Archive for 2009

Anarchy Online, Tickling My Fancy

A few days ago I read an article on Massively about a potential graphics upgrade that Anarchy Online may be getting (after I did a little digging it seems that this new graphics engine has been in the pipeline for quite some time). Strangely enough, it stirred something deep down inside of me, tickling a dormant fancy, so to speak. Could Anarchy Online be getting a significant visual overhaul, enough for it to make a come back? I for one hope so.

Anarchy Online - New Graphics Engine

Anarchy Online - New Graphics Engine

I played Anarchy Online when it first came out in 2001 and, although it was plagued with problems, I enjoyed it for a good few months. It was, and still remains, one of the few online sci-fi MMORPGs on the market and that gives it a certain uniqueness that newer MMOs lack. Yes, I like the new features that games like WAR and Aion have to offer but at the end of the day they are part of a genre that I’ve been playing for years and, to be frank, am getting kinda sick off. Swords and sorcery can only entertain a guy for so long, after all, and I’m just dying to get my hands on some decent Sci-Fi.

The article was enough to get me thinking about trying out AO again. The basic game is free to play and, as I’m currently lacking a desktop PC, I think it’s old enough to run happily on my laptop. I actually tried going back to AO briefly not so long ago but found that I just couldn’t get past the poor UI and camera controls (it’s hard to believe that in 8 years no ones ever updated such basic features). If there’s anything that Final Fantasy XI taught me it’s that I need decent mouse controls and camera movements to be able to enjoy my gaming. However, I’m hoping that if I try AO again, I can get past those issues.

Regardless of whether I resubscribe or not, I love the idea of overhauling the engines in older MMOs and breathing fresh life into them. When you consider the countless number of hours that went into these games, both from a development point of view and a gaming one, it seems like such a waste to let them decay and slowly die off. I’m honestly surprised that more games aren’t updated, repackaged and re-released to new audiences. Everquest did it with the Shadows of Luclin only a couple of years after it came out and now World of Warcraft is kinda doing it (think flying mounts in Azeroth) with Cataclysm.

Well, I’m off to start download AO and see if I can resurrect any old characters and whip out my bald-headed Bureaucrat. And if you inferred any euphemism from that statement then the innuendo is your own.

Arms Or Prot For Leveling?

The Warrior didn’t see much love in patch 3.3 which goes to show that either they are pretty well balanced already or Blizzard was just ignoring them. I reckon the former is probably the most likely as the class does seem to be pretty well rounded out at the moment and doesn’t need a lot of work done to it. In a strange move, however, Blizzard introduced new means to proactively encourage grouping (the new LFG system) but then gave Warriors the ability to learn the previously high level Victory Rush ability at level 6, thus increasing their DPS and encouraging them to follow the Arms talent tree, not the tanking one. Mixed signals or what?

Undead Warrior - Defensive Stance

Undead Warrior - Defensive Stance

Having a leveling 29 Warrior alt, I’m facing a bit of a conundrum now and don’t know how to spec. I’m currently following the Protection tree because I want to be a tank – it’s fantastic in groups and not that bad for soloing, although a tad slow. The big downsides for me though is that it’s currently pretty rubbish at PvP (until I can get Warbringer at 50) and the lack of interactivity makes it quite dull when playing alone – Arms is a lot more fun for soloing.

So what to do? Stick it out with Protection or respec to Arms? I’d hate to give up my ability to be a tank yet it’s certainly not the best talent tree for lower levels. It also seems like Blizzard are actively encouraging people to follow Arms until they get higher up in the game.

I’m definitely going to dual spec at level 40 (assuming I can afford it) and then my problems will be solved and I’ll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds: a full on tanking spec for groups and a nice, fast DPS spec for quest grinding. *sigh* Am I the only one who thinks 1,000g for enabling dual speccing is a tad ridiculous? Hopefully it will go the way of the mounts and drop considerable in price. Personally I think it should be available at level 30 for 100g. Hear me, Blizzard, for I hath spoken! Maketh it so!

P.S. After some deliberation I’ve decided to respec to Arms for the time being. The main reason behind the decision is that as long as my desktop computer is fubared (technical term) I really don’t think I’ll be running many groups on my laptop.

I Hate Computers

After a hectic week at work, I was looking forward to a chillful (yes, I just invented a new word) weekend. Some quality time with the wife, hanging out with a few friends and maybe even indeedy a smidgen of gaming. Annoying how things don’t work out the way you plan. I awoke to find my wife sick and that my desktop computer had died. Passed away. Kicked the bucket. Ceased to function within normal operating parameters.

Regular readers will know that my PC has been acting up on me for some time. Back in March it decided it wouldn’t boot if it had been on previously within the past 4 hours or so. A new PSU fixed that but then in September it started rebooting on me randomly. I was kinda living with it and thought it wasn’t too bad as sometimes it would last a good 3 hours or so without a reboot. That is, of course, until this morning. I turned it on and just after it posted, it rebooted and then wouldn’t start again.

I have absolutely no idea what’s wrong with it. I would’ve thought it was the PSU had it not been for the fact that it has a brand new Corsair one in it. I also would’ve thought it was overheating but I ran a ton of CPU and GPU temperature tests over the last few months and none showed any problems. I’m stumped and my only conclusion is that it’s something quite serious, possibly a fault with the motherboard. Any techies out there got any thoughts?

I’ve still got my laptop but it overheats and shuts down when I play games although i just purchased a $10 laptop cooling stand which I’m using now and it’s quite efficiently cooling my testicles as I write this article. Hopefully it will be good enough to let me play some games on the ol’ laptop until I get the big boy fixed or replaced.

And I am seriously considering replacing it even though new components or a new build won’t be cheap. I’ve been looking at an Intel i5-750 CPU, Windows 7, either 4GB or 8GB or RAM and a GeForce graphics card, maybe the GTX295 but probably the GTX285. Although not cheap this would give me a significant upgrade to my current desktop and then I can try to salvage what I can from it to make a second, backup PC. Anyone got suggestions for components or recommendations on these parts?

Wish me luck; computer’s suck. Ooh, I made a rhyme…

Doom Street Art

Via Joystiq, I found a fantastic set of photos on Flickr called “Tribute to id Software (Doom)”. Apparently some German guy in Berlin decided to perform some street art and decorate some rather dull billboards with Doom HUDs. Awesome stuff.

Of course whether these are real or just Photoshop fakes is another question. I really hope they are real as it would be a delight just to think of some poor driver passing one whilst heading home on the autobahn. Ah Doom… how I miss it.

The End Of QuestHelper?

Patch 3.3 hit the European World of Warcraft servers today (I take back what I said about the slow downloads… turns out I’d actually downloaded 713mb already in the background and the rest came through at over 200kbps) and brought with it a bunch of changes and updates. The most notable was probably the new LFG system (which, according to a few sources, had plenty of issues to go with it) but also a new map system that integrates with your quests and shows you where they and where you need to go. Sound familiar at all?

New Map/Quest System In Patch 3.3

New Map/Quest System In Patch 3.3

QuestHelper has always been my favourite WoW addon and certainly the most useful. Before I first got it, I used to fumble around trying to decipher the quest text to figure out what to do and where to head. Being an impatient sort of fellow (I always skip dialogue and cutscenes and never read text) it was a highly frustrating experience for me, especially considering I’d just come from playing Age of Conan and Warhammer Online which lead you by the nose through your quest journal. Then I found out about QuestHelper, installed it, and it was like the clouds of darkness parted before me and I was bathed in the divine light of laziness. I never looked back. Until today.

I haven’t had an extensive amount of time to play with the new map and quest system that patch 3.3 brought but from first glance it seems pretty comprehensive and well implemented. You can see what quests are available in your current zone, where you need to go and, even more, what the rewards are and what the text is (as if we care). No doubt it’s not as fully featured as QH but it seems to do the trick and provide the basic options so one has to wonder… is this the end of QuestHelper?

I know that’s a little melodramatic and QH will likely continue, just like the equipment manager patch didn’t kill off Outfitter, but considering that QuestHelper actively requests donations and contributions I can’t help but think that this may have a big impact on their bottom lime and the cash that they receive.

It seems kinda sad in many ways that Blizzard have stolen the thunder from some of these great, independent addons and implemented their own versions. I can understand why they’ve done it – they’ve obviously looked at things like Outfitter and QuestHelper, seen how good and useful they were, and decided to integrate it as part of the standard game. It many ways, it must be quite flattering to the addon developers to know that they’ve influenced WoW in that regard. Still, it’s likely going to have an affect on their popularity, number of downloads and cash donations/contributions.

P.S. If you’re wondering, I stilll prefer QuestHelper :)

The Most Efficient Way To Acquiring Gold In A MMORPG

Here’s a step-by-step guide on the most efficient (money-per-hour) way to acquiring gold in a MMORPG.

  1. Get good grades at school.
  2. Go to a good college or university.
  3. Work hard and get a good degree.
  4. Find a good job that pays well.
  5. Buy gold from the developers or an illegal website.

Now before you go an crucify me for condoning the purchasing of gold from 3rd party websites (which I don’t condone or recommend at all and, although is supported legitimately by some developer, is against the rules of most), I want to point out that this article is entitled “acquiring” gold, not actually making it. Happens to be that the most efficient way is through real-money purchase rather than actually playing the game.

Yesterday Tobold wrote about how he followed some instructions that claim to allow you to make 500 gold per hour in World of Warcraft. Sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it? That is of course until you compare it against the average rate of a 3rd party gold selling site. A quick search on that thing called the Interweb and I discovered that one can buy 1,500 gold for just under $12. That’s $4 per 500g. Now is it still worth grinding in WoW for one hour to earn it?

Assuming that someone earning a half-decent wage gets paid $20 an hour, it’s obviously a lot more efficient to work for a hour in real life and then use that money to buy gold for your game, effectively paying someone in China or Eastern Europe a small cut of your salary. Don’t agree with the morals of that? Well, take a look at the label of almost every piece of clothing you wear and tell me where it comes from. Hint: your Nike sneakers were not made in America. This is how capitalism works.

Of course the big difference is that it’s perfectly legal (although arguably still immoral) for companies to run sweat shops out in China to make your shoes but paying them to farm you some gold in a MMORPG will get you banned. Boils down to the money thing again and who stands to profit (see previous reference to capitalism) but that’s a different blog post.

So what I’m trying to say is that the purpose of making gold in a MMORPG is really rather pointless. It’s funny how we apply the same real-life greed and desires to our virtual characters. Am I the only one who wonders why there are so many gold making guides out there? Do people really want to be the Donald Trump of World of Warcraft?

We should be playing these games because we enjoy them, not because we want to grind endless amounts of money for bragging rights… and if you do see someone bragging about how much gold they’ve earned, just think that they’d probably have made a better money-per-hour return by flipping burgers in McDonalds.

P.S. I’m sure some people actually enjoy the act of earning money in a virtual game and I suppose I can understand that (although it doesn’t appeal to me). Still, it doesn’t explain the abundance of gold making guides out there. What do you think?

MMORPGs, More Than Just A Hobby?

Knitting. Stamp collecting. Taxidermy. All healthy and traditional hobbies. Then, of course, there’s the MMORPG – healthy hobby too or something more,something that borders on the lines of lifestyle, work or even obsession?

Wikipedia defines a hobby as “an activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, often in one’s spare time.” and that may well apply to the first three examples I stated but what about MMOs? To me, a hobby is something that someone indulges in occasionally – like building a model railway on a Sunday afternoon – not something that one plugs away at for hours upon hours every day and week and month. I just can’t imagine someone getting as worked up about knitting as they do about MMORPGs.

To some, I’m sure gaming with their favourite MMO is a casual hobby but to most of us, it’s more than that. It’s something we partake in to a large degree, sometimes to excess, and something we take very seriously indeed. I know plenty of people (including myself in the past) who would lock themselves away for days to play a MMORPG. Is that normal amongst hobbies?

Writing this, I think myself naive for assuming that MMORPGs are the only hobbies that drive us to distraction and obsession. Perhaps because they’re the only one that’s made me feel that way. Although I still have plenty of other interests, in my younger days I had absolutely tons of hobbies. CCGs/TCGs, table-top miniatures, photography, longboarding (think stakeboard but loooonger… and yes, size does matter), drinking, wrestling, politics, writing, medieval history, and pontificating one’s own navel. None of them, however, dragged me in like MMORPGs and caused me to lose hours upon hours of my life to them.

So what is it about MMORPGs? Are they just the same as any other hobby out there or are they actually more than that? Is there something about MMOs that separates them from the traditional concept of hobby? I can’t help but feel that they are more of a lifestyle choice than a mere hobby.