Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lets talk about this week:

OK, so lets jump allll the way back to friday:

Wake up 1hr late - Sucks
Forget to Shave - Works a real stickler for this, I'll have to shave at work
Get in my Car - weak Battery
Get to work, check in with Boss then go to Kroger to buy Shaving stuff
Come out - Battery is dead.
Get jumped off, drive to O'Riely and buy a new battery
Work till 6:30 Straight on CARD ACT resolutions and compliance
Get Home, work till 12:30 on CARD ACt Compliance

Come in, unscheduled, and work till 2pm on this compliance BS
Go Home, work on the compliance crap

Work on Compliance

Notice Battery is a little Weak again
Work Late cause of a --Freak-- server failure
Continue the discussions we've had over the past 3 months about buying a new car
-Figure it's time to.

Car won't start - Jump off
Car starts @ Lunch - But Electrical system acts funny
- I figure it's the alternator at this point
Get Home - Dogs have been sick; have to give baths x2
Raining and I can't cut my grass

Car doesn't start - jumped off with Jills car
Car makes it to work - Have to charge the battery
-Boss jumps me off and follows me to O'Riley
Spend all day in Meetings getting 'blessed out' over our apparent incompentancy
- Over the CARD ACT compliance, which I've worked... at this point 7 day straight
Go pick up battery - Find a car online to go look at and Drive to Roswell
Guy won't budge on his car, I won't on mine... leave and go to Carmax to think it over
Call the guy back and Agree on a Price
Call back 5 minutes later, otw there, he says someone just put a $100 deposit on it...Tough Luck
Go home in Defeat
Battery Dies
Jill's Sick

Car Dead - Jill Jumps me off
Drive to work, get half way and realize I forgot laptop for presentation - Turn around
Car Dies in the middle of the road 1mi. from house.. in a turn across traffic.
Jill Jumps me off <3 <3
Drive back home, decide to leave the jumpers connected for a minute to get a little extra charge Drive to work on a wing and a prayer
Take Car to shop - Alternator is DOA; replace it - estimated complete time: 3:45
Jill Calls - Her car is acting funny, signs of a dead battery
-Pulls into an Autozone - has to have battery replaced.
Guy about the black 330i calls back
- will do the drive out price I want, but no trade - tell him Eff off.
Starts Storming - supposed to go to the Braves game @ 7pm
Call about a Mystic Blue 2006 330i w/40K miles - Still available (uber excited)
3:58 - Deltacom Backbone OS3 fails in Atlanta - all branches go offline
Call 11 people on a contact list, mad as hell demanding an answer.
-Service gets rerouted 15 minutes later, branches back up at 4:51
5:00 - Car Still not ready
5:40 - Car ready.. go get it, then guy @ work drives to Braves game
6:30 - Step out of the car into a hurricane - get soak running to the 'Bullpen' (Bar)
7:20 - games starts cause a rain delay - Braves win 9 -1 (something positive!)
Jill's really sick and I feel like an ass for going to the game with her being really sick


Wake up late - get to work 20 minutes late
-(I've been late to work twice in three years; now 2 times in a week)
About 10 a.m. start running a mild fever - getting Jills Resp. Infection I guess
10:30 told I can leave @ 1 cause I'm sick
Call Mystic blue BMW - Sold, Call about another Blue 325 - Sold, they have a 330i black though
1:30 can't leave cause of CARD ACT questions "5 more minutes I promise"
3:41 Leave Work
3:55 Work calls, someone didn't check a report (that I asked 5 times for them to check) - Mass Account changes affected some accounts they didn't want to be changed
- Called back to work to straighten it out
4:00 Tell the guy about the black 330i I'm about to test drive that I've gotta leave
-take his name and number cause I like the car.
4:10 Back at work straightening out someone elses's mess
4:45 Account issues resolved - but now there's 4,046 sealed letters and we need to pick out the 300 bad accounts that don't need to get the letters
- 7 of us start doing it by hand.
9:56 Leave the Credit Union as the last name / envelope is found
- Get in my car and hear a Belt going bad on the way home..
that distinct sqweeeeking sound

Have to work - it's my scheduled Saturday
Take my car to the Shop before work - It's not a Belt, but my Idle pulley
- $165 to replace
Drive to work
Get here and call about the 330i I wanted to test drive yesterday - Sold last night.

Type this blogpost.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aion Part II

Having covered the basics and intro in Part 1, no we move into Aion (the world) and game play impressions. This portion of the review is going to focus on game play controls,UI & client responsiveness/fluidity and then overall mechanics and themes.

First, the controls, especially from a Eastern MMO, are very accommodating to different play-styles Eastern / Asian MMO's typically employ only the click-to-move function, while leaving the WSAD crowd out in the cold. Aion, due to the 'westernization' of the Asian client, allows you to use both methods of controls as well as disable the click to move feature. This is very accommodating to people moving from western MMO's and not forcing them to change their 'tried and true' keybind setups. From looking at the controls page, virtually all actions bars, functions and features were keybindable. The only exception I found was the Camera-Pan function, which was innately bound to middle mouse. I'm hoping this is able to be rebound via patch or a registry-change, however I'm not super hopeful. Despite the camera functionality, the NCSoft team has done a great job at getting a Eastern MMO's control set to match that to which their American and European customers are accustomed to.

Looking over the controls and the basic User interface; the 'stock' package is actually quite adequate. Featuring standard MMO items (horizontal & vertical action bars, minimap, HP/MP/DP indicators). The quest log is a little lacking, as quest objectives aren't clearly defined nor a general direction given on where to find them; however a 'locate' function is in place to help you identify areas of interest; but this is quite buried in the UI itself. An indicator of combat or aggro isn't currently implemented; however, I understand that the UI is written in XML with a decent API, so hopefully we'll see the same degree of addons out for Aion as we have for WoW. As far as the client is concerned, the responsiveness is much better than Warhammer's, giving almost instantaneous response when an action or ability is activated. The only issue I ran into periodically is the Global Cool Down (GCD) acts a little 'funny' when casting. Because the GCD fires after the spell's cool down has started; it sometimes appears that there's a 2nd GCD in place. The games snappiness and fluidity extends beyond the hot-bars to the avatars themselves; with polished animations, fluid rag doll movements and realistic 'idle' effects, the animations far surpass anything that can be found in Warhammer. Combat animations are crisp and dramatic, which is a feature of Eastern MMO's and Anime. With Massive swords, dramatic flips and maneuvers, character's combat stances and actions may not be the most realistic, however they carry the same stylistic animations, motions and gestures that are common to Eastern media.

So far as mechanics go, we haven't seen enough of the math or formulas to determine how items are working behind the scenes, but with community greats such as Death & Taxes, Elitest Jerks and K&G trying Aion out, it shouldn't be long before we start to see the theorycrafting and numbers that make the game work. One thing is for sure though; we're seeing a comeback of our long lost love: the Random Number Generator. Having been absent throughout the development of Warhammer and Champions Online, the RNG is back and in full force; giving combat some randomness that will allow for a more dynamic play style. So far as tackling the customization issues, Aion is going to use Stigma(s) for character customization and Mana/Super/God stones for gear customization. If you're familiar with Warhammer's tactic system, then you'll feel right at home with Aion's stigma system, except that instead of ability enhancements, they're just entirely new abilities. Gear customization is going to be done similar to Warcrafts' Jewelcrafting, where each item has a set number of sockets, and stones fill the socket's voids, allowing you to further develop you characters gear and itemization.

The overall theme of Aion, coupled with the gameplay, feels much more like an older MMO than a new breed of the genre. With a slower leveling pace, only 50 levels and a death penalty, Aion is instating many of the items that MMO's have gotten rid of recently. Aion's leveling experience doesn't appear to be a quick treadmill, instead it appears to be a slow and steady uphill climb, much like DAoC 1.0 and Everquest. With a death penalty in place, it mirrors MMO's of old such as DAoC, EQ and AC; forgoing the 'easy' death penalty we observer in games today such as LotRO and WoW. While it has seemed to grab some of the best features of the older members of the western genre, one item it retains from it's eastern counterparts is it's reliance on money (Kinah) for *everything*. Eastern MMO's typically place a very heavy reliance on cash; and Aion is no exception. From flying to teleporting to simply binding at a new location, the games currency is the end all and be all of furthering your progression. The requirement of cash drives the economies of similar games such as Guild Wars, Lineage and Lineage II that can sometimes see exorbitant prices on desired items as well as increasing the number of bots and gold-sellers in your game. The last thematic item of note that it retains from it's eastern cohorts is it's reliance on grinding. Grinding, or the repeated killing of monsters that yield experience, isn't a new or even negative feature of MMO's, however recent trends in games have gotten away from 'grinding' and more towards a goal-oriented instanced dungeon / quest style of game play Western MMO players are notorious for their short attention spans and inability to repeatedly do menial tasks, while eastern players are know for their ability (and enjoyment) of grinding for levels on end. While there have been some successful Western MMO's that have relied on grinding as a major part of their leveling progression, Dark Age of Camelot being one of them, it will be and item to keep and eye on in the future.

This concludes my very brief portion over these features. There is so much depth to a "good" MMO (and I believe Aion will be a "good" MMO) that it's so hard to cover all of it's features in even a three part review; however take this as a brief explanation of the game from my point of view. The next portion of my review will feature what I think Aion is doing very well at, what I feel could be improved, what I'm leery of going into release and my overall feeling of the game.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aion Part I

So I pre-ordered the CE this weekend, so I could get in the Closed Beta Event 6 (CB6) and get a feel for the game. After 'sitting on it' for a night... we'll kind of recount items, mull over things, and give a Mythbusters-esque "Confirmed / Plausible / Busted".

Aion is a Westernized version of an Eastern-MMO... in other words, it’s an Americanized version of a Chinese MMO. The development cultures differences between Eastern and Western MMO's are as vastly different as the true cultures themselves, but we'll touch on that as we go. Lore-wise... Aion puts its nice, different own personal-stamp on a tried and true fantasy setting; bad guys attack good guys, 1000 year war, peace treaty then chaotic assassination, hell breaks loose, world shatters & civil war ensues. Thats a **very** brief description on the lore.. but it's a nutshell. Lore, typically for me, does add something to the game... it gives quests and objectives meaning, gives your character a purpose and can add a sense of pride (realm/faction pride).

While September 22nd is the US release date, the game has actually been in full blown release-mode for a while in China. This, in my opinion, really works to the advantage of Aion; it allows for more time to "polish" prior to releasing to a Western audience, which typically are more cynical and critical of games and expect more at an initial release (SEE: Warhammer Blogs) than Eastern players. While the Eastern players don't mind muddling through a rougher release, WoW has created such an influx of new blood to the MMO community that doesn't accept the same "thats just how it is" limitations of previous title launches. Western MMO players demand polish, and in my opinion, this is the largest advantage that Aion brings to the Table. It will be immediately patched to version 1.5 or 2.0 (China / Korea) at US release, so Western players will see the imediate results of 8 months worth of Real-World play testing and fixes. This item alone will do more for the release than I believe that NCSoft Realizes.

Moving onto the first immediate item for review are the Graphics. Utilizing the Cry-Engine, NCSoft has issued forth another Competitive advantage... currently there is no other MMO that is as graphics detailed as Aion, save Age of Conan, however Aion does it without the major Graphics limitations and issues. Native AA is implemented in the engine currently, up to 8x AA, and Hardware Supported Bloom effects (via Cryengine) are available as well. From playing the Beta last night while keeping task manager open, the game looks solid from a back-end perspective... no Graphics leak like AoC, and no Memory or Page File leak like WAR. Reflective textures as well as high-detail textures (with sliders! Warhammer - take notes) are in already, and the game runs extremely smoothly for being so graphics intensive. Once more players are on the screen plus when it starts being used on non-SLi rigs is when we'll see whether or not Aion has a graphics bust or win.

Character Customization and Class selection are one of the first things you experience in any MMO, and Aion raises the bar for Customization. Currently there are something to the tune of 1500+ different face / hair / features combinations available to select from, with an additional 1500 available at retail release. Hair Color, Skin Tone and Lip (?) Colors are all done via a palette chooser, making the combination of colors virtually endless. I don’t think enough can be said about their degree of customization, It’s nice to think that there are slim-chances you’re going to see another character who looks EXACTLY like yours. Class Selection is of your typical fantasy variety; DPS/Tank warriors, 2 flavors of healers, 2 kinds of casters and your stealth characters. While the Class offerings are not as robust as the customization options, they still present familiar "faces" for people new to the game; given the descriptions of the classes, you start with a good idea of how the class is going to pan out at level fifty.

This is the conclusion of part I.. part II I'll review more of the gameplay nuances, and go over the various classes in a little more depth. The last part of the posting I'll visting my thoughts on Aion, pros, cons and my concerns that I'd like to see hammered out in the first month.

look for part II tommorrow!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why can't anyone do it

like they use to?

Back in the day... you had a 'content release' or addition; it was just another patch... but thats not how it's done now.

Scott Jennings posted something over on brokentoys a while back about this same thing, during Land of the Dead development.

Take Darkfall... their first patch (1.1) was released as an 'expansion pack'; essentially re-releasing the game (it improved, according to Eurogamer...they gave it a 4/10 intead of a 1/10).

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning - put in some class balance (then promptly remove it), toss in some AoE Nerfs and Buffs (then... oh yeah, remove those too); add in some UI hooks (remove them due to exploitable code) and add it some content that you'd promised at release: BAM - Land of the Dead Expansion & Live Event.

Lord of the Rings - Toss some Class balance, new MvP characters, a new dungeon and new lewt into a mixing bowl and what do you get? BAM - new "Book" (aka Expansion) and Live event.

As Scott Jennings put it though "Some people are still just releasing patches.. and making them worthwhile"

Not arguing for or against WoW... but they're still "doing it right"