Wrath of the Lich King – The next WoW Expansion

Could this be the next title of Blizzard’s second World of Warcraft Expansion? According to the United States Patent Office it very well could be for real. Here is a copy and paste from the us patent office website:

Entertainment services, namely, providing online computer games; providing computer games that may be accessed via a global computer network; and providing online information in the field of computer gaming entertainment.
Comic books, strategy guides, trading cards, coloring books, adhesive stickers, rub-on transfers, notebooks, stationery-type portfolios, posters, greeting cards, calendars, instructional leaflets, manuals, advertisement boards of paper or cardboard, catalogues, photographs, art prints.
Computer game software and related instruction manuals and guides sold together as a unit; downloadable software for use in connection with computer games; interactive multimedia computer game program; mousepads
Serial Number
Filing Date July 28, 2007
Owner (APPLICANT) Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
Live/Dead Indicator: LIVE

So there you have tangible proof that this could be for real. Is this absolutely 100% confirmed? Nah I really wouldn’t put stock in this being absolute yet. There are plenty of BS patents taken out to throw people off and this could just be another game being played by Blizzard. But hey who knows? It would make sense right?

This would point towards Northrend content being released which is actually one of the only things I was hanging onto when I played WoW for 2 years. I wanted to see the whole Arthas thing play out. Hopefully with Blizzcon just around the corner we will see whether or not the Northrend idea holds up or melts away.


Warhammer Online redefines the quest log, cities, and bragging rights.

I love learning more about Warhammer: Age of Reckoning! While watching this video from Comic-Con I thought I would share a bit of really cool information that might not necessarily be new to everyone but it’s definitely worth the time to talk about it. Mythic is really taking realm pride to the next level. You’ll hear Paul Barnett often speaking of bragging rights and in this video you will see this one gentleman (name escapes me) speaking more on bragging rights and just what it means to fight for your realm.

The biggest “cool” factor in realm pride has to be the hyped city takeovers. When your realm seizes another realm’s city it’s not going to just be a static town with a single purpose. You’ll be able to pick up a torch on the ground and burn a building and pillage the loot. You’ll be able to kill or humiliate the enemy leader and brag about it. There’s going to be almost this sick “We rule you drool” mentality to it and that’s something that has always been lacking from any previous PVP/RVR system. There’s never been a true and real purpose to it. DAOC had the realm pride on a minor scale with just the sheer “We hate you” type conflict but WAR is taking it to a whole new level of “Look what we did to you!”. To me that’s important because I need a purpose to keep playing and more importantly to keep pvping. It’s not mindless killing.

On the flip side we have the PVE aspect of Warhammer. Yeah it’s going to be 10-15% of the game or less especially later on in tiers but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Mythic is redefining the normal quest log. The Tomb of Knowledge does away with the “what quests have I done and what do I do next” aspect of many quest logs and journals and innovates the entire mechanic into, again, a “Look what I did!”. The term “Sticker book” and “book of your life” are mentioned in the video and to me that redefines the purpose of PVE. As you progress through the PvE game the book will unlock more and you’ll gain abilities and experience and bragging rights. So again more PURPOSE!

Again this is not new but the video goes into a bit of detail on the trophies you can wear on your character and the customization you’ll have to show that you are a force to be reckoned with. If you look like you’re a tough cookie then you ARE a one tough cookie. Mmm cookies.

So just more reason to be excited about Warhammer guys! Thanks to Fred from MMOExplorer for the link to the video!


Is the honeymoon over for LOTRO?

If you have taken a stroll around the various communities as I have it would appear that way. Lately LOTRO has been receiving a lot of heat for everything from chicken play to lack of content both group and solo, and for reasons that seem to be made up on the fly. For me Lord of the Rings Online was not very different from the normal fantasy MMORPG’s out there that focus on leveling, questing, and loot. Why then are people so upset?

I have begun to feel the burn myself. I log in each day and pvp a little, maybe raid a little if I’m invited, and I kill a few spiders to try and move that experience bar closer to 50. Right now I have full rest exp for the remainder of 49 and I know that if I were to stay online and grind mobs in Angmar I could hit 50 tonight. But why am I losing this urge to log in? I think the answer to my burnout is that I have seen and done it all.

LOTRO from the get-go decided that it wanted to cater to all forms of gameplay. Solo, grouping, raiding, pvp, casual fluffers… they all have their piece of the pie. That’s the mistake! Turbine has stretched themselves too thin. To borrow the analogy, “Like butter scraped over too much bread”. There is solo content but it’s lacking and there is far too little. There is grouping content but it’s far too tedious in both time and requirement.

To expand on the grouping content Turbine has made the 3-4 end-game 6 man group instances take 4-5 hours each. This is too long! Unless you have a guild that will take advantage of the “stage” system you will never be able to do a pick-up group and never have a fulfilling experience. In terms of quests, Turbine has made them far too group oriented as well in the 40-50 game. You spend most of your time trying to find a group just to get one quest done and have someone leave thus starting the avalanche.

Raiding is run of the mill in LOTRO. There’s nothign that sets it apart from any other boring raiding except that right now… it’s not even worth it! The gear that drops is not better than 90% of the gear you can get outside from quests (albeit the quests are nasty as described in the previous paragraph). I guess this is considered by some a “Good thing” because you don’t have to raid to get your gear but if people would stop and realize for a second what that’s caused perhaps they would think differently. What am I referring to? I’m referring to underdeveloped content. The reason we are not seeing raids developed as they should be is because they are trying to balance things far too much. They’re worried about the groupers, the soloers, the questers, and now let me start on the fluffers.

The fluffers in LOTRO are more vocal that the groupers and raiders combined. They want chicken play, *cough* oh excuse me you prefer “Session play”, and other unessential fluff added to the game. Now normally I am absolutely fine with this because one man’s fluff is another’s content. But please try and see the other side of the coin for just one minute. Regardless of the claims that separate devs are working on separate things we are not seeing crucial game elements fixed that are causing the woes upon the other play styles.

Turbine definitely has their work cut out for them. LOTRO is far from being cast into the fiery depths of Mount Doom but it’s no beacon of hope right now either. As for me I will likely continue playing until something better comes along. My advice for Turbine is pick one or maybe two things and focus on them. Make SOMETHING in the game feel fleshed out and fulfilling or you will leave everyone hungry.


I’ve had a taste of Helegrod

Helegrod is the current top raiding instance in Lord of the Rings Online. It takes a solid group of 24 players to complete the entire thing and it can be run in 2.5-3 hours once entirely practiced and learned. Now that I’ve given that info out let me jump right into my first true Helegrod experience. Lastnight I was invited by the Reunion Kinship to join them on their weekly weekend raid. Having done the first boss in Helegrod with them before at level 40 and knowing a good many of the players from PVP I decided to give it another shot. My first trip to Helegrod was very boring. I was level 40 and all that I could do was sit back and heal if you can even call what I was doing healing… because Captain heals are pathetic to begin with. So my first trip I was pretty much a buffbot. Things changed now that I am level 49 and almost 50!

Graev lvl 49This time through I was actually able to stand toe-to-toe with the bosses and I could actually hit them and hit them hard! I was doing my usual 150-200 damage with the occasional 250-650 devastating crit. I was very proud of my damage ability last night. In addition to the damage I was tossing heals, placing tactics, applying my curse, combat ressing, and getting the full LOTRO raid experience. I am really building a stable bond with Reunion and I think highly of all their players. They know how to listen and they recover when something goes wrong. As for loot nothing dropped last night that I could use except for the emblem – but that’s understandbly not obtainable by me for some time because it goes to their guild members first.

As for my gear it’s also shaping up very well! I was inspecting others on the raid who had been doing Helegrod and Carn Dum and Barad Galaran for some time. My gear was actually better than many and on par with the others. I finally found someone to sell me my Medallion of Passage for 3g which completed my Halberd of War! That’s one Captain class epic quest down and another very…very…tedious one to go. But aside from that I have had a great past few days in LOTRO and hope to continue this streak of fun until I have seen and done all that I wish to in Middle-Earth.

Paul Barnett’s “Questioning the norm” could be more important now than ever.

I was reading Paul Barnett’s Blog today and I read something truly insightful. “What do you see as the major challenges for new MMO’s?”, he asked. Paul Barnett’s answer to his own question is “learning to question”. I would like to quote something that I find very thought provoking:

“What I am saying is that you need to understand where that convention came from. Why it was used, the purpose it served and then ask you’re self. Is this still being served today? Can I do this a better way? Are we just holding on to an old bit of thinking that we have out grown? If you can question why you are doing something, if you can understand the reasoning, then you can make a judgment call.”

How absolutely brilliant is that? Here’s my take on it. It’s so true these days with new MMo’s using elements from previous MMO’s simply because they were successful then or they were received well by the community. Paul’s example with names over monsters was perfect for illustrating something harmless yet still almost always looked over as “expected” in a MMO today. To quote Paul again, “…isn’t a boar that is on the iron hills by default an ‘Ironhill’ boar?”.

Like I said before, Paul used a very simple example to illustrate a point that MMO players from all age groups and play styles should be able to understand. But what if it was taken further? The use of names over monsters heads can be written off as many things from ease of identification to loot drops to nothing more than habit. But what do you call it when the developers of a new MMO seek out things done by other game developers in successful scenarios? Do you call it copying? Uncreative? You could look at it from the perspective that using something that works is just plain smart. But let’s, for the sake of the topic, question the norm.

Let’s take something that is much deeper and controversial on the minds of MMO players today. I’m talking about, of course, raiding. Where did it start? To be honest the first time I remember ever hearing about a true long raid was in the original Everquest. Players would gather together and form raids to attack the various Planes. Back when I was still very naive to the whole “end-game” idea I saw this as nothing more than a group of players truly interested in challenging themselves to see how well they could do against the hardest mobs in the game. It wasn’t long before I realized that in reality perhaps the first raid was for that very reason but after that why would they go back so often and stay up so late and push themselves so hard? It was for the gear. Let’s jump ahead a few years to World of Warcraft. Raiding is the heart and soul (or lack thereof) of WoW. The game’s entire purpose is to get to the end level to get into the best guild to get into the hardest raids to get the best gear. What happened to the thrill of the hunt? It was lost because no one questioned why.

Backing off from one single topic I can think of a short list of things that are in every MMO and will probably remain in every MMO simply because people are not questioning the norm. Why are there vendors everywhere selling absolutely useless items that no one will ever buy? Why is it that level 50 seems to be the average max level in every game coming out? Why is it that the purpose of MMO’s has evolved into nothing more than a gear grind… Level until you can get the best gear just to be able to do the raids that have the best gear just for more raids to come out that have better gear… and so on. Why is it that the new system of leveling up and being given skills is the only way to go? What happened to the days where characters could be more unique? Do gamers truly want everything to be mainstreamed into commonality? Paul Barnett’s “questioning the norm” is very important to the future of this genre.

If we don’t “question the norm” then before we know it 10 years from now your worst possible nightmare could be as common as that name over a monster’s head.