Shirts? We’ve got shirts!

I’m not sure if I mentioned it at the time or not, but courtesy of Tesh of Tish Tosh Tesh, there is a new shirt design in the Big Bear Butt store.

I might not have mentioned it, because I asked him for a design for me to wear for Christmas. Once he was so gracious to design it, I got it on Cafepress and bought a shirt. A shirt I am happily wearing at this very moment, in fact.

Here is the design he did, and a fine bloody piece of work it is, too. I think it perfectly captures that attitude that’s the heart of Bear tanking for me.

BearCompShirt2

Now, that’s pretty darn awesome for Bear tanks, and my Cafepress Store has other fun Bear tanking shirts… but what about Paladins? Or Warriors or Death Knights?

Well, never say I’m not a generous Bear.

I’d be happy to link to any other site that has fun tanking shirts for sale, to give you some more options. If you know of some, just let me know, I’ll add tlinks to them here.

At this time, the only other tanking specific shirts I know of are on the Maintankadin website store, some pretty nice Paladin tank shirts with cool sayings, too!

So here you go. If you have some sporty threads to show your love of tanking… then send those links in!

It’s all your fault!

So, based on your advice, we bought three Nintendo DS games a couple nights ago.

  • Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
  • Animal Crossing (Wild World)
  • Valyrie Profile (Covenant of the Plume)

Yes, this is Cassie’s toy… but the last game was for me, mostly. 

Add in the first game we bought, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (Ring of Fates), and we’ve pretty much got gaming styles we love covered.

We almost bought Puzzle Quest, but we got a buy “2 get 1 free” deal at one store, which brought the overall cost of the three games to under $20 a piece on the average, which ain’t bad for Animal Crossing or Professor Layton. I’m sure we’ll get Puzzle Quest at some point, though.

Amusingly enough, when we go out to look for games for mommy, Alex tends to make out like a bandit. We have yet to go in a game store without him finding something.

I think we’ve obtained a temporary respite from his new game cravings with our latest tactic.

We dug through our pile o’ jurassic era games© and found the perfect one to inflict upon a boy still learning to read; Simpson’s Road Rage for the PS2.

Simpsons Road Rage, for those that missed it at the time, was Crazy Taxi, but with Simpsons characters, vehicles and locations.

You put it on Sunday Driver mode, and it removes the Game Over time limit for finding and transporting passengers.

It leaves you with a car, a city, and things to run over at top speed. And you can still pick passengers up and run around town with them.

I didn’t know he could howl with laughter that loud. The game is definitely a smash hit.

Hur hur.

The mayhem… the destruction… the leaps off cliffs.

Yeah, he’s not getting a license until he moves out of the state.

Back on topic, Cassie has been playing a lot of Animal Crossing. I am immediately reminded of our obsession with the Gamecube Animal Crossing when she was pregnant with Alex, because she’s already got a fishing checklist printed out (and like 10 fish crossed off that she donated to the museum), she’s already moping because she missed the winter “roll snowballs to make a snowman” season since the game thinks yesterday was the first day of spring (clearly NOT in tune with the Weather Channel, ‘mmkay?) and she’s also made comments such as the following;

“I’m so angry. I donated a fish to the musum, and now I see according to the list I could have sold it for 2,500!”

This from the same person that, when I say I made a lot of gold in game, retorts, “You made a lot of money… that’s in a not real place. You made imaginary money. How about you make some real money?”

Ahem.

So, she’s happy with Animal Crossing.

Crystal Chronicles she’s played a bit and likes, but she found a guide on eBay that’s on it’s way media mail, so she’s kinda on hold playing it until the guide comes, and explains things like… how do I find those carrots in my inventory that I picked up?

Valkyrie Profile is more my kind of thing, but I doubt I’ll be playing until we go on a long trip and I’m not the one driving. Still, I’ve played enough to know I like the Final Fantasy Tactics style RPG elements, and I know I’ll like the combined offensive teamwork aspect of grouping up on an opponent.

That leaves us with… Professor Layton.

Cassie played it a bit, did the first 6 or 7 puzzles. She was surprised at the challenge of the puzzles, and was very impressed with the game design, awesome animation/story, very cool. The story sucks you right in.

From hearing her talking about the difficulty of the challenges, I just had to try it out, and thus create drama if I did better than she did. I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that she would hurt me.

She’s dead on about the difficulty. I expected puzzles that had a speed or accuracy component, like the Wii Wario game that we bought that has tons of minigames and senses motion… often frantic motion.

Instead, the puzzles are thought pieces, many of them based on classic puzzles of mathematics, observation, or logic. There are, at least so far, no timed puzzles. You can take as long as you want thinking about the rules, examining the graphics, and working your way through the puzzle until you decide upon your solution.

For a game that is supposed to have 150 puzzles, I was very impressed. Excellent game.

So far, operation DS Lite has been a success. Playing GBA games on it isn’t as fun, since you do get used to great graphics fast, but at least if Alex’s GBA goes down, he’s got a backup for Rescue Heroes. 🙂

Thank you all very much for your excellent suggestions!

The Fine Art of Bandaging

In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable parts of WoW is not just playing with close friends, but leveling with close friends.

The standard, of course, has been for folks to solo while leveling, and then look for friends to group with to do instances. Or, acknowledging the reality, look for friends with high level characters to run them through quickly to knock off some high-XP quests and get an item upgrade or two. The new low level LFD tool has made it even easier to solo the whole way through, either by ignoring questing and just staying in LFD or by mixing them up, and never even involve your friends at all.

Talking briefly with my buddy Melpo last night, about his level 51 Paladin, and he shared that in the last two weeks he’s used LFD to run as a tank in instances, and he complained that he never gets a chance to train skills or do quests, because there is no queue wait for him. He’s gone from the 30’s to 51 in those two weeks, in LFD groups.

I have to imagine he isn’t alone. I’m pretty sure Elystia is doing much the same thing, at least with her Horde side Mage. 🙂

The interesting thing is, playing with your close friend or significant other is awesome while leveling, especially if you both choose classes that complement each other.

The most traditional style groupings are those that include a tank and a DPS that can cast heals, you know, your Druids, Paladins, Shamans, Priests.

Having one person tanking and locking up a group of mobs, and the other person doing DPS, but able to cast a heal or two in a jiffy is ideal, right? Unending beatdown, no downtime.

The problem with that can be that maybe the other person doesn’t want to play a Druid, Paladin, Shaman or Priest. Classes that have healing spells are also classes that people love soloing with in the first place.

That’s where the magic of Bandaging comes into play.

It’s long been a joke, one person asks for a healer to join their group;

  • “Pit of Saron LFM, have tank, need healer and good to go.”
  • “I have bandages, I’ll go.”

In a two person leveling group, that actually can be true.

Take, for example, the Tank and Frost Mage combo. As this is my blog, we’ll of course make the Tank a Bear.

The Bear runs or charges forward, gathers up the mobs and Swipes them up. A Maul gets thrown.

Then the Frost Mage runs forward, Frost nova pins them all in place, and Blizzard begins raining down chilly destruction on the whole group.

Bigger the group of mobs, the better. Except… the Bear is taking a multiple beating.

Bear tanks, of course, can pop Rejuvenation and Regrowth on themselves just before charging in, but if you’re chain pulling groups, it can be annoying to build up Rage only to drop it again by popping out of forms to heal all the time.

And if the Bear’s health is dropping like a stone a little too fast, what is the Mage supposed to do?

One potential answer is Bandages. No, really.

Once you reach level 35, you can learn max First Aid skill to 300 right from the Azerothian trainer. You can learn how to make, and use, Bandages up to Heavy Runecloth.

But that’s not all. The only requirement for using Bandages is that you have the applicable First Aid skill level.

And on top of that, you can train your level 35+ character past 300, to a max of 375, by visiting Olissara the Kind, the First Aid trainer in Dalaran.

That’s right, you can learn how to make, and use, Bandages up to Frostweave directly from the trainer in Dalaran, even at level 35.

By way of comparison,

Why use Runecloth when Netherweave is so easy to come by, and let’s hold off on talking about Frostweave, since it’s potentially useful in crafting Cloth gear so it’s more valuable in general than Netherweave. Heck, if only for making 20 slot Frostweave Bags, Frostweave is too tasty to blow on Bandages all the time.

And that’s what we’re talking about. Using Bandages ALL the time.

The Heavy Netherweave Bandage clocks in at healing 3400 damage over 8 seconds.

As you well know, that ain’t “wait 8 seconds and get one big heal”, instead that’s 3400 healing spread out over time, and the more powerful the Bandage you use, the bigger the healing in a short time.

At level 35 to 40, the tank portion of your group will likely have, even with optimized tanking gear, less than 3400 total health.

If the tank has aggro on the groups, then you can run forward and Bandage the tank. Damage taken interrupts healing, on the person doing the healing, not the person getting the heals.

Your tank can be getting pounded on, and as long as they have aggro, you can channel the entire 8 seconds and heal them to full.

Even if you’ve got mobs in the group that pull off the tank and go after you, or who do AoE damage that will break you out of your Bandage channeling… if you just get a couple ticks of healing off on the tank, that’s one hell of a boost.

Using a Silk Bandage? Useful, but no big deal.

Using a Heavy Netherweave Bandage? Suddenly, you ARE a DPS/healer, at least for the sake of your two person group.

I wanted to bring this up, because I really do love the idea of having folks playing classes they might not solo themselves, from squishiness or from boredom. If I can help encourage just one couple to think, “Hey, why not try tank and Mage, or tank and Warlock” when they might not have given a squiddly a try, then my work here is done. 🙂

Help us join the Century of the Fruitbat!

Or at least the cutting edge of gaming… as of 5 years ago.

Last night, Cassie joined the ranks of the handheld gaming community by buying a refurbished Nintendo DS Lite.

We also have 1 game… Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, a game that looks pretty amazing. We both thought it was awesome on the Gamecube, so we’re looking forward to seeing the new one.

What we’d like to ask of all you wonderful hip cats (and Bears) is your expert advice on games to look for!

See, we know that it’s highly likely a lot of you, if not most of you, already bought a DS 5 years ago, and have tried out and played tons of games.

That being the case, YOU are the valued expert, and we.. well, we’d like to take advantage of you. 🙂

Wheras I am a player along the lines of Final Fantasy Tactics when it comes to handhelds, Cassie is more a button mashing gamer, and proud of it!

She has, self-admittedly, no love for turn based Final Fantasy console games, or card based combat. We’d both like to think she’d love the new Kingdom Hearts, but it looks like it went away from the original combat style of the first two console games by using card based combat… which she doesn’t care for.

She likes, well, the old Guantlet style combat, or Paper Mario and the Thousand year Door, characters you run around with and kick and punch or hammer and jump the bad guys.

Yes, technically Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door is turn based. Sometimes. Shh!

I suggested she try out Castlevania, and she said she had read reviews, and it sounds like one of those where you have multiple party members that you can’t control, so pfft.

A woman of discerning tastes is she.

I do know what she’s talking about, though. We both loved Spyro… until they changed the Spyro game so you had Spyro, plus like 5 other team members, each with different playstyles, and in order to progress you were forced to have to play different zones as all of them, including one that handled as a first person shooter.

As an aside, wtf is wrong with people that, when they have a winning highly popular playstyle design, they shoot themselves in the foot for a sequel and toss in a bunch of multiple characters with different handling styles done to death in other games, and force you to play those to progress? If I want to play an FPS, I ain’t thinking, “Oooh, I know. Spyro!” It’s the same in WoW, “Oooh, they’re bored, let’s add a new mechanic, dragon riding combat and make it a raid!” 

Anyway, I ask for your suggestions on Nintendo DS games that you played that you thought were just brilliant, for someone that loves platforming or RPG styled action oriented games, and preferredly ones that are fairly inexpensive to find used or on Amazon, because we are poor.

There is a reason it took us this long to get a DS, after all.

Have fun, and a wonderful day!

The Retaking of Ironforge

As far as Gnomeregan is concerned, I’m falling in line with the thought that a staged, phased reclamation a la Isle of Quel’danas is the most likely scenario.

Which, let’s face it, sounds pretty cool. 🙂

But I keep thinking of Ironforge.

Cataclysm is supposed to bring flight to old world Azeroth.

That means things are being changed to accomodate that, changes to zone edges and such, things that never had to be worried about before, because players could never actually reach there.

I remember one time, at band camp… no, wait, just kidding.

I remember one time, when the game was brand new, hopping up hills at the perimeter around the Hunting Lodge in Loch Modan, and I made it up and onto the top of the ridge on the northern edge… only to find that the terrain became a featureless wireframe of orange flatness.

I ran and ran for a long time, to the north as I recall, wondering where I would end up. After a while, I turned around and headed back to resume what I was doing; leveling my first ever character, Windshadow.

The urge to explore was strong, to see what was over the next rise, maps being rare and hard to find on the internet, and to be honest, I never imagined back then that the desire to explore would ever be frowned on by Blizzard.

It was a huge game world, and it never crossed my mind that I’d get in trouble for wanting to see more of it. Instead, I assumed that if I could get somewhere, I would be rewarded for my ingenuity with something neat. Finding the quest bear way up high in the mountains of Loch Modan NE of the flight master only reinforced that idea. 

It was shortly around this time, looking on the forums for the suggestions of others on places to explore, that I found the official forums ringing to claims of people being banned for finding ways to reach areas that were not meant to be reached… and sharing the techniques.

There but for the grace of WoW go I. That could easily have been me, in my innocence, posting about something neat I’d found and wanting to share it. If I hadn’t seen that others were being banned for doing that, I certainly would have posted my own experiences.

I remember it well, the main claim was that someone on the official forums was banned from the game specifically for figuring out how to reach the little dwarf airport/landing strip with the cool planes way up above the mountains over Ironforge, using a technique of climbing and gliding with the Engineering-crafted Parachute Cloak. I believe the statement from a Blue poster was along the lines of saying that the Airstrip, and other in-game places like that, were meant to be visual points of interest, and not actual locations to ever be visited.

Ah, the mystique of that little Dwarven landing strip. The hours I spent exploring the mountain chain from both Dun Morogh and Wetlands, trying to scout out the hidden path that assuredly must exist to allow me to visit that place. The drive to climb that mountain, to plant my flag, to be able to say, if only to myself, “Vini, vidi, vici” and take a screenshot.

It was the first little blow to my love affair with World of Warcraft, when I read the claims that players could and had been banned for exploring where Blizzard did not want them to go… when there was nothing I had ever heard of, no warning I had ever read to that time, that said “It’s okay to explore, as long as you only try to explore where we think it’s okay for you to explore… and we won’t tell you, you have to guess. But if it seems hard to get there, don’t try.”

Now this isn’t a bashing on Blizzard, although I’m sure it could be taken that way. For all I know, it was all total BS on the part of players, and nobody ever got banned or suspended for exploring, ever. It’s the official forums, you know what it’s like there. Tons of helpful people, hidden amongst the loud crazy idiots.

The point is, since the very first time I flew over the dwarven airstrip when taking the Griffon from Ironforge to Wetlands, I wanted to get up there, to visit that airstrip, to hop in the planes, to run around like a goofball and see if there was a super-secret quest giver there.

When I think about Cataclysm letting us fly in Eastern Kingdoms, I think immediately about visiting that airstrip.

But more than that, I want the airstrip to become a place where flying players can find new quests to perform. I want it to become that dwarven center of aerial adventure about which I’d long dreamed.

So carrying over from my previous post about the fall of Ironforge, I would be hoping to see something in Cataclysm that would indeed cause the Dwarves to flee, to abandon Ironforge, to take up as refugees in the capital of Gnomeregan… and let adventurers have a new raid, the Retaking of Ironforge, where you cannot enter via the massive front gate.

Oh no, not the front gate for you! The mighty climb to the gates of Ironforge would be shattered, the gates themselves sealed shut, and players would have to fly to that landing strip high up in the mountains, there to enter as a group and fight their way down into the mountain itself.

If you think about it, we’ve long seen signs that we’re supposed to believe there is far more to Ironforge than what we’ve already seen in the game. Towers jutting out from the side of mountains high in the sky, clearly meant to be reached from within.

Perhaps flame elementals, perhaps dragonkin, perhaps the deep down dark iron dwarves, striking a blow for revenge.

Perhaps all three… dark iron dwarves in league with the risen dragon forces to strike at Ironforge from within, aided by elementals erupting from the lava around the great forge, sundering the home of the dwarves. 

Of course, I don’t think it would really happen. I think it’d be super cool, but realistically, we’ve got far too many underground dwarf/dragonkin based raids in the game already for Blizzard to be spending design time making another one, no matter how cool the concept.

Blackrock Depths, Upper and Lower Blackrock Spire, Blackwing Lair… from a game raid design standpoint, I doubt they’ll add Ironforge to the mix.

Sigh.

I still think it would be really darn cool, though.

The Reclaiming of Gnomeregan!

Thanks to MMO Champion’s tireless efforts, we can now anticipate with pleasure one of the most wonderful events the Alliance can bear witness to;

The actual reclaiming of Gnomeregan!

And now, time for the obligatory disclaimer.

We don’t know, really know, what the listed achievements really mean when they mention the retaking of Gnomeregan. Not in the long term.

Blizzard’s writers and artists don’t rest on their laurels. They continuously strive for a deeper game, and they have also shown some annoyance in the past at our finding out things too far in advance, ‘ruining’ the key moments. They may have trickses up their sleeves.

What would we normally leap to conclude from such achievements? From the quests we of the Alliance have done in the past? From the very concept of time passing and the story moving forward a few years?

We would think, that here, at last, was the reclamation of Gnomeregan as the restored capital city of the Gnomes, a capital in the truest sense of the word going forward.

That, and that alone, would be awesome.

Heck with it, I’ll share a few moments with you in enjoyable contemplation of a Gnome capital.

.

..

Okay, you good?

Fine.

Let’s get to having fun with some completely baseless speculation.

First, with some of the digging that MMO Champion revealed, will we also see a Troll Capital City? Perhaps a new one, risen from the jungles? Or even Sunken Temple, risen from the marshes of Swamp of Sorrows? It’s bloody well massive enough to rival Undercity, isn’t it?

Swamp of Sorrows made into a major zone, and Sunken Temple revived into a Troll capital? That would be mighty cool.

Or maybe even a reclaimed Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman, purged and transformed?

One of my readers brought up an excellent point in an email that there is all sorts of hidden awesomeness in Gundrak, giant snake body and such, maybe something in there, expanded? The place often seems as though it was designed to be larger than we see, but there again, it’s in Northrend, and I’d certainly expect to see a capital in the old world… I only threw that one in because it’s fun.  idea of Old Kingdom being fully fleshed out into a massive freaking raid excites me too.

If Gnomes get a city expansion, would it not seem reasonable to speculate on a Troll one as well? I sure as heck think so.

Okay, now let’s go further. Is there anything that says that, in the upoming Cataclysm, any new city for Gnomes or Trolls would survive?

What if the Cataclysm destroyed Gnomer soon after we had finally reclaimed it, making it a bittersweet victory indeed. The cleansing and freeing of all of those Gnomes, only to have it lost again, this time for good?

Even better… who is to say that Cataclysm would see the survival of all existing capital cities?

What if, shortly after helping the Gnomes seize and reclaim Gnomer… Ironforge was destroyed from lava erupting from the great forge area within it’s heart?

What if it were the Dwarves that became the refugees, living on the kindness and charity of the Gnomes?

What if, with the rising of a Troll capital in Swamp of Sorrows, Undercity was crushed under the weight of Lordaeron itself? Or was invaded and destroyed once and for all by a massive invasion spearheaded by Varian Wrynn himself?

Ahhhh, the joys of wondering what the future may bring.

See, this is where the imagination can go, once you have been shown a hint that a writer is willing to be brave enough to take something known, and safe, and approved, something comfortable that everyone is familiar with, and change it, shake it up, break it down and see what new directions we can take it.

We can say to ourselves, “If they’re willing to really change things so much that Gnomeregan might be reclaimed, if they are truly so brave, then where else might the story take us? Truly, what else might bring wonder and excitement to the game?”

Thank you, MMO Champion, for your diligent efforts. Once again, you put a smile on this Bear’s face.

Alex the Bunnyslayer!

Last night, as my interest in Allods Online began to wane in the Imperial starter area, Alex sat down to watch me manuever my Orc around, killing Sewer Rats.

“I bet I can do that.”

Hmmm.

Thoughts of operating a gold farming mob grinding child labor sweatshop momentarily danced through my head.

“Alex, you’re still too young to begin playing an MMO. I know you want to play what mommy and I do, but you still need to improve your reading skills first. You’ll get better, sweetie.”

“But it doesn’t LOOK hard.”

“Yes dear, but see, I’m left-clicking, right-clicking, moving the mouse, using the keyboard all at the same time just to move. And then using these other hotkeys to… “

“You know what, get over here and sit on my knee. Go for it.”

“Okay!”

An hours’ impromptu course on the finer points of character movement in Allods Online follows, along with many Sewer Rats killed. Amongst the sheer craziness that is day three of an open Beta, where everyone and their brother and kid sister wants to log in and reserve “their” name, even if they never intend to play the game themselves, just so nobody else can take “their” name.

MMO people are freaking nuts, you do know that, don’t you?

Finally, it’s time for Alex to have storytime before teeth brushing and off to bed.

“Awww!”

“Tell you what, buddy, tomorrow night we’ll get on the other game, and you can make a character and run around there and have fun.”

Fast forward to tonight, at dinner, over cheese pizza.

“Can I be done?”

“You only had one piece of pizza and a breadstick, sucka. Eat up.”

“But I’m just so excited!”

“Okay… why?” (dreading the answer)

“Because I’m going to play the game!”

Uh oh… mind reading parent powers activate… “Alex, you’re still not old enough to play the game on your own. We’re going to create a character for you together, and you are going to play while I help, but this is NOT the sign that you are finally old enough to play , you DO understand that, don’t you?”

“‘kay.”

So we go downstairs, I fire up WoW, I pick a non-PvP server (first test of the dark side successfully passed), and  begin to show him races.

“I want to be a gnome!”

“Okay, no problem… now how about these other choices?” (fast scroll through hair and colors and stuff)

He picks a Gnome with high spiky black hair, a goatee with nefarious moustachios, and a face with a huge shit eating grin.

We had him go Rogue for his first class, even though he wanted a Warrior with the big big sword. Somehow, I feel he is destined to be the gankER, not the gankEE.

Pop into Coldridge Valley, and it’s time to teach him the finer points of mouse movement, and auto attack, and Sinister Strike, and ranged pulls with thrown daggers.

In an amazingly short period of time, he’s hopping all over, exploring the heights of the mountains.I’m unconcerned, because they changed Coldridge and the other level 1-5 starter zones to be pure yellow… no aggroing mobs unless you attack them first.

I then teach him how to attack. I’ve cleared off everything from his bar except Throw and Sinister Strike.

He spies a cute litte bunny hopping by.

He targets the bunny, chases the bunny around for a while, camera viewpoint swerving around crazily, until finally, he gets the bunny. He kills the bunny.

Kills that cute little bunny dead.

He then targets another bunny. He runs past Troggs and Wolves in his single-minded pursuit of rabbit… it’s what’s for dinner.

I go up and tell on him. I ratted him out to Cassie, oh hell yes I did. She, of course, is horrified by the slaughter of bunnies. Alex comes upstairs and promises not to kill anymore bunnies.

So, I help guide him through killing Wolves and Troggs, and then I show him how to get a quest, and how Questhelper puts up tracking info that changes so he can see how many more of something he still needs.

Then I leave him to decimate the Wolf population while I go feed the cats.

I come back, guide him to turn that in, get the Trogg quest, and help guide him towards Troggs.

He dings 3 and is halfway towards 4, it’s getting late, and I tell him that once he hits 4, he’s done for the night.

In the finest traditions of 6 year olds everywhere (almost 7!) he begins sandbagging it, slowing down, stops killing things, begins wandering.

Wasn’t it Bill Cosby who joked about loving small children because they’re so truthful? No deception or cunning in them? ROFLMAO!

I invoked parental clause #24… Call his bluff and raise him.

“If you’re not going to play, you can be done now.”

“Okay, I’ll play for real.”

I guided him to complete mail delivery, and then helped him take and understand the “Kill da Boars” quest, knowing that would be enough to ding 4.

AlexbunnyAs he went about hunting down and killing Boars, and using Stealth to sneak up on them a LOT (Boars are yellow in Coldridge, like everything else, BTW), he was very chatty.

I finally just grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil, and began to take that shit down. This would be the conversation from that point, verbatim.

“I’m never gonna kill a bunny again.”

“I might kill a rabbit on the way to kill a boar.”

“A rabbit or two.”

“Killing rabbits is fun.”

On noticing he is going to ding 4 soon on the XP bar, and reach GAME OVER time… “After I do this quest, can I kill a couple bunnies?”

“I want to make up my own quest.”

“And that quest is… [ominous voice] Killing Wabbits!”

“Congratulations on dinging 4, dear.”

“Thank you – Oh, and there’s a bunny!”

“How do I make my swords show?”

“Z”

“Okay.”

[clicks Z] “Dangerous Mode!”

“I killed a bunny!”

“Awwww……”

“Sorry… I won’t kill anymore bunnies…”

Yes, that’s right… my son, the Bunnyslayer.

My God, what I wouldn’t give to hear the conversation my son has with his friends recapping this, with his teacher spying and judging… I mean innocently overhearing.

Betrayal of those you love

Hi, and welcome to a fun story about cheating on your loved one.

And I want you to know… I’m not ashamed. Not in the slightest. I’d do it again.

In fact, even now, I’m PLANNING on doing it!

For the longest time, I’ve been in a dedicated, serious relationship.

Years. YEARS of my life dedicated to my one and only.

Oh, sure, I’ve flirted before. But I never felt that same passion, y’know?

But, well… I’m cheating now. And I find that I like it.

I mean, of course, that WoW is no longer the only MMO in my life.

I started playing Allods Online last night.

….

I’ll let that sink in. I know, a lot of you are probably in shock, very nearly in tears at the idea that I could do such a thing to WoW, after all that we’ve meant to each other.

Hmmm…. okay, I think I’ve played around with silly euphemisms enough. You don’t come here for my playful messing with descriptions, you come here for…

You know, I don’t really know WHY you come here.

Maybe I should insert a song about hedgehogs.

Nah. Too derivative.

Back to the point, Cassie and I look around, check out the MMOs out there, read about ’em on websites, but never really play ’em.

Heck, I don’t even HAVE any other games on my computer except Warcraft III, because when I bought my new computer late last year, I only installed what I played; WoW and WC3, and haven’t had any others to spend time with.

Shoot, I don’t even play Guitar Hero much anymore, except when Cassie asks me what the heck we spent all that damn money on it for.

Then I play a couple “guilt songs”.

Guilt songs.

You know, the “See, I’m playing it dear, don’t veto future game purchases based on my past history of not playing the games you already bought for me” songs.

Me and WoW. We be tight, mon. Peace. (Had somebody say that to me today. “Peace out”. Sadly he was over 50, and he was serious. He wasn’t being funny. It is to weep.)

Sure, we created characters to try Free Realms, because, hey, it’s free. Let’s check it out.

Meh.

Then we made characters and tried out Earth Eternal. Free again.

Meh.

Both of them are damn cute, and a lot of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think very, very highly of Earth Eternal, and Free Realms had fantastic ideas.

But… they didn’t combine the graphics, allure of the mature character class and race and faction dynamics, and the “easy to learn, lifetime to master” intricacy of mechanics that WoW offered.

To reference one of BRK’s favorite shows, Chopped, it’s easy to make a great tasting dessert for most diners out of chocolate, cream, sugar and strawberries.

It’s the complexity of adding unusual or complex ingredients that complement the dish in fascinating, unexpected or unique ways that excited the jaded palatte. Like cayenne pepper in your chocolate sauce or Miso paste in your cookie dough. (And seriously. Miso sugar cookie dough? What are you people smoking?)

After the feast that is WoW, us connoiseurs of the MMO crave something more than an apple pie a la mode.

Nothing wrong with apple pie a la mode. It’s quite satisfying, and I’m at heart not that picky. I love me some apple pie a la mode.

But I do have that jaded palatte. I’m used to that upper level of MMO. The intricate, the mature. I crave complexity, depth, challenges. There has to be a hint of mystery. Adventure. Something new and unexpected waiting around the next corner. 

Wait, I am still talking about MMOs, right? Relationships, food… I did have lunch today, right?

Get to the damn point!

Cassie had been reading about Allods Online, following it on Massively, and recently Tesh has posted about it a few times, and it went into open Beta two days ago.

Cassie told me that, not only was it going into open Beta, but they had also announced that at the end of the Beta, they weren’t doing a server wipe. The characters you created now, and their names, would endure past live launch.

The game is free to play, and will be supported by an in-game store with microtransactions.

In reading on what’s out there on it, it seemed to have interesting graphics, a deep backstory, strange sounding classes mixed in with the traditional, and a lot of stuff going on.

And it looked very, very advanced. Dare I say it? As promising of depth and complexity (and duration) as WoW.

What the heck, let’s try it!

I got the game downloaded and installed two nights ago, but work is… intense right now. We are in crisis control mode 24/7 these days, and I feel guilty only putting in 10 or 12 hour days most days. So, not much playtime.

But last night… ah, last night I gave it a shot.

It’s a fantasy setting, but very innovative, lots of cool ideas. 

What interested me right up front, was that there is a race called the Gibberlings.

The Gibberlings are a communal race. The description says there are almost always triplet Gibberlings, and they are rarely seen without their brothers and sisters with them. They are a very tight knit family.

This translates into your player character, if a Gibberling… as a group of three little furry kneebiters that somehow can be short, furry, with fanged teeth, and still seem awesome instead of like nauseating little Ewok clones.

You name each individual Gibberling in your cluster, and customize their appearance totally, different heights if you want, the whole nine yards. Only one of them is considered your “main” Gibberling, the front man so to speak, so when you send messages or chat, that’s the name others see.

I created a Gibberling, named all three, tweaked their appearances, and away we went. Character creation? Smooth.

I chose as a class the Scout, which translates into a combination Archer/Rogue. Ranged achery skills and special abilities mixed with stealth, poisons, and excellent fast speed melee combat capability.

I played through the intro, and it was a very, very well set up intro, an instanced area that allowed you to level to 4 while going through the tutorial, lots of different quest types right up front, good intro into how to play, lots of tension.

One thing that I noticed was, I had three Gibberlings.

The one up front carried a big mace… and one of the two following carried a crossbow.

Sure as hell, when I started ranged attacks, the Gibberling with the bow stepped forward and started shooting. When an enemy got into melee range, my mace wielder moved to the fore to beat him down.

There is a tanking class available to Gibberlings. It makes me wonder, when using shield block style actions, does the third Gibberling move to intercept the attacks?

Really, it was very cool.

Unfortunately… I didn’t really get into it, because it had a “commander” feel to playing the character. I wasn’t playing one character, I was manuevering a party from place to place. Yes, it effectively handled like one character, but visually it looked like you were issueing orders to your squad leader. It was cool, but that wasn’t what I wanted to get into right at that moment.

So I then went back, and made a human (Kenian) Scout. Same class, just a human styled race.

The class was a lot of fun. Really, a damn nice combat system with a fun combination of abilities.

What I noticed around me was that most folks seemed to be Elves. Mages and Priests seemed extremely popular combinations for most players once past the starter instance.

All in all, I played for about 2 hours before I had to hit the sack, but I do feel I got a good idea of the basic playstyle, the graphics, the movement. Enough to get a sense of it as a game.

End result, I think it’s a game well worth getting into.

I don’t see it as something that is definitely going to replace WoW… but it is very cool.

It has a lot of potential.

Tonight, I’ve got plans in WoW, but I’ll definitely be dabbling in Allods Online this weekend a little, doing my bit to help Beta test as well as getting involved.

Honestly, the game seems amazing. I am quite happy with helping Beta test, with feedback, in the hopes that I can help contribute in my teeny, small way in getting it onto a successful and smooth launch.

I’m sure you will inevitably see screenshots from me, get a little analysis on whatever class I choose to really get into, maybe even find a tank and start trying it out and give some guidance there.

I do know that what you won’t find is me switching to only talking about Allods Online, and gushing.

I’m a Bear, and shame on Allods… there ain’t no class that let’s me be a big old bear.

World of Warcraft… you had me at “Be a bear”.

I’m interested in seeing more of the game than level 5. I already know that when you level, you can get stat points you choose where you will allocate amongst your stats. You get Talent points, and can spend them on a system of character class improvement identical to WoW’s talent tree system.

But I’ve heard from Tesh that at some point you begin earning points that can be spent to improve your character a third way… using a sphere grid system similar to Final Fantasy X/XII.

I played Final Fantasy X, and the idea of having that kind of class customization, a path through a sphere grid to follow when upgrading, on top of the talent trees and stats, causes me to think that the complexity of how to balance your class towards the role you choose will be very deep indeed.

Time will tell!

Can another MMO compete with WoW’s community?

In the comments to my last post, Klinger made a comment that really resonated with what I’ve been looking at lately.

Klinger said;

I loved EQ2’s combat system. The Heroic Finisher or Chains or whatever it was called.

I also truly adored the tradeskill system. You REALLY had to pay attention and if you did, you could make a regular cloak into something awesome. Also the fact that you had fully crafted armor sets at each 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc. level break was really neat.

EQ2 did a LOT of things right.

The things that killed them, though, were the HEAVY system requirements and the severe lack of community. I don’t know if it’s a SOE thing, but it doesn’t seem like the info on quests, items, or walkthroughs are as easy to get with EQ2 as it is with wow.

Think about it – what if wow didn’t have wowhead, thottbot, alakhazam, or any of the numerous blogs or class guide forums. EQ2 may have some of that stuff now, but even 2 years after it’s release, it had NOTHING on wow in terms of community.

WE made wow successful. Blizzard made a great game, I agree, but the community keeps it going and makes us want to play it for the last 6 years.

I agree with so many of his points, I just had to make a post out of it. 🙂

When deciding on playing an MMO other than WoW, there is more to consider than the game itself. There is also the community.

When you buy the World of Warcraft, you get access to the game that Blizzard designed and implemented.

On top of that, you also have available the work of thousands of WoW players, enthusiasts and fans who have researched, analyzed and in some cases gushed over the years the game has been out.

Some of the things available are clearly there because smart folks said to themselves, “11 Million players that want to know where the damn quest item is… that’s a lot of potential pagehits.”

Others exist out of pure enthusiasm and fun.

Can you imagine playing WoW without any player-created addons of any kind whatsoever? No custom UI, no Omen, no Recount, no Map mods or coordinate displays.

Heck, think about that. No coordinates addon, and no place to research where a quest item could be found with the coordinates listed for you.

No WoWhead database kept carefully maintained, and no awesome players that go to WoWhead to share their experiences with quests or items or where they were lucky enough to find something or how they managed to take down something tricky.

No writers with their own websites, just chatting away about their experiences playing different classes, and sharing tips on how to get the most out of them… or at least sharing commonly made mistakes to keep you from doing the same.

No fan driven news sites to help you know what’s going on, what to expect, what to be on the lookout for.

If it wasn’t for MMO Champion and WoWhead and Hunter bloggers and the players of the game sharing their experiences on those sites, I never would have known about the Spirit Bear pet available to Hunters to tame in the 3.2 patch, where he could be found, or had an addon that constantly scanned the area for a Unique critter Spirit Bear so I knew if he popped up.

Value added service.

Something no company can plan on providing on their own. There is simply no way a company can devote the resources, the hours, the money to come up with all the amazing things that you, the readers, provide to the community yourself. The skills that you each have on your own, researching or programming or testing or being enthusiastic and positive and sharing that energy, that you each provide on websites and in forums and blogs throughout the world.

Perhaps the MMO developer of the future, to try and capture some of the success of WoW, will have to devote serious thought on making it easy for a community to form.

Something beyond “We can haz official forums”.

Perhaps something on their official website that has a page listing instructions and resources for making your own fan blog, like a “How to get started on Blogspot or WordPress.”

Or a plan to have Blue posters like Blizzard does that really are dedicated to answering intelligently asked questions and revealing plans and taking suggestions, whether they get seriously looked at or implemented or not.

Or a posted way to contact them if you are interested in creating your own mods, addons, or database program so as to get more info on database structure or programming rules.

The transparency of Blizzards’s addon functionality was one of the most amazing things ever during the first year, and the Macro section as well, just fantastic. And the players have taken it by storm.

There is something about being able to create your own custom experience that draws people in. Take a look at any collection of player UI screenshots, and tell me that all of those players could have had the same level of long term enjoyment if they were stuck with the default UI.

In fact, having addon creators in house, who had the responsibility to make addons that could customize the UI in various ways, provide options beyond the default… that’s not a bad idea either. Of course, if you write it, someone will demand customer support for it, but still.

Can you imagine the possibilities if there were an in-house addon development team that played the game during Beta, and when faced with different things that were annoying, could say, “I wish there were a tool for that… and if I wish it, someone else might too. Let’s write one for people to have, IF they want it.”

Part of the joy of the game is having the basics there to enjoy, but also having tons of custom made tools to add… IF you want to.

I know that if I were spending millions developing an MMO, and had all that invested in it’s success, I would be doing everything I could to get buy-in from the players, encourage them to WANT to make the game their own and feel involved in it’s success.

Seriously, Blizzard has changed the nature of gaming by giving players the tools up front to be able to create macros and addons, and the players themselves took the reins further.

Any game developer owes it to themselves to take that into account. It’s not enough to be a product developer, create your MMO, have a website with a forum, and then release the game and sit back, expecting the players to do everything else.

Like it or not, expectations have changed. There will inevitably be comparisons.

I don’t think anyone will expect the community to be there overnight… but people WILL expect an MMO developer to be in partnership with the players, sharing information to some extent and actively helping people get started. The last thing any player is going to expect from an MMO developer is to be aloof and distant, isolated from player concerns, and silent.

Almost makes me wonder what crazed lunatic would willingly WANT to embark on creating an MMO as a business model.