The height of fashion

WoWScrnShot_082018_191543I haven’t had much time today to put together a post, but I don’t want to break my Blaugust streak. Therefore, please accept this screenshot of my character. I have found what is perhaps the most “me” hat in the history of hats. It may even be better than my scholar’s top-hat from FFXIV. Now I need to run a bunch of dungeons to farm the rest of this set.

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Player Housing Wishlist

A few days ago Alunaria asked me in the comments what my ideal player housing in WoW would look like. I figured it would be more fun to answer with its own blog post, because I’m also curious how you folks would answer this question.

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There’s a lot of things I love about WildStar’s housing, and would definitely steal those for my perfect player housing.

  1. Full control over item placement. Great player housing must allow for player creativity. For me that means lots of cool housing decor, and the ability to move it, rotate it, and scale it in any way I want. “Hook” systems are frustrating. Let me place all my decor freely.
  2. Multiple ways to acquire decor. WildStar’s decor can be crafted, earned through repeatable activities, dropped from mobs, and gained through quests. Decor should drop in pretty much every type of player content so there are always new items to discover or chase.
  3. Some pre-built set pieces can be nice. WildStar gives you choices for when you didn’t feel like building your own buildings from scratch. Having some modular pieces like pre-built houses is great for people who want housing but don’t want to micro manage every inch of their space.
  4. A reason to go back there. Like WoW’s garrisons, WildStar lets you earn some resources through your house. Unlike garrisons, the amount of resources never completely removed the need for gathering in the world. Also WildStar lets you choose other useful things for your plot, like portals to zones you like, or mini-dungeons you can run for fashion or more housing decor. No matter what, there should be some benefit to having a house.
  5. Social controls and social events. I love that WildStar lets you choose who can enter your house, and what they can do there. For example, you can let your friends  harvest your resources, and you can set it so you split then so you both get a benefit when they visit. I would also steal WildStar’s use of housing during seasonal events. Visiting different housing plots to trick-or-treat at Halloween is something every game should do!
  6. Housing should be accessible. You don’t have to be anywhere near the end game to unlock housing in WildStar, and it doesn’t cost very much to get started. I know WoW loves to add features specifically for new expansions at the level cap, but housing should be something like pet battles, that everyone can hop into right away. Save some fancy decor until higher levels if you have to, but at least let folks get their foot in the door early.

ffxiv_02202018_143132There’s also some housing ideas I like that aren’t stolen directly from WildStar 😛

  1. The ability to have both guild housing and player housing. This one is basically taken from FFXIV. Have a guild space that also lets players have a small personal section in it. This way folks who don’t want to mess with housing can still have a cool place to hang out for RP and guild events.
  2. Dynamic neighborhoods. This is my dream feature. I’ve got no idea how to make the tech work, but what I would like is something like FFXIV’s housing districts, but without the crazy prices and housing scarcity that is so annoying in that game. I’d like an instanced zone with 20 – 50 houses set up in a reasonable neighborhood that you can wander around. Unlike FFXIV, all the plots would be the same size, and you’d just pay to upgrade your house or the number of items you can place on your plot. Your neighbors would be semi-permanent, but to keep it feeling lively if someone hasn’t logged in for 60 days someone active or new would get moved into their spot. Maybe you could bypass this for people on your friends list, or in your guild. And if your neighborhood is feeling lonely you could request a new spot near a friend. You would never lose your house from inactivity, and people wouldn’t have to wait for someone to move out to find a plot. You’d just end up with a new neighborhood if you’ve been gone for a while.
  3. Housing districts in lots of different zones. Don’t just give us one size fits all housing. I want to spent hours agonizing over whether I want a fancy apartment in Suramar, a peaceful treehouse in Moonglade, or an underwater grotto in Vashj’ir. There should be lots of different housing districts to fit lots of different player tastes.
  4. A choice to link alt housing. I have lots of characters, but not a lot of time and energy to make an awesome house for each of them. Let me choose if I want to let them share a house. Maybe my main wants to have her own big fancy place with all her raid decor, but everybody else could share one cool house instead of each having a mostly empty space.

Most importantly, I would want assurance from Blizzard that if they add proper player housing they aren’t going to abandon it at the start of the next expansion. Garrisons and Order Halls are neat, but it was sad to leave them behind as soon as the next new thing arrived. If they want players to get invested in housing and be creative, the players have to trust that all their hard work isn’t going to get swept away.

Dungeons on Day 1

I played a ton of WoW yesterday, exploring the new zones and slowly working my way toward the new level cap. When I got my first “go run this dungeon now” quest I was excited to see it. Sadly the character I’m leveling is in a solo guild, and the few friends I have that are actively playing wanted to wait until they finished their zone story before running the dungeon. I’d rather see this stuff with friends, so I waited.

When I eventually leveled up a bit more a new dungeon unlocked. THE MOTHERLODE!! There’s not really any story leading up to this one other than a quick conversation with Gallywix. I was a bit too eager so I decided to take my chances and pug it.

Other than on my “pug story” leveling priest, this is the first time I’ve healed a dungeon as disc in forever. Luckily the practice I got from pugging vanilla dungeons seemed to be enough for me to figure things out. In fact, healing this dungeon was a breeze. It was probably because the tank was 120 and had obviously already been chain running dungeons for a while by the time I healed them.

I don’t have any screen shots of this dungeon to post here because of course the tank chain pulled so fast I could barely keep up. The healing was easy because of their level and gear, but it was frustrating anyway. I had no clue where I was going. I didn’t have any time to look around at the instance or at the map. Nobody explained anything about the boss fights (at least they were pretty straightforward). I expect this kind of thing to happen eventually, but on literally day 1 of a new expansion I guess I was hoping for a different experience.

We all survived, and nobody was rude or anything, so I guess I should just count it as a win. Still, I want to be able to take some time, take some screen shots, and enjoy the newness of the expansion while it lasts.

Battle for Azeroth: First impressions

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Last night might have been the most chill expansion launch I’ve ever experienced. I hung out in Discord with just a couple friends and we explored on our own while chatting with each other. Nobody was racing to get to 120. I stayed up until around midnight, and got to 112. Both friends had left long before that. It was nice to take my time to read quests and watch cutscenes without feeling like I was getting left behind.

And oh, there are a lot of cutscenes this time around! When it launched, Legion felt like the most cinematic expansion ever, and BfA is already blowing it out of the water on that front. In the few hours we played last night, several comparisons were drawn to FFXIV and its frequent cutscenes. I hope they continue to find a good balance with them throughout the expansion. Cutscenes give more story and flavor, and they help you feel connections to the characters you are meeting. Too many cutscenes, however, can lead to boredom and frustration when you are on a roll and trying to level.

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I’m not going to talk about the story too much since I haven’t even finished one zone yet. I am relieved and not too surprised that, at least at the start, we’ve left the faction war behind and are focusing on local concerns for the Zandalari. If I could just wander the continent with Meerah and Dolly and Dot, solving problems and fighting monsters with no horde vs. alliance conflict in sight forever I’d be pretty happy.

So that sums up my first evening with BfA. What do you folks think so far?

 

Blaugust: Get to know each other!

blaugustrebornlogo2018Belghast has kicked off this week of Blaugust by reminding us that it is “get to know each other week” and sharing a bit about himself and his childhood. I don’t usually share a lot of personal information about myself here because I prefer to focus on the gaming. Today I’ll make an exception so I can join in the Blaugust fun and games.

I talked a bit already about my earliest introduction to games with my uncle’s Atari. I never had a console of my own until much later, when I saved up my allowance and got a Nintendo (NES). In between, however, we had something that fundamentally set me up for both my favorite hobby and my eventual career. It was a well-loved, hand-me-down Commodore 64.

I don’t really know how my parents got interested enough to obtain it. I certainly didn’t have anything to do with that. My mom did a lot of typing for newsletters and things. She had a nice typewriter and eventually a word processor, so maybe she wanted the computer so she could use it for writing. Or maybe my dad just wanted it to mess around and see what all the fuss was about. It is my dad that I remember using it the most. He taught himself BASIC so he could program a simple hockey game on it.

That silly little game was a revelation to me. I played lots of games on that old C64, either shareware passed along by my many cousins, or ones bought from the clearance bin from the computer store in the mall. Seeing my dad make his own game made me realize that was something people could do. Games didn’t just appear fully formed on a floppy disk; somebody made them up and wrote all the code that made them work.

I learned how to program from my dad and by copying code from computer magazines. I never made anything very complicated, but the process opened up a path for me that I’ve followed the rest of my life. Today I leave making games to somebody else, but I do still use my coding skills. I’m lucky enough to get to do science using a ridiculously powerful supercomputer for a living, all thanks to that humble C64 and a dad who unknowingly helped me get started on my true path.

Player investment

For a game that has been around as long as World of Warcraft, there must be something special that keeps players coming back year after year. But from a design and story perspective, how do you make things new and exciting while keeping the essence of what keeps your players invested in the game? It’s a question I don’t have a great answer to, and I don’t envy the folks at Blizzard for having to find that delicate balance.

Over the years I’ve seen my friends and the greater blogosphere get worked up over changes in gameplay and mechanics, but even mores over changes to the world and the direction of the story. The response I felt to some of the things that happened during the War of the Thorns was a visceral thing at times, and judging from the conversations I’ve seen I’m not alone. Yesterday’s post shattered my record for most comments [thank you, my beautiful readers!], and the discussion was very thoughtful and sometimes emotional. People are trying to help each other navigate their feelings about the game and find a way to keep enjoying it.

My own feelings have definitely evolved over the past couple weeks. I’m in a place where I don’t fully trust the writers with the story, but I do trust that I’ll be able to find fun things to do anyway. My excitement for this expansion is low, probably just a bit better than I felt about WoD, but there are specific things I am looking forward to. As long as Sylvanas and Jaina stay away from becoming raid bosses I’ll eventually make my peace with the rest.

Let’s be honest, the most important part of the expansion is the fact that those extra levels will let me farm WoD and maybe Legion raids for transmog. And if Blizz wanted to give me my very own arcane pirate ghost ship, that wouldn’t hurt either…

Childhood games

Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-SetI’m stealing one of my own topic ideas here, and talking about how games left an impression on me from my earliest childhood.

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, really. My uncle bought an Atari and kept it at my grandmother’s house for all his nieces and nephews to play when they came to visit. I was quite young at the time, and my favorite game was the Smurfs. My fond memories of that console are tied up with family: The smell of my grandmother’s cooking, the sound of my uncles and aunts telling stories, the burning desire to be as cool as my older cousins. Even though I can barely remember the games themselves, the nostalgia I feel from just looking at this photo is strong.

 

Steambirds Alliance

I’ve been playing in the beta of Steambirds Alliance this weekend. I got on Spry Fox’s mailing list back when I was playing a ton of AlphaBear, and signed up to try out new stuff as it came out. Steambirds Alliance isn’t anything at all like AlphaBear, but it is right up my alley.

This game is a MMO shmup (aka bullet hell), which is not something I’ve ever heard of or tried before. From what I’ve seen so far it is quite fun! I especially like the fact that they are intentionally trying to design this game to promote co-op play rather than competitive. There’s no friendly fire, and all loot is “personal loot” so trolling has been at a minimum. There is perma-death, which is sometimes a turn-off for me, but so far it hasn’t been too onerous. I believe they are still handing out some beta keys for folks on their mailing list or for people watching them stream. Their release date is listed as “sometime in 2018 (probably)”, so if it seems interesting I suggest you try to snag a key or at least put it on your Steam wishlist!