Sunday, August 30, 2009

The worst quest in WoW?

Topless Robot has The 10 Most Legitimate Gripes Players Have About World of Warcraft.

I have to chuckle at the memory of one of the worst quests in WoW because it offers a deadly combination of two of the gripes: nonsensically low drop rates and Murlocs. Called The Star, the Hand and the Heart, it's available to both factions; Alliance picks it up in Badlands. It involves travel to three widely-separated locations on two continents. But here's the clincher -- on an island off the coast of Dustwallow Marsh, one must grind Murlocs for a low drop rate item called Enchanted Sea Kelp. This can take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours! The comments on this item are a hoot; my favorite:
This part of the chain can take hours and hours of mindless grinding. The droprate is so low that you can even outlevel the quest before this actually drops.
On Murlocs!

Guild Wars product confusion

In a comment at Syp's When Is It Too Late To Begin A MMO?, Brian 'Psychochild' Green mentions that the complex Guild Wars product line leads to confusion:
With so many expansions, I’m not sure what to buy, exactly.
I ran into this myself. No wonder:
...NCSoft published at least two dozen different editions of Guild Wars...
After examining GuildWiki and the NCsoft Store I decided to get them all, which means buying Guild Wars: The Complete Collection, but it's a Europe-only product and the best one can do in North America is Guild Wars Trilogy, purchasing Eye of the North separately.

In contrast, Firaxis has always done this well. It's now offering Sid Meier's Civilization IV: The Complete Edition which bundles everything: Civilization IV and the expansions Warlords amd Beyond the Sword, along with Civilization IV: Colonization.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Did WoW contribute to the demise of Ensemble Studios?

Like many, I was shocked when Microsoft announced the closure of Ensemble Studios. But I began to understand when Dusty Monk blogged about the effect World of Warcraft had on the folks at Ensemble Studios (Lessons from Titan – 2 Years on a cancelled MMO):
In 2005, pretty much all of Ensemble Studios was enthralled with World of Warcraft. We all were playing it pretty much every night. We were talking about it all day. And we were, to a man, convinced we could build that game and more. And therein lay the key. We wanted to build that game.

Microsoft has devoted most of its gaming efforts of late to the console market, and on PC, it has canceled or sold off its MMO projects. Apparently it wasn't good for Ensemble to be enamored of a type of project with little appeal to its owner, Microsoft.

I ran across this back in April or so, but Syp's recent item about NCsoft's modest goal for Aion to be the number two MMO after WoW prompted me to post this. Like Microsoft in the 1990s, WoW is the 900 pound gorilla whose MMO market share has attracted numerous competitors who haven't succeeded in grabbing its share. Unlike Microsoft, though, Blizzard hasn't used underhanded tactics, and has thus far maintained its share legitimately.

The example of Ensemble Studios may prove that NCsoft has the correct goal for Aion.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wallace & Gromit: A great series marred by horrid controls on the PC

Telltale's Wallace & Gromit series is great but for one thing: the controls.

It's shocking that Telltale made a point and click adventure game where you can't point and click. That's right, on PC, you have to steer your character around using the keyboard!

Another issue is the flakiness of the brackets that show up when mousing over an interactable object; sometimes the brackets show, and sometimes they don't. They're a bit slow to pop up which means you can miss an important object entirely if you move the cursor too fast. Finally, the area that triggers the display of the brackets is sometimes just a portion of the area they enclose.

And finally, Wallace & Gromit suffers from the constrained camera that plagues all of Telltale's releases to date. All camera positions and angles are preset; you have no control over the camera or when cameras change. This interferes with exploring and understanding the game environment, and the sudden camera switches can be frustrating. Games aren't television, and Telltale should stop trying to make them like television. At the very least, allow a free camera option for more advanced players.

But don't let these issues stop you from enjoying this delightful series, particularly anyone who is a fan of adventure games or Wallace & Gromit.

[Image © Telltale Games. Used without permission.]