Guitar Hero World Tour

I've been having a fair bit of fun with these two games the last month, as they were released pretty much at the same time here - making me have to choose which one to play.

The initial choice was which of the packages I was going for in terms of new instruments. I had tried the Rock Band 2 guitar before, and wasn't too fond of that - despite it being a lot better than the Rock Band one. I checked some reviews online and figured that they'd most likely work out nicely, so, I got the GH:WT Full Instrument package, with a pre-order deal which gave included another guitar free of charge.

Turns out the guitar in itself is quite nice, and has taken over from my previous favored guitar (Xbox/PC GH2), as the buttons are just nice and "working", the strum-bar isn't screwed up like the Rock Band ones. It even has a very large accessible select button to help you pull starpower whenever! This latest feature was one I was quite fond of, but, after playing a bit I found myself not using this button at all, as this guitar has a rock solid motion sensor which has activated starpower 100% of the times I wanted it to, whereas the previous one could have you waving the guitar for quite some time before this would go off.

The drum-kit is quite nice looking really, with 5 drumpads, 2 of them elevated and the pedal. The pads seem to be covered with something quite squishylooking - resulting in you being able to play much more quietly than the Rock Band drums. Still, if you smash fairly hard, you'll make a lot of noise regardless, but, there's the option at least.

The game is quite standard-ish as far as these games go now, you play songs through different stages, unlock more songs, play these, do battles with famous characters and live happily ever after!

To list a few differences from the old GH-series (apart from the inclusion of drums/mic), you no longer do battles where you try to sabotage the other guy, instead these are pretty much regular songs where you feel like you're trying to outperform each other it seems.

The new guitar has a new touchpad-like set of buttons just below the regular buttons which you can use during solos, in these sections, you have the option of simply sliding your fingers between the notes to connect them, there's even a "string" visualized on the screen which connects these. This in itself worked out surprisingly well in my view, however, when you're supposed to switch back to the normal buttons after a solo, you're most likely never going to hit the first few ones at least, which results in you usually just using the regular buttons for solos anyway.

An interesting fact regarding this, as I saw others complaining about this as well, after I had played through my single career - I did a quick run through the tutorial to unlock an achievement there, and found that you could actually use the touchpad as a strum-bar, which would make it a whole lot easier to survive when you go back to non-solo sections. If only I had done that...

The songs in World Tour are a bit so-so really, as far as singing goes, they should really be a bit more careful throwing in non-english songs into the mix. I decided to start the vocals career to see how that worked out, and found myself jumping back to the main menu quite quick - not sure Beastie Boys and Motorhead are the best "introduction to vocals"-bands out there. I did a quickplay list and managed to find a total of 5 songs of the whole list which I'd feel slightly comfortable singing - and - that's not a lot.

Don't get me wrong, it has some decent songs, I really like the live version of Sweet Home Alabama and other songs like Pull Me Under and Livin' on a Prayer add to it, but, if you were to pick a random song, there's a good 90% chance that you'll end up with something either completely screwed up, or just plain horrible in my view.

The difficulty level is quite decent as far as the guitar goes, there are a total of 4 songs I haven't been able to finish on Expert yet, which should be somewhat similar to GH3 really, placing it slightly above Rock Band in that regard.

All in all, I'd say this is a decent product, but, the first thing I'd get after shopping this game with its full instrument package would be Rock Band 1 and 2...

 

... also, I think I like Paramore ...

 

WoW Tradeskills

As Paladin hit 80 and things turned out to be fairly stable, I decided that now would be a good time to get tradeskills up and get some of that fluffy stuff I've been waiting for so long!

Turns out, things weren't really that cheap... with the Death Knights coming out in numbers grabbing pretty much all of the raw materials available, prices were somewhere inbetween "extreme" and "insane".

Finally got my Paladin up to 450 Mining and 440 Blacksmithing though, and my Priest up to 440 Enchanting - as well as hooking my Paladin up with the good epic crafted gear in addition to the 440 skill.

The Enchanting is seriously insane when it comes to how much it costs, I cringed everytime I crafted as the points were quite expensive!

All in all, it was a crappy week for my overall bank balance in WoW...

tradeskills

But, now that I'm done with this, I was thinking there wouldn't be any more extreme expenses left in the expansion... that is, till I saw that I really wanted the Nobles Deck... :(

WoW - Wrath of the Lich King

Right!

I've been playing a fair bit of WoW as of late, given that the new expansion was released last week, and all in all, it's really quite refreshing!

I just hit 80 on my new character some hours ago, a Paladin, as I wanted some change from what I was used to playing (Priest) - and... it was quite quite fun really!

My Paladin started out at 69.5 upon release, so I managed to get stuck in what could only be described as a primetime clusterfrell, really hopeless to get any kills in and impossible to get to the mobs you were supposed to. As such, I did a little early session to get slightly ahead of the "main zerg of levelers", and things were turning out good at that point.

Apart from the new continent, 10 more levels, talents and Death Knights, the main thing I find as the "new" thing here is that they've implemented vehicles. Not just mounts, but, armored vehicles, siege engines, trolls-you-sit-on-top-of and so on. These are really well designed, and they're scattered all over the questing areas, so you always get a break from the "standard quests" every now and then.

I want to describe two of the quests I remember now looking back at it in particular, one where I was riding a horse with an NPC as we were trying to escape werewolves, I was sitting back and tossing firebombs as the werewolves came closer, it was actually giving me a "hectic" feel that I haven't really experienced in the PvE leveling scene before.

The next one is one of the latter quests I did, where you're supposed to kill 10 drakeriders, however, they're flying fairly high - circling a tower, so you're equipped with a harpoon which I assumed would be pulling them off the dragons towards me, but, instead the harpoon pulled me onto the drake I targeted, and I was sitting on it as I was fighting the mob riding it. If I were to fall off, the fall would take about 20-25seconds before I'd actually hit the ground, so you got a fairly decent "epic" feel of the entire setting.

The leveling isn't fashined like the 1-70 with the levels requiring more and more xp, instead the xp needed is spread out almost evenly across 70-80, so you won't have to worry about the "long" grind at 79 really, they're all pretty much the same now, and can each be done in about 4-6 hours of focused questing based on my experience at least.

All in all, I'm now level 80, and I've been questing exclusively from start to end, with one and a half zone left to "do" quest-wise - meaning that there's plenty of room to quest exclusively, as well as skipping quests you don't feel like doing. The quest xp gained has been roughly doubled compared to what's standard pre-Lich King, so it's much too good to pass up really.

So ... the stats for my Paladin Mijax on Darkmoon Faire (EU)

Level 80 with 0 HKs, 0 Honor, 0 Marks and 5days 14hours 17minutes and 41seconds played.

http://armory.wow-europe.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Darkmoon+Faire&n=Mijax

Now, what to do next... that's the question!

WoW - Recruit a Friend and Dual Boxing

After having a run with Warhammer Online, I decided to check out World of Warcraft as they patched in the new talent trees for Wrath of the Lich King.

I initially found that my Priest hadn’t been nowhere near as decently buffed damage-wise as some of the other classes, and it would appear healing was a moot point for all the classes now, as the damage in general was way off.

So, I was thinking of just calling it, and keep messing around with other stuff, when I instead decided to see how overpowered the Paladin actually was, as I had heard some fairly crazy reports. My cousin averaging 1200-1300 arena-rating throughout several seasons actually managed to break past 1500 for instance. :)

Seeing how I didn’t have a Paladin, I had to level one! At that point I looked into the recruit-a-friend scheme that Blizzard offers, where you gain 3x experience while grouped with a friend you refer if you’re in a similar level-range. It has other perks such as summoning friends and granting levels as well, but those aren’t too relevant at present!

I checked a few posts regarding dual-boxing and so on, and decided to have a go at it, figuring my Paladin would be best off with a Shaman on follow to spam lightning and heals as needed!

Using windowed mode through the use of Maximizer, and keypress-sharing through AutoHotKey along with a few well defined macros, this turned out to be quite fun really! The insane burst of the Paladin combined with the shock spells from the shaman would usually leave the poor mob so annihilated that he’d start running in fear, or at the latter levels leave him open to the Paladin finisher - which seriously has to have a 200% critchance…

The leveling was INSANE, there’s simply no other way to put it. I ran through the starting human quests in Elwynn forest, and as I was completely done with them I’d enter Westfall and be level 15, roughly 5 levels over what I’d usually be. Most of the quests were also quite quick to finish due to the fact that you now have two characters annihilating the poor critters.

Progressing, I realized that I would need to screw up quite badly to “wipe” properly. With two bubbles, two resses, fairly decent armor in general and self-res to top it off there’s really no reason to die unless you want to.

As an example, I entered Stranglethorn at 32 and didn’t go elsewhere to level at all before I was done with the quests I wanted to finish (skipping some of the insane gathering quests) – at which point I was level 45. This being with no grinding at all, just performing the quests as quickly as possible and moving on.

Started the characters friday, level 60 Sunday, and fair enough, some people might say that I play slightly hardcore, I feel like I was playing relatively casually at least! It just gives out too much experience by design. :)

For me, this was really the most fun I’ve had in WoW in quite some time! It feels really great to make the two characters work as a single unit, and quite hectic when you got both characters on autorun through the undead-infested town in Western Plaguelands, and the one on follow is rooted – meaning you have to start steering two characters at the same time, each with 4+ mobs on them!

Only thing I didn’t care for AT ALL was the insane zombie-event that some guy, who I hope no longer works ANYWHERE near ANY design-related decisions at Blizzard, invented – basically letting anyone grief anyone, especially the poor lower level characters. I think Blizzard should acknowledge the fact that if they open the slight possibility of letting some people ruin things for others, there’s a LOT of people who will take advantage of it right away. Letting any player kill ANY quest NPC or NPC in general seems to be an utterly dodgy move, and I’m fairly sure that Blizzard might have lost a fair few customers on this event alone. If I had been a completely new player trying to level up before the expansion, I suspect I wouldn’t be extending the 30day initial period…

Though, Recruit-a-Friend and DualBoxing (well, two clients on one PC at least) is HIGHLY recommended! :)

Warhammer Online - Review and Thoughts

Right! I’ve been meaning to write something down about Warhammer Online for quite some time now, and figure I’ve played it enough to write an ickle bit about it.

As I managed to recommend Age of Conan a fair bit early on, as I had only played the first portion of it, that being the portion which was polished… as soon as you left that part of the game, the unfinishedness would kick in. As such, I’ve leveled a fair bit to experience a fair bit of the various aspects of the game this time around! :)

My initial “open beta” impressions weren’t all that, as I’ve written in another post. So, my mindset going into the game probably wasn’t as favorable as it could’ve/should’ve been.

First off, character creation isn’t really too hot, I think both the graphics and customization on character creation is really horrible. I really think more people should try out the City of Heroes character creator to get inspiration. Not saying every game should have something like that, but having more than 5-6 different looks would really help. Then again, with the low quality graphics in there – you’ll just spent a bit of time figuring out which face looks the least silly. :)

The concept of the game here is pretty much faction vs faction warfare in the old Dark Age of Camelot fashion. Each side has 4 different races, each race having 3-4 different classes archetyped into tank, healer, melee damage and ranged damage. Endgame is supposed to be a constant struggle between the two factions where the main goal is to annihilate the opponents city and then live happily ever after!

Upon entering the game and hanging out in the starter area, the game looks fairly much better than you’d expect from the login/creation screen. Characters and mobs look decent and movement is nice and fluid.

It has a standard skill system similar to other such games where you gain skills from a trainer as you level up, there are no ranks on the various skills, as they increase in power as you level. Same goes for the “talent trees”, where you invest points in trees to improve the skills related to that tree, as well as unlocking skills as you go along. An interesting point here is that once you reach a certain skill in the tree, you have to invest a point in actually acquiring the skill – which instead could be used for investing further in the tree right away, creating a nice little tradeoff-situation where you can either choose the skills right away, at the expense of getting another skill a level later.

The combat aspect is fairly standard as far as mmos go, it’s actually most similar to the Lord of the Rings system, and feels in general a lot slower than WoW. I’d like to note that I feel that they’ve managed to implement quite an interesting mechanic in the game when it comes to healing. You have an ‘action point’-pool and a ‘mana-point’-pool, which are used for attacks and heals respectively. The action-points regenerate automatically, whereas the mana only regenerates outside of combat, and is nowhere near full enough to last more than a few seconds. So, they’ve decided that when you spend X points performing an action, it regenerates X points of mana for you to use, meaning if you want to heal as much as possible, you’d need to get some offensive skills into your rotation. This worked out very well for my main character early on, as she was a Melee/Healer hybrid (Disciple), and had similar damage output as the pure melee damage classes, making it one of the more attractive solo classes the game has to offer.

The core concept of the game revolves around the faction warfare, realm vs realm, with the ultimate endgame being sacking the opponents main city. In addition to this there’s Scenarios you can join at any time, that function like a small battleground separated into different level ranges. You’re able to join these scenarios from anywhere in the world, getting a notice when it’s up, jumping right in, fighting, and warping back out to where you were. A very interesting deal here is that all players are leveled up (stat/hp-wise) to a relatively high level upon entering the battleground, so you can pretty much always be useful in a battleground, only thing you’d be lacking are the skills that you would’ve gained in those levels.

The Scenarios are in general fairly fun, and there are quite a few different types you can play, the ones I recall off the top of my head involve capture the flag, bombing runs, item retrieval, holding bases and item carrier. All of these are contested with a 15minute time limit, so it’ll never be a long epic battle, but, rather, just short bursts of fun really!

The other main PvP aspect is the one leading into the endgame, namely World PvP. The world is divided into different zones, where some are designated as PvP battlefields, and include keeps that needs to be captured to progress into the endgame involving the opponents city.

Keeps and keep siege is (surprisingly) quite similar to the way they’re implemented in DAoC with the New Frontier ruleset. Siege engines are needed to get in, and an evil person with the trigger on the burning oil above the door is good fun when you need to keep people out! Speaking of, they’ve added some fun parts when it comes to different siege engines, you can operate different arrow-shooting siege engines in addition to the standard “bash the door”-type.

The PvE/leveling in Warhammer is fairly straightforward and standard, you go from level 1 to 40, killing mobs, doing quests and living the good life. An interesting twist to this is that you get an extreme amount of experience from actually killing players as well, most noticeable while done solo. What Warhammer brings to the table that’s relatively new here, is the existance of “Public Quests”, which involve a short small storyline being played through several stages – in which all players in the area can participate, with different goals at the different stages. At the end of the final stage, if you succeed, all players participating will do a loot-roll and a few people will be fairly happy! Furthermore, participating in these will grant you points which will let you redeem fairly decent prizes, letting even solo players get their share of decent loot.

In addition, there are a *lot* of “Renown Levels”, which basically translates into PvP-levels for your character, as you gain renown experience upon killing other players, participating in scenarios, or helping out with battlefield objectives such as capturing keeps and other strategic locations. These renown levels will unlock better equipment available at Renown Merchants, typically PvP-centered. In the end, these levels remind me of the old Honor system in WoW, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have points-decay.

One of the most awesome and fun parts of the game in my view is the fact that they’ve added a nifty little thing called the Tome of Knowledge! It displays a LOT of information and statistics, such as how many kills you have of every kind of NPC, kills/deaths of/to every class you have. In addition, it tracks all your achievements, which in turn gives you an awesome amount of titles you can have displayed with your character. This alone was making the game so much fun, as the designers have really been QUITE creative to be honest. As an example, I got my title (The Reclusive) which I used for the majority of the game after ignoring 40 people! For a sample of what I’m talking about, have a look at http://warhammeronline.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_achievements

Then, the not-so-good portions! After a while, the scenarios tend to get fairly similar-ish and close to boring. World PvP is fairly situational, not always easy to find some place to fight there, and the contrast to the fast-paced action of the scenarios seem to make it slightly less attractive, even if it’s supposed to be the “main attraction”. The sides are obviously not equally balanced as players can choose whichever side they want, and thus, the larger side will have the advantage in world pvp, but for the renown-gain, the smaller side will have the advantage in scenarios due to shorter load times. And, for me personally, I think I have realized that the Arena format in WoW is what I really want from PvP in a game, more players than the 2v2 and 3v3 setups makes things a bit too much of a “who-can-assist-and-click-the-most-damage-buttons-best” type scenario that the endgame fights turned out to be.

All in all, fun, and worth trying for the experience of at least a bit of difference in the mmo-genre, and the option to jump in to scenario-pvp moments for a rush of fun! However, I don’t see this as much of a WoW-contender in terms of how long people will stay interested.

*Waits for Bioware …*

Fable 2 - Xbox Dead

After playing a bit of Fable 2 last night, the colors all of a sudden started to go crazy, so I decided to reboot... and there we go, flashing red! Giving me the error code saying there's an error in the AV department.

Talked to my friend about this, and apparently a friend of him had the same thing happen while playing Fable 2 as well, and searches reveal similar findings really, so, I wonder...

Anywho, the Xbox was bought on release and deserved to rest now really, as I've been wanting a new Xbox Elite regardless, so, yay! :D

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Rock Band and Guitar Hero CD

For some reason I wanted to make a CD with some of the songs I enjoyed from the GH/RB series, and it seems I spent a bit more time with this task than I anticipated at first. Here’s the end result…

rbghplaylist

I spent ages trying to figure out what to take out and put in to fit the magic 80min mark, and ended up with this list. I suspect I focused on the songs which I find really enjoyable and have a good guitar feel in them. Looking at it now I suspect maybe Learn To Fly isn’t quite fitting with the rest as it’s probably the only one without a distinct guitar-solo in it, but, still, really like it, so there it is!

I excluded some of the songs that I found a bit too noisy or songs which didn’t quite fit with the rest, as I’d like to add Through the Fire and the Flames, Epic and silly stuff like Still Alive, Skullcrusher Mountain and similar songs. For some reason I also really wanted to fit Cherry Bomb in there, but, think my sanity recovered in time…

Fairly satisfied with the results here, got it divided into a more relaxed first portion of it, then moving onto the heavier songs as you go along with the two “epic” songs in the middle and at the end.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to the Dream Theater songs, despite me not being able to complete Constant Motion on Rock Band yet, however, I was quite surprised to find that they were the only ones I managed to fit two of their songs in the end.

I should note that I haven’t really heard through all the RB2 songs properly yet, might change at that point! :)

GH2 - 4
GH3 - 1
RB1 - 5
RB2 - 1
RBDLC - 2

Warhammer Online Open Beta - EU

(Imported from old blog 2008-09-11)

After a fair few of my friends had decided on actually playing Warhammer Online, I figured I might as well give it a shot, and decided to pre-order this last sunday to play a bit of open beta this week, oh what fun!

First off, I want to point out that I told everyone I talked to that they really should play on US servers instead of EU ones, as Mythic once again has partnered with GOA and have them handling their european version of things. Based on my DAoC experience with GOA, I really didn't feel comfortable with this - as they were basically screwing up at every turn. One of the best "features" they had was that content patches/fixes and so on were released in USA, then 2-3 months later they were released in the EU. This delay was justified by GOA due to the fact that they needed to translate the patch into German and French before they could apply it here.

Little did I know that the translation-team most likely got a new job now, handling the authentication system for pre-orders...

At launch of open beta, the keys were sent out, and all was well, that is, until someone actually tried to enter a key to activate their account, at which point things just stopped working. Now, the registration of accounts and keys are handled in the innovative and oh so userfriendly thingy called "Flash", and for some reason, when you have a large amount of people trying to access this flashy stuff on a webserver where scaling to more than the 2 people who tested it wasn't an issue, things really go bad.

Skip ahead a bit, and we're at monday, I've just received my warhammer online preorder beta key - spent some time downloading (and re-downloading) the client, and I really want to register my account and enter the beta! But no, registrationpage just redirects to the main page, which states that they need all available resources to handle the authentication process, and as such, they've taken down the account creation!

Oh well, no WAR that day, wait one more day, and finally account creation is back up! For some reason, I'm having an issue registering my account, as both email and username is in use, turns out I signed up there ages past, most likely to sign up for the beta myself! Alright, I figure I can probably use that one if I remember my password... time to enter the key and start the WAR! I enter the key, and I'm once again eagerly anticipating the WAR, key validation request has been submitted it says.

I still can't sign in, and this time I read around a bit and find out that they're doing something "smart" for the validation. As it says in the QA...

Q: I put my details in, now what?
A: All you need to do now is to wait for an email from us. This email will either confirm that your validation is complete (in which case you can log in and play) or that there was a problem with your details (in which case you need to go back and resubmit your information).

Q: Why are you doing it this way?
A: To reduce the load on the database server we have an asynchronous system. What this means is that when you put your details in, the system will store it, another system will then check it and confirm the details to you. This means the whole system is much smoother.

Q: How long before the confirmation emails arrive?
A: This will depend but the current turn around seems to vary between 1 and 2 hours, it is possible that some people will be waiting for longer whilst others will get a reply sooner. If you haven't received an email yet, be sure to check your junkmail folders or spam filters.

Alright, I go back to other things for the time being and wait for an email...

Late that evening, about 7 hours after I submitted my key, I got no less than 7 confirmation mails, all saying the same thing, there was an error with my request, seemingly my password didn't quite match what I had entered in ages past back in the day, it told me to doublecheck my details before trying again. Of course, what I'd usually do is just find the login form and try a few times till I find which password I used, but, seeing how they had decided to disable login on the main page, this wasn't possible - and I don't think the 7hours per attempt way is going to fly really.

So, new account, I remember password now, and while waiting - EA has decided to send me another open beta key for some reason, who am I to complain... register my account, and enter the other key now, just in case. Then it's all about the waiting again...

14 hours later, I get 8 confirmation mails telling me that I've entered a key, and need to verify that I actually entered that, click on a link and that's all done! Now, the mail claims "Once you have confirmed your registration by clicking on the button, you can log onto the portal with your login and password, and access the Subscription section to set up your account. You can also log onto the game. The login and password are the same for both the portal and the game." - which really can't be too true, as it's now over 24 hours since I verified my account, and I'm still not able to log onto the game!

I have now registered yet another account for use with my other key, and hoping one of them magically will work at one point, preferably before the game goes live next week...

Now, I'd like to just clarify that this is really only related to the GOA handling of Warhammer Online. There have been no reports of anything even remotely resembling this madness on the US servers. If nothing else, I'm having a great time going "I told you so" to all my friends who didn't belive me regarding GOAs inability to do things right. Only thing so far I'm upset with Mythic for, is the fact that they have the same issue with the patcher that they had with the DAoC login, when you open it, it doesn't have focus - which really makes it annoying for people who just want to type in their login details.

In closing, this really makes me wonder what the non-smooth option GOA had envisioned would look like, and had I known this before I placed my despair order, I would've most likely grabbed the http://www.despair.com/effort.html poster as well... :)