Archive for April, 2010

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Another Friday, Another SWTOR Update

April 30, 2010

Make that several updates. I have a feeling we’ll be getting more and more news about Star Wars: The Old Republic, at least from now until E3. My insides are already trembling with anticipation, wondering what Bioware could reveal there in June. Or maybe that’s just my stomach growling, was too busy working to eat lunch today.

This week’s biggest update, of course, is another tab revealed in the holonet record: Inhabitants! Looks like here’s where they’re going to feature the droids, creatures and humanoids of the game. I’m trying to reign in my excitement, however, as the way it looks now, the list of entries read more like a bestiary of critters, though it’s not stopping people from hoping that at least the Trandoshan will be a playable race.

Bossk says, make our race playable plz, kthxbai.

We also have updates to the Biographies page, with the additions of Darth Malgus (Empire), The Mandalore (Independent), and General Garza (Republic). For some reason, General Garza’s appearance and description remind me of President Allison Taylor from 24, especially with the shenanigans the latter is up to in the series right now.

Finally, Darth Malgus, or better known as the guy who led the devastating siege on the Jedi Temple during the sacking of Coruscant in the Deceived trailer,  is getting his very own novel detailing his Jedi-killing exploits. It’s not going on sale until December, but I know I’ll probably read it, as long as there’s a Kindle edition available.

By the way, have you ever wondered what those weird little symbols across some of the holonet records are? It’s Aurebesh, the writing system or alphabet used to represent the Basic language in the Star Wars universe. Ever the stickler for details, Bioware has included little messages on their pages written in Aurebesh, and fans on the forums have compiled all of them, translated, on a nifty little site called The Holonet Project. I’ve been checking it for a while now, and it’s a great resource for those who are interested in getting some extra hints (or humor) from the holonet entries.

For example, one of the lines in the Salky Hound entry reads: “Beware of dog.”

Oh, Bioware.

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Why So Hideous?

April 30, 2010

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do find it quite fugly…but then again, no one has ever described a manta ray as cute and cuddly either, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome! And that’s what this new Maelstrom Class fleet escort skin reminds me of — a giant manta ray, albeit with clipped fins, surfing through the dark depths of space.

The irony, of course, is that manta rays are actually quite harmless.

I was surprised to see it as a new addition to the C-Store today, considering it was supposed to be the Cruiser variant “Nomad” that was to be added. But apparently, the latter’s design hit a snag with the higher-ups at CBS and had to be delayed, so they pushed the Maelstrom (which had been approved) out instead. An unfortunate turn of events for those who were looking forward to the Nomad, but good for fleet escort captains like me who were itching to give their starships a new facelift. So I took what Cryptic points I had left, made the purchase, and went on to give the U.S.S. Taiga a new look.

It certainly is an intimidating looking ship, made even more daunting by the fact it’s now armed to the teeth with the new high-end weaponry I’ve equipped. I guess doing those daily missions paid off, but I still have a lot more Marks to farm before I can buy everything I need to get to where I want to be.

Other notable things contained in the Season One – Update One that went live yesterday include a Difficulty Slider as well as a death penalty in the form of an Injury System. More thoughts on those at a later date, when I get the chance to play around a little in-game.

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Grizzly Hills vs. British Columbia

April 29, 2010

This post was inspired by two recent articles on their respective owners’ blogs. First, there was Amuntoth’s reminiscences of exploration in beautiful zones, and then there was lonomonkey’s comparison of  Lord of the Rings Online’s Misty Mountains to the Canadian North.

Both these articles have made me think about how often I’ve paused in the middle of playing in a zone to appreciate how pretty my surroundings are (and this usually is also when I stop to take a gazillion screenshots). There have been some absolutely stunning vistas in the MMOs I’ve played, and I love taking a break from the fighting to take that all in. And while a lot of the online games we play tend to fall in the fantasy/sci-fi categories, the best zones to me are always the ones that are inspired by, or remind me, of real-life places.

When it comes to frigid mountainous zones, lonomonkey feels that LOTRO’s Misty Mountains comes closest to the real deal (I can’t wait to get there now!), as flashbacks of his time camping in the northern ranges start coming back to him. Well, I can see where he’s coming from. I had a similar experience the first time I stepped foot into Grizzly Hills in World of Warcraft, except I started getting flashbacks of my visits to the national park forests of British Columbia. In general, I love western Canada, especially in late springtime when you’ll still see a bit of snow left around the bases of the giant firs and pines, and when the snowmelt from the Rockies carry minerals into the creeks and rivers giving the water this unearthly aqua hue.

Being in Grizzly Hills, hearing that part in the music with the scratchy violins (I think) just brought me right back to a place like Yoho National Park, standing by the banks of the Kicking Horse River. I can just see it in my head now…except rabid smelly furbolgs aren’t leaping out from behind the trees threatening to eat me.

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No Hacking For You

April 29, 2010

My husband surprised me tonight, by presenting me with my own Blizzard Authenticator. He knows I’m not playing World of Warcraft right not, but he sees no reason why I shouldn’t protect my account anyway. He got himself one too, and I guess it couldn’t have come at a better time. Apparently, our guild bank was hacked “yet again”, through two members, a father and daughter, who probably shared the same computer and were hit by the same keylogger. *Smacks forehead* You’ve gotta be real careful these days.

Anyway, I’m fighting the urge to test it out right now, or to check in to see if I got a pet in the mail (I should be getting a Core Hound Pup, right?) Must…resist! Oh well, at least when Cataclysm comes, I WILL be prepared (wait, wrong expansion!)

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LOTRO — No Regrets

April 28, 2010

A sweet deal was offered on deals.woot the other day — the Lord of the Rings: Siege of Mirkwood Complete Digital Download with a free month of play for ten bucks! And so I did it, I went ahead and bought it. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, even though my Minstrel is still a puny lowbie and it won’t be a while ’til I even reach the content offered in Mines of Moria let alone Siege of Mirkwood. But as far as MMORPGs go, it’s moments like these that don’t make me regret my re-sub to LOTRO one tiny bit.

To be honest, I was a little worried before this. The only reason I started playing LOTRO was because I saw the retail box on sale at EB Games for $4.89 (and that’s in Canadian dollars too!) last winter. I mean, damn, I’ve seen people buy cups of coffee that are more expensive. And with a free month in the bag as well, I figured it couldn’t hurt. So I played until Star Trek Online came around to suck up all my gaming time, leading to the cancellation of my LOTRO sub which, because of the circumstances, was a relatively guilt-free decision.

My re-sub to the game recently, however, brings the number of my concurrent MMO subscriptions up to 3, which is something I’ve never done before. I know my limits, and juggling games is NOT my forte. But I’ve been lucking out so far on good deals for this game, and I was heartened by the fact Turbine is known to throw out free content to their players on a regular basis (and I’m hoping this won’t change too much under the new Warner Bros. ownership). In any case, I feel like this is the least I’ve ever paid for an MMORPG with this much quality content. I’m not beating myself up for feeling like I didn’t log in enough this week, or scrambling to try to get the most bang for my buck. As far as I’m concerned, I already have.

What a great game. I’m still making my way through the Bree-lands right now, and am on the epic quest to meet Tom Bombadil. I have a feeling I’m about to express an unpopular opinion here, but I absolutely hated Tom Bombadil in the books and I was glad they skipped him in the movies. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how merry you are, anyone prancing up to me speaking in nonsensical songs will receive nothing but a swift kick to the ‘nads. But props to Turbine for managing to make his in-game persona actually likable, at least from what I can remember on my first time through this area on my Elf Champion. Maybe it’s the awesome music you hear in his house that did it for me.

Oh, Tom Bombadil...you scare me.

Creepy jolly forest-folk notwithstanding, I’m having fun in LOTRO so far. If anything, this is the first game that has ever made me play with the idea of getting a lifetime subscription. Last week marked the game’s 3rd anniversary, so it has proven it can stand the test of time.

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Offline Leveling — Not So Terrible

April 28, 2010

Following the news of Age of Conan’s new offline leveling system, I logged into the game to check it out for myself. Sure enough, a new feature window has appeared in the lower left hand corner of my character selection screen. The deal is 4 levels right up front, to allocate to any of my characters over level 30, with the promise of an additional level being added to my available level pool every four days.

My first instinct was to think, “Wow, what utter nonsense. Aren’t games meant to be played?”

However, I’ve since changed my mind. Yes, games are meant to be played. But games are meant to be fun, too. And doing something like grinding from level 78 to 80 was most definitely NOT fun. Considering the amount of experience required to level up at such a late stage, I can’t help but think how an offline leveling system would have really benefited me then.

I gave my alt one level just to test things out. Then I accidentally clicked again and gave myself another level. Ugh.

This isn’t just for lazy people, folks, and I’m speaking as an AoC player with a level-capped toon. There are plenty of scenarios I can come up with where this system might come in handy. To recap my own personal experience, I ran out of solo quests when I hit level 78 and couldn’t find other people to do the groups quests with. There were also times where I finished up all the available quests in a zone, but found myself still slightly too low for the next one. In both these cases, I was subjected to the dreaded grind — through the daily villa instances, the Wanted! and Old Tarantia quests, or just good old fashioned mob-killing. Sure, I sucked it up and did it, but to be honest, I could have really done without that. And what about people playing casually who have no time to keep up with their friends who level at a much faster rate? No one likes being left behind, and having the option to add a level here and there will at least give those people a chance to minimize that ever-widening level gap.

And of course, there’s the matter of leveling alts. Maybe there was a zone you absolutely hated, and the thought of going through it again for the third or fourth time makes you sick to your stomach. Well, no need to hurl, now you have the choice to skip it all together.

The key word there is “choice”. You don’t have to take advantage of offline leveling if you don’t want to. It just gives players another option, and options are great.

Can it be abused? Sure, I’m willing to bet there will be those who will misuse this system. It’s going to help people get to max level and endgame more quickly, no doubt about it. But hopefully, those using offline leveling won’t be relying on it as their sole means of getting to level 80 (not to mention it would be completely idiotic, since gaining levels from 30-80 using this system alone will take you approximately 200 days, which begs the question — why don’t you just get off your ass and play? Trust me, you’ll achieve your goal much quicker this way.)

Perhaps they could have implemented this system another way, like only make it available for people who have at least one high or max-ed level character on their account (much like the conditions behind gaining my level 50 Bear Shaman, or a level 55 Death Knight in World of Warcraft when the class was first implemented.) Nevertheless, I don’t see offline leveling as a terrible thing that would destroy the game. And if a new player is going to give him or herself levels this way and skip over content just because they can…well, then I’ll just shake my head and ask why they’re playing the game in the first place.

This system is only meant to be a helpful tool, not a free passport to endgame. The journey through AoC is a phenomenal and breathtaking experience, and is definitely worthwhile — not to mention the expansion will also be bringing in a lot of new and exciting content. If you want to miss all that, then all I can really say is, “It’s your loss.”

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A Wonderful WoW Memory

April 27, 2010

Sure, it’s easy to dump on World of Warcraft these days. Whether it deserves it or not, the point is one doesn’t have to look very far to find yet another rage post about the sparkly pony, how WoW has become a stale and tedious affair, and other not-so-nice things in general. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see an article like this from Rivs, who recalls a list of his memorable moments from the game. It’s a nice reminder to all WoW players (former and present) that while the game has had its up and downs, no one can deny that it has given us all some rockin’ memories.

His post made me think about my own wonderful WoW memories, and let me tell you, I’ve accumulated many during the years playing from vanilla through to Wrath of the Lich King. If I had to choose just one to talk about, of course it would have to be meeting my husband. But if you want an actual memory related to game content itself, then I’ll have to say my best memory is this one particular fight with Magtheridon during the good old Burning Crusade days. It’s been a few years, but luckily I still had this screenshot someone else from the raid sent to me saved in my email:

Ironically, this particular incident is also an example of one of the biggest fails I’ve ever experienced with my old guild during my tenure with them as raid leader. What can I say? Mags is a complicated fight, someone  messing up during a crucial moment of the fight can cause everybody else to die. We’d done the fight before, but we also had a handful of newcomers in our raid that one particular night, a couple of younger members of our guild and a few people who have never even seen Magtheridon filling in for our usual members who couldn’t make it. We as raid leaders had to take what we could get if we wanted to get things moving.

Anyway, the attempt started off terribly. Even my usually reliable cube clickers were not doing what they were supposed to, and we lost a lot of people to Blast Novas. And of course, just because everything that could go wrong did go wrong, at 35% those trigger happy DPS who were still alive at that point caused another Blast Nova to coincide with his deadly roof shatter. There I was, tanking away at Mags on my feral druid thinking, Are you @#$%ing kidding me?, too flabbergasted to even chastise people in Vent. Somehow, through a miracle we managed to get him down to just a sliver of health…at which point we had lost all our cube clickers, and the gallant few who were still left finally fell.

Save for me and a stubborn little paladin, healing me with everything he had left to give.

So close! But there was still no way Mags was going to go down, especially with me swiping away at him with my paltry bear DPS while he was still pummeling at me, with hundred thousands of hit points still left in his health bar. “Just let me die, Eddie,” I told the pally, “there’s no way we can do this just the two of us. Good attempt, guys,” — *cough* *cough* — “we’ll get him next try.”

But that determined healadin adamantly told me no, and refused to stop showering me with Holy Light. I went with it, and God bless that pally and his “Leave-No-One-Behind” attitude that I’ve come to love in healers. Through a series of well-timed heals on his part and fortuitous dodges on mine, lo and behold, all of a sudden the fearsome Magtheridon just keeled over and died.

I wasn’t even paying attention to Mags’ health bar at that point, too focused on my own trying to stay alive, so I could not believe my eyes when that happened, and neither could anyone else in the raid. You can still see me and the pally in the above screenshot, taken just seconds after Mags fell, two lone survivors standing amidst the carnage as well as the comments of disbelief in chat.

And that was my wonderful WoW memory. One more big thanks to Rivs (and happy blog-day to him) for letting me relive that moment.

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