Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Old Books, New Titles

Sometimes we feel differently about things, after time has passed.  Sometimes… it’s pretty dang funny to look back at things we once loved, and to reassess.

Mary Sue Gets a Dragon, indeed.

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WAR is everywhere

My wife and I have been quite enjoying Warhammer: Age of Reckoning.  While it’s not a perfect game, it’s been quite engaging to us for several reasons which I’ll enumerate.

1) War really is everywhere in this game.  Every time you help complete a Public Quest, or run a scenario, or capture an RvR battlefield objective, you add to your side’s control of that area.  But more than that, your actions add Victory Points to your overall side in the overall war.  It truly makes me feel that my contribution, however miniscule overall in the grand scheme of our server at this point, still counts.  The war itself isn’t a scenario, isn’t a WoW Battleground, isn’t any localized tiny skirmish, but rather is all-encompassing.  Almost everything in the game relates to the war in one way or another.  Age of Conan disappointed us terribly with its lack of meaningful PvP.  I don’t just want points and ranks and PvP gear (although those things are nice, sure); I want my actions to have some meaning in a greater context; I want to help my side fight a complex and all-encompassing war.

2) The Tome of Knowledge is an explorer’s (in the Bartle sense) dream.  Anytime you kill something, go somewhere, or do something, it’s tracked in the Tome.  You can get titles, PvE abilities, and even gear from Tome unlocks – meaning you can spend countless hours seeking these things out, adding content and goals to your gameplay… or you can ignore the Tome entirely and just play.

3) Public Quests are a nifty idea.  Basically, a Public Quest is a prescripted event in three stages that’s tied to a location.  So e.g. you’re walking along and see a large ruined courtyard ahead with people running around fighting things… that’s often a PQ.  When you walk up to the location of the PQ, you’re automatically part of it, which is to say if you choose to participate your contribution will be counted.  The first stage of a PQ usually involves killing a lot of weak monsters.  The second stage often involves protecting some NPCs or killing a smaller number of tougher monsters.  The third stage almost always involves killing a boss monster of some sort.  Since the events are prescripted, there’s a sense of a story unfolding around you, kinda sorta like fighting a raid boss in that the event feels unique and different from normal gameplay.  Whether you’re doing damage, healing, or a combination of the two, your total contribution is calculated once the Public Quest is completed, and you’re assigned a ranking.  The higher your contribution ranks, the greater the bonus you get to roll for loot (which also happens automatically).  The loot from PQs is among the best in game, and moreover you gain influence by working on PQs.  Influence is tied to Chapters in the story of Warhammer… e.g. if you’re playing a Goblin Shaman then you’ll start in the Greenskins story, in the Prologue.  As you progress through the story, each Chapter offers more PQs, so you can pick and choose the ones you like the most, and (if it interests you) you can ‘max out’ your Influence in each story Chapter as you go.  Doing so gives you some nice, middle-of-the-road free equipment.  Not the best in game but not terrible either.  So Public Quests are scripted stories that encourage community interaction, that are generally popular as a source of gear.

4) Open Parties are another nifty idea in WAR.  By default, any party that’s created is Open, meaning anyone at all can join without asking.  You can of course make your parties private, but having Open Parties around means you can quite easily find other people to work with if you’re having trouble completing something, or just like being in groups.  Can you solo in WAR?  Surely.  Pretty much any character class can solo fine, completing quests and the first stage of Public Quests easily.  Completing the second and third stages of PQs is hard to impossible solo though, as is claiming Battlefield Objectives for most classes (unless you’re higher level than the NPCs and can take a serious beating that is).  Though soloing is possible, the game encourages you to work with others via Open Parties and Public Quests.

So, ok, that’s all pretty nice.  What don’t I like about WAR?  One thing tops my list, without question: the Authentication Server.  For the last several evenings, my wife and I have been repeatedly stymied while trying to log in to play… we get a message that tells us “The Authentican Server is temporarily un”.  Un-what?  Unwilling to help?  Unable to process your request?  Uninterested in your petty problems? Unimpressed with your growing frustration?

I gather the source of the issue is that too many people are trying to log in at once; that would seem a sensible explanation anyhow.  And as problems go, that’s a good one for a game to have, relatively speaking (hard to complain about too many people playing).  Still, it’s annoying to spend 15 minutes trying again and again and again and again and again to log in, only to be reminded that the Authentican Server is STILL temporarily un.

Another source of displeasure in game is the gold seller spam.  Though one can open the help menu and navigate to the customer support area and report the chat spam, it’s awkward and time-consuming.  I want to be able to right-click on the name in my chat window and report the spam, or at the very least put the person on ignore.  Opening the social menu, opening the ignore tab, and typing in the person’s name is often a serious hassle granted the phonetic abominations many gold sellers use as character names (e.g. “Agdefiobabtlerz”).  There’s a new addon that can help with the chat spam, which gives me hope, but I’m still disappointed by the built-in controls in this regard.

International Support

Things like this make me grind my teeth…

Say you’re playing WoW, and you want to transfer your characters from one server to another.  No problem, Blizzard allows you to do that for a $25 fee.  But wait… there’s a catch.  You can only pay this fee by using a credit card.  No big deal, you say?  Ah, but when you enter the credit card details, you have to also enter a valid US zip code.  Not a valid postal code that matches your address of residence, mind you, nor even one that matches your credit card’s mailing address… but a recognized U.S. 5-digit Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) code.

That’s a bit of a problem if you, say, live in Australia, and use a 4-digit postal code.