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Archive for September, 2009

9 UP

I just watched 9 and UP back to back in theaters a mile or so apart.  It has been an interesting few hours.

One is about soulless machines and puppets with pieces of a soul, the other lifts your soul if there’s a piece of it left to be found.

One is a post-apocalyptic nightmare, the other is a whimsical dream.

One is a study in browns and fire, the other is all about color and clouds.

One embraces gritty realism and pseudoscientific magic, the other throws realism out the window and works its own magic.

One is at its best when it’s loudest, the other is at its best when it’s quiet.

One viewing of one will last me a lifetime, the other will be a cherished DVD that I view many times.

One is bitter and freaky, the other is bittersweet and weepy.

One tries to hammer a Message home, the other unabashedly embraces emotion, often about a home.

I hesitatingly recommend one, and heartily recommend the other.

Both are visually excellent, deeply creative and fiercely unique.

Each is a master work in its own way, and well worth seeing if you have any interest whatsoever in the subject matter.

Each, in its own way, embraces the message of looking forward and living life while learning from the past, even as you let go.

Funny how that works out.

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Bye Bye Book

Arthas is moving to California.

Many thanks to all who entered my contest for the Arthas novel a couple of weeks ago.  There were fun entries and serious ones, but the one that I settled on was this one from Ixobelle***:

k?

k?

Notably, this is the only one that suggested a tank, but I think it captures the essence of tanking in one delightfully silly LOLWoW screenshot.  Oddly enough, it’s also the strongest argument I’ve seen for me to try out a tank, since I have a keen appreciation of the absurd sometimes.  I’m not totally sold on the female aspect, but hey, if I’m min-maxing a tank, I hear the Undead racial perks are pretty good, and the whole “I’m a walking skeleton, fear my sturdiness” aspect is another touch of the absurd that I can applaud.

I did see a few other trends in the suggestions.  There were some clear commonly suggested options:  Wrogen Worgen, Druids and Hunters.  (Several Worgen Druids and Worgen Hunters, as well as Undead Hunters.)  I suppose that makes sense since Worgen are the new shinies and BBB plays Druids and Hunters (so I’d expect his readers to share some similar tastes).  Still, as I’ve noted before, and as Mama Druid and Wiqd aptly noted, Druids are multitalented critters, and I appreciate that quite a bit.  That’s a great way to get value out of the game.  Also, Hunters offer a lot of game play options, especially to an explorer like me.

I suppose in retrospect, the entry trends aren’t a big surprise.  maybe if I’d have posted to the Blizzard WoW forums, I’d have seen more variety.  (I didn’t, though; that place scares me.)

So, the book is on its way to California.  Keep an eye on Ixo’s blog*** to see if he finds a use for it.

Thanks for the entries, all!  As I noted before, I may have to do some art for the fun of it, so I’ll probably be sketching up some Worgen Druidic art.  Once I get everything else done, anyway.  Oh, and once the Cataclysm comes around, I’ll fire up a ten day trial as an Undead Warrior and see just how much damage I can do as a low level tank, milling around with everyone.  I should be able to pick up some groups with the tourists.

(OK, trial accounts don’t technically have a lot of grouping options, but I should be able to tank critters even in informal groups.  I’ve seen it done; a player just gets up front and personal with a baddie and uses tankish abilities to keep its attention, while other players DPS the baddie.  It’s not the same as a raid, but some of those low level dungeon bosses can still use tanking mechanics.  I don’t have the money or stamina to get to the point where I’m raiding with a tank.)

I’ve played a Druid in a trial account before, but if I’m going to pick up a Worgen Druid, that means buying at least the Cataclysm box, from all reports.  We’ll see what sort of sales and promotions come up before I go that route, but yes, it sounds like fun.

In the end, Ixobelle’s entry just tickled my judging funnybone while making a good case for tanking, so it narrowly edged out the others.  Wiqd and Mama Druid have me pegged pretty well, and if I were to play the game long-term, I would indeed play a Druid, largely for the reasons they suggest.  (With a Hunter “main alt”, though I’m not sure if I’d go the Undead route there, funny as it might be, as Psychochild notes.)

*** Ixobelle runs a blog over thisaway, and he’s (yes, Ixobelle’s pilot is a he… it makes pronoun tenses difficult sometimes) made it no secret that he’s a fan of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.  He gave up a job in Japan to move to California to chase his dream of working on the game, which takes guts and a touch of insanity.  Of course, none of that really relates to the judging of the contest, but that’s why I can safely say that Arthas is moving to CA (it’s a matter of public record).

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Some Guild Wars players like Pre-Searing Ascalon.  So much so, in fact, that there is an entire subculture in the game built around staying in that idyllic time period forever, rather than leaving the digital womb and letting the Charr take over.  See, the Cataclysm, er, Searing changes the face of the world, and there’s no going back.  For some, that’s perfectly fine, and they stay in the part of the game they like, fully embracing the limitations.

As no surprise to anyone, the WoW Cataclysm has some players logging back in to play the Old Azeroth before it’s gone forever.  (Or at least until Blizzard caves in and allows classic servers.)  Dusty over at Of Course I’ll Play It is taking a whirlwind tour of the game as a fresh Human Mage.  (Thus saving me the trouble, incidentally.)  Tobold is off the wagon again, soliciting opinions, and Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires is looking to try a new experience (to him, anyway).  Of course, as night follows day, Syncaine upholds his honor and calls everyone “failbears” for embracing nostalgia (or maybe just for playing WoW, since his internet persona is built around hating the game).

Call it what you want, but there are players who want the “good old days” in these games, and are willing to spend their time and money on them.  I’m idly curious as to how many players actually have “permapre” Guild Wars characters (permanently in the Pre-Searing world), and how that might track with the number of players who have called for “classic” servers in WoW.  Blizzard is certainly loving the attention of tourists, er, former players playing fresh alts (“going, going, gone!” works for hucksters the world over), but it’s a one-time deal for them, as opposed to ArenaNet’s Pre-Searing Ascalon.  As Scott noted a while ago, the parallels are significant (and thus underwhelming on Blizzard’s part).

It will be interesting to see what Blizzard does with this.  Despite apparent protestations that Blizzard will never make “classic” servers, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.  (They never change their policies, right?)  We’ll almost certainly see private servers catering to the nostalgia crowd and running a healthy clientele.

As much as I think Blizzard is right to push the world forward with some potentially radical world shifts, I think they may bet making a bad move omitting their own Pre-Searing crowd.  They have embraced the static Azeroth for too long to not see some backlash from the Old Azeroth lovers.  Time will tell, but I do suspect that Cataclysm isn’t the cure to all that ails Blizzard’s flagship.  It’s a good idea, and I think it will wind up being a good move in the balance, but we’ll see what unintended circumstances are afoot.

Modern MMO design is all about static worlds.  I’ve lamented that more than once.  The Cataclysm is a step toward a more dynamic world (inasmuch as it changes over time, anyway), so I like the idea behind it… but it’s really just swapping one static world for another.  It’s almost the worst of both worlds; it’s still too static to be really interesting as a place to keep playing, but the radical changes to the game world may well annoy those who liked the old world.  (Remember the fuss over the Zombie event?  A lot of people like WoW to stay the way it is, so they can maintain their habitual behaviors.  Changes are exit points.)

I don’t want to be a vulture, another shrill harpy calling for the demise of the Blizzard flagship (which I’m not doing, by the way, cynicism aside)… but I will be keeping an interested eye on the fallout of these changes, if only to learn how to make the most of them in one way or another.  Of course, I’ll be paying keener attention to Guild Wars 2 and Dust 514.  WoW is a big gorilla, but not the only horse in the race, and certainly not the most interesting one.

Edited to add:

What if they did something really weird?  Say, make it so the ten day trials, in addition to their other limitations, were stuck in the Old Azeroth?  To move time forward, players have to buy in.  I could see Blizzard doing that in a hamfisted effort to exclude gold sellers from the New World, and to incentivize upgrading.

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Sony Snark

Sony is ramping up advertising for the PS3 Slim, even tossing little old me an email about it.  The tagline is “It Only Does Everything“.

Yup, everything except play PS2 games, which would be the key selling point in my house.

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