Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Looking in on World of Warcraft

It's not a good time for MMOs. The PC gaming market, which has always been the core of the MMO world, has become the toy of Steam, and that's not likely to change terribly soon (unless Humble Bundle opens their own game service...), but MMOs are still out there. RIFT is just coming out of a period of re-tooling and will likely have a second expansion in not terribly long; EverQuest Next and Elder Scrolls Online have been announced to much fanfare; and, of course, WoW keeps chugging along.

World of Warcraft 2009-present
Source: WoW Insider
But WoW isn't what it used to be. Its subscriber numbers have gone from a peak of 12 million to less than 8 million in just 2.5 years. So, you would think that they'd be looking at what's changed and trying to move back toward the state that brought in those 12 million? Um... well, about that...

I stopped in to MMO Champion, today, a WoW news site that I used to frequent when I played. I saw, there, all of the same arguments that the Blizzard community managers and devs were having with the community back when I played. "Squishing" the itemization so that damage numbers don't overflow the database; response to claims that the game is being "dumbed down"; and the ever-popular cry of aging games, "why can't I just have vanilla back?"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Building your own Pinball FX 2 table

Pinball FX table
I've been thinking about this for a while, and I might actually do it. Pinball FX 2 is a great game from Zen that combines modern, hardware-based physics simulation with incredibly well designed tables (see my review of several tables, elsewhere on this blog). I also have friends who are into Raspberry Pi hardware hacking and others who enjoy collecting physical pinball tables, so that gave me some ideas...

What if you picked up a junk pinball table from eBay or Craigslist and then put a TV screen on top of it? A 50 inch TV that's fairly thin should fit well, but you should probably measure the specific table and get something that will fit correctly. The junk table should not cost more than a few hundred dollars, and you'd pay that much for any decent piece of furniture.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Administrivia: I've moved to Google Plus comments

This blog is now using Google Plus comments. Mostly, I'm doing this because Google Plus comments handle spam better than Blogger, so it makes sense for maintainers like me to switch.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pinball FX 2: Table DLC reviews

Star Wars Pinball logo
On my Google+ feed, I've previously reviewed Pinball FX 2 for Steam, but I've been playing quite a lot of it recently, and thought it was worth a line-by-line review of the DLC that I've purchased for it during the summer sale. Below, you'll find reviews of 4 out of the 10 available DLC packs which includes 11 tables. I'll review the others when I have time.

For those who are new to Pinball FX 2, here's the short version: Windows-only (Microsoft, so not likely to change on that point) Pinball simulation with some "fantasy" elements (that is, events during games which are physically impossible on a real table) where the first game is free to play and each subsequent table comes as part of a 3 or 4 pack for $10 or alone for $3 when not on sale.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Warlock: Master of the Arcane on sale

 Warlock: Master of the Arcane (along with it's DLC) is on sale in an Amazone Bundle this week. This is a really nice game that's kind of like a fantasy version of the classic Civilization series of strategy games.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Update on RIFT free-to-p(l)ay

Well, it's looking good for RIFT. They've had too raise the caps for number of active players and have started splitting servers! Great news for the community! Rift Junkies has the whole story...

I'm particularly pleased to see that they have not offered any of the best PvP or PvE gear for purchase on the ingame store. True pay-to-win is the  curse of MMOs, and I'm glad to see that Trion isn't falling for it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

RIFT: Free to Play first impressions

RIFT Free-to-Play launch page
I tried out RIFT on my far-too-old living-room entertainment center laptop last night in order to see how free-to-play was. I was kind of blown away, but there were negatives too, so let's get into it!

First off, in case you haven't followed it: RIFT, a popular second-tier MMO with a peak of an order of 1-2m users has gone free-to-play. I think that this is largely a result of their having lost user-base after the first rush of new users during their first expansion, Storm Legion... I'll cover why that was in another post. Free-to-play isn't the end of RIFT, though, if last night is any measure!

RIFT plays a lot like early WoW, before it got all of its sharp corners filed off. This is both good and bad. The game is far more dynamic than WoW, and presents the player with many more choices in terms of character development and play style. However, it also leaves casual players at the bottom of a deeper chasm of learning curve than the modern "just make it simple" MMO. As such, RIFT is much more of an MMO fan's MMO, and if you haven't played MMOs before, you might check out one of the simpler ones first (like Guild Wars or Star Wars... WoW is an option, but it's high-end grind is a bit too daunting in terms of time commitment for most new players right now).

Anyway, so RIFT is free-to-play; what does that mean? It means that you can log in (sort of... paying customers or "patrons" get priority if the server population is too high during peak hours), create a character, and do just about anything in the game, just like a paying customer. Paying customers get some bonuses like extra goodies, resurrection is a bit more convenient, etc.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rift: Mage guides and raid info

A guild I used to be an officer and mage class lead in just dissolved. I don't play Rift anymore, but I wanted to preserve all of the stuff that I spent so long writing up for them.... I don't really have time to make it all pretty, so below you'll find a quick dump of each of the forum postings. Feel free to search for anything you need using Ctrl-F in your browser.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buying video games in packs

The Humble Bundle changed everything. Sure, back in the day, you would see companies sell a "gold" pack of all of the previous versions of a game at a low price, but the idea of selling massive bundles of downloadable games was seen as a good way for a company to turn its product into a cheap commodity and slit its own throat...

Then along came this little idea: gather a bunch of indie games together and "sell" them for whatever people wanted to pay while giving incentive for those who were willing to pay a bit more. It didn't just take off. It made a large enough pile of cash that the big boys noticed. Today, every game company on the planet is scrambling to figure out how to be seen as a "bundle". In the end, it's probably a bit of a fad, but that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

World of Warcraft's next expansion: Exsanguination

No, Exsanguination is not the title of the next WoW expansion (that I know), but it is the trend. WoW players have been abandoning the game, and interestingly, they're not leaving for the WoW-killer MMO that we've all been predicting and waiting for. Instead, they seem to be going back to single- and multi-player games on services like Steam (which is mostly where I've ended up after a roughly year-long detour into Rift, which was great and all, but I lost my taste for the MMO grind) or its console equivalents.

But to look back at WoW, what could they do that would bring their players back and make the MMO interesting again? Well, sadly, I think it would take a roughly 180 degree turn from what the Mists of Pandaria expansion was. They would have to address the "grindy" nature of the expansion, but at the same time expand what's already interesting and fun.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Replayability is a word

I just read the (2010) blog from ben abraham (lowercase from his blog name "ben abraham dot net"), "`Replayability` is NOT a word, so stop using it idiot!" I feel the need to reply to this, because it's a concept that I've come across before, and I'm kind of tired of dictionary thumpers. I don't want you to get the wrong idea, however. I'm glad that he wrote this article. It shows that he's at least thinking about what the video gaming community is. That's a good thing. I just think he's wrong about his conclusions.