World of Warcraft: An alt vacation

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Disapproving eagle disapproves of my life’s choices to date.

So the nice thing about having a raft of alts on your character select screen is that when you feel a little too much in a rut with your main character or you simply need a small break, you can take what I call an alt vacation. For me, alt vacations are when I blow off my normal plans for working on Big Projects and Serious Goals with my main and simply spend an evening exploring a different playstyle and class.

Sometimes I just need to experience and affirm that these other alts aren’t better or more compelling (personally) than what I’m playing as a main, because I’m always wracked with self-doubt over a main selection. And often I come out of my little alt vacations more charged than ever to play my main — perhaps with a few changes.

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Over the past week, I took a night here and there to experience the intro quests for my Hunter and Warlock in Legion. Nothing super-fancy or involved; I simply wanted to get their artifact weapon and see their halls.

Both intro quest lines were actually pretty great. The Hunter involved tomb raiding, some Gnomish invention antics, and a showdown at what looked like Zeus’ throne room. That all culminated with being sworn in to the super-secret Hunter society in the Broken Isles — so secret, in fact, that nobody had heard of it before now, which totally isn’t because the devs made it up for this expansion.

The Warlock’s story was more cohesive and actually pretty epic, sending me and a party into a demonic dimension and having to perform a jailbreak and then a full-on revolution. I totally love the idea of getting a talking skull as a companion (Morte from Planescape Torment, anyone?), although I highly doubt it’s going to say much over the course of the expansion past this intro.

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Both alts had something that interested me and let me down, as I discovered during these vacations.

The Hunter was really disappointing in the combat department. I was hoping that the expansion would make Beast Mastery somehow more interesting, but nope, it’s a whole lot of waiting for cooldowns and unsatisfying attacks. To make matters worse, the second pet you get (Hati) constantly has this annoying, scratching static sound going on — and there’s no easy way to disable it. Who thought this was a good idea? Who?

On the plus side, the Hunter’s lodge is extremely cozy and fits the class like a glove, and I liked seeing my pets again and blasting things with a rifle.

It was almost the opposite experience with the Warlock. The combat as a Demo is actually pretty fantastic. Even though it’s a lot of casting time and whatnot, it’s pretty enjoyable to ramp up a whole crowd of pets that pile on bad guys. Plus, floating skull.

It’s just a shame that the class hall is so incredibly off-putting — and poorly designed, to boot. It’s not a place that I want to spend one more second than necessary, let’s just leave it at that.

At the end of all of these, I was definitely affirmed that I’m getting more out of an Unholy DK than what I would get elsewhere, and so I shall forge on! I just hit 108 and finished the main Highmountain questlines, although the map shows some more hubs to go. I am trying to once again level up Engineering on her (and cursing myself for getting rid of a 700 Engineering skill in WoD for Herbalism — what was *I* thinking?), because I do want some of these little perks that come with the trinkets and toys. I also want to see the quests in Legion for them, and I figure I’ll have enough time and resources to pursue it in the future.

If I ever do invest more into an alt, I think my Druid could be a strong prospect. But I am pretty content with what I’m doing right now. After all, one must come home at the end of any vacation and resume normal life, right?

Could Amazon be working on an MMORPG?

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One of the dates that you’re going to want to writ into your calendar is September 29. That’s when Amazon Games Studio will be hosting its unboxing event in which the fresh-faced studio will share “some of the PC games Amazon’s been working on.”

The relatively new studio has been shrouded in secrecy for over a year now, lending itself to all manner of speculation about its projects. The question of personal relevance is, is Amazon Games Studio working on a genuine MMO or an MMO-but-not-in-name?

Here’s a quick bullet point list of what we know so far:

  • The studio is focused on making PC titles
  • “Multiple AAA PC games”
  • “New community-driven game experiences”
  • Some games developed in-house, some collaborative
  • It’s looking to integrate Twitch (which Amazon owns) and Amazon Web Services (cloud)
  • Projects are being worked at its two studio locations
  • Has already created three small titles and its own game engine and multiplayer game service (Gamelift)
  • Perhaps most tellingly, the company has snapped up several MMO developers, particularly from ArenaNet, including Colin Johanson, Eric Flannum, and Jeff Grubb

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The pieces are there, and with multiple games set to be revealed, I think the chances are good that we’ll see at least something in the vicinity of an MMO. A real, proper, full-fledged MMORPG? Maybe a 50-50 proposition, but if so, it won’t be called an MMO due to how it’s a dirty acronym these days and AGS will want to look like a forward-reaching studio.

Maybe my interest is heightened in this because we’re seeing so little new titles come out of traditional MMO studios that I’m very open to a new company entering this space and bringing some new ideas with it.

I keep asking myself, what is so attractive and interesting about Amazon that it has called this talent to it? Other than a steady paycheck and probably free Prime shipping, that is.

Battle Bards Episode 82: Dragon Nest

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This week on Battle Bards, the crew dips its toes into the “candyland” world of Dragon Nest. It’s a game that belies stereotypical expectations, being both dark in theme and rich in music. Of course, Steff declares herself a wet blanket from the onset, but will she be won over by the show’s end? Listen and find out!

Episode 82 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “Dragon Nest – Fluttering Leaves of the Tree of Life” and “Apocalypse Battle”)
  • “Song of the Goddess: The Eternal Path”
  • “Dark Lair”
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Mana Ridge”
  • “Horse Racing”
  • “Prairie Town”
  • “Calderock Pass”
  • Which one did you like the most?
  • Jukebox Picks: “Flicker of Life” from Dragon’s Prophet, “Happy Street” from Happy Street, “Titles” from Little Inferno
  • Outro (feat. “Colosseum”)

6 reasons why I’m kind of hyped for Sea of Thieves

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When I look to the horizon of MMOs, it may be devoid of AAA titles of the past, but there is still quite a bit to anticipate (and I’ll go more into my watch list later this week). However, there’s one title that may-or-may-not-be a pure MMO (but if it isn’t, it’s sure wearing its underpants) with some serious muscle and talent behind it that has me more and more excited with each new week, and that is Sea of Thieves.

So why am I starting to get pretty hyped for this title? How is it wooing me over to the buccaneer lifestyle? Here’s six quick reasons:

1. Dat artwork

Both the concept art and in-game visuals are wonderfully lush and colorful, taking a stylized look at the high seas and low lives of pirates. We’ve seen several pirate MMOs and games to date, to be sure, and it’s the ones that go this stylized route that end up being a lot more appealing than, say, Pirates of the Burning Sea. The way I figure it is that our cultural fascination with pirates is already fantasized, so why not have the visuals to match? It’s not like we’re going for historical accuracy anyway.

The more I see of it, the more Sea of Thieves convinces me that this is a world that invites people to gawk at and explore it. I liked how one of the recent dev videos solely looked at the game’s water visuals and how important those were for a seafaring game.

2. High production values

Rare is no indie startup; I loved it back in the 80s with RC Pro-Am, and the 90s with Goldeneye, Battletoads, and Donkey Kong Country. It’s lineup in the 2000s and 2010s hasn’t been anything to write home about, but it’s been solid and kept the company working. This is a great project that obviously has the dev team enthused and the studio throwing a lot of money and effort behind. That means a lot when you’re anticipating a game.

3. Fun factor

Pirates may be cliché, but it’s still a good field ripe for plunder (sorry). I like how the attitude of this game seems to be how we used to play-imagine pirates as a kid, or how people still today get a little bit silly with Talk Like a Pirate Day. Pirates bring out the childlike spirit in us, whether we’re fighting as or against them. Blowing up ships, walking the plank, finding buried treasure, fighting with sabers, thwarting hand-eating crocodiles — it’s all part of a day in the life of a swashbuckler.

4. More than just combat

Another one of the early dev diaries focused on player music, interestingly enough. It might seem like an inconsequential feature, especially since so much of the game has yet to be revealed, but I thought that the reason the devs wanted to put that out in front was to communicate how Sea of Thieves isn’t merely a combat simulator without a heart. Pirates who can put down a sword and pick up a piccolo or accordion to share a jaunty tune become something a little more than caricatures.

Plus, music is the soul of a game — or at least a gateway to it. Nice to know it won’t be ignored.

5. Great communication

Recently the devs talked about their approach to doling out info from now until release, and what I heard made me quite happy indeed. An emphasis on showing, not merely telling, and a spread of information channels, including podcasts, video diaries, and written articles. It’s not groundbreaking, sure, but I’ve taken to these little 3-5 minute video diary series they’ve done so far spotlighting a different aspect of the game. It’s a great way to get to know what Sea of Thieves is like.

6. The possibilities

To be sure, there’s a lot we don’t know and even more that’s only been outlined in the broadest of strokes. Yet the mind reels at the possibilities for a pirate open world multiplayer game, including owning your own ship, creating your own adventures, and having lots of goofy fun with groups of friends. From the demo videos I saw, I enjoyed how it didn’t look like a same-old dungeon run in an MMO, but a cooperative and sometimes chaotic journey that was fun even when the team was failing. Sea of Thieves could be a great entry into my gaming portfolio, and I’m psyched to think that it could be coming out sometime next year.

Quest for Glory III: Planet of the Apes

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I’m starting to suffer from a bad case of Final Fantasy Map Fatigue, where you start to cringe at having to wander across the world map due to random fight encounters happening at any second. Fighting is the pits in this game and if I’ve killed a hundred giant ants already, I’ve killed a thousand.

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I did do a little conservation by disabling one animal snare and letting a monkey free from a cage. The little simian didn’t even thank me before bolting off. And I could’ve had monkey soup for dinner. #regret

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Upon further investigation, I noticed that the monkey did go up into the tree and, weirdly enough, you can talk to him. He’s smart, but not so smart as to use pronouns. I think I may have unleashed a terrifying Planet of the Apes situation here.

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While I was typing the above, this happened. I don’t even know HOW I got poisoned, which is the funny thing. Various random deaths make games more fun, right? Right?

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After a LOT of walking and save scumming across four jungle maps, I arrive back to Tarna and stumble into my bed, exhausted. Please don’t make me go back out there. Please. I’m begging you, game.

Quest for Glory III: The heart of the jungle

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(This is part of my journey going checking out Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Right now my biggest fear in this game is that I’m letting too many days slip by while farting around the savanna. This series seems to trigger certain events on certain set days, and in the second game, you could actually lose if you waited too long to do stuff. Don’t want that dreaded game over screen!

I decide to spend the night in the village, and as the sun sets, the storyteller comes out and speaks to this never-before-seen crowd of people. Basically he speaks of the futility of the coming war between the Simbani and the Leopardmen, saying stuff like “even if we win, we lose” and “it is all the truth, it is all the lie.” Gotta be cryptic if you’re going to be Mister Storyteller, I guess!

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Before I leave in the morning, I play another game of “Syp Can’t Win” with Yesufu. We jaw about war and peace, and he drops this little observation that only Uhura is standing on the side of peace and everyone else calls her a coward. I don’t see anyone else around here who took off halfway around the world to push a baby out of their body just to retain their warrior status, so maybe these tribespeople can shove it.

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I head into the deep jungle for the first time and am rewarded for my curiosity with a face full of flying snake. Which, back in Spielberg, we called “junior dragons.” Anyway, it’s dead now and you can thank me for keeping the world a little safer for us all.

Can I just say how very, very much I wish this series had landed on a turn-based combat system? This flailing about with pseudo-action combat is just plain awkward and in three games I still haven’t mastered it.

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The game likes to give me little pep talks every now and then.

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There’s a huge tree in the middle of the jungle that’s incredibly hard to miss, and when I get there, happy music starts playing as if to tell me, “Well, at least here no flying snakes are going to drop down into your hair!”

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Halfway up the tree is a cave that’s rather easy to miss. I say this because I didn’t even know that there was a cave here the first few times going up and down. Thank you, prerendered backgrounds!

Inside this cave is Mother, the guardian of the tree. She flies about changing colors like a sparkly screen saver (that was a thing in the 90s) and has some information about how to get a gift from the tree. She also dumps a bunch of gems for me to take one. But just one, because otherwise this happens:

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Yup, I literally broke the game. It doesn’t look like your standard game-over message, either. I’m so crafty and unexpected, I outwitted even the developers!

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Nothing like descriptive text to brighten up your day!

At the top of the tree is an even bigger cave with an even greater sense of peace and comfort. Makes me want to release some termites or something.

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Instead I pour some water from the pool of peace onto this tree — which doesn’t appear to be lacking for water, by the way — and get back some random fruit as a gift. Yay me. Enough of this garden of Eden tranquility, time to head back into the cutthroat jungle!