Boathammer : Age of Bloggening

July 19, 2008

Moving Away FOREVER …

Filed under: Uncategorized — boatorious @ 11:00 am

For a wide variety of reasons I have decided to move my blog from here to blogger, and also to my very own domain name (fancy, eh)? The domain name appears to be working, I should be moved over today.

Fortunately on blogger you can change times, so I’m going to repost all my wordpress stuff and backdate to make sure you can still see the archives there (Chrono Chaos beware!).

The new blog will be the same as the old with some minor changes :

Old Blog Distribution : Read on Internet
New Blog Distribution : Mailed on 8-track data tapes

Reading Old Blog : Use your computer
Reading New Blog : Use 8-track data reader (buy on ebay)

Old Blog Posts : do not smell like Cheetos
New Blog Tapes : may smell like Cheetos

Accidentally get my Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits 8-track or old used printer cartridge instead of blog post?
Old Blog : no
New Blog : maybe

I’m pretty excited.

My Penultimate WAR Question : Scenario Balance

Filed under: Speculation — boatorious @ 6:40 am

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

There’s only one big question I still have about WAR that hasn’t been answered by the E3 news. The title is just to cover my a**.

How is Mythic planning to deal with player imbalance in scenarios? The original plan (and ironically one of the things that interested me about the game) was to use NPCs, “Dogs of War” to even out the sides.

Since then, I guess, Mythic hasn’t been clear about whether they were planning on having “Dogs of War”, cross-server scenarios, or neither. Let’s examine both briefly.

Dogs of War

This would involve introducing NPC’s to even out the sides. Players generally have worried about the ability of NPC’s to compete against players — “players are always smarter”, as they say.

When Blackwing Lair came out I remember some WoW players were feeling their oats, saying that they could beat any dungeon Blizzard gave them. One of the CM’s responded and pointed out that it is ridiculously easy to create a boss that will annihilate players every time. Blizzard doesn’t make unbeatable bosses because it’s bad game design, but it’s not something that’s difficult to do.

So I do think that Mythic could make NPC’s that players could beat, say, 60% of the time.

The hard part of Dogs would probably be AI. There are a lot of different types of scenarios (good job on this Mythic) but it seems like each would need a slightly different AI regime. One way to avoid too much AI coding would be to allow players to order the Dogs around, but that could really change the focus of scenarios from PvP to micromanagement.

Cross-Server Scenarios

Right now it’s 6:15 on a saturday morning, and I’ve been at my computer since about 5:25. This is not unusual for me. So let me tell you I am a huge fan of WoW’s cross-server battlegrounds (battlegrounds in WoW are instanced PvP, equivalent to scenarios in WAR). No WoW server would ever have a battleground going at 5 AM on a saturday, but with cross-server battlegrounds there are usually at least a couple to choose from.

The criticism of cross-server scenarios has been that they make it harder to develop rivalries since your foes are never the same. This is true in a way, but ultimately I’d prefer RvR whenever I want rather than somewhat improved rivalry-making. Additionally, if there were a cross-server system implemented it would not be much harder to create a hybrid system that automatically switched to single-server scenarios when (on a server-by-server basis) there was interest to support them.

The problems and how I think Mythic will solve them

WAR has far, far more scenarios than WoW has battlegrounds. Getting them all filled even during prime time is going to be difficult. So clearly something needs to be done.

Now, the option that I’d like Mythic to choose is : both. Again, I play at weird times, and I just don’t think that all the scenarios I’d like to play could possibly have enough players (even cross-server) to fully populate them. Likewise, Dogs don’t really do it for you on a single server, because I can see starting a scenario and being the only player on either team. I don’t know if WAR would even allow you start such a scenario. Either case would not be much fun.

However, implementing both would give you enough players to populate a side, while still allowing, say, a 4v8 in a 12v12 scenario.

What will Mythic do? We know that both solutions will be a pain to implement, and it does not seem that Mythic broached the subject at E3. So I’m guessing that we’ll actually see neither option at launch. It’s evidently a pretty good thing to leave out, since I’ve seen very little talk among players about whether or not it will be included.

I do have a little hope for cross-server scenarios, however, as Mythic probably had an inkling during design that they would be necessary (as opposed to Blizzard, who seem to have been surprised by the necessity for them).

July 18, 2008

Five Things From Friday

Filed under: Five Things From Friday — boatorious @ 3:24 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

(Before I start the article I’d like to curse wordpress for not saving my formatting properly, causing me to redo it ten times in a row and finally discarding my list altogether)

I think I might do this every week, by “this” I mean post five random things every week on Friday. I would like to note in this inaugural post that when I say I’ll post 1. five things 2. every week 3. on Friday I actually guarantee none of the three.

I’ll keep the name though, it’s catchy.

1. Obsessing Over Statistics and How WAR Bloggers Are Awesome

The only thing I obsess over more than WAR is the statistics for this blog. I wrote this epic post about weirdness or coolness in my stats but realized you would all be bored.

I will say that about 99% of my traffic comes from Syp, Arbitrary and Spinks, Snafzg, and Matt, who’ve all been very kind to link to me (I pre-wrote this, since then scary and thade have linked to me as well). I can never thank you guys enough :) If you look at my comments section you’ll also note that they and other bloggers account for most of my comments. Again, very very nice to get feedback, and very nice of you guys to go out of your way to make a new guy feel welcome.

2. My bizarre sense of humor

This week I wrote a love letter to PvP servers and a parody of my own blog. I don’t know that anyone got it, either that or they were really bad. This makes these blog entries like most of my jokes.

3. Interview with Josh Drescher

This is old.

Anyway, this interview with Josh Drescher over at gamasutra is interesting for two reasons. First because he says that Mythic is right across the street from the NRA. Back when I lived in Fairfax I used to drive past the NRA every day on the way to work. I still drive past it on 66 when we go to visit my wife’s grandfather and I always point it out. I guess now I’ll say “That’s the NRA AND Mythic is right across the street.”

Also interesting because Josh talks about how your MMORPG doesn’t have to, you know, beat WoW to still make money and be successful. I always find that when gamers talk about the success of games and game studios, they vastly underrate survival. Gamers consider a really innovative game that nobody bought to be a fantastic success, even when it kills the studio that created it. Likewise, a modest success that keeps the studio in business is considered a failure. “I hope they don’t disappoint us again!

4. Fringe Benefits

My favorite side effect of the Classpocalypse? It Absolutely Murdered Every Warhammer Alliance Forum Thread About The Expansion.

5. Listening to Podcasts

I have only had an Ipod for about a month but I love it. I listen to podcasts at the gym. Tuesday I listened to my first Warhammer-related podcast, the ChaosCast. I was listening to the current episode with Carrie Gouskas (I’m resolved not to look up the proper spelling) talking about the Tome of Knowledge. There is some new information in there that I had not heard before, so I highly suggest it.

The formatting of this article sucks for some reason, so sorry if it looks weird to you. Bloody wordpress.

July 16, 2008

Why I quit WoW and what I want from WAR

Filed under: Whatever Makes Boat Happy — boatorious @ 9:13 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

I don’t know that I’ve made it through a single post on this blog without talking about WoW. There could be a drinking game :

Take 1 Drink if Boat mentions WoW
Take 2 Drinks if Boat says WoW is the best game ever
Take 3 Drinks if Boat criticizes WoW

So why did I quit in the first place?

Well, WoW is a great game and I love playing it. In fact, I kind of consider going back to distract myself until WAR (or until the 360 gets fixed). I consider WoW, from a technical and gameplay standpoint, to be the best game ever made. There’s no comparison with any other game — to do such a big game and do it so well is just amazing.

The problem is that while WoW achieves its goals, it doesn’t have the correct goals to begin with. The end game is still time consuming, calendar-slinging, large scale PvE. I raided for about 20 hours a week for about six months shortly after the game came out. It was a fun experience but eventually I was just exhausted, and I lasted longer than most.

I tried to come back but I eventually asked myself : if I had no job whatsoever and could do whatever I wanted with my time, would I spend 20 hours a week raiding? It’s an easy “No” for me. It’s not so much the time, but the schedule that kills me. My “good time” goes to working, family, and exercising. I want to play in my “down time” when I’m done with work, after I’ve spent time with the family, and after I’ve been to the gym. 7-11 PM every night is not “down time”. It’s another job.

Raiding is not just hard as a matter of schedules, it’s also completely detached from the rest of the game. So you can’t just log on and raid — you need to farm to buy mats for potions. You need to work on attunements. You need to get the best not-in-raid gear so you can be better at the raid.

The thing that really kills me the most is not that I don’t have the best gear. In fact, with apologies to Marx (Groucho), I wouldn’t want to play a game where I have all the best gear because I want it to require more devotion than I can muster. After all, it’s not having the gear that’s fun — it’s earning the gear.

But if you’re not a raider in WoW you’ll never earn the coolest gear, no matter how much you play.

What I want from WAR

I want to take a break from RvR when I want to take a break — not because I ran out of potions, need attunements or need to go PvE for gear.

I want the best gear in the game to be RvR gear that can be earned without requiring 20 hours of scheduled play every week.

I want to log on and play the “end game” anytime I want.

I want to log on any given night and play the “end game” with my guildies.

I never want to spend three hours in a PvE instance, ever.

I want it to be easy to find a group for PvE instances and easy to find public quests being completed.

I never want to make another bloody content mod again, I want the idea never to cross my mind because The Tome is so awesome.

I never want to fight with my guild over loot.

I never want to fight with my guild just to be allowed to contribute to their success.

I want to remember right now that I’ll be supremely happy if I get two or three of these things :)

July 14, 2008

Some Concerns about WAR’s Capitol City Rotation

Filed under: Totally True — boatorious @ 8:12 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

Mythic recently dropped the bomb about the content that will not be available at launch. They’ve talked about several options for mitigating the removed capitol cities but the option that concerns me most is the idea of rotating the capitol cities.

I’m not sure how this would resolve people’s concerns about RvR. Let’s examine some of the issues.

How will the Mythic rotate the cities?

I was talking to my brother about how we thought Mythic would rotate the cities. He feels the cities will rotate clockwise, but I really feel like they will rotate counterclockwise. Neither of us would back down and we almost got in a fight.

And then I was talking to my wife today and she really threw out a curve ball — what if they rotate, like, upside-down? This would certainly make melee DPS and tanks less useful, perhaps Mythic is planning the rotation to counteract the removal of some of those classes.

But this brings up even more issues. Are the city 72v72 scenarios balanced for “capsized” play? How about the Public Quests, will they still work? This just brings up a ton of issues and it seems like it will take Mythic longer to properly implement the rotating cities than it would be just to fix them in the first place.

Issues with Lore

I’m not an expert on Warhammer lore but I also think it would be difficult to incorporate spinning cities into the rich Warhammer lore. There are very, very few revolving cities in Warhammer, certainly none that are planned for the game right now. Did Mythic speak with Games Workshop about the change? Sometimes I feel like Games Workshop is really selling out — I’m prepared to play a Warhammer game without Space Marines (although it’s a stretch, they’re my favorite race) but twirling cities are really going to make me feel un-immersed and dizzy.

Motion Sickness

There’s no doubt that revolving capitol cities will cause more player vomiting than many of the alternatives. But Mythic can do a lot to mitigate this, I think. If the cities rotate more slowly (I’d suggest no faster than one revolution per minute) this will alleviate the issue but not eliminate it. The problem is that a slow rotation would mean players would have to wait longer for the exit to come around so they can leave the city. I guess there needs to be a happy medium between puking and delaying travel.

Conclusion

I think that Mythic faced a tough problem and came up with a very risky but extremely unique solution. Hopefully the NDA will lift soon so we can all see how our new rotating capitol cities look.

July 13, 2008

Rumorhammer : Mythic to introduce Hardcore Crafting Servers

Filed under: Totally True — boatorious @ 2:21 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

If you’re like me, you’ve been hearing a lot of rumors on blogs and forums about hardcore crafting servers in WAR. So what’s up with this, and what is the story behind the hardcore crafting servers?

Fortunately I have a source on the inside. I promised not to reveal his name, but he sends me inside information about WAR in return for a never-ending stream of blood pudding and jellied eels which I have smuggled into the country.

The Genesis

The idea for hardcore crafting servers come from PvP servers. See, on a PvP server (in WoW or “Open Servers” in WAR), you can be wandering around, doing something you enjoy, and suddenly be forced into PvP, which you probably like but weren’t planning on doing at that time. You can be questing and be forced to PvP. You can be gathering and be forced to PvP. You can even be in a town or at a vendor, or waiting for an instance, and suddenly be forced to PvP. And this is wildly popular with the players.

So why not go a step further and apply this popular idea to other mechanics in the game? Hence, Hardcore Crafting Servers were born.

Living Recipes

The new mechanic of the Hardcore Crafting Servers is the introduction of “Living Recipes”. These recipes will be immensely powerful creatures with abilities that can easily kill any player in the game. The only way to defeat a Living Recipe is to create an item of that recipe. So if you were attacked by a “Potion of Healing” recipe, the only way to survive would be to quickly craft a Potion of Healing.

The manifestations of the Living Recipes will mirror the ways PvP occurs on PvP servers — in other words they will senselessly interrupt other parts of the game. So a player that was about to capture a RvR objective might suddenly find himself beset by nine or ten recipes, which would then proceed to attack, kill, and camp him. Or a player that was about to loot a Public Quest treasure box might find himself killed and then repeatedly spat upon by the specifications for a plus-healing trinket, etc.

Life on a Hardcore Crafting Server

It’s important to understand that, like gankers on a PvP server, the recipes will not necessarily be tuned to your level or tradeskills. There will be bands of max-level recipes roaming low-level areas. You might defeat a recipe only to be immediately ganked by two more that show up. This makes sense if you think about it — after all, the game is not called “Fairhammer”.

Eventually players on Hardcore Crafting Servers might want relief from these Recipe Onslaughts. Taking a page from WoW, Mythic will introduce special, boring grinding areas where recipes rarely go. So this way players have a choice between being corpse-camped by, say, “Lilly Seeds of Fortitude”, or slaying Rat-Men of varying hues for hours on end.

Directed PvP with objectives and rewards can be immensely enjoyable, and can enthrall players for hours on end. The principal invention of PvP servers is the minimization of this fun PvP, so that greater emphasis can be placed on ganking. “Open Crafting” servers will function in the same way. Players will not have as much time to spend crafting useful items, or in advancing their crafting skills. They will be so absorbed by unsuccessfully avoiding Recipe Squads and the resulting corpse runs that they’ll have time for little else.

Target Population

You might ask yourself : why would players play on a Hardcore Crafting Servers? Well, there will really be two kinds of players Mythic expects to see.

The first are crafting fans who will roll on these servers in the mistaken belief that this will make crafting more fun. These players will learn too late that Hardcore Crafting Servers make everything (including crafting) less fun, but by that time they’ll have friends and guilds and it will be too late to switch servers.

The second group are the people that are already referring to themselves as “Craftcore”. They will spend most of their time on the forums belittling people who are not on crafting servers, the so-called “craft bears”. Mythic will enforce this view by prohibiting transfers to crafting servers, but not vice-versa.

The end result

I think players will be really happy to see the effort put into the crafting servers, and will agree their inclusion was more than worth the loss of all those lame classes and cities.

July 12, 2008

Why am I not worried?

Filed under: The State of The Game — boatorious @ 10:16 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

Working through the blogs this morning I was surprised how hard most of the WAR blogging community took the recent news of (I just made up this name) The Classpocalypse. I certainly thought the news was interesting, but it didn’t really affect my desire to play the game. Why not?

Don’t cry over cut classes

A good deal of it is that, for better or worse, I’m not really that invested in any particular class at the moment. In WoW I really wanted to be a healer and the smallest race. Since gnomes didn’t have healers I didn’t really care — so I picked warlock because my friend was going to be a mage, and I ended up with 60 days played on that little guy.

The abundance of classes in WAR just overwhelms me, especially considering the NDA is still up so we don’t even know that much about them. I still know humorously little about the classes that will soon devour my life. I guess that turns out to be lucky.

Are Three Cities Better Than One?

As for the city reduction, I just think of Ironforge and Stormwind in WoW. Ironforge has another city underneath it — “Old Ironforge”. Very cool idea, except that Blizzard hasn’t done a thing with it. Oh, and Stormwind has a portal that’s supposed to be for player housing. Also a very cool idea, except that Blizzard hasn’t done anything with it. Instead WoW players get multiple capitol cities that are fun to visit but otherwise all serve pretty much the same boring purpose.

So I’m excited about the idea of dropping down to one capitol city per faction. It really gives the developers a chance to go all out and make the cities great. If you look at the content Blizzard introduced at launch and the content they introduced after launch there’s just a big difference in quality. The team had learned a lot and were also able to focus on individual parts of the game. We’re going to get great capitol cities out of this “disappointment”.

Also, I just trust the Mythic guys

Pretty quickly after you start working as a software engineer, you go to your lead and ask them why the software does this insane thing. You might not say it, but you think, “this is stupid, why do we solve this simple problem in this insane way?”

And your lead will explain why all the sane solutions weren’t workable and why they had to go with the insane solution. You do this a number of times and eventually realize that the software isn’t stupid — you are stupid. You still ask why problems are solved in insane ways, but you start to expect a reasonable explanation.

You just start to trust other engineers. They think the same way as you do, they solve problems the same way you do. Most of us even dress alike.

I’ve never worked on a game, but my experience as an engineer and gamer has made me very opinionated about good and bad game design. And nothing Mythic has shown us so far has been poorly designed. The big draw, the RvR, is a little too complex for me to judge at the moment, although it does seem like a good idea. But smaller, more understandable things, like the Tome of Knowledge, the Crafting System, and the Living Guild system just seem well designed. They are elegant, workable solutions to problems that no other MMORPG has even begun to grapple with yet.

So, like I expect the guy at work to give me a reasonable explanation for something that’s seemingly insane, I expect Mythic knew what they were doing when they brought about The Classpocalypse.

July 11, 2008

jackpot

Filed under: Totally True — boatorious @ 5:30 pm

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

Today, Mythic announced some big news that you’ve probably already heard. Four of the twenty-four classes will be missing from launch, and four of the six capitol cities will be missing from launch. Oh, and Mythic is going to use PunkBuster.

My first reaction was surprise. “Boy, is this surprising” I thought, perhaps unsurprisingly.

My second thought was “This is like An Entire Month’s Worth Of Easy, Easy Blogs.”

This is probably the greatest gift that anyone has ever given me. I think I’m going to cry. I’m just so happy. You know, I could probably milk this one piece of info for an entire year.

Stay tuned for my next blog : “Let’s talk about the recent WAR announcement : Part 1 of 47″

July 9, 2008

Losers always whine about their gear. Winners capture a castle and kill the king.

Filed under: Theory — boatorious @ 3:06 am

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

With apologies to Sean Connery in The Rock (“Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and **** the prom queen.”)

Skill, for whatever reason, is probably one of the biggest forum preoccupations in WoW. Who has skill. What kind of play style requires skill. I have skill. You don’t have skill. Why doesn’t having skill automatically make me a millionaire assassin rock star monk. Etc.

Probably the most popular type of skill discussion is the “skill vs. gear” discussion. The issue is that players with less “skill” can often defeat players with less “gear”, and this seems wrong and upsets everyone a great deal.

I had almost forgotten until the topic was inevitably raised in the context of WAR. Bo at The Greenskin kicked it off with a piece on skill vs. gear (part 1 and part 2 up today) and stormcrow over at The White Tower of Hoeth wrote up a couple of pieces as well (part 1 and part 2).

Both seem to agree on certain things. Among others, they agree that inequality is inevitable, and that nobody wants to win due to gear. I agree only with the first.

The problem of MMORPG’s and player inequality

Video game RPG’s (we’ll exclude the table top here) come in all different shapes and sizes, with vastly different gaming mechanics, art, and stories. There’s really only one common characteristic that every video game RPG shares : advancement. You spend time playing the game and your character gets more powerful.

So it seems pretty straightforward to assume that PvP in an MMORPG would involve characters of unequal power. Bo and stormcrow both agree on this point, as do I.

Surprisingly many people don’t feel this way. You can always find a dozen posts on the WoW forums lamenting that gear matters in PvP.

But Bo and stormcrow are right on when they say that inequality in PvP is inevitable.

Nobody wants to win due to gear

Bo and stormcrow also posit that nobody wants to win because they had better gear. I’ll disagree. I just want to win. Play to Win is the best essay ever written about competitive gaming and it is my mantra. According to the essay, the “scrub” is one who

is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevent him from ever truly competing

While a good player wants to develop their skill, they’ll also gladly take any advantage they can get. The wanton desire for “skill” is just devotion to a fictional rule. A good player will instead pursue the combination of skill and advancement (gear) that will lead them to victory.

Thrilling And Useful Site News

Filed under: Boring And Useless Site News — boatorious @ 1:55 am

*** This blog has moved, it is now hosted at http://boathammer.com ***

If you’re visiting my site you probably already know that Syp (of Waaaugh) and Arbitrary and Spinks (of Book of Grudges) very kindly accepted my offer to swap links (since you certainly came from one or both of their sites). Very, very kindly since I only had about four hits ever in my first two weeks.

Waaaugh and Book of Grudges are pretty much the two best WAR blogs around, so it’s all very cool. I even know that Waaaugh has three letter A’s. I am a true fan.

Syp posted tonight about the rules for staying on his blogroll :

RULE #2: Be a helpful, friendly part of the WAR community. If you’re antagonistic to other sites or blogs (in a mean way), if you’re exclusive or insular, if you think the entire WAR world revolves around you and you can’t be bothered to be part of the larger community, then I have no desire to see your name sully this blog. To date, I’ve only ever removed one site from my blogroll because of a snobby, elitist attitude (I won’t mention which one, but I’m sure if you’re bored you can figure it out).

I like the antagonism bit — I only write because I enjoy being a contrarian ;)

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