Monday, December 26, 2011

Star Wars, Those Good Old, Staaaaaaar Wars

Yes, that's the original SNL Bill Murray song I've attached. Aren't you glad? (Click the title of this entry and enjoy!)

So far I have to say I'm really happy that Bioware is behind this. After playing WoW and then Dragon Age and Dragon Age II, I found that I really do love me some lore. WoW really sucked at story line. It was just not well thought through; they often violated their own storylines, and the quests rarely added up to anything. DA and DA2 had choices where I actually stopped and struggled for as long as 10 minutes before committing to a decision, knowing it would impact the game play. It's not quite that obviously instrumental in the MMO version, but I know it's going to matter somehow somewhere down the road. That's how Bioware rolls.

They have shown some real naivete with regard to what are now coonsidered standard elements of MMOs, in particular in their auction house mechanic. Ugh. We'll see; it's just out of the wrapper and I like to think there's a lot of updates, patches, and hot fixes in our future. Let us hope the mechanic and the interface for the auction house aregoing to be near the top of the list. As it's set now it completely undercuts the motivation for crafting professions. Buy or buy not; there is no bid. Prices for listing and consequences for expired auctions and the house cut on sales... all are way too steep. The search is way too constrained in some ways, and fails to allow the searcher to constrain sufficiently in other ways. It's as if these guys never played WoW. Dude, that game's been out and been *hot* for five years. Focus up.

Another annoying element is the insistance on Coruscant as the locale for all training. (Probably there's stuff on other planets but for the foreseeable future I'm stuck on Coruscant.)  So I ding way the hell out in Justicar territory and I have to abandon everything and head back to the main city for training. If I burn my "hearth stone" getting there (cause I'm nowhere near a transport station), I'm going to have to fly back to a fairly close location and then run run run run run back to where I had been questing. Grrr.

So there are little annoyances like that but overall it's worth it. The art is beautiful, if your compie can run it. Mine can, thank god. The music is the real deal from the movies, which helps keep the whole "dude, I'm playing Star Wars!" vibe intact.

I've rolled and am leveling all four classes: Jedi Consular (Sage/healer), Jedi Knight, Smuggler, and Trooper. The odd thing is that whatever I'm playing at the moment is my favorite, which mostly means they have good mechanics and I don't feel like one toon is more OP and thereby more fun than the others. I think my Consular is my favorite because of the force stuff and the light sabre, which I rarely use. Here's a shot of her in Coruscant. Dig the background.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic . . .

First day thoughts . . .

OMFG! The Boss is a total badass!

There were bad guys and then this chick showed up with a glowy yellowy thing and then everyone, but us was dead!

What happened to my hapless gnomish hero from all those years ago being killed by Murlocks?

 This bitch showed up driving the school bus . . . clearly a very short bus . . . and made ALL the stops!

Speaking of hapless . . . I'm running around and around and around. Still mashing buttons like a monkey trying to get a treat. Still trying to even find my feet. Anway, bad guys die, but I have to shoot and shoot and shoot. Boss shows up in a blaze of light saber glory and burns them down with what seems like no effort. Even her damned droid seems more capable than me.

So, first thoughts . . . I think the interface deserves more respect then I'm giving it. I'm continually finding neat little convenient things. The rest is WOW redux with a side of acid reflux. Running around doing this and that and not really feeling connected to it. Just trying to get the next fix from the next level.

I'm pondering a new role. These tanks are ranged tanks which is just a fancy word for hunter. Now, I've known and respected more than one virtual WOWish hunter, but that doesn't mean I want to swing that way. I mean, if they were born that way . . . its ok. But if it's a choice?

The other part I'm pondering is this "choose your own adventure" aspect. Whenever you talk to an NPC you get three choices of a response. For some reason I am compelled to always pick the boy scout one. The others don't even see like real choices. So, unless I'm just a goodie two-shoes (and who would want to be a baddie one-shoe?) . . . it just seems like one right answer and two bad ones every time.

And . . . here is the issue. Why do I have to be a good guy in these games? Boss said "We can't role DarksSide!" Why did I get that to my core? Here is the question I am leaving and do with it what you will . . . I don't think there is a difference between who we are in real life and who we are in a game. Choices have voices . . . and virtual doesn't change that. I know, reach for the Pollyanna crayon and color inside the Pygmalion lines.

Still . . .

OrneryBob, Trooper . . . Level 6.

And here we go again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Behold My Redstone Knowledge

Yes, I have committed to Minecraft. We have had a 4-seater test server up and James and I have been mucking about. Andrea too. And Sarah. Not sure if Andrea's had time but Sarah has muddled about. She's been playing, as I have, in single player and with others on another server.

We are about ready to launch our 30 seater for the EdD in Learning Technologies. At first it will be for Techcamp and as a sandbox for some research. Soon we'll be rolling out the new Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning course. Yah, that's long. I'm calling it GSVW hereafter. I think we found a hosting service we like and the price is right.

So... besides the obvious low level engagement, I've been mucking about with redstone and logic gates. Oy. Logic. Not my forté, just ask my undergrad. philosophy prof. So I jumped on my singleplayer world, currently the one called Fucking Lava Die Die (yes I have died many a lava death in mines), and worked on some connections. Look, I think I get it.

I've also contacted Matt Wunder, er, Dr. Matt Wunder, one of our EDLT alums, to see if we can hook up an afterschool club thing with Minecraft. We'll host it, and if I can find the funds, we'll pay for the clients.

I think success has gone to Notch's head. The client, which used to around $15 is now more like $27 a pop. That will add up fast if we get even a dozen kids interested.

So stay tuned... more to come. And yes, yes, I'll be playing SWTOR, but right now I'm just waiting for the release.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SWTOR: Dec 20

Well, I know what I'm doing on Christmas break. Plunked down the big bucks for the collectors' edition on the strength of my belief in Bioware as a game co that understands the power of narrative. I'm glad I played Dragon Age because I think I "get" how Bioware rolls (oo pun). For example, I see we have a similar NPC companion feature in SWTOR. I haven't played any group games from Bioware so this take on player groups is interesting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dragon Age Origins

Okay, yah, okay, it's an "old" game (2009). I wanted to find  some immersive lore, some narrative. Warcraft pissed theirs away when they went MMO. Minecraft has none. Most FPS shooters find story completely unnecessary. This all started a few months back when I was listening to Wil Wheaton's second PAX invited keynote (2010...starts here). (NOTE: I have GOT to get to PAX one of these days.) He's right about story. And I went looking for some.

Dragon Age has it in spades. Decisions you make affect what happens around and to you. The story draws you in. You care about Morrigan. You have suspicions about Anora. And you derive great satisfaction from calling her a bitch and sending her to the tower toward the last part of the game. You wrestle with the role you should or shouldn't play in Dwarven politics, and then which, if either, of the two houses you should endorse for king. I mean, I actually had a long self-rationalizing conversation about this as the game was paused. Then I got up and wandered into Sarah's room to continue the debate. Sarah's been playing a bit too, and as it turned out, she rolled a dwarf to start with and so had a lot of insight about the dwarf world that I lacked. In fact, her intell made my decision easier.

Yah, story is good. Maybe I'm just missing D&D.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yep, still playing

Here's some snaps from the weekend. We're working on Bastion of Twilight raids. Getting pretty good at downing the two dragons, Valiona and Theralion. Finally dinged exalted with guild and bought my Kron'Kar annihilator mount.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Still Playing...Is this the new gardening/TV time killer?

Yah, I'm still playing. I sure as hell don't know why. I don't have as much time to run with the guild. I've gotten back into healing though. I enjoy that. I enjoy questing, mostly trying to be the most efficient possible. I took another priest from 0 to 75 in about 3 weeks off and on. LOL.

Yah, there's new content again (big patch last month, 'nother one coming up), but it's not the same kind of fun. It's relaxing, like... gardening or something. How bizarre is that? The Blizz team would cry if they got wind of that. lol.

Rift, yah it's kinda fun too, but don't have any friends playing there. Gets lonely. Which is weird 'cause I don't talk to my guildies in WoW that much when I log in now either. I dunno. Maybe I'm done with the MMOs of this sort for now.

Meanwhile I tried some free-to-play 2D web candy: Spiral Knights, League of Legends. Meh. They're really just things to do while you chat with your buds online. Minecraft, not my thing. I've done the virtual world build-it-yourself thing in Second Life.

So, I'm looking forward to E3 next week. God I hope something's interesting on the floor. Blizzard won't be there but I hear that Diablo is coming out within a year. I'm up for that.

Monday, February 28, 2011


Well... I actually even fired up the "old" (2008) Dell XPS and waded through system updates to install and play the beta of RIFT. Now I'm in the 'headstart' (pre-order) and have purchased the game for pickup tomorrow. Really digging it, and not just for new content.

They clearly went to school on WoW and have a lot of improvements in interface, gameplay, and character mechanics. I'll blog more later (I'm taking a break from reading student papers).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Incentivizing the Team: Turtles All the Way Down

So Blizz oversteered a bit on the WotLK and subsequent WotLK patches. Or rather, the gamers out-gamed the system, in this case, the Dungeon Finder system. It was meant to allow players access to 5 man dungeons whether or not their guild could support a 5 man run at the time.  To some extent it also incentivized folks to roll tanks and healers, as those two classes always had the shortest wait time to get in to a PUG dungeon via Dungeon Finder. But pretty soon people began to rely on the DF to level and farm for gear, and many bad tanking, healing, and even dps habits were not corrected in PUGs, in fact they were often supported, albeit inadvertently. I won't enumerate those since it's not the point of my post and it's been enumerated and discussed to death many places elsewhere (e.g., here).

In Cata, Blizz has decided the DF serves a function and should stay, but to balance the tendency to run without your guild, we now have "guild achievements" that allow your guild to "level up" and unlock guild-wide rewards. Our guild has a core of desperados who bite on everything hierarchical, from gear to personal and now guild achievements. So... we're humming along. Already at level 11 in the guild system. One of our guild leaders realized that a very cool thing to have unlocked would be the reward for a guild fishing out 10,000 fish. For those of you who have played and leveled fishing, you understand how close that number is to infinity. [Scary word to the unwise: there are two more steps in this: 50K and 100K fish. Yah. Really.] The reward is the unlocking of the "new" fish feat recipe. Toward that end, a fish-in was organized for Saturday afternoon. Most of us jumped into vent (Ventrilo) to chat and help the time pass.

Cleverly this was timed to coincide the wkend fishing contest in which the first player to get a particular fish (black tipped shark or some such) wins a prize and gets a coveted "achievement" to add to their list of uber achievements.

Now, I'm a very efficient player. I tend toward efficiency in real life. I am fast and smooth in tasks of all kinds. It didn't strike me as a surprise that at the end of two hours I had caught the most fish, by quite a bit. Here's the downside of my efficiency and the upside. The downside: I actually caught the shark, and probably was the first person to do so, but neglected to notice I had it in my bag. [I was able to turn it in for a consolation prize but... wow, that was a major /facepalm.] The upside: I caught the extremely rare turtle mount (see below) and got the achievement for it, Turtles All the Way Down.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

I want a Camel Mount

Time flies. Or so it would seem. Hit level 85 with Tynaqua very quickly. Leveled my professions. Made a killing in the early Cataclysm Auction House market. Sitting on about 16K gold, which is especially phenomenal for me. It probably represents the fact that I have nothing much to spend it on. I've even given away gold to Sarah and some doc students.

New zones are quite fun. Great new quest mechanics. Wonderful homages to Indiana Jones, Jules Verne, and more. Still haven't gotten enough rep. to get a camel mount but you know I will. This mount is only for a quest with Harrison Jones... lol, get it?

More later...