So I would have to slog through 30 levels of original and Burning Crusade quests to get to the new stuff.  No thanks.

So, how many former WoW players out there are in the same place?  Given the scope of the player base past and present, that number has to be pretty large.

When Burning Crusade came out I snapped it up and re-activated my account.  I was interested in the new races and rolled up a Draenei Mage.  The first 20 levels were great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the new zones.  But after 20, it was back to the same old same old.  To understand how sick I am of the early game content let me point out that I shifted servers from PvP to PvE once and had to restart my main.  I’ve also played quite a few alts to try out some of the different classes and races.  All told, I’ve played through the 1-30 levels nearly a dozen times, and I just can’t bring myself to do that again.

So as well as Wrath is doing, how much better would it sell if there was a way to pull new players or lapsed players with low-level characters into the new content?  Some way to allow players to create a new character at say level 68 so they can jump straight to Northrend?  Blizzard could charge a small fee.  There could be an unlock quest in the 20’s somewhere.  Blizzard could just limit characters created this way to the Northrend continent, or require a quest or gold fee to unlock the other continents.

None of this is unprecedented.  Guild Wars allows players to make a max level character, but only allows access to some basic skills and requires you to play through the game to unlock additional skills.  Dark Age of Camelot developed a similar problem where 98% of the player base was max level and the lower half of the content was empty.  They allowed players to auto level alt characters via a slash command once they’d leveled at least on character to max level normally.

I may get back into WoW eventually, but with the expanding level cap and the way Blizzard has been consistently abandoning old content I doubt it.

Warhammer Impressions 2

In case you missed it, in Warhammer Impressions 1 I talked about the launch and the high-level zone/quest design for the first two tiers

My initial class was an Elven Shadow Hunter.  My primary in LoTRO is a Man Hunter, and in WoW was a Night Elf Hunter.  I have a thing for archery classes.  So I tried out the Shadow Hunter first.  Unfortunately, I absolutely hate the shooting animation.   No bowstring.  No arrow.  The character aims for the sky like he’s firing an English longbow, which would be okay except the 90% of the time he’s shooting at something much closer.   Sometimes you see an arrow fly out and hit the target and sometimes you don’t.  I may be spoiled by LoTRO’s animation, but after about five kills the Shadow Hunter got deleted.  I didn’t even complete the first quest to kill sprites.

My second class was a Dwarf Engineer.  The animations were much more enjoyable, and I really liked the feels of the Dwarf areas better than the Elf starting zone.

Combat overall is good.  A little slow, but not too bad.  I always feel like I have something to do.  PvP has been great fun in the couple of scenarios I’ve tried.

Crafting.  Mmmmm, no.  Crafting seems really last minute to me.  I tried a little bit of both alchemy and talismans and didn’t like either.  Also, there’s no quest introduction.  So far I think both LoTRO and WoW handled crafting better.

Warhammer Impressions

I’ve been playing Warhammer for a few days now.  I have about 19 hours put in on a Dwarf Engineer.

The launch has been pretty smooth.  Some queues, but nothing horrible.  Some crashes, but better than the first week of WoW (I played at launch), although I do feel like LoTRO had a smoother launch.

I really enjoy the lore and the atmosphere of the game.  Mythic did an excellent job of making each zone feel like an actual war is going on.  Going from one encampment to another, I can watch NPC skirmishes happening with orcs and goblins charging dwarven lines.  Really makes the environment feel more dynamic than I was expecting.

The quest progression in the first tier is well designed and did a good job of moving me from the starting area out to my first public quest and then on to the next area with multiple PQ’s and more varied quests.

The quest design broke down a little when I got to the second tier, the Marshes. Yuck.  So far I’m not liking the Marshes.  After I finished all of the tier 1 quests, I moved to the Marshes to complete my last two quests.  This seems a bit early.  In tier one I only died a few times and that was almost always my own fault.  In tier two I died a lot more.  A lot.  As in it got annoying.

The difficulty levels of the quests in the Marshes seem uneven.   Some are solo-able and some are not.  There’s no indication of which are which.   Some of the quests I got at the first dwarf encampment were okay for my rank (which was 11-ish) and some I needed to be higher, but there’s no indicator on the quest of what the target level is.  It’s pretty annoying to trek out into the swamps toward a quest area only to find that the mobs I need to hunt are too high for my current rank.

As I moved out from the first to the second dwarf camp in the Marshes this became more of an issue.   Several times I had to skirt areas and hunt around a little bit for the one quest I could actually complete.   A couple of times, I was only able to complete a quest because a higher level had just come through and cleared out the mobs and I was able to run in and pickup whatever glowing item I was supposed to click on.

I may be spoiled by LoTRO, but I think adding a rank indicator to quests would go a long way.  Especially for some of the quests that send you to a new area or zone which you may or may not be level appropriate for.

I’ve got some more to say, see part two in a couple of days.