Dustin Stevens vs. the World… of Warcraft (Day Seven and Conclusion)

26 07 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Beard Status: Inexcusable

Personal Smell: Like Death

Character: Kniveschau (Level 14 Blood Elf Hunter)

I spent the first part of my penultimate day completing simple quests and flying back and forth between the two halves of the Blood Elf starting Zone. For some reason the class and profession trainers were all in or around Silvermoon City, so I had to keep returning from Eversong Woods to keep up my hunter, skinning, and leatherworking skills. I was learning new combat abilities quickly but the leatherworking advanced a bit slower than I would have liked. (I’m not too impressed that I can finally make “embossed leather gloves” if I already found some on a mistbat’s corpse.) At least I got to watch this pretty flying animation a lot; it gave me time to refill my glass. I was also slowly filling in the map for Eversong Woods, finding little villages and caves all over the place.

I believe I got my pet, Caboose the ferocious war cat, on day Six. But this was the day I really learned his value when soloing. Because I was a hunter, my best skills were being built up for ranged attacks, which don’t work when enemies rush at you. But Caboose would run ahead of me and keep the enemy distracted while I gave the fiends impromptu tracheotomies from far away. The cat was worth his weight in gold and I actually started to bond with the little guy. I couldn’t imagine ever letting him go.

Until I found a bigger and better cat, of course. Then I abandoned Caboose and tamed one of these new beasties, naming him “Caboose II.” Except it turned out that all cats you tame look the same in battle, no matter how big they were when you were fighting them. The cat levels with you and gets more powerful but stays at the same scale. Reminds me of Umaro in Final Fantasy VI, who was a big badass boss when you fought him but a normal-sized mediocre character in your party.

Caboose II and I spent the rest of the day killing things and desecrating bodies. Literally. I don’t remember why but at some point I had to burn mummified troll remains, which is odd because I thought the trolls were my allies. Sure spent a lot of time killing them today, though.

 

 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Beard Status: Actually Against the Law

Personal Smell: Noticeable by People in the Game

Character: Kniveschau (Level 17 Blood Elf Hunter)

 

I started my day off by fighting some underwater monsters including a boss. Fortunately Caboose II and I could hold our breath for like ten minutes and it turns out that arrows fly underwater exactly as they do in the air. The swimming controls were actually very intuitive (much better than the bullshit controls in Metal Gear Solid 2, but I guess since that’s been nine years ago I should let that go. But, seriously… Fuck You, E.E.). The only problem came when killing the boss and trying to find its corpse to get the loot. I saw the sparklies that indicate a treasure drop but somehow couldn’t quite get myself lined up right to collect the booty.

More bad guys were killed, more trips to Silvermoon City were made to level up. At one point I saw this NPC whose pet was a succubus or something. If I’d known I could have a hot chick in lingerie as a pet I never would have picked up Caboose.

There were two minibosses of sorts named Kucklerot and Luzran who were giving me some trouble every time I ran into one of them. As I was running out of other quests I finally decided to tackle the dudes but needed help. I put out an all call for assistance, and was answered by a dude named “Samsiust.” He agreed to help… and came to my aid with a Level 80 Paladin who made short work of the monsters before I could blink. I was starting to notice a trend. After this premature evisceration we chatted for a minute before I agreed to join his guild and he went on his way.

All that was really left for the area after that was the boss Dar’khan. Subsequent to a couple of ass-kickings I decided to run up to the next area and level up a bit. Fortunately, I’d learned to ride a mount at some point. The bird ran very fast and made short work of the long treks from place to place. However, he was no help in combat and apparently Caboose II was afraid of him, as the cat disappeared every time I called my chocobo—er, riding ostrich-thingy. Unfortunately, the next area was filled with Level 60 nasties that killed me faster than my wife made me shave when she got home.

So I decided to turn back and get help from my guild in dealing with Dar’Khan. Turns out no one of the appropriate level was on. So I switched to a different guild (yeah, I’ll sell out quick) and got help from another player. At first he actually tried to help me with a level-appropriate character, making the fight interesting. Then we died and he switched to a Level 72 character and took out the boss in one turn. Yeah, this MMO teaming-up-with-people thing is fantastic.

But that’s fine. Things have changed. I’ve complete the opening section of the game! My life will never be the same! No longer will I ride a dragon from place to place, going on simple fetch quests!

Now I’m riding a bat.

 

Conclusion

 

At the beginning of the week I had some questions to answer. What was with this game? What made it the undisputed king of its genre? What (if anything) makes it worth the monthly subscription?

Having played through about thirty hours of the game (that’s right, I spent a day and a half of the seven days of my vacation playing this game), I’m ready to answer some of these questions. First the good: World of Warcraft is a surprisingly deep RPG with simple, addictive combat backed up by complex leveling. Everything is levelable and customizable—combat, skills, pets, you name it. Loot is doled out at the perfect pace and everything you get is visible on your avatar. In doing some research on the game I’ve found that there have been tons of updates over the past six years, which is appropriate considering how far RPG’s have come in that time. New quests are given out frequently enough that you never really feel like you’re grinding the same enemies over and over. The enemies themselves evolve more than simple palette swaps. Death gives you a choice of respawn options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. And the controls work perfectly (which is a pretty big consession coming from a guy who historically hates PC games.)

But I can’t call the game flawless. First of all, the game shows its age. Let’s face it—WoW came out before the Xbox 360. The waypoint system doesn’t work like in a modern game, causing you to bring up your map frequently to get directions. After finishing my starting area, I spent over an hour stumbling around looking for what to do next, which turned out to be another area beneath my level which wasn’t nearly as visually appealing as the place I’d left. The game doesn’t look as good as Dragon Age: Origins, a game with graphics that felt dated a year ago. And modern RPG’s leave this game in the dust in terms of customizing your avatar’s face and hair. I also hope you didn’t come for story, because there is none. I suppose that theoretically my Blood Elf is trying to get her race into an exalted position in the Horde, but eleven million people have done that before me, which kind of breaks the illusion.

But people don’t play WoW for the graphics or story. So we come to the real ass-kickers: sure, there are thousands of quests in the game, but when they all boil down to “go kill x number of mistbats and bring back their spines” is that really any different than level grinding in any other RPG? And, yeah, meeting up with people to complete quests together is pretty kick ass, but only when you’re working with someone at the same level as you and going after a level-appropriate quest. Which I never really did in my week here. And a game that won’t let you play if the server is overcrowded or down for maintenance is, to my way of thinking, inexcusable.

Oh, and I’m a grown-ass man. If I want to curse, Blizzard, give me a server or two in which I can %@#&ing say the $#!+ I want to without censoring me.

So at the end of the day I guess I need to give the game a final critique. I certainly haven’t played enough to give you a Crush! Frag! Review!, and I don’t know enough about MMO’s in general to tell you where this sits in that pantheon. So here’s what I can tell you after a long, hard week of making friends, orphans, and leather capes in Azeroth: I like my character. I want to play some more. Actually, I think I’ll log in as soon as I’m done with this article. I had fun and didn’t give up. The game works (mostly), unlike most PC games I’ve tried to play. I’m more interested than ever in trying The Old Republic and Final Fantasy XIV, two games I didn’t take much notice of at their announcement.

I’m going to keep playing until my two free months are up. After that? Probably not. World of Warcraft is a very good RPG. But I can’t call it a life-changer for me. Maybe the upcoming Cataclysm expansion can fix some of my problems with it. Maybe not.

If you’re like me, and MMO’s have always been like that cute girl next door that you’ve heard is good in the sack but you never asked her out because you were afraid she’d take up all your time and steal fifteen bucks a month from you, I say give it a shot. You can get a free ten day trial or buy the Battle Chest, which includes the Burning Crusades expansion along with two free months. Maybe you’ll get hooked. I did not.

But I’ll never forget my time in Azeroth.

 

 

Special thanks to Rob Thomas, “J” Bybee, Smirnoff pear-flavored vodka, the guys I played with online, Lucid absinthe, Mrs. Stevens, and everyone who has commented on one of these columns or followed me on Twitter. And Guiness. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

Kniveschau will return in Goldmember.





Dustin Stevens vs. the World… of Warcraft (Days Four and Five)

24 07 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Beard Status: I Look Like a Lead Character from Lost

Personal Smell: Mrs. Stevens is Packing Bags

Character: Kniveschau (Level 10 Blood Elf Hunter)

 

By now I was starting to think that WoW was becoming a bit by-the numbers. There was a ritual to the game: Go to a new area with a blacked-out map, accept quests, and slowly fill in the map as you hunt down bad guys and bring things from point A to point B. I had the pattern down to a science.

But that’s not to say I wasn’t having fun:

I frolicked through the forests…

…saw the sights…

…and went for a dip in the pool. It was sort of like a virtual vacation during my real vacation. (Maybe I should be doing some of these things IRL…)

But I was sort of tuning out in terms of the gameplay. I thought I’d seen it all and was settled in for the eternal treadmill of becoming more and more powerful while facing more and more powerful enemies.

And then the most amazing thing happened: I found more stuff in the game! First I was assigned some quests to learn how to tame wild animals, eventually allowing me to get a pet to join me in combat. One that would level up with me. One that would take some of the sting out of the loneliness of playing this MMO alone.

Then I picked my two professions: skinning and leatherworking. Now I wasn’t just killing things to grind for experience points; I was killing things to take their skins and make them into boots. And my professions leveled up too. I suddenly see how someone can sink a hundred hours into one playthrough.

 

Friday, July 23, 2010

12:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Beard Status: I Look Like an Extra from Lost

Personal Smell: They’re Holding Interventions For Me

Character: (Level 13 Blood Elf Hunter)

 

Three hours into the day I had all the leather I needed to make myself a set of armor, upgrade it, and find a matching purse. This armor is actually mildly weaker than what I’d been wearing before, but there’s something satisfying about wearing clothes you’d made yourself. God, I shouldn’t be enjoying playing dress up this much. Maybe those guys in high school were right about me. I desperately needed to find something less gay to do.

So I went out to find myself a pet. I settled on a cat, who was cleverly named “Cat” when I found him. I eventually figured out how to change his name to “Caboose” to match my real life cat, and how to feed him to make him happy and earn combat bonuses.

I don’t know if you can read the text in this pic, but it doesn’t make any sense anyway. Guess it’s all role-playing speak. I’m also not sure why my cat is invisible. Like I said, there’s a lot to this game.

The combat got a lot easier with my new kitty friend, although he wasn’t subtle… he attacked everything within a four-square mile area. That can be rough when you want to wait for your life to recharge.

This is why my cat died a lot.

So here I am, going into the last couple of days of my experiment. A few questions have yet to be answered, so I’d better get back to it. If anyone has any last questions or thought, post them in the comments here, tweet me or e-mail me. Or track me down in the game and we can dance together.

 





Dustin Stevens vs. the World… of Warcraft (Day Three)

22 07 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

3:30 p.m. – 09:00 p.m.

Beard Status: Wife Frowns When I Kiss Her

Personal Smell: I Should Change My Shirt

Character: Tarron (Level 11 Tauren Shaman), Kniveschau (Level 1 Night Elf Hunter)

 

Hey guys! Now that I’m getting the hang of World of Warcraft, I don’t have quite as much to say about each session, so I decided to put two days together. Oh, and to clear up a couple of things in the sake of full disclosure: The intro to my first column says I’m an “MMO virgin,” which is sort of true, but I did play a couple of hours of Champions Online a few months ago, so I guess you could call that a “tip in.” Also, Mrs. Stevens wants me to let you know that’s she’s not a harpy and that she’s actually been very supportive of this whole thing… as long as I don’t get hooked. Thanks for the support, baby, and if you read this while you’re at work, bring me home some donuts.

So here we go! I was totes excited to start Day 3 and get in some good game time while the old lady was at work. I double-clicked the WoW icon on my desktop and mentally prepared myself to kick ass and take names.

Huh. Here you go again, PC Gaming.

Apparently the game was down for several hours that day, so I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked. So I waited until nightfall and tried again. Success! I was able to log in with no difficulty.

Uh huh. The game is full, so I have to wait for 235 people to quit before I can play. Don’t hardly ever see that in Mass Effect. If I bring a hot girl in with me and bribe the bouncer can I get in faster?

Thus I decided to roll a new character in a new server. I decided to be true to myself and my RPG habits, the scorn of the Internet be damned, and make a hot chick avatar.

At first I gave up on the whole “making up your own name thing” and went with the randomized defaults but they were all taken. May patience is wearing thing, Blizzard. Finally I decided to try naming her “Kniveschau” after the Scott Pilgrim character and guess what? The moniker was available. “Zaradra” and “Taurus Bulba” no, a major character in an upcoming movie yes. This is why I drink at night.

Anyway, I jumped into the realm and watched the intro movie. Same deal as before except that the Night Elf starting city is much prettier than the Taurens’. Then I got to play. Someone in the comments to my Day One article said that the Tauren cities are mostly empty because people like to play as races that are close to human but not exactly human. (Thinking back to previous RPG’s I’ve played, this makes a lot of sense.) This theory was pretty much confirmed when I started this game—unlike the two or three Taurens I’d seen my first couple of days, this city was packed with Night Elves running around and fighting things.

Oh, and I figured out that my starting shirt had no armor benefits. So I took it off. Yes, I’m that guy.

A couple of things hit me quickly while playing the new race. First of all, my elf seemed to have a lot more health, as she didn’t die for a long time. This kind of make sense because my Tauren had a healing spell and this elf hunter doesn’t, so I guess that’s a balance thing. Also, elves move a lot faster than bull people. I guess that’s logical but I didn’t see it coming. The game was starting to show some frame rate issues with my new speed.

I’m not sure I’ll want to go back to the bull man after playing at this speed.

I ran around the Elves’ city for a couple of hours, completing quests (more of the same) and buying new armor and such. I sort of got bored and eventually quit playing for the night, but here’s the thing—just writing about it now makes me want to play again. I think I’m gonna get in trouble here.

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Beard Status: I Don’t Want to Go Out in Public

Personal Smell: The Cat is Avoiding Me

Character: Tarron (Level 11 Tauren Shaman), Kniveschau (Level 7 Night Elf Hunter)

 

First I picked up where I left off the night before, slowing watching the objectives go from “Collect 7 Blah Blahs” to “3/7 Blah Blahs Collected” to “Turn in Blah Blahs to Captain Blah Blah.” I don’t know what it is but there’s something really satisfying about that.

Oh, and then there was a quest which actually felt like it had some story to it, when I had to take care of a spy and be subtle about it:

This was a bit more immersive than the rest of the things I’d done in the game so far, but seemed kind of out of place. It was sort of like going to a hot dog-eating contest and finding a bean burrito inside one of the buns.

Everything I’ve said over the last couple of days still holds true. Controls still work well and the difficulty ramps at a reasonable pace. I died once or twice but much less frequently than I did with my first character.

Oh, and you can sit in the game. I’m not sure what the point of this is, but I guess if you’re just chatting online it could be kind of nice. So… yeah.

After this I got a message from my friend “J,” telling me he was online. I switched back to my Tauren character to pick up where we left off. I had told “J” that there was a cave full of nasties I’d been having trouble with after he logged out a couple of days ago, and he replied by bringing in his Level 80 mage. Who, by the way, was a hot chick. So it’s not just me.

I didn’t get a screencap of the aftermath, but think of that scene in Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan and Yoda see all the youngling Jedi bodies strewn across the floor and you’ll get the gist. “J” ran ahead of me with his super-elf speed and killed everything before I could react. In fact, we thought we’d missed the boss I was going after until we realized that “J” had killed him without noticing. I collected loot from all the sparkling bodies on the floor and we made our way out.

Then as a special treat “J” teleported me to the Horde capitol city of Orgrimmar. This was what I expected from an MMO: Dozens of players crowding the streets, stores full of loot I couldn’t even come close to affording, and the feel of a real life city. People were sending messages back and forth asking for help with quests, forming rescue parties for cities under attack, and the like. I saw a dude on a mastodon on a rooftop, surrounded by others in the same clan/guild/glee club or whatever, but they didn’t seem to be doing anything. I asked “J” who this mastodon guy was and he said it was just somebody with too much time on their hands.

After that I logged out and took Mrs. Stevens to the movies. The game still has my interest. More reports to come. Only one problem: last night I couldn’t get to sleep because I kept picturing my avatar running around killing things. I’ve had similar experiences with Tetris, Rock Band, and Dragon Age. I need to keep an eye on that. I made a mental note not to play this game right before bed and logged out to play some Limbo instead.

Limbo? Kick ass game, but not any better for playing right before you try to sleep. See you tomorrow.





Dustin Stevens vs. the World… of Warcraft (Day Two)

20 07 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

8:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Beard Status: A Little Prickly

Personal Smell: Not Bad

Character: Tarron (Level 7 Tauren Shaman)

 

Hello again, kiddies. Whatcha been up to? As for me, I spent the evening testing my strength against an evil harpy who nearly killed me. Then my wife decided to take a shower and I logged into WoW.

An old high school buddy who I’ll call “J” (because that’s his name) agreed to meet me tonight to play. It took a couple of minutes of confusion to find him and set up a party so we could party chat. He gave me a couple of backpack upgrades to make up for the years of lunches I bought him when we were teenagers. (You still owe me for bailing you out of jail that one time, “J,” but we’ll talk about that later.) He’d logged on with a new character a few hours earlier. As a coincidence, he picked the same race and class as I did, but we still had a pretty good time. He also let me know that he had “parked” a level 80 Mage nearby in case we were griefed.

The first half-hour or so was spent hunting for dwarves or something. Sorry, but when I get that blood rage from caving in chests, I forget some of the details. We completed a quest or two and then got into the most difficult journey of all.

 

Okay, I realize this isn’t a screenshot of the game. It is instead my computer desktop, which I spent more time looking at tonight. We wanted to voice chat (causing me to spend $50 on a new headset today) and “J” recommended I download a program called Ventrilo for the task. It took fifteen minutes to get my server, domain, and password settings right. Then another fifteen minutes to figure out that I needed to set the program to my headset instead of the mic on my laptop. After that it still didn’t work. This is why I’m not a PC gamer. This right here.

Eventually I gave up and told “J” we’d just do the text chatting thing. He told me he was deep in a cave full of blah blahs looking for the mystical blah blah so I went to the cave and started fighting my way in. He then told me he was on his way out.

In case you can’t read the text here, “J” then said “Run” followed by “I done pissed em off.” I then watched him fleeing the cave, chased by three or four of the little pigmen. This might have been the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in a game. If my friend’s avatar had been voiced by Nolan North I would have been sold on WoW right there.

“J” and I spent a little more time outside, hunting for some animal parts to make a magic potion or somesuch nonsense. It may sound like I’m down on the game here, but I’m really not. Mindless clicking on bad guys to fight them while watching TV in the background is kind of like playing Bejeweled or Peggle but with a Tolkienesque wrapper. Time was flying by.

My partner-in-killing-things left his computer for a minute at which time he was surrounded by enemies. I saved his avatar by the skin of my teeth and bragged about my accomplishments when he got back. He replied by challenging me to a duel. I was excited when I won, but Mrs. Stevens was less than impressed. She really doesn’t want me to get into this game.

After this “J” logged off to feed his kids or some silly thing and I continued questing. Soon thereafter I got a message that Bloodhoof Village was under attack.

I got to the village just in time to see a dozen players, all of them well over my level, destroying the town. Unconcerned with my own personal safety, I jumped into the fracas.

It didn’t go too well.

After then Alliance party left, I walked amongst the corpses of fallen friends. The Shaman Trainer who taught me spells. The Shieldsmith who sold me that fantastic shield. The nice old bull man who ran the Inn. How could I ever forget them? How could I honor their memories?

Fortunately, after killing a couple of birds outside the village, everyone came back to life.

I grinded for a couple more hours, collecting widgets and wizzles to make magic potions and well-cleansing totems. I made it about halfway through Level 11 before deciding to go to bed. Oh, and I did one kind of cool thing where I followed a ghost dog and then later killed a different ghost dog. Forgot to take screencaps. Sorry.

As I sit here under the night sky, contemplating the lake behind me and the stars above, gazing over the body of the little guy I’d killed for the 14 Copper in his pocket, I take stock of how I’m feeling about the game. As I mentioned, the game is simple and addictive, almost more point-and-click adventure than RPG. Sure, it’s fun, but is that enough to warrant the subscription fee and the way people look at me when I tell them I play?

I’ve got five more days to find out. This was my vow when I started: to chronicle a newbie’s first few days of the most successful game ever, to help the little guy decide if he should cough up his hard-earned beer money to the land of Azeroth, to perhaps even overcome the stigma associated with online games and bring us all together at last!

I think tomorrow I’ll make a new character with a great rack.





Dustin Stevens vs. The World… of Warcraft (Day One)

19 07 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

9:00 p.m.—12:38am

Beard Status: Clean-Shaven

Personal Smell: Good

Character: Tarron (Level 1 Tauren Shaman)

 

After finishing my workday (and starting my week-long vacation) I joined the community of the world’s most popular MMO, World of Warcraft. Mrs. Stevens, cheerfully watching a self-made Veronica Mars marathon on Netflix, gave me one last warning not to become “one of those people” as I logged into my Battle.net account. This is actually the latest entry in a trend I’ve noticed—since I started telling my friends I was giving WoW a try, it’s almost been like I was announcing that I was experimenting with cocaine. Everyone told me that I’d end up broke and addicted, wearing leather pants and growing a mullet. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve played the game for almost four hours now, and only three of those four things have happened so far.

I’d already played around with the character editor early this week. WoW is a six-year old game, so don’t expect a modern character generator with the ability to tweak every detail of your avatar’s face, but the avatar editor gives you plenty of options for making a custom “you.” As of the Burning Crusade expansion pack (included in the World of Warcraft battlechest I bought for $40) you have two factions which five character races each. Each race can be male or female, and you have a handful of choices for face, hairstyle, skin color, and a couple of race-specific choices such as tusk or horn style. Since this character (and this column) were going public, I decided to wait a day or two before doing my usual RPG thing of making a female avatar based on whatever my fetish was that week. Strike One, MMO’s… making me self-conscious of the way I like to play games.

I messed around with the editor a good bit this week and am satisfied that you can make a character with just about any type of look you want. For my first character I chose a Tauren, a cow person, and chose the class of Shaman, a class that combines melee attacks with elemental and healing magic. As of this writing there are ten classes (note that not all races can learn all classes) and most of them sound like something I’d like to try out, although I’m not clear on the differences between, say, Warlock and Mage.

I tried to name my bovine hero “Taurus Bulba” (ten points to the first person to get that reference) but the name was already taken. Strike Two, MMO’s… making me be original. I tried to think of a few more puns but all those names were taken, too, so I settled on hitting the random name generator and went with Tarron.

A couple of clicks later I was officially a noob.

The game starts you off with a video of your home village, and a voice-over about your proud people or something… I’ve played way too many RPG’s lately and the “you are one of the blah blahs, a race that blah blahs in the fields of blah blah and battles the ever present threat of blah blah” has kind of grown thin. After that I was dropped into Camp Narache in Thunder Bluff. Another player spawned next to me but we didn’t exchange pleasantries. A third bull man in front of me (this one a non-playable character) either spotted me hiding in a box or had a quest for me.

This began what would become the theme of my evening—looking for people with explanation points over their heads and right-clicking them so that they’d ask me to go collect six widgets for me. Then the person’s exclamation point would turn into a question mark and I’d got right-click them again to collect some experience points and loot.

My first task was to find a woman by a well, get some water, and bring it back. Simple enough for an old RPG pro like me. I left the camp and headed south, engaging in my first fights against some Plainstriders, like ostrich-like things.

This led to one of my first surprises in the game—the controls work. I’ve never been a PC gamer (at least not since Duke Nukem 3D… that game was awesome), and the controls have always been one of the sticking points for me. But this game pulls it off. Simply use “WASD” to move your character around and your mouse does everything else. Sure, you can press “M” to bring up the map but a quick click does it just as well. And every button on your keyboard can be customized. Soon I was hurling lightning from my mighty hooves and smashing in faces with my even mightier mace. Fortunately, some of the Plainstriders were wearing pants or boots so I was able to loot their carcasses and start upgrading my character.

I’ve hit level 2! Only 78 to go. (Actually 68—as I understand it I can only get to level 70 unless I shell out for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.) I pummeled a few more helpless birds, found the old lady, and brought her water back to the village. Success!

If you think that collecting water and bringing it back to someone sounds boring, WoW is definitely not for you. Aside from one pseudo-boss fight, all of my quests tonight involved bringing something to someone (and even after that boss I had to carry back his head). Most of these quests were to kill a certain number of something in and bring back their pelts, beaks, or Silly Bands to prove you’d done the deed.

But this is a Massively-Multiplayer Online game, right? Shouldn’t there be eleven million people running around and interacting with me? Well, I saw a few people. But at first no one interacted with me. I tried to help one dude kill some boars, but was wary of the response. Sure, if he hit them first, he’d get the experience points and loot, but what if I was stepping on his toes by crushing the boars’ necks? Would he get enraged and kill me, wearing my horns as a signal of his manliness (or cowiness)?

Turns out he pretty much ignored me.

This changed a bit when I went in search of Sharptusk, leader of the quilboars. Note that at this point I upgraded to killing thinking, feeling creatures, and started to build up my orphan-crafting abilities. I made it to Sharptusk’s tent without incident. But here was a problem: Sharptusk was the same level as me and he had a couple of buddies with him. I’d tangled with more than one enemy before, but each of those fights had been a close shave. I wasn’t sure I was up to handling the three of them on my own.

But help arrived! Well, someone arrived, anyway. As two other players with the same subtitle (or Clan name? I didn’t figure that out) entered the tent my American selfishness kicked in and I attacked Sharptusk, “tapping” him so that I’d get his XP and loot. The fight was over in about two seconds and I collected the head. I thought about saying “Thanks” but figured that’d be pretty douchey if the other Tauren were going for that head, so I left them to wait for the bad guy’s head to grow back.

Night was dawning over Red Cloud Mesa as I went back to the camp for my reward. I spotted the two guys from Sharptusk’s tent talking to my quest-giver. They weren’t typing obscenities at me so I took a chance and thanked them. Then something happened that brought a smile to my face and might be added to my top ten moments in gaming: One of them waved at me. I can’t say why, but this one wave was cooler than every conversation I’ve ever had over Xbox Live. Maybe it was because he didn’t call me a fag. I started to see the appeal of this whole MMO thing.

(I expressed this feeling to Mrs. Stevens, who proceeded to give me the face she usually reserves for when I’m already drunk when she gets home from work… at two in the afternoon. She really doesn’t want me to get hooked.)

Somewhere around this point I figured out that my back, which is closer to thirty than twenty, doesn’t like hunching over the coffee table. I leaned back on the couch with the laptop on my lap and my mouse on the cushion beside me and the game got much more comfortable.

 

All the quests from Camp Narache done, I headed north to Bloodhoof Village. Enemy difficulty ramped up as I got here, and led to my first death. Starting at this point, some enemies would attack me without provocation, and others would come to the aid of their allies, which was kind of cute. One plainstrider tried to run as I whittled down his life, but don’t worry; I still killed him and desecrated his corpse as punishment for his insolence. Being eviscerated by a particularly nasty creature sent me up ahead to the graveyard at Bloodhoof, where I was given the option to run back to my body (and ghosts can run on water, it turns out, just confirming that Jesus was a bull-shaman’s ghost) or respawning at the graveyard. My understanding is that there’s a penalty for respawning at the graveyard if you’re over Level 10.

I ran back to my body and was immediately killed again. Turns out you revive with about a third of your life and mana meters… right next to the bad guy who killed you. Brilliant.

I completed a few more quests (each of which was taking longer and longer) and gained a few more levels. I bought some more armor and acquired more loot. One bird killed me about three times, and just as I was about to kill him back, some dude helped me out. He apologized for stealing the kill, but I didn’t harbor any ill will. We chatted for a few moments before I went on. Another dude running past casted a protection spell on me. That was kind of nice.

Oh, and I started killing humans, so that’s fun.

Turns out I’m not quite ready to handle two or three enemies at once yet, but (as the game didn’t get three strikes tonight) I suppose I’ll try to pair up with somebody tomorrow.

This photo shows me at the end of my session tonight, a Level 7 Shaman. You’ll notice I’ve upgraded my weapons and armor considerably. You might also notice all the open quests I’m working on. God, it’s satisfying to watch those 0/5’s become 5/5’s and disappear from the list.

As I log out and go to bed, I can say with certainty that I’m beginning to get why this game is popular. About halfway through my gametime, as Mrs. Stevens went off to take a shower, I took out my headphones and mindless killed things on my lap while also watching some Dilbert cartoons on my TV. That’s kind of cool. I could see myself getting into this.

Just don’t tell my wife.

 

This article written for Crush! Frag! Destroy! Go there for your daily fix of game news, reviews, and more.





Dustin Stevens vs. the World… of Warcraft — Preview

12 07 2010

It’s a muggy Georgia summer evening and here I sit with a poor man’s margarita (aka tequila and Mountain Dew) and a freshly opened World of Warcraft Battlechest. Just a few scant months ago I swore I would never be sucked into an MMORPG (for you noobs, a Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). Why would I want to a pay a subscription fee after purchasing a game? Why would I want to team up with other losers when I could play (and drink) alone, a process that’s gotten me through RPGs since Final Fantasy III/VI when I was a kid? Why would I knowingly enter that mother of all time sinks? And why would a try a PC game again, after the six or seven times I swore them off forever?

It’s a good question. And as the installation wizard tells me I’m at 29% installed, perhaps I can figure out an answer.

A few things have led me to decide to give WOW a try. As a wannabe video game journalist, I’ve tried to maintain a fairly extensive knowledge of games past, present, and future. And World of Warcraft is, for all intents and purposes, the most successful game of all time. Over eleven million people pump fifteen bucks a month into this game. That’s one hundred and sixty-five million dollars a month going into Blizzard Activision’s coffers. Six years (and billions of dollars) later and the game isn’t slowing down. Maybe this thing is worth taking a peek at.

And time is running out. As of this writing only a few months remain until Cataclysm, the epic expansion pack that will change the game’s world forever. So if I wanted a taste of what the land of Azeroth was like at the beginning, I need to do it now. Plus, with MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Final Fantasy XIV on the horizon, I need to decide if the genre is for me.

And, on top of all that, my boss recently told me that I have a vacation I didn’t know about starting July 19. I needed something to do, and if I’m inside playing games I won’t be out doing drugs or something, right?

So I’m installing the game, creating a Battlenet account, and kissing my wife goodbye for a week. Starting this Sunday night, I’ll be dedicating a week (and maybe a sock) to the land of elves and wizards. Is this a game for me? Will I like joining with strangers (and maybe a few old friends) to go out on quests? Is the monthly fee justified? Will my bizarre fetish for making hot female RPG heroines become a problem once I take my avatar into the open community? Will I find time for showers and exercise? Will my wife want anything to do with me at the end of this week?

The answers to these questions and more will come over the next seven days. Check this site for daily blogs and follow me on twitter @thisdustin for all of my impressions.

If you don’t hear from me again, I guess the orcs got me.

More coming once I figure this stuff out.





Dustin Goes to the Keynotes—E3 2010

17 06 2010

Please note that Dustin did not actually go to the keynotes. Also, he missed most of Nintendo’s because he had to work. But below is a basic summary along with a few smarmy remarks.

Welcome to E3 2010! I’m here (on my couch), absorbing all the action (watching Taken while drinking pear-flavored vodka), reporting live to you (my wife, the three people who go to my blog, and hopefully someone running a real site whom I’m hoping to impress). So what might you have missed the last few days? Let’s take a look!

 

 

Things kicked off with Microsoft’s Xbox conference. A good American conference. What happened? Well…

  • MS kicked off the speech with a Call of Duty: Black Ops trailer. Um, yeah. Shooting guys. The only thing of note here is that MS wrote Activision a check and now all DLC for CoD games will be timed exclusives. I’m trying to think of a way to make this funny or justify how this isn’t a big “Fuck you!” to everyone who owns a PS3, but I got nothing.
  • Trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Rising. You’ve played a hundred games with a “bullet-time mode” in which time slows down while you shoot guys, right? Well, now you’ll play “slicey-time mode,” in which time slows down while you decide exactly how to filet a bitch. Wasn’t it just a decade ago when everyone thought Raiden was lame? Apparently he’s not.
  • Gears of War 3 has girls and giant bad guys. Let’s move on.
  • Fable 3 is coming and we still don’t know how it’ll use Natal… er, um, Kinect. Peter Molyneux must have been on Adderall or something because he didn’t say anything crazy. (Does anyone else think it’s odd that MS Word doesn’t have “Molyneux” in its Spellcheck dictionary?)
  • Crytek is making a game called Codename: Kingdom. Other working titles are Codename: Not 300, Dammit! and Codename: Gladiator’s Not Trademarkable, Right?
  • Halo: Reach exists. So that’s good. It has space dogfights, so that sounds good, too.
  • Did I mention that Natal is called Kinect now? It’s apparently the greatest gaming interface of all time, but its gaming potential seems limited to Wii knock-offs for now. Seriously, why is this tech popping up in games before computers and entertainment systems?
  • Liam Neeson kicks major ass. This doesn’t have anything to do with Microsoft; I’m just at a killer scene in Taken.
  • Kinectimals will probably kick Eyepet in the retail nuts. Just sayin’.
  • Forza, Adventures, blah blah blah. Just about what you’d expect, except that Forza lets you walk around a car and look at it without a physical controller. If MS could combine this with Sony’s 3D tech, we’d have Iron-Man’s basement. Come on, guys, get it together!
  • Apparently Microsoft has a new 360 on the way? It’s quieter, smaller, blacker, shinier, and less buttonier. The new system has touch-sensitive buttons, a 250GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi built in, a black-on-black controller, and comes with a special “AUX” port that will power your Kinect without a separate power supply. The system will be available super-soon. Don’t look now, but I think it’s behind you!

Apparently a company named “Nintendo” has been making games since 1880 or something. Here’s what they have to say about things:

  • Did you know that Nintendo employees can teleport and survive dragon breath? Neither did I. I wonder what their benefits package is like?
  • Nintendo is making a game called Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Apparently this is a sequel to some other game. In this game you can shoot bows and arrows just like you did in Wii Sports Resport, or roll bombs around, or slice fools with 1:1 accuracy. Unless you’re on stage surrounded by Wi-Fi and such, in which case your controller will malfunction.
  • Mario Sports Mix, Wii Party, Just Dance 2… apparently, casual games are fun on this Nintendo system and there will be more. Kind of neat is that they’re packaging multiple sports in one instead of selling them to you one at a time.
  • Golden Sun and Goldeneye: Apparently there were old games with “Golden” in the title that were popular on other Nintendo systems, so you’ll see them again on the Wii.
  • Next up was a game called Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Remember when Nintendo said, “Hey, we don’t have the most powerful hardware out there, so we’ll make a Mario game with a whole ‘Paper’ concept so it looks like an artistic choice?” They’re doing it again with Kirby and string. (Yarn can mean a bit of intertwined string, or a story. See what they did there?) Anyway, I like Kirby and Paper Mario was cool, so this could work as a game—although I might have preferred it on the DS.
  • Metoroid and Donkey Kong: Yep, Nintendo’s still trading on the old franchises, although the DK license has been dead a while so that could be fun. Oh, and Dragon Quest IX sold enough that it’s coming to America. So there.
  • Then they dropped the big boy. The true successor to the DS, the 3DS, will be coming at some time for some price. We know a few things: 3D widescreen on top, touch screen on bottom, 3D camera, ability to watch 3D movies, graphics on the Wii level or so, fully compatible with DS and DSi games. No glasses required for 3D viewing, which pretty much kicks ass. Kid Icarus will be the launch game or thereabouts, and it looks good. Also, each one comes with a free supermodel, so there you go.

 

 

Sony makes games. Here we go.

  • Sony has sold a lot of gaming shit, son. PS2 is still doing well. PS3 is doing well. PSP is doing well. Bully for them.
  • 3D is the future. Thanks for telling me, Sony; I’ve never seen a sci-fi movie before.
  • Killzone 3 will be available in 3D. If you were at E3 with a pair of 3D glasses I guess this was an impressive presentation. The rest of us mortals at home were less impressed.
  • A bunch of other games will be available in 3D. The next Mortal Kombat will feature green blood.
  • Apparently Sony has a new motion control system called “Move.” This seems to—get this—let you move your hands around to control what happens in the game. I can’t believe we didn’t have this same tech four years ago at a fraction of the price.
  • Sorcery is a move game that is in no way a Harry Potter knock-off. It has lame, gimmicky Move controls… and actually cool gameplay mechanics. Get ready for a decade of “This would be a good game with a regular controller.”
  • Somehow they demoed a Tiger Woods game without bringing out Tiger Woods.
  • A game called Heroes on the Move is displayed without any Move demonstration. The game is like a supergroup including Jack and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, and someone I’ve never heard of named Bentley. I guess someone will enjoy this.
  • Coca-Cola will feature Playstation games on its cans. BFD.
  • Enter Kevin Butler, who kicks ass.
  • Here we go: Move will cost $100 for a controller with camera and game, $50 for controller, and $30 for nunch—I mean subcont—I mean navigation controller. Some games have been shown to require two controllers per player, so for a complete set for two players (one camera, four controllers, and two navigation controllers) you’ll have to pony up at least $310—over a hundred bucks more than a Wii. Good luck, Sony.
  • Were you hoping for a PSP2 announcement? An iterative system like the DSi? A slew of kick-ass new PSP titles? Well, they’re making some new commercials for the existing mediocre system, so… that’s almost as good, right?
  • I guess inviZanimals is a cool PSP game. It uses the PSP camera to put digital animals in your home. Unless you accidentally bought a PSP Go, which isn’t compatible with the camera. Oops.
  • Little Big Planet 2 looks pretty cool. No jokes there.
  • Playstation Plus… the paid PSN service. It gives you discounts on Playstation Store products and free stuff for $50 a year. Um… I’m trying to think of a joke or a legitimate reason to pay for this, but it’s making me bleed from my ears.
  • Portal 2 will be available on PS3 and will be “the best console version.” As opposed to the hundreds of other console versions. Are they afraid to say “Xbox” here? The trailer looks cool, though.
  • Another trailer for Final Fantasy XIV. Hell, after the huge delay with FFXIII, I’m just impressed they didn’t announce FFXV and FFXVI.
  • Gran Turismo 5 is coming. In other news, apparently Gran Turismo 5 still isn’t out.
  • The show wraps up with inFamous 2 and Twisted Metal VI or so. By this point, though, I’m completely trashed and only want a Taken video game. Maybe next year. Thanks for reading!







Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.