Saturday, 1 July 2017

Canada Day ~~~

The worst part about reading an ebook at work is returning to your desk like you didn't just come across the ultimate meaning of the universe in the bathroom.

Luckily, I was in my bed when I finished Stephen King's "The Dark Tower." What a great series it was! I felt it's best parts came and passed into some questionable parts, however, overall the series sits well with me. I'll recommend it to anyone.

I especially like the meaning I got from it, being that what we create ultimately becomes some form of reality.

It made me think of what I best liked about video games, specifically MMOs, and of course it's becoming immersed into another reality. There exists some no greater entertainment than truly experiencing the scenery, along with the accompaniment of the score. Perhaps that's why I'm into LOTRO right now; I just love Middle-Earth. I love the sights and the sounds and life and breath of the world.

Today is Canada Day ~ Happy 150th! Enjoy!!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

I quit WoW (again)

I quit WoW again. Haven't we all at some point? What's different this time around was that I quit even though I was having fun.

That may sound strange, and believe me, it was strange for me as well. After all, isn't the point of gaming to have fun?

You said it, Xal'atath

Allow me to provide some context.

I had subscribed to WoW for a year, as in, two 6-month subscriptions. This was in preparation for Legion, since I expected I wouldn't be able to put it down. I was completely wrong about that assumption, for two months into the new expansion, I was bored. Perhaps a reader could tell, based on my "play more than one MMO" post. I just wasn't into it.

Legion, as most will know, was the first time WoW introduced a non-linear leveling system, where one can level anywhere they wanted to, since the content would scale to your level. This was great up until I hit level 110, where I found myself dying quite a bit. I can only speculate that the scaled content was meant for a better geared level 110, or a stronger class; the power level of mobs vastly differed from 109 to 110. Whatever it was, I was dying. Dying was boring. Killing one mob at a time was boring. I hated it.

That was, until a few of my buddies got together and ran some Heroic dungeons with me. That's right, I couldn't even do Heroic because I had to grind for gear in regular dungeons and I sucked too much. But, once I got the gear, I could finally finish questing! Multi-mob kills! It was a great feeling.

I was chugging and grinding happily along, but what made me decide to cancel my subscription was a little quest  called "Soul Prism of the Illidari." Before the 7.2 patch, you had to collect 80 Lingering Soul Fragments, which were only dropped from the last boss of a dungeon, and you could only collect 10 per week.

Around the beginning of that quest for me, I saw the trailer for the Middle Earth: Shadow of War game and thought "Boy, that sure looks like fun." I realized that I wasn't having that any more with WoW, so I canceled. Collecting 80 of those things were just stopping me from enjoying the content that I wanted.

With 2 months left in my WoW subscription, I decided to make the most of it and continue playing. I would grind those Lingering Soul Fragments! Biting the bullet, I played on. As if on cue, barely a day after I canceled my sub, I got my first Legendary - [Zeks Exterminatus]. Are you kidding me, Blizz?

I was, of course, very happy. My ilvl skyrocketed at that point. I was now comfortable enough to do my own Mythic+ dungeons. Did you know that completing a Mythic+2 gave you TWO Lingering Soul Fragments at the end of the dungeon? I didn't! I was now easily filling my quota of 10 fragments a week.

It dawned on me shortly after, that maybe, just maybe, I was having fun. I resigned to the feeling quickly, and about a week later patch 7.2 came out. I had joined a guild and shortly after I realized that the requirement dropped from 80 Lingering Soul Fragments down to 40. It was finished! I was prepared!

And that's how I quit WoW, enjoying myself on Discord with my guildmates playing around in Mythic+ Dungeons. Will I return? Of course I will! Just not anytime soon.

What have I done with my time in between then and this blog post? I completed Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which I bought on Steam one thousand years ago and obviously never played. Afterwards, I completed the For Honor campaign. I wanted to get these single-player games out of my system, essentially making those purchases worthwhile. It was fun, in fact, it was a lot of fun.

To get my MMO fix, I bought into Black Desert Online. I've always wanted to try it, but what was stopping me was that it wasn't on Steam. Not even a week after I purchased BDO, it was announced that it would be releasing on Steam. Go figure my luck, right?

I'm currently playing The Lord of the Rings Online and loving every second of it. The game is absolutely gorgeous and the quests are written so well.

I've obviously stopped blogging. Can you tell? Those damn single-player games...

Truthfully, I miss being in an MMO community. I've been a week into LOTRO and am waiting for the right time to join a guild (I'm just playing BDO super casually.)

MMOs are a lot more fun on Discord, and that was what I learned most from my WoW experience. Discord has changed the way PC games are played. I think I'll write about that next.

Till then, enjoy!

Friday, 10 February 2017

My WoW Story

Asilos, the Blood Elf Shadow Priest, has been my baby boy for the better part of 10 years (or more) now. Each expansion has brought new changes and a new flavour to our relationship, and with my recent enjoyment of Legion, I think it's time I finally document our history together.
la bella faccia
My WoW journey starts before Vanilla WoW launches. Like many, I loved Warcraft 3. That was my first entry into the Warcraft universe and I was hooked. I loved Azeroth. I loved Arthas, I loved Jaina, I loved Thrall - Warcraft 3 was not short of memorable characters.

That's why when WoW was announced I was ecstatic. I'd finally have a chance to craft my own path in this world I love. 

Whenever the closed/open beta was, I was a participant. My memory is foggy, but I think I had an increased chance of getting in because I was also beta testing Maplestory at the time. The details aren't important though. It was in this beta test where I finally got to play as a Paladin. Oh man, that feeling, you know, that feeling. New discoveries and experiences were hitting me left, right, and centre. To any MMO fan, you've felt it before and know what I'm talking about.

During the beta, something drew me to Warlocks. It was the pets, I'm sure. I'm a big fan of the Final Fantasy series and the idea of summoning a magical creature (demon, whatever) to fight along side me was too enticing to pass up. I rolled a Warlock (I think it was Undead) and had more fun playing that than the Paladin. I still loved Arthas and Paladins though.

I have a great memory being in Elwynn Forest as a Warlock (maybe a Mage - I'm sorry my memory is foggy but this was way back when Napoleon was still alive) and having an epic World PvP match minutes before Blizzard shut down and wiped the servers. To this day no WPvP in WoW has compared to the feeling of fighting to the literal death of your character.

I first officially subscribed to WoW a month before The Burning Crusade came out. I wanted to play a Paladin again, but my buddy was an Undead Warlock, so I HAD to play Horde, so I settled on Undead Mage. I was so bored! I don't know why - maybe the constant eating and drinking in between every fight? Anyway, that wasn't important because, with BC coming out, Horde was getting access to Paladins! I was excited to live out my young fantasy again. The class for Horde would be slightly different too, a nice, cool, "evil" take on my favourite class in WoW Lore. I'll never forget his name, Briennaron. 

[Buddy and I created a band a year or so after Briennaron was created called "Red, Violet, and Briennaron Skies...told you I'd never forget his name!]

Well, leave it to Thousand Needles, but Paladin became super boring too. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I level up a character like my buddy (max level at this point). To remedy this, buddy and I moved to a new server and rolled Alliance characters so we could play together. I rolled a rogue, and at first fell completely in love with the class. PvP was so much fun! I still remember looking at the scoreboard and seeing my name at the top and being happy and proud. Actually, you know what, I'm still happy and proud about that.

After time and time again of playing boring characters, and not even making it to the first mount at level 40, my buddy recommended I try Priest. Shadow Priest, specifically, since at level 40 they get Shadowform and that was "super cool" (can confirm it is still super cool). What I enjoyed most about Priest was Power Word: Barrier - I could finally cast spells even from being hit with melee attacks! You see kids, back in my day, each hit interrupted your spell casting and would sometimes make it impossible to cast any spells. This feature of Priest sold me on the class, and level 40 came easily, along with my new purple aura of power.

And the rest is history. I didn't make it to max level until when Wrath of the Lich King came out, and I didn't raid at all in that expansion pack sadly. With Cataclysm, I tried healing, but it was so stressful! Stressful in a good way, I suppose, but I found healing to be too reactive, and with Healbot, essentially, I was just playing Whack-A-Mole. I became fully committed to Shadow Priest in Mists of Pandaria, where I took down Grom with my team in Normal, my best accomplishment so far.

Legion created the most changes for the class, and I've finally come to terms with them, now that my item level is high enough to actually have an impact on mobs. I guess with the new skills it became difficult to balance the class; we had the potential to be overpowered, so were nerfed in the areas of survivability. That, coupled with the areas' mobs leveling with you, created a difficult time for me as I quested through The Broken Isles. Finally, however, I can appreciate Asilos again, the most powerful Blood Elf I have had the pleasure to accompany with throughout the many years in Azeroth.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Play More Than One MMO

I recently realized that MMOs are my favourite game genre, starting with my introduction to them in my younger days (looking at you, Maplestory!) These days I'm older, tired all the time, way too busy, and often suffering from "empty fridge" symptom when looking at my Steam library. Why then would I recommend playing more than one MMO?

MMOs are designed to keep you playing. There's always something to do, and once you're done with that, you can create an alt and experience it all again (hopefully differently). I desire sometimes to learn every inch of the virtual world I'm invested in, so creating an alt allows me to explore the world again through a different set of eyes, a different set of abilities, and maybe even a different path to the end. I've only done it once in WoW and thousands of time in Maplestory. Lately, however, rather than making multiple trips to the same world, or rather, having the desire to do so, I've been finding myself more inclined to experience different worlds, different games and titles.

Currently my time is spent in WoW, WildStar, ArcheAge, and some short tours into Trove. I could even include Assassin's Creed 2, but I recently completed that game, and that's not an MMO, but my point still stands: I rather experience MMOs rather than games or franchises. I recall a relevant phrase that I read during the early console wars, which was "I play games, not consoles." Well, I play MMOs, not an MMO.

My recent journey in WoW Legion is complicated. Let me go back to October/November 2016. At this time, I needed a new MMO. WoW was just not cutting it for me post Legion launch. I main a Shadowpriest, and having reached level 110, my ilevel stabilised around 790 and I found all mobs (yes, quest mobs) were far too difficult for me. This was conflicting with how I wanted to play the game, where I needed to complete all the quests before proceeding to the next level of content, Suramar. I was really enjoying PvP, however, which never happened until this expansion. But I needed that MMO feeling, so I started up a new character in WildStar. 

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I've tried WildStar before but it didn't click with me at first. This time around, I tried a melee class and came to the realization that I prefer melee over ranged (it was reverse true for me in TERA - go figure). Around this time I was also playing Assassin's Creed 2, since I never played it before. The levelling experience in WildStar, coupled with Assassin's Creed 2, really made me remember why I play games in the first place: fun! I was just not having fun with WoW. 

ArcheAge's Revelation Expansion/Patch 3.0 came out around the time I beat Assassin's Creed 2, so I decided to return and give it another try, because, to be honest, dwarves. I wanted to see how they would be handled, and so far I'm loving it. I'm NOT playing on a fresh start server either. My thought process is that most people have moved to the fresh start servers, so I can try the game at peace, maybe planting gardens in a hidden location, maybe they won't get griefed, maybe, we'll see.

Thanks to some of my buddies who carried me through some Mythics, I'm now at a point in WoW where I can do what I want; I can queue for all sorts of content, so I have to get my satisfaction from other games. I've changed my attitude from "wasting my time" playing other games, instead of heavy gear grinding in WoW, to "time playing" other games. As long as I have fun doing it, I don't care. I can park my character in WildStar, come back in a week, do some quests, log out. I had fun, didn't I? 

The other advantage is that a "pay to win" game like ArcheAge now is just a "play to have fun" game. I'm not worrying about being super competitive. It's about the journey, about setting my own goals and meeting them. This is fun for me.

I believe a change in attitude from a majority of MMO players can only help the genre. We tend to get too demanding when content gets stale, or when there's an anti-consumer update (hey, Black Desert Online!) We players aren't entitled to anything except an enjoyable experience. Derive yours from more than one game, and you'll see, that "feeling" you used to get from MMOs comes back.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed exceeded my expectations for a movie based upon the popular video game franchise. It was an entertaining film that stuck to the lore of the game closely. I have no serious complaints.

The movie borrows its plot heavily from the first game in the series. A man is taken by the Abstergo corporation to delve into his past using the Animus to locate the Apple of Eden. Fans of the game rejoice - it's all there!

With that said, I have to nitpick the beginning of the movie. It opens with crawling text, introducing the concepts of Assassins and Templars and the nature of the Apple of Eden. This was completely unnecessary as the plot actually explains the conflict in depth. This scene isn't too long, but I felt it confused rather than informed. As a fan of the games, I found myself thinking if this was accurate or not from the get go (it was, but I still had to think about it). This text was immediately followed by a scene of an Assassin's initiation (was it Fassbender's Assassin? I'm still not sure). The Assassin's speak Spanish and thus their dialogue is subtitled, which is a horrible way to begin a movie and disengage your audience right from the start. 

The Spanish speaking was a nice touch and I actually applaud the film for taking this route instead of having English speakers with bad accents, like the games. There were many unique cinematographic choices to note in this film, however, I have to disagree with some of them. They gave the film the feel of a student film - for example, a scene in which Fassbender's character has lighting coming in from different angles, highlighting and shadowing his face in multiple ways. I have no other complaints for this scene, since it actually fits the scene, but it did give the film an amateur feel. Other examples could be found in the delivery of the dialogue, in which sometimes it was rushed and sometimes it was too slow and lacked nuance.

The slow beginning was followed by a cohesive act, after Fassbender's character's first trip into the Animus. The result was a plot which was easy to follow for first-timers into Assassin's Creed lore. The action sequences, both in historic Spain and modern-day Abstergo, were brilliant, especially when they were faded into one another. I found myself squinting and squirming from the quick brutality of the fights, and this is a good thing. I found this to be an acceptable departure from the games; it would be difficult to show button mashing on the screen, so these fights in the film actually had style and depth. It was nice to watch.

My final complaint is with some choices in editing. Along with the rushed dialogue, the scenes in historic Spain added too much rolling and drifting sand everywhere. I'm obviously not sure how historically accurate that is, but it was quite distracting. It reminds me of the lens flares in JJ Abram's first Trek film. We get it - Spain has sand. Move on, please.

Besides my gripes, I think Assassin's Creed is an enjoyable film for the holiday season. The movie doesn't end on a cliff hanger and the ending provided closure. Some things were not explained in this move that the saavy Asssassin's Creed fan will notice, which is a nice touch as well. It's an homage to the player not knowing everything after playing as Altair their first time. The lore has always been slow to reveal itself over the plethora of games the series now has to offer, and the film took a similar direction. I will conclude by saying Assassin's Creed is the movie to watch this season if you're in the mood for some old fashion B-Fantasy with an A-list cast.