Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008


We are moving to a new blogging location soon. Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Being Exalted

When I started playing, one of my goals was to become Exalted with a faction, any faction, before I head into Outlands. Last week, I decided I should try to become exalted with Darnassus before I hit level 50. The problem is, I didn't have any Night Elf-related quests, especially not in Tanaris. Then my friend reminded me I had totally bypassed Feralas when I was busy doing Tanaris quests and going into Zul'Farrak. I didn't want to make the same mistake of bypassing Badlands, so I went to Feathermoon Stronghold and got the quests. Fortunately, they were still green when I got them, and they still were when I completed each stage.

At first, I thought maybe it wasn't possible to do it before level 50 because I was still short by 2000 at the end of last week. Tonight, I finished a quest chain that started with The Missing Courier. It led me to my first Silithid encounter. (Truthfully, they kinda give me the creeps, but I never liked bugs in the first place.) Upon completing that quest chain, I got a load of reputation.

Lo and behold, "You are now Exalted with Darnassus."

It's pretty exciting any way you think about it. I figured my goal would force me to do quests more often rather than power-level all the way to Outlands. (I think) it doesn't give me anything special, but I get the satisfaction of being a true Night Elf player.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Get a Room!

As I walked through the Dwarven District in Stormwind, I passed by an interesting scene. I guess I'll let you see for yourself what it was.

If you can't make out that that thing is, it's two toons (human male and night elf female) who appear to be making out on the streets of Stormwind... It was an odd sight. They were in the same guild too. A few seconds after I took this screenshot, the female logged...

In other news, WoW Insider has confirmed that Patch 2.3 will be released during next Tuesday's regularly scheduled maintenance period. Arena season 3 will start one week after the patch is applied. And of course, like any Blizzard release, there's always a possibility of a delay, as Drysc confirms.

Loronar ding'ed 48 and 49 over the weekend. This is attributed to approximately 5 runs on Zul'Farrak, to which I decided I'm never going back again unless my friend who is lower level than me needs help. There's something about Zul'Farrak that makes it hard to get good PUGs. There's always at least one person who is a ninja, can't tank properly, disconnects, or has to leave early (of which I'm guilty too, but that's another story).

I wasn't particularly looking for a Zul'Farrak run one night when a guildie asked me if I wanted to come. I decided it wasn't that late yet, so I joined her group. Unfortunately, halfway to Antu'sul, she disconnected from bad Internet connection. We found a replacement, but he was aggroing everything around the cave. After wiping twice, I decided it wasn't worth my time, so I left.

Another time I ran Zul'Farrak, Sang'thraze the Deflector dropped from Antu'sul after a hard fight with two people dead. Our group's paladin promptly rolled Need and logged. When he did that, the other two party members had rolled Greed already, except for me. (Our fifth party member left after we kept bugging him about how he shouldn't go take any mob he wanted as a rogue.) I was still on Feign Death, and the other two party members were on their way back from the graveyard. I didn't roll until the timer was down to the last few ticks. Oddly enough, the roll was among the three of us who rolled Greed, and our shaman won it. However, she checked her bags, and the sword wasn't there. We thought maybe it was because she had died and needed to actually loot Antu'sul to get it, but it wasn't there. Not entirely sure what happened. Shortly afterwards, we got another fourth person and went ahead with the rest of the instance anyway. We got to Gahz'rilla but decided to clear the area first before summoning him. The problem is, there was a mob of five (2 healers, 2 ranged, and 1 melee) that we could not kill. We wiped at least three times on it. Before we decided to give up, we rang the gong anyway and managed to pull him without aggroing any other mobs. With our warrior as tank, and my cat as the off-tank, we went all-out DpS on him and managed to kill him without much trouble.

The final time I went to Zul'Farrak, we didn't have a tank, but we had two hunters (myself included) and a warlock. It was enough for a while until the other hunter left because he kept disconnecting. After wiping twice on Antu'sul (because of his basilisks), we decided we needed a fifth person. We found a mage to replace him and everything went well until we got to right before freeing Sergeant Bly. For some reason, the server dropped me and the mage without warning. I promptly logged back in and was successful, but our mage never made it back. So we found another fifth person, a real warrior tank. Then our fifth party member had to leave, leaving us with four and no Mallet of Zul'Farrak. Fortunately, I had already gotten Gahz'rilla from before. I only needed Velratha for the Second Mosh'aru Tablet. Afterwards, our warlock got disconnected. As our warrior was AfK, our priest and I decided it wasn't worth looking for more people and left the instance.

Thus ends my questing through Zu'Farrak. No more annoying trolls. At least until Zul'Gurub.

I still need to run Maraudon again because I never finished it the only time I ran the instance...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Let Professionals Do It...

...especially when trying to set up a massively multiplayer online game (aka MMOG). Take Blizzard and its 9 million World of Warcraft subscribers for example.(1)

Okay, I'll burst the bubble of anonymity. I go to an Ivy League school. Last month, the Ivy Council, an umbrella organization that includes all of the Ivy League schools' student governments decided it would be a good idea to create an event that would unite Ivy League students in a social (and outside the academic and athletic) environment. Their solution: GoCrossCampus (aka GXC, or GCC).

GXC was the brainchild of five students, four from Yale and one from Columbia. It grew out of popularity of Yale's Old Campus Tree Risk, a similar game where Yale students were able to conquer its campus using virtual armies. Though crude in style and code, the original game was able attract hundreds of students.(2) The idea was expanded to include the whole of Ivy League, pitting its armies into battle across the New England region. GXC distinguishes itself from the connotation of "just another game" by branding itself as a social online game. Each Ivy League school could elect commanders to lead the team in strategizing and arranging alliances. Recruitment and retention were important as teams could received army reliability bonuses and participation multipliers.

I'm not sure what the developers held in mind when they designed a "social" game. I'm sure they wanted Ivy League students to interact amongst each other, but it definitely went beyond it. Teams began getting serious and created alliances, created its own thinktanks, formed intelligence and counterintelligence units, and formed councils for discussions behind closed doors. Leaders even met outside the game person-to-person on campus. (This would not happen very often in WoW.) There are two chatrooms in the game, one is available for the school you belong to, and one for the public (think guild and General chat). Both have their own quirks. Contrary to popular belief, Ivy League students are just like any other students. The only difference we have is probably some form of enmity we have for each other, big or small. Calling names and making jokes. And then there are those who go against the commanders' battle plans and decide to attack whatever territory they want, even if it's an ally's territory.

There's also a disconnect when game developers design a game and fail to anticipate problems. For about a week, the game was running perfectly fine. Flash-generated maps were being generated with little problem, and tracking your own team's army movements was easily trackable. However, surges in player registration and problems with the server (note the singular word) began to mount as registration reached 3000, not counting the other campus games GXC was going to start. Only when the maps started to become buggy did they finally decide to get three more servers. Commanders of each team and their advisors, fortunately, managed to get flash maps (that were disabled because it was eating up too much server power) with the help of each team's resident computer expert by looking into the game's source code. Coordination became very hard to do when the majority of the players could not get updated maps. Static maps were put up every few hours, but that is lacking compared to having immediate data available to you for urgent army placement. Turn ends were a nightmare because processing was beginning to take several hours.

By the time the developers decided to "indefinitely pause" the game until it could address design issues, the Ivy League championship game had registered 8000 students. Even 4 servers can't handle that with poor management As I quote Brad Hargreaves (Yale '08), one of the game's developers, the game's continuing technical issues "[have] shown us that our identity lies closer to a pickup game of coed football than World of Warcraft."(3)

My take is, GXC and Ivy Council got a little bit too overexcited with their idea. Don't release a game or open it to thousands of players before it's ready. If anything, delay it for put it into beta phase. I've played enough browser games to know when a game is ready or not. The successful ones anticipate problems or quickly fix them if they are unanticipated. They shouldn't try to bite off more than what they can chew. Games like Space Federation have done very well with this. I'd be surprised if the majority of the 8000 players return to GXC when the pause finally ends at the end of the month.

(1) "World of Warcraft Surpasses 9 Million Subscribers Worldwide". Blizzard Entertainment. 24 July 2007.
(2) "Students hazard all in campus Risk game". Yale Daily News. 23 January 2007.
(3) "Ruminations upon a Pause". GoCrossCampus. 4 November 2007.