Daily Archives: August 26, 2008

Though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have.

Oh dear lord here comes an analogy, and I of all people should know that it will only end in tears. Although sometimes I’ve been known to write half decent analogies, so I’m going to do it anyway.

So MMOs are theme parks, you pay your entrance fee (read subscription) and you get to go on the rides. Now, many people in Blogland have been focusing on the rides that Warhammer Online has and have rightly stated that, underneath the themes and imagineering they are in the main quite similar to World of Warcraft’s rides and thus perhaps a bit long in the tooth.

However, in World of Warcraft’s theme park, in addition to your entrance fee, many of the rides have queues. They have queues that stretch all the way around the park. Five times. Many of the areas of World of Warcraft’s game-play require huge investments of time in order for a person to be able to make it anywhere. There are many obstacles thrown in the way to perpetuate these ‘queues’, reputation grinds, keying, gear disparity, even just organising raid group composition in order to have the perfect balance in order to beat an encounter.

What Warhammer does differently, and which people touch upon but perhaps have not tied-up into a rather crufty metaphor, is that it is a theme park without queues. Everything about the game is about people being able to get onto the rides as quickly as possible, to be able to decide they want to hit the PvP ride and be strapped in and away enjoying the mad roller coaster of getting ganked and ganking in kind, before they can say “OMGWTF Bright Wizards are so overpowered!!!1” . They’re able to jump straight back on to the PvP ride if they want, but if they fancy trying the micro-raid ride, then all they have to do is go find the nearest public quest and they’re off, no queue, not even a barrier saying “you must be this high” (a level) to ride.

And that, I think, is what sets Warhammer apart from the older generation of MMOs, and what I think has a large section of the MMO community slowly burbling away with an undercurrent of barely restrained child-like delight.

Anyway, that’s my analogy. Probably needs more otters and carpets.

Life is either a great adventure or a tiny one.

If you have, like myself, been dragged kicking and screaming by relatives and friends into the hellish nightmare reputation grind that is online social networking, you may be able to take some solace from the fact that there is a refuge for nerds even in these deep dark depths of despair. If you subscribe to the behemoth of online friend networks, Facebook, it will be well worth checking out the charming Dungeons and Dragons Tiny Adventures.

A nice in-depth review can be found here on the ever impressive Tor.com

For such a simple interface, in such an unlikely gaming environment, it provides one of the more compelling fantasy RPG adventures that I’ve had in a while. The little adventure stages, with their descriptive and evocative text, rather than the simple “WINNAR!” or “EPIC FAIL!” that would have been so much simpler for the developers to employ, take the game a level above what one would expect from a miniature application tucked into a social networking site. I find myself excited to log in and find out what adventure my character undertook and whether they were successful, it’s like reading a mini adventure story with your character at the center of it all, just as RPGs are supposed to be; the text is short but descriptive, and your imagination, assuming it is above the level of a lobotomised newt, can fill in the blanks and produce the visuals, as one does with any compelling storytelling.

I’ve yet to try adventuring with friends, but seeing as I have at least TWO WHOLE friends on Facebook who might be interested in trying it out, I expect I’ll have a go sooner or later.

A word of warning though, the game has been suffering with the usual launch problems, in particular I think their network/database back-end is having trouble coping with the number of players, and I assume that this may well only get worse as word gets around about this nifty! little application, that a lot of grown-up MMOs could learn a thing or two about usability and pure essence of fun from.

To that end my dwarf warlord is off adventuring through the Stronghold of the Drow again, starting from level one due to a rollback that had to be performed which reverted to a date before I had started playing, and even now I frequently experience the frustrating +1 Message of “Too many connections”.

However, should you wish to undertake this adventure, and should you make it past the demon-headed database dog of doom, you will find a tiny experience of what online RPG games should be about.

Comic Catch-up

Since my previous comic post, I’d let my re-acquired habit lapse somewhat other than picking up the final trade paperback of Y: The Last Man, a great conclusion to the superlative series. A third volume of The Ultimates started, but with a new writer and artist, and flipping through it I really couldn’t get along with the new style so I don’t think I’ll be grabbing the TPB of that. I hadn’t really read many comics at all, until chatting to a friend last week he raved about The Walking Dead and lent me the first few volumes. It’s a fairly familiar initial scenario (at least for anyone who’s watched a bunch of zombie films, particularly 28 Days Later), and starts off… not exactly sedately, but following fairly standard lines, massive head trauma for plenty of zombies, a few bites for the humans here and there. The black and white artwork slightly takes the edge off things, so while still visceral (very literally, in many cases), it’s not too grisly. Things develop, though, and while the zombies are an ever-present threat, it’s the interactions of the survivors at the fore, and things get *really* brutal, I was rather glad it was black and white in several places. Recommended, if you have a strong stomach.

Also on the comic front a new podcast (and blog) has started up, Limited Edition, a rather splendid look at everything comic-book related. In the first episode they talk about Secret Invasion, this summer’s Marvel “event”. I had a bit of a go at the last one, Civil War, but didn’t really get on with it. One problem was, caught up in comic-y excitement, I was picking it up an issue at a time; reading an issue per month, it takes me a while to remember exactly who everyone is and what’s going on, and by the time I’ve straightened that all out it’s the cliffhanger and another month (or more) to the next issue, so I’ve since stuck to waiting for at least one, preferably a couple of, trade paperbacks before starting on series. Apart from that, the series as a whole didn’t really grab me, I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to superhero comics and prefer the heroes fighting villains, rather than each other. Secret Invasion sounds rather more fun, though, so I might well give that a go. While reading up on it, I noticed part of the event is a new series of Captain Britain and MI-13 written by Paul Cornell, who also wrote the brilliant Doctor Who two-parter Human Nature and The Family of Blood (and the novel it was based on). I’d vaguely seen mention of it while scanning the blogroll, and prior to that his Wisdom mini-series, which after reading a couple of reviews sounds decidedly interesting, so I’m going to grab that while waiting for some of the Secret Invasion stuff to be collected.