Quick MMORPG reviews!

So, armed with a fancy new PC, I set about to trying to find a good MMORPG to take advantage of it (because Guild Wars 2, Diablo 3, Torchlight 2, and Path of Exile are yet to be released [I am playing in the Path of Exile Beta, of course, but it gets boring after a while]) because WoW isn’t very graphics intense, and after leveling now 13 characters to level 80 (three of them to 85), it gets so damn repetitive. So a quick breakdown of what I’ve found so far:

Everquest II quick review: It sucks out loud, stay away from it.

And to elaborate on that just a touch… First off, the free to play your way thing is the biggest line of bullshit since you told your girlfriend you’d just stick in the tip and stop if she didn’t like it (or your boyfriend told you that if you’re a girl). You download an impressive 15 gigs of information, fire up the game, and find out that the your way in which you are free to play involves being limited to about 1/10th of the playable race/class combinations. If you want to play anything else it is $7.50 a pop (for each class. The races appear to come in three packs for $7.50 … but are exclusive of the class payment). So that was mildly irritating, but I figured what the hell, if the game was good enough maybe I wouldn’t mind spending a few extra bucks to unlock some additional race/class combos -it is free to play, after all.

Next up is the first impression when entering the game world: The graphics are terrible. I want to point out here that I played the original Everquest, starting very roughly in 2002. I remember the graphics being very chunky, but this was at the dawn of 3d games, so at the time it seemed pretty amazing. Now here we are a decade later, and the graphics haven’t improved much. Everything looks better for sure, but it just doesn’t seem like a decade worth of progression. This is especially true of the world itself; I can’t think of a single MMO I have played in the last 5 years that had worse environment detail and jutting polygons. I think the game engine was probably created in 2005 (first release) and they have just been adding expansions to it ever since. For all I know the game is so glorious that it looks like real life by the time you make it to whatever level max is, but I’ll certainly never know… Because…

Most of the reason I will never know is that I uninstalled the game within about twenty minutes of play. The major reason for this was the interface. Monitors haven’t really gotten that much larger over the last five years or so, but they have increased the resolution dramatically. As a result of that, I play games in 1920×1080, but on a monitor that is the same size as the one I was playing games at 1440×900 with just a couple of years ago -which is really only a couple of inches wider than the one I was playing games at 1024×768 a couple of years before that. This means that you need to be able to scale your UI or else the icons on the screen will be roughly the size of your mouse cursor. WoW has a feature right in there that will allow you to go in and scale the UI to any size you want to, thereby making it so you can see the game world in glorious 1920×1080, while the interface is still large enough to be seen by adult, human eyes. Everquest II does not have that option. Or, I should say, it has that option for the fonts in some of the dialogue boxes, and for some of the action bars, but not a broad and sweeping UI scale button that will do it all for you. Also, in order to get some of the text and buttons larger you actually have to download some add-ons, which is just not something you want to be doing within the first thirty seconds of gameplay. I mean seriously, the first thing a new player sees is the UI, it should be the most welcoming, most easily altered feature of the game, not something that requires you to learn how to program in order to fix. So I had to turn the resolution on this down to some 1024xsomething setting to be able to reasonably see the icons -which could have something to do with why the graphics seemed to suck so bad. But since that is entirely their fault, I am damn sure calling like I saw it.

The quests and combat in the game seemed pretty good actually, and if not for the shitty interface options and 1990’s graphics (when played at the ridiculously low resolution that allows for actually seeing your interface) I imagine the game could have been a lot of fun. Pity. But since there are so many MMORPG’s out there, I’m certainly not going to waste the time on this one when I can just download a different one.

Next up is Lord of the Rings Online. LotRO is one that used to be subscription based only, and I had fairly high expectations for it coming in. There are some things about this game that are really great -the Epic quest line being the biggest one that springs to mind- but there are also a lot of things that sour it.

This one is free to play only early on, then you simply have to pay to continue. I don’t mean that in a ‘it will be easier to progress with better stuff’ kind of way, I mean it in a very literal ‘once you reach a certain level, you no longer get experience from killing monsters and no quests will be available’ type of way. Shitty. I enjoyed it enough early on to go ahead and pay for a couple of the expansions (keep an eye on the store to catch these on sale and you can get them for a fairly reasonable price). I managed to keep entertained playing for a couple of months before eventually giving up completely.

While I haven’t read the books since High School, the Epic quest chain (that is what it is called in game, not my assessment of its relative size, scope, or coolness) seems to follow the story fairly well. That is absolutely necessary, as there isn’t really a lot else to tie this to the Lord of the Rings franchise, and without that it would just be another free MMO with relatively good graphics and relatively lackluster execution of pretty much everything. As with the previous game, I can’t comment on endgame content (assuming it exists) because it didn’t hold my interest long enough to get there. If I had to pin down a single element to cite as the reason I just gave up, it would actually be two elements (because, evidently, I suck at math), which would be these:

1) Travel. Much like vanilla WoW, they are making up for a lack of early game content by making everything as difficult as possible. Travel time is how they achieve that. If you want to go from one zone to the next you have to walk there (or ride if you’ve purchased a mount. There is a taxi service to some places as well, but it goes at the same speed). Professions can only be advanced while at a profession trainer -of which are there are many conveniently spread out across the fucking globe. You want to learn the next level of weapon crafting? Be prepared for thirty minutes (real time) of running to get to the trainer, learn them, and get back to what you were doing. So why not wait and just do it every ten character levels? Because your bags can hold roughly 5% of what they would need to be capable of holding in order to pull that off. And that is if you have paid for the bag upgrades (with real money). As near as I can tell, the professions never get any easier to level. And one thing I have learned from every MMO I have ever played is that you really must level them as you go or you will regret it later. And that leads nicely into the second biggest thing that sours me to the game:

2)There is no attempt to group things by zone. By that I mean quests -or any other reasonable means to level your character. Depending on which expansions you have purchased (and again, you must purchase expansions to level beyond 20 [I think]), you may have half a dozen quests that you can do in one zone, then another half a dozen that you can do in another zone -some fifteen minute ride away. Don’t get me wrong, you will have other quests in those zones, but they will either be 5 levels higher than what you can reasonably do, or they will require a group to complete unless you are ridiculously over-leveled, and thus worth no experience. Add to that that the Epic quest line will invariably either send you to a zone you’ve already completed, or one that you won’t be reasonably questing in for another several levels, and the overall effect is just maddening.

I really wanted to like LotRO, and I kind of do, but when you add the mindlessly boring travel in with the fact that you frequently have to buy another expansion to be able to fill in quests from level x-x, the thirty minutes round trips to learn a couple of points in you professions, and that’s not even mentioning the horribly executed auction house interface, I just couldn’t do it long term.

Next up is Runes of Magic. This is AFAIK the largest free MMORPG out there in terms of player base. This one, unfortunately, falls into the free to play: Pay to win category, and instantly loses points for that. You could theoretically make it to end game without paying for anything (slow as it may be due to travel without a mount) then you would be totally fucked. There are those who will argue that it is possible to get geared for endgame without ever spending a penny, but even they will say that it is impractical to do so -and that it would take thousands of hours of farming for currency to even attempt. Of course if your credit line is big enough, you can just pop right out of the gates leveling with speed and ease, be geared and ready for endgame in a couple of weeks.

The graphics in this one are really quite good (certainly the best I’ve seen in any F2P game), and the gameplay is very similar to WoW. The professions are slow to go -and I’m not just talking about leveling them here; it very literally seems to take 3x longer of channeling to farm a node than in WoW. The quests are much better than LotRO for staying around the same area though, so leveling can actually be done fairly quickly. If you shell out a bit of cash for a mount, this one will keep you entertained for a while. I’ve actually installed and played this one a couple of times. It will hold my interest for a few weeks before I invariably go back to WoW. The idea is that I was trying to find a F2P replacement for WoW, and this just isn’t it. An annual WoW subscription costs about $160 bucks (bought in six month increments), which unlocks all available content for as many as 50 characters. To get one character to endgame content in Runes of Magic would cost at least 33% more than that. And that is just the sticker price; you need to continue spending money to keep your gear and goodies current or else you’ll quickly fall behind. Hardly seems like a free alternative.

That said, when I invariably give up WoW again, this is probably the game I’ll go back to -unless something else grabs my attention.

Next up is Requiem: Memento Mori. I happened across this one while looking for something more vampire-y. This one was pretty fun to play just for being different than the MMOs I am used to… At least it seemed like it was. When you break it down, though, its really just the same 8 or so Archetypes from every other MMO ever. They aren’t afraid to throw around some gore in this one though (something that has been all but cleansed from WoW over the years) and that alone was enough to keep me playing for a while.

This game has a nightmare mode that they tout as unique- but it is really a direct ripoff from Everquest (who probably ripped it off from someone else). The basic gist being that a zone will have like level 12 cats in it in the daytime, but at night the same area will be populated with level 60 elite dragons. What a great selling point, eh? Not paying close enough attention to your clock while questing and you go from 6/10 dog tails collected to getting one-shot by the meanest dragon you’ve ever seen. Wouldn’t that be a fun thing to apply to some real life stuff? Say you’re shaving before you go to bed and don’t see the clock hit 9pm -BAM! your electric shaver just turned into a chainsaw and cut off half your face. Try it again tomorrow, sucka!

Overall the game wasn’t different enough to be unique, and it suffered from many of the same issues that seems to plague all of these F2P games. This one, though, offers the ultimate fuck you in that you rent mounts for 30 (or 1 or 10) days at a time. Way to hook us!

Seriously though. If you are looking to start the next big MMORPG, what you need to do is 1)make mounts free and achievable through normal questing. 2)make professions at low level easy to learn, easy to progress, and easy to research (in game) so you get a sense that you are choosing the right profession for the right class but won’t feel attached to it at level 30 if something else seems like a better idea. 3)make questing/leveling quick and easy by zone; no one enjoys having to spend 30 minutes of their two hours of game time riding across fifty zones to bang out the three quests you have available to their level. 4)make your pay items fall into a couple of very clearly defined categories like A)cosmetic only. This could be different spell animations, different skins for existing items, non combat pets, different mounts, dyes for armor, character look editing etc. B)time savers not game breakers. Consumables for quick travel from town to town, increased experience gain for a limited time, increased profession experience for a limited time, etc. C) Useless junk. A great example of this is something in WoW (though I can’t remember exactly what it was) that does an emote where the character will equip an electric guitar for a couple of seconds and play a few notes. It has no value whatsoever, but is just the type of thing that a F2P’er wouldn’t mind seeing since it makes no difference whatsoever to gameplay.

There were a couple of other games that I had intended to put in here, but this has already gone much longer than expected. I may add a couple more at some time later as time/my fuzzy memory permits. If you are a big fan of any of these games and think I have missed the mark, please do drop a comment to let me know why.

Path of Exile Screenshot

In my previous post, I described the mood of the game as ominous and foreboding, but the screenshot I offered up was of one of the spell animations (that I just happened to screenshot at exactly the right moment). I took a bunch of screenshots after that trying to find one that would be able to capture the “feel” of the game and represent it in one still image. That is absolutely impossible to do. This one comes pretty close though (again, click through for full resolution):

This is a shot taken in one of the many dungeons. There is a tremendous amount of detail in the environment, as you can see. What you can’t see is what this looks like in motion -when the water is rippling, the light is dancing, the music is playing, and the edges seem to transform into an impenetrable darkness. You don’t know what might be just a few steps away, only that this tiny bridge will be your only means of escape. It really does set a mood.

This will probably change after the thousandth time of leveling a character, but for the first time through, with really no information available online about what might be lurking just out of camera view, this game has my pulse racing like no game in a very long time.

Path of Exile Beta test day one

There are some pretty silly rules as part of beta participation, for example:

– Please do not reveal unannounced information or comment on how things in the Beta work. For example, you should not post about some skill that hasn’t been announced yet, or some unannounced looting system we are testing out.
– Please do not post balance values from the game or update public websites or wikis with this information. For example, if someone is gathering a list of item names in the Beta, you should not tell them new names. This information will change very frequently and we don’t want to confuse people.

But I wanted to throw up some information over here, so I will try to do so within the confines of the rules.

1) The game looks amazing. I am running it on a machine that I built for WoW WotLK release some time ago with an AMD AthlonII 250 at 3.0ghz, 8gigs of corsair DD3 ram, and a 1 Gig Radeon HD 5570 DDR3 PCIe video card. I am able to run PoE at my monitor’s max resolution (1680×1050) with the (still very few) graphic options set to max. Although I only set the anisotropic filtering to 4x (it goes as high as 16) because I can see no appreciable difference between 4 and 16. Frame rates go from 30 or so in a zone with others to 60 or so when I’m alone. During some spell animations it will spike as high as 200 (according to their meter). The spell animations are beautiful to watch; it’s not just a lightning bolt that comes out of a pointy stick, there is a full animation for each cast type that is clearly rendered in dozens of frames to give it a beautiful, fluid look. These animations can, of course, be sped up with some skills both passive and as affixes on items. Here is a screenshot of one of the spells in action (click through for full resolution):

2) The mood in this game takes me back to the original Diablo. The whole thing is very dark and gritty (and by that I mean the mood and the tone, not the gamma of the visuals), and from the start gives you a feeling that you are an unwanted stranger in Wraeclast, and there are precious few strongholds in which to seek shelter. The sound effects, special effects and lighting all contribute to the mood and the whole package is quite ominous and foreboding.

3) The systems in place in the game are all very intuitive. I don’t want to overstep my bounds and say something that gets me kicked out of the beta, so I’ll just say that what Chris says in the Diablo Podcast #30 about the handling of the flasks (eliminating the need to stockpile potions), the way the skills are handled, and the passive skills are all put together in a way that is very simple and intuitive, yet gives infinite possibilities for different builds. In fact the way the skills work it would be entirely possible to have two characters wearing exactly the same items -both benefiting greatly from the gear- without having even a single skill or passive in common.

4) The only complaint I have about the game so far is the camera angle, a sample of which can be seen in the above screeshot. It just leaves you wishing that you could scroll out to get a bit better perspective of what is going on around you. That is a petty complaint, to be sure, as I was used to the angle after about the first half hour of play, and in taking the time to think it through I think it would really take away from the ominous mood of the game if you were to be able to take stock of too much of the game world all at once. As it is if after you barely survive a battle you take a few steps in any direction you could quickly be overwhelmed -making you think through your actions a bit more carefully than the normal faceroll technique that will suffice as strategy in an ARPG.

5) The Beta discussion forum is buzzing. A lot of the people who are in the beta (myself included) are taking the time to give thoughtful, relevant feedback, and the guys at GGG are in the forums every day looking over our posts, offering advice, explanations, and asking for further feedback on everything from issues of balance, to issues of the handling of maps, quests, etc. It is clear from their daily responses that they are still trying to hone this game (which is already beautiful, and has very few mechanical issues) into something that can take the throne as THE must play ARPG. They are so quick to react, in fact, that a patch that will be released on Friday will already incorporate some of the items suggested since the beta started.

6) I felt an obligation to write something over here now that I have been playing around with it for a day, now I have done that. I got get back in there and play!

How far I have come in Java

I started fucking around with programming Java in probably 2000 or 2001. I had never taken a course, read a book, or otherwise seen or written any code since, well, ever. So I bought a book with the deceptive title Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days. Here it is at least a decade later, and I am still a long damn way from actually knowing the language. Despite that, I have made leaps and bounds in my programming knowledge along the way.

Old Lightz OutHere you see my first ever completed Java Program (click through for real size). I had made a few other applets along the way, but just silly little image cycling and displaying type stuff that took very little knowledge, and I don’t think any of those exist on any of my backup disks. This is the first playable game that I ever made (well, a screenshot of it). It was probably the happiest day of my life when this applet was the “featured applet of the week” on the Java Boutique shortly after I finished it. After that though, I pretty much gave up on the language entirely. Why? Well just look at that applet. It is very blocky and drab; it clearly looks like someone’s first applet. Not to mention that since I didn’t know anything about arrays, I had handled all of the blocks in the grid in a ridiculously complicated axa, axb, axc, … bxa, bxb, bxc …, type manner that made the code overwhelmingly long (over 1400 lines of code) and difficult to understand. Simply put, nothing in that applet taught me how to do anything because, while I did soldier through and make a working game, the way I handled every single thing was just flat wrong.

Shortly after the release of the Android, a friend’s suggestion that we should start programming games for the device (which runs on Java, but with a different enough library that it requires a completely different knowledge set to program), combined with a game idea that came to me for the game Cubits (click through to play Cubits on the GoGamesZone), got me excited enough to give programming another go. Unfortunately Cubits proved to be too difficult to play to become popular (though I still love the concept, and love playing the game). The game was successfully ported to the Android OS, and along the way the friend who ported it over helped me learn a great deal about the Java language. I then decided to go completely the other way with it, and created HyperSpheres” (click through to play HyperSpheres on the GoGamesZone). This game uses most of the methods from Cubits, but simplified the game play so much that it is way too easy to play, and as such it also doesn’t get much play. These games were both conceived entirely in my head, without doing any research into what puzzle games were the most popular, and without doing any of the requisite legwork, the absolute flop of both should have been expected.

Fruit MadnessSo for my next, and most ambitious project, I chose to go with the popular match three item type games to see if I could get a bit broader appeal. What I came up with is Fruit Madness (click through to play Fruit Madness on the GoGamesZone). Fruit Madness is just like all of the jewel matching games that are so popular. I went with fruit instead of jewels for two reasons: 1) so that it would stand out a little bit from the myriad Jewel matching games and 2) because in my head I had this super cool casino type theme that I wanted to implement. So when you clear a group of 3 blocks the fruit drops away, but if you clear 4 blocks one of those blocks will turn into a “Spin” block (the spin is a wild block that can be matched with any group of two blocks. It will then spin, slot-machine-style to the same fruit as the ones adjacent to it). But the real fun starts after that. If you match 5 or more fruits, one of the blocks will turn into a gold “Super Spin” block. This block has the ability to turn all of one type of fruits on the board into “Spin” blocks. The spin blocks can also be matched to each other in groups of three or more, in which case they will all spin until they come out in a matching group. The feel of the game really did come out like a big slot machine. Between the mechanics, the audio (some of which I was able to download, and some of which I created the midi files from scratch to match the theme I was going for), and the images (which started as images gleaned from the internet, that were then modified -heavily- to get them to look uniform to the game), not to mention the big, neon sign on the top of the board, I nailed pretty much exactly what I was going for with this one.

But here’s the problem. Still suffering from a lack of programming knowledge, the code for this game is a whopping 2000 lines. Many of the methods used in the game must be used in a sequential order that makes it impossible for me to go in and make edits to the way situations are handled. An example: the biggest difficulty in the game is how to handle when the spin blocks will spin automatically and when the user must initiate it. I had initially programmed the game so that the blocks would only spend if the user had initiated it (meaning actually moved the spin block during the current turn). What this did (and what I would have known had I done any testing whatsoever) was made it possible for someone to get about 80% of the board filled with spin blocks, after which the game could go on, quite literally, forever. In order to change this, I decided to go exactly the opposite way with the spin blocks: they would all spin if matched at any point during the game. This meant that if you made a clear that caused a spin block to drop into a matching position it would automatically spin. Long story short, the idea is that there will never be a time when there is a valid match on the board since they will automatically clear themselves. The way the code was written though, I had to add a bunch of methods to try to handle this, and it is far from perfect. The only way to remedy this will be to completely scrap the code and start over, something I am loathe to do with such a large code that functions almost as intended. But it was another lesson learned.

KERPOPThis brings me to Kerpop (click through to play Kerpop on the GoGamesZone). Taking what I had learned from all of the previous experience, Kerpop is the most mechanically sound game I have created to date. The mechanics are every bit as complex as any of the previous games, but are handled in a mere 1100 lines -that’s almost half the size of Fruit Madness-. In addition to being the most mechanically sound, it also has by far the best combination of graphics and audio of any of my games. The graphics in this case were created completely from scratch, while the audio was gleaned from some slide whistle samples I found at freesound.org. As near as I can tell, the mechanics in this game perform flawlessly; I have played hundreds of games without a mechanical error (some may note that if a group of balloons is in the process of raising and you clear another group it will make that first group restart their ascent. This is true, however since that is how the code is written it is not a mechanical glitch. This led to me rethinking the way I handle the animation timers though, and in a planned sequel to KerPop, every balloon will have it’s own timer to eliminate this).

I took a few steps back from programming over the last six weeks or so. I am still kicking ideas around in my head, still actively working on the sequel to KerPop, and have one other interesting concept that I am working with a friend to try to hammer some potential mechanical problems with before I go to programming it full scale. This short hiatus has given me a chance to clear my head of the code a bit, and is ultimately what led to me writing this today. I actually went and played each of these games today as a fan of puzzle games for the first time -every other time I had played them was as a programmer, and I didn’t take away from those sessions the same experience that a player would- and I was just blown away by just how far I had come as a programmer. They may still have a couple of little bugs here and there, but for someone who has never had any training in Java, audio engineering, or graphic arts, I am damn impressed with the results that I have thus far achieved. Now if only I could get more people to agree and play the damn games…

New Lightz Out To finish this post more or less where I started, I recently got another request for the source code for Lightz Out (click through to play Lightz Out on the GoGamesZone), and was so embarrassed by the code that I decided to rewrite it (I still get requests for the code once every couple of months. Usually from kids in college or trade schools taking courses in Java that want to see how to make a simple game work… the old code was not going to help them). I set about to re-writing the game without using any of the old code. In fact the only thing that made it into the new game was the audio (for nostalgia really, since this game is a direct rip off of Tiger Toys handheld game and I sampled the audio directly from that device.). Every method in the code was changed: the overly complicated board layout was changed to a simple boolean array; the hints were put into a separate method that makes their use more reliable; the graphics were updated to bring it into this century. The only reason I used the old code as a reference at all was to know the layouts of the fifty boards (again stolen from the handheld device), the exact hints that were given on the boards (also stolen from the game), and to know what the minimum and maximum moves were (also taken from the handheld game). Did all this modernizing increase the size of the code? Nope, exactly the opposite; the old code was 1434 lines, the new code is 399. Additionally the new code is handled quite well (I think) and is heavily commented so that when I do surrender the source code it will be helpful to those who are reading it.

Along the way I have learned how to handle arrays fairly well. I have learned how to use some simple graphic tricks to make mouse-over buttons that change colors. I have learned how to create fairly decent simple graphics. I have learned how to create a separate, system-based timer for every object on the board to move separately. I have learned how to store the entire game board all the way back to the very first move for the purpose of undoing them. And, probably most importantly, when I look at the finished projects like KerPop and Fruit Madness, I am filled with pride that I was able to handle all the elements, from code to finished graphics and audio, with nothing more than determination and a bit of technical advice from a friend (mostly in handling arrays and reciprocating check methods). And now that I have taken some time away and had the opportunity to see how fun the games are to play, I am getting excited about creating the ones that I have currently shelved. Who knows which one of these could become the next Angry Birds.

Diablo 3 controversy

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Diablo 3 for a very long time now, and am as excited as ever that there is news coming out fairly frequently, and that the beta is supposed to start sometime in the third quarter of 2011. But the last bit of news, coming from the reporters who played the closed beta, started a bunch of controversies.

The first controversy is about not supporting offline play. They were pretty clear that you can still play by yourself online, but that you can’t play the game if you aren’t online. This upset a couple of hundred people, it seems, but they are all very vocal about it. I wholly support the online only decision though, and here is why: In the days of Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo II:Lord of Destruction nearly every hack, cheat and dupe method was made possible by somehow getting offline characters into online games. Offering Diablo III as a server-based game instead of a client-based game makes it so that the actual files that run the game will never touch your computer. It is much more difficult to reverse engineer, and that means it will be much easier to control hacking, duping, and cheating. While it will still be possible for some talented programmers to recreate the server, it should be next to impossible to force any of this hacked data into Blizzard’s servers. And it is their game, so if they want to limit it that way, that’s their own choice. But I’m sure that the hacking, cheating, duping thing played a huge role in their decision.

The second controversy is about the removal of skill points. For anyone who played Diablo II, the way it goes is each level you get a skill point. You generally ignore those skill points until you get to level 30, then start dumping them into only your most powerful skills. Ultimately, you have a character that has 80 skill points dumped -20 a piece- into 3 powerful skills, with the other ones going one point a piece into pre-requisites to use the most powerful ones. Not everyone played that way, of course, but anyone who played much beyond level 80 in multiplayer pretty much had to do it that way or else you just couldn’t kill anything or survive. In the new system, you don’t have to dump 20 points into the skills, you just get the skills, then have to choose which ones you want to use. A simplified process that will take a lot of time out of looking up builds, looking up what skills work best in what situation, and lets you play the damn game already. I’m for it, but some hate it. It does take away from some of the personalization of the characters, but I’m all for getting to playing the game and not having to dick around choosing skills and then having to redistribute them all again later once I found out that I horribly fucked them up in the first place. Again, I am for the change.

By far the biggest controversy to come out of the closed beta though is not only an auction house, but also a real money auction house. The auction house was something that was being hotly debated prior to the announcement, but no one had ever really considered that not only would there be an auction house, but also one for real money. I think it is a great thing for the game, for a lot of reasons, listed here in no particular order (except the numbers to separate them -which in no way are by way of importance):

1) Blizzard will be charging a listing fee for items listed and taking a percentage of the sale price of all items that sell through the real money auction house (they did say there will be a couple of listing free items for each account each week, so you don’t have to pay to post your first couple of items). This means that, if successful, Blizzard should be able to generate enough revenue from the auction house that they won’t need to charge any fees to play -ever. This also means that they will have a vested interest in keeping patches coming to release new end-game content, thus adding new and better items to the economy, to keep the revenue coming in. That should mean way more time and attention spent to Diablo III after release than to Diablo II. Which would be great.

2) A real money auction house will stabilize the economy. Without having to go through the black market (illegal websites) to buy items, the prices will eventually stabilize. And with the listing fees and sales fees, it will be in people’s best interest to post only items that are worth real money, and to only post those items at fair (consistent with the current economy) prices. This means that if you choose to pay real money for items, you are going to be far less likely to get screwed. And also having it as a part of the game means that you won’t send money to some korean website and never know if you are going to actually get their item or not. Blizzard will be backing it, the sales will be instant (once the auction ends) and the items are yours.

3) I have thought a lot about this, and the way the economy should work is like this: Only the most valuable items will be selling for real money. Nothing in normal or nightmare will be worth real money, and really only the very best drops in hell will really be worth anything. This means that at least 2/3 of the items in the game will likely only be traded for gold. Because of that any of the dreaded “farmers” that everyone is worried about will be far more likely to sell any item that is not a guaranteed quick sale item for gold, then sell the gold for real money. It doesn’t make sound financial sense to post the items for real money and possibly not sell them for days -if ever- when they can quickly sell them for a little bit of gold, then sell the gold quickly. And the gold will sell quickly, because there will be 2/3 of the items in the game that will only be trading for gold. I would go so far as to theorize that, given the hatred from a lot of people about the idea of a real money auction house -and their staunch position that they will never use it-, it is probably more likely that anyone interested in making real money playing the auction house in Diablo III will be more likely to buy items from the real money auction house and sell it on the gold auction house. Why? Because a lot of people won’t use the real money auction house, be it because they are morally opposed to it, or because they aren’t old enough to have a credit card linked to their account, the gold auction house will have a much higher demand for the high-end items. So it is entirely possible that an item that is selling for (making up numbers) $10 on the real money auction house could be sold for $11 worth of gold on the currency auction house; much higher demand, much lower supply.

I’m sure that there will be people who try to buy all the mediocre legendary items for gold and then sell them for cash. That works great in theory. In practice, however, it is more than buying it for gold and listing it for real money: someone has to actually pay the real money or you just screwed yourself out of $X.XX worth of gold that you payed to buy the item in the first place. And as previously mentioned, since you pay a listing fee to post the items, if the item fails to sell enough times you could actually lose money overall on the transaction.

I could be dead wrong on this point, but I really think I have a good idea of how it is going to shake down, and I needed to vent it.

I apologize for the lack of relevant links, I just wanted to get this posted before the my burrito was done.


I was absolutely addicted to The Diablo Series until probably 2005 or so. This may not have been the first fantasy video game, nor was it the first multiplayer game, but it was certainly the first game to successfully combine very dark subject matter with a very urgent plot and what I believe to this day was probably some of the best mood-setting music ever put to use in a video game. The randomization of the maps, combined with a max character level of 99, a bunch of different classes, and infinite item stats made the game playable for well .. I got about 7 good years out of the series.

It wasn’t even a lack of replayability that killed Diablo II either, what it came down to was screen resolution. The first game had a max resolution of 640×480, the second one -only several years after release and the release of the expansion- finally maxed out at 800×600. That was pretty good for the year 2000, but by 2005 very few monitors were running resolution that small, and certainly no gamers were using them. That, at least in my mind, is what killed the game. It pushed me off to try Guild Wars at any rate, and it seems the majority of the Diablo II community also sought different games to fill the void.

Then, as all Diablo II players know, while we were eagerly awaiting the release of Diablo III, there was a highly publicized resignation party at Blizzard North that basically amounted to everyone who had ever worked on the Diablo franchise was gone. Some of them went on to form Flagship Studios, which I was counting on to carry the torch of the Diablo franchise, but the group fucked up in a big way in my opinion. How did they fuck up? Hellgate:London.

I want to be clear that I don’t think the game Hellgate:London was a fuckup, instead I think everything surrounding the games publicity and release absolutely doomed it to fail. I had been following the group at Flagship since they left Blizzard and I was eager to see what new titles they were going to put out. They were talented without a doubt, and I am sure that the entire Diablo community would have been eager to see what they released. The problem with Hellgate was that no one, not even the fansite community, was quite sure what to make of it. It looked like a futuristic, sci-fi, first person shooter, but was trying to incorporate the fantasy elements from a dungeons and dragons type world. Rather than bringing together fans of the FPS and fantasy it seemed to alienate them both. That is how I perceive it at any rate. But that wasn’t even the real problem. The real problem was that they rushed the game to release by Halloween 2007 despite the fact that the interface was clunky as hell and there were tons of bugs. And with, as near as I can tell, zero advertising. Why they rushed it to release at that point probably comes down to money; not having a product for a few years can scare off your investors, but unfortunately pushing out a shoddy product will scare off your clients.

Flagship had also been working on a game called Mythos at the time which never made it to release before the company folded. This is why I think Hellgate:London was such a bad idea. These guys were legends for the characters, bestiary and lore of the Diablo series, but rather than embrace that and play into it by trying to release a game that was similar to it, they tried to play away from it. Perhaps they just wanted to show that they weren’t a one-trick pony, but, as I’m sure they discovered, fantasy nerds are fiercely loyal to the genre.

I continued to check back on the Mythos website over the next couple of years as I toiled away playing World of Warcraft, always hoping to see it nearing release. Instead the site just started throwing a not found error a couple years back and I more or less gave up on it. Gave up until yesterday when I happened to type Mythos in my address bar and was taken to a site where a Mythos game is going to be release by Red Bana -a name I remember for infecting some of my old pc’s with malware. This, I was sure, wasn’t the work of the Flagship crew, so I started looking around to see what became of them. I finally found them at Runic Games, having just released a game called Torchlight, which I immediately downloaded.

This is the game they should have released in 2007. The game is much like the first Diablo, being set in a single town with a dungeon beneath that you must quest and fight to the bottom of. The gameplay is quite similar to Diablo, and the skill and attribute point system is also quite similar. There are three playable classes to the game currently, which as I’m sure you could guess are a strong man archetype, a nimble, ranged attack archetype, and a pure casting archetype. There are four different difficulty levels -though only three are really playable since the easiest could probably be completed by a developmentally challenged two year old. There is even a Hardcore setting (death is forever) although since the game is strictly played offline it hardly matters since you could just restore a saved game from before he died and he would live on. At any rate, this game has kept my attention for the past couple of days, and with a sticker price of only $19.95 and a download size of only 411mb (10 minutes on high speed) I suggest that you Go buy it if you haven’t done so already. There is also a two hour free trial if you aren’t sold by the following screenshots (click through to see them in much higher resolution):

Wow Screens

One of the things that I noticed while trudging through every page I have ever written was that I made a lot of posts about games. I suppose that makes sense, as I do spend way too much time playing them. What I found odd, though, was that while I have spent more time playing World of Warcraft than all the other games combined, I have posted less about it than any other game. I have 11 posts about Guild Wars but only 6 that even mention Warcraft. I mean seriously, I have 8 posts that mention Roller Coaster Tycoon FFS, and I barely played that game at all.

As previously mentioned, I have logged more than 2400 hours of play time in WoW on my Horde characters alone. Were I to add the time played on Alliance characters that number would nearly double.  That is way more time than I have ever devoted to a game. Even Diablo II, which I played the hell out of, couldn’t hold a candle to that number. Not that I am necessarily proud of that, just that I found it odd that with all the time I have spent playing it I didn’t post about it more often.

The game can immerse me so completely that often I will sit down to play for an hour and the next thing I know the day is gone. At least it used to be that way. They have been changing the gameplay so rapidly over the last couple of years that all the parts of the game that used to take up so much time (traveling at low levels, professions, leveling new characters) has been reduced drastically. Rather obviously they are trying to expand their fanbase to include the more casual gamer, but making it so easy has really taken a lot of the fun out of it. I have 6 level 80 characters at this point, and each new character I level goes exponentially faster than the previous ones. Part of that is just knowing the game mechanics and quests, but a lot of it is just the big nerf bat that Blizzard has been hitting the game with.

Prior to the release of Wrath of the Lich King I only had two characters at max level. Those two characters consumed hundreds of hours of my time as I leveled their professions and ran 10 and 25 man raids to try to get the very best gear in the game. Of course at that time the difference between the gear you could get in the raids and the gear you could acquire otherwise was enormous. If you were walking around on a Warrior with the mace that dropped in Serpentshrine Caverns, people would notice. I got whispered dozens of times by people just drooling over it. Now the gear that you get from the top end raids is only marginally better than the gear that you can get with badges acquired through running 5 man dungeons. Why waste all that time and frustration trying to get items that are barely better than the ones they are just giving away? It seems so pointless.

I’m sure I’m not done with the game at this point, but it does get tiresome doing the same thing over and over again. As I said, I have 6 Horde characters at level 80, with another at 65, one at 62, one at 30 and another at 14. Once I get them all to 80, I will have one of every class at 80, and then what? I don’t think I have it in me to run all the 25 man raids anymore, and even if I did I am never home at the hours when most people run them. So I just keep leveling my alts with no real plan for what is going to happen once I have them all to max.

This all brings me to why I decided to write this post in the first place. It had been a while since I came home from work -usually around 2am on Monday and Tuesday- and just played a character through the lower level zones. Perhaps since it had been so long, I was able to see the game with different eyes. The artwork in the game really is pretty amazing (at least it was for when it came out), and I absolutely love the world when it is very late at night, just before the moon disappears and the sun comes back out. I have taken many, many screenshots during this late night/early morning time, and currently they are set to cycle as my desktop background. Here I decided to share a few of my favorites (click on them for 1280×800, the resolution I currently play in. They stretch well to 1680×1050):

Even if I don’t enjoy playing as much as I used to, I still love the screenshots. I especially like the top left one (shot off the cost of Shadowprey Village in Desolace) and the bottom right one (shot overlooking Spirit Rise in Thunder Bluff).


My wife downloaded the Monopoly game for her iPod and we had it with us on our trip to California this year. I played the game a few times during the drive, mostly to keep me from staring out the front window. Even with sunglasses on, if I find myself looking out the window for extended periods on very bright days it gives me terrible headaches. The little monopoly game kept my focus inside the car, which seemed to have worked for keeping the headaches at bay.

I also have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms. My sleeping is sketchy in the best of conditions, I don’t really know why. In an average night I may have three stretches of uninterrupted sleep that range from 2-3 hours each, with each one requiring me to go back through the falling asleep process (which can take from 10 minutes to more than an hour). If I don’t have somewhere that I have to be in the morning, I usually just get up after the first increment of sleep and occupy myself until I feel tired again. If I try to go right back to sleep I often find myself just staring at the alarm clock for a couple hours before eventually drifting off, only to wake up feeling extremely tired in the morning. It is entirely possible for me to get only three hours of sleep -when I am feeling really tired- and wake up feeling better than having had 7 hours of that incremental sleep under normal conditions. When I am on vacation I try to only sleep when my body tells me to, which often leaves me awake till 3am or so. Or if I get to sleep early, I will most likely be waking up between 3 and 4am, with little chance of getting back to sleep for at least a few hours.

Of course my wife doesn’t suffer from any such sleeping problem. So when I wake up (of if I can’t fall asleep) I have to find things to do to occupy myself that won’t bother her. In the hotel this year I found myself on the laptop, but without internet access the first day I started making notes about Monopoly instead:

I played Monopoly against the computer three times during the trip, which just cements in my mind why you should never play these games with friends or family: emotion. Honestly, if you ever play the game with someone you know, it can only end one way: People shouting at each other, the game board flying, accusations of theft from the bank. That’s how it was in my family anyway. With the computer there isn’t any emotion. The computer is also more likely to make trades since it is looking at the potential value of the property to his future bankroll, while a human opponent seems to see only the potential value of the trade to their opponent’s bankroll.

I played two of the games on medium difficulty and one on hard. I would have played them all on hard had I known that there was a setting for difficulty. The only difference I could see between medium and hard was that the computer would actually mortgage properties to outbid me on anything that made it to auction on hard mode. Of course once I realized he would do that I used it to my advantage; mortgaging my own properties to drive the price up, but always stopping just short of what I thought he was really going to pay for it, then unmortgaging the properties before the next roll.

The game went the same way every time. The computer was using the same strategy that a lot of people use; He was putting all his eggs on Boardwalk and Park Place all three games. He didn’t land on them both, of course, so I was able to make a trade to him in all three games. While I don’t remember precisely the way the trades went down, I do know that in one game he traded me one of the yellow properties on top of the board, one of the purple on the left of the board, and the only railroad I didn’t own for Boardwalk. This gave me a Monopoly on yellow and purple, along with all the railroads. I also had both utilities and all the orange and red properties. He ended up having the 5 actual properties on the right side of the board (three greens and the 2 biggies) but I owned every space between the jail and the go to jail corners -and had a minumum of 2 houses on each property. I hit his green spaces a couple of times, but I made enough money off of him hitting my properties usually three times on the other half of the board that I was always able to stay on the offensive.

My monopoly game in a nutshell is this: Try to get all four railroads and avoid trading. At any given time every player has a minimum 8% chance of landing on a railroad -that doubles if they are on Batlic Avenue, States Avenue, Indiana Avenue, or the Community Chest space on the east of the board- with an overall chance of 9.75% to land on one (you can’t roll from the Go To Jail tile). If you have all 4 railroads, every player has a roughly 10% chance to owe you $200 every time they roll the dice. There are no other properties that give you that. If you own Boardwalk and Park Place, for instance, there is a 69% chance that the opponent won’t be in range to land on one with any roll of the dice. So if you own both the overall odds of them landing on one are about 4.26%, counting only rolls of course (it is closer to 7% for any 3 card set). This completely dismissing the fact that there are many “Advance token to ‘X'” cards that will skip you past that side of the board completely.

To look at actual values of rent, the $200 you get if you own all the railroads may not seem like a lot, but it really is. There is no other property on the board that commands that amount without building houses. Boardwalk is the only property that can fetch $200 with a single house, all the rest require more. Roughly half the spaces will get more than $200 with 2 houses, but that requires a pretty decent investment, while the railroads require no additions. Also having the extra space on every side of the board gives you one less chance to land on someone else’s property.

Whether you are playing a single opponent or multiple, consider only trades that will give you railroads early on. If someone is willing to trade you your third railroad in the second orbit, but this will give them a monopoly on a set, they probably don’t have enough money to build houses on the property you are trading them anyway. The rents that are being traded the first 4 or 5 times around the board are under 50 bucks, but if you can get those railroads you can be making 4x the base rent of Boardwalk while the others are trying to trade their way into those monopolies. Every time a player hits your railroads they lose their salary for that orbit. That can be devastating if it starts to happen before they have built houses or hotels, or especially if they haven’t completed any monopolies.

Always consider any trade that will give you that fourth railroad. It may not seem like a good idea to trade away Boardwalk for a railroad, but if it completes your set you should really consider it. Unless you are trading it to someone who already has a couple of monopolies, or a ridiculous amount of cash, you can usually do this safely. The more people there are playing, the easier the trade for that last railroad will be. If you have Marvin Gardens and someone else has the other two of the set but no monopolies, they will usually be happy to trade that last railroad to you so that they can start building some houses. This is a bit tougher if you are playing a single opponent, but if you can pull it off you are in a great position to win the game.

I guess I must have been pretty bored the night I sat down to write that out, but that is pretty much my game. The railroad strategy has always worked for me. Of course there are times when a trade has come back to bite me. Catch the wrong end of variance and hit Park Place with a hotel on it a couple orbits in a row and you can go from sitting pretty to bankrupt real quick. More often than not, though, you will be able to keep your opponents from building much if you control the railroads.

The world of OMFG get a life man!

World of Warcraft has become a time vampire of epic proportions for me. It seems that no matter how good I become at the characters, or how much gear I get to drop, there is always something else to do. Maybe it’s working on getting my reputation to exalted with some faction; maybe it’s getting my trade skills to maximum level; maybe it’s leveling my fishing skill… And when you find yourself fishing in a game, I’m pretty sure that is a warning sign (unless it is actually a fishing game, but that is probably a completely different warning sign all on its own).

I have been getting bored with the game of late. Having not played at all for a week while I was on vacation, I found that it was dreadfully boring when I tried to play it once we got back. I have run a couple of raids since we have been back, but the thought of day to day questing and reputation grinding just isn’t appealing anymore -at least not right now. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion added 10 levels and a lot of new dungeons, but the levels went fast, and the dungeons are old news by now.

The biggest contributing factor for my distaste for it at the moment is the bloated badge system that they have going right now. You use these badges to upgrade your gear, and prior to WotLK there was only one type of badge: the Badge of Justice. Just collect however many you need (items cost between 15 and 150 badges) and trade them in. Right now there are three separate types of badges: Emblems of Conquest, Valor, and Heroism. There are 3 separate vendors that sell items for each respective emblem, and each emblem can only be acquired by running very specific dungeons or raids. So if you run normal 5-man dungeons you can only get one type of emblem, that can only be traded for very specific items. If you want the better quality items, or something for a different item slot -a ring for example- you have to run 25-man raids. And of course the best items (newly released with the Ulduar patch) can only be acquired by doing 25-man Ulduar, which can only be done once per week. Blizzard seems to have realized how cumbersome and annoying the current system is and are scrapping it completely with the next patch, making all emblems from all dungeons and raids the same -which can then be traded in for other emblems if you need to fill other equipment slots. Once that happens I may start taking some more pulls at the giant slot machine that is WoW, but for now I just find it annoying.

This morning, just for fun, I logged on and took some screenshots of each of my characters to do a cast of characters here. So here we go.

This is my Priest. Since the WotLK update made dual-specs possible, I haven’t been referring to her as a Holy Priest, but that is my specialty. Which is a nice way of saying that I kind of suck at Shadow. I have never really played her as Shadow, not even for leveling, and do so now only when it is necessary in raids. She was my first Horde character, with a time played of 35 days, 1 hour and 10 minutes. She is probably the easiest for me to play. Of course as a healer you do get the majority of the blame for any deaths in the raid, regardless of how the death came about: Say a Tank accidentally pulls 3 groups and the party wipes, that is the healer’s fault. A Rogue forgets to stealth when he tries to sap a mob and pulls while you are drinking thus wiping the party, again, your fault. A Mob Mind Controls you for 15 seconds and no one in the party attacks that mob, so the group goes for 15 seconds without a heal and wipes… Yep, your fault. Even so, a good healer can be tough to find, so if you play the class well (hell, if you just don’t outright suck) you can easily find a group for pretty much anything you want. Prior to this recent step back from the game I had been playing her a lot again, after not paying her much attention since WotLK came out.

This is my Warrior (the name sounds like bullseye, so the mobs know who to attack). He is my second Horde character, with a time played of 26 days, 5 hours, 53 minutes. I haven’t bothered to dual-spec him, since I have only ever played him as protection, and have no intention of playing him otherwise. I created him when I was a member of a guild who just didn’t have enough tanks. I was able to get him to max level in about 7 days (time played, not calendar days) which was my fastest by far at the time. He was a main tank to be envied back before WorLK came out. I dispensed with the classic stamina is king mentality and instead built him on avoidance. Just before WotLK came out I had built him up to an impressive 60% avoidance (dodge/parry((through gear, socketing and enchantments))) so that only 40% of attacks even made it far enough to roll for damage. Though my health was low for the class, I didn’t get hit often, and as such most healers I played with loved me for not taxing their mana pools. Since WotLK, the Death Knight and Paladin have become kings of tanking, capable of more or less instantly getting threat on every target in a group. Because the Warrior still can’t do that (it takes several seconds to get them all) they have really been relegated to dps/offtank duty, and I just don’t play him that way. Aside from leveling him and getting him a base level of gear, he has been on a shelf since the expansion.

My Mage, time played: 17 days, 21 hours, 3 minutes. One of my first WoW characters was an ally Mage that I named Nukenheimer (I was going to name him Oppenheimer, but I didn’t think many people would know who that was), and he was a lot of fun to play. I made this Mage when I got tired of getting killed by Alliance on my Holy Priest and Prot Warrior. I did a lot of PvP on my Ally Mage and had gotten fairly good at it, so I kept this guy wherever my Warrior or Priest were leveling/questing to get some retaliation on people who would attack those relatively defenseless classes. Since the release of WotLK I have been in a guild that didn’t need me to play my healer or tank, so the Mage is the one that normally raids with them (the only one that makes it into groups for new content and progression). Unfortunately it isn’t the one that I really like to play. As I say, I loved to PvP with him, but I get tired of doing instances and raids. He does great damage, but it is so dependent on mana that I am often sitting in the back drinking while everyone else has already moved on to the next fight. There are so many silence and interrupt spells on the new raid bosses that I am often just standing around waiting for a dispel. Once dispelled, I often only get 2/3 of the way through the next cast before I am silenced again. Frustrating. A fun class to play for sure, but one needs a break from the mana-dependent dps and endless silencing from time to time.

My Death Knight, time played: 9 days, 20 hours, 48 minutes. Death Knights were the new class in the expansion, and when it was initially released they were comically overpowered. One could go into any dungeon or raid wearing only common items and do more damage than any other class in full epic gear. I had to get me some of that! I leveled this guy in a hurry too (easy to do since they start at level 55). I didn’t really have the intention of playing him when I created him, and that is how it has become. Several changes to the talent trees have taken him from comically overpowered to merely ridiculously overpowered. I take him out to collect herbs for potions and elixirs since the Allys tend to leave him alone, but I never really enjoyed playing him. To this day I couldn’t tell you the name of more than 2 of his skills since all you have to do is mash all the buttons to do great dps. He is fun to play in battlegrounds, but in the end it almost feels like cheating. I haven’t ever really raided with him and I probably never will.

(That’s right, Epic Fail) My Rogue, time played: 11 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes. I had an Ally Rogue, and I loved the class. When I got sick of the aforementioned problems with the Mage, I made a Horde Rogue. This one is a lot of fun to play because there are so many skills. You can’t just 1 button your way to good dps, nor can you just mash all the buttons. Good dps requires a good skill rotation and keeping a number of buffs active on yourself, while keeping debuffs active on mobs. Always deadly in PvP and against single mobs, the Rogue was given an updated AoE skill for multiple mobs in dungeons and raids. There is probably no class hated as much as the Rogue, mostly for their ability to kill players (or NPC’s) without the other guy being able to cast a single spell. The problem is that there are a lot of really, really bad players who have Rogues. I named him Ehpikfaal for the humor of it, but have come to realize that when you create a character that already has a bad reputation, giving him such a name will keep you out of most groups. So you see him on the right there doing what he does most of the time; sitting around town waiting to get into a group for a dungeon. Even so if I had to pick only 1 character to play going forward it would be the Rogue. Great dps and a lot of fun both PvP and raiding.

My Warlock, time played: 18 hours 39 minutes. It was in an episode of American Dad that I heard one of the kids call his relative “Uncle Bad Touch” and I liked it so much that I made a Warlock with that name (had to leave out 1 character because it was too long). Included here only because I like the name. I also have an Ally Warlock and I was never able to level either of them. This class bores me to tears. The play goes like this (at least for leveling): Your minion tanks the mobs, you cast a couple curses on them, then stand around and wait for them to die. You can’t really use and direct damage spells since they are so costly in mana, and they aren’t necessary anyway (at low level) since everything dies so quickly from your curses. I think I would really like this character at max level, once you are able to dispense with your minion and start doing some direct damage spells, but I simply get too bored trying to level him. Uncle Bad Touch has a macro that I run around town casting on people that reads something like this: “…Psst, hey (character name)…” “Would you like some candy?” “UncleBadTouch beckons (character name) to follow” “I have some in my panel van parked behind the Inn in Brill.” I laugh every time I use the macro, though the people I use it on rarely find it as funny as I do.

So this morning I was logging onto the characters to see how long I have spent playing the game and I made the foolish decision to total it up. Counting only the characters you see here (which ignores all Alliance players, of which I have 2 at level 70 and 5 others between level 40 and 70) I have 99 days, 8 hours into playing. Mind you that is actual game time, so we are talking about 2384 hours spent playing. Is that disturbing or what?

At any rate, I may find myself enjoying it again once they make the changes to the badge system, but for now I am getting really burned out on it. But after 2400 hours, can you blame me?

How I spend the better part of my life

I have always been a gamer. When Atari hit the shelves back in the early 80’s, or when it hit our television set to be more specific, I was absolutely hooked. I was intrigued especially by the game Adventure. The game wasn’t much to look at, and seems beyond horribly cheesy by today’s standards, but back in the day that was my first experience with honest-to-gosh action/adventure games. My fascination with Adventure would actually go on to influence my console purchases over the next decade or so.

I must have been about 14 or so when we got our first Nintendo. There were several games that came along with it (I believe we bought the system with games at a yard sale), one of which was The Legend of Zelda. I was an instant addict. Here was an adventure game that was far more expansive than my previous experience in the genre, and there were actual graphics and gameplay! Many times I stayed up overnight playing that game, forever trying to save the princess.

There were a couple of other games for the Nintendo that caught my fancy for a time back then. Faxanadu is the first one that leaps to mind. That stands out in memory as the only adventure type game that I was never able to complete. This may have been because I never actually owned the game, so my play was limited to the 24 hours I could get it from the video store back then.

I was 16 at this point, and had just started working. When I decided to buy a console of my own, Zelda and Faxanadu would influence my decision a great deal. In an odd twist however, they would actually lead me away from the Nintendo platform.

A teenage gamer is a pretty shallow creature, and I was of that group. My friends were based more on their machines and game selection than their character or even whether I actually liked them. The next generation of consoles was just hitting the market, the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were in competition for my paycheck and in due diligence, I made it my mission to play every title I could on both systems before making a purchase.

I chose the Sega. I made that choice for basically two reasons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun and Shadowrun. Warriors of the Eternal Sun carried on my love for the fantasy genre. It was the next similar to Zelda, but with better graphics, a better interface, all the things that influence my game purchases today. Shadowrun was completely different. This was my first experience with a more Sci-Fi type fantasy. I absolutely loved this game, but was never able to get involved in any other games from this genre (although I am still anxiously anticipating the release of Hellgate:London, just to see if the fire still burns).

When I moved to Arizona, I came without a console. The Playstation was released a couple of years after I got here, and I bought one of those as soon as I could. This would be my first experience with Final Fantasy, and it would last for many releases thereafter. There were many, many other similar games for the playstation platform. While I remember Suikoden and Vandal Hearts as being a couple other favorites, I also remember that they were just the ones I happened to grab out of dozens of similarly themed games.

When my wife and I got our first PC, I was still playing games on the playstation. As a result of that, she spent a lot of time playing games on the PC. She started playing a game called Diablo. While I played it in bits and pieces, I was never able to get as involved in it as she was -what with my neverending quest to save my girlfriend awaiting me on the playstation. However intrigued I may have been by the initial Diablo game, I was still a console gamer.

Sometime in the year 2000, my wife made mention that she would really like to get a new game for the PC. It was Diablo II. Being the loving husband, I bought the game for her. Our PC was so ancient at the time though that I often had to tweak a lot of settings to make games run, so I wanted to install it and make sure it was playable before she made it home from work that day. That was what I would really consider the precise moment that my gaming went from a pass time to an (unhealthy?) obsession. I just stepped out of the little village to make sure everything was loading correctly, make sure the machine wouldn’t freeze up, etc. Hours passed. It was with reluctance that I let her play it when she got home later that day.

I bought a laptop computer later that year, as well as another copy of Diablo II. That way we could both play it at the same time. When the Lord of Destruction expansion was released, we got two copies, on the day they were released. When we moved from our studio apartment to an actual house, we set up a room for the PC, but I mostly played on the laptop so that I could watch TV with her in the living room.

I continued playing Diablo II: Lord of Destruction well after she had given it up. And would probably still be playing it were it not for a chance click-through on an ad at the diabloii.net website. “E3 for everyone!” it said. A demo weekend of a new game called Guild Wars. We both enjoyed that game so much that by the time of its release, we had a second computer set up in the “office”. We would go on to get headsets to communicate with other people in the game and eventually buy multiple accounts..each..

The simplicity of Guild Wars would lead to it falling out of favor in our house. Character level max was only 20, so it was possible to take a character from creation to max level in a day (if helped) and with a limited amount of gear and skills, your character was no different than anyone else’s. With one patch they started offering titles for certain goals. Protector of Tyria, for instance, was available to those who had completed all missions and bonuses on the Tyrian continent. This was what we did to keep ourselves playing the game after having completed it on multiple characters.

Then Guild Wars made a huge mistake. They were going to implement difficulty levels. You would have to complete all the missions and bonuses on Hard to get a title. So we would have to go back and replay every mission to get the title. This pissed off the wife something fierce. In fact I think it was on that very day that she downloaded World of Warcraft.

With multiple characters, multiple professions, and 70 character levels, this one takes a while to get through. I don’t remember exactly when we started playing it, but we have been playing it ever since leaving Guild Wars. 1 person from our old guild made the switch with us, and it has been a lot of fun bringing up our new characters from lowly n00bs -especially so after having had all the elite gear that Guild Wars had to offer.

So that is where I have been all this time, and where I will likely be going as soon as I hit publish on this post. While I have made it to level 70 with one character, I have others at 53, 51, 46, 35 & 15 that I still need to play. Plus even the highest level one (a mage named Nukenheimer ((I wanted to name him Oppenheimer but didn’t think anyone would know who that was))) hasn’t maxed his professions yet.

And once I have completed all the goals I have in this game, I am sure that there will be another to take its place.