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Beta Testing Is Important.

February 21, 2010

The Starcraft 2 beta launched recently and much to my dismay I didn’t get an invite to said beta. This is pretty normal as I’ve only ever been in around half the tests I’ve applied to and even that would be considered a lot. My issue lies more with the selection process itself and many of the idiots currently playing the game. Beta selections are typically random, but almost always include a set group of “Elites” who actually test the deeper aspects of the game to counter little Billy,the 14-year-old kid who lied about his age to get in, and screws around and provides little to no feedback about the game. I’m starting to think that the random selection process is a model that actually hurts games more than it helps.

Could charging for beta access be the wave of the future? Before you scream and shout consider the fact that people already do this with certain games that give beta access via pre-order. They run to a Gamestop or EB Games to put $10 on the pre-order and get beta access if they like the game they go pick it up on release day and pay the remaining cost. This seems like a pretty common sense solution that could bring in some extra revenue before the game is launched and the increased volume of testers who really want to be there could lead to bugs being found faster. Games like The Old Republic are going to have millions of beta applications many from people who don’t actually want to give any feedback, and are only interested so they can gain early access to see what the game is like. I’m not saying eliminate the random entries entirely as getting a good mix of players is always beneficial and could never be completely phased out without tons of protest. Hoping you get a large amount of people willing to report bugs and give suggestions when the majority of the people playing were randomly selected seems rather foolish.

One of the major goals of beta testing is to find huge bugs so the developers can fix the issues before launch. This tends to be rather difficult when a large portion of the population prefers to just screw around and not actually do the job they said they would. It’s bad enough many of the people who get into these tests are children who are breaking the rules by applying when they can’t legally accept the NDA contract. I have to come to terms with the fact that we’ll probably never eliminate the kidlings from beta tests as much as I’d like to see it happen. What we can prevent are the people who do not give any feedback from staying. Kicking testers for not doing their jobs and banning them from selection for any future tests for the game or it’s expansions would be a novel idea. If a kid can give enough feedback so he’s not kicked out people like me wouldn’t have to complain about them.  This all leads back to making sure the people in the beta are the people who really want to contribute all they can and aren’t in it for a demo.

As you can probably tell I come off rather bitter about not being selected for tests. I have a rather large résumé of games I’ve tested for and have always provided pages of feedback on said games. I look at beta testing more seriously than my own job and I would hope there are people like me putting solid effort in. Watching streams of idiots massing SCV’s and supply depots and not actually building an attacking force makes to want to strangle them. It’s as if they streamed these games in hopes that it would anger people like myself who would sacrifice a small child to be a part of the test. I can’t wait to not test The Old Republic and have to watch streams of some idiot named Mahra Jayde running around aimlessly, and beating their lightsaber against the heads the same mobs for an hour.

I’m Surrounded By Smacktards.

February 10, 2010

After the tragic events of 1-11-2010 fanboys of TOR went into a period of mourning. Not just because the game that we have been staking all our hopes and dreams upon was delayed, but also because WE NOW HAVE TO FIND SOMETHING TO OCCUPY OURSELVES WITH FOR ANOTHER YEAR! After finally quitting WOW I had figured that I’d have around six months of getting my social life back in order before destroying it again with TOR. I suppose I should be happy that I’ll be able to spend more time with my friends and family than I first expected, but in reality I’d rather sit my ass in front of my computer trolling the forums. Somebody has to keep the idiot Star Wars Galaxies fanatics in check as they often times start going on about how amazing their horrible MMO was prior to the combat upgrade and new game enhancements. That I’d rather taunt the retards on the Old Republic forums than deal with certain members of my own family speaks volumes about the level of disdain I have for certain kin.

In an attempt to pull myself out of the stupor I’d been in since the announced delay of TOR I started messing around with the Star Trek Online beta. The game itself was terribly unpolished when I first started playing it and gradually improved over the month of open beta. However, it’s still not what it could be as there are only two current playable factions and one of which isn’t complete in it’s story or design. I picked it up to play casually in hopes that it would mature and hold me over until TOR beta hit. You notice gaping holes in the game such as quests that aren’t actually completed whether it be in the text or content itself, and even horrible balance issues in the dungeon system between support classes and dps class. I suppose that I’ll cap my character and mess around with the yet incomplete end game content before I kill my account. Personally, I would have rather had a new Trek series to watch instead of having to fly around sector space next to the moron in the USS Potato Salad.

One has to understand that not everybody who plays similar games will be equally similar intellectually. I still can’t shake my hatred for people with terrible names in MMO’s. Is it so hard to put a little thought behind your character’s name? This was something I was guilty of years ago during the dark time in my life that I refer to as the “Diablo 2 Period” with my javazon named Pokezon and my frost sorc SnoConez. Diablo 2 wasn’t a serious game and the majority of people had names which included a battle net tag and the class they were playing, and while that doesn’t excuse my lack of creativity it does give you an idea of how it happened.

Making the switch to MMO’s I began to take a more serious approach to naming my character because you end up being a part of an actual community in that genre. When I decided to roll a paladin in WoW I spent an entire day trying to find a name that would suit both the character and my personality. Being an avid fan of medieval history I decided on the name Nicephorus after the Byzantine emperor who reconquered Crete and was known as “The Pale Death of the Saracens”. What better name for a paladin than that of a pious warrior-king. I’m not demanding everybody should take that much interest in the creation of their avatar’s name, but just show that they care a little so we don’t have to deal with Dawg the Imperial Bounty Hunter…

These Aren’t The Opinions You’re Looking For.

January 6, 2010

As an avid Old Republic forum junkie I typically have a browser page open to a thread I’m reading on the forums even while at work. It seems the majority of people posting topics on the forum are complete idiots. From the anti-trinity crowd to the solo focus [Irony]groups[/Irony] and who could forget the Star Wars Galaxies refugees? If Bioware listened to these people the game would die six months after release because there would be a complete lack of content and community. My main concern seems to be the lack of solid information about the game as many people are predicting a late summer launch. This leads to even more wild-eyed speculation from the many loonies who inhabit the forum and frustrates those of us who do not breathe out of our mouths. I figure this would be a good place to go over some of these “ideas” and why they are indeed idiotic.

ANTI-TRINITY

The group of people who despise healing and tanking. They feel that having the ability to heal or tank forces a player into that role exclusively. When a class isn’t balanced and it’s only useful spec is one of those builds this can become the case such as the Paladin in vanilla Warcraft. The only use for that class was to cleanse and heal so people who decided to put talent points into the protection or retribution trees other than the single “Kings Bitch” were usually laughed at by raiding guilds. It wasn’t because the class could heal that it was forced to, rather it was because the other talent builds were useless. Warcraft took a very long time to make all three talent trees for their hybrid classes useful but now that they’ve done so raids typically have one of each build. If Bioware listened to these guys all the fights would be DPS races and we’d be playing Jedi Knight 3: Online Adventures. This group was far more vocal in the past and has begun to taper off after the announcements of the last two classes and the fact that they can indeed heal. Hopefully they’ve decided to give up and not play this game.

SOLO FOCUS REJECTS

I actually already covered these guys in a previous post retards beware!

STAR WARS GALAXIES REFUGEES

I’d say these people have to be the group I despise the most. “The game has to be completely open world or we wont play it!” The mighty majority has spoken all tremble and prepare to bend over… Most of these people have been living in complete denial about how terrible that game was even before the “Combat Upgrade” or the “New Game Enhancements”. Star Wars Galaxies was horrible even from day one as class balance was a joke, and unlocking a force-sensitive character took as much luck as it did grinding. The awful combat system that forced you to go sit in front of a dancing idiot in order to go back outside of Mos Eisley to grind womp rats. I wouldn’t hate these people so much if they didn’t want The Old Republic to be SWG 2. There’s a reason your game was hemorrhaging subscribers since day one don’t try to ruin this game as well. You aren’t the majority if you end up being around 1/16th of the total population of this game I’ll be in shock. The majority of people who’ll play this game will have either hated Galaxies or never played it. It’s time to get over yourselves.

It’s getting to the point where I hope Bioware has already finished the game and only put the forums up to entertain people while they work out very minor details.

Solo Focus In An MMOG? Sense You Do Not Make!

December 13, 2009

It’s a baffling proposition that I seem to have stumbled upon. This notion being players who prefer the solo route in an MMO could possibly be catered to in The Old Republic much to the chagrin of the fans of the genre. I really can’t even understand who’d want to play exclusively solo in a game where there are thousands of other people playing on the same server. In a world filled with new potential enemies and allies why anybody would prefer to go solo womp rats in some remote corner of Tatooine is a concept very alien to me.  Even if a person only plays an hour or two a day a server with a large population would offer chances to group with others in PVE or PVP adventures. To act the hermit would seem like a silly choice that only somebody who’s completely antisocial would prefer to engage in.

Bioware is known for their single-player games. The complex stories that unfold before you while playing their RPG’s are second to none in my opinion. They’ve already said that the personal story arc is going to be massive filled with twists, turns, and unique to each class in the game. Bioware has also stated that it can all be done solo so as to avoid the need to wait for your friends to be online to help you move your story forward. I have no problem with this as it’s part of what makes Bioware’s games great. Leveling and personal story will both be very solo-player friendly as they should be. My concern is what happens when people who refuse to group reach the end of the story and their level cap?

Should the person who rejects the grouping tradition of end-game content expect to find it as difficult and rewarding as a PVP siege squad or PVE raid? Could Bioware possibly develop solo encounters as difficult and time-consuming as your standard raid?  I don’t think that task is entirely possible as the amount of balancing the developers would have to do as to ensure that all classes are capable of the content with any specialization would be far too difficult. If all classes had the same abilities this task would be made much easier but try to imagine an encounter that you could complete as a healing spec’d class and also a pure DPS class. Healers typically can’t do very much damage they can last much longer than a DPS’er but they get overwhelmed quickly and are usually in lighter armor. DPS plow through mobs as fast as they can but with only the occasional break in combat to heal yourself you don’t tend to last very long. What about the person who chooses to play a tank? He’s able to take on lots of weaker mobs but he hits like hits like a toddler. If you’ve come up with a solution to that you also have to figure in how incorporate the majority of each classes skills and tuning the difficulty so it’s the same for a healing Consular as it as for a damage-dealing Agent.

There are a few suggestions that could possibly appeal to the solo fan or extreme casual gamer that wouldn’t make the developers and hardcore players want to punch a baby.

  1. Public Quests: These little gems were the only saving grace of Warhammer’s PVE system. Tiered quests that reward better items based on how much you personally contribute to the objective in that area. While this would encourage grouping you can still take part in the quest without being in a group. These quests can be done rather quickly and would contribute to local reputation.
  2. Faction Reputations: By taking part in either local PVP or PVE in an area you can gain faction points. These points would give players access to multiple different rewards based on the amount of faction points you have. Think of it like a Warcraft/Warhammer hybrid.
  3. Complex Crafting Patterns: Items that can only be made after completing long chain quests and investing lots of money in. These items would be very close to the current PVP and PVE gear. Patterns would be purchased from a reputation vendor. This would allow people who can not constantly dedicate multiple hours to the game to remain capable of doing group encounters when they can find time.

So long as they make the items look different than the PVP and PVE raiding equivalent I doubt hardcore players would complain. Punishing the people who play more or prefer to group up is never a good idea.

Throwing In The Towel.

December 10, 2009

Warcraft has abandoned the players who enjoy difficult content. They’ve been catering to the majority of players since the release of this latest expansion, and it’s a good business decision. However, from the standpoint of those of us who’ve actually enjoyed the difficult content this is causing us to quit in droves. To quote Sevvy from The Old Republic forums, “This attitude seems like a new thing. I’ve been playing MMOs for years. When I didn’t have the time to raid or grind out money or camp rare spawns, I just didn’t get the gear I wanted. I accepted it, and when a fully geared dude came along and kicked my ass, I accepted it. I’m not sure what has happened, but as of late, there has been a sense of entitlement with EVERYONE. I blame WoW.” WoW’s community is destroying the game.

Most people tend to ignore all aspects of the community that do not pertain to them. The only MMO I’ve played where the community outside of my guild mattered to me was Earth and Beyond. People generally cared and tried to help others. We still number crunched and worked out what was the best way to spend your skills and which beams would make my level 150 Jenquai Defender destroy the fish faster. If somebody was doing something wrong you offered them friendly advice. If they didn’t listen or told you to piss off you just didn’t bring them to the raid in favor of somebody who would play correctly. We didn’t suffer idiots and we didn’t have to.

WoW’s real issue lies in the players themselves. The complete lack of challenge and the “gear leveling”, that’s become the mainstay of warcraft, has created this type of player. Gear had a purpose in warcraft up until this current expansion. It was to separate the people who knew the mechanics of their class, had solid dedication to a goal, and who found others and the time to achieve that goal. Now gear in warcraft is like a welfare check and anybody can pretend to know what they are talking about. The truth is the vast majority of these people couldn’t have lasted 5 mins in Sunwell.

Back during Vanilla and Burning Crusade people would inspect me and ask me questions for hours while I sat in Org or SW. I know most of my guildies were flattered when people would ask our opinions on specs/items/encounters. That attitude was almost uniform on my server with the occasional exception. People bettered themselves and more guilds were able to push content because of others trying to help out. Entire web communities have sprung up around helping players better themselves in order to succeed. The people who refused to adapt or better themselves demanded the decrease in difficulty in PVE content. Actibillzion seeing that the masses would rather have things handed to them on a silver platter sold out. These people would become the dreaded wow “elitists”.

Having had enough with Blizzard listening to the whining of it’s “community” I managed to cancel my account and I’ve been WoW free for exactly 1 day now. I’m hoping that SW doesn’t make the same mistake and cater to people who either don’t want to learn or are unwilling to adapt. I’ll make a sacrifice to the old Gods in hopes of Star Wars not ignoring their better players in balance and difficulty discussions. Don’t feed us the same line we’ve been fed for five years in WoW “We designed your class. We know how it works.”

Black Friday Sucks

November 22, 2009

I haven’t updated in a fortnight and that’s simply because I’m in the middle of the most horrible time of the year for people who are pathetic enough to work in retail. Even though I myself do not sell things the leadership in the store insists on including us in any and all holiday preparation. You’d think a multi-billion dollar corporation would figure that the people who are there to fix things wouldn’t need to even work on the dreaded BLACK FRIDAY. Much to the dismay of techs like myself the answer to that question is a resounding “STILL NO”. I suppose the people in power do this to us to prevent creating a rift between the sales and the services teams. Having to go to meetings when the sun is rising to talk about things that do not pertain to my actual duties at work just for the sake of being fair to the salesmen makes me want to punch a baby. It is of my understanding that the company thinks that just because we work together that both sales and services should be treated similarly. We work in the same building and we share the same leadership or lack there of to be honest, and this is where what we have in common ends.

My pure hatred for my current job wasn’t always so strong. When I first started working as a technician all my job entailed was to make shipping tags for warranty items and to do repairs on computers in the store. Walking through those doors didn’t make me grit my teeth or clench my fist in anger and frustration. It wasn’t until some moron had the bright idea to try to turn our services department into the McDonald’s of computer repair. Things began to slowly change such as the uniforms and different types of services we began to offer. Instead of focusing on repairing the units the leadership started to push virus removals and upgrades of machines. Over the years it’s steadily gotten much worse to the point now that they barely want us working on computers in any shape so much as just hooking up the computers to a remote user in India so Tandeesh Bhagwat can attempt to do my job. The fact that the company pretends this doesn’t happen proves that they themselves know it’s just a pathetic attempt at outsourcing. Techs like myself are so disgusted by this practice that we often keep files of the failures and redo orders from the remote user and when we present them to the management we’re told to either shut up and do what we’re told or find a new job. Needless to say that if you actually want a quality repair done on your computer local mom and pop shops are probably a better bet.

Black Friday consists of me sitting in my department watching idiots frantically running up holding the ad in their hand and bitching because all the items they wanted were sold out long before they lumbered out of bed. I close every year and I tend to run into this scenario fifteen to twenty times during each Black Friday.

Here’s a few things that might make it easier for the morons out there to avoid making me want to saw off their leg, laminate it, and club other idiot customers to death with it:

  1. I don’t sell computers
  2. I don’t care that what you want is sold out
  3. I’m not going to try to help you find something around the same price BECAUSE I’M A TECHNICIAN NOT A SALESMAN.
  4. I really don’t want to hear about your daughter who’s going to college and is in need of said laptop. Well, unless she’s very attractive and is into overweight computer geeks.

Why Old Republic Needs Two More Force Users

November 7, 2009

Many people, including myself, seem to be worried that TOR is going to be overpopulated with Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors. This is Star Wars afterall and the mass appeal of both Sith Warriors and Jedi Knights coupled with a casual/newbie friendly gameplay looks like it’s going to draw in even more people who’ve never played a MMORPG before. This isn’t a rant about the difficulty level or that I’m going to have to suffer through countless dungeons and quests with the noob in my group  trying to CLICK on his attack buttons which he can’t seem to consistently locate all the while KEYBOARD TURNING to face the mob. I’ll save that for another post the issue here is currently more pressing. Sure there are going to be people who’ve religiously played games like the Jedi Knight series, or Force Unleashed who will flock to the Jedi and Sith classes. They’d figure them to be as powerful as they were in the other games they’ve played so it’s easily assumed they’d want to play those classes. Couple that with the nerds like myself who worshipped KoToR, have read a bunch of the expanded universe novels and could answer every question in Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. You’re going to have an unbalanced number of Jedi without including the last and possibly largest group.

With the climate right for a class imbalance as it is the recently tapped resource known as “kidlings” which ActiBlizzion has nurtured so steadily on a diet of casual-friendly “improvements” to the end-game of WoW could create The Perfect Storm. Kidlings are “small versions of adults” the 14 and under category which if they do stumble upon a MMOG and convince the parents to pay for it for a few months tend to fizzle out at the early levels. Normally jumping from class to class clambering for instant gratification. When they discover the required effort in your standard MMO they quit and all is just and right in the world. Unfortunately for those of us who don’t enjoy the company of these kidlings warcraft has found a way to dumb the game down enough to keep them around. By making leveling take almost half as long as it used to and dumping very good gear on them as soon as they can achieve level cap thus allowing them to skip the entire first tier of raiding content. WoW has been overwhelmed by kidlings and it doesn’t show any sign of stopping. Blizzard has even gone as far as making heroic versions of the same raids so they could make the normal version very kidling friendly and forgiving. The problem with that is the gear these kids are pulling out of the normal raids is better than the previous tier’s and that raid was far more difficult. Seeing the amount of dollars rolling in from these subscriptions many future MMO developers are going to take the same approach. The problem is almost every kidling seems to love Star Wars and the idea of being a Jedi or a Sith.

When I was a child I took my mother’s teal, wooden mop cut the bottom of the handle off and with some silver duct tape fashioned a hilt for what I dubbed my lightsaber. I spent the better part of my summers from ’91-’95 “lightsaber” dueling with my younger brother and anybody on my block that dared challenge my swordsmanship. I wanted nothing more than to live in the Star Wars universe and be a Jedi Knight like my hero Luke Skywalker. What it is about Star Wars that so captures the imaginations of a young boys can’t be summed up in words. Star Wars was and still is a way of life for little boys as it’s managed to bridge the generation gap. It’s almost as popular as it was in the 80’s and it shows no sign of really slowing down. Whether you watched it in theaters during the original release, saw it on laser disc like my generation, VHS for my baby brother’s generation or caught it on DVD in the past few years it still has the same effect on all of us. This very reason is why I can see a potentially gigantic class balance on the horizon.

Servers are going to be filled to the brim with Jedi and Sith we could see numbers as high as forty to fifty percent of players on the majority of servers.  A game developer does not want to see half their players using only a quarter of the available classes. I know there are people out there that think that this might be the case at release but will eventually work itself out after the first six months to a year. Massive class nerfs and balance could get some people to reroll, but I still think that wouldn’t even dent the swarms of Jedi and Sith. The complete domination Star Wars and lightsabers have on the minds of the youth who’ll play this game is something that people tend not to think about. As it currently stands I myself intend to play a Jedi Knight so I’m just as guilty as the rest of the people who’ll cause the class imbalance .

I personally think two more force sensitive classes could even out the population among the classes. From the descriptions of both the Sith Warrior and the Jedi Knight they come off more as the Guardian role from KoToR. I’ve played through that game multiple times trying different class variations and Guardian is not the style of  play I prefer. The type of Jedi I preferred was the more support-based and defensive which was the consular. They had access to the same base powers but as a consular I had a larger force pool and could get more of the force powers than a Guardian had. Instead of augmenting my melee I focused on maxing out buffing/controlling/healing. I was able to withstand damage because I had maxed force powers that increased my resistances and absorbed damage. I think this style of play if available would attract a good portion of the potential Jedi and Sith away.  With the people who refuse to play force sensitives and splitting the amount of people from the Warrior and the Knight they could avoid a potential disaster before it hits.

The major obstacle seems to be the people hung up on the names of the classes. Consulars are also Jedi Knights I understand this however a major archetype seems to be missing from this game. A consular/acolyte role would fit perfectly in place if the Jedi and Sith are a melee focused as they seem to be. This class wouldn’t stand in the back of groups and cast like your typical mage class, but instead it would be on the front lines engaged in combat using different mechanics than the typical Knight and Warrior. They could use something similar to the Warhammer support/combat system where you do more with your beneficial spells only after you’ve been engaged in combat, and vice-versa the more you cast your supporting spells the stronger your melee damage becomes. The Goblin Shaman is a prime example of this system you cast 4-5 damaging spells and your shields on your allies can absorb more damage. The difference being melee attacks would generate a combo point system and would enhance your power that you use instead of  damaging spells like the Gobo Shaman.