Posts Tagged ‘miscellaneous’

Korea vs Star Trek. Korea Wins.

I cancelled my Star Trek Online pre-order from Amazon today. I certainly had my doubts when I ordered it but decided to take the plunge anyway, the thoughts of a sexy Borg Officer (Locutus of Borg obviously) standing by my side on the bridge of the USS Dorothy swaying me. However, even though I haven’t even finished downloading the beta yet, let alone try it, I’ve already decided that the game isn’t for me.

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Priests are scary, especially when they have legs for arms

Firstly, it hasn’t exactly been received by the blogging public with welcoming arms and glowing reviews. Lukewarm at best, some have even been downright negative and outright disparaging. Although the Star Trek universe and intellectual property appeals, I don’t have the time in my life to play games that just aren’t that good. Play less; play more quality was my MMORPG New Year’s resolution let’s not forget (blogging consistency or what?). Besides, Mass Effect 2 comes out on the 29th and that is definitely a game to get excited about.

Secondly, Amazon emailed me to kindly notify me that the game is going to be delayed in the UK from the 2nd Feb to the 5th and that I won’t receive my copy until the 10th. I can do the time but honestly, this has to be a sign from the Gods if I ever saw one. Bye, bye pre-order. Plus, Amazon already sent me my beta key so if a minor miracle does occur and Star Trek Online turns out to be just my cup of tea, I’ll just pop up to the shops and buy it.

Anyway, I’ve decided to use my refunded gift vouchers to pre-order Thirst on blu-ray instead. It’s a South Korean film by one of my favourite directors, Park Chan-wook (who made the exceptionally good Old Boy) and stars one of my favourite actors, Soong Kang-ho (from The Host and The Good, The Bad and The Weird, among other things). It’s had great reviews and is about vampires. What more could a guy ask for?

Foreign cinema is starting to appeal to me more and more these days as I find Hollywood becoming increasingly predictable and formulaic. There’s something refreshing about films that are made for the sake of art and don’t try to appeal to the mass market in order to turn the biggest buck. Asian cinema, especially Korean, is becoming increasingly exciting these days and turning out some great films that rival their Western counterparts in terms of scale and beat them hands down on characterisation and story.


Dragon Age: Origins. Done.

I completed Dragon Age: Origins last Saturday evening, almost exactly two weeks after I purchased it (or rather traded in the PS3 version for the PC one) with a total of just under 50 hours clocked. Yep, I had a pretty intense Christmas holiday with it, exactly what I needed. I wanted a great single player game to get stuck into and I got one.

Without a doubt, Dragon Age is a fantastic single player game, right up there with Mass Effect, BioShock, Sins of a Solar Empire and golden oldies like C&C, Civilisation II and Final Fantasty VII (I’m just listing the games that I got truly hooked on and consumed my life for weeks). One of the highlights of it for me was having so much freedom of choice and ability to truly roleplay the character I wanted. I decided right from the start to be the “bad” guy or, well, the “misunderstood” guy who would do anything to end the Blight, to any extent. It made sense to me that a character who lost his family would be driven to the depths of darkness and lose his moral compass. He was also bisexual but that’s another blog post.

After playing MMORPGs for almost 18 months solid since playing another single player RPG, it was very refreshing and welcoming to be given so much choice in my character’s direction and influence. Dragon Age doesn’t hold your hand and prevent you from making bad choices. In fact, some of the decisions I made probably made the game harder for myself in the long run (such as killing a certain magical companion instead of accepting their offer to join my party) but they were my choices to make. I’m glad to say that I really tried to roleplay my character and not just min/max my stats and take the easy, most competitive routes.

Of course, DA:O isn’t without it’s flaws and there are a few biggies that will certainly niggle at you along your journey. For starters, the AI is shockingly bad and sometimes your companions operate just fine on their own and sometimes they act like they’ve had a frontal lobotomy. The selection of companions available is also very poor and you end up with something like 6 Warriors but only 2 Rogues and 2 Mages to choose from and it’s a little frustrating. The game is also incredibly long which, yes, most people will see as a good thing but to me to started to drag, especially around the Dwarven areas. It was a slog to finish (but worth it in the end).

My hat goes off to BioWare for turning out yet another excellent game. I have to give them kudos for making such an excellent RPG that hit the mark on so many levels and truly defined and highlighted the power and point of roleplaying games again. They’re all about character and story and Dragon Age has that in spades.

Suffice to say that I’m now hyped up for Mass Effect 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic more than ever.


I Pre-Ordered Star Trek Online

Title says it all, frankly. Even though I’ve been feeling (and still feel) very lukewarm towards the forthcoming Star Trek Online, I decided to pre-order it anyway. It was a combination of a beta-access (even though I recall swearing I’d never beta test another game) and head-start promise and some well-received Amazon vouchers as a Christmas present.

I Want A Khaaan! Emote

I Really Do Want A Khaaan! Emote

Although Direct2Drive are offering a “Digital Deluxe Edition” for £45/€50/$72 which comes with a bunch of goodies including a personal shield, original Star Trek uniform, KHAAAN! emote, NX ship registry prefix and access to the Joined-Trill race, I still decided to just buy the vanilla version from Amazon UK instead. Don’t get me wrong, those items are very tempting (especially the KHAAAN! emote) but I can’t really justify the extra cost for a few fluff items, especially for a game that I’m not totally convinced by. The Amazon version is only costing me £25/€28/$40 and it gives me an exclusive Borg Bridge Officer crew mate. No KHAAAN! emote but still, pretty cool.

As you may have gathered, I’m still very sceptical about the game and the more I read about it the more my cynicism grows. Oh how I worry Star Trek Online will turn out to be piss… but at least with low expectations all of the surprises will be pleasant ones. Yes, it’s with this pessimistic outlook on life (or at least MMORPGs) that I intend to guard myself from the ineviteable Anti-Hype-Letdown that seems to affect everyone about 3-4 weeks after a new MMO comes out. Age of Conan has no content? Really? Aion is a mega-grind-fest? Really?

Of course, I say all of that but then there’s always that little glimmer of hope that lurks depth within my brain and whispers to me, “y’know, maybe it will actually turn out to be good”. And hence the pre-order.


EVE Online – Tempting Me Back With A Zephyr

EVE Online - Zephyr

EVE Online - Zephyr

Just as I was thinking about EVE Online today and considering going back to it, I received a nice email from CCP offering me 5 days free plus a gift if I resubscribed before 6th January. I also happen to have a 9 day holiday coming up next week… sounds like a perfect combination to me. Isn’t it nice when a plan comes together?

The free gift being offered (which I think even existing players are getting?) is the Zephyr starship. Apparently it’s good at exploration and wormhole travel. Having never been through a wormhole before (either in EVE or in real life), I have absolutely no idea what that means. But it is pretty.

It’s funny how such a simple thing can tempt players back, but then I suppose it’s an old tactic, Blizzard, for instance, using pets for everything from celebrating yearly anniversaries to encouraging account migration. Guess I’m just a sucker for a free, shiny toy cause I love that sort of stuff.

Now I just need a free trial for Age of Conan so I can test it out on my new PC without having to pay for it. Wouldn’t be nice if MMOs offered a generic “try-before-you-buy” option for anyone who’s been away for more than a couple of months? I’ve resubscribed to games on a whim and then never played them so many times before it’s not funny.


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 :)


How Do I Find A Good Guild?

I think one of the reasons that I’ve not felt the same level of satisfaction playing World of Warcraft now as I did in all my years of playing Everquest 2 is that I just can’t find a good guild. And by “good guild”, I just mean a guild that has a solid core of players who actually like to communicate with each other (I’m a sucker for a bit of banter). I’m not looking for boosting, help leveling up or anything like that, I’m just looking for some people to befriend on my journey to level 80 and perhaps some fun dungeon groups on the way. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve been in several guilds in WoW and I just can’t find one that I click with. Most of the ones I join seem to be quite vacuous and either tend to be empty or full of players who don’t either chat, group or care. I get the feeling that most “serious” guilds only accept level 80 characters and revolve around raiding and that all other guilds just there for the alts of raiders on their days off.

Ironically (and I can only blame myself for this) is that one of my work colleagues who started playing the game finally created, by all accounts, an excellent guild called Revenge of Le Chuck (awesome name or what?) but that by stage I was absolutely sick of playing Alliance and defected over to start my current Horde Undead Warrior. Bloody shame, I know.

So I need some advice. How do go about finding a decent guild to join? I was in several in EQ2 and they were all very good and yet I’ve joined dozens in WoW and can’t find any. I sometimes wonder if maybe it’s just how it is in WoW and that guilds are never as good compared to other MMORPGs due to the fundamental nature of the game and the type of player it attracts.

Anyone got any tips on finding a good guild? Oh, I’m playing on Khadgar if that helps.


Mega Patches And Slow Downloads

Making a game that requires an Internet connection will always mean that both it, and the players, are dependent on the speed and robustness of their connection. Usually, after the initial installation, not a lot of bandwidth is required as the file transfer during play tends to be pretty small and manageable. That is, until, that dreaded patch appears…

I’ve never had much of an issue with patching my MMORPGs before… until I started playing World of Warcraft. Even though the game isn’t as technically, hmm, pretty? as some newer MMOs, WoW’s patches are still plenty large and 3.3 is no exception. In fact, it’s a downright whopper, weighing in at 1.1GB in total.

The ironic thing is that Blizzard have got more money than God to spend on server architectures and yet their patch downloads are consistently some of the slowest I’ve ever experienced and their patches some of the largest (or maybe it’s just that I never noticed with other games before). I appreciate the fact that they release the content early to be downloaded in the background as you play but downloading 1.1GB of data at 5kbps is like trying to make a dent in a steel wall with a toothpick. A bent toothpick.

I can understand the theory behind utilising the whole peer-to-peer transfer mechanic in order to try and reduce the load on their servers but unfortunately most ISPs throttle P2P traffic now (and mine’s one of them). I’d much rather just download the patch file itself but that won’t be available on either the patcher or mirror sites until the official release. And, even then, I find the final download speeds to be pretty darn slow.

Suffice to say, I’m not really looking forward to patch day (apparently targeted for December 8th). The only saving grace is that I can usually copy the patch files from my main PC to my laptop and thus don’t have to download it twice… all kinda funny when you end up with a portable data drive just filled with patch files so you never have to download them again.

Blizzard aren’t alone in their download-slowness though and I had much a similar problem with Aion and it’s “trickle” download. Yep, we live in the 21st century, high-speed Internet connections, and 5GB downloads at 7kbps. Awesome.

Of course, some MMORPG companies seem to have everything calmly under control. CCP spring to mind here and, although I’ve yet to download Dominion, I’ve always had excellent download speeds with them, so much so that I didn’t even bother to transfer the installation files over to my laptop, I just re-downloaded the entire game.

So let’s name and shame. Who are the worst offenders for slow downloads and giant patches? And who are the best? My votes are for Blizzard and CCP respectively.