Monday, November 21, 2011

WoW Has Spoiled Me for Skyrim

It looks peaceful enough, but a dragon is about to drop out of the sky, and your
housecarl will run right in your way when you try to attack it. No orcs will be
harmed during the duration of the event.

I, like much of the rest of fantasy nerd-dom, recently shelled out the cash to play Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim on my X-Box this past weekend.

Most of what they say about the game is true: that it is a wide open beautiful expanse of game full of nooks and crannies for exploring, interesting stories to learn and ridiculous amounts of game to play.  Really, it's pretty neat.

But, there are aspects of the game I find frustrating and I realize, in part that this is largely because I have become so accustomed to gameplay in Azeroth.  There are things, in Skyrim, that can be kind of frustrating at times. Things like...

Not knowing if I can kill a mob or not.
I am so used to being able to get a measure of myself against the Mobs in WoW that I desperately miss it in Skyrim. For example, creeping over the plains near Whiterun and seeing what looks like an ogre or a giant or something-- a tall lanky dude dressed in a loincloth and with a club over his shoulder.  "He can't see me," I think. "So I'll go backstab his butt!"   Only I do that, and it barely scratches his health bar, and he turns around and knocks me with his club so hard that the display times out long before my corpse has completed sailing through the air.

Similarly, climbing a mountain towards a temple and this white yeti-looking troll thing rushes out to get me. "There's only one of them," I think, so I get off my horse and the thing tears me to shreds in two blows before I have managed to even unsheath my weapons. I try sneaking up on him and it doesn't work. I try perching on a rock directly over his head where he ought not be able to hit me and he tears me several new orifices. Finally, I make a long circle around that spot on the map and keep going.

It's nice to see WoW's Elite and Skull markers so that you know what NOT to pick a fight with. I wonder if Skyrim might patch this feature in?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why PokeWoW Makes Me Feel Old

I'm having a hard time deciding if this is more disturbing than Kung Fu Panda or the other way around.
It's been a few weeks now but I have been thoroughly unable to dredge up any enthusiasm for the "Pet Battle System" announced for Mists of Pandaria. It seems very closely based on the gaming principles of Pokemon, I somehow picture a Blizzard developers' meeting where somebody stood up and shouted, "Now we have something for those free-loading companion pets to do!"

But Pokemon is a toy franchise guaranteed to bring a sneer of disgust to about 50% of the people I know, comeplete disinterest from another 49% and wriggles of excitement from the 1% like my nephew who is nine. Granted, the whole Poke-franchise has been around for probably close to 15 years now, so there are probably college graduates who grew up with these things now, but these things are not still so popular, are they?

Pokemon is a wildly sucessful franchise for a lot of reasons but I think part of its success is that it works very well for the market it is aimed at: young children. The characters stepped into by players do not technically fight. They just train little pugilists for a good clean fight in the ring. As a parent, I might not like having my young children play a game in which their self-identified characters "fight."  But, having them play a character in which they have little surrogate fighters that they "train" would give a modicum of distance from that violence that might be healthier for those little tykes. Might. I'm pretty sure the research is still out on that question.