Thursday, May 16, 2013

With School out til August, its time to start back adding a few posts.  I've kept up with my game play as I could and want to talk about a few patches that have been released for various games.

Star Wars: The Old Republic
 We're currently at patch 2.1a which means we have the Rise of the Hutt Cartel in place, and the Cathar, Dye Packs, and Character Customization vendor operational.  These additions are great, though some of the fundamental flaws in the game are yet to be addressed, especially those created by the Cartel Market.

One of these flaws are the +41 stat Color Crystals that were introduced.  With a level restriction of 10 on them it lets players power through content, and while I will say I enjoy the boost in health from having (2) +41 Endurance crystals equipped, I'm finding that I manage to progress well beyond the level range of a quest.  For example, I'll have a lvl 33 character on lvl 37 missions, unable to defeat the final boss, and will have blown through all the side missions available.  This is partly my fault for not picking up all the "Bonus" missions that pop up, but the easy I cut through mobs makes the grind even grindier if that's a word.....

Ultima Online
 Publish 81 is out, and nothing has really changed for me, while it is possible to create new suits, taking advantage of the revamp of armor and weapons, my old gear I've spent years acquiring and crafting suits me and my play style just fine.  At the end of the day hardly any of the new content is doing anything for me.

Speaking of new content, should the developers be overhauling the "Legacy" Dungeons?  You know the one's tied to the Virtues: Despise, Destard, Shame, Covetous, Hythloth, and Deciet.  I'm not so sure.  Now bear with me, it's a long shot but if they every do find a way to make this game relevant in the MMO world again, which it is only in terms of nostalgia,  and attract new players where are they going to cut their teeth at?  All the dungeons we, long time players, used to hone our skills, build our toons, and pad that initially empty bank box are being slowly but surely overhauled. 

I have a theory, and I'm not expecting it to be confirmed, but I have a feeling with the down sizing, EA is pointing UO in the direction of maintenance mode.  No aspersions for new players are on the corporate horizons, and no investment to obtain them.  Let's do the math....

  1. Overhaul of Dungeons to add difficulty to them
  2. Overhaul of Weapon and Armor Systems
  3. Migration to Cloud Servers which automatically scale to demand
  4. For the first time I can recall a Major Crusade against in game Bugs.
  5. EA's Phone Support does not Cover Ultima Online  
I'm not all doom and gloom, I'm perfectly willing to accept the future of the game if I'm right or wrong, but with the small development team, and the major changes and directions that have been going on the past year its not hard to have thoughts like this creep in.

This title will probably get the worst "Update" review which is sad since 2 months ago I was raving about this game..

The folks over at Red5 are making the same mistake almost every other MMO that separates PvP and PvE into separate spheres does.  They are letting balancing one side dictate balancing on both ends.  The end result so far is some of the Battleframes becoming practically worthless in PvE, and yes I'm talking about the Tier II Recon frames.  Simplicity in house should never, ever, jeopardize quality and this new direction does this and so much more.

Recon fans weren't the only one's hit, most the battleframes were designed and lost some of their best or most beloved abilities.  Add in more diverse and intelligent AI on the enemies, as well as completely revamped thumping and it feels like a completely different game.  It went from one that felt close to being ready for the next BETA phase to a game that honestly should still be in early beta cycles. 

It wasn't only battleframes themselves that were shipped off the intuitive course, but so was frame progression, and crafting.  Now both feel clumsy, un-intuitive, and frustrating, especially since the resources for crafting have changed so much from earlier.  Progression now requires medals earned in addition to XP, which grinds progression down to a slow painful grindfest.   Red5, you guys are better than this, please go un-fuck yourselves.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

So I've been playing the Firefall Beta... Let's just say if this is a sample of what they plan to offer, and it has to be since a minority of the game world is available then there are good things in this games future.  But let me let the game speak for itself.  Sorry for the screechy sounds but as you can see this game has a good bit to offer already.

Watch live video from Cronjo's MMO Life on TwitchTV

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

MMO's are just like real life in many ways, one of the obvious is how the economy in games works.  If we lived in a reality where there was no limit to how much money is generated, yet there was a hierarchy on scarcity of the most desirable goods (Which is a Reality often) then you would see the same effect.  Prices would be outrageous for these items, and demand for more common items would dictate their value as well.  In Ultima Online it's not uncommon to find items for sale for huge sums of currency.

50 million and this isn't the most expensive you'll find.

Gold sinks are important but it's also important for a person to know how to acquire Gold, Credits, or Gil depending on the game as efficiently as possible.

For Ultima Online there are three superb ways.  Spawning, which will net you several 100,000 gold per trip not to mention scrolls that can sell for millions (if you are lucky).  Attending Shard events held by Event Moderators and hoping for something good as a reward that will be in limited quantity, and finally what is probably the easiest; IDOCing or waiting for houses of previous subscribers to collapse (deleted from the game).  When a house decays and goes "In Danger of Collapsing" the contents will be freely lootable by any and all who find them, there is no knowing what a person has collected over the years so with a little luck you might just get some high end items to sell.

Other games have different methods.  SWTOR for example running dailies at level 50 to feed credits for alts is an easy method.  You don't have to do all of the dailies, I recorded myself doing a portion of the Ilum dailies to show how quickly you can nab 50,000 credits.

Not bad for 18 minutes, though by far not the fastest way.  I continued on to do the Black Hole dailies and weekly with some guildmates on Corellia, once it was done I'd picked up about 135,000 credits.  There were still some missions available on Ilum, and plenty in the two areas on Belsavis for dailies so that number could have reached over 200,000 very easily.  Of course that's about 3 hours work.

Another way in SWTOR is to spend time with crafting missions.  I have plenty of materials that I'm not using, I've geared myself and I craft what I need for alts, but that doesn't mean I can't target specific high end materials for resale on the Galactic Trade Network (GTN).  Items like Mandalorian Iron, and Krayt Dragon Pearls sell for a premium.

Take a few minutes to think about how you can best maximize your cash flow in games, it will make your experience much more enjoyable and easier.  But also remember there is nothing that says you need to be a billionaire to enjoy the game of your choice either.  Personally I don't keep any more than I need, typically I donate the majority of my surplus credits to my guild to improve everyone's gaming experience.

Well that's all for tonight, keep checking in as I'm never sure when I have time to post.
The first semester of my college life is complete.  I'm pleased with my grades and now I get some well earned time to play some of my favorite games.  That of course means I get to do a bit of news on them as well..

Publish 1.6 hit, and with all the fear mongering about Free To Play it hasn't been as bad as people thought it would be.  Of course there is still time for EA to screw the pooch as the saying goes by focusing too much on their "Cartel Market" and not enough on adding real content.  With the first digital expansion on the way in the form of "Rise of the Hutt Cartel" bringing us the planet Makeb we will get to see which direction the game heads.  Speaking of the expansion, I'm hearing a lot of people especially subscribers complain about the $10 early order deal.  You know I'd complain if it was $40 like many MMO's release under the name of expansion but ten bucks?  What are you complaining about?  How about all the doomsayers wait and see what we get for the $10 and if you don't like it, don't buy it, of course if you wait and decide you want it,  it will cost you $19.

The additional skill bars, and other perks like free respec for subscribers was nice, also many of the Cartel Shop items are outstanding, especially one's like the trainer Holo Statues.  Carrying one of these around really makes completing a planet faster, as you aren't constantly traveling back to the first zone to visit a class trainer.  Speeder Piloting 1 for Subs at lvl 15 was an additional perk, and it's dirt cheap now to boot, it's better to purchase it 5 lvls later than spend the 40k for the legacy unlock at level 10 in my opinion.  Also the new color crystals are nice as well for low level characters, having +41 endurance is an excellent boost for a lowbie.  My tip!  Don't buy them off the GTN, I've purchased several of these form other players on Fleet for 25-80k credits and saved verses the 150k+ credit prices on the GTN.  Just be patient.

Ultima Online
I'm not 100% on what's going on here, they have moved one of the servers to Amazon Web Hosting, if I'm not mistaken in a cloud based setup as well.  For some reason they decided to use the most populated server for this and it backfired.  They did what came out to almost a full month rollback on the server.  If this is the future, it's grim.  Never have I heard of this extent of damage control happening.  I remember the days of regular server crashes and 20 minute roll backs but several weeks?  Other than that the game is rolling along just as it has for the past 15 years!  Hats off to them for that.  Let's hope there are 15 more in it's life.

Well folks I'm once again out of time, I'll try to do some screen grabs from SWTOR and maybe a new video here soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

All right now this one is going to be another posting, not about gaming.  Just as with most people my life is complex, I don't get up in the morning sit down and play games all day I have other interests as well.  One of  those other interests is shaving like a man.   Your grand father (or possibly great-grandfater) did it, your father may have done it, but odds are you haven't.  Shaving can be an almost zen like experience; it doesn't have to be something you do as quickly as possible and view as being one of those annoyances that comes with being male.  You can shave your face and actually enjoy it, make it your "me" time each day.  I accomplished this and I'm going to tell you how I did it.

First step.

Do some research, we're talking about classic shaving, that means no fancy 3, 4, or 6 bladed razors, those are actually really bad for your skin, they can cause the nasty irritation known as razor bumps.  Even double edged razors are bad for you.  Ever look at that 80 year old guy that still has the face of someone 20 years his junior?  I'm almost willing to bet he doesn't have a 10 bladed razor with a laser aligned trimmer that lubricates, vibrates, illuminates, and overly complicates his life and wallet.  Disposable blades are expensive, you are paying extra to ruin your skin!

So what's research have to do with this?  Well you want a good shave, that's affordable, not wrecking your face, and is relaxing?  Then do some research!  I switched to Straight Razors.  They cost a good bit upfront, but they last a lifetime.  Purchasing 4-7 of these will give you all you need to actually enjoy shaving and over time they will pay for themselves.  Even the old Double Edged razors, you know the one's that you twist the handle on and insert a throw away blade into, are much better for your skin and affordable than disposable blade razors over time.

Step Two:

Do more research.  You've decided between either Straight or Double Edge (DE for short), now you need a razor.  DE's are cheaper and more readily available.  Straights on the other hand require a bit more work.  Most modern Straight Razors are junk, if they have Pakistan stamped on them or the steel is made in Pakistan they usually, though not always, will not hone or hold an edge well.  You'll do much better buying an antique razor. Ebay is an option, though not always the best, you get a brief description often by someone who knows little about the razors themselves.  So what are your options?  GOOGLE!,,

All three of these sites carry razors, being sold by enthusiasts. But you'll need more than that,  you'll need a strop for starters, it's a necessary item to keep your razor up.  You may or may not wish to re-hone your razor yourself for that you'll need a set of hones and those can also be found easily enough.  I'd suggest going to Whipped Dog, and ordering the poor mans strop kit,  you'll get everything you need and they are fairly cheap ($23 in the US).  You will probably destroy your first strop so this is a good avenue.  I also recommend buying a razor from one of these places as they will come "Shave Ready" meaning you won't need to sharpen your new razor first.

Step Three:

You've got the razor, strop, brush, soap... wait Brush and Soap?  You don't think I'm going to let you shave with that blue goop in a can do you?  That stuff really doesn't work as well as good old fashioned shaving soap when it comes to DE's and Straight Razors.  While you can't find the razors down at your local drug store, I bet you can get shaving soap, the same is true for your supermarket, or local big box retailer.  You can also check at some retailers for the brushes but you'll most likely find it at barber supply store.  

You have all that stuff right?  Good then it's time to start.  Work up a good lather with your brush and apply it... work it in to the whiskers, take your time and do it right.  Next step is to take your time if it doesn't feel right stop.  You don't want to cut yourself, do it right and take your time.  You don't even have to finish the entire shave with the new razor.  Just do what you are comfortable with until you get the hang of it.  Splash on your favorite aftershave and BAM!

You're learning to shave like a man.

There are other advantages to straight razors.  For starters they just look cool.  Imagine taking your new girl over to your place and she sees

asks what it is and you tell her, "Oh that's what I shave with..."  how bad ass will that sound?  She'll feel like she's dating a real man and when you make mama happy she makes daddy happy...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yes once again it's been a bit since my last post; life has a way to creep in and disrupt all our plans.  College has started, and while I'm finding time to play my favorite games, writing about them is more difficult.  But here goes.

Ultima Online:  Recently celebrated it's 15th anniversary! The good folks over at Bioware-Mythic in Fairfax Virginia have resurrected one of the classic personages in the games fiction.  Lord Blackthorn is back from the seeming dead and had taken on the mantle of kingship of Britannia.  I'm not certain if this is a good or bad move, increasingly classic characters who have been brought back from parts unknown have had a short lifespan.  Most recently Dawn was killed off.  Is EA purposely killing off these characters in order to make a transition into a new game easier?  Ultima Forever is right around the corner so stay tuned.  I also have to wonder if this is the first step in gearing down this title in the franchise.  By killing off all the classic persona and tying up he lose ends they can insert any fiction they want.   Only time will tell.

SWTOR:  Updates 1.3 and 1.4 have hit, bringing some new Operations (Terror from Beyond), and a group finder and new gearing sets.   Bug unfortunately have popped up with these publishes, and thankfully they are working to squash them in each weeks maintenance patches.  Some balancing changes targeted at PvP were also introduced; unfortunately is seems conditional programming isn't taught to game developers because as always these changes effect PvE as well.  To be fair this is the case with every MMO I've played; you'd think by now I'd be used to it.

Diablo III:  The game is finally catching it's stride, many of the "issues" with the game have been corrected, and while you'll still be engaging in mindless repetition as you progress from Normal to Inferno difficulties chasing the Lords of Hell, you'll find item balancing has been tuned in, and drop rates altered to make good items readily available while not flooding the market with them.  Character class tweaks have been made and more are on the way as the trend is to play the Flavor of the Week.  With luck all classes will be balanced enough to be viable so player can simply play what they like, not what works best.

That's all I have time for at the moment, be sure to follow me on Google + as you'll get notified as new posts go up.

With Best Regards,


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The EA Rumor mill is turning again and this time it might be the current CEO that gets ground in it's turning.  If the rumors are proven true, then John Riccitiello might be on the way out to be replaced by Peter Moore.  Two reasons were cited for this possible change.

  1. Falling stock prices
  2. "Tension" between the current CEO and the various studios.
Lets touch on both of these and see how I think Peter Moore might be a good fit. 

Faling Stock Prices

It's true, EA is taking a huge hit in income, for various reasons.  Lets start with SWTOR, the $200 million gorilla in the room.  EA's stuck with it, they financed it and the game has launched.  This bill is coming due, and while the game launched strong with 1.7 million subscriptions reported in January, in April that had dropped to 1.3 million.  More troubling than that is Bioware has announced they are merging 87% of the servers.  Now this isn't as dire as it sounds, but it's still a shock, almost every patch has included "Server Stability" updates.  Now I remember around launch the heavier populated servers would "Flutter" here and there causing disconnects and on occasion crash.  Caps on population were put in that were fairly restrictive.  As subs have dropped and those stability issues have been corrected having or 100 servers simply doesn't make sense anymore.  This action though doesn't look good to the public and there have been plenty of cries of  DOOOOOOOOM! among the player base, even while updates to the game such as expanded legacy system, and group finders have been fairly well reviewed by critics.

Another area EA has taken a hit is in the social gaming arena, they simply haven't "clicked" yet in an area that new start ups like Zynga are dominating.  Zynga founded in 2007 focus' stongly on Social games and turned a profit about 1/4th of what EA did last year, with decades less experience to build on.  Social Gaming is the next frontier in gaming, and EA is showing up late to the party.  Their "Big Announcement" in this area at the San Diego Comi-Con was a F2P title based on a neglected franchise in the form of Ultima Forever, but more on this in a moment.

Lastly EA hasn't joined the "Freemium" or "F2P" bandwagon for major titles, and surprisingly they have maintained a staunch opposition towards moving towards this for older titles that are in their twilight days.  A good example of this is the Grand-Daddy of all Modern MMO's Ultima Online.  UO has been stripped down to just a handful of developers working out of a small studio space in Virgina which they share with the developers of DAoC.  This isn't speculation, I've been there, I've spent a wonderful evening chatting with many of the developers and some of which are no longer with EA, and honestly I was surprised at how few of them there are.  A move to a Freemium or Hybrid Free to Play platform for this aging gaming would help them with it's greatest weakness, competition.  UO has been emulated more than any other MMO, it has a Emulation Community that is active, and larger than it's legit player base.  Give these people who are enjoying the Emulated servers a reason to come back and they might.  They pay for the content they want and pick up bits and pieces over time, and UO increases it's profits.  A server framework designed to support many more people than it currently does, will be used to closer it's potential, and honestly it won't cost EA much more to maintain.  

The "Tension" issue.
It seems every title EA has released that requires maintenance it seems that as soon as there is a down tick in profits from that area EA cuts support.  It's happening to SWTOR, as members of Bioware Austin are being laid off, a studio created strictly to work on SWTOR.  Other studios are taking cuts as well, and yes I understand if profit drops you have to do something to compensate, but removing talented, creative minds doesn't seem to be the answer.  Where do you go when all you have left are the grunts?  If EA had embraced and rode the flow of the market and adopted some of the changes in the market sooner, and in a larger scope then they might now be in the situation they are in now.  Ultimately these decisions fall on the CEO, there is no excuse he/she is in charge and the over all health of the company is set firmly on his shoulder.  It seems the repeated trend of cutting staff has created "Tension" in the work place at various studios, possibly in the form of a "Fear of Failure".  This is never good in an industry that thrives on entertainment and creativity, while it's ok to fear having a bad showing, when it comes to the point of being oppressive then there is a serious problem.  It damping creativity and imagination the essence of the industry.

Why Peter Moore might be a good fit.
Well first off he recognizes the potential of Social Gaming.  Secondly and possibly more importantly he's a proponent of the Hybrid Free to Play (Freemium) and Free to Play concepts.  He knows this is the direction the market is headed and he's willing to head in that direction.  Going this route if he steers EA in this direction could increase profits in existing titles, but also help revitalize older titles expanding their value.

Secondly he's a fresh face that is respected and from all the interviews I've seen he seems more "down to earth" and friendly than the current CEO.   This can't hurt, and hopefully he'll be able to gain the trust and ease the tension in the studios so they can get back to doing what they do best. 
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