Back in the Saddle

Well, it’s been awhile! Life busy-ness has kept me away from the blogging, but it’s good to be back at the keyboard again.

A lot of stuff has happened since I last wrote – we’ve had the release of Wildstar, ArcheAge, Elder Scrolls Online, Neverwinter (that’s actually old now!), Elite: Dangerous (still early access though), H1Z1 (another bit of early access – we should discuss this), Landmark. We had the re-launch of Final Fantasy XIV. Lord of the Rings Online downsized, World of Warcraft has a new expansion, talk of a new Guild Wars 2 expansion. Secret World continues to plug along (slowly), Rift and Star Wars the Old Republic, Age of Conan and Dungeons & Dragons Online and Star Trek Online and EVE are all hanging in there, some better than others. Still on the horizon EverQuest Next, The Repopulation, Star Citizen, Black Desert, Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar. We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to our MMO choices, really.

But are we happy with those choices? Everyone seems to have a gripe of some kind with all of these games. Not enough attention to PvP, better crafting wanted, too grindy, too much focus on endgame raiding, more non-combat systems wanted, too much cash shop, too much pay to win, too “on rails,” too “open,” not enough free to play, too hardcore, too carebear. When you are making games from the “massively” in MMORPG, perhaps that’s just inevitable. The audience is so large, the number opinions so great that nothing can every satisfy everyone. And, yet those crazy developers keep trying, God love ‘em.

At least it gives us lots to talk about! And that’s what we’ll be doing over the coming weeks. Woo hoo – Happy New Year 2015, and see you (more) soon.

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Ready Player One and Us

My brother Erik gave me a copy of the novel Ready Player One for my birthday back in June, and since it’s his birthday today, thought I would wish him happy birthday and thank him for that trip down memory lane.  So much of our early days were spent in these fantasy worlds.  I remember picking up copies of the super-sized Fantastic Four and The Hulk at the PX on the army base in Germany, and later moving on to Weird War and Sgt. Rock, Tales of Mystery, and Tales from the Crypt .  Erik kept up with everything too, and made the great discovery of The X-Men (I think we were both in love with Jean Grey there for awhile) and The Micronauts when we had moved back to California.  We started out, probably with Raggedy Andy and later The Magical Land of Noom books, but later of course on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and later, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and ultimately Dungeons & Dragons up through a good chunk of the Dragonlance series.  We were both hooked in our own ways on these worlds, me more in the tabletop realm, and Erik taking to video games like a fish to water.  It seems we were in great company, though, but books like Ready Player One, amazing in its own delving into video game lore, only scratched the surface of all the stuff we were interested in.

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PAX East and the Gaming Juggernaut

Been a couple weeks since I posted last, but it’s also been a few big weeks in the gaming world, with lots of news and a flurry of games popping up like so many motivated rabbits. PAX East is conveniently located across the river in Boston, and so this year was our first in venturing down to the new convention center to check things out.

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Warcraft’s Leveling Grind and Breathing Life into Old Zones

With the final patch for World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion out the door, Blizzard recently posted an interesting interview with Greg Street, one of the lead designers looking back on what worked and didn’t work in this latest update. One of the first things mentioned was the enthusiasm for redesigning the 1-60 level “zones”, or geographic areas of Azeroth where characters begin their questing.

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Retro Reviews: Sun County (The Avalon Hill Game Company)

Occasionally, I will be posting old reviews I did for The Gamer (print only) magazine back in the 1990s, and consolidating them here.  You can also find these reviews on rpg.net.

When Chaosium sold the publishing rights for RuneQuest to Avalon Hill back in 1984, a lot of people complained that the new RuneQuest had lost its lustre, that by separating the Gloranthan setting from the rules, the game had lost the uniqueness that made playing it worthwhile. Over the years, Avalon Hill has managed to reprint some older material, while adding bits and pieces to the Gloranthan setting. Even so, nothing completely new has been added to this extraordinary world for a good eight years. Sun County manages to overcome that mistake, and then some.

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Gaming Styles and Competition vs. Cooperation

In the pre-RPG days, we had a single gaming style choice. From checkers to chess to Scrabble to Monopoly to Sorry to Risk, not to mention baseball, football or soccer, gaming was one thing: competitive. If you wanted to play a game you were in it to win it. Think of Rocky or the Bad News Bears or even Glee and you already know how highly we value competitive drama.

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The Joys of Zork

I recently joined the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) in our area to find out more about what is happening in the computer gaming world these days, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear folks talking nostalgically about old-school computer games such as Ultima, Wizardry, Zelda, and yes, Zork.

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