Machvergil Comic number 043

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Archive for July, 2010

Picking up StarCraft II

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

I had wanted to write this last night while the experience was fresh, but I ended up deciding to sleep instead since my efforts to take the 27th off work failed.

As the day before launch approached I fell into a bit of a panic.  My Pre-Order from Newegg was still in “On-Hold” status and Newegg was giving me no idea of when it would ship (one rep made it sound like if it would ship), and wouldn’t let me expedite the shipping until it’d moved into the “processing” phase.  Growing worried I might not see the Collector’s Edition of the game after all, I went into a panic to try and think of a way of how to get my hands on the Collector’s Edition of the game the day it came out without a pre-order.

Some calling around after work revealed that Best Buy at Meridian Mall was going to do a midnight release, opening the doors at 11:30.  I gave them a call and they confirmed they’d be selling both the normal and collector’s edition.  Figuring there’d be a line like there was for WoW expansions, I though I’d leave my apartment around 10:30 and get there about 30 minutes early.  I grossly over-estimated how long it’d take to get there and was there a whole 45 minutes early.  I was the only one there.

At first I felt a little bit like an idiot.  There I was, leaning against a post playing my DS in my Terran Marine shirt as Best Buy employees who were going to sell the game were still showing up.  Eventually a line of about 4 customers showed up, forming up behind me. While it still felt good to be first, I still felt silly, and a little disappointed StarCraft II wasn’t going to get the kind of showing a WoW expac got.

As 11:30 approached the line reached about 12 people. Meridian Township police drove by to find out what was going on.  We explained it was the midnight release of a video game, and the police man wished us a good night and moved on.  We were a little surprised no one informed the police, but even if they hadn’t, what was a bunch of mostly quiet adults going to do?  About ten minutes later another Meridian police car passed by and said into the loudspeaker “Attention, for your safety, please do not Zerg Rush the store.”  Those of us who got the joke laughed our asses off.

You could tell the poor folks at Best Buy didn’t want to be here.  At 11:30, the manager let in the pre-orders, which totalled in like 10 people out of the over 40 people in line at this point.  The line was long enough that I couldn’t see the end from the front of it anymore, but at the front of it I was. We waited another 30 minutes or so before the manager finally let the rest of in, handing those who wanted it free energy drinks from a fridge they rolled out.  With a smile I sauntered up, asked for a collector’s edition, bought it, and got my free poster.

As I went to leave, a Meridian Township policeman at the door asked me “what’s in the big box?” After I explained to him I asked if he was the guy who told us not to Zerg rush the store.  He responded “Oh good, someone did hear that!” and I gave him a high five.  In high spirits, feeling victorious, and with all the giddy glee of a little boy on Christmas Day, I got in my car and drove home.

Twelve years ago I bought StarCraft I from this very Best Buy as a 15 year old. Nine years ago I beat Starcraft: Broodwar.  Finally, after years of waiting, Blizzard has given me StarCraft II.

Hell, it’s about time is right!

The co-op conundrum

Monday, July 19th, 2010

I’m one of those gamers whose favorite mode in any game tends to be the cooperative one.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy good PvP – my exploits in Starcraft, WoW, and now League of Legends speak to that – but I’m not such a competative gamer that PvP is all I like to do.  In fact, given the choice between “beat up on the computer with my friends,” or “go alone against a bunch of people I don’t know,” I’ll almost choose to play with my friends (though “beat up people I don’t know online WITH my friends” also has very strong pull).

The issue with this of course is when most games have multiplayer it’s the competitive play they focus on.   This is totally understandable.  No game has achieved the longevity or fan-base of Counter-Strike, Street Fighter, or Starcraft due to their single player campaigns, oh no.  It’s because each of those games are prime eSports games that they are still highly played and highly regarded, and have a loyal fanbase. Making a solid competitive game experience gives a game developer much desired street cred and cash so the push in that direction makes sense.  It’s just unfortunate for those of us who would rather team up with your friends instead of frag them all day.

However, there is one genre of game that thrives off of it’s “Player vs Environment,” or PvE; One type of game in which the quality and challenge that the developer brings to the table for teams of players, both large and small, to overcome against computer-controlled opposition is what makes or breaks the game in the player’s eyes moreso than any amount of competitive play:  The MMORPG.

This genre is the lone online game genre where you can have the best PvP on the market, and if your PvE endgame is trash, everyone will quit your game after maximum level.   One need only look at the update schedule that World of Warcraft has used to see an extreme of example of what players expect.  If you can’t keep the player base amused with a continuing stream of new challenges and rewards, the players will bore, and move on to your competitor’s product.  To top it off, the most successful MMORPGs include a PvP element, even if it is tacked on, so that in between your large group assault on a computer-controlled dungeon you can go out and match wits against players as well.

Of course the genre has its own problems, specifically the presence monthly fees and the extreme time sink these games tend to be.  It’s a bummer that the only genre that caters so well to the cooperative gamer at the same time requires such a commitment from both their time and money.  It makes it difficult to sustain the idea of continuing to play such a game anytime another game takes your interest.  Right now I’m really enjoying League of Legends, but the game’s lack of meaningful cooperative play (because the bots are just a joke – provided they don’t take down bot play entirely), means that when I get sick of fighting my friends I have to play something else.  By the same token, it’s hard to justify the monthly fee for a game like Aion or WoW if I’m still going to devote most of my gaming time to something competitive like League of Legends.

In the end, as much as I want to escape having to pay a monthly fee for permission to play a game, until other co-op friendly games come around (or I can bring people around to Guild Wars again), MMORPGs will probably be the best place to go to scratch such an itch.  From a gaming stand point that’s fine, as I find such games fun and rewarding, but I just wish they were less intense in terms of commitment so if one “saw other games on the side,” they weren’t so horridly punished.