Posted in iPhone

OK, Warcraft Arclight Rumble, you have my interest

When I was gone on vacation, Blizzard made two big mobile game announcements. First was the news that Diablo Immortal is launching June 2nd with PC cross-play. And to that I say, “Cool.” I’ve pre-registered, I’ll give it a shot. I like the idea of a mobile Diablo for sure, but I am less sure of how well it’ll handle and perform on my phone.

But I was substantially more excited for the studio’s next announcement, which was the reveal of Warcraft Arclight Rumble. This is sort of a PvE Clash Royale, a quick-session real-time strategy game where you build up armies and send them on maps to grind out gold and make progression.

It’s weird to say, but I think this is a perfect fit for phones. It looks like a portrait-style game (which I prefer, since you have the option to play with just one hand and look like you’re doing Serious Adult Stuff) and the bite-sized sessions are ideal for what I want in a mobile title. It’s got the Warcraft art style and charm, and there’s progression (including talents), dungeons, raids, guilds, and so on. Second to an actual mobile WoW, I’m pretty satisfied with the announcement.

No launch date yet, which is a bummer because I don’t like getting my interest all piqued and then be told to wait for an unspecified date in the future. This summer? This fall? In any case, Arclight Rumble has my attention. Here’s hoping it’ll pull off that old Blizzard combo of being polished and addictive.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: The Darkening

With the rest of Eveningstar quests out of the way, it’s time to return to the Menace of the Underdark storyline. This takes place in three quest chains, so I’m digging into the first one — The Darkening. Apparently the Drow have been streaming up from underground to be more aggressive, and in “Impossible Demands,” they’ve taken a farmstead hostage. I head in to investigate.

This is a supremely clever quest. So the Drow priestess here reveals that she can kill and drain hostages of their life force to heal herself, then she starts pathing around the farmhouse. You can see her on the radar, so the quest is to make sure she isn’t near, then run into a room, defeat the bad guys, tag the hostages, and get out without her rushing in to kill everyone. Once all 10 were pulled out of there — and yes, I got them all — you can fight and defeat the priestess for good.

I guess I was hoping for something a little more creative with Drow necromancers plundering an entire graveyard in “The Unquiet Graves” — but no, it was a straightforward and unimaginative fight against some skeletons and mages. I mean, at least it was short, but where is my 70-foot skeleton mammoth?

From necromancy to slavery, there is no deviancy that the Drow will not explore. So it is in “The Lost Thread,” where they take a bunch of villagers captive and work on plundering a temple to the long-vanished goddess of magic. In there, I find and rescue Ana, a powerful mage-in-training who helps me nuke all of the slavers.

This Drow tomfoolery all comes to a head in “The Battle for Eveningstar” — another straight-forward fight-fest through a burning village. It was pretty mindless, save for the fact that I had to light up bonfires to keep respawns from triggering. The instance finished with a rather epic fight against a super-tall spider-scorpion-thing and its Drow rider. Piece of cake — and another major chapter of Menace of the Underdark done!

Posted in General

Would I ever be an MMO guild officer again?

I don’t exactly recall how we got on the topic, but the other night in LOTRO kin chat we got to talking about officer roles. And in that conversation, it came out that a number of us normal kinship members were, at one time, officers in various MMO guilds. So we shared memories of that and also reasons why we weren’t interested in doing that again (at least for the time being).

In my salad days, I had a few stints as a guild officer and one or two leading small guilds. My time as a guildmaster wasn’t that interesting; usually it was just setting up community groups for Massively. But I was pretty heavily invested in being an officer in a couple World of Warcraft guilds as well as at least one LOTRO kinship. In fact, my very first blog was for my WoW guild’s entertainment.

But would I do it again? No, I don’t think so. Certainly not at this point in my life, where I’m measuring free time in precious 15-minute segments. My general maxim to volunteering is that if you can’t do something the right way and to the best of your abilities, don’t sign up. It doesn’t help anyone if you can only give a sporadic 20% of what’s needed.

And the thing about guild leadership is that it’s very, very time-intensive. Officers need to be present more often than not, which doesn’t really gel with my work schedule and family time. Most officers that I know tend to fall into the “we have more time than responsibilities” arena — no judgment, mind you. But a lot of at-home parents, retired folk, people on disability, or jobs that are part-time at best.

The other reason why I wouldn’t want to be an officer again is that it takes time out of your gaming while you’re in the game. You’re kind of always “on call” to lend advice and assistance, and that can be a little tiresome when it’s been a long day and you just want to log in and veg out doing your thing. I’d rather help people because I want to, anyway, not because it’s part of my in-game job description.

I’d love to hear from any of you — have you been or are you now a guild leader or officer? Is it worth the time investment to you?

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Bear moon rising

With all of the LOTRO anniversary gifts given out this season — seriously, I still can’t get over how *much* stuff SSG just handed out — perhaps the most significant for me was a trio of Valar boosts. There were two higher level boosts that went to the retail server, probably never to get used (but who knows). However, the level 50 one landed on Treebeard and gave me a intriguing yet agonizing choice. Who to use it on?

I mean, if you’re going to use a 50 boost on Treebeard, now is as perfect a time as any. We’ve got a month-and-a-half until the next expansion unlock, so a level 50 has plenty of time to get through Moria. Since my Minstrel is pretty much all done with content (save for Yondershire, which I’m planning on doing soon), I figured that the boost was best used to establish an alt.

And therein lay the conundrum. By the talk of my kinship, I wasn’t the only one of us who was chewing on nails trying to settle on a decision. It’s a one-and-done item, so if you pick badly, oh well, that’s that. I didn’t want to blow it on a brand-new character, as I wanted to have a connection with that toon. So that left me a trio of options: the Lore-master, the Captain, or the Beorning.

After some consideration, I sent it to my level 35 bear and brought her up to 50 in the blink of an eye. No regrets about this, either. I’d already invested a lot of time into her — not to mention several milestone travel skills. And playing a surly bear felt as good of a change of pace from a Minstrel as any. There wasn’t an awful lot I wanted to do in the 35 to 50 zone anyway, and the boost gave me enough bonus virtue XP to make up for her core five virtues.

But here’s the thing with the Valar boosts — they don’t do everything for you. Probably the biggest gap is with class trait points. You have to earn those, and you only get a (large) fraction from leveling. So before I went into Moria, I spent an evening or two backtracking to pick up trait points from the class quests. It wasn’t too onerous, and it gave me time to pick up the feel of piloting a big bear butt once more.

Now, it’s Moria time for her. As an alt, I don’t feel pressed to power her through like I did with the Minstrel, but it gives me something to do when there’s nothing else on the docket.

Posted in General

Here’s what I *don’t* want in that new MMO you’re making

At the start of the month, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street threw down a conversational gauntlet by asking followers what we really didn’t want to see in the MMO that Riot’s making:

And I, like all veteran MMO players out there, have Opinions on this. So many Opinions, in fact, that I don’t know where to start or how to limit myself. But here goes. Features I do not want to see in your MMO include:

  • Obtuse and convoluted gearing and character progression systems — the clearer and more user friendly, the better.
  • A huge raid-focused endgame
  • Jumping puzzles
  • Borrowed power and temporary systems that only exist for an expansion
  • Paid server transfers — this should be free
  • NFTs
  • Gender-locking
  • Pay-to-win anything
  • Territory conquest
  • Dull and tropish character classes
  • For that matter, classes. Let us mix and match and mold our own character’s destiny.
  • Lockboxes
  • Anything where I gamble for a chance at something I want instead of being able to buy or earn it outright
  • PvP tuning that ends up negatively affecting PvE
  • Hardcore for the sake of being hardcore
  • Streamlining so much that you lose important features and elements that help with immersion and fun

I’m sure there is so much more, but it’s late and my brain is fried. Just make a good MMO please. We have plenty of examples already of what works and what doesn’t — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Posted in General

Vacationing without video games

Our family just returned from a week-and-a-half vacation during which, as the headline states, I pretty much unplugged from work and video games alike. Oh, I had plenty of options to take games with me — even MMOs, as we had wifi the whole time — but I feel it’s good now and then to disconnect entirely and simply focus on family time.

So we did what our family usually does for trips, which is we pick an area we’ve never been to before, rent an Airbnb or two, and create an itinerary focused on exploring and experiencing. This was one of our longer trips, and so we really packed it in.

During the time, we went to an indoor waterpark in the Poconos, stayed in a cabin in the mountains, went on an underground coal mine tour, visited Gettysburg, attended two amusement parks (Hersheypark and Knoebels) on their opening weekend, saw some family, toured a historic mansion, stayed in the heart of Amish country with a Mennonite family, hiked a bit of the Appalachian Trail, went through a zoo, fell into a creek, explored an aquarium, and walked so many steps that my step counter was pleased with me for once.

We definitely tuckered our kids out, but they had a pretty good time along the way. My only complaint was that it wasn’t restful, per se. Every day had stuff to do, and that stuff usually required a few hours of driving. I think everyone got a little tired of piling into the car to go two hours to do a Thing, then two hours back. My wife and I agreed that our next trip would focus on a place with more local experiences and attractions.

But for now, it’s back to normal life. It’s the part of vacations that I dread the most — not because it means that the vacation is over, but because it’s usually a lot of extra work and stress to get back into a routine while dealing with the usual accumulation of tasks and notices that we’d put off.

My hope for myself is that by unplugging, I might feel refreshed to come back to old favorites like LOTRO with a renewed sense of fun and purpose. And dang it, I have to get all of the anniversary stuff done before the calendar runs out!

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

DDO: Eveningstar odds & ends

I’m taking a couple of weeks off of quest chains in DDO to work on the four heroic stand-alone missions in Eveningstar. I kicked it off with “Search and Rescue,” a, erm, search and rescue of five lost friends inside some tomb or another.

The DDO wiki page on this quest warns that it’s tougher than it should be at this level, and boy is that right. There are a lot of intense encounters in here with mephits, undead, and… kobolds? Well, they’re all worshiping some big ol’ red dragon in the way back, so they have backup. I didn’t have time to do the optional side quest here, unfortunately.

In “Mask of Deception,” I had to infiltrate a cult compound to steal their super-duper special mask (which ends up being a fake anyway, spoiler). Now, of course the devs want you to stealth in using a cultist’s mask, but this is DDO, and DDO never quite begrudges you if you want to do things your own way. Like, say, screaming and gunning your way through packs of mobs. Which is, of course, what I did. AAHHHHH pew pew pew pew.

It probably was for the best, because once I grabbed the mask, alarms went off anyway. Going back out was through a whole host of traps which I approached with the same subtlety — running and screaming and hoping for the best. I barely got a scratch!

I got all excited thinking that “Murder By Night” was going to be a murder mystery quest, but that’s not how it played out. Instead, I got thrust into a war hospital that was suffering from an outbreak of werewolves. It was a decent re-use of the same set from the druid questline, only now with more random lycanthropic transformations. I thought that the background howls and screams were decent atmosphere.

To wrap up the one-off quests, I went down into a dank cave for “The Riddle.” My goal? To find a wizard who was investigating strange and troubled dreams in the village. As one might expect, it was night hags all along.

I was a little daunted by the “long” quest descriptor, but this one wasn’t too bad. A bit twisty-turny through caverns, perhaps, but I never got lost. It all got done in record time, and I even got to squish an eyeball along the way. Bonus!

Posted in General

MMOs need to include tent camping as a standard feature

Has it ever struck anyone else as strange that for being world-renowned adventures, MMO characters are quite the homebodies? Even if their games don’t feature housing, characters are constantly fleeing back to cities after a bit of combat and questing. We don’t really strike out for new vistas and spend several days in the wilderness — we’ve got to make it home for dinner, after all!

I do wonder if this is an influencing factor why our characters differ in one area from their movie, TV, or novel counterparts. They aren’t going on journeys, for the most part. They aren’t packing up what they need for a lengthy trek, and they certainly don’t break at the end of the day to make camp.

Most — not all, but a vast majority — of MMOs lack any kind of tent camping, even for just cosmetic roleplay purposes. I can’t pitch a tent, build up a campfire, and enjoy a few moments in nature. It’s just run run run to the next quest objective.

This has been a long-standing item on my wish list. I really would like to be able to make camps in MMOs out in the game world. I think there is a lot of potential with this feature, kind of portable housing that could be customized, used, and then erased when the player moves on or logs out. A cool-looking camp might attract other players over for a bit of socialization. There could be basic services offered, with a bit of functionality.

It’s not completely absent from the MMO scene. I always was envious of Vulpera in WoW for their tent-making ability. Fallout 76 lets you create CAMPs that can be moved (albeit, not very easily). Star Wars Galaxies had this, if I recall. New World has a weird camping system but it’s mostly for respawning. I hear Black Desert has them too.

It just feels like tents are a largely unexplored feature that could add a lot to MMOs: immersion, customization, functionality, social magnets. Let’s make it happen, devs!