Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Sinking under the weight of inconsistencies

Back in Azeroth after the Rugby World Cup finished. And with a fresh outlook, I can't help feel that the weight of story inconsistencies are crushing the World of Warcraft.

A fresh horde character showed the problem starkly. All through the classical levels, Vol'Jin is now sitting in Orgrimmar as warchief. Okay, Garrosh turns up in Outland and Northrend, but the fresh character is unaware of 'later' events. However, when she reaches the Twilight Highlands, Garrosh is spearheading the assault, as Warchief. He's in the Stonetalon Mountains as Warchief. Later he's in Pandaria as Warchief. And Vol'jin is plotting against him. What?

That could be partially fixed by putting the portals to Outland, Northrend, and Pandaria in the Caverns of Time, removing all other routes into them, and replacing Garrosh in Kalimdor with another NPC. But it's hard to keep all these mixed stories straight. Anyway, I was in Dalaran recently, and I was amazed to see that Jaina has let the horde back in. Did Theramore suddenly get undestroyed? Did the duplicitous Sunreavers do something trustworthy? What's going on?

After we invaded Orgrimmar, defeated the Kor'kron and brought Garrosh to justice, you would expect the Alliance to install an administrative leader in Orgrimmar (perhaps Jaina would have been the right person for the job), and to restore the destroyed or desecrated lands of the Stonetalon Mountains, Ashenvale and Azshara to Night Elf care, Instead, orcs and goblins continue to run riot through these areas. And rather than getting rid of the aggressive alien invaders right here on our doorstep, we're off in Draenor, invading another planet.

It would be fantastic if the night elves could have their lands restored, and the orcs and Draenei could have their planet restored and we could all live in peace on our own planets. Then all we have to do is get rid of the scourge in Lordaeron.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

6.2.3 and Legion predictions

Another PvP season is coming in 6.2.3. And 6.2.3 is only going to the PTR, so we can't expect it on live servers until about the start of December.

How long does a PvP season last? Well, about 20 weeks; which would take us until about mid-April. Then there'll be a further patch with the pre-release event for the Legion expansion before Legion actually goes live. That could be anything from a fortnight to a month, leaving us around early to mid-May for the Legion release. And when does the Warcraft movie go on general release? End of May. My July prediction about that is strengthened.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Living it up

Fuill, Paoquan and I are taking a well deserved holiday from Azeroth. We decided to spend a marathon month on Earth jet-setting around Europe. We're just back from the Côte d'Azur which was fab. I don't think I've ever seen so many yachts in my life before. And not cheap ones, either. The port of Antibes alone held over a thousand yachts that the three of us couldn't afford to buy. In fact, we could hardly afford to buy a mooring berth there! We hired bicycles, instead.
€65 000 for a 10x4 metre mooring here.
I liked Antibes a lot. Probably the only town in the world with more chandleries than supermarkets.

But the  Côte d'Azur has a problem with its "beaches". In Azeroth, a beach has sand on it. In Nice, their beaches are made up of large pebbles or small rocks. I'm not one for lying on a beach sunbathing, but lying on a rocky shore sounds more like mortification than pleasure.

This is what passes for a beach on the Côte d'Azur

We took a trip to Monaco to see the Napoleonic exhibition, only to find it was sold off last year. It seems the sovereign Prince of Monaco was short of a few bob. A few bob short of a pound, if you ask me.

Anyway, our jet-setting isn't over, and the rugby world cup is underway in England, so we're off to London to watch Ireland defeat the rest of the world. Slán!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Ahoy there, me hearties! Avast behind!

My time in Azeroth has temporarily come to an end. I let my subscription lapse some months ago and am now paying with WoW tokens instead. Now I've stopped that, too. I still have some tokens in my bags, but what with a summer holiday approaching (now that it's autumn!) and the rugby world cup on the horizon (and Ireland has the incredible ranking of world number 3 right now), I don't think I'm going to have any time for raiding. Plus, I need a break.

I may come back to Azeroth refreshed in October, or I might wait a little longer. Perhaps even to the next expansion, who knows.

In the meantime, I've been playing with wargaming.net's latest World of Warships beta release. I downloaded it ages ago, but I had trouble getting it running. The screen would flicker in such a way that I could see what was previously on the screen, For instance, in the middle of battle, I could still see the pre-battle screen flickering in and out. And moving my gun target left a trail of target cursors in its wake. Don't even think about what happened when I rotated my point of view. Suffice to say it was unplayable.

I updated it recently to see if the problem had been fixed, and lo and behold ... it hadn't. But after much searching I found a work-around, and got the try out WoWs (as we cognoscenti call it).

Have you noticed how much more agile the tanks in World of Tanks are, compared with actual tanks? WoWs has the same problem, on speed. My low-level ships feel like windsurfing boards.

There are several different classes of ship, and the most problematic for me are destroyers, which at low-level fire torpedo broadsides from deck-mounted launchers. The problem is that the torpedoes travel really slowly, and once you have four or five destroyers on each side, well, there are a lot of fish in the water. And it's not unknown for your team to find themselves turning into the path of your slow-moving torpedoes. Uh, oh!

I am a team-killer. Inadvertently. I've also inadvertently been been killed by my own team's fish. I haven't yet had the ignominy of steaming into my own torpedoes: thank goodness my top speed is slightly lower than the top speed of my torpedoes. Otherwise it would have happened.

I guess it's just a matter of better map awareness, and better awareness of how slowly these torpedoes travel. Although the torpedo range is 8km, there really seems to be no point in using them until you're on top of the enemy. Definitely cease firing them while you are behind your own team. Avast behind!*

*This whole article written to allow me to legitimately use that final exclamation.

Blaugust, day 31.

Screen Flicker in World of Warships

 I'm only going to deal with one kind of flicker, the one that was bugging me! The screen would flicker in such a way that I could see what was previously on the screen. For instance, in the middle of battle, I could still see the battle-loading screen flickering on the battle-screen. And moving my gun target left a trail of target cursors in its wake. Don't even think about what happened when I rotated my point of view. Suffice to say it was unplayable.

This is the view mid-game!

It turns out that WoWs  doesn't respect the hardware anti-aliasing setting on your graphics chip, and tries to do it for itself. That means that if your graphics processor is set to do the anti-aliasing itself, you're in trouble, and you need to switch off the hardware anti-aliasing. But only for WoWs, or you risk other 3D software slowing down. I don't care about that, so I put up with it to get WoWs running.

I've got a very basic graphics chipset, an AMD Radeon  HD 5450 (I know this because it comes with some management software that told me (AMD Catalyst Control Centre (or CCC ))). To fix the problem, I went into CCC, selected "Gaming"->"3D Applications", and then changed the setting "Anti-Aliasing Mode" from "Override Application Settings" (which I presume is the default) to "Use Application Settings". Once I'd done that, the game played perfectly.

Then I decided to take some screen shots, like the one above, so I set the Anti-Aliasing Mode back to "Override Application Settings", and tried again. Lo and Behold, there was no flicker! What happened?

This: when I set the Anti-Aliasing Mode to "Use Application Settings", CCC automatically changed the next setting, "Anti-Aliasing Samples", to "Use Application Settings", also. Then when I changed the Anti-Aliasing Mode to  "Override Application Settings" for the screenshots, it automatically changed the "Anti-Aliasing Samples" to "None". I don't know what its original factory setting had it at, but when I changed it from "None" to "2x", the problem came back.

So now I have two ways of getting rid of the flicker:
1. Change the Anti-Aliasing Mode to "Use Application Settings" or
2. Change the Anti-Aliasing Samples to "None".

Blaugust, day 31

Friday, 21 August 2015


In "Paying to be the hunter", Tobold made the point (with respect to MMOs):
Many other games don't have character power levels or gear, so it is totally possible to create a game in which playing a lot would only make you stronger in as far as you become more skillful in the game
As 8f and Samus pointed out in the comments, there are plenty of games which require player skill, such as Call of Duty; but one of the unique features of virtual worlds is that we players are more like actors than athletes. Our skill lies not in dexterity, but in playing a role.

The premise of virtual worlds is the same as in D&D. It is the character that progresses, not the player. The fun is not in improving your keyboard skills, it is simply in acting the role of the character, and seeing the challenges from her point of view. As a player, I'm still rubbish at casting fireballs, but I act the part of my character, who is expert at it through the effort she has put into improving her magic abilities (not my keyboard abilities).

Of course, given equally powerful characters, player dexterity will matter if both are in competition. But it be the end, we players do not play these games because of our superb keyboard dexterity, or we'd be playing games in which keyboard dexterity matters more, and the second-by-second and minute by minute game-play was more attractive. We play these games for the epic stories told (and our part therein), whether player generated or developer generated; and for the personal development of our characters within that world.

It so happens that in most virtual worlds, character progress only happens when the player is in-game. That's not a law of nature, though, and I can quite imagine games in which characters are set skill-building tasks that progress while the player is offline. Skills in Eve online are trained while the player is offline. In WoW, followers level up by doing missions that progress while we are offline. In fact, the legendary quest is progressing through such naval missions. It would be interesting to see what could be made of a game in which our characters could train while we players are elsewhere.

Blaugust, day 21.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Class Order Halls

After Garrisons, where all the NPCs lick up to me and call me Commander, I'm hoping that Class Order Halls will be a big improvement. I cringe every time some programmed cartoon calls me Commander, in fact. Me and 10 million others. I'm hoping that the Class Order Halls will curb that tendency to plamás us with honeyed terms of insincerity.

Two things in the early reports that are bugging me, though:
  • First, it seems that Afrasiabi is telling all who will listen that you are the leader of your order. More plamás, it seems. You, and me, and that guy meléeing with his wand. Afrasiabi wants us all to believe we're the leader of the order of mages. The Garrison was bad enough for that sort of thing, but at least I had built my garrison up, and the only other people there were people I invited (though I don't remember inviting Fiona). But the class order hall will be filled with all sorts of mages of all sorts of abilities, and I'd really prefer that the class leader would be the most able of the mages who put themselves forward for the job.
  • Cross-faction? I don't think I could bear to spend any time in the same hall as the Undead. The smell alone would drive you out. Not that orcs or trolls smell much better. In any case, I'd be just as happy killing them as the Burning Legion. I hear reports that Dalaran would become a neutral city. I can't in all conscience square that with the behaviour of the despicable, lying horde of thugs who are our enemies. Jaina has been proven to be entirely right about the matter, and it's a shame that our king stopped Thrall from ending Garrosh's life when we invaded Orgrimmar and defeated him. In fact, its a shame we shirked our duty to bring decency and fairness to that lawless orc city.If only we had seized that moment and dismantled the horde, as Jaina wisely insisted, and executed Garrosh as Thrall tried, we could have saved ourselves the misery of a year and more stuck on Draenor in a story that has never made any sense
Blaugust, day 11.