Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Post Warcraft Curiosity Disorder

Now that my World of Warcraft account has officially expired, I find myself trolling around looking for news and thoughts about the game just to keep up with the buzz. As someone in the old guild used to say: "Talking about Wacraft is a lot more fun than actually playing it."

It would appear that in the next patch they are only adding yet another 40-man raid dungeon, exactly the kind of dull, repeatable content that resulted in my canceling in the first place.

When I mentioned this to a friend still playing, he sent me the following email which I now share with you (props go to Andy for this):

Their line of thinking probably goes something like the following:

Blizzard Developer 1: Hmmmm... What can we do to further challenge our players?

Blizzard Developer 2: How about a "WoW" historically significant instance that incorporates scripted encounters with a new, balanced layout as to not bog down players seeking the definitive "end" of an instance?

Blizzard Developer 1: That sounds great!!! How about we rewrite the mage and shaman classes to add balance to the gameplay?

Blizzard Developer 2: Yet another great idea!!!

Blizzard Developer 3: WAIT!!! By my calculations, that would only make 5,999,999 out of 6,000,000 of our valued customers happy. What about Dave Yeager?

Blizzard Developer 1: Crap. Can the project.

Consider me pwned.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

... and Goodbye Warcraft

At the beginning of this week, I ended an era of gameplaying nerdery.

I cancelled my World of Warcraft account.

Like any good thing, it wasn't going to last forever. I guess I'm most surprised by just how difficult the decision really turned out to be. I mean, it's a game right?

Well, the tricky, and perhaps nefarious, thing about a game like this is that you build relationships with real people. Real people that you sort of get to know and enjoy hanging out with. Had I not met some of the people that I spent time playing this game with, I almost certainly would have cancelled several months ago.

When I'm honest with myself, the game stopped being really fun almost a week after I hit the maximum level. At that point, there are two options available to you: engage in combat with other players (which I have zero interest in), or form up teams of 20-40 people and go kill the biggest and baddest of pixelated bosses the game has to offer. When you do that, you'll get some cool stuff. If you do it again, you'll get more cool stuff. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frankly, to me that's boring. If I wanted to run on a treadmill, I'd buy a treadmill and actually lose weight instead of sitting there gaining it in front of my computer screen. And if you look at me lately, you'll know that getting on the treadmill is obviously not on the top of my list of priorities.

What a game like this needs to keep me entertained for years (and I'm sure every software company out there is waiting with baited breath for this declaration) is a real ongoing story where players actually have an impact. Warcraft is not designed that way. Why should it be? In the words of the developers themselves, it makes more business sense to design a raid dungeon that can be repeated ad nauseam forever and ever than it does to spend the same amount of time designing a one-time server event.

And guess what? It's a business model that is working well. Warcraft has over 6 million players at this point. That's an awful lot of money.

Warcraft does have a rich history, and the story does move along a little bit now and then. But at no point do you ever feel like anything you are doing actually has a real, tangible effect on the game universe. If you kill a big dragon, he'll be back in a couple of days.

For the loser like me though that cares more about a compelling story than the next piece of gear you can get, there does appear to be an interesting game on the horizon. The game is called Seed, and it has dynamically generated plots and stories... at least, that is the ambition. The game is currently in beta, and now that Win XP is booting on my Mac, I have been lucky enough to have an invitation extended to me as a beta tester. Whether the game delivers on its promises remains to be seen, but I'm hopeful.

And hey, if nothing else, Warcraft did allow me to make a couple of new friends in real life, including a new member of our weekly D&D game. So I guess, in the end, it was money well spent.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Greetings from XP on a Mac

In case you've been living under a rock (or you just have a life that doesn't revolve around tech), Apple released a public beta of Boot Camp, a nifty little app that makes a partition for you to install Windows XP on your Intel Mac. Once installed, you can boot in either OS just by holding down the Option key on startup.

It was remarkably easy to do. There's a step in the process where you burn a CD with drivers for your Mac, and I can report that XP runs like a dream on it. I fired up Civ IV on it tonight and it runs great.

The whole experience has led me to a couple of conclusions:

1) Now that you can load XP on a Mac this easily (and the next version of Mac OS X will include this capability), there is officially NO REASON not to make your next computer purchase a Mac.

2) Windows XP has got to be one of the worst operating systems ever. I don't think I ever realized just how bad it was until I got used to Mac OS X over the past several weeks.

3) Despite it's stinkiness, it's still a great platform for games right now because of the sheer volume of titles available. The ability to boot up in XP solely for gaming purposes is great because I'm no longer limited in what I can play, but as I said it makes you realize even more just how much better OS X really is.

4) This is going to spell big trouble for Microsoft. Windows isn't going to go away, not by a longshot... but one of the major reasons Windows is so dominant is that it just comes standard with most computers you buy. Now that you can run it on a shiny, nifty Mac, more people will be willing to buy one and therefore will get OS X by default. And the more people that get OS X by default, the worse off Microsoft will be because Windows is decades behind OS X.

Thus concludes the only post I will ever write using Internet Explorer in XP on my Intel Mac. Now I'm going to play Civ IV.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Opening Day

Is it bad that after only 3.5 innings of real, live baseball in 2006, I was already hoping for a rainout?

Alright, so perhaps that's a BIT of an exaggeration, but after Scott Rolen knocked a grand slam out of the park to put the Cardinals up 10-0 on the Phillies in the home opener yesterday, I started to wonder if maybe it wouldn't be better to hope for a rainout before the end of the fifth so they'd have to play the game over again today. It was not to be, and the Cardinals won 13-5.

On the plus side though, it was baseball, and it counted, and it felt good. I consumed meats off the grill, drank beers in the parking lot, and watched the game with 44,000+ other fans. Despite the rain and the chill, it was still a good time.

Of course, leave it to the Phillies to destroy the moment by getting crushed so early. I mean seriously, it took them less than an hour to ruin what would otherwise have been the perfect day. In that sense, Opening Day '06 was sort of a microcosm of what the Phillies have been like the last few years: lots of talent, but no sense of the moment. When the chips are down and you absolutely, positively, NEED to have a win, the Phillies are guaranteed to lose.

But hey, Jimmy Rollins DID extend to his hitting streak to 37 games in the bottom of the 8th, and the place went nuts. There's always SOME reason to stick around until the bitter end.