Fan Faire 2010

This year I had the luxury of attending the SOE Fan Faire along with a number of friends from my guild Revelry and Honor (Guk). If you haven't been to a Fan Faire before, I highly recommend it. It's a great opportunity to get out and meet your 'friends', rub shoulders with the developers, and just generally get involved in the community. By far the biggest hoot of the weekend was hanging out with my guildmates. They were all really funny, high quality peeps. It was a blast getting to know them a bit out of game.

Our guild leader, Karen, from Journeys with Jaye, was one of the winners of the SOE Backstage Bloggers contest and was doing a bunch of work with the community members over the weekend. I tagged along a bit and it seemed like every time I turned around I was shaking hands with another dev or community fixture... Calthine, Amnerys, Kiara, Frizznik, Feldon (EQ2Wire), Adam (Epic Slant) and yeah... Smedley. Well at least we think that was him chilling at the bar while we did our 8 am shots of Patron.

'Jace' Hall was the MC for the event. You may know him from his work on the web based Jace Hall Show or the television series 'V'. I'm going to say that although 'Jace' may aspire to be a gamer, he was a bit out of his element hosting Fan Faire. I'm not sure he ever garnered the respect of the audience. Perhaps that was just part of the shtick. Linda Carlson AKA 'Brasse' really stole the show up on stage. She was great! SOE, next year skip the fancy shmacy MC and just have Brasse do the whole thing!

I participated in the EQ2 contest which involved running a group through Zraxth's Unseen Arcanum. This zone will be released in one of the future expansions and it was challenging for us. The group had 30 minutes to go as far as we could and received points for each named kill among other things. We had a great time doing this, but network problems kept this event from going off as smoothly as it should have. One suggestion SOE for next year... Put up a leaderboard where all teams can monitor results. Use a large LCD panel and let everyone see how they scored compared to the other participants. There were a lot of people clogging up the contest area, trying to figure out how they did. It would also be cool to see who was in each group (i.e. class and/or guild). Roll this up into a web app that references player profiles fromo EQ2Players! Better yet, give us devs more access to XML from EQ2Players and the EQ2 environment and I'll do it for ya =)

I attended a couple of the EQ2 panels including EQNext and thre Class Mechanics panel. While EQNext looks interesting I wasn't really impressed with how SOE presented this over the weekend. I really got the impression that there wasn't a lot of vision or innovation going on. Smed and the devs spent about 10 minutes talking about the game at the beginning of the panel and then just opened it up for questions and comments. This really made the whole thing feel like a phishing session. 'We really don't have much yet and were hoping you could give us some ideas'. It felt like a 'design-by committee' approach. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it just seemed like it lacked mojo. Some things I didn't like hearing about... classes, raid sizes, instances.. Again, not a lot of apparent innovation from the outset. Do something... I don't know... different. Everyone else has raids, but you have: 'fill in this space with your really cool new features' The screenshots did look nice and I have my fingers crossed but there certainly will be a lot of competition for this game when it finally appears (Guild Wars 2, Rift, and new Blizzard mmo).

The Class Mechanics panel clearly illustrated three things for me. First the players are still really passionate about this game. They know their stuff. Second, if you ask a silly question during this panel in front of 500 people, they will reinforce my first observation with you. (i.e. 'You suck!' or 'Learn to play your class!') Third, the development team is really loaded with stuff to do. I sympathize with what they are up against. Ouch. Hopefully they are able to get through with their reduced workload after the layoffs this spring.

I'll try to get some more of my notes from the EQNext and Class Mechanics panels up later this week.

For now, I'm out!



"Back when I was your age..."

...I used to walk backward, barefoot, and uphill both ways to school. Uh... Right.

It's that whole older generation telling the new generation just how much easier they have it. Sure, I'll admit that when it comes to gaming, this current generation has it pretty good. But when I read this I shed a tear. It's not that I'm against being environmentally friendly. Far from it. I'm just against the concept of breaking up the traditional packaging format for PC games. It's the whole iTunes revolution all over again, but I'll get to that in a bit.

The days of driving to the store to pick up that boxed game product are rapidly coming to an end. Ubisoft's move is another sign of the things to come in the future. And while I can appreciate the total convenience of electronic distribrution (Yeah! I'm pointing at you Steam!), part of me is going to miss getting my grubby mitts on the boxed deliverables.

For me, half of the experience with new games is thumbing through a thick manual full of stats, spells, class information, lore, etc, etc. In recent years many publishers have cut way back on this content, but it was still something I liked about picking up the boxed product. Nothing beat the smell of freshly printed color manuals... Ahhh printing chemicals! And honestly, an RPG manual with a phat section of spells... Heaven!

Let's get back to the iTunes thread... When is the last time you actually bought an album and LOOKED at the art and liner notes that the artist put together. This used to be a big deal for me. With the convenience of digitally distributed music, I rarely buy entire albums from the store. In fact, I can't remember the last time that I did. But I definitely have less connection to the artists these days. I know the songs that I hear but that's about it. This really 'depersonalizes' the relationship consumers have with their products.

So while I think we've gained a bit in terms of the convenience, we're losing touch of that tangible relationship we used to build with our music and our games. I expect in the not too distant future some writer somewhere will lament the loss of that quirky little thing called the US Postal service.. After all, who needs paper based mail delivery when you have email??

Back when I was your age, I had to DRIVE to the store, buy the game, and then read through the manual 4 times before playing. Boy times are changin; fast.



Props to my guildie!

My guildmate Garen has a really nice EQ2 themed blog over here

He's also just posted a very cool looking EQ2/Guild themed web comic. Kudos Garen!



Life Imitating Art, Imitating Life

Had to chuckle over this one... The HR department at the company I work for just announced a revamped promotion plan. The previous promotion plan had only six levels for employees to progress through. This was described as too flat. So... The logical thing to do was to increase the level cap and now there are seventeen levels for us to grind through on our way to unlocking the CIO achievement =). Yay! Have to wonder when they are going to offer bonus XP week next.

In all seriousness, most of my colleagues seemed to like the fact that they had a clearer career path progression; even if those promotions were tied to smaller pay/title increases. In the end I think it really speaks to the need for people to feel like they have a goal to work towards, whether in game or in their careers.

Somewhat connected to the topic of games and work... I came across this post at the Are We New At This Blog.

An excerpt from the Amazon listing:

  • Plan successful raids, player vs. player battles, roleplaying sessions, and contests
  • Deal with problem players and keep a lid on guild-fracturing drama
  • Solve loot issues and choose the best loot system for your guild
  • Boost your guild’s morale, reputation, and server presence
  • Promote and motivate an effective officer corps
  • Organize fun and safe real-world guild meetings and events

Run this through the corporate speak blender for a quality mash-up:

  • Plan successful hostile takeovers, employee vs. employee conflict resolution, dealing with weirdos in the workplace, and how to run an NCAA pool from you cubicle
  • Deal with problem employees and keep a lid on team breaking drama
  • Solve pay issues and choose the best compensation system for your corporation
  • Boost your teams morale, e-peen, and breaking into the S&P 500
  • Promote and motivate an effective leadership
  • Out of office socializing best avoided for most workplaces. See any episode of 'The Office'

I think it fits. With a quick find-and-replace, and some very minor editing, this book could be the next 'One Minute Manager' for the up and coming generation of gamers about to launch into careers.

So yeah... I do see a lot of Life Imitating Art, Imitating Life here. Lots of the same topics, some silly, some serious. All connected by the people who drive them.



Hibernating with Games

Been a while since I last wrote... Yeah life just seems to get in the way sometimes. Summer is over which means I am done working in the garden and on the house for the most part. It also means that I have had a bit more time to play games. And thank god for that because there has been no shortage of good titles lately..

EQ2 continues to be my main squeeze. The guild has been working through some of the TSO raid instances. We are farming the first 3 named encounters in ToMC, first named in Palace and the first named in Ykesha's. We also had our first clear of Ward of Elements last night. Yay! Go RnH! Also new in EQ2, I was promoted to an officer within our guild. This was flattering as there are a lot of really good people in the guild. I am still a little intimidated by the whole thing, but I am having fun helping people out and moving the group forward.

Next up, I had a brief fling with Torchlight. It's fun brain candy that's good for a short session when I have a little down time. I do like the cartoonish graphics. Reminds me of some of the models and style from Full Throttle. Hmmm.. Bet this game would port to an iPhone real well. The graphics aren't all that sophisticated and the UI is just a lot of tapping.. err I mean clicking.

Dragon Age - Yep it's great. I keep hearing RPG of the decade thrown around. Suppose that means that title gets handed back by Bethesda for Oblivion or Fallout 3. My how game reviewers have such short memories. They remind me of Hammy from over the Hedge. I do think the game succeeds in delivering a great story that immerses the player though. I have, at times, felt like there hasn't been enough action. That may be due to how much I actually enjoy the combat system. It's rich and rewards smart tactics. Almost like an RTS within an RPG. Good stuff!

Uncharted 2 for the PS3.. Working through it slowly. It's the one game my wife will sit and watch me play. Also a great story and fun action game. A must have for the PS3

Demons Souls - Jury still out. Needs more play time.

Plus this week MW2 is released.. I promised a colleague I would hop onto their TS server to play with them to try it out. I'm gonna get schooled!

Last I keep hearing great things about Assassins Creed 2. I haven't even seen the first game, but I am interested in seeing what the hubbub is all about. I will probably check this out in the very near future.

Thank god fall and winter are here!


Reflecting back...

It's summer time where I live which means I am riding my bike to work about 3 days a week. This allows me to kill two birds with one stone; I get exercise AND I get to work. Score!

The other bonus is that cycling in takes just a few minutes longer then a drive would, which allows me a to listen to a podcast or just think about whatever is on my mind.

On the ride in the other day, I found myself thinking about how I got started with computer games. This turned into a journey down the 'memory lane' of lost but not forgotten titles... I always smile when I think back on my time working through these games. Back then, PC gaming was so very new and fresh that you could consider each game to be revolutionary in some way.

Chronologically my timeline went something like this:
Zork I - 1980:
This was a Christmas or birthday gift from my parents I have pictures showing the box standing up next to a pile of wrapping paper. I spent hours playing this game with my dad. I was too young to be able to get through it all myself but with his help and a pad full of graph paper we would do a little 'Zorking' a few nights a week before I had to go to bed. I'll always remember that.

Wizardry I - 1981
There was a drugstore on the corner down the street from my house. My dad used to help the family with their Apple computer. In return, they gave us a copy of Wizardy I on some 5 1/2 inch disks along with a photo copy of the game manual.... I would be lying if I said I didn't take that manual to school with me every day for 3 months straight. I used to read the spell names and descriptions. I'd study class and race stats religiously. I loved that game. My dad and I would sit for hours playing. One of us would man the graph paper and the other would drive at the keyboard. Every move down the hall or into a new room was a coordinated effort between the driver and the mapper. Forward, Forward, Kick... An encounter!!!

Ultima - 1981
My wife has this game and Wizardry to thank for my computer RPG fetish. We used to play this in the computer lab (Apple II) back in school. Not sure how we pulled that one off, but hey... I still got into 'Collej'. I remember roaming big open continents in an Isometric perspective.. Quite cutting edge for the time.

Escape from Rungistan - 1982
This was another handed down copy from our friends at the drugstore. One of my first graphic adventure games. I loved some of the puzzles in this game and I can remember trying to dodge trees while skiing down the hill over and over and over... Take Candybar.... Give Candybar...

AutoDuel - 1985
I was into CarWars for a little while and this game was based on that IP... We didn't have a joystick for our computer and I remember playing this using a Koala Pad as an input device... I know, I know... Ghetto to be sure. I remember running missions in this game to advance the story and gear up my vehicle... I also remember lasers being way too overpowered and the fear I had of getting lost on the roads outside of town.

Bard's Tale - 1985
I loved this game... I liked the packaging, the town of Skara Brae, the music, the dungeons... It was great! I would come home from school and plunk down in front of the PC for a bit each afternoon to see what I could discover in the world. You can still find ports of Bard's Tale and Wizardry for today's PCs. Ahh the nostalgia. I was soooo disappointed at the crappy reuse of the Bard's Tale IP on the console generation. fail.

Sentinel Worlds I - Future Magic - 1989
A great Sci-Fi rpg. This one also had great music and good graphics for the time as well if memory serves correctly. I played this through to the end and enjoyed the whole thing. Nice balance between ship combat and party based combat. This was my Eve minus the whole online persistent world thing...

...and I'm rolling through the gate at work. Another nice ride and some good memories. I wonder what I'll be playing with my son when he is old enough... I only hope he doesn't roll his eyes and tell me 'That's for old people' if I show up with graph paper.



The Anti-Climactic Epic

Last Sunday we headed back to Veeshan's Peak for another shot at Silverwing to get our MT his mythical. The poor guy has had to hold aggro against an increasingly mythed out raid force... Ouch.

Without going into a ton of detail, this fight is another heavily scripted event that requires some good coordination of raid resources. It doesn't have nearly the bad luck = wipe factor that a Venril Sathir fight has, but it is still a technical encounter.

To be succesful, you have to coordinate tanking the main mob, burning and mezzing adds, jousting a nasty AE, work through a seemingly random charm effect, and clicking statues when called to. Lots to manage.

I was also assigned Main Assist duties, flinging the raid dps onto targets for the Off Tank and then back onto Silverwing after the adds had been killed.

This fight had adrenaline written all over it.

The call for the pull went out and the action started.
  • People in the raid are jousting like champs! Things going well. Heartrate is up!
  • Clicky classes getting called out and doing their jobs... Pulse rate rising rapidly!
  • Mobs health down to 60%... Here come the adds... I start slinging dps.. Pulse up, perspiration incoming!
  • Adds burning fast and dps back onto Silverwing.. awesome! Knuckles on mouse hand whitening visibly!!!
  • Silverwing's health continues to drop... Looking good people!
  • Oh MY GOD! I'm charmed and getting crushed! Heal me please!
  • Awesome! Healers came through... Back to burning adds. Off tank needs a quick Monk heal from me... Feet dancing nervously on the floor!!!!
  • Silverwing is at 9%... GO! GO! GO!
  • Mezzing rest of adds and all dps on Mob for final burn!!!!!!!!!
  • Silverwing Down!!!! Heart rate has to be about 200 beats per minute.

Awesome fight! Great job by everyone!

I am super pumped that we just pulled that off. The fight was a total blast and we have a good time hooting and hollering in voice chat... This was Epic!

Next our guild leader announces that we are going to take a shot at Shade of Khalan Dar and Phara Dar. I need Shade for my Monk epic... Cool!

We pull both mobs and proceed to burn Shade down for the kill..... Phara gets away from us but it is late and we need to break for the evening.

So yeah, I got my epic... But in all honesty, it was anti-climactic compared to the fight with Silverwing. For me, the best part of the evening was seeing my guild click like a machine on a very tricky encounter.

Gratz on the kill, Revelry and Honor! Well Done!