Death of a Bailout

I’m kind of glad the bailout bill failed.  The “credit crisis” hasn’t affected me in the slightest, and I have yet to see any specific explanation of how it might affect me in the future.  So now I won’t be able to get a loan for more money than I can ever pay back… that’s a crisis?

I’m no fan of Nancy Pelosi, but I don’t think she caused the bailout to fail.  I mean, she says partisan stuff all the time and Republicans haven’t melted down before.  But on the off chance that she did kill it, way to go Nancy!

I was surprised Eric Cantor voted for the bill.  It had his “insurance” provisions in it but it didn’t sound anything like what he originally wanted.  For one thing, it sounded like the insurance was optional.  Who’s going to voluntarily buy insurance when they could get free money from the government instead?  It felt like more of a token effort than a real push to defend the taxpayers.  Maybe he… *gasp*… compromised.  RINO!!  Burn the heretic!!

WAR Report, Day Something

More notes from WAR.  I don’t know what it is about MMOs that inspire a lot of commentary.  I guess everyone has an opinion about how to make MMOs better.

  • I’m starting to notice some repetition in the gameplay at level 15-17.  I find myself grinding on the stage 1 public quests quite a lot in order to build up influence points to get the cool influence rewards.  It’s not very fun.  But it’s the only way to do it because you hardly ever find any groups doing public quests.
  • I actually started leveling an Ironbreaker (a dwarf tank) just to mitigate some of the above tedium.  Ironbreakers are a completely different animal from witch hunters.  For one thing, combat is really, really drawn out.  This is because tanks are designed to stand there all day in the middle of a melee and draw the attacks of all the bad guys away from the soft, vulnerable spell-casters, but to balance out their relative invulnerability, they don’t have a lot of damage potential.  So when you’re solo, it takes quite a while to kill mobs.  Everything turns into an epic battle.
  • But back to the witch hunter.  At level 16, I suddenly started to notice that I was picking up a lot of gear that required level 17 and 18 to use.  Even some of the quest rewards were above my level.  I think it’s because I ended up in a slightly higher level area than I’m supposed to be for level 16.  But my guy doesn’t have any trouble finishing quests with mobs of level 19-20 so I didn’t really notice.  I don’t know if it’s because witch hunters are super powerful or if I’m just lucky a lot.
  • It also seems like I’m finding a lot more gear for other classes now.  Through levels 1-10, it seemed like almost everything I picked up was something I could use immediately.  Not so much anymore.  I’ve had the same sword and pistol for like 5 levels now, and my bank is filling up with gear I can’t use.
  • I’m up over 20 gold, so I should be able to easily afford a horse when I get to level 20.
  • My scavenging skill level is up over 100, but I have no idea what the effect of a higher skill level is.  I’ve never not been able to scavenge a corpse.  I suppose I’m getting better and/or more useful crafting supplies from it, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
  • Speaking of which, I finally figured out (by reading a web site heh) that if you use two cloudy waters when making potions, the stability meter goes up to maximum and they don’t fail.  Once I found that out I was finally able to start making potions from the crafting stuff I scavenged from corpses, so my apothecary skill is finally moving up.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to make useful healing potions, because you don’t find them very often.  (On the other hand, I find entirely too many potions to restore action points, which I never need.  I’m carrying like 40 of them now.)
  • The Tier 2 Stonetroll Crossing scenario is not very fun to play (as opposed to the Tier 1 Nordenwatch scenario).  On Grimnir, there just aren’t many people on the Order side who seem to ”get” the concept of capture the flag.  They mostly just run around in a group looking for a fight, while a handful of coordinated Destruction players stroll around the sides with the flag and win the games by like 500-2 in a couple of minutes.  Fortunately, you get renown points just for participating.  But it’s just not very fun to be the only person with any kind of situational awareness.  Unfortunately since I’m a witch hunter there’s no way I’m going to pick up the flag… it doesn’t take a lot to kill a witch hunter, especially with the entire Destruction team on you.  (The flag carrier should be a tank or maybe a healer to have even a small chance of a solo capture.)  And for the privilege of getting spanked in this scenario you usually have to wait for like 20-30 minutes in a queue before getting in (presumably waiting for enough Order players to arrive, since Destruction outnumbers Order by 2:1 on Grimnir, as on most servers).
  • As far as I can tell there are not very many Order players on Grimnir participating in RvR battlefields.  Destruction controls everything in the Empire vs. Chaos areas, and I never see any Order groups in the RvR areas of Troll Country.  Just a few people here and there probably doing the same thing I’m doing — fulfilling quests in RvR territory.  Certainly nobody trying to actually reclaim the battlefield objectives.  It’s sad because I don’t think it would take very much effort to take them – I never see any Destruction players defending the objectives; it’s all NPC guards.
  • Every now and then I see an animated marquee square on the map… I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean.  Is that where a bunch of people are fighting?  It’d be nice if you could mouse over it and see an explanation.
  • I can’t find the “doctor’s plagued cache” anywhere in Wolfenburg!  I’ve been through that silly town like 20 times and I still can’t find it, even though there are tons of boxes and carts around the area.  It’s got to be a bug.
  • I got a WAR add-on called SpamMeNot.  I’ve been getting gold and leveling service spam (only $299 to level your char to 40!) approximately once every 5 minutes, and every day it was a new random name sending the tells.  It just got to be too much work to put all of them on ignore.  (Also I think there’s a bug in ignore because I still got tells from people I was supposed to be ignoring.)  Anyway since I installed SpamMeNot yesterday I haven’t gotten a single spam.  It’s been so effective that I’m actually suspicious:  It’s not saying that it’s blocking any spam; they aren’t sending them to me anymore.  Almost as if the gold seller somehow knows I have this thing installed and stopped sending because of it.  Curious.  Anyway I removed it again to see if the spam starts up again.  Hopefully it’s completely innocent and Mythic coincidentally blocked this guy’s IP at the same time I installed SpamMeNot.  I’d hate to think the gold sellers had infilitrated the WAR add-on community already.

And finally, a few words on Need vs. Greed rolls.  If you’re in a group, and anyone loots an item, each person is shown the item and asked whether it’s something they need (“need”) or something they want (“greed”).  You can also “pass” if you don’t need or want it at all.  The game will give the item first to someone who chose “need,” otherwise it will give it to someone who chose “greed.”  I believe this is (yet another) concept taken from WoW.  Theoretically, if the item is something your character needs and can use, you click on “need.”  If it’s something your character can use in the future or maybe one of your alts can use it, you click on “greed.”  Otherwise you click on “pass.”

Now I didn’t play a lot of WoW, and certainly not much in groups, but even I can tell you that this is a horrible, horrible system of loot distribution and it defies explanation why Mythic carried it over into WAR.  The vast majority of humans are going to act like pricks if given an opportunity, so almost everyone automatically clicks “need” on everything whether they need it or not, so they have the highest chance of getting the item.  If it’s not something their character can actually use, they’ll give it to an alt or guildmate or sell it in an auction.

Tobold had a good idea for one solution — automatically bind items to players who select “need.”  That way they have no choice but to either equip it or sell it to a merchant.  I think that’s a great idea, but I think it would be even better if they simply gave the loot to a random person in the group without any choice.  Mainly because it’s incredibly annoying to have to stop and examine an item and then click a “need” or “greed” button when you’re in the middle of a fight.

That Bailout Thingy

I know nothing about the mysteriously ambiguous world of economics so I can’t speculate as to whether this bailout thing is good, bad, or indifferent.  Well, actually I can — I can speculate that bailing out big companies sounds bad.  Not so much for the dreaded socialism aspect but more for the fact that the upper echelons of all these failed companies won’t experience any consequences from their persistent record of gross incompetence.  (Not that they would experience any consequences without a bailout either, since I’m sure they’d just move on to another cozy CEO job.)

One other thing:  I keep hearing over and over that the reason we need to do this bailout right away is that small businesses rely heavily on the credit markets, so they’ll all die out if they can’t have ready access to credit on a daily basis.  I can’t help but wonder why so many businesses are so dependent on credit… why don’t small businesses have, you know, actual money?  It seems like a no brainer to me that if you are constantly paying expenses by borrowing money, you are eventually going to collapse, and any kind of bailout will just prolong the inevitable.

This might be one of the only times in my life that I actually support Eric Cantor in his push for an alternate bailout.

WAR Report, Altdorf

I was wandering around Altdorf the other night, which is the capital city for the Empire (ie. the humans).  I don’t remember why I went there — probably to find someone to fulfill some quest.  Or maybe just because it was enabled on the map where it wasn’t before.  Anyway, I was anxious to see it because capital cities in MMOs tend to be crowded, interesting places with lots of things to see and do and bustling activity everywhere.  (I’m thinking of Stormwind and Ironforge from WoW, where crowds of players packed the streets, begging for gold and hawking their goods and services.)

Altdorf, however, was a gigantic wasteland of missing content and missing players.  I ran across maybe four or five others while I was there, each of which seemed to have the same puzzled expression — where is everyone?  You can run around the streets and look at all kinds of buildings, but you can only enter a handful of them.  And even if you could go into a building, most of the time there was nothing to do there.  There were NPCs everywhere, but hardly any of them talk or give out quests.  Maybe it will blossom into something better at later levels, but at level 12, it was definitely not worth the visit.

There are a handful of unique vendors there, though:  The horse vendor, the last name registrar (whatever that is), the guild registrar and a bunch of librarians.  So at least I know where to go now when I’m ready to buy a horse.  Also, the auction house was there, but there was nothing useful for my character to buy.

Sorry IE7 Users

By the way I’d like to apologize to anyone who has viewed my site recently with Internet Explorer 7.  Sometimes it rendered very badly, randomly writing text all over the place, shifting boxes around and generally looking ugly (see below).  It had something to do with an overflow:hidden CSS attribute in the rounded boxes, which apparently is not well liked by Internet Explorer.  I had to implement one of those “conditional comment” hacks to use an alternate style sheet for Internet Explorer browsers.

Darkfall?

Darkfall sounds like it might be a cool new MMORPG on the horizon.  The screenshots look really nice, and the feature list sounds impressive.  I just signed up for the beta on a whim.  (I put “Crayola Clan” as my clan hehe.)  I will do an excellent job of testing how their game runs on a crappy PC gaming rig.

WAR Report, Day 7

…and day 2 of not being able to play because I haven’t received my pre-ordered copy in the mail yet.  That part’s not surprising, but it is beyond belief that Mythic made the unbelievably retarded decision to disable the head start codes a couple of days after launch.  Honestly the more I read about Mythic’s business practices, the less I want to play this game.  But I guess I’m stuck with it now, since mine has already shipped.  I don’t think I’ll have a problem putting it away within a month, though.

I found some server population statistics on the TribalWar forums:  Grimnir only has 222 (guilded) Order players!  No wonder I hardly ever ran into anyone doing the public quests.  I might need to change servers or something.

If you look at the highest populations on that list, it only comes out to around 6,000 players per server, undoubtedly only a fraction of which are actually playing at any given time.  Whatever happened to the days when massively multiplayer games were, you know, massive?  It seems to me that Asheron’s Call and Ultima Online had gazillions of players all on the same server at the same time, and the towns were all choked with people.

In that same vein, it seems that the worlds of WoW and WAR (in terms of physical dimensions) are quite a bit smaller than MMOs back in the day.  In Asheron’s Call and Ultima Online, it took forever to run across the world.  The world was huge!  One might even say massive.  I used to have great fun picking a direction and running as far as I could — it was always an adventure in AC because you had to be careful about getting bogged down with too much loot.  But in WoW and WAR, they have compressed the terrain into much smaller areas.  You can almost see the next village on the horizon from the village you’re currently in.

WAR Report, Day 6

Since I can’t play WAR anymore because it now requires me to enter the CD key from the CD that hasn’t arrived yet, I guess this is a good opportunity to write down some more impressions of WAR.  (Yes, once again, people who pre-order games get screwed.)

  • Bottom Line.  If you’re sick to death of WoW gameplay, you won’t find anything significantly new in WAR.  It’s just different models and scenery and lore.  Fortunately for me, I only played WoW for about 2 months (out of its unbelievable 4 year lifespan).
  • Classes.  There’s an eclectic mixture of classes, most of which don’t seem to fit into the traditional RPG class categories.  I’m having a lot of fun with the witch hunter class (a “melee DPS” class), although it’s getting to be more of a struggle at level 11.
  • Public Quests.  This is the best feature of the game so far, IMO.  They are broken into three “stages.”  To take part, all you have to do is wander into a PQ area and do what it says in the upper-right corner of the screen (usually kill a bunch of mobs).  You get “influence” points by taking part, and if you collect enough points you get to pick out some cool gear and additional quests from a vendor.  You don’t even have to be in a group or anything.  In fact you can usually finish off the first stage of public quests solo.  But once it moves on to the second or third stage, you have to have help because you typically face “champion” mobs that take a coordinated group effort to kill.  When the third stage of the quest is finished, everyone who participated (significantly) gets a chance at some cool loot.  Unfortunately, due to the population issue below, you don’t run across very many people actually doing the public quests.
  • PvE.  A lot of people are saying Mythic spent all their time on PvP and didn’t flesh out the PvE, but I find that’s not the case at all.  There’s plenty of quests to do in PvE, at least through level 11 — in fact there’s a lot more quests available than you really need.  Admittedly there’s not much of a storyline, but that’s true in almost every RPG game I’ve ever seen.  Just like WoW, you end up skimming through the badly written quest text to the part where it says what you really need to do.  (They spend so much money on production values for these games now you’d think they could afford to hire a real wordsmith to put some interesting text in those quest dialogs.)
  • Scenarios.  Very similar (by which I mean basically identical) to WoW battlegrounds, but easier to access.  They are kind of fun, but they’re awfully chaotic.  I don’t know how everyone else does PvP, but for me it’s just a lot of mad button-mashing on the keyboard and out-of-control circle-strafing.  You really can’t see anything that’s going on when you’re in the middle of a group of 20 people fighting it out (at least I can’t).  I just try to stay close to the group, use “target closest enemy” a lot, and somehow I get experience points out of it.
  • RvR.  RvR (realm vs. realm) is supposed to be the biggest feature of WAR.  Unfortunately it’s something you really need a group or guild to enjoy so I can’t give it much of a fair review.  Whenever I wander into the open RvR areas (to fulfill quests) I get ganked by somebody who clearly has a lot more PvP experience than me, so I run like a screaming little girl from 1-on-1 encounters (not that that helps – you might as well stand and fight).
  • Bugs.  There are some glitches here and there with mob positioning (sometimes mobs will just disappear), but that’s not a big deal.  There is one major bug though when you select influence rewards — sometimes the items never appear in your backpack, which really sucks.  Yesterday I purposefully ground on stage 1 public quest mobs to get my influence up to the highest level so I could get a nice sword and armor, and the gear just vanished.  And of course the vendor wouldn’t give me the stuff again.  Not cool.  Maybe it’s just the beta client.
  • Lag.  There is some, but I haven’t been killed because of it so it’s no big deal.
  • Grinding.  Thankfully, there isn’t much.  Those annoying quests where you have to get 5 things from mobs but they only drop the thing 1% of the time are entirely gone.  When you get a quest to kill 5 things, you go out and kill 5 things and come back, period.  It rocks.  (So far all of the quests are to kill things or find things, by the way.  No escort quests.)
  • Mobs.  Unlike WoW, you can actually survive if you’re unexpectedly jumped by 2 or 3 mobs.  I hated that about WoW.
  • Population.  On Grimnir, I hardly ever run into anyone else competing for the same quests, and most of the public quests are actually empty.  Wait times for scenarios are tolerable.  Sometimes there’s no waiting at all.
  • Running.  There are times when you need to do an annoying amount of running back and forth (at least in Norsca) to turn in quests, but for the most part it’s minimal.  You have to go to a flight master to get from one realm to another; you can’t just run there.
  • Backpack.  It’s too small, as usual.  It gets filled up with crafting supplies very fast.  You automatically get more space every 10 levels, but I haven’t seen where you can buy any larger packs or anything, and I haven’t found a bank yet.  On the plus side, the backpack “filter” options are very cool.  It lets you automatically put certain types of items into different packs.
  • Gold.  There is definitely no shortage of money.  You can easily afford to buy the best stuff at merchants.  So yeah, don’t waste your money with Korean gold farmers (and yes I’ve seen in-game ads for that already).
  • Gathering.  I picked “scavenging” as my gathering skill and so far I’m not sure it’s worth it.  Basically it lets you pick up extra crafting supplies from corpses, but I haven’t been able to actually do much with the supplies except sell them.
  • Crafting.  I picked “apothecary” as my crafting skill and up to about skill level 35 I haven’t been able to make anything useful.  You pick up far better potions as loot.  I’m not sure, but I think you can re-train your gathering and crafting skills if you change your mind, which is cool.  Crafting is an area of the game that needs work — you get the impression that the game designers spent more time thinking about PvP than crafting.
  • Death.  There’s basicallly no penalty for dying as far as I can tell, except for the time it takes to run back to where you died.  (And you don’t even need to do that in PvE.)  You don’t lose experience, you don’t lose items, and you don’t become a ghost.  There’s a small, cumulative penalty on your total hit points for about 15 minutes, but there’s always a healer NPC right there where you respawn that will remove the penalty for a microscopic fee.

Here’s my witch hunter Otteinmed (yes, a random name).  The picture is not at all representative of the in-game character.  In the game he actually looks a lot like NBC Political Director Chuck Todd.

Finally != Inevitable

For future reference:  I had always heard that there were cases where finally blocks were not run.  The other day I actually witnessed one of those situations:  In a .NET console app, if you hit CTRL-C to exit the application, finally blocks are not executed.  Fortunately garbage collection will still handle standard cleanup of objects for you (at least I assume so).  But if you need to do something special you have to use the System.Console.CancelKeyPress event, like so:

System.Console.CancelKeyPress += delegate { Cleanup(); };

Be careful because it runs in a separate thread — the main thread is not interrupted and won’t actually stop until the CancelKeyPress handler returns.

Unfortunately, I found no way to handle the situation where the user clicks the close button (the red X) on the console window.  It skips both CancelKeyPress and all the finally blocks.

WAR First Impressions

Well I finally got the WAR beta client downloaded, unzipped, installed and patched up for the head start (a process that stretched over two days and nights), and I played a little bit on the Grimnir server last night.  That means I got a one day head start on the retail public riff-raff, since the public launch is supposed to be today, the 18th.

I’m trying to keep my expectations pretty low since the hype surrounding this game is pretty unbelievable, but here are a few of my initial impressions:

  • I picked Grimnir, a Core rules server which, at the time, had Low populations of Order and Destruction.  I rolled three Order characters, and got one of them to level 2, for a grand total of maybe 1 hour of playing time.  I only played PvE quests; I didn’t try any PvP stuff.
  • I didn’t experience any lag or connection problems, except for about 15 minutes where the account authentication server was down.  By game launch standards, that’s pretty good.
  • There is no doubt that this is an evolutionary game, not a revolutionary game.  The gameplay appears to be entirely derived from previous MMO games (*cough* WoW *cough*).  Graphics and animations are very similar to other MMO games (*cough* WoW *cough*).  The jumping and falling animation, as one example, is the exact same one we’ve been seeing since Asheron’s Call, where your guy splays out his arms and legs in a DaVinci-style Vitruvian Man pose.
  • There’s a curious amount of “inside baseball” information in the game.  For example, when choosing your class, it says “tank” or “melee DPS” or “ranged DPS” right there in the character description, which obviously is not the terminology you’d expect to see used by characters in the game world.  It’s like the Warhammer lore is just a thin varnish over an otherwise generic MMO engine.
  • Combat is like WoW in that you have to click on your special action buttons in order to do real damage, otherwise you’ll be doing minimal damage with the default attacks and the fight will drag out forever.  However it is different from WoW in that your special actions don’t consume much of your action bar… you can keep clicking on your special action over and over and over again and not lose more than a third of your action bar (at level 1, at least).  It takes about 3-4 special attack hits to kill people at level 1.
  • Side note:  Is it really necessary for us to pick the eye color of our characters?  I mean, seriously, it’s like 2 pixels worth of information, and besides you only get to look at your character’s back during the game anyway.  Seems like a wasted effort.
  • On the guild front, I found out that you have to collect together a group of six unguilded players before you can register your guild.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll start a web page anyway and just pretend like it’s a guild.  Yeah, that sounds pretty sane.
  • Player behavior is relatively innocuous so far, with one exception:  One guy came up to me while I was trying to get a new spell from a vendor, and he’s all trying to chat and stuff.  “Hello.”  “Hello?”  “Helloooo????”  What the hell is wrong with people?  I’m trying to play a game here!  I don’t have all night to sit around chatting with needy, attention-starved people or guild trolls.  I need a macro for those kinds of situations.  “No time to talk!  Small window of playing time!  Thx bye!”