New blog address

Yes just I reminder that I do have a new blog and am still writing lots of amazingly awesome stuff about mmo’s and whatev

Healingthemasses.net now

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

WELCOME party peoplz to the dawn of a new age. Healing the masses is now leaving the safe confines of the wordpress reach and braving into into the wild scary backwaters of the internet. Yep, Self Hosting is go and you can now find me at Healing the Masses . net. This site will still be staying open for quite  awhile while as I bring over a whole heap of photos that didn’t come with and fix up the linkage at the new site, ehhhh… probably afterwards as well so if you want to read all those old posts here that’s up to you.

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The Secret World and New Player Experience

There have been a lot of changes incoming for The secret World that were outlined among the the recent blog, chief among those the Enhanced Player Experience, aka a nerf bat raining down upon the lands. There has been a bit of criticism around this decision as well, TSW is about the difficulty in a way. It’s about learning the skills and creating the right kinds of builds. It is a process most people are meant to go through.

The mmo player in me that’s prone to hardcore bouts of grind and utter devotion from time to time balks at such a thing. Having a certain amount of challenge in these mmo’s is a point of pride. it gives that sense of achievement for me and, it’s one of the primary things within these games that makes me strive for better. Without this element and mmo loses a great amount of appeal, or at least the average mmo does.

For TSW, I’m not so sure. This is the one game I could go casual for, and want to go casual for but there is so much getting in the way. TSW is just not a game I think you can devote yourself too entirely, their just isn’t enough interesting, and engaging content and mechanics to keep your time and with how much they update it never will be. That’s not a bad thing though as what they have their is good enough to make me want to repeatedly come back to try and enjoy but not enough to get through some of the other elements.

The difficulty has never been it’s strong point, in fact, it’s often a point of frustration. I can get by just fine within the game, I enjoy the skill building aspects but all those elements of difficulty and complexity get in the way of the game I want to play. I really don’t care about the combat in the slightest, it is rather average and is rather boring. No, what I enjoy within TSW is the story. It is by far the strongest part of the experience so why they wouldn’t want to create a greater ease around this aspect is beyond me.

In my mind there efforts to balance the game a bit more in regards to skills, time to kill and difficulty of the combat elements is a very good thing. I believe it will bring a lot of people back in who hit that difficulty wall before rather early in the game and then gave up. This way it gives people a chance to get hooked on the narrative first, to get immersed and involved with it. To give enough time and space to learn about the skills, passives and the inherent complexity there without being overtly punished. The difficulty is still there for end game content too but if you have gotten there your probably invested enough to continue at that stage.

TSW has been struggling for some time, Funcom has been struggling, you can see it in their financial reports each time. They are working on a razor thin margin their for running their games and hopefully this will bring people back to the game and keep Funcom going with creating this wonderful title.

A Self Hosted Solution

So Yep, after all this time I’ve decided to go the self – Hosted route. Setting it up doesn’t seem that hard, just incredibly time consuming. I’m probably going the blue host route so if anyone has a referral code I can use to get some contributions feel free to put it below.

I’ve been reading up a bit on css formatting of late too, and have become adept at reading and mostly understanding that inspect element stuff browsers have so setting it up, and with a little personalisation will take a bit but should be achievable.

Along this line I’m just wondering what you all think about blog layouts. What it a good style to have. what works for you and what do you look for in the style of a blog? what makes it easier to read for you? Rss will always be fully open, but the rest is up for debate.

The main thing I’m Thinking about now is just what to call the blog. Do i go for Healingthemasses.net, htmgaming like the youtube or some kind of other name. Really wondering about that as it’s a name I would want to keep from then on and kind of want to get it right.

So Suggestions for a name below would be appreciated.

Importance of Polish

With playing Final Fantasy 14 at the moment  I’ve got to wondering whether innovation is something we truly want, or even need in mmo’s. By all accounts it’s a wow clone, and while a polished one with a lot of mechanics from elsewhere it really offers nothing of its own to the equation. By all accounts it shouldn’t be succeeding where many others have fallen; Wildstar and ESO just before it that both added nothing as well and paid the price for that yet Final Fantasy has continued to grow, grow to 4 million accounts lately which means box purchases… that’s reasonably impressive in this age.

Yet in spite of that, and with playing another mmo that is but an iteration on the same formulae I’ve become rather enamoured with it. Usually I get bored with these types of experiences quite quickly but I’ve been grinding out the levels and quests for my kitty zerker for a few days now. Playing for many hours at a time. Completing all the dungeons as I go multiple times and having a good time with it. I’m even excited about what’s to come even before I’ve gotten to the cap. I’ve been actively researching and looking at class and tanking guides too: ways to gear up, raid and dungeon videos.. all that boring stuff I haven’t bothered with since rift.

It’s silly but rather exciting to be wrapped up in that mmo goodness again. And it’s not that thirsty in the desert kind of feeling either, well, it was at first but now that I’ve settled in I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would and I think the main reason for this is just polish.

Yes it’s polished in the usual kind of ways now. Graphical purrty as all heck. Ability lag is a thing of the past and rivals that of blizzard making gameplay and combat feel smooth. And just the content and game run smoothly throughout play. It is a game that has gotten the attention it needs to fill itself out and run well… sadly a lot of games can’t say the same lately.

Anyway, it is more than that as well and by polish I also mean they have actually taken the time to figure out what it is they want to do. It is a game that actually seems to have planned itself out in regards to the pace of combat, the styles available, the types and methods of acquiring shinies. Just the way the whole game, each of its components fits together.

Mostly I get the feeling the engaged in a little introspection regarding mmo’s in general. They didn’t just blindly copy what the current zeitgeist is, the populist mechanics and they also didn’t fall prey to throwing out the perfectly functioning components just to appear “edgy”, and “innovative”. They seem to have actually sat down and thought about the usual mechanics of mmos: what works, what doesn’t and figure out why then mold these towards their own vision. There is a level of understanding there in how they’ve designed the components so that it becomes greater than the whole. Greater than the usual.

MMO’s don’t really need to strive to be different, it’s mostly just a marketing buzzword anyway and rarely keeps people around after they’ve grown tired of the same bull shit reskinned with the same mistakes. Innovation can be good too, dynamic events are something I think enriches the genre and were a huge departure from the standard but so many games use this now without really dissecting it mechanically and then integrating it within their game to be cohesive.

I just feel that mmo’s need more thought put into them first and that it seems doing so is far more important than aiming for some kind of new shiny appeal.

Link Dead Radio: Identifying with the Industry

oh what dastardly plots I’ve run a foul of, bringing my post to the pit of despair. Planning to undo me in the most wicked of ways, curled around me and suffocating the will of the scheduled post. In other words the unemployment/ vacation vibes made me forget what day it was.. so i missed a day.

But alas, you are still trapped within the telling of these terrible tales of trite tidbits.

Continue reading

Contemplating Cities Skyline

NOw, it’s a game that’s getting rave reviews at the moment for a lot of the right reasons although I would have to call it a little overrated as well. City builders are a very popular genre and after the dismal release and gameplay of the newest Simcity a lot of people seem to have been longing for a game that does the genre right and is a proper successor to the Simcity franchise. While Cities Skyline does seem to get the former right I would be hard pressed to call it a proper successor to Simcity, at least the games I fondly remember and played religiously.

It is done very well. The foundations of a great city builder are here and they have improved on the formulae in a few areas. As per usual you can set particular types of areas you want between residential, commercial, industrial and office space. These grow depending on the demand within your city with the interest growing over time depending on what your city offers. It is great to see your city grow with these too as each type of building has a certain growth factor depending on the area and services. Eventually you go from small humble buildings to large skyscrapers.

My house is on the corner

My house is on the corner

The policy and zoning mechanics are a new iteration on this as well, and a rather needed one that improves well on the formulae while adding new options and ways to play as well as a much-needed element of personalising your city. It doesn’t seem like much but being able to name these zones really helps you get involved with the game further. It’s more personal but I just wish there was more there. More ways to truly personalise these spaces beyond simplistic policy changes that really don’t change much. To allow only certain types of buildings and industries that could have even worked better with the different types of resources. Maybe even work in the benefits and consequences of these policies a bit better too, and the cost because once your city is properly running you have no problem enacting all the truly beneficial ones.

Cities

You have the same kinds of services to employ: education, police, Fire, disease, death and a couple of others that need to be provided for your city to foster with most having a certain area they work within. There is less of an input with these though, you can up the budget but it doesn’t really increase the radius they work from what I see. Then there is the elements of beautification and special interest buildings although I don’t think this part was done very well. There is an achievement style system of unlocks, population based ones as well as some requiring a particular set of fields being fulfilled and while I get that they were creating elements of progression to play I felt it was mostly unnecessary, and at worse frustrating. I don’t want to have to fulfill certain unnatural goals and checklists just to get certain buildings. These could have just been gained during regular play or have the buildings used certain requirements better, needed buildings.

bah thought i ammended here.. you can make bridges and transport lines along different planes… it’s awesome.

Then there is the planning and road building aspect of the game that is probably the weakest, but not for the reasons that have usually been stated. I think how they have planned the ai to move around the city is actually done pretty well. The have specific home points and destinations and these points need to be fulfilled so you get a lot of extra movement around the city, but it’s movement that is real not the kind of falsified Simcity way of presenting traffic. You see the cars moving the entire distance not just certain parts and filling out data points. Unfortunately the AI, or road traffic mechanics aren’t very smart, or grounded in real life traffic movement. You’ll see at intersections traffic doesn’t move as it should, pathing goes through itself at times creating bottlenecks and it also doesn’t take advantage of times where the traffic could keep going, like short left turns. It doesn’t seem to use the entirety of the road lanes either which makes traffic build up as well.

Cities 2015-03-15 17-30-55-438

The other part that I find is an issue is the lack of options for building my roads and transport routes. It’s all on a singular plane and you create a lot of intersections because of it. It would be far better to have in-game methods of creating raised components and bridges but this is mostly left up to the modding to get. I miss underground roads as well. And then there are the railroads, a needed function for transport of people and goods but you have little customisation over the way you plan these. There are no bridges for railroads, intersections to use and from what I’ve seen no modding support to enable this either, it’s all for roads.

The other element that is rather annoying me has been the placement of certain specialist buildings and how they always require a road present to complete. Most of the time this is easy enough but when it involves coordinating a road with a railroad or the shoreline it gets a lot harder. I couldn’t even get the ferry and cargo ship ports to work. Stop the nanny style of play and just let me put stuff down, it already has the tech for autocompleting pathways so it should be a non issue.

Cities

I also felt there was just a lack of connectivity. You build a large city and it’s great as the bigger it grows the more space around it becomes available for purchase but I kind of want the feeling of interconnected cities, working together to share and sell. I loved the way in the Simcity 4 how you were specialising cities and their tools of production, which were needed and used by others while you were also gaining things from them. It was that feeling of symbiosis good city builders have… even Simcity 5 was able to pull that off, although in a smaller more restricted fashion. You were growing a world and here, while a large interesting city with different areas is still just a city. I want more than that now.

Although, it is very purrty

Although, it is very purrty

I am enjoying it though, immensely. I love building the foundations of a city and then watching it grow and the way everything moves around is just fantastic. There is probably not enough differentiation in the building types, and zones end up feeling a little too similar (an issue solved through the modding to an extent) but the foundations of it, the elements and mechanics working behind that are done extremely well. From here though, I can only see it getting better as the modding community grows, the recent DLC they’ve unannounced plus the regular support they still plan on providing. Also, I’m rather glad that in the face of Maxis closing we have a company that’s picked up the city building mantle.

Couch Podtatoes Episode 37: Talking Points Three

j3w3l:

Another one of our News posts where we look at what’s hapnin in mmo’s and gaming and then be opinionated assholes.. ENJOY!!

Originally posted on Me Vs. Myself and I:

CP4

This week we’re doing a rehash of an old idea. You’ll probably recognize the title, as we’ve had two other episodes that were also called “Talking Points.” Basically I just rounded up some various news stories, and we briefly talk about each before moving onto the next. With some recent conventions and other big studio closures, we have plenty to cover. That’s really all there is to it, so listen in and enjoy!

Download this EpisodeSubscribe via RSSDownload on iTunesListen on Stitcher

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 37: Talking Points Three (runtime: 1:01:45)

What are we playing? (starts at 1:15)
Discussion: Talking Points (starts at 17:14)

Host Contact information:

Izlain
Blog: Me vs. Myself and I
Twitter:@mevsmyselfandi

J3w3l
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“Braum” by Riot Games (from the album The Music of League of Legends)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the…

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Finding the Fun in Final Fantasy 14

As a mmo player away from mmo’s for a while you get these urges. Urges deep down that feel like some kind of deep dark hole sucking up everything else around it, it needs to  be filled but you have to find the right thing to fill it with. (boy it was hard writing all that without overt innuendos)

Anyway, I say this because that’s where I’ve been lately. I have quite a few awesome games I’ve been playing lately but for some reason they just weren’t enough. Sometimes I would just stare at the desktop looking at these icons, occasionally starting one up before turning them off again. The are great games but not the experience I want at the moment. I want a mmo, I want that familiar feeling to fall into once more. It’s that particular style of gaming comfort I’ve found I can’t be without for too long now.

I needed something and there are a few options to pick from. I tried Guild Wars 2 for a bit but it just didn’t click. Didn’t fulfill the particular whole inside. Firefall a little and yeh, not quite there either. Elder Scrolls will be soon but I still don’t really hold much hope in it keeping my interests. I enjoy it to an extent but it just never felt right for some reason. The secret world is fun, and it certainly fills a certain corner of what’s missing but I only need short fixes of that particular part.

That brings me to Final Fantasy 14 which I’m currently playing and filling up that familiar space once more. I still have the same issues as when I tried it way back at release, but now after being through the big modern releases I’m starting to forgive those elements are was fairly critical of before. The modernised mechanics and elements they have are great, but they were just missing in other areas and fell apart as a whole experience. Final fantasy seems to get it mostly right but what it does is very well-integrated and makes sense as a whole experience.

They have cute cat girls too

They have cute cat girls too

I’ve been incredibly impressed with a few other aspects as well and I think this is what has been drawing me more into the game.

First even though I haven’t been watching the game too closely I have been incredibly impressed with the rate, quality and quality of the content that has been added since release. They have offered a wide range of new activities, new fluff items to procure, mini games to enjoy and keep you in-game. New challenges to overcome. More important than that though is what they have been adding seems to avoid the usual pitfall of obsoleting areas of the game. If anything it all seems to support itself.

Following on from this point is that I was rather amazed that most of those early zones still had a lot of activity in them. There were a range of people traveling around. Occasionally High level characters doing particular leves, or whatever that thing they do is. Crafters gathering their wares. Reasonable amount of people doing dungeons as well, even in my own peak time. Those Fates (dynamic events) seem incredibly popular as well. It is fantastic that they’ve created an activity that always seem to be quite useful to all people play. It’s just experience but due to the, what I originally thought of as restrictive,  lack of quests and methods of leveling alternatives keeps these events and the zones active. With this design it also means you have a great activity to do with friends (like the cutest Murf you ever did see) of any level that is useful to all involved, it’s very well done.

A wild murf appears

A wild murf appears

I was a little skeptical about the community too. Many have been saying how great it has been for them but, I still suspected that certain usual mmo troll attitude to an extent. Boy was I surprised when I tested this theory in a dungeon when I said at the start that I was new and my first dungeon run. I mean coming on, I was the tank as well so that was bound to get a rise. Nope, nothing but helpful and supportive the entire way. In any other mmo that would be an immediate party kick or drop group.

The other thing I am thankful for at this early state of play is having a decent trial period. The one failing, I think, of a lot of these sub mmo’s lately  as here it gave me enough room to experience enough of the game to get a decent impression. And here I am now, a day in and already a level 20 Marauder

The Media Machine

It’s the start of the convention season for 2015. We’ve had the GDC as well as Pax East  a week ago and so far I’ve been rather surprised with them and the utter lack of interesting news coming out. Usually these events become a smorgasbord of reveals and games showing off their latest and greatest. There were a few new indie games showing off, and the Morpheus Virtual Reality system looked like it was coming ahead but other that it seemed to just be games showing their newest update during development.

It makes me wonder just how much the industry has changed in regards to the place of the media and how it’s being used now. It seems with the greater connectivity we have, the less meaningful these media sites have become. They are still obviously being used and those who have grown their audience for their particular niche will do well but they have all no longer become the only, or even main source of gaming news.

Companies are increasingly using a lot more tools for spreading information on their games. I see a lot more blogs happening now for many companies, and not just indie groups anymore. Many of these companies are using YouTube more effectively to spread the latest and greatest news, trailers and gameplay. Twitch for showcasing games in a more personal light as well as giving them the time to do a more in-depth discussion on it. And then there is just the explosion amongst social media and forums like reddit which are increasing the ways they connect to gamers, and the ways information is spread.

Developers, publishers and game makers no longer need the media to spread this information, especially the larger ones as it seems we are already getting our news from the source, or at least far less separated from that source. Even when it’s not direct it still far more connected to the base message as most sites give links. They can tailor the specific message as well without the media sites rewording it, removing parts or voicing opinions throughout. They now have an incredible amount of control, and it’s scary. It makes me wonder just how badly the balance have power has swung and the impact it will have from here on.

I’ve always though the balance of power within the industry rested well on the developers and publishers. They are the ones setting the rules, relaying the information and giving out review games when, at the drop of a pin they could easily change that situation. It is a tenuous balance a lot of these media sites have had to tread for a long while now yet, with how things are progressing this balance seems to be getting further upset.

They most definitely still have a place. Indie games always need greater attention, I have always loved reading critical opinions on games as well and they’ve always served as a decent aggregate but they just don’t have the impact anymore that they once did. Expose’s like that done by Rock paper shotgun and Peter Molyneux are a rarity, if not almost extinct and I see that as a shame. Sometimes you want these groups to have to answer to someone, anyone about their actions but the consequences from doing this are often quite harsh.

It has gone so far now that some developers believe that these sites are nothing more than their personal messenger. A place where they should be allowed, entitled to post whatever the want. To post their opinions. To post their exact press statement. Then attacking them for imagined slights and with the current fear campaign and witch hunt against certain groups and media sites they can easily drum up an eager lynch mob.

twitter

tweets from a week or so

 

(using this tweet because I found it funny that someone fighting for freedom of conversation has me blocked from their twitter. oh, and that letmarkspeak hashtag was rather hilarious).

The press as it is now is in a very hard place. The overlords have increased control over their little minions below and are getting restless with their puppets lack of obedience. Pinocchio wants to grow up but then where does that leave it when it’s only use for the general population seems to be how well they regurgitate whatever its told.

I personally don’t believe the gaming media valued its place as much as they should. Many other journalistic fields are earning far more, have better job security and are treated with far more respect. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry and yet the media around it is so woefully underpaid and valued. It doesn’t make sense to me. It is definitely a hard industry to work within as you rely on many of these game companies and tech groups for advertisement to survive but I think it was this deep sense of devaluing their own work that put them in the position they are now. They value it so little that they’ve never bothered to fight for better industry standards, to push these companies that are already paying hundreds of millions in advertising to maybe pay some better rates. To be more accountable.

It is interesting then, when taking that into account just how many news sites and groups of writers have been able to break out on their own and be funded quite easily by their readers and supporters. It is amazing how much people do actually value there work when they don’t. Honestly, I think this is where the eventual balance will be coming from in the industry. Slowly more and more groups and sites are becoming their own master, funded by their readers and thus are no longer accountable to the game makers which no doubt allows greater freedom in their opinions and critiques.

I really have no idea where this will all go in the future though or where this little ramble is going. The industry is, and has been in flux for a long time now and where the balance will end is any bodies guess.