Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Combobulater: July 25th 2009

Hey Everyone,

The latest show is live!! This week we mosey on through what we've been playing, which includes chat on WoW, LotrO, Ghostbusters and Fable 2.

This week wasn't quite as well prepared as we've been of late so we jumped into the second half of the show and decided to venture into territory we haven't touched in a long time: Movies!

Join us as talk about Aeon Flux, National Treasure 2, Hellboy 2 and the recently remade Halloween.

The segues neatly into the recent announcement that Sam Raimi is set to direct (or at least chip in on) the World of Warcraft movie! How much credability does Raimi bring to the setup and will Bruce Campbell be handed a cameo as a Tauren bull or Goblin voice over?

We also consider Rockstar's recent announcement that quash the idea of a GTA movie, unless they can resolve their creative concerns. A fair stance from the studio that wishes to uphold the integrity of their franchise.

Finally, we reveal how Burnsy is cooking up a Swine flu super virus and apparently the world will end at the hands of Agent 47, bar a handful of people (11 to be precise) who will repopulate the Earth.

Go grab the show and check it out :)

Thanks for tuning in,


Friday, July 17, 2009

World of Warcraft Vs. Lord of the Rings Online!

Hey Everyone,

Ok, so this post isn't actually going to be as 'explosive' as my headline might suggest! I've wanted to jot something up about this for a while now but I've been plagued with the one thing that seems to cripple most writers and bloggers these days.

No not 'writer's block' - I wish it were that complicated! I'm talking about pure, bone-idleness! Curse my laziness, but rather than dwell on that let's kick this off.
I've been playing LotrO now for a couple of months, I have a level 26 Hobbit Minstrel and on the whole I've enjoyed my time in Middle Earth. My main game though is still World of Warcraft and ultimately in about a month or so I shall focus my efforts in WoW 100% and likely put aside LotrO.

Obviously as I've been playing I've been comparing LotrO against WoW. In many ways Warcraft does show how much polish it has compared to LotrO, those extra couple of years in development really do make WoW stand out as a MMO experience regardless of your actual opinion on recent changes to the game.

LotrO is still very much rough around the edges, the map is next to useless and the HUD feels rather clunky. Graphically it can be very nice, animations are good in places and there's some nice effects when you're 'morale' dips, I don't want to beat on LotrO too much because out of all the other MMOs I've looked at this one stands out as the best WoW alternative.
The point of my post here though is to lift out some ideas that I think Blizzard will 'adopt' into their next MMO. Let me say off the bat, I am well aware that other MMOs are bound to feature what I'm discussing (guild housing in Everquest for example) but since I know very little about those other games I shall stick to what I do know in LotrO.

So, what should Blizzard consider bringing into their next MMO project?

1) Guild Housing

In LotrO players can settle into a cosy home and make their mark on Middle Earth. Decorating your home will give it that unique touch you're after, though you must be able to afford the upkeep of your house else the hobbit baillfs will turf you out!!
If you're part of a Kin then a kinship home can be purchased which will provide you with a staging area outside to hold meetings and such. Both accommodation options will grant you personal vendors that offer up to 15% discount and a mailbox on your doorstep. You can also purchase safe boxes to add extra storage for all the junk you collect, and in my experience storage is precious!!

WoW players have been calling out for guild housing since forever, so I'm sure this is on Blizzard's radar. A place for guilds to mount their trophies and display their triumphs would be a great touch. Whilst LotrO does offer this feature it does not seem to boast what the WoW players are looking for, it comes across as Animal Crossing meets Middle Earth. Not a bad thing as such, but to be honest I've not invested in a house yet as I reckon the housing costs are too high! A recession in Middle Earth, bringing the housing market to its knees so my humble Hobbit can get on the property ladder, is required in my opinion :-D

2) Professions and Crafting

The Professions in LotrO do take a lot of effort to build up; right off the bat you're required to pull in resources picked up by professions you don't have. For example, as a Yeoman I have proficiencies in 'Cooking', 'Farming' and 'Tailoring'.

My farming does provide materials for my cooking, but to level my tailoring I need leather, which can only be boiled by other classes such as the Woodworker.

I actually found this quite frustrating when I got started but of course this is an MMO so is it really such a bad thing that this game pushes you to interact with people? That's a seperate argument, so to keep this on track let me move into what I do like about the professions in LortrO.

Each tier of crafting (you start as an Apprentice) can be filled twice over; and when you complete that chore you become a Master of that tier. Once mastered it is then possible for you to 'crit' when you make an object in that tier. For example, if you can craft a bow then with the mastery (and a special mat picked up) you have a chance to crit when you make that bow and add extra stats to the item.

This is a great way of creating interesting and different items. I like the idea of setting to work to create an item for someone and there being a chance that I could actually make a better item. It rewards your effort and drives you to complete each of the crafting tiers.

In WoW professions are quite straightforward and one weaponsmith can craft you pretty much what the next thirty can. Only unique patterns picked up in the world make any one person stand out, whilst in LotrO you have to work hard to forge your niche in the market. Ultimately this is only a small difference, after all when everyone is a master then nobody is unique but the idea is there and I think Blizzard could develop it further.

3) The Cosmetic Doll

Ok at the risk of sounding like a little girl, I actually really like this feature!!

We all know that when you are levelling through WoW you often look like a clown. Mismatched armour pieces can make you look like some sort of court jester but in LotrO you don't have to put up with such things!

In your character sheet you have two 'dolls' which you can dress up however you see fit. Then, simply choose the doll you like as your display and voila, your character is now running around in a tidy little outfit.

As long as your class can wear the gear (so no clothies wearing plate) then you are free to wear whatever you want. Your actual gear (stats etc.) is not affected as these are still technically worn, but your outward appearence can be customised to suit whatever look you're after.

So even as a high level raider if you really liked that cloth set you picked up at level 10 then you're free to strut around in that gear!

This adds a lot to the customisation of your character and that feeling of a unique look. In WoW people are often complaining that their gear makes them look like every other Tom, Dick and Harry in town (especially as picking up gear gets easier). I think this cosmetic doll is a great idea and I'd like to see something similar in WoW.

4) Group Combos

This is a tricky one for me to explain because in all honesty what I have seen of these in LotrO have been rather clumsy and awkward.

The idea is that when a party engages an elite mob there is a random opportunity for the fellowship to strike in conjunction. Players are presented with a coloured wheel and according to which colour you choose a particular combo will unfold.

My experience of this has been limited but not all that hot. Nearly everyone I've been grouped with has demanded that you simply 'hit the red one' - which should result in a big hit. On occasion this has worked ok and looked good (summoning giant demon things to strike your enemy looked cool) but more often than not I don't have a red button on my wheel so what am I supposed to do then?

I often feel as though I've let the group down because as a healer I'm not generally within melee range so my 'red' button is crossed out. Ahh well, it sort of works. The different colours on the wheel represent other opportunities, such as dealing damage over time, restoring Power (mana) or Morale (health).

I really do like the idea of this though, the party pulling together to deliver a devastating blow to the enemy you face, or buffing the group to turn the tide of a fight. Adding this to WoW could be awesome, especially if they could figure out how to make it that little bit more engaging. A less random element would help I think, for example have something like:
  • A Warlock casts a spell that begins the summoning of a great demon >>
  • A Priest channels their mana into the spell >>
  • A mage hurls a fireball into the catalyst to spark things off (maybe an icebolt brings up a new element.
  • The creature is formed and released into the mix
Sure the effort to produce something like this would distract from the main fight going down but if handled with the right level of cooldown I think this would look pretty awesome. That's a fairly simple idea as well, I'm sure the boffins at Blizzard could drum up something far more spectacular and interesting.

5) The Epic Storyline

I feel that LotrO handles its storyline very well, missions that relate to the story are highlighted as chapter quests and these also tend to be 'bookended' with a cutscene.

These cutscenes are short and sweet but they do pull you along with the narrative and relate the story of LotR very well. Imagine if Blizzard were to treat you to more cutscenes in their MMO! We have a hint of what they can do with the Wrathgate event in WotlK and that scene is fantastic. To be honest, I'd say that it was one of the most interesting things I've done in WoW so to see some more of their work would be a real treat.

Whatever Blizzard plans to do next I hope that they give their art & animation guys a chance to play with some more cutscenes and storytelling.

I'll wrap this up here, this article has babbled on for quite a while now! I'm sure there's plenty more out there I could pull into this discussion, maybe I'll revisit this some time.

In the meantime, I'd like to prompt anyone out there that is only playing WoW to go broaden your horizons. Sure WoW does things very well and Blizzard have a proven track record of innovating other people's ideas but there are games out there that are taking those first steps into something new so go jump on board and help them along.
I'd also like to say a big hello to any Rawrcast fans reading this, your support is much appreciated!

Cheers for reading,


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Combobulater: July 11th 2009

Hey Guys,

The latest episode of the Combobulater podcast has been uploaded.

Join us this week as we figure out how bad a friend Emeny really is to Burnsy! How did I forget his birthday so blatantly!!

Also, there's plenty of talk about the games we've been playing including a look at LotrO, WoW, Ghostbusters and more.

Headlines pulled from lead us to discuss Sony finally having a say on the potential price drop on the PS3. All signs point to No at the moment but can Sony really hold their ground in the run up to Christmas '09 - we think not!
We also briefly look at Microsoft considering adding a fee to their recently released 1vs100 title on Xbox Live! Is this one step away from introducing gambling on our consoles and is there any danger here of kids getting sucked in?

Be sure to sign up to our forums and have you say on these topics and anything else you'd like to bring to our attention. Give us some content to play with folk :)

Thanks for tuning in.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Fat Princess: PS3

Hey Guys,

I've heard a fair amount of talk about Fat Princess, currently in development at Titan Studios, and the other day I happened to find some footage go up on the Playstation Store.
There are a handful of videos you can go grab, the one I pulled detailed gameplay and featured interviews with various members of staff describing how the game is played. I was hooked!!
The graphics have a vibrant, cartoony look to them that keep things simple but look really sweet. Much like WoW ages very well thanks to its art style I see Fat Princess looking good forever.

The gameplay though is where this game comes to life. The objective is simple, bring your princess safely home from the confines of your opponent's castle. Essentially a dressed up version of capture the flag but have you ever been able to feed your flag (making it heavier and harder to carry) in an effort to hinder your enemies? I found it hilarious to watch as players ran around the map scooping up slices of cake to throw at the greedy princess who just can't help herself. Only for rescue to turn up and really struggle to carry the porky lass!
Don't worry though, as potentially offensive as some people are bound to find this Titan studios cover their bases by suggesting it's magical cake!

Players have access to five distinct classes, immediately familiar to anyone that's played an MMO or any other RPG game. A well armoured warrior will absorb damage and deal heavy hitting melee attacks. A mage wields fiery spells and aoe but is likely cut down fast; whilst the Priest can heal friends and turn the tide of battle.

Classes are slected by donning a hat, which are produced by machines which in turn can be upgraded by 'workers' who forge out and gather materials to aid their team. Players will have to communicate and work together to ensure an even level of gear progression, attack and defense. If you are out and about in the world and you want to switch class then no problem, pick up a hat of a fallen friend or foe and you switch on the spot!
Simply put this game looks like a whole lot of fun and mayhem! Unfortunately I didn't look into this soon enough and the beta is now closed. With no firm release date settled either this is on my watch list for now, more details to come as soon as I find any!


Monday, July 06, 2009

Speed Racer

It's that time again...Blog!!!!

This time I want to briefly talk about the relative commercial failure, Speed Racer, a 2008 Wachowski brothers film based on the popular Animé of the same name.

Well, actually I don't really want to talk about the story. This is not to say that the narrative and the performances are bad. Not at all. It's more the fact that this has to be, in my opinion, one of the most visually spectacular and arresting films I have ever seen.

I had the pleasure of watching Speed Racer on Blu-Ray and it was just amazing to see. The things that they do with the CGI...let's just say that the efforts in the new Star Wars trilogy fail in comparison.

And a fair comparison it is too. Both Speed Racer and Star Wars were mostly shot in a studio with the various backdrops created and rendered on a computer. However, the new Trilogy, despite looking great at the time, by general consensus, overused CGI. Moreover, Lucas even went as far as creating it's creatures this way which now, stick out like a soar thumb. They just tried too much. Speed Racer on the other hand isn't trying to attempt anything that would otherwise look in contrast to the overall theme of the picture (think of how obvious the green screen was in Star Wars).

Speed Racer is much different in realising it's world. This is pure manga madness! Think of the style of Sin City, the vibrancy of Lazy Town x10, the cartoon violence of Wacky Races or Twisted Metal and the speed of a Wipeout or F-Zero. That's Speed Racer in a nut shell.

The entire film is just a joy to behold, be it the numerous riveting action packed races that just ooze imagination in their set pieces or a simple drive through the lush neighbourhood the Racer family live in. Everything is just so bright, luminous and shiny.

This is psychedelic awesomeness at its best and you owe it to yourself to check it out.