Monday, September 20, 2010

Braaaaains... I'm coming!

In the TBC days we got a Simon game set into the game. You may remember the apexis crystals near Ogri'la, where you had to reproduce the sequence of colours played by the crystals. If you liked the idea of placing mini-games into WoW then you'll love the addition of Peaceblooms vs. Ghouls that will be added in Cataclysm.

Uh... what versus who?
Well, if you haven't heard of the game called Plants vs. Zombies then you probably have been locked in some dark cellroom for the last year. The idea is quite simple: there's a zombie invasion in your neighbourhood and you're locked in your home. You must fend off the zombies that think you're their next lunch. But this time you don't have any conventional weapons to get them down. No shotguns, no chainsaws... you just have some plant seeds.
While it sounds weird (yes, it is!) the game is just a tower defense type where your weapons are a wide array of plants: plants that shoot peas, bushes that act as shields, plants that generate extra solar power (you need solar power to sow more plants and get power-ups), so they never reach your home. Zombies in turn have also different abilities: from the standard brain-eater to the armoured zombie (using a bucket as helmet), a pole jumper that avoids shields... The action turns frantic and the cute graphics and great sounds make it an excellent game. And you can play a big bunch of levels for free. Just give it a try, it will hook you.

Need more peacebloms!
So yes, we're having the game ported to Azeroth as a mini game, renamed to Peaceblooms vs. Ghouls. If you're tired of grinding or the wait time in LFD is too big you can always plant some seeds to get some fun. Totalbiscuit from Blue Plz! has released a video of the game so you can see how it looks like:

I want moar!
Yes, there're some plugins that let you play games while still playing WoW, but this and the previous Simon games are different because they're part of WoW. I wonder why other simple games haven't been added yet, like a Dynablaster/Bomberman game (easy to make since we already have the needed items), a Tetris (this may require extra coding like P vs. G, a PacMan or even another classic like Space Invaders (evil draenei?). Which game would you love to see included in the game?

Post soundtrack:
Endgame - Megadeth (Endgame, 2009)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gnomes, trolls and flying around

While this entry was going to be dedicated to the operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazane's Fall events, a blue post this morning about flying in Azeroth has stirred me up and I'll be ranting again about crappy design decissions.
First of all, if you haven't done Operation: Gnomeregan and/or Zalazane's Fall you might want to skip this part, since it will contain spoilers. Just head to the last part where I'll be talking about flying in Cataclysm. You've been warned.

Comparing the events
I won't describe deeply the events. Shintar already did it today and probably better than me. I want to focus on comparing the last part of the event (the only you can only do if you're level 75+) that will reward you a feature of strength and a cool overcloak a shitty cloak (more about this in my previous entry).
In the gnome version there's a bigger sense of epicness. During the battle you're given targets to take down: rocket launchers first, then wait for bombers to destroy the shields on tanks, then enter Gnomeregan properly, battling a giant trogg to the climax where the place is blown up with an atomic bomb. All very martial, with a "Scotty, beam me up!" scene before the bomb fires off. Bravo!
On the other hand the troll version seems less epic because you're not given any specific objectives and the finals is somewhat... disappointing. You start by asking the spirit of Bwonsamdi for help (hint: that name is inspired by the voodoo Loa of the Dead, the Baron Samedi), you battle him to prove you're worthy and then you're off to kill Zalazane, taking down whatever gets in your way (you even battle a miniboss, but not as remarkable as the giant trogg). In the end, Zalazane's blown to pieces by Bwonsamdi and everybody's happy. The owrk is done, but I feel it lacks the epic finale you see in the gnome version. By the way, during Operation: Gnomeregan you never face Thermaplugg. He communicates through a brag-bot from the depths of the instace. I suppose they did it so they could keep the instance unchanged, since the bomb explodes in the train station (the upper level, out of the instance) while Thermaplugg is in the depths of th instance and protected by at least two heavy doors, so the blast or radiation won't reach him.
Both events are fun (until you do them by the third time), but I enjoyed the gnome version more. After all, Thermaplugg is an instance end-boss and Zalazane justa low level mob, not even rare or elite :) But while we know Tehrmaplugg will be still alive (so instance remains unchanged)... can we afirm Zalazane's dead for sure? We're told the low level mob was just a brain-washed troll infussed with Zaazane's powers, so are we sure we've killed the right one now? *grin* I expect a comeback... even if the real one's really dead, resurrected like Arugal.

Flying in old Azeroth
Ok, rant time now... again! The detonator now is this blue post:
We’ve added a new flying skill called Azerothian Navigation. When World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is released, players who purchase the expansion will see this skill available from flight trainers once they reach level 60. This new skill is required for flying around all Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms zones, including the new level 80-85 zones.
The cost for this is 250 gold. The name has also changed. I've updated my original post with the new information. :)
So... after paying 250g for normal flying in Outlands (anyone can confirm if formerly was more expensive? I have the sensation it costed more), most probably having paid for the epic flight (between 4000 and 5000g depending on your reputation), another 1000g for flying in Northrend... they want us to pay more just to fly in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms? What's this, we're purchasing a GPS device or subscription to be able to fly over the lands we've ran across hundreads of times before, walking or riding? Not to mention if you want the 310% flying speed: more gold to the sink (5000g).
But the second part of the message just made my eyes roll. 250g is nothing nowadays, not even for a level 60 toon. Heck, I have a level 32 tauren druid that has over 300g, thanks to auctioning stuff from my level 80 main. What's Blizzard's goal? To keep chars under 60 flying around instead of walking/riding? This is already done. You need to be level 60 and head to Outlands to train the flying skill already. A skill that formerly was only available at level 70! So why this double payment for the flying skill? Are they planning to eliminate the Outlands flying skill or allow you to fly there after purchasing this one? If so then all makes sense, but I haven't seen any post about this. Also the skill only refers to Azeroth and Outlands isn't Azeroth. You'll hit 60 and you'll pay twice. If we already can fly in Northrend and we know the lands of Kalimdor and Eastern kingdoms since we've been playing here since the early vanilla days it makes no sense: you know how to fly, you know the place and you even can fly in harsh condtions like in Northrend. So again... what's behind this decission? Can I get a total discount since I've already the Outlands and Northrend's flying licenses?

Post soundtrack:
Revolution Calling - Queensr├┐che (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Everybody looks the same

So finally we have the much announced Operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazane's Fall events on live servers. They're fun to play (until you repeat it for the 3rd time in a row), using the same phasing technology as the Wrathgate event and the Battle for Undercity. So far is almost the same as Battle for the Undercity (at least Operation: Gnomeregan, I still haven't played Zalazane's fall with my belf but I expect a simmilar event): after some minor quests you participate in a massive battle with huge buffs so you hit hard and you never die (unless you stray far away from Mekkatorque and lose the healingbuff). There's a lot of pew pew and everything blows up in the end. You get the feature of strength and everybody's happy.
Everybody? Sure? Well, not me, at least completely happy. If you check your bags you'll see a blue object that transforms you into a Gnomeregan Infantry soldier (that you get from a previous quest, this object is available to everybody from level 5 up)... and a white cloak. Yes, a cloak, not an overcloak as it was announced and present in the test servers.
Dude, where's my overcloak?
No trace of it, just a white quality cape with the Gnomeregan crest (if you're Horde you'll get the Darkspear Troll version). What's going on here? We have the answer in this blue post:
It is true that the cloak rewards had overcloak functionality when these events were up on the public test realms some months back. In the end we decided that implementing the cloaks in such a way that players could aesthetically change the cloak they're wearing could set a bad precedent. We like customization and flavor items, but we don't want to start implementing aesthetic items in the game which allow players to look however they want while keeping all the stats they want. We felt the overcloaks were breaking that barrier a little too much. 
Excuse me?In a game like WoW, the way you look sometimes is as important as the stats on your gear, even more if you're in an RP server. Not only that, when it came out, it promised you to customize the way you look beyond the typical hari color and facial hair. Even when reforging was announced I expected you could also alter the colours aside the stats. So again people asked why in the same thread and this was the answer:
We've been tossing around some other ideas with regard to gear customization, but we still want to make sure there are appropriate limitations on a system like this. The limited buff timer on the overcloak just wasn't enough considering it would mask any cloak of any level. We'll continue to explore ideas for fun aesthetic gear customization, but we didn't feel this was the proper introduction of this kind of system. 
Two words in one: bullshit. What's the problem with masking the cloak you're wearing in a game where you can hide it and where everybody (even opposite faction) can inspect you? It's like you're trying to hide that blue cloak to enter an ICC raid?. Simply you can't, you're going to be inspected or worse: passed through GearScore. And what's wrong with displaying an altered version of the cloak you're wearing? I understand there can be some minor technical issues since not all cloaks have the same length or even use the same rectangular model, but that shouldn't be hard to fix.
Something I've commented before in this blog: it would be great you could at least decide colours in the gear you craft. Remember the green iron gear? Why green? Why don't allow people to buy whatever dye they like and use it to craft pink iron bracers or black iron helm? Technical limitations? Not really, we have the same item model in quite an array of colours already. Just an example: Green Iron Helm. Now click in the "Same model as" tab. Forty-five items. Forty-five frickin' items from green to epic quality, all in different colours: yellow, red, black, blue... Even items from an expansion with a particular model have made comebacks in next expansion with a different texture/colour pattern. So why don't allow people dress as they like? One of the best things games like Quake have is that you can use any model for your character. As long as the opposite players had the same model stored in their harddisk they would see you as you decided (otherwise the default player model is shown). This wouldn't be a problem with WoW since everybody has the same item models in their harddisk.
Now what?
Blizz says they're exploring ideas for customization, but to me that sounds they will develop this if they can get some cash like they did with the pets and pony. If people is willing to pay for a mount and they already pay for a racial change (that lets you customize your character's image from start), adding the "Azeroth Paint Shop: We Pimp Ya Epicz Up" looks like the next step. And we can thank the barber only costs in-game gold.
This may seem a rant too big for such a minor issue and probably you're right, but what really ticked me off was the poor excuses given and this sensation that they don't want us to stray out of a line everybody must follow so we all look the same. If you're an old player just compare how people looked at level 60 and how people looks now at level 80.
Also if they didn't want to implement overcloaks a better reward would be a tabard (like they did with the Dark Portal opening event, even if they used the same existing Argent Dawn tabard, but they added that holy nova-like effect) than just a shitty white cloak nobody's going to wear.