Archive for the ‘MMO’ Category


Dear Indie Game Developers…

Last year for E3, I made a post with a few guidelines I would have liked game developers to keep in mind while practising their craft. Naturally, nothing changed but I think I’ve found a new audience to plead to.

Steam Greenlight

A few days ago, Valve launched Steam Greenlight, a customer facing round-table where game developers (typically small companies and indie set-ups) get to present their digital babies and a raving horde of juvenile imbeciles Steam customers either rip the living shit out of them or fawn like drooling nincompoops critique and provide feedback in the hopes of uncovering potential hits and grooming them to take their place in the Steam store itself. It is, of course, a colossal travesty of ignorance and fanboy excess an exciting process to witness! So…

Dear Indie Game Developers…

…not every RPG game has to have blue text boxes and a white font. We get it, it’s ‘retro’! It’s like Final Fantasy! But you’re also drowning in a sea of similar clones who all had the same bright idea.

…you’re not a huge developer with hundreds of employees churning out mountains of quality assets and hours of content for a triple-A game. Stop pricing your slightly-better-than-shareware like it was the next Fallout or Call of Duty.

…I know ‘Hunt for the Ember Lodestone: The Challenges of the Fire-Scorched Demon Mistress from El-quor-Marankta Seven‘ sounds impressive, but unless this is the latest long-awaited part in a hugely successful series of games, maybe you should lay off the subtitles and pick something a bit more snappy/memorable.

…yes, Minecraft was very successful, yes, it wasn’t a wholly original game and yes, Notch has more money than he knows what to do with now. But, no, not every game has to be a multi-player adventure sandbox world-building survival-based voxel game. Basically, if you find yourself appending ‘-craft’ to the title of your game, you’re a joke.

…and while we’re at it, no Slender clones, no Super Meat Boy clones, no Terraria clones and no Day-Z clones.

…just because every major game these days seems to have a near-endless trail of DLC in its wake, like an incontinent goldfish, doesn’t mean you should. Your original content barely qualifies for DLC status alone so why do you think you can piecemeal it even further? You’re offering a game that doesn’t have the backing of hundreds of artist/coders/designers/musicians behind it – you should be offering more, not less (for more money).

…stop using the ‘retro‘ tag as an excuse for producing terrible graphics, ear-grating music and one-dimensional gameplay. We know you’re not really paying homage to anything – you just suck. That goes for ‘old-school‘, ‘classic‘ and ‘nostalgia trip‘ too. You’re not fooling anyone.

…your pretentious experimental art/thought journey ‘game’ might have gone down great guns at Indiefest 2004 but please don’t get too upset if it doesn’t appeal to the knuckle-draggers just coming down from a 8-hour L4D2, CoD, TF2 stint.

…enough with the silhouette artwork already. Yes, Limbo did well and looked great but they used it for atmosphere. You’re just a lazy bastard who can’t be bothered to spring for proper graphics.

…maybe your droning, nasally voice isn’t really suited for promoting the game in your trailer. You’d probably do fine for YouTube unpacking clips, rants about how Blizzard screwed you over in the last patch and narrating your clan’s new CoD kill-fest but for your game, just stick to gameplay clips and music. It’s for the best.

…while we’re on the subject, you and your friends aren’t voice-actors. The professionals get paid for a reason.

…six players at the same time doesn’t make your game an MMO project.

…just because whatever engine you’ve licensed can do a screen full of glows, motion blur, bloom effects and depth of field, it doesn’t mean you have to go crazy using them all. Calm down.  And no amount of post processing will cover up terrible graphics, anyway.

…spell-checker. Use it.

…let me guess, your game is all about zombies, right? Yeah, well, so is 95% of the other games on Greenlight. The rest are hidden object games or dating sims.

…you might have done well with your sub-Facebook game on the iPhone/Android or whatever but people might be expecting a little more meat on the bones of their PC games.

…people will figure out you’re nothing but hot air if all you’ve got to show are renders of art assets. Maybe wait until you’ve actually written some code before trying desperately to stoke the hype train up to speed?

…engines. Nobody cares you used the Unreal/Cryengine/Unity engine for you game as long as it’s good. You don’t get a special badge for mentioning it.

…engines. Nobody wants to play a game you churned out after ten minutes with some tatty game-maker. You might think you can get away with not mentioning it but we all know.

Thank you.


Pet Me!

Voodoo FigurineSo you’ve just got the achievement ‘Can I Keep Him‘ for acquiring your first companion pet but you’re finding the prospect of hunting down another 149 for ‘Littlest Pet Shop‘ a touch daunting? Well, worry no more ‘cos Blizzard have your back! A new feature added to the character profiles on the World Of Warcraft website means that you can keep track of all the companion pets your persona currently owns but more importantly – also all the ones you have yet to collect! And to round it all off, they’ve done the same for mounts too! Yeah, ideal for all you peeps looking to grab ‘Mountain o’ Mounts‘.

If you’ve never checked out your character’s profile on the World Of Warcraft site, you really should. It’s a handy out-of-game summary of your character statistics and traits, good for evaluating your strengths and weaknesses plus it’s great for all the braggers out there. Just type your character’s name into the WoW site search box, find your particular version of that character in among the thousand and one others with the same name and away you go. You’ll find the new feature, the Companions & Mounts page, listed on the left-hand-side menu.

You can tweak the pets/mounts it shows with a number of filters (quests, drops, etc.) and mouse-overing a specific item will pop-up a larger version, with some details on how you can go about getting your mitts on it. Sometimes that information will probably be enough – other times, a site like Wowhead might be needed to help with the finer points. Btw, click and hold you LMB on the pet/mount image and you can drag it left and right for a 360° turntable effect. Very swish, eh?

All-in-all, it’s a really nice check-list feature, perfect for players aiming to ‘catch-em-all‘.

Side-notes – the little dude up there is the Voodoo Figurine companion pet, a ‘rare’ troll find obtained using the new Archaeology profession. There’s been several new pets/mounts added to the game with and since Cataclysm and I really, really should make a proper post about them. I will, eventually. Also, you’ll notice this article’s title refers to the pet aspect of the feature rather than the mounts. It’s just that ‘Mount Me!’ sounded just a little bit creepy. Okay, okay ‘creepier’.


Link review

As my sidebar widget of links has pretty much sat unchanged since I first started this WordPress iteration of, I thought it was about time that I reviewed and updated the list. Time to add some of the other sites I frequent (and tentatively recommend), and bin any that have fallen from favour (perhaps their design aesthetics have become a lumbering mess of interface-related tortures – I’m looking at you, Kotaku).

Without further ado, here we go.

Kotaku – as mentioned above, it’s gone. The reason being is that the web design for this site seems to be going backwards in terms of usability. It’s like the Benjamin Button of the internet. Reports of its visitor drop-off since the change do not surprise me in the least. There’s a thousand and one websites on the internet all clambering to supply people with gaming news. You do not ensure you’re the site they choose by making yours almost painful to use.

MMO Champion – Yes, I want the latest information about World of Warcraft. No, I don’t want pages and pages of filler articles in the shape of editorials and fluff, solely designed to wring out a few more advertising page-views. And that’s where MMO Champion comes in – it’s basically just a stream of pure information, quotes from Blizzard and images of new content. None of those pesky ‘contributors’ waffling on about whatever happens to cross their mind.

Wowpedia – Now, if you visit this site, you may get a little bit of déjà vu – in that it looks a whole lot like WoWWiki.  In fact, you may even marvel at how an awful lot of the content looks much the same, if not identical. Well, that’s because it basically is. Back at the end of last year, some people didn’t particularly like moving to Wikia and so split off to create WoWpedia. I was planning on losing WoWWiki from my list and replacing it with Wowpedia but even though there’s very little difference to the two sites (as they’re basically cataloguing the same information about the same game), from time to time you might find that one site holds a little snippet that the other has overlooked. So, might as well keep both links handy just in case.

GameFAQs – I don’t know why this site didn’t make the cut the first time I rebooted the site as I’ve been using it almost since I took my first steps on the internet. Ploughed thirty to forty quid into a game and you’ve been stumped on the first level for over a month? Maybe it’s time to crack open GameFAQs and find out what you’re missing. Only got 99 collectables out of a 100 despite circling the game map dozens and dozens of times? Chances are GameFAQs has a map with all the items marked on it. It’s a great site, even if it does look extremely dated.

Twitter – As you can see from the bunches of white strips between the ‘proper’ articles, I’m a sporadic twitteree. Big fan of it. Apart from your friends spouting stuff they’d consider too short or fleeting to bung you in an email and all the voyeuristic celeb-life watching, Twitter has shown itself to be a real social movement in world events. Being informed has never been so immediate. Of course, I’m hunkering down as @skoardy on Twitter so if you want my random thoughts seeking you out in a more direct fashion, feel free to follow me (or any of the people I follow – a lot of them are very entertaining indeed).

As to the sites that have survived the shuffle…

  • – still my first port of call for general movie news and trailers. I just find its design a lot less offensive to the eyes than a lot of the more flashier sites. If there’s one thing I would change, it’s the head honcho’s need to add his own emphasis almost seemingly indiscriminately to nearly every damn sentence he writes, even quotes. Kinda does my head in.
  • – only reviews I particularly pay any attention to these days. Apart from seeing the actual game in action, they don’t focus on how they felt while writing the review or ramble on about some unrelated guff they were doing the previous week, unlike most of the other tits that call themselves games reviewers on the net these days.
  • Joystiq – compared to Kotaku, a nice and clean presentation keeps this gaming news site in the list.
  • Penny Arcade – this webcomic still makes me chuckle. Yes, it’s still occasionally filthy.
  • VG Cats – updates are few and far between (follow his twitter instead, to save you checking the site every so often) but still a very funny strip.
  • Wowhead – come on, it’s the go-to site for WoW in-game information. A huge database of items, spells and more, all haphazardly commented on by people playing the game right now.
  • WoWWiki – as mentioned above, I decided to keep this to have an alternative on hand on the off chance the other site doesn’t quite cut it. You never know.

And that’s your lot. Maybe it’ll be another couple of years before I update the links list again. Get ready!



Brewfest Pets

WolpertingerThe World of Warcraft world event, Brewfest started earlier this week and if you’re there for the pets or just the achievements, you’re probably already busy collecting Brewfest Prize Tokens. Good show! You’ll need them. This post is about the two vanity pets you can pick up from this event, in very short order – the Wolpertinger and the Pint-Sized Pink Pachyderm. They’re so easy to get, you’ll probably be able to take them both home with you from just one day of the Brewfest event (in you’re looking for it, NPCs around the cities will point you in the right direction but it’s outside Ironforge for the Alliance and outside Orgrimmar for those heathens, the Horde).

One point of note if you’re keen to show off these two lovely pets – they’re only visible to others if they’re in an ‘alcoholically-enhanced’ state (completely smashed, that is) or they’re in your group. Well, this is Brewfest.

The Wolpertinger, the horned, razor-toothed, be-winged hare is available through a simple quest – Catch the Wild Wolpertinger! (Horde version), where you attempt to catch five Wolpertingers with the provided net. Of course, you need to be thoroughly blitzed to see them (or a big wuss wearing googles, that is). Hand in the stunned Wolpertingers and you receive a tankard for your troubles. Invisible pet ahoy!

Pint-Sized Pink PachydermThe second pet – the Pint-Sized Pink Pachyderm is a little more involved to obtain as it requires you to collect 100 Brewfest Prize Tokens and purchase it from either Belbi Quikswitch (Alliance) or Blix Fixwidget (Horde). There are a number of ways to earn tokens. The one-off quests such as using the racing ram to collect three barrels gets you a handful, as does travelling Azeroth gunning down Pink Elekks or throwing steins at a ‘robot’. Once those are polished off, the dailies should help too (more racing ram fun around the city or stopping one of the the regular Dark Iron dwarf attacks). People often overlook the ‘non-quest’ ram-racing you can do back at the ram racing master. Ask him about doing more deliveries and he’ll give you another ram. Each delivery you make nets you another 2 tokens. If you make good use of the apple barrels, you’ll never need to let off top-speed and should earn a fair bundle of tokens from the task. Apparently, this ‘non-quest’ is on an eighteen hour cool-down so grab it every time you go back for your dailies.

Of the two, I think I prefer the Wolpertinger. As cute as the baby Elekk is, I’ve already got a Peanut from the Children’s Week event some I’m good on that front. Right, now to start saving up for the Brewfest outfit, get smashed and start dancing in Dalaran.


The Green Proto-Drake is mine!

I spoke last year about the other rewards you could obtain from the Mysterious Egg / Cracked Egg item purchased when you reached Revered reputation with the Oracles from Geen, the gorloc Quartermaster but like I said, I hadn’t managed to claim the Reins of the Green Proto-Drake, a rather nice (280% speed) flying mount. Well, six months ago, that all changed.

Of course, I’d been obsessively smashing open those eggs ever since I first posted back in February last year (and doing a wonderful Auction House trade in Tickbird Hatchlings, White Tickbird Hatchlings, Cobra Hatchings and Proto-Drake Whelps). Then work issues got all-up-in- my-face and I had to take a break from WoW. After a lengthy absence, I came back to my old characters, rooted around in their banks and sure enough, one of them had a Cracked Egg that had run it’s course after I quit. What did I find when I popped it open?

Green Proto-DrakeAs the vaguely un-hip kids still insist on saying… Boo-ya!

I know these things are probably decided when you open the egg but it’s funny instead to think of this beastie crammed in a tiny egg, hidden away in a darkened bank vault for months on end. Well, now he’s free and happily flapping those huge scaly wings carrying my sorry butt from A-to-B (and back to A again when I forget what I was going to B for when I reach it).

As you can see in the screenshot, my character is transformed by the new disguise on the block, the Gnomeregan Pride reward, a quest item you receive from completing the Words for Delivery quest as part of the ‘Operation Gnomeregan’ Cataclysm pre-amble. For 30 minutes, you get to look like Gnomeregan Infantry. Shame it has a 4hr cool-down though. The only other rewards from the ‘Operation Gnomeregan’ quest line (apart from cash/exp) are a nice looking cloak (the Gnomeregan Drape) and a Feat of Strength achievement called, appropriately enough, ‘Operation: Gnomeregan‘.

Obviously, that’s for the Alliance. The Horde scum get to recapture the Echo Isles, earning the Darkspear Pride (which transforms you into a Darkspear Warrior for 30mins on a 4hr cool-down), a Darkspear Shroud and the ‘Zalazane’s Fall‘ Feat of Strength.

Hopefully, Cataclysm will bring forth a whole slew of new mounts and vanity pets to collect and sure enough, if things don’t get too hectic with work, I’ll try posting about how and where to get hold of them. See you there.


Stinker, looking for love

StinkerAlthough the Valentine’s day inspired ‘Love is in the Air‘ world event in World of Warcraft may be a distant memory and even the crying on the forums about the random nature of the Be Mine meta achievement has died down, there is still one critter out there desperately trying to ‘get his groove on’… and failing.

I am of course talking about the mighty Stinker. Now, I’ve already managed to obtain this pet (as detailed here) but was quite amused to find the bods at Blizzard have given this critter a little extra oomph in the personality department. Quite clearly inspired by the legendary skunk philanderer Pepé Le Pew, it seems our little Stinker has a thing for the ladies. And by ‘ladies’, I mean cats. Specifically, the Bombay Cat and the Black Tabby Cat.

Whenever Stinker spots either of these felines, he falls instantly in love, chasing his prey around the area until he is finally scorned and his heart breaks. All together now… awwwww.

Don’t worry though, old Stinker has the memory of a goldfish and will again be pursuing the unobtainable within seconds.


The Proto-Drake Whelp is mine!

Proto-Drake WhelpOkay, okay, I promise not to announce every single thing I acquire in World of Warcraft like this but this particular vanity pet has me more than a little pleased for the moment. Partly because it completes the ‘set’ and partly because it’s one of those long slog kind of rewards to get. Let me explain (and show you how to get your hands on the flying bundle of fun to the left)…

The Proto-Drake Whelp comes from the Cracked Egg, which comes from owning a Mysterious Egg for the alloted 7 days – after which, it transforms and the roulette of what you get can begin. The Mysterious Egg can be bought from Geen, the Oracles Quartermaster once you have Revered reputation with them (and 3 gold to spare). You’ll find this race of Gorlocs in their village at Rainspeaker Canopy, in Sholazar Basin, Northrend. Yep, you’ll need to be tootling around in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for this reward.

Now, building reputation with these beasties requires you to have finished the Oracles quest line, ending with ‘A Hero’s Burden‘. This quest has you taking down an elite mob, Artruis the Heartless (so maybe bring friends) but during the fight, you’ll be attacked by a Gorloc and a Wolvar (the Frenzyhart Tribe being the other warring faction in the Basin – by this point you’ll have met them already). Who you kill decides which faction’s daily quests you can take. If you’re going for the Oracles rewards, you’ll want to beat the puppy to a pulp. Complete the quest chain and you’ll be honoured with the Oracles but hated by the Frenzyhearts. Meh. Never liked those slave-driving morons much anyway.

Right, now just do the daily quests in the Basin to earn that Revered standing and you can purchase a Mysterious Egg. Stick it in the bank for a week and forget about it. When you come back, crack that sucker open and then cry because, chances are, you’ll just get some Aged Yolk for all your effort. Don’t worry, you can buy another egg but that means another seven days. Yay!

If you happen to get lucky, you’ll receive one of four possible vanity pets. In order of how common they apparently are, you could get either a Tickbird Hatchling, a White Tickbird Hatchling, a Cobra Hatching or our friend up there, the Proto-Drake Whelp. If you’re really, really lucky (2% drop rate according to Wowhead), you could wind up with the Reins of the Green Proto-Drake, a flying mount!

No. I haven’t got that yet. *mutter* *grumble* Note – you can get the same pet even if you’ve already learnt that one. Great for flogging on the auction house, not so great if you’re impatient for some other reward.

So there you have it. How to get your very own Proto-Drake Whelp. It’s not a hard process and not particularly expensive either, just time consuming. Yes, I’ll probably be swimming in Aged Yolks before I ever get the flying mount but I’ve got my mind set on it.

Oh, and if you do get everything and become Exalted with the Oracles, don’t forget to switch back to the Frenzyheart Tribe faction, complete their daily quests and become Exalted with them so that you can earn the Mercenary of Sholazar achievement!


Meet Stinker!

StinkerYou probably already sussed from my first post talking about the new Achievements feature Blizzard added prior to the launch of the last expansion ‘Wrath Of The Lich King’, that I had my eye on the vanity pet collection achievements. Giving them their own tab and taking them out of your backpacks and bank slots, thereby ridding you of the space requirement certainly allowed even the most ardent pack-rat to enjoy the thrill of being followed around everywhere in game by a variety of pets.

So ever since that day, I’ve kept an eye out for new vanity pets. An auction purchase here, a quick quest or two there and a few trips to previously overlooked vendors, slowly adding to my collection until Sunday night when I hit the magic number – 50 and gained the achievement ‘Shop Smart, Shop Pet…Smart‘. Moments later, a letter from Breanni, the NPC pet-store owner in Dalaran, arrived commending me on my pet care and asking me to look after… Stinker, the vanity pet skunk.

So here I am with my collection of 51 vanity pets and of course I felt the urge to brag share the news of my accomplishment. It’s not such a tough feat all told – especially considering there are apparently over a hundred pets in game. But I’m still pleased. In fact, I thought I’d share with you my favourite ten pets… listed after the ‘jump’.

Click to continue…


Step away from the Mechanostrider, lady!

Like a drunken adult trying to ride a child’s playground ‘springy’, I bring you this screenshot of my World of Warcraft character in full Frost Vrykul disguise sat on his (yes, the disguise changes your sex if you’re a fella) swift, green mechanostrider. Riding on mounts that are clearly waaaaay too small for you is one of the delights that await you in the new expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. The mount considered too tiny for anything but a Gnome or a Dwarf to ride is apparently strong enough to support the weight of a hulking, frozen warrior in full battle armour. It’s Gnome technology at it’s finest!
Frost Vrykul on a Swift Green Mechanostrider
You might be wondering, since WotLK came out almost a month ago, why beyond showing you this hilarious scene (seriously, my eyes were watering after seeing this giant zipping around on a tiny mechanostrider… but, hey, that’s just me) I’ve been strangely quiet on the expansion-related article front. The fact is, I’ve been playing WotLK during pretty much any free time I can muster. Work has been torture. Not the regular torture that it usually is but a special kind of torture you’d only wish upon your most successful friends.

Wrath of the Lich King is great fun. I’ve really been enjoying it. Of course, people are devouring the new content at a lightning speed and if that’s your thing, go at it. For everyone else, I’d recommend taking things at your own pace. Enjoy the sights, take in the lore and for God’s sake, read the damn quest instructions, you morons! Sorry… sorry. One of the returning plagues from the launch of The Burning Crusade (heck, even the start of World of Warcraft itself) is the dumbasses who think yelling out to everyone else in the area to give them a point-by-point breakdown of every step a quest entails is somehow quicker than simply reading four or so lines of text.

Still, before long you find yourself in the next area and well away from those knuckle-dragging bozos. People seem to be handling the change of scenery in WotLK a lot better than TBC and feel quite at home in the Dun Morogh-esque snowy landscapes it provides. The gap between end-game TBC player items and WotLK new greens seems to be less drastic than the first expansion, quietening some of the masses this time round though there are murmurs that Blizzard might have gone too far in the opposite direction – that people rarely find the quest rewards a worthwhile upgrade to anything they already had. What can I say – you can’t please everyone.

New game mechanics in the form of vehicles have been the occasional questing highlight while playing through the expansion and a new slew of recipes are sure to keep me and my alts busy (and financially secure) for a long time to come. I can’t say I’m too enthralled with the new Death Knight class. Some people are having a whale of a time, to be sure (and others are crying that they’re too over-powered), but for me the late 50s and very early 60s are a real drag for my alts so having a class dropped right at the foot of that particular mountain just doesn’t inspire. Maybe a month or two down the road I’ll have an itch for something different but in what roughly amounts to three levels of DK starter quests, I can’t muster the energy to put aside my main and embrace the traitorous DK lifestyle.

So WotLK is lovely and I’m looking forward to getting as much blood from this particular stone as I can, as is MMORPG tradition but looking ahead, I really think Blizzard have to step up their game and try to adhere to their statement of providing something close to one expansion a year. Two years is too long to wait, if you ask me. I have to wonder if the majority of WoW’s playerbase would wait another two years for the next one.

And of course, I can’t end an article mentioning drunken adults on a playground springy without linking to this webcomic from Cascade Failure.


The Albino Drake is mine!

Following on from last week’s ‘Achievapalooza 2008!‘ post, where I basically admitted defeat and realised that Blizzard had added yet another hook in my gullet with their Achievements system (not that they really needed more hooks in there – I’m considering starting my own tackle shop with the collection they’ve bestowed on me already), I thought it was worth rah-rah’ing about a recent and more ‘tangible’ reward I’ve collected.

Since the patch went live, I’ve quickly racked up the achievements related to various daily quests, a bunch of the event themed achievements (this last week or so being ‘Hallow’s End‘, WoW’s Halloween-esque celebration of the Forsaken breaking free of the Lich King) and the rather easy fishing and cooking achievements. Being an all-rounder pays off as one of the cooking profession quests (‘The Cake Is Not A Lie‘ – a cute reference to Valve’s excellent game, Portal) requires you to prepare a Delicious Chocolate Cake, the recipe for which is a random drop reward from a Fishing daily quest in Outland.

The new ability to track low-level quests on the mini-map means that my pre-TBC character now has ‘exalted’ reputation with all the old Azerothian home factions and sports the impressive sounding Ambassador title displayed in front of his name. Post-TBC chars pretty much get free rep for sneezing so it was a little more work than new characters would be expected to do but I wanted the title and sailing through level 10-20 quests while you’re a level 70 character isn’t exactly what you’d call brain surgery.

The achievement I’m happiest with is the one called ‘Leading the Cavalry‘ and requires the player to obtain 50 unique mounts (ground based or flying). It really should be called ‘How much gold can you spare?’ as it’s basically an exercise in purchasing power, visiting various vendors and snapping up their entire range of mounts. Of course, one of the first things you need to do is make sure you can purchase other race’s mounts – which is where being exalted with their faction pays off.

Long story short, I’m now riding about on a huge albino drake… behold!

Albino Drake rewardTo fill out the impressive effect, my character is also sporting the latest in Hallow’s End couture… the ninja costume courtesy of trick of treating an inn keeper.