Sunday, March 02, 2008

WoW Update

It's been quite a while since i've updated you on my World of Warcraft activities.

First of all, the move in October pretty much killed any play for a good month, and even then it's rare that I get more than about 10 hours of play in any given week. That may seem like quite a bit, but it's less than 2 hours a day. Considering that WoW is pretty much the *only* computer/video game I play at all anymore (other than a few social things on the Wii and Guitar Hero), that's not a huge surprise.

However, my numbers went way up in February, mostly because I finally have the office together, along with a new Mac Pro tower (just four cores, though), and thus a place to use a computer. The laptop has become my keyboard of choice for the band I'm in (more on that later), and it's nice to have a big screen and decent horsepower (and a passable graphics card, although the ATI 2600XT has some problems - wish I'd sprung for the NVidia 8800GT now).

The other big difference is that I haven't touched any of my alt characters since the move. Not once, not even my orc shammy Chanya (languishing, I believe, around level 40). Part of that is the faster leveling that characters do under an update from Blizzard, but mostly it's just that once I got my ride it's very hard to just walk anywhere. That, and I really wanted to see what Outland was like. It's like everything else, only on drugs.

OK, not exactly. I will say one thing - the gear totally rocks compared to what's in the original game. I doubled my armor value in about three days. After struggling to get to 100 gold for my mount, with not much better luck up to around level 58, I have gone through something like 700 gold in the last six levels, much of it spent on getting my rogue's Darkshadow armor set. There's a gnome rogue in the CCG who has this kit on, and it looks *really* cool. Hard to believe that I'm doing quests just to look good. The thing is that you spend a lot more time running around in the "old" world getting this stuff, and it's kind of a drag to have to come back from Outland, run to Gadgetzan on one end of one continent, then run to three different places all over the world to kill 24 mobs, then come back to Gadgetzan, just to find that you're heading back to Winterspring to spend 40 gold on a reagent, then back to Gadgetzan, then back to Ironforge.

That's a lot of running around. Makes me consider getting that extra 40% speed boost for an epic mount, although that costs around 500 gold. It won't take more than a level or two for me to get that much, but I suspect I'll be spending it just as fast. The other bummer is that I have to do group quests and raids for some of the stuff for my armor set, something I've never really enjoyed as much. I have friends trying to get me to try out EvE, but it's clear that you don't get very far in that game unless you are part of a large group, something that I don't want to have to deal with.

Anyway, Leonadril is at level 64 (just dinged today), and is doing a ton of questing in Zagaramarsh and Terokkar Forest in Outlands, along with the low-XP/gold armor set quests. Even though you get the swamp critters on acid effect of Zagramarsh, in fact you're still dealing with ogres and naga, plus a few other things. The graphics *are* very cool, and the quest design is pretty good, but so far the long quest chains that feel like you're roleplaying aren't there so much. I've skipped almost all of the dungeons in the game so far, just a couple that went to completion, and so far haven't done Hellfire Citadel. Here's hoping that I can get the Shadow armor from Blackrock Mountain without having to actually enter the instance, as rogues can usually get a lot further into heavily-mobbed areas through use of stealth, and can generally slide in, knock someone out, blind the other, shrink your target, throw a few other tricks their way, get him killed, get the loot, and vanish before dying.

I know a lot of people say that the best thing about MMORPGs is the fact that you *are* playing with others, but in WoW (at least) my experience has been that most people act like complete assh*les when they're in groups. I've had some luck with single players I've teamed up with for quick group quests, but the instances have, bar none, been complete failures other than the one I did in NW Tanaris (troll city), and even that we had to bail and wait for a few more players when three people decided it was taking too long after a whopping 15 minutes.

I can see that the luster is coming off of WoW, but at the same time I'm starting to consider what other MMORPG I'll pick up after. I would *love* a Lovecraftian horror MMORPG, but I don't think one is out there. I know there's a Conan RPG coming out soon, but I'm not sure I want to be in at the beginning of something like that. The one that looks good right now is Guild Wars, which doesn't require a monthly fee. It's PC only, but the Mac Pro can boot into XP (once I finally get an activated copy - I just don't think that $300 for an OS is a fair price, and the Mac-based emulators that don't require Windows itself don't support the level of graphics I'll need). Regardless, I'm a good two months away from dinging level 70 with Leonadril (he's a rogue gnome engineer/miner on the Drenden server, if anyone cares), and then the raid play doesn't really appeal to me, at least not at this point. By then I'll probably shift to GW and see how I like it, although I may try out a bunch of different "trial" acccounts at that point just to see what I'm missing.

At the same time, I consider WoW to have been by huge leaps and bound the most bang for the buck that I have ever gotten from a video/computer game. There are problems, sure, but in general the experience has been exactly the sort of thing that I enjoy/obsess over. I love the exploration element, the mission-based play, the ability to go in a variety of paths, the variety of areas and mobs, the way your character gains abilities and how that changes the way you play. It's really been a blast, and I'm remembering with great fondness and nostalgia for just one year ago when I spent three hours (!) loading the elebenty-hundred patchs for WoW, all of which was mostly forgotten when I stepped into Dun Mordan and heard the snow crunch under my feet. There are still some challenges left for Leonadril, and I'm sure I'll come back to Chanya at some point, but I'm feeling a little like I'm at the last 15 minutes of what has been a really good movie, one that I've been an active participant in, and the last bits will hopefully be the best ones.


dave said...

I played a lot of GW. Note that it's very much a group game (you can hire NPCs to fill up your party, but it won't be too long until they are insufficient), up until the Nightfall release, when they introduced Heroes. So I would recommend you get Nightfall (although Prophecies is my favorite campaign).

While the folks in GW are generally really cool, there is one major drawback to joining the game so late. The missions are a bit puzzle-like (i.e., an uber character who needs a certain type of skill to stop him), so you risk the wrath of experienced players (maybe not wrath, but they will quit your mission) if you are ill-equipped. I prefer getting in on the ground floor and sharing the initial unfolding of the mysteries with other players...

dave said...

Also note that - as per the game's title - GW was primarily designed to support team-vs-team combat.

I was a big fan of City of Heroes/Villains, which I quit after two years due to it sucking time I could not afford. The folks there are the best in any game I played, the game is very solo friendly (if you choose the right builds), character customization is amazing, and I loved the theme. If they support trials (and Macs), you might want to try that.

Greg W said...

I played City of Heroes the summer before WoW came out. I'm sure a lot has changed since then. I quit because the content was a grind more so than the game. Everything was done with the same cookie cutter templates.

It made it easy for them to make a game that seemed large, but as soon as I joined the WoW beta I was hooked by the mostly handmade terrain and and greater quest variety. CoH seemed VERY boring from an exploration perspective. Also the early quests seemed to be plagued with the same problems. Always the exact same missions, just plug in a different gang and flavor text.

City of Heroes does have a unique mechanism that let's you play with players of significantly higher or lower levels. As a higher level player you can have a side-kick who gets a power boost. I think there is also a mechanism that lets higher level characters play as lower level, but I can't remember... perhaps Dave can elaborate.

You should be able to Windows buy an OEM version of Windows XP Professional for about $140.

Greg W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dug said...

Excellent comments so far. I've done a bit of research on CoH/CoV - they have a new package that contains both games for $30, and the sub fee covers both.

As for XP, we have a member of the group who has an in with MS, and can get me a copy for around $35, which I consider to be a pretty good deal. Sadly, they are "out of stock" on all install versions of XP. which I take to mean as MS saying they want everyone to buy Vista. That's not happening under any circumstances. Odd, as they have upgrades in stock. Perhaps I buy an older version of the OS and also an upgrade, although I cannot install anything prior to XP on a Mac under Boot Camp. There may be ways to do this using another emulator, but we're approaching a pain-in-the-ass level that I may not be willing to tolerate.

The whole "activation" thing that MS started strikes me as a way to get viruses spread rather than a way to ensure honest people buy their software. Given the small volume of hardware that Mac OS X runs on and it's clear superiority to Vista (not just my opinion, MS dropped a steaming pile of poo with Vista), I find it difficult to understand why MS asks $300 retail for an OS that is four years old. With a market strategy like that, it's no wonder that people copy the software. I still want to be honest about it, partly because I'm honest and partly because I don't want to deal with the risks of hacking activation, but Microsoft makes it difficult.

Regardless, thanks for the assistance. At $30, I'm probably pretty safe trying out CoH/V. I'm hoping to stay away from fantasy based MMORPGs just because I suspect they'll feel a little samey-samey.

Greg W said...

Windows Vista is the new Windows ME. Terrible. I won't buy it.

A couple of my friends really love Lord of the Rings Online. I haven't tried it though. I got out of MMORPGs so that I could nurse a "healthy" obsession with boardgames instead...

dave said...

"I think there is also a mechanism that lets higher level characters play as lower level, but I can't remember... perhaps Dave can elaborate."

Yes, it goes both ways, which makes it easier to find a party. Also, I believe they have server moves now, so if you start on one of the popular servers (I recommend Virtue, the role-playing server that is conveniently located on the West Coast; most don't actual roleplay, but their presence keeps the maturity level high) you should be okay to find a party.

Greg's criticisms aren't far off. They have added a lot of content that varies what you can do, but the missions do get kind of samey. Even his criticism of "just plug in a different gang" is generous, as some gangs keep popping up from early to late levels. It's the interaction with other players that makes the difference between nights I would give up after an hour and nights that I had to pull myself away at 0300.

If you're planning to solo a lot, I recommend going with a Scrapper Hero (any build will do) for starters.

And my #1 tip for new CoH/CoV players: don't read the online forums for tips. Go in fresh, it's more fun that way.

Dug said...

Picked up the combined CoV/CoH package today at Fry's for a whopping $20, which includes one month of online play. I also learned that my inside contact at MS can indeed get me XP Pro for around $40, so I should be able to play pretty much anything that doesn't require a 512Mb graphics engine on my Mac. Clearly, CoV/CoH isn't that graphics-intensive, although I'm a bit distraught to learn that Bioshock *is*. Although I'm not sure that Bioshock would be worth the $200 it would cost for the improved graphics card in addition to the $50 it costs for the actual game, so I think i'll be OK (if a bit less than future-proof).

Again, thanks to dave and Greg for your input, and I'm looking forward to not reading the forums for a while other than to be sure to create a Scrapper Hero. Is that one that goes to junk yards a lot? ;-)

Greg W said...

Bioshock is pretty cool. You'll have to judge for yourself whether it warrants an upgrade. On the other hand you could "justify" it by using your savings from a $40 copy of Windows XP. :^D