Heart of the Swarm Campaign

Heart of the Swarm BoxartI just beat the Heart of the Swarm campaign, and I have to come right out and say I absolutely loved the story.  The gameplay was really fun (more on that in a moment), but what kept me pushing through all of the missions was an unquenchable need to know how the story progresses.  I wont to spoil anything, but I felt a lot more connected to the characters this time around.  The story kept me engaged throughout, and began building up (not destroying as some people think) the Wings of Liberty campaign.  Heart of the Swarm paved a road right to the next expansion.

Gameplay wise, HotS offers a lot of variety.  Normally I don’t enjoy the ‘take control of a single character’ type of missions, but in the HotS campaign I felt Blizzard added a lot to make it feel almost… almost closer to an RPG (dare I say WoW?).  The boss battles were somewhat hokey, and definitely contrived from the WoW boss experience: Don’t stand in the fire.  But they’re fun, and add yet another layer of non-standard gameplay.  Hero abilities and mission objectives were diverse and I can’t say I ever felt the need to rush through a mission because I was bored of a particular mechanic.  In fact, most of the missions ended rather quickly (~20-30 min tops).

Upgrades are handled a bit different this time around.  For most of the zerg units you get to choose 1 of 3 specializations, but you can change them any time you’re not in a mission.  For example, two of the choices for Zergligns are the classic speed increase and the attack speed increase; both are normally upgraded in-game, but in the campaign you choose between them pre-mission.  You also get to do the same for Kerrigan by picking many different abilities for her to use as she levels up and gets stronger throughout the campaign.  Lastly, there are mutations which act as permanent ugprades for the core units.  These mutations are actual mini/short missions where you obtain the genetic alterations and get to test them out briefly before having to choose which of the two mutations you want applied.  The mutations definitely impact strategy.

Overall, I loved it.  I’m going to eventually replay on Brutal mode and see if I can get a few more of the portrait rewards.  Definitely worth the price of the expansion without even taking multiplayer into consideration.


Getting Ready for Heart of the Swarm

Kerrigan HotSI knew Heart of the Swarm was coming out relatively soon, but a week ago I realized that HotS was actually coming out in a matter of weeks.  Now the long-awaited StarCraft 2 expansion is only 10 days away, and my excitement is growing.  I might be one of the few people looking forward to playing the campaign more than the multiplayer.

Back in the days of the original StarCraft and subsequent Brood Wars expansion, my skills weren’t bad.  I actually won plenty more than I lost, but now’days I get schooled when I try to play vs. other people.  When SC2 launched, and I jumped into the multiplayer thinking I’d be decent, I somehow managed to make my way into the Diamond League.  Not bad, but after a while I barely won a game.  I think it has a lot to do with what has transcended a hobby or even a game and become a culture, a sport, and dare I say it an art.  Some people really do watch Day9 to learn how to play rather than for enjoyment like I do, and those people practice and improve.  I never had the patience.

Then there’s the custom game scene, which I think as a total failure on Blizzard’s part.  Battle.net 2.0, in theory, works great.  Originally I thought quite highly of it, but that’s partially because I expected them to do great things with it instead of staying mostly stagnant.  The custom games haven’t taken off or become as addictive or interesting as they were in SC1 and WC3.  There’s something to be said for the previous custom map deployment — crude, but effective.

Maybe I’m alone, but I thought the SC2 campaign was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the story, despite what Blizzard did to Kerrigan.  The campaign for Heart of the Swarm is actually my only reason for deciding to get the game.  I’m going to play through the SC2 campaign again real quick for a refresher.

Anyone else picking up SC2 HotS?  I’m curious to know if any of you are like me and prefer the campaign over the multiplayer.

Price is NOT the Issue

I find it pathetic that price has become the scapegoat of failure in the gaming industry.  I’m positive that any executives, developers, or anyone making a statement about price being an issue is being deceptive;  I find it impossible to believe they’re all that stupid.  Anyone with an ounce of training in marketing, economics, business management, or even common sense, knows the principles of delivering value.

If your game sucks and isn’t worth $15 a month, that’s not a price issue!  That’s a quality issue!  Peter Moore says that price was always the issue, and people stopped playing SWTOR because they felt locked in at $15 a month.  Wrong, sir!  Wrong!  People stopped playing your game because it wasn’t worth $15 a month, not because they didn’t want to spend that money.  Those same people would happily pay that, or more, for a game worth the money.

This argument that price is to blame is like saying there is never an excuse for a poor quality product.  But Peter Moore and other people spinning the issue of price don’t want you to look at their product.  They want you to look at their competition still charging a price tag, get you to believe the market is changing, or see anything but the true reason why their game failed.  Not all of us are falling for your attempts at misdirection, you clever little magicians.

What happens when every game is free and you can no longer blame price?   There’s a reason why competing on price is a failed strategy.

Stop selling us on free to play and start selling us on your product.  Go all the way back to your first sales class where they taught you that people buy benefits.  They don’t buy advantages, features, or in this case excuses.  What’s your point of difference?  Where is your game’s value?  Blizzard still charges $15 a month for WoW because they are not competing on price. $60 boxes still release every Tuesday, and some sell multiple millions.  Be unique, develop a reputation, improve, or find some way to differentiate.  There’s a reason why people line up every year to buy the next overpriced Apple product.

Ten years ago, when my money was worth far more, I paid a monthly fee.  Since then I have never once questioned paying a monthly fee for a product worth that money.  The only time I ever question paying $15 is when a game is no longer delivering a value worth that money.     Give people a reason to spend their money, and they’ll happily spend it.

Why I won’t be playing Mists of Pandaria

Not really a need to get a CE this time around with the Digital Deluxe version having what most people want.

Mists of Pandaria launches September 25, but I won’t be playing — at least right away.  World of Warcraft and I have had an off and on again relationship over the years.  I played right up until Burning Crusade launched, server 1sted all of the content and ran with the hardcore crowd, then quit and never played BC.  Then I picked up again a few weeks after WotLK launched, played, quit, then returned again for a longer stint until a few months before Cataclysm, played Cataclysm a bit, quit, returned, then quit again.  Are you lost yet?  I’ve decided to stay away from this expansion for a few reasons.

First, I’ll be playing Guild Wars 2.  I don’t intend on taking GW2 lightly, either.  I took a very slow and easy approach to SWTOR, but this time around I want to play hard and accomplish more in GW2 than I have in recent MMO’s.  I fully plan on playing and streaming in all of my free time.  It will be a significant change from my recent laid back approach to MMO’s.  I will be extremely shocked if I am not still engrossed in Guild Wars so soon into launch.

Second, I’m done pretending like I can ignore the pattern.  I really enjoy WoW’s questing.  I may even enjoy it more than GW2’s.  But I hate what happens to WoW when you finish questing.  I hate gear treadmills, raiding to get gear to be able to raid to get the next gear tier.   Literally, turning on a dime, WoW changes from one game to another — in this case, a game I enjoy into a game I hate.

Mists of Pandaria is going to be just like Cataclysm, just like Wrath of the Lich King, and just like everything we know and love to hate about WoW. If you like more of the same, as millions do, then power to you.  Blizzard hasn’t shown me  they can do anything new.

So that’s my excuse, for now.  I can’t promise that I won’t, one day, pick up Mists if GW2 content is getting stale.  I’m not averse to giving the game a try one day, but I know it will be for the questing, a few trips through the dungeons, and nothing else.

Diablo 3 Open Beta

Diablo 3 open beta began this weekend.  I wish I could say it went off without a hitch, but it took five hours before I was able to best the cap Blizzard placed on the number of players.  Graev had it worse than me because he can’t even get the installer to function properly.  When he double-clicks the install file a window comes up saying something about updating files, then it goes away and nothing happens.  We’ve tried everything from re-downloading, checking windows updates, running as admin, adjusting network settings, to deleting files, and nothing works for him.

What little I got to play today was enjoyable.  I think I’m going to like the skill system, despite not being a skill tree.  I would definitely prefer customization over being handed my skills when I level up, but something about the simplicity of it all empowers me to go kill monsters and have fun instead of fretting over every point I spend; There’s a give and take.

I love the art style and the direction the game took in terms of overall presentation.  I was getting some minor hitching, though, and hope it was simply the beta.  Being able to chat in-game like I would in a MMO to any of my friends online is fantastic.  The chat functionality is way better than D2.

I played around as a Monk and liked the feel of the class.  I’m a little perplexed by the ability system and how it plays into weapon use.  My monk used a sword and a shield but when I actually attacked something he would put them away and use his fists for abilities.  Since every attack I make is an ability, I never use my weapon.  I’m told weapons increase ability damage and attack speed, but using a sword/shield on my monk was bizarre.  Am I missing something?

As soon as I heard the Tristram music I knew I was going to pre-order.  I can’t wait to see the places my character will go and the story Blizzard will tell.  Give it a try!  It’s open to everyone, if you can get past the log in screen.