Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Gaming Highlights of 2014

Merry belated Christmas everyone (where applicable) and happy new year as well. I have not made any new years resolutions actually, in fact I think I rarely do. I'm not sure if it's because I don't feel like there is anything I need to change or improve on or because I know I won't stick to it anyway. So how was my 2014? On a personal note, just splendid. The son has been growing like weed, and although not always easy to handle all in all a great kid. It's been loads of fun to see his own little personality starting to emerge and in general we have a really good time together. Although he doesn't speak yet, he is quite good at communicating his wants through facial expressions and gestures and he is at the age where he wants to touch and play with exactly everything he sees.

My year could've ended better however. We spent 1,5 week at my dads, and the son must've picked some bug up at the airport. The first night after arriving he started vomiting in the middle of the night and although he was fine the day after, my boyfriend got sick with the same thing two days later. Then me two days after that, my dad two days after me and my dads girlfriend held out the longest and didn't get sick until on new years eve, lucky her. It's a pretty funny story now that it's over and done with, but the rest of us did not recuperate as quickly as the baby and it obviously meant we basically had to cancel all our plans, like me meeting a childhood friend of mine. Even still, we had a nice. Just not all at the same time.

Must touch everything...

I calculated that I bought about 88 games in 2014. When I had tallied it all up I just sighed to myself. What am I going to do with 88 games? And that's 88 games just this year, that's not even taking into account all the games I bought 2013 that I haven't gotten around to playing yet. But you know, it can't hurt. Or at least that is what I think every time I see a game at a bargain, because almost all games were bought pretty cheaply. Let's look at some of the ones that I am more excited about;

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
This was the year I decided to finally get into playing some of the Castlevania games. Eventhough I have always been a fan of the series, especially the music, I had never played a game until this year. Don't ask me why, I guess I never really considered it my kind of game. At the moment I have played all the games on the GBA and a couple on the DS but Circle of the Moon is still my favorite out of the handheld ones that I've played. We'll see if Symphony of the Night beats it when I get around to trying it sometime this year.

Whoooppa! (ie the sound a whip makes) -

System Shock 2
Although I haven't finished it yet, I can already say that this is a great game. If you haven't played it I couldn't recommend it more if you have even the slightest interest in fps, sci-fi or horror games. I had heard so many good things about it and since sci-fi horror are one of my favorite genres I decided I needed to try it. I am not disappointed, it was in fact a lot more fun than I had imagined.

I had never really played a stealth game before I tried Thief, but I guess this was a good choice for a first game in the genre because daym is it fun. It's obviously not very realistic, but I don't care a single bit when it manages to make you feel so cool as a proffesional shadow sneaker instead. It's one of those games (as the other classics on this list) that manages to make you feel clever without holding your hand. That is some great level design right there.

Ugly zombies are creepy too -

Deus Ex
I guess this could be summarized as the year when I got around to realizing what everyone else had already known for years. Deus Ex is another game that everyone said was so great and I felt like I needed to finally give it a shot. Yes, I can confirm. It is loads of fun. The platforming isn't as well programmed as in System Shock 2, but fortunately there isn't that much of it and a quick save function makes the constant ladder falls at least a tiny bit less infuriating. Everything else is awesome.

Darkout / Steam Marines
Two vastly different indie games that I recommend checking out if you're looking for something to play. Darkout is similar to Terraria, but with a very different feel to it - darker (obviously) and overall more interesting if you ask me with tons to craft and dig out. Steam Marines is a nice little rogue like, which was still in early access when I played it. I guess yet again the sci-fi setting got me interested and it was already fun enough to keep me playing for hours.

Googling Koudelka was a surprise -

I haven't got around to playing this game yet, but I was so happy to get my hands on it on an auction site. I've been wanting to play this game for years.

And in 2015...
Already sometime in November I decided that 2015 was going to be the year when I venture back into World of Warcraft, however long for. Literally everyone I spoke to about Warlords of Draenor that had tried it said "it's so much fun, you should really try it". Obviously I got incredibly curious. Maybe this could be the perfect opportunity for me to check out some WoW before I go back to work again?
So yesterday (2 of January) I set everything up. I bought the expansion, I downloaded the game. Today I subscribed for a month and logged on for the first time in 1,5 years. I had left Zinn flying in Hinterlands, poor girl. For a while I didn't even really know what to do first. I got the quest to speak to Khadgar, but I wanted to sort out my UI a bit. I didn't really remember which addons I was using at the time I quit or if I still wanted those, but after I had sorted something out and flown to the Dark Portal I decided that the questing could wait a bit. Instead I logged onto a warrior alt and tanked a Violet Hold just to see if I still had the tanking flow in me. I did (although in all honesty, you could smack your face against the keyboard and still succesfully tank Violet Hold). After that I didn't really feel all that enthusiastic about anything and logged off.

I think my problem, if I can call it that, is that my main - Zinn, the priest, isn't really a questing character. In the past when I've done the tedious questing as disc or even holy it's been with the promise of raiding at max level as motivation. I could go as shadow, but it's actually not sounding all that fun to me right now. But Zinn doesn't have to be my first character to max level of course, I don't have to experience the quest chain the first time on her. That's just sentamentality telling me that. Instead I think I will try it out on another character, probably my mage. Or maybe I will start a new character and level about a bit like I used to love doing.

To be frank I am happy this is my first reaction to the game, because I was worried it would be "too much" fun. The fact that I can take a step away from it and feel like I want to do something else is exactly how I wanted it to be, just like I feel about anything else I do. But, that might just be because I spent some 30 minutes gaming and haven't actually gotten into any of the fun stuff yet. Time will tell.

So how was your 2014 and what are you hoping to get from 2015? Either way, I hope we all have an awesome year!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Warlords of Draenor is here...

Apparently the new expansion to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor is out, and for the first time since World of Warcraft was released, I'm not there to jump in from the start. Or possibly, probably, ever.

My Twitter feed is currently flooding with glee (and quite a lot of frustration) about the new expansion , it's quite contageous to be honest. It's not like I don't think about WoW almost every day as it is, I have been seriously considering getting this new expansion eventhough I most likely won't be able to play it. Ok, that's only a half-truth. There are tons of things you can do in WoW even if you don't have time for raiding or even dungeoning. You can do all the quests for instance or challenge yourself with some odd form of Ironman. It's not like I don't have any spare time, I am using some of that to write this after all. Time I could spend playing WoW of course! I've spoken to the better half about dividing baby time so that we could allow eachother (because he wouldn't mind playing a bit again) to do a dungeon or LFR every now and then. But it's stayed at talks so far because quite frankly, even though I really want to play WoW again - I actually don't want to play WoW again. I've said it before and I am going to say it again. I know WoW will take up all of my spare time and I still have a shit-ton of other games I want to play. I think "you know what, let's just install the damn thing again" and then I immediately go "no, I won't. I still want to play Baldur's Gate, Thief 2, Legend of Grimrock, Pokemon Omega Sapphire, Koudelka..." and so on and so forth. If only I could trust myself to only play WoW occasionally and also give time to other games. But I wouldn't. I am too cheap. Since WoW is subscription based I know I would want to get my moneys worth and try to squeeze out as much time with it as possible. So for now, no WoW. We'll see how long I'll last. But enough of this, what I really wanted to talk about were WoW expansions. Because I've seen them all.

There have been better and worse expansions but overall I really don't think there's been a bad one. I mean, what would that have been? Really boring quests and instances/raids I guess. With every expansion I thought there was something really fun but I also feel like my level of fun was closely connected to my commitment to the game and the quality of my surrounding social life. This is an mmo after all and there is only so much fun you can have on your own, as I quickly learned in Vanilla.

Burning Crusade
Admittedly I wasn't there for the launch of WoW, I joined the WoW crowd some half-year afterwards, but I have been eagerly at the gates for every expansion. With Burning Crusade I was still a mere fledgling, eventhough I had played the game for over 1,5 years at that point (don't ask me what I was doing with my time). I didn't find my role in the game properly until BC was released, that is when I first started raiding and also decided on actually maining my priest (although I had already played her quite a lot beforehand). But there is nothing like the very first expansion, and Blizzard got everything damn right. I remember the feeling of the pre-patch leading up to the expansion and the mayhem that was the Opening of the Portal. It was a clutter so full of Horde and Alliance and death and kill-steals it was glorious. To then run through those portals and have the vast landscape of Hellfire Peninsula in front of you was such an amazing feeling. It looked massive and it looked like loads of fun and most importanly it held so many new things we had never seen before. New races, new mounts! New everything! With Burning Crusade Blizzard managed to make everything fun - this is where they got dungeons, raiding, pvping and questing absolutely right.

Just looking at it I can hear the tune -

More importantly however, it managed to make me feel included, like I was part of the gang. All through vanilla, and like I mentioned I played it for quite some time, I had had the feeling that I was part of someone elses show. I was invited to their groups and their raids, but only when they desperately needed someone. It could've been anyone. And I wasn't part of the team, I was a guest - if even that. I was in guilds, but they didn't feel like home yet. I don't blame the people, this was during a time when I still hadn't decided to take part of endgame simply because I thought a lot of it was quite boring (40-man raids? What were they thinking?). But that meant standing outside and watching everyone else having all the fun. Also, I constantly had the feeling that I was late to everything. Whatever I wanted to do, most people had already done and it wasn't cool any longer. There is a huge difference between being in a raid where everyone is enthusiastic and where everyone just does it because they don't have anything else to do, as frequenters of LFR will know.

People complain about Blizzard making WoW too accessible, heck even I have. But BC made WoW accessible to me and I definitely encourage any steps Blizzard take to make as many people as possible feel like they have a spot (which is not the same as saying that I agree with every change they've done).

Wrath of the Lich King
Once Wotlk was released my priest shoes fit me well and I decided to plan ahead and come prepared for this launch. BC I had just sort of experienced in full awe, Wotlk I was going to get in and own. I took my gaming way more serious for this release than I did for BC and I had raiding that waited for me at the other end of the leveling. I stood in line in the middle of the night for hours to get my Special Edition set. I remember stepping off the zeppelin in Howling Fjord (I was lucky enough to choose that starting area rather than Boring Tundra) and immediately loving it. The setting, feeling and music was great and the area was beautiful. This was another expansion Blizzard did extremely well, basically perfecting gameplay elements they had implemented in BC and trying out some new ones (different difficulties on bosses in raids was one of my favorite features that I really wish they would've kept). I loved every bit of Burning Crusade, Karazhan is one of my favorite raids, but by golly if Wotlk wasn't even better. I think every raid in Wotlk was fun and well done (yes, even TotC!) and I had a good and steady guild to raid with. Unfortunately towards the end of Wotlk, like Ikarus to the sun I wanted more and decided to leave the awesome guild I was in for one that was more raiding oriented. Things kind of spiraled downward for me from there.

That frost wyrm was really annoying though -

For Cataclysm I decided that a digital download would be the fastest and smoothest way to get into the game. Time was of the essence because I wanted to be among the first to get into the end-game instances so that I could be geared to raid as quickly as possible. But I still didn't want to play through the quests so quickly so that I missed out on the experience, I tried to find a nice middle-path and managed to level fairly quickly (especially considering I did it as a healing priest, just as with the previous two expansions), taking a couple of days to reach the new max-level. I liked the questing experience of Cataclysm quite a lot. Eventhough I understand why they had to give the old world a face-lift, I wasn't too happy about it, but the new areas were fun (yes, even Vashj'ir!) and I liked the first couple of raids as well. Firelands was pretty meh and Dragon Soul could've been better so to me Cataclysm ended on a bit of a low note, compared to BC and Wotlk that definitely went out with their flags raised high. But maybe this coincided with me having issues with my guilds and eventually also on a personal level where I had less and less time to raid and play overall. I probably would've enjoyed Cataclysm all the way to the end if the conditions had been the same. Even still, BC and Wotlk were definitely better expansions, I think most people agree on that (right?).

Actually Dragon Soul wasn't that bad -

I'd say early Cataclysm is probably when I took my gaming the most seriously. I had done some pretty heavy raiding all through Wrath (and BC actually) but for Cata I was in a raid-oriented 25 man guild whereas previously I had "only" been in a casual-raiding 10 man guild. I blogged a lot about priest healing (and other things WoW) like changes to the class, specs and loved trying different tactics and gear to see how I could optimize my healing. Sometimes I wonder if my quest for glory got in the way of having fun, and on a guild level I think that might be true. I think a lot of people can recognize themselves in the problem with trying to balance fun with progress in any progress-oriented guild. A lot of the time progress = fun. Finally downing that boss makes all the wiping, farming and grief worth it. But only if you can acknowledge that success and not just feel like it's not worth anything unless you also down the next boss. And the next, and next and so on. There is a lot that could be said about that for sure.

Mists of Pandaria
Another digital download but this time a slower pace of leveling. To be honest, eventhough this is the most recent release (not counting the current one) this is the one I remember the least of. I remember being frustrated about disconnecting, quests not working properly and not being able to click quest items/givers because there was a literal horde of players standing in the way (on their mounts just to be extra much of a nuisance). I am sure that didn't differ much from any of the previous releases, but for some reason I remember the annoyance part a lot more than the awed part. MoP did not sweep me off my feet like all the other expansions had. Maybe at this point I was already too roughed up and the stars had been dusted out of my eyes. Maybe I was getting old and bitter.

MoP was nice, but I never got into it. I didn't catch on to the lore and I just wasn't very excited about the whole process again. It's really not the games fault, at this point I didn't have as much fun in WoW as I used to, for reasons I've delved into in this blog several times before. A couple of things bothered me about MoP, something that had started already with Cataclysm. I felt like it had a lot less content than BC and Wotlk. Less instances primarily (I don't know if this is actually the case though) and having to trudge through the same two (it always felt like they came in pairs) got tedious and boring very quickly. Also, as mentioned, the story about the Pandarens didn't interest me anywhere near as much as the demons, undead and Old Ones of BC and Wotlk had done. Even the dragons of Cataclysm were more interesting.

At least no more dragons -

But like I said, I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that I didn't have as much time to raid and had swapped guild a couple of times at this point. I ended up in nice guilds every time (eventhough they tended to crumble pretty quickly around me) but not knowing the people you raid with still makes a difference. In a way I guess I had come full circle, feeling like an outsider again. Joining in as a guest when desperately needed, just like back in the Vanilla days. I felt like I needed more to fully enjoy the game back then and I still do so if I ever decide to actually start playing WoD it would have to be in a completely different way to what I have been. But maybe that's not as difficut as I think it is.

What are your experiences with the different expansions and which one do you think was best? (Hint: It's WotLK)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Five Hidden Laws of WoW

Doesn't it feel like sometimes games claim to use one kind of rules but in reality they run by a hidden set of rules designed to mock and frustrate you? A lot of this comes from biased thinking, meaning that when something has started to annoy you is when you'll start noticing it and you'll think that it stands out. You rarely recognize when things go your way but more often when things go bad. I swear that some games just seem to know how to tease you though. I don't know how many times I've said I'll give up grinding for something in WoW only to have it drop the minute later (proving I did not quit grinding after all, but I would've! Eventually...).

Continuing on with another post based on some notes I found in an old notebook of mine, this one is about video game logic or lack thereof. These notes (this post and the previous one) were written closely together so clearly I was in something of a pissy mood, hateful about players in general and my game luck in particular when writing these. Remember that these are written tongue in cheek, are based on my experiences alone and you might not agree at all. Also I use words like "always" very loosely. At the time they were probably just an attempt to vent some anger from my side. After (at that time) five years of playing WoW I thought I had its tricks pinned down - I knew that it worked around hidden rules that were designed to lure us into trying just one more time. Fake instant gratification!

1. In a group, whoever plays the worst will always get the loot.
All the entries on this list are frustrating, but I wonder if this one is not the worst one. I was ok with people who played badly (aka did bad dps/healing/tanking and/or a lot of mistakes) to get some loot. In fact this "rule" even worked to my favor on occasion. I clearly remember bringing my lock to Vault of Archavon once, playing utter crap and being the one to win the loot out of at least a handful of rollers. Playing badly is one thing, it can happen to anyone. But the amount of times this seems to have worked in the favor of the jerkwad of the group, I can't even count. You know, that one person in the group who seems dead set on ruining the day for everyone unlucky enough to be grouped with them. Numerous times have I've had people like that in my group, seen something really cool drop (even random epics, mounts or the like) and 9 to 1 the Ruiner of Fun would win it. Just to write "Lol! Screw you guys!" and leave with a digital finger aimed at the rest of the group. Oh sorry, I mean "LOL!!!! SCRUW U GUYZ!!!!".

Every... time... -

2. Percentages are not what they say they are.
This might take some explaining so bare with me, but this is true as day. Imagine yourself fighting some kobolds in Elwynn Forest, chuckling at their cries of "No take candle!" and having a generally good time. Say, just hypothetically that you've got 100% hit chance and 10/10 swings are actually landing. Now imagine further that you somehow get a debuff that reads "10% reduced hit chance". "Ok" you might think. "So I'll only hit 9 out of my 10 swings, no biggie", shrug and move on to the next Kobold. The Kobold end up being the one laughing however as you stand there, wildly flailing your weapon at them, suddenly having a hit chance that seems closer to 1/10 than anything else. What am I trying to say? I always felt, nay unconsciously known, that debuffs that reduces stats had more than twice the actual impact than it claims to have.

It's like the game can't handle statistics and probability properly. I know this is how the human mind works (hence the existance of this list), meaning that we often think in either/or rather than in actual probabilities. But I thought a game, based on solid, programmed numbers would be better than that! As it is I often wonder if the game just runs by the commands "doesn't miss much" or "misses a lot", rather than actual percentages.

3. You always get dazed when you want it the least.
Which usually is always. But sometimes you're lucky and don't seem to get dazed much at all. You can bet your life (and it will be your life) that whenever you're being chased by a ganker you will get dazed by a mob. Or when you pull an elite. Or when you try to ride out of Zul'Farrak after having pulled half the instance.

4. If you run between mobs to avoid aggroing them you will pull both and their stealthed friend.
See point 3. on this list for what will happen next by the way. This is just classic irony or perhaps Murphy's Law. By trying to avoid to get into trouble, you'll actually end up in trouble, and a lot more of it than if you had just wo/manned up in the first place and dealt with it rather than trying to chicken your way through. But I just hate it when I am simply trying to get smoothly from point A to point B (which happens a lot in WoW), I'm not in the mood for any skull bashing and this Gnoll just knows he has to ruin my day. So he brings his friend. And where the hell did THAT guy come from?!

5. It doesn't matter which class you bring, stuff for your other class will always drop.
This one is for all you alters out there, you know my pain! At one point I was juggling quite many, and did some 10 VoA runs each week (day? Don't remember how often they reset). And I swear, the more alts I had the more it felt like I lost out on loot. Which you know, makes sense, because every loot that dropped was something I could've used on one of my other alts. And I guess the more alts I had the more I got the sense that loot dropped just to mock me. Ok, maybe I can scratch this one and just write it down to me being damn unlucky. Or probably averagely unlucky.

Well this person had no trouble finding gear! -

Bonus entry!
6. If you get jumped by someone while questing and you're about to own him, a paladin will come out of nowhere and kill you when your opponent is at 5%.
I think the title speaks for itself and I think this just happened to me when I wrote this list.

Ever felt particularly out of favour with the WoW Gods? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!