Archive for March, 2007

EoF: Loping Planes

Well I’ve been running around Loping Planes for a couple of weeks and been doing the quests there lately so I thought I’d throw out my little review on this last main zone of EoF. My Warlock is only level 64 so I haven’t actually been able to see a lot of it due to the fact that it is a level 70 zone. However, I have been able to get the basic gist.

The zone is actually rather bland. It is EoF’s “dark” zone. There seems to be at least one “dark” zone in every expansion. At launch it was Nek Forest and Lavastorm, DoF was Pillars of Flame (which was actually not bad), and KoS saw Bonemire (still like the glowy rivers). Now what I mean by dark zone is that these zones seem to be in perpetual nighttime. It is really hard to see in these zones and there is no real reason for it as they are all above ground in the open, and often without trees. This zone in particular seems very much like Nek Forest in the mountains (not surprising because EOF’s theme is in the mountains).

Actually the zone is extremely weird comparitively. The other zones are all very beautiful, often forested. This zone is very drab, very ugly, very blah. I think when looking around at what creatures they hadn’t used much in the previous game they came up with Vampires (which had only really been featured in their crappy first adventure pack). They then decided to make this zone a “horror” themed zone, which like I said seems out of place for this expansion. I suppose it is nice to have variety in the expansion but it doesn’t work for me (maybe I am biased, I hate dark zones). They filled this zone with wolves, stirges, vampires, bears, spiders, werewolves, gremlins, and ghouls (which apparantly are not undead). The zone has a somewhat decent town. It actually has the most mideval feel to it than any town previously. Everything is made out of grey rock and has a very lived in feel. I actually like the town, but the rest of the zone I could do without.

Not surprisingly, there seem to be a lot of heroic quests in this zone. It is a 70 zone after all and they want to make it more difficult to get there, however there are a few nice little solo quests, but nothing as good as say Steamfont which remains the best questing zone in EoF.

Not much else to say, this actually is the only thumbs down EoF zone of mine, which is too bad that they chose it for the high level one that people will generally have to sit and play quite alot in.

Can CoH be saved?

Every now and then I get a hankering to play City of Heroes again, lately I’ve been getting into this urge again and have reactivated my account just a short time ago. COH (I realize some call it CoX since Villains but come on, you can’t do this to an established name) is actually in one of the more interesting positions in the MMO market. At launch it was met with rave reviews. It was fun, it was bug free, it used new concepts that were just starting to take forth, and it innovated. What could go wrong with such a stunning game?

However, it was quickly realized that the game had flaws, and many of them. It wasn’t hard at all to rapidly advance to the level of 50 (later to 60), and once you got there, there was little to do. This was largely due to the lack of loot, PvP, and raiding (which is tied to loot), all of which are the mainstays of the genre once you level. In fact it turns out that the ease of leveling isn’t even a problem as WoW has proved. In fact making alts proved even more fun in COH and people often did it just to make a new costume even when they weren’t at the cap. Their skill system was so successful that people would also try out one of the many dozens of skill trees that they may not have tried previously. But the loot and raiding I think really hurt this game the most. And so did it’s reliance on instancing (something that made Anarchy Online suffer as well).

The three or so years since the launch of CoH has continued to see advancement for the genre as a whole. Their badge system was revolutionary and was quickly copied in many respects by WoW, EQ2, and LotRO. Their PvP system is interesting, deep, and new. The base creation system is completely original, truly giving the depth of their character creation system to the building system. They’ve added new “classes,” skill trees, costumes, and zones, all for free.

Yet it isn’t without the bad too. They started out by raising the level cap within a few months, but haven’t done so since. They have been going for 3 years with only a single expansion, relegating themselves to AC’s old mantra of “free expansions” which would be impressive in AC’s day, but EQ2 has seen over 30 similar in depth features in 2 years where CoH took 3 years for 9 updates (granted each update for CoH tends to be more robust, but every single one of EQ2’s has something and many have a lot).

Still CoH at its core is a great game. They are actually positioned in a place where they could make some serious headway if they wanted to. But they’d have to do more than what they’ve done. The upcoming tradeskills is a start, and something they have been promising for well over a year. but it isn’t enough. They really need to launch a second expansion for both CoH and CoV. This expansion should raise the level cap to 70-75. It should introduce perhaps a new race not unlike their previous alienish creatures. It should add some new skill trees for both good and evil. It should provide more concrete questlines that are both epic and heroic. It should add real loot into the game. And for its fun hook, maybe they could have evil & good co-op zones and missions. That’d be fun. They just need to make the game more in depth, less repetitive, and more fun. I think these things could do it. (I also think they should do a server merger to make their current servers more lively. The split of their population between good and evil has not been kind to the cities.)

However, I have a feeling that cryptichas essentially given up on this particular game, if not franchise. I think they are more looking at Marvel Online to be what CoH never became. I bet we will see a continuation of what made CoH so fun (super hero feeling combat, great skill systems, great customization, badges, and probably the PvP system), but will learn from the mistakes of CoH. So I imagine that it will also have loot and raids, and real true quests that are actually fun to do. I also think that they are using this tradeskill system as a test bed for what they do next. I could totally see them having a tradeskill system that concentrates on fun stuff like new costume items, new base items, maybe new skill customizations, and new skill enhancements not unlike what we will see in Issue 9. But they will tweak it based on what they find out in Issue 9 as well as to suit a loot game.

So unfortunately our answer is that no, CoH can not be saved. But in essence despite what Cryptic says, I think that Marvel will be its sequal. It is too bad really because CoH has really been one of the better modern MMOs. It has still the best first 3 months in the industry, it’s too bad how repetitive it gets past that point because this game was stellar, and it was original, and I like original games too. Not only that I really think that Cryptic could save CoH, I think its position is that they can really make a grab at WoW players. The ease of leveling is similar, but this one is more in depth and more enjoyable than WoW overall. I think this is especially true because over the last year I’ve noticed that many WoW players have been trying out some of the newer MMOs because they are bored with WoW. There are more than 2 million WoW players looking to get out, but not finding a similar enough experience that is fast and fun, and CoH is likely that, but it is unfortunately devoid of an end game.

Weekly Response #9

This week’s response is to Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell, & Moore’s “Alone Together?” paper on social dynamics in MMOs using World of Warcraft. It was actually a fairly frustrating paper because these four seemed to have boughten a “Jump to Conclusions Pad” from the Office Space store. They kept on coming up with conclusions that were way off basis, and never made any attempt at reason why what they said was true. It was amazing, and I am sure my prof will make a bold claim that this paper is quite popular and make me cry in the process. The weird thing is that I don’t disagree with everything they say (though alot), however how they come up with their conclusions is just ridiculous and don’t really prove anything. It’s a waste of time to read.

Continue reading ‘Weekly Response #9’

Battlestar Gallactica Finale

Well a lot happened that I figured would, but it was still good. Spoiler alert if you care.

First, the obvious Starbuck. I knew they couldn’t go long without her return, I knew she’d be back before the end of the season. I knew this because they “killed” her off in mid-season. Now what is up with her, not entirely sure. I suspect she is a Cylon, however I hope to all gods that she is not. I have heard some theories that say perhaps the storm she flew into was a portal to jupiter or something and that is how she got to Earth, I don’t necessarily buy this cause it doesn’t explain how she survived the explosion (or more importantly how the raptor did). Still I hope somehow that this is it because I really can’t stomach the idea of her being a cylon.

Second… the other five models is starting to get worked, which I like certainly. (I still hope they bring the idea of the old starbuck being God, but that wouldn’t happen for a few seasons). I bet a lot of people will be taking this story for face value and be totally shocked by the results. The face value story is that the 4 who are hearing music are cylons. I however, don’t think this is true. You will note in the episode that there were two seperate oddities going on in the ship at the same time. The first was that the 4 were hearing music, and the second was that the 3 cylons (including Hera) and the president were feeling different and going to the cathedral. There was no overlap on these two issues, the president did not hear the music and the 4 did not see the cathedral.

This tells me that two different things were happening. The first is that the 4 are not cylons, but think they are which makes them a very very interesting story going forward. I don’t know how exactly this happened, but they all may have something in common. This thing is that it is possible that they have all had a relationship with a cylon in which maybe they got implanted with some device, perhaps a tracking device of some sort. The chief is the easy one here with boomer. The second easiest is Starbuck’s husband (if we assume starbuck is a cylon). The third is Ty who I always thought was married to a cylon (his wife appeared out of nowhere and then did everything possible to sabitoge whatever he was doing). And the President’s aid, maybe the president implanted her at some point.

Which brings me to the other experiences, which tell me that the president is a cylon as I had long suspected. To me this is where the proof seems concrete… she had the same experiences as the cylons did, who btw were not hearing music either. This to me is proof of who the cylons are. We will have two new cylons the president and starbuck. Starbuck did die, but was regenerated on Earth with the other 4 models who are now living on Earth. And returned to help Apollo find Earth. My guess for the other 3 models is Ty’s wife (of course), the lawyer who defended Baltar, and then they will leave the last one up for grabs for awhile.

Now I do have another theory and this theory would say that both the president and Ty’s wife are part of the 7 other cylons that we already know about. This theory notes that the president and the wife look awefully similar to Xena and the 7 models, except older. I noticed this awhile ago with the wife, but just realized it recently with the president as well. And this brings up a new question. If a particular model doesn’t get regenerated, does it age? I can’t recall this being asked, but it may have been answered. This would indicate that the particular models of the president would equal the xena character, 7=wife, and then the Quantom Leap guy likely has a younger version running around. (Yes I know that that cylon in particular regenerated old, but maybe they regenerate at their previous age when they died?) I think this theory is further out there, and not likely, but it would be an interesting twist and would leave open the 4 music hearers to be the other 5.

All we know for certain is that one of the other 5 is someone that the Xena characters knows well. This would indicate Ty, maybe Starbuck (from when she was captured on Caprica and tested on), and Baltar as the only 3 characters that she knows fairly well enough to have the reaction she did. I suppose you could also make a case that one of they cylons is actually one of the 5, and that the other 5 have been infiltrating the 7 for a long time.

New things I found.

My professor this week mentioned a new weird firefox app that uses your surfing to play an MMO-like game. It is called PMOG and you can find it at bud.com (who knows how they got that site name from budweiser or why not pmog.com but who cares). It is an interesting little app, you run around and do quests (which consists of surfing some websites someone put together) and you get experience. After so much xp, you get a level. However, it also keeps track of what kinds of sites you surf and then gives you a profile based on that (and you can choose traits for yourself too). So right now my number 1 category surfed is “web” and number 2 is “games.” You can also look at lists of who surfed the most in a particular category, you can talk to others online, make friends, it even shows you how many countries you have visitied. Very cool little idea. It is only in alpha and I’ve already seen a couple of new features to make it more friendly. I would like to see more things to do with it though, and also am concerned that it is just a clever way to get data to sell or that the quests will become full of spam and sporm (porn spam). But for now with only 100 people on at most, it is nice.

This tool led me to learn something out which is the whole point. It is something called microinvestments. The idea is to give small loans to people who have no assets and are otherwise unable to get loans because they are so poor that they are unbankable. These people then use the money to create themselves an income (usually by starting a business) and then pay the money back in a shorter period of time. The money is usually used in underdeveloped countries because even though you are loaning less, it means more in their economies.  I found a site that works with groups that do this to help fund them called kiva.org. Basically they take the people looking for these small loans, they post profiles on them, people who have some money to spare can put in a little towards that person’s loan and collectively a bunch of people can give someone less fortunate a business loan. I don’t make any money on it, this is a bit of a flaw as I’m sure the woman has to pay some sort of interest, but someone needs that interest money for operating expenses so I guess I don’t mind.

The idea is great though. It offers people an ability to help out the less fortunate without as large of an investment as charity. The person who gets the help gets self confidence, and aid into bettering their lives. It is just genious, I don’t know why it took so long. I put in $25 on my first loan, and I will use it to see if I should loan more. I could make it a monthly loan, kind of my tithe, and then just siphon the money back into other people as loans are paid back. It could work greatly and I am excited about the concept. I think it could even work here in the United States to help out the poor here get on their feet again.

Sims 2: Seasons

It has been a couple of weeks since I first got Seasons, and have had ample time to mess around with it and see what it has and how it is.

First of all, what I expected and what I got. With seasons the biggest feature I paid attention to was the bonuses and penalties of each season. I was extremely worried that this feature would make the game more burdensome to keep the meters up than it already was, and to some degree it has but not as bad as I had feared. To be honest, I haven’t really figured out what all the bonuses and penalties are for the seasons. I have noticed that when it snows out all my meters go in the tube, and it does seem harder to bring them up in the winter time. And the easy bonus seems to be Fall’s skill bonus, which makes a world of a difference in learning skills. But I have no idea what other bonuses and penalties are and have no idea how to figure them out. (there doesn’t seem to be any info on this on the website, in the game, or in the manual, nor is there any of this type of info on what juices and fresh food does).

The new items are fairly disappointing. I think the most disappointing item expansion to date for Sims 2, and that is including the pitiful Open For Business where most of the items were store shelves, or toys that you had to make to get. This one’s new items are limited pretty much to some new career items for the 6 new career tracks, some gardening essentials, a few fruit trees, pool slide, some new food cooking items and decorations, and some yard items. That really is pretty much it. If it weren’t that the few options available are to enhance the outdoor part of your house which is much needed in this game, the items in the game would be almost a total wash.

I haven’t really tried out the new career tracks, my sims so far have not wanted to go down them for their lifetime aspirations. I really would like to try them though, but honestly this isn’t important. This just adds more variety pretty much in what type of clothes you wear to work. That being said, it is still nice to not always be a slacker or doctor so the added variety is very welcome.

New activities are probably the other big thing about this expansion. You can give gifts which seems to do nothing but offer a boost to friendship at the cost of an item. And there are all sorts of outdoor activities like snow angels, snow men, snowball fights, water balloon fights, playing in leaves, fishing, and catching various bugs just to name a few. These are fun, though largely unneeded. This is pretty much just different types of what is already there (for instance game-wise there isn’t really much difference between playing hacky sack and a water balloon fight). I have noticed Ice Skating and rollerskating wants but I haven’t figured out how to do these things.

The seasons themselves are beautiful. You can tell that the majority of the budget went into the graphics here and that is really probably why the game feels shallow elsewhere. (Not to mention that I have noticed less items in the game ever since they’ve started adding the “stuff packs”). Another affect of the seasons is the new temperature gauge (more guages yay). Which is probably the main source of adding more burden to the game. If you get to cold, you could freeze to death (though this seems unlikely, you freeze and then wake up and go in the house you are usually fine with a cold), or overheat. Overheating seems to be the big problem. I have read the boards and things like jumping on your bed or running too long will cause you to overheat. I’ve heard people dieing in the game because they didn’t have a fire alarm near exercise equipment or the hot tob and when you overheat you start on fire. Another problem I’ve heard of is people almost losing their kids to social services because their kids were jumping on the bed so long they began overheating. I wish I could turn this (and penalties even if it means losing the bonuses really) and just have the nice effects and activities of the seasons. this would be great to me, but as of yet I haven’t figured out how to do this.

Overall I think the expansion was fair, not great, even very good, but not completely a waste. I love the new activities for yards, the new plants, the new pool tools (not to mention you can do things with the pool now besides jump in), and the new careers. I am indifferent about the seasons graphically, but hate their advantages and disadvantages, I am disappointed in the lack of items and clothing (it would have been nice to finally have some new swim suits and work out clothes!). So it had it’s ups and downs, overall I think it was a down expansion.

Weekly Response #8

I missed posting a couple of these weekly responses because some were overly complicated and difficult to understand if you weren’t in the class, some were extremely basic and pointless, and then last week we didn’t have one. So I am finally starting this again, this particular paper is a response to my teacher’s, Constance Steinkuehler, paper on apprenticeship in Virtual Worlds. It wasn’t actually that good of a paper, didn’t really say much of anything at all other than people teach each other about MMOs, but I didn’t concentrate on that in this response. Continue reading ‘Weekly Response #8’