Monday, July 2, 2012

It Was the End of the World As We Know It, Part 2

This is Not Our Story

It's his story.
Here on Summer Holidays, I've been able to catch up with a few titles on my XBox, in addition to WoW-- particularly the new content for Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim.

These two titles and so much WoW makes me think a lot about how games do a story. There's a lot of questions that come up in regards to the story the developers give us and how much of that story belongs to the players.

That last one is a doozy. Many game writers would hear me ask that question, sit up straight, aim their nose at the ceiling and tell me to go to hell. The whole controversy revolving around the ending of Mass Effect 3 has put writers in a corner trying to take control of their artistic license and come up with polite responses like the one suggested above. "We should be able to tell the kinds of stories we want to tell and make the games we want to make." There is some approach being taken here to suggest that the story in a game is inviolate as the printed words of a book.

I want to be sympathetic to that. And I don't suggest story-building by committee is the way to go, but these writers are forgetting the first lesson I learned in media classes a freshman in college: each medium for presenting a story or set of information has its own set of rules, its own strengths and weaknesses. The media are all different and you mustn't come to a new medium with the expectations of the old.

It Was the End of the World As We Know It, Part 1

A Familiar, Yet Broken World

The Talondeep Pass: Proof that there was more than one cataclysm to hit Azeroth.
The Midsummer Fire Festival started this week and I took the time to take a couple of characters on a tour of the world. Desecrating some fires while praising some others is a relaxing way to gain some cash, but more importantly, these sorts of world events are a chance for me to look over my history in WoW and put things in perspective.

It's been a while in coming and it's time for the Cataclysm Post-mortem. The Cataclysm is over and getting to stack a few things up in my mind helps to formulate things that need to be said.

Personally, there has been a great deal to take me away from WoW: a really big move, new social pressures, new job, and graduate school all made it so that a lot of my social structure in WoW vanished from beneath me, and I never got to raid properly in this expansion. Those two things are the most important parts of WoW to me and I half expected my interest in the game to wan this past year, but yet that hasn't happened. Nevertheless, it has colored the way I look at most of what went on with the Cataclysm. I have tried not to let this unduly affect my perceptions of the state of the game.

But make no mistakes: Cataclysm was a bummer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peaking Under the Hood of the MoP Resto Shaman

Come to think of it, I'm not quite sure where Merinna's hood is.
Hey, did you guys know that "merinna" seems to mean "sailing" in Finnish? Oh the things you'll discover via Google Image Search. I want desperately to put a picture of a newborn Merinna I found at the same time on here, but that's not a nice thing to do. Rest assured, if you Google-search "merinna" you'll get a lot of pictures of sailboats, this oddly big-headed baby, born last month, and your friendly neighborhood shaman.

I miss healing. Because of the strain of the past year and a half and a general dissatisfaction with the model of healing they cooked up for shamans this expansion, it's been a year since I last really healed anybody doing anything. I leveled resto back in the days when everybody had one specc that cost too much money to respec    all that frequently and I healed dungeons all the way up to the level cap.

So that said, I think I might need to get back to my first profession because ...

The Good Things - 

No major tools are being taken away - Of course, Blizzard doesn't really much take spells out of the game, but they do things like change the mana costs to make something ineffective in their "vision" for that class. My first take on the major spells a healing shaman needs suggests that everything is on the table. For now. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diablo III is (not) Here!

May 15! Diablo is here!

Sort of.

This morning, I got up and set my computer to downloading Diablo III files and installing them all so that when I got home from work this afternoon, I could put my things away, change clothes, and really give Diablo a whirl.

But no.

We are in the process of performing an emergency maintenance for Diablo III servers in the Americas to resolve several issues that are currently impacting the game. Thank you for your patience.

This is the result of that zealous Digital Rights Management (DRM) plan Blizzard is using. I want to play a solo campaign, using files I've downloaded onto my own computer that just doesn't need any updates from centralized server. And yet Blizzard feels the only way they can protect their property is for me to be connected 24/7.

So, yeah. My Diablo III experience is off to a great start.  Not.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MoP Beta Brief; Diablo III's Rotten Excuse for DRM

One unexpected beta mystery: These two armadas that are taking up space off the coast of Lor'danel in
Dark Shore. There is nobody on board but definitely looks like the Horde and Alliance are having a
naval clash. 
It's a small problem but I realized this week that in the past I have labeled entries "beta." Just "beta." and so people are Googling "WoW Beta" or something similar and being directed to my posts from two years ago, regarding the Cataclysm beta.

To anybody getting so far as to read a new entry when they're disappointed with what they were directed to: I apologize and am probably going to go back and fix this. You might also try "MoP beta" or "pandaria beta" instead. Or something like that.  But hey, there will be more MoP beta here too.

That said, beta is a frustrating place right now. I took my Pandawan Warrior through the remainder of the Wandering Isle. It's OK. Most things work alright. The story is about what you'd expect of it. It is pretty though.  My "cutsieness" detector is at full strength and the presence of what looks like elemental babies who one has to play with, or wake up, or rescue from... I dunno what I rescued that one from, seems like Wowcraft Lite in comparison to Cata's elemental menace.  Remember: franchises die when they start introducing the baby versions of beloved characters. Baby Muppets. Baby Looney Tunes. Just saying. If some Caverns of Time thing happens and suddenly I have to put up with Baby Varian or (/shudder) Baby Thrall, I'm gonna damn well puke and cancel my account.

Monday, April 9, 2012

MoP Beta: First Glance

Ooooooooooh. Aaaaaaaaaaah.
And boy, I tell ya, this is only a glance. In the few days that beta has been available to me, it seems like everything got broken. Merinna has spent a combined 25 minutes trying to TP to the new continent so far, during three different log in sessions. That lil' load bar has gone further than it ever has before as I start writing this post. We'll see if it makes it this time.

Pandaland:  The pandas animate very very nicely. Honestly, there is more character in the way these characters move than just about any character models I have seen in the game. On the slight downside, even a Pandarian warrior looks like Kung Fu Panda, which is to say the Pandarens are stereotypically unacceptable to me.

My adventures through the Wandering Island came to a screeching halt at Level 2 when I found the "Edict of Temperance" to be unburnable due to the fact there are 146,354 other player characters trying to do the same thing at the same time and even a /tar Edict macro won't let you connect with the damn thing. (and no, the "/c interact Edict of Temperance" macro that is being spammed on site will not help either).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stop ... Beta Time!

Whoa-oooh! Whoa-oooh! Whoa-oooh!
Argh. Like sand in an hourglass, so go the days of our lives ...

I can't begin to sum up how much I'm not playing WoW these days. Instead, I'm writing my thesis and working my butt off at school. In my spare time, I like to sleep.

The ugly truth is that I really don't have time for WoW anymore, and yet I don't feel like I'm really done with Azeroth. So, I lurk out and read blogs far more than I the game.

I keep writing blog articles as well, but rarely post. Honestly, I think I'm stuck in a negative mindset about WoW right now. Honestly, Cataclysm is not the best work Blizzard has done. And since I can't play the way I'd like in Azeroth either. I sometimes write a blog entry that I go to revise and it sounds like an icky screed of QQ and Blizzard-hating. There's enough icky screeding and Blizzard-hating on the interwebs already, and I'm trying not to recklessly add to it.

A bunch of the officers in my guild got it in their heads that we needed to transfer servers to get better raiders. When the rest of the officers said, "That might be a good idea, let's hear a plan for that." the ones who wanted to transfer just left. Apparently, they have problem constructing simple sentences in support of an idea. The second graders I teach have that problem too. What a disappointment. But that has left my guild crippled and it hurts because I have felt so strongly about my guild and there are good people still there and I'm so totally not in a position to do anything with the situation.

But, Warcraft continues onward. The MoP Press Tour came and went. The beta started cooking. They revealed the final raid of the expansion and let me just point out what I wrote on June 14, 2011 about that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Talents In Depth? No Need.

No more of this it seems.
I sat down to do an "In Depth Analysis" of the new NEW NEW!! talent tree unveiled at Blizzcon for Shamans, and somewhere around 2000 words, I realized that there was just no need for anything like that.

I thought for a bit that it might be ennui causing me to think this way, but once I examined things further, boredom is definitely not a problem. In fact, I think Blizzard may have jumped forth and put together a masterstroke in shaking up the game. It is still somewhat flawed, but all this analysis the WoW community has traditionally put into talent analysis is at an end.

It occurred to me that chosing talents is about to become far less important than it used to be. I'm not sure about it yet, but talents may be less fun as well. They will certainly be something we think about a lot less than we do now.

Do you remember how there's somebody you know who didn't understand about talents the first few months they were playing WoW? (No one ever admits to actually doing this themselves). They complained about everything being so hard and taking so long to kill things. And then you would ask them what specc they chose and they'd go, "Huh? Specc what?" And once you explained it to them, they would have a much better time of things and kill stuff quickly.

The new talent system isn't going to do that. There are no inherent gains in this new system to the major three roles of tanking, healing or damage dealing, or anything else that will really make or break your ability to play your character for keeps.  I suspect that one would be able to ignore this new talent system and though you'd probably have less fun, you wouldn't really suffer very much in PvE.

And therein lies a catch:  It seems to me that new talent system will affect PvP infinitely more than it does PvE. And it troubles me that the developers seem to be in denial about this.