Update on SW:ToR - Two Weeks Later

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In an earlier post on the topic of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I detailed what I thought about the game during my time with it in beta.  While most of those thoughts still apply, I thought I would update that post with some new information about the game.  My original post can be found here.

I've been playing since day two of the prerelease and I've been enjoying the game.  My Bounty Hunter is level 27, has his ship, is struggling to be able to afford his speeder and has his crafting skills about on par with his level.  The class quest has been enjoyable.  I thought the story line was going to dip after the Great Hunt began but I'm finding the backstory for my companion Mako to be engaging.  I still think many of the side quests are repetitive by level 15 but the class quest line seems to have twists and turns in it that I didn't immediately pick up on, making it entertaining.  With that, I find myself skipping past the side quests but watching the class quest cut scenes.

Not all is rosy in the land of Star Wars.

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Star Wars: The Old Republic

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I was recently invited to play in the public beta test of Star Wars: The Old Republic. (SWTOR from here on out).  Built a level 22 Powertech Bounty Hunter which is about half way through the leveling process.  I came away from the experience with mixed feelings.  You won't catch me talking about game mechanics or this class is too powerful.  The game's in beta and I understand that.  What I can talk about is vision, direction, implementation as I see it from the player's eyes.

As with any Star Wars based video game, the vision for the game is grand.  Bioware chose a very scripted story-driven approach to their vision.  To their credit, it's a beautiful game with a great story.  However, it is almost not an MMO.  I feel like the game has very little vision beyond, we're making a MMO, including a bunch of voice acting and trying to be everything to everyone.  Space combat, Flight sim, raiding environment, PvP, CRPG and Star Wars all rolled into one amazing beautiful sexier than supermodels in langerie experience.  It sometimes works and mostly doesn't because it does nothing exceptionally well, all the time.  In other words, meh, but there's hope.

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Blizzard's Genius Marketing Move

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Blizzard announced today that Annual subscribers to World of Warcraft will get a copy of Diablo III absolutely free.  I was stunned until I sat back and took a look at it and realized it has the potential to be a brilliant marketing move by a company known for wringing every last ounce of change from their customer's pockets.

First off, World of Warcraft is about subscribers.  $14.95 per month for North American subscribers and 10+ million players(2 - 3 in North America) adds up to a shit ton of cash and a revenue stream that needs protecting.  So what's Blizzard to do about it when faced with declining subscriptions?

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Rift - Day Two

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In my previous post, I stated that I wanted to continue with Rift only to see what all of these "Rifts" were about.  Last night, I had a chance to do just that while playing their 7 day free trial.  I logged in to casually play while working from home and through the course of the night, I was able to do most of the first non-starter zone's quests. 

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Rift - A Review After One Hour of Play

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Last night, I logged into Rift for the first time.  When the game originally came out, I thought I might jump ship from World of Warcraft to play it.  Network effects kept me from jumping ship, so I figured I would wait for a trial to see if it was worth it.  Yesterday, Trion introduced the 7 day free trial for Rift and I took the plunge. 

 Let me give you a bit of background first.  I run a guild in World of Warcraft.  We’re a 10 man raiding guild and we’re making progress through the end game content of WoW’s latest expansion.  Almost everyone in our guild is a real life friend that is within driving distance.  I only have enough time to play one game and I do not want to maintain multiple subscriptions.  I’ve got over 100 days of play time invested in the single character I play on WoW and I’m a EASK Bartle type player.  So with that in mind, I logged into Rift and hoped for the best.  Meh…

 First, the highlights.  Rift is very well polished.  ...

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Running a Guild is Like Running a Small Business

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Taking a short break from my series on marketing your web site, I want to talk about a game design issue.  First a bit of background.  I play World of Warcraft.  For those that do not know what this game is, it is a massively multiplayer online game.  Part of the design for these games is to present the players with challenges that cannot be completed by a single player.  WoW’s iteration of these challenges are called raids and require ten people to get together to beat the encounter.  Needless to say, it takes a fair bit of organization to get ten players online at the same time and all ready to take on these challenges so Blizzard gives us an in-game organization called a guild.  I was recently given leadership of one of these guilds, Band of Brothers.

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Cataclysmic Review

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World of Warcraft is forever changed.  The latest Cataclysm expansion has been out for just over two weeks now and by and large I'm hooked on the new content.  So much of the world has changed that there's no real way to see it all and it feels like a comfortable familiar yet new world.  I'll spare you the boring details on what has changed and get right down to it.  The change is better for WoW's longevity despite the crying and moaning you see on the official forums.

Gone are the easy heroics that award loot at will.  Gone are the days where mana was endless and consequences for actions trivial.  Instances harken back to the early days where tanks need to be tanks, healers were concerned about mana and mages knew where their sheep buttons were.  Ah, the good ole days...  As a long time player, it is refreshing to see these changes.  I wonder how long it will be until Blizzard caves in to the massess raised on Wrath of the Lich king's easy paths to epicness.  Collectively, many veterans are waiting for the other shoe to fall.

From a healer's perspective (85 Disc Priest), here's what I've found the Cataclysm to be.  

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Civilization V Review

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Civ V LogoSometime last night, after 12:30am came and went, after 1:30am past and just before Catherine of Russia met her untimely demise around 2:30am EDT, I realized that I had to get up and go to work the next day.  Civilization "Just one more turn." V is that good of a game.  I remember kissing my wife goodnight at around 11:30pm or so, thinking to myself that I would go to bed in a few turns.  I was close to producing my first wonder and I wanted to see what happened.  A few turns later I made the decision to attack Russia and from that point, hours seemed to vanish as I executed my military strategy.
 

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What's Wrong With Band Hero

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Band Hero ImageWith the newest Guitar Hero announcement, "Warriors of Rock", I'm convinced that Activision doesn't really know how to handle the Guitar/Band Hero brands.  I'm basing this on my experience with the game Band Hero and as a novice rhythm game player but let me put it this way, Activision has left a lot of my money on the table by not giving me what I've looked for in the Band Hero game.

There's three problems with the way Activision is handling Guitar/Band Hero.
1) They are not offering songs that my kids can play or that my kids want to play.  Every song is from some obscure rock band or from a popular band from the last four decades.  The song list starts and ends with the inclusion of Taylor Swift in Band Hero.
2) They do not offer many songs that are party play oriented despite outfitting the game with party play modes.
3) They've almost completely ignored Country music.
4) Activision doesn't release nearly enough DLC songs.

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When Your MMO Account is Hacked...

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A couple of nights ago, it was late when I decided to log on and check my email.  I logged on to see an email from Blizzard telling me that I had been accepted into the Beta for Cataclysm.  A link took me to the battle.net web site and I logged in to see what to do next.  What I didn't see was that battle.net was spelled batt (one) e.net.  As soon as the marketing home page for Cataclysm was displayed, I knew something was wrong.  I looked back at the email, recognized the domain to be fraudulent and immediately logged on to the World of Warcraft client.  Only a minute or so had passed so I figured I could get online and change the password before my account was logged into.

By this point, my heart is beating a million beats a second.  My Internet connection has never been slower. 

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