Thursday, March 24, 2011

Insert Title Here

I quit WoW (again) almost a year ago but have since been playing the somewhat misleading Free-to-Play Lord of the Rings. While it is possible to play casually for free, if you want to gain access to some of the higher level areas (or just not be nerfed when you get there) you're almost compelled to shell out a few bucks. Which I already did by picking up two copies of the Collector's Edition of the expansion Mines of Moria (on Amazon for $10 each) which granted me & my son VIP-status (& all the associated perks) for one month, then downgraded us to Premium status when I didn't continue our 'subscription'. But the perks of being a Premium member are still slightly better than for Free Player. (The perks listed on the linked page are out-of-date. Premium players actually get a better deal than what's listed, for example, I can have 5 active characters per Server, not 3.)

When I first tried LOTRO (shortly after release) I was not overly impressed, but at the time WoW had just got its hooks into me so even though I liked the mythos of Lord of the Rings, I was not enamored with its translation to MMO. But times change, games improve, and with it now being a mostly F2P game vs. WoW's $15/month that's a hard price to beat for the quality you get. In fact there are several, quite decent F2P MMOs out there.

Like Blizzard, Turbine know how to keep you hooked, and the makers of LOTRO have greatly embraced the concept of Titles & Achievements. Start killing a few critters for a quest and suddenly you "discover" a deed, where if you kill 30 or 50 of these critters you earn an Achievement and a Title to go along with it (Wolf Slayer, Spider Foe, etc.) Continue killing those same critters and you may unlock achievements which in addition to the snazzy Title, can also result in permanent Buffs to your character.

Another Title you can 'earn' is achieved by making it to level 5 without dying, which is not a difficult task by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it's so easy to survive to level 5 that I would even argue that dying before then should be a Title-worthy achievement, especially given that your lvl 5 Title is "...the Wary." Seriously now? I followed a couple of characters through the Tutorial (which you can skip, by the way, and thus probably start playing the game proper at level 4), killed a few bandits, a couple of spiders or other critters, and bam! There I was at level 5, titled Cap'n John the Wary (well I would have been if my in-game name was Cap'n John.)

If you can make it to level 10 without dying you get the more awe-inspiring Title "...the Undefeated." which in my opinion is the wrong way around. Making it from level 5 to 10 without dying, unassisted (as in playing on your own, unaccompanied by a high level friend) is a more daunting task than hitting level 5. In fact I'd hedge my bets that the average player who makes it to level 10 without dying probably played a little more cautiously, and thus "...the Wary" or even "...the Cautious" is a far more appropriate title than "...the Undefeated." Sure, they didn't die, but you know they also didn't take a lot of unnecessary risks. Then there's the lvl 14 Title "...the Indomitable" which I actually rather like, a lot more so than the level 17 Title "...the Unscathed". I've been fighting critters for 17 levels now. No, I didn't die, but I'm not exactly unscathed, either. The final Title for not dying is awarded at level 20 and is, appropriately, "...the Undying". Now that's a Title worthy of making it to level 20. Although I still like "...the Indomitable" and will probably wear it until something better comes along.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Things that piss me off

aka Come to the Dark Side.

We all have a dark side (well, most of us) and it's our ability to not give into the dark side which separates us from the Serial Killers (I think). It's the part of us we repress when we encounter displays of sheer arrogance or stupidity which make us want to scream out loud and beat someone to death, preferably with their own bloody arm which we've just torn off at the shoulder.

Like the woman at the check-out ahead of you, who stands there, purse on her shoulder, watching as the clerk rings up all her items, one by one. And it's only when she's finally told the total that she takes her purse off her shoulder and start digging around in it for her wallet. Wait. No. She's taking out...her checkbook?! You're freaking kidding me!!! AAarrghh! Have fun writing out your check...with NO ARM!!!! BITCH!!!

* EDIT - Just to clarify, in case it's not abundantly clear, it's not that she's paying by check which pisses me off. She could be using a credit card, cash, etc. What pisses me off is that she waits to hear the total before she even starts to rummage through her purse looking for her checkbook/wallet.

Then there's the old people who come up to a pedestrian crossing just as it changes from Walk to Don't Walk, and what do they do? Do they walk up to the curb then patiently wait a minute or so for the light to cycle so they can cross? Hell NO!. They run (okay, they're old; it's running to them) those last few metres to the curb, hop down into the road, and then? They resume walking at their doddering old pace across the road, in front of all those cars which are now facing a green light but can't go because there's a fricken' old person crossing in front of them!

I had an old woman do this just last week. I could see the lights from where I was sitting in my car and just as this old woman stepped down into the street the Don't Walk light stopped blinking and went a solid red DON'T WALK. And the traffic light changed to yellow. And what did she do? Did she take two steps back up onto the curb behind her? Yeah right! With 6 lanes of traffic ahead of her she started running. Just as the left-turn lane got their green turn arrow and the first car hit the gas she darted out in front of him, and he slammed on the brakes so hard they locked up and this old woman freaked out at the sudden screeching of tires right beside her, which fortunately caused her to run even faster. And we laughed and yelled (to ourselves) Run! Run, you old bitch! Run! Fall! Break a hip or two! RUN! RUUUUUUNNN!!!

I see teenagers do this sometimes, too, except the arrogant shits don't run, they slowly saunter across in an arrogant "I've got aaaaall day to cross this road." kind of way, and they walk so slowly that even though they started to cross when the light first changed, it changes again on them when they're only halfway through. Do they hurry up when they see the light changing? HELL NO!!! They know nobody is going to willingly hit them, and they continue to stroll across at a snail's pace, but now they're wearing this arrogant, shit-eating grin that makes you clench your steering wheel in a white knuckle death grip and grit your teeth because the Dark Side desperately wants to wipe that grin off their face with your front bumper! Please let us do it! Pleeease!!!

But we don't. We don't tear people's arms off and beat them to death with the wet end (and it has nothing to do with how physically hard that would be to do), and we don't run down old ladies or teenagers crossing against the light, no matter how much they deserve it.

But we do give into the Dark Side and kick the car which didn't stop for us even though we were already in the crosswalk.

We also punch the rear window of the van whose driver waved at us as he almost ran us down in the crosswalk. As if a wave made it okay to risk committing vehicular manslaughter.

And we also stared down the guy in Cheesecake Factory who not only didn't step aside for the wife despite being asked twice, he then got up in her face when she said he was rude. That's when we let the Dark Side come out (but only a little bit) and we stepped up and stared him down. And as he stared back and his eyes twitched from one side of our face to the other, betraying his nervousness, the Dark Side smiled (on the inside, where it couldn't be seen), until finally his teenage son grabbed his arm and dragged him away from an arse-beating. Okay, because the arse-beating never actually happened, to be honest we're not sure whose arse would have ended up being beaten and/or arrested. Which is why we should avoid yielding to the dark side, even if they have cookies.

So, what really pisses you off? What makes you want to give into the Dark Side, tear someone's head off, and shit down their neck?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coffee House loitering

What's the protocol for loitering at your local coffee house?

Is it acceptable to set up shop as soon as the doors open, snaring a table next to a valuable power outlet, then sit there all day, typing away on your laptop? Or are you just being a jerk?

"But I'm a customer! See my cup? So what if it was a $1.50 cup of coffee and I've been getting free refills every hour since then. HELLO?! CUSTOMER?! We're always right, remember?"

What if you buy a sandwich at lunchtime, and a pastry or three throughout the day when your blood sugar drops? Is that okay, then?

So the wife & I stopped by one of our local Starbucks last week. There's a couple in the neighborhood but this particular one is close to home, and it's on a fairly major road which gets very little foot traffic so for some reason I don't think of it as being very busy, yet it is. It's also kind of small, as far as Starbucks go, with about half a dozen tables w/ chairs, so it doesn't need to be busy to look busy. When we walked in and looked around for a table we quickly realized we'd be getting our coffees 'to go'. Every table was occupied and almost all of them had a laptop sitting on them. Even the obligatory table w/ two armchairs had a laptop on it.

It reminded me an Improv Everywhere stunt at a New York Starbucks where they had several agents each bring in and set up a desktop PC. The thing about IE's stunt which I found most intriguing was despite Starbucks never having provided PCs for their customers (at least not to my knowledge) some customers assumed the PCs were there for their use.

We naturally assume an unattended laptop is someone's private machine, but an unattended desktop PC? That's fair game, right?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Push that button!

People who continually push crosswalk buttons amuse me. Why do they do it? Is it a form of OCD? They stand there repeatedly pushing the button as if it will make the light change sooner. But that's not going to happen, is it?

I walked up to this one crosswalk, hit the button once, and about 10 seconds later a woman walked up and hit it several times. Then she stood there for a few seconds, and when the light didn't immediately change she began pressing that button as if her life depended on it, until finally it changed. I don't know how many times she pressed it though; I lost count.

Hello?! It doesn't change any sooner because you're impatient, and it doesn't keep count. There's no Imp inside saying to himself, "Jeepers! Dat's 28 of 'em! I better change da light!" They don't work that way.

Or do they?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Perfect MMO?

I wonder how much fun an MMO would be where you skipped the time-consuming-and-apparently-boring-but-necessary-to-recoup-our-development-costs level grind, and went straight to the "end game" with its gear-grind?

With no zones, no exploring, and no leveling up to do, players would not have the opportunity to gradually learn how to play their class, so the classes would be limited to the bare minimum required, being three, with each of the three classes reduced to their simplest form. Players would also be able to switch classes at will , and to facilitate this and preserve valuable bag space the character's "paper doll" would be able to hold up to three different outfits, one for each of the three classes, being:

DeePeeNes: Named in accordance with current MMO class stereotypes, DeePeeNes have 3 Damaging abilities or attacks.
  • Take this! - An Instant Cast attack with a 1-second CD (Global CD) which severely damages a single target.
  • And this! - An instant Cast, high-damage attack with no CD, but which can only be cast on the recipient of a Take this! Critical Hit.
  • And that! - An Instant Cast moderate damage attack with the 1-second GCD which affects all opponents within 10' of the Target.
For simplicity's sake the effective range on all DeePeeNes attacks is 0' to 65-yards, allowing players to play melee or ranged DeePeeNess based on personal preference.

The Tank: Like DeePeeNes, The Tank also has 3 attacks or Aggro-generating abilities, also with o' to 65-yard range.
  • Hit Me! - An Instant cast attack with the 1-second Global CD. This ability targets one Mob and greatly encourages it to hit the Tank;
  • Everyone! Hit me! - An Instant cast attack with 5-second CD which encourages all Mobs to hit the Tank. Does not encourage Mobs to hit the Tank quite as much as Hit Me!, and;
  • HIT ME! NOW! - An Instant cast ability with a 25-second CD which forces one target to attack the Tank for 10 seconds. Works even better than Hit Me! but only works on Mobs not currently attacking the Tank.
The Healer: In keeping with the perception that Healers are a hard class to play, Healers get a couple more abilities than DeePeeNes and The Tank.
  • Little Heal - Does what it says. Heals the target for a small amount but makes up for it by being instant cast with the 1-second Global CD.
  • Big Heal - Heals the target for a larger amount than Little Heal but has a 1.5-second cast with a 5-second CD.
  • Lotta Heals - Heals everyone in the Healer's party within a 30-yard radius of the Healer for H/X, where H is the Maximum Heal (modified by +Healing gear) and X is the number of characters being healed. Has a 10-second CD but also has a small chance to apply an additional 5-second HOT.
  • HOT - Single-target, instant cast heal with a 10-second CD which applies a 5-second HOT (modified by +Healing gear).
  • GET OVAH HEAH!!! - Immediately teleports the targeted character to a spot 6-feet in front of the Healer. No Saving Throws, no Resists, no chance of failure. In combat or out, it doesn't matter. It works all the time, every time. Can be used to save the Healer by dragging The Tank to their location, or to save stupid DeePeeNes by yanking them out of the fire. Through strategic use of terrain can also be used with hilarious effect to drag & drop annoying players off cliffs, into lava, etc. Works especially well on characters with giant mounts standing on top of important NPCs.

With no levels there are no zones to explore, only the starting City where you'll spend your downtime & gold, and the game's Dungeons where you'll fight Mobs and find new, better gear. In keeping it simple you don't get to choose the Dungeon, instead the Dungeon Runner tool will automatically assign you to a group and a dungeon based on your character's gear or iLevel. Characters can also form parties of their own and enter Dungeons via the DR tool, but the Dungeon will still be chosen at random based on the lowest iLevel character.

As you conquer each Dungeons' denizens and find & equip better gear, you'll gain access to new Dungeons, with tougher foes and even greater rewards. Play long enough, conquer enough Dungeons, and you just might acquire enough gear to gain access to the Most Uber Dungeon of them all.