Easy Reading

One thing I notice when browsing blogs is the complete lack of line spacing. Most templates have plenty of spacing, but there are some who have templates that completely ignored this. If you have plenty of text, not having greater line spacing than the standard is a sin! Sorry Snafz and Keen, it has to be said ;)

With only a few lines of text it doesn't make that much of a difference, but once your paragraphs are growing to five or more lines the lack of spacing between the lines make the text extremely difficult to read. And we bloggers write just to please the readers.

There are different ways to set the line heights, either with a set number such as in pixels or points, or in percent. Pixels or points are not recommended, as it will make text in another size than the normal compressed or dense. In my layout I have all text with line height set to 150%, and 160% in the blog posts.
This code, if inserted into the code between the HEAD tags will increase the line height by 50% on the entire page, similar to this site.

I have tried Wordpress (a while ago, but don't think it has changed), but didn't like the lack of customization. Since I knew HTML and CSS I wanted to be able to change everything, to make my own layout. Blogger enabled me to do this. Of course it's better to use Wordpress on your own server, but that stuff cost money.

Next big thing to ease reading is the width of your text. Now there are tons of things to think when deciding the width of a text, so I will just keep it simple. It should be easy and fast for someone to jump from the end of a sentence at the far right to the next one at the left. The eyes should not have to to travel too far, and you should absolutely not have to move your head to follow a sentence.
The width of the text on this blog is almost too wide, I would say it's at the very maximum. It's a trade-off between to read wide sentences and scroll a lot.

If the width of a layout is set in percent instead of a set number of pixels it will increase as the screen resolution increases. What may look perfectly fine in 1024 x 768 can be horrible wide in widescreen resolutions such as 1400 x 900 (what I'm using). Just to mention some blogs, I have a few in my blogroll that probably uses percentage as width: Tobold's and Keen and Graev. On my screen the text go from edge to edge of my widescreen and I have to move my head slightly to read sentences. No offence meant to mentioned blogs, I am merely pointing out what I think is the best way to display large amounts of text, and that's mostly what blogs is all about.

To change the width of a layout can require some more editing than increasing the line height, since templates usually have a set width already. If your template is using a percentage width, simply adding the following should set you right. The number can of course be changed, but over 1000px will make the layout too wide (have to scroll sideways) for 1024 x 768 resolutions.
Then of course we have the entire thing with paragraphs, punctuation and writing like you never finished first grade, but that have nothing to do with layouts really.

Small changes to the layout

Done some changes to the layout. If you have visited in the last hours the design would probably have been... weird. Sorry.

Tested with a 3 column layout, but it felt wrong so it's back to 2 columns. In fact the entire layout is less wide than before, following the change to a smaller font in the posts. Bigger fonts is easier to read, but with smaller you can have more text in a smaller space... I guess it's just a matter of taste. The 8pt font size seem to be the most common among blogs, and Verdana the most common font of the serif sans-serif style. I have always views serif fonts for the web, and sans serif fonts for the printed paper. Serifs might make your blog look more like a magazine, but in the end it's easier to read without serifs.

Also did some changes to the post layout, moving stuff around. Removed some widges from the right column, placing contact info and profile in links on the logo instead, freeing some well needed space. I will see if I still like the way it is tomorrow, I have a tendency to keep changing stuff. And for those who wonder, the design is made by me from the ground and up - no templates here.

Tell me what you think. Oh and I was thinking of writing some stuff about design, and try to force my view of "easy reading" on bloggers.

Diablo III - huh?

So it was Diablo III that was the big announcement that had been hyped out with just a few images and words. It must be good to be Blizzard (I mean, apart from all those hundreds of millions they make each month - those are also good), they don't even have to make their own advertising. They release a splash screen, revealing a bit each day here, drop a word about game announcement there, and press and fans do the rest.

Blizzard has a uncanny ability to keep things a secret. I mean, to do something like StarCraft 2 and no one had a idea until they announced it. And now the same thing with Diablo III. This also shed some different light on their purchase of the diablo3.com address earlier this year. Right under our noses!

Although I was both surprised and happy when I heard about it being D3, I wasn't really excited. I visited their homepage, read a bit about it, but still didn't feel that excitement I thought I would surely feel. And I have played both Diablo and Diablo II so it's not like I haven't been waiting for this.

I will buy the game, there no question about that. Still, I'm a bit disappointed. The game looks nice, but other than the graphics the game don't seem to have progressed much since Diablo II... 8 years ago. The game is still about ridiculous powerful heroes bashing uncounted monsters, gathering equipment from said monsters, only to be able to progress and kill even bigger monsters. I guess if something works, you shouldn't break it... but a little bit more innovation wouldn't hurt.

20 years after the end of D2 were back in Tristram (for the third time) and a comet come crashing down. Wait, wasn't that also in Warcraft III? Most probably D3 won't even be about Diablo any more as he stopped to be the center of the game in the D2 expansion. Just because you can make a third game and still sell it like ice cream in June doesn't mean you have to... well, maybe the stockholders disagree on that. But Blizzard can't just stick to the same game series all the time. The last time Blizzard created a entire new game that wasn't a expansion, sequel or game in the same universe, was 1998 with StarCraft.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe D3 will turn out to be really innovative, but I doubt it. It will be fun, I have no doubts about that, and I will probably enjoy hundreds of hours with my friends online. But still... Bill Roper and the rest at Flagship, come back to Blizzard!

I know what I want: World of StarCraft. Part StarCraft, part World of Warcraft, part EVE Online. People have wet their pants for less.

WAR's June Newsletter

The June newsletter is being sent out in Europe as we speak. While I await the actual newsletter (damn you Gmail!), some stuff is available on the site.
  • Jeff talk about standards and standard-bearers in the video of the month. Basic info about the heraldry and standards presented nicely, but nothing new under the sun.
  • The guild Mongbat attack the Mythic keep... er, office, and plant their banner, thus claiming the ke- office as their own. Way to go, now they will never finish the game...
  • Two new scenarios are explained, with plenty of nice screenshots.
  • The White Lion is discussed in the Grab Bag
  • The Bastion Stair is being explored, also that with plenty of nice screenshots.
And more.

Talk around the water cooler

WAR guild beta incoming!
Warhammer Alliance reports that beta invites for guilds in EU will arrive within a month.

Free month ended for AoC - stay or cancel?
The free month of Age of Conan has ended, and now it will be revealed if the game have hooked the players, now that they have to pay for subscriptions. Funcom have not spared on the champagne as the game have been very popular and broken a few sales record. In box sales that is. For MMO's it's the constantly paying subscribers that matter.

Massively asks "has AoC has earned your money for another month?", and got some mixed responses, but the "cancelled" people seem to be in favour. Most people who announce they will stay put a lot of faith in improvements. I cancelled a long time ago, and didn't activate my account when the free month ran out. I have not closed the door on the game entirely however, I might try it out in a month or two.

Dancing, in WAR?!
First they say there won't be /dance in WAR, but when we see a list of emotes, what do we see? /dance! Well, actually what it does is saying"[player] refuses to dance", so that's ok. And a future favourite emote: /waaagh

Blizzard will announce a new game? Woot!
While Ron Pardo couldn't answer the rumours of a Diablo 3 during a keynote speech at GDC in Paris, he more than hinted when he said the following:
So you want me to announce the game before our announcement? No offense, but I think there's like 300 people here, and I'll be ripped apart by 8000 people there [at the Invitational] if I pre-announce it - but it's going to be really exciting. I think everybody here will be really excited about the announcement.
From WoW Insider.

What WAR is all about - video
A new video featuring Jeff and Paul talking about what make WAR special, and some really nice quality ingame footage. Embedded below. Thanks Keen and Graev for the find.

Meanwhile in another part of the world...
And around the writer's personal water cooler, the talk is all about my preparations for my three day meeting in Scotland with my WoW guild (third annual) next week. So much whiskey to consume, so little time. It will be awesome.

Currency of WAR

A interesting discussion began on Warhammer Alliance today, questioning the coinage of WAR. A video showed what looked to be the classic gold/silver/copper system, but was countered with a quote from a attender at a event stating that
"Money is copper silver brass"
So apparently gold is replaced by brass. Outrageous as it might seem, that could be valid because - as a poster pointed out - in history various metals have been used as coinage, depending on access to the metal and what people accept as valuable.

Another poster countered with the statement that in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP), the currency is 1 Gold Crown = 20 Silver Shillings = 240 Brass Pennies (which is similar to the old British Pound system). From there the discussion take on even more kinds of currencies, even orc teeth!

Back when I started playing World of Warcraft I didn't like the way it made silver and copper obsolete after a few levels, and entirely started to focus on gold. If something was worth less than a gold, you didn't really have to hesitate much, just went ahead and bought it. The value for gold decreased fast near the end of my play time, when the daily quests where fast, easy, and awarded large amounts of gold.

I got a pleasant surprise when I switched to Age of Conan where instead of the regular three coin types there was four: tin, copper, silver and gold. By the time you got past the starting area you had a few coppers, for which you could buy a entire set of armor, bought with tin. From that you had to struggle to earn your precious silver coin, and gold felt like a lifetime away. Which it was. By the time I hit level 40 and was eligible to buy a horde, I had no way near the required few gold coins. While in a sense that was bad, as run a lot, it was also good as you started caring about the small coins; if you ever wanted to get that horse, you had to think about how much you spent.

Gold are supposed to be valuable, and the only way it can become valuable in a game is if it's rare. Once you get hordes of gold you stop seeing it as a valuable thing. I can look back at my current campaign in Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, where our Dungeon Master gave us hundreds of gold right from the start, and thousands later. So when we got a mission with a reward of thousands of gold I didn't feel interested, as the reward felt small in my eyes, even thought it was considered huge in the world we played.

Recently I tried the free trial of EVE Online. I was bored and looked for something to spend my time on until better titles came out. I hadn't felt that much intrigued by the sci-fi theme, but the feeling I got when watching videos and reading the news about how corporations joined another in a alliance and raided a system of another corporation, in much the same was a news reporter can announce that a country in Africa had crossed the border and raided a city in a nearby country, dazzled my mind. Epic was the word that came close to my mind. I could write more of what I felt about it, but the topic of the post is currency, so I will skip to that part.

When you started the game you had the smallest of ships, and as you played for a time you could afford larger and larger ships, the price for those biggest in the class you were skilled to have never really being more than half a million. Then you start browsing bigger ships in the Market, seeing what is to come, and see the really huge ship designed for battle going for hundreds of millions. It's then you start feeling small and wondering how the h3ll you can assemble those vast amounts. That's a road block for players, looking up to the top of the ladder.

Me, I started researching in how players are actually supposed to get there, but others might just throw in the towel and say "can't bother!". I almost felt that way when I played the AoC beta and realised how much gold you needed for a mount compared to how much I had. Unless you know that you get more money as you progress, staring up that ladder can really be discouraging.

I look forward to what WAR has in store for it's economy, everything from coins and mounts to trading and crafting.

The Ways of Podcasting

Why the h3ll do we like listening to ordinary people rambling about stuff? Isn't that what the local radio is for? What make podcasting so interesting, why is it so damn popular, and when are we actually supposed to listen to it? I don't do podcasts, and never had, but I have listened to plenty of them and was thinking of viewing all the different kind of ways a podcast can be done.

I started listening to podcasts not that long ago, I think it's just been a few years now. One of the members in my WoW guild was a official "announcer" of WoW Radio - meaning he was responsible to announce when new podcast became live in chat channels, in a very professional manner. Spamming a macro with yelling is not good publicity. And of course he would harass his own guild even more, so I gave it a go.

First show I started listening to was Blue Plz, where a British guy named TotalBiscuit would ramble about everything in WoW, in a serious and lively manner. I got pretty much hooked right from the start, and began listening to the other shows that was at WoW Radio.

Listening to a podcast are pretty much the same as listening to your local radio station, except people discuss things that you find interesting, and it's done by amateurs. Quality can range from pure crap to "holy shit, why don't these people have their own TV show?", and it become more common every day thanks to the ease in which it can be made and distributed.

When to listen to them?
Listening to a podcast while doing something simple that require zero brain activity (*cough* grinding *cough*) is very soothing, and can easily make hours fly by. I began he habit of listening to the latest of my favourite podcast and spend the following hours grinding away with a character in WoW. Even if I considered to be finished with the grinding session, I kept going just to have something to do while listening to it. Music in all it's glory, listening to someone speaking about things you are interested in make you direct your focus and leave just enough left to do something you have done hundred of times. Sent in the pet, shoot, loot, run to next mob, repeat. I would love to see a study of the brain activity during a grinding session in WoW. Would probably teach scientist a thing or two.

So what times do I listen to podcasts? Load them into your mp3 player and...
  • When grinding, or playing any game that don't require me to use the brain
  • When doing the laundry or cleaning
  • When walking from point X to Y or go shopping
  • When working at the gym
  • When taking the bus/train
I have a friend who like listening to podcasts when he's in a bed going to sleep. I tried it but it felt wrong on so many levels. Bedtime are for books! It's not like you do something anyway, open the book instead!

Also, one big warning for when not to do it. Don't do it on the way to a party! You will just lose your expensive mp3 player and have to go back to reading books on trains! /grumble

One vs Many Hosts
Blue Plz was a single host show, so the argument was pretty one-sided, most arguments will be with people who send you emails. While listening to someone bringing forth good arguments and discussing serious matters, in the end what we want is fun, and for something to be fun you need to have more than one host. They can argue against you, bring up their own topics and views, or you can just make fun of each other.

So I stumbled upon Octale and Hordak vs The World, also them on WoW Radio, and was instantly amazed by how much more fun a podcast become as you add another person to the mix. Octale and Hordak have a fantastic chemistry and they are truly awesome hosts. To this day, I see Octale and Hordac as the best damn podcasters so far. They can take the smallest of topics and rant about it for hours, and entertain each other and the listeners while doing it, their mailbox is a never-ending ammo pouch of topics. In fact, they did a 12 hour podcast-marathon live called Rantathon 2008, and the fact that they ranted during the entire time show how good they are at... er, ranting. And that brings us to another aspect...

Organized vs Improvised
I guess this depends on what the listener is looking for. For serious analysis the organized type is the way to go. And if the listener just want to to be entertained and not strain the brain cells unnecessary, improvised is the thing for you. Of course there can be different levels of keeping things organized; you can have a big document with all the points already decided, and hosts are not allowed to wander too far off, or it could be that you just have a few points written on a paper and the hosts are free to wander a bit from the subject.

The WoW Insider Show (also that on WoW Radio) are extremely organized, and consist of three or four people discussing pre-determined topics, but they are held closely in check by the host leader (Mike Schramm), so jokes or off topic ramblings are kept to a minimum. This make it quite dull, as Turpster - one of the hosts - are very funny but seldom get to use that ability. Or when he does, I can almost see Mike Schramm's silent fuming.

Octale and Hordak are improvising all the time, taking topics at random from their mailbox and exploring them, and can wander far away from even those subjects. They have no rules, and talk about whatever falls into their heads and they find fun.

Both kind of shows can be entertaining, however the show become more alive if it is improvised, too organized can become very quite dull sometimes, even if it's interesting stuff. Just like holding a presentation become more interesting if you read from memory and not straight off a paper.

Live vs Edited
When I fist became interested in podcasts, I listened to most on WoW Radio live. Only if I missed a show did I download it from the archive, and many had strange times for me. Timezones can be such a nuisance. And thats a thing against live right there, people who listen to your podcast can live all over the world, and whatever time you set there will always be some who it doesn't suit.

Listening live to a show can be quite different from a recorded and edited one, and most of the times the edited one is always better. Technical difficulties always appear, and getting a few people together talking for some hours is not as easy as it sounds.

WoW Radio has a strong community, and that community is most visible during live shows when people join the IRC chat channel and discuss the show they are listening to. The hosts that are live are also in the chat and can comment on things they read there while on the air. Listener interaction is important to a podcast, and that doesn't have to be limited to emails. People like to hear their names mentioned on the air, it make them feel important, don't ask me why.

Podcasts? What podcasts?
And to round it up, I might as well post a list of podcasts I'm listening to right now.
Octale and Hordak vs The World
Octale and Hordak make the world unsafe. About anything and everything.
WoW Insider Show
Bloggers from WoW Insider join together with WoW Radio discussing everything about WoW.
TBs Show about Video-games
TotalBiscuit ramble about video-games in general.
Newly started about Warhammer by Keen and Graev, The Greenskin and Waaagh!
Dungeons & Dragons Podcast
About D&D with insight, interviews and lately Penny Arcade & PvP's adventure in 4th edition.

Time is precious, but if you know a good podcast then poke me about it, I love to listen to new stuff!

PR: how not to do it

Yesterday was Midsummer, a day where you are obliged to participate in strange ceremonies like dancing around a huge cross covered in flowers, eating unhealthy amount of food you normally wouldn't eat, and drink a even more unhealthy amount of booze. While all that is fun, I spent the entire day today trying to stop my head from hurting. Ah, human nature, our true arch enemy, what stupid things you make us do.

So I spent the entire day sitting in my bed browsing the interwebs while hitting the keys as softly as possibly, and found quite many enjoyable things. I read a week or so ago about the game Limbo of the Lost on GamePlasma, where they discovered that graphics in the game had been blatantly stolen from numerous big games, one of them Oblivion (which I love by the way). The theft was so painfully obvious that there wasn't even a slightest idea of even denying it. A picture say more than a thousand words. The publisher pulled the game from the shelves, and we will see what legal actions will be taken against the creators.

Now this is in itself a juicy drama to feed the Drama Fish with, and I wouldn't really write much about it, but the entire thing have grown as people began digging about this game and found more than a few pair of dead bodies in the closet. That the game is painfully bad made flamers show no mercy as they poured oil on the already blazing inferno. Or the game could actually be good if you read the review on Just Advenure before it was discovered (game got a B first, and changed to F later) about the graphics, but as I read the "review" on RPG.net I can't possibly see what's good with it, even if you ignore the theft).

Background checks reveal that the game was created by Majestic Studios, and had been in productions since the early 1990s, first for consoles and later for PC in 2003. Someone even pulled out a magazine article about the game when it was for consoles back in 1995, further proving that you can't stop the Signal (page 1 and page 2 of the magazine).

What make the story compelling enough for me to write about it, this being more of a MMO gaming blog and all, is what was revealed about their PR when people had been digging. Apparently someone at Majestic, under the alias Fable, began making forum posts at GameBoomers and Just Adventure about the game, pretending to be a normal person. Also a poster announcing himself as the company Majestic Studios dropped in and soothed people who had trouble getting copies of the game. Simply praising the game and offering advice to a reviewer on GameBoomers, the entire thing would never have been discovered had he not become upset when he thought the reviewer would publish hints or spoilers. Angry words were traded, and when a moderator discovered that Fable and the poster who told he was Majestic Studios had posted with the same IP... well, people were pretty upset. In fact the reviewer felt so betrayed that the finished review was pulled before publishing and the user Fable/MStudios was no longer welcome on the forums. People who had announced they looked forward to the game decided not to play it.

This make me furious - forums and blogs are for the people and by the people, where they can express honest opinions (and usually be flamed alive for it). Companies - and I'm sure there are plenty, but few that become known - that disguise themselves as normal people praising their game should be either crucified or stoned to death. Reading a comment made by a normal person saying that a game was good or bad can have great impact on me, simply because I know he comment is from a normal person just like me. Not as much impact as a professional review will, but it could just tip the scale of me deciding between buying or not buying a game.

Before Internet (what was it like, I can't even remember) word of mouth was simply people telling their friends, while nowadays word of mouth can be what you write on a blog or post in a forum about, and people link to it or talk to other about what you wrote. The entire Limbo of the Lost scandal prove just that; I guess Majestic are quite dumbstruck by the amazing power Internet and today's communication is; blogs, forums and Digg make news travel horrible fast.

And what where they thinking? They thought people wouldn't notice?

While posting how great your game is anonymously can be tempting for companies, the gain is not that great - if the game is bad no amount of PR posting will save it, and if it's good word will go around anyway - and if discovered... well, let's just say you should pray that doesn't happen.

Viewing this extremely bad PR got me thinking about WAR, where the PR is the best I have seen yet. The personal touch and sheer excitement that Paul Barnett brings in his videos also got me extremely excited about the game. And here I am, writing a blog and promoting WAR - for free.

Turpster Will Die

As I wrote yesterday, today Turpster, shadow priest and WoW Radio podcaster, experienced both extreme pain and extreme joy. Me and 200 other dwarves and gnomes of level 1 to 6, joined together in several raid groups and killed him raid boss style. He had several abilities such as Holy Nova, Shadowfiend and the feared Six Demon Bag, but they proved no match for our great coordination, even greater numbers, and a close graveyard.

I logged in to started the wait around 20:45, and already there was 20-30 people there.

Left picture is at 21:17, where we practised some coordination.
Right picture is at 22:17, and there were gnomes and dwarves as far as the eye could see.

We had a few horde visitors, that just couldn't resist the temptation that only fifty PvP flagged level 6 gnomes standing in a group can make.

Below is at 22:45 and we started gathering at the cave which Turpster would appear in. A few horde players valiantly defended the entrance, but were defeated by simple zerging.

After we killed him in the cave (I was corpse running at the time so didn't get any screenshots or recording of it), the raid and Turpster started running towards Ironforge. After Turpster had died at the entrance, there was much confusion as the raid moves to the Tram. Half the raid used the Tram and went to Stormwind and Elwynn, as there was reports he was going to spawn there. However he spawned in the Tram by his corpse, used the staff of Vargoth and dinged the awaited level 70.
Picture to the right is at 23:37, after word got out that Turpster had dinged.
As there was much confusion, many people didn't see the awaited event, me among them, so I have some complaints of the coordination of the entire event. Also many horde showed up at the cave, wiping the raid several times as they tried to move in, which was a bit frustrating.

During the entire event I had plenty of experience for Penny Arcade's Internet Fuckwad Theory, as people were yelling at everyone and everything constantly. People who complained about the yelling or pointing out that the server was, in fact, a role-playing server got even more yelled at. My sincere apologizes to the Sporeggar community.

All in all, it was a fun event although a bit ruined by lack of coordination, ganking hordes, and stupid attention-seeking people. The beta test the day before was probably more fun as a boss fight, but the event with hundreds of hundreds of gnomes was awesome. The guild Turpies had at the end of the day 224 members.

I recorded parts of the evening, however I didn't get the actual moment that Turpster died (or well I thought I did, but when I looked in my Fraps folder I was proven otherwise). Edited in few hours, it's not a masterpiece, but I think it captured the spirit of the event. Enjoy.

Download link

Age of Conan become... better?

The latest Clan of Conan (newsletter) is filled to the brim with new stuff, king Conan rejoices.

PvP system
One of the things they add is the much anticipated "consequences system", where people who kill people much lower than themselves, or corpse camp them, will get punished. And trust me, on free for all PvP servers, this happen a lot. Apparently the system will work with a certain "fugitive status", ranging from blue to red. When your character become red, players who kill him won't get their own fugitive status affected, probably meaning that high level players can kill and corpse camp your character without consequences. The players marked in red will also drop some of their high quality loot when killed, making it a little bit more interesting.

I'm certain the aspect of becoming a badass criminal, with everyone and their mothers grouping together to kill you, will be tempting for some. And at the same time, being a bounty hunter and hunting fugitives for glory, loot, and the gratitude of lower level players, will also temp other players.

The PvP system also introduce PvP ranking system with gear, which for those who have played WoW won't be the least different. You kill players, you gain ranking, you get gear. Nothing innovative or interesting to see here, move along people.

Quests and dungeons
The 35-40 level range, which I have complained and grumbled about, will get more quests to hopefully ease levelling. They will also add voices to about 60 quests, much to my surprise. I thought we wouldn't see any more voice-overs after the beginning area and the specific lore quests every ten level thereafter - I stand corrected. However I don't really approve of adding voices to quests. It's not that like the voices are impressive to begin with (captain Redrick anyone?), and the time spend on this could be much better be used elsewhere.

The infamous dungeons Pyramid of the Ancients and Treasury of the Ancients will receive some "special loving". Anyone who have been in them will know that they are a joke of a dungeon, far from finished. I never realised the purpose of placing a unfinished dungeon in the game, it only frustrate new players and seem very unprofessional.
They will also add a new high-level dungeon in the Thunder River area. And speaking of high level content...

Improved loot
The game advertised far and wide that they would have plenty of different armor sets to distinguish you from others. That's far from truth, in fact many players complain that they look exactly the same as everyone else when they level. So apparently we will see more visually different armor sets, and making drops more interesting. I would take that with a grain of salt if I were you.

The horrible interface will become at least a little bit better, I guess we have to be happy for that. The infamous chat box and it's lack of customization will get some customization, rejoice. The friends panel will be improved, but a few main issues still exists, in fact, they simple seem to circumvent it. Adding people to your guild or friends list require you to search for them and checking boxes, together making what in normal games are a simple system, horrible complicated. The system is still there, but now they have added buttons on the friends panel to directly take you to the search box with the "add as friend/guild" check box already checked. Yea that's their solution, I'm not shitting you.

Where is the stand alone guild window? Where is the basic and simple /whois function? Funcom seem to not only have missed the point, they shot themselves in the foot. Improved dance system? How about getting your priorities straight?

Turpster Must Die

What will I be doing on Saturday? I will be killing Turpster. What is Turpster? Turpster is a level 69 undead shadow priest, and a member of WoW Radio.

He need a proper way to ding 70. How? A raid of dwarves and gnomes of level 1-6 will draw up tactics and on this Saturday June 14th, after the LIVE WoW Insider Show (3:30pm EST/8:30pm GMT), join forces and take this raid boss down. After that, he will summon Archmage Vargoth, deliver a quest and ding 70! If that ain't a epic way to do it, there is none.

What does Turpster do? Here is a description of his first phase:
Turpster starts off this phase with full mana (6K) and full health (10K) and 2541 Armor. In this phase his attacks will deal moderate damage that will need to be healed if you are hoping to last the fight without having to make several runs from the graveyard. Every 45 seconds he will cast 5 Holy Novas, most characters can take between 2 and 3 novas before dying so you will have to move outside the 10 yard range and grab a few heals. To mix things up he will use his Six Demon Bag which can one shot most characters with frost bolts, shadow bolts, chain lightning or fireballs. It also has the potential to polymorph or leave you trapped within a raging cyclone. The worst is saved for last, as it could also raise a Felhunter which lasts for 30 seconds and will wipe most raid groups if it is not focused upon and taken out sooner rather than later.

For a full list of his abilities and phases, read more on the thread.

Interested? Create a gnome/dwarf on Sporeggar EU (RP PvP) and join us on Saturday. If you don't have a EU account, or no WoW at all, you can use the free trial. Read the thread for instructions.

I said I wouldn't go back to WoW. I wouldn't go back to raiding. And not go back to healing. Seems I was wrong on all points. Say hi to my level 6 dwarf priest, Rhegis of the guild Turpies!

I participated in a Turpster Beta a hour ago, where we joined up in a raid and tested the fight several times, balancing things. Much where learned, for example that max rank Holy Nove will insta kill all level 6 in melee. We also had some add handling practice to do when Stormtamer, a level 19 tauren bear came and mauled a few gnomes. See screenshots of the test.

Tactics and boss abilities can change! Anything could happen tomorrow!

Trading guilds in WAR

"WTS level 25 guild, two months old, not used much. PST"

In your average MMO, being in a guild is nothing more than a extra chat channel and a guild tag under your name. Some games offer advantages, such as guild housing, guild banks, and taking keeps, but that's nothing that moving to another guild will keep you from doing.

But what happens when your guild is facing trouble and players leave the guild to look for greener pastures? The remaining people log in one day and find that the once glorious guild with a hundred members now lie in ruins with just a dozen people. The remaining people in the guild then have a few options: they can take leadership of the guild and invite new people, hoping that the good name will help them; or they can follow their brethren and quit the guild, finally ending it.

Warhammer Online will introduce guild levelling, where your guild gain experience and levels as the players in it do. Taking your guild to the highest level (40) is not something done overnight, and offer interesting advantages, such as bonuses to your banner, wielded by the standard bearer on the battlefield.

This will maybe offer a new, third option. Christian Bales says in a interview by Massively:
If a guild does experience some sort of upheaval, where it's a very large guild, lots of progression, and it's relatively high level within the guild system, and then it sort of fades away, trickles down and suddenly there's only a very small number of people left, we don't take away any of the benefits they've earned. They keep all of that. It's what they've earned as a guild!
Which means that a guild that's been around for a long time, and have gained the maximum guild level, will be worth something. Players that have been around the guild since the beginning will feel a certain pride and ownership of the guild, and simply leaving the guild to start another might not be as easy as before.

One new possible option, that might or might not be common, is to sell your guild to someone. Levelling up a guild to the cap for all the great benefits take time, and if you have plenty of gold, why not just buy a guild that has all these things? While it's uncertain if you will be able to rename your guild as easily as in Age of Conan, even with a name not of your choosing, taking control of a high level guild will be tempting.

Then there is the possibility of rebellions. People who have been in the guild for long and don't like how it has turned out, seize leadership and remove big parts of the guild. After all, they think, why should the people who levelled the guild have to leave to start a new one? Time will tell how drama friendly the new guild system will be.

<A°)))>< Drama Fish feast on drama.

Age of Conan's Endgame - is there any?

During the last weeks several of of Age of Conan's first endgame encounters have been killed for the first time. At the spear point of progression can be found the familiar guild Nightmares Asylum known from World of Warcraft.

First to beat the dust by Nightmares Asylum were Vistrix, a huge dragon, with the help of some other guilds. It was done on the server Fury on EU, the server I played on before my guild rerolled on Wildsoul because Fury was too crowded. The entire fiasco with the availability of PvP servers on release is enough rant to fit into it's own post, so I will spare you.
Champion of the Honorguard and Yakhmar, a frost worm, followed. And what all of the encounters had in common was that they were horribly, horribly bugged. Encounters reset randomly, corpses disappeared, and some didn't even give any loot. That the endgame is buggy should be surprising to none, seeing how unpolished the rest of the game have been so far.

Fura, guild leader of Nightmares Asylum, posted a thread on the Age of Conan Raids and Tactics forum about the lack of endgame content.
So the citys are not working, the pvp system is not working, the hi end raids are most defiantly not working, the ui way off from being finished, there are serious game breaking bugs still in this game and I feel that its even worse than most betas out there. and were paying for this.....? Shouldn't there be some kind of law preventing them from false advertising a game as they were boasting about high end raiding, massive pvp, great crafting etc... and none of its in the game. isn't this false advertising or something?

While it's not really false advertising, the lack of polish is a valid point. It's not something one would expect from a product on the release date. Even for a MMO, which are never complete, I consider the game to be too unpolished for release.

Oh and my activity in Age of Conan is pretty much zero. My guardian have been collecting dust since a few weeks, and the recent stealth nerf to one of the actually good combos Overreach just sealed it's fate. I enjoyed playing a bit as Herald of Xotli and Conqueror, where I got both to around level 14, but I'm afraid that unless I can find a class I could actually level to 80 with, the game is closed to me.

Changes for AoC - new content and bigger breasts

Seriously, you have no idea how many times I rewrote that title.

Age of Conan's developers seem to be doing something good for a change. In a "Letter from the Game Director" they announce that they will focus development on certain areas. Not a stupid move from Funcom, as the focus points they are publishing are the main issues that players have been shouting about on the AoC forums (still closed to public, got to keep the complaints hush hush).
We will add content, specifically in mid-late thirties and mid-late fifties and make the leveling speed smoother in those areas, reducing the need to grind.
Something I have experienced myself, some level ranged are horrible as they lack quests to take you to the next level range and new quests.

We will have an overhaul of the PvP system – adding consequence and a host of small things.
Not very surprising, after Funcom got some bad publicity on ganking people in groups. And not only do they show lack of foresight by not setting firm policies on PvP from the beginning, but also badly trained Game Masters to represent them.

Not to only take one side, I must also say that the "victims" of these GM talks is the infamous guild Hordes of Goonheim, who require members to pay real money to be in guild, and use that money to destroy the game by creating bots, farming gold and generally cheating in any way they can. And also being general a**holes to anyone who dare criticize them, a bigger bunch of douche bags you have to look far and wide for.

And this in turn leads to
We are staffing up Customer Service, Quality Assurance and Community departments!
With qualified people I hope? Giving every player in AoC who want a GM tag will only make things worse.

And further changes will be
  • We are fixing bugs you reported through all channels we can get information from.
  • We will add a new large outdoor region in the 55-60 range this summer!
  • This is only a small taster! More information about the exciting summer and fall Roadmap will come the end of the next week!
Overall very good changes, so maybe, maybe the game will be worth spending some cash on in waiting for WAR.

Breast sizes in Age of Conan
And when mentioning changes, Funcom have announced the following:
"Funcom can confirm that some of the female models in the game have
had the size of their breasts changed. This is due to an unintended change
in data that was introduced in an earlier patch, data which controls the
so-called morph values associated with character models and the size
of their respective body parts. We are working on a fix for this and your
breasts should be back to normal soon. The plastic surgeons of Hyboria
apologize for the inconvenience."

The picture here below should display the terrible change. Am I the only one who thinks the right picture looks better? Female warriors shouldn't have a large breast requirement, small breasts means slimmer figures, which could probably mean the difference between live or die in Hyboria. And this in turn caused people to get upset. Aereniel on the AoC forums writes in the post titled "Massive Mammaries – Hyboria and the Female Form":
Yet when I created my character during early access, the obstinate slider that controls the female chest area stoutly refused my commands to make breasts any smaller than those approved by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Tiny titties, it seems, are out. So too, are humongous funbags. Try as I might, the slider would not allow mammaries that require a forklift and a three-man team to manoeuvre. Needles to say, I felt dismayed and homogenized. Mine was to be a carbon copy of every other female avatar, with a bustier that had a "Hyboria Approved" sticker attached to the only cup size known in Hyborean times, the Crom-ordained D.

I was creating a Bear Shaman, so I refused to be disheartened by the lack of choice. I do, however, feel genuinely sorry for those players that hoped to create an athletic assassin, or perhaps an emaciated necromancer. In Hyboria, it seems, female necromancers receive their tutelage under the greatest necromancer of them all, Hugh Hefner.

And Aereniel got a point. MMO's are all about choices, and having something as a smallest-breast-limit is just plain stupid.
It truly is a age of, er, Conan.

War with cute little buggers

WAR and summer is in the air. Where I live, the heat has risen constantly now for a few weeks, and it's wonderful. I spent yesterday and most of today lying on green grass outside my apartment with the sun scorching my skin, listening to music, drinking cold things and watching people walk by. Female people mostly. Heat can do wonderful things. Ah, summer, how I love thee.

I found plenty of reading at Massively when the sun disappeared. A three-part article about guilds in WAR (part 1, part 2, part 3), and information about Dwarven Engineer and Goblin Shaman, the Shaman being one of the classes I'm most interested in. Ever since I watched a movie of a PvP battle with a small goblin Shaman, hobbling forward with a big staff, throwing spells and healing on everyone and everything, I was instantly in love with the cute little bugger. Being small and dangerous has it's lure; sadly World of Warcraft's gnomes is just too cute and fluffy (I only typed "WoW gnome" in Google and searched for images, I swear!) to be seen as dangerous.

Apparently Shaman will have spells from two schools of magic: Gork and Mork. Gork is all casting spells that hurt-a-lot in your opponent's face and Mork is casting healing in your team-mate's face. Casting damage spells for Gork will make Mork jealous (and vice versa), and when he get jealous he will lure you over to casting his spells by offering you boosts to those spells.
It's a very interesting way to take heal-botting out of the game and enable your healers to do damage as well. If you are running around healing your team-mates for a long time, it will make your next Gork spell really, really nasty.

Most game designers have realised World of Warcraft's error in making healing so important and intense that you can't do anything else. Age of Conan's healers have healing spells that both heal and do damage, or require you to hit the mob to heal your party, while making healing not as intense by having most healing be done over time instead of direct. Shaman's healing technique offer a third, and I would say more interesting way to solve the problem. So far WAR have been coming up with one revolutionizing idea after each other, I'm confident that the MMO genre won't be the same after WAR. If early games like Everquest was the 1st generation MMO games, and World of Warcraft was the 2nd, WAR will definitely be the 3rd.

I also found a week old, but interesting interview that had a question answered which I was wondering about after written yesterdays post about sieges. What happens when you take a capital?
How will WAR ensure that a capital city isn't held indefinitely?

Jeff: We don't want people to win all the time, and we don't want people to be overpowered because they're winners. A lot of different factors go into measuring success when an enemy takes a capital city. Enemies are given a certain amount of time, typically 24 hours, to ransack a capital city. Actual owners of the city are encouraged to retake the city once that timer runs out. They become more powerful as time passes while the enemy gets weaker, so we give players bonuses and enhancements to push the enemy out. We don't want them to stay there forever.
I guess this give the game a more natural feeling to the world than just resetting everything.

WAR - as it should be

After reading a few articles at Massively about Warhammer Online, I am more excited than ever about it. World of Warcraft have had enough cash from me, I doubt very much that I will ever go back to it. After having experienced Age of Conan (what I thought about that) and read all there is to know about WAR, I can't possibly go back to the boring WoW. However WAR will launch first and the end of the year, so what the h3ll am I going to play until then?

But back to topic. For starters I will mention some of the basics in WAR. There are two realms: Order and Destruction, and each realm has three armies. For Order there is Empire (humans), High Elves and Dwarves. For Destruction there is Greenskins (orcs and goblins), Chaos (humans gone bad) and Dark Elves.
Each of these armies have it's opposite army, their arch enemy. This is pretty much the same in most fantasy worlds, descending from Tolkien's Middle Earth. Dwarves hate Greenskins, Humans hate Chaos, and High Elves hate Dark Elves. So if you roll a dark elf you will face and kill high elves most of the time, unless you chose to go and help some of your allies.

The entire world is in war. A ever changing, moving war. Not the static kind of war you experience in, for example, World of Warcraft, where nothing every changes unless it's patched. In WAR the world is dynamic and realms can take keeps from the opposite realm, moving the war forward. Each zone has a number of keeps, depending where in the war the zone is, and once all enemy keeps have fallen into your hands you can launch the attack on the main capital. By conquering the capital and finally killing the faction leader/king you get to enjoy a time of plundering the fallen city. Doesn't that beat honor points?

The final siege of the capital will be instanced and capped at 48 players on each side, so I guess there will be kicking and screaming to get a spot. Breaching the Fortress is not a simple matter, with its massive walls and imposing gate. To your help you will have catapults that can be mounted a distance away and rams driven by your local bunch of cannon fo- er, valiant troops. And of course there is boiling oil, archers on the walls and everything you need for a mass slaughter. Defenders can sally forth out to destroy your sweet siege engines, so I bet there will be quite some action.

When the walls has been breached the fight continue inside the city, where completing Public Quests will help you defeat the last of the puny resistance. Once that is done you will face the faction leader in a epic fight.

Having played World of Warcraft all this might sound a bit like your local Alterac Valley except with real sieges. Your normal "aaw crap we lost again, let's try harder next game", followed by a 1-20 minute queue depending battlegroup/server/faction/race/hair colour, have a bit higher stakes in WAR. It will take weeks or months of battling back and forth to get to this point, and losing will bring all back to square one, and all keeps will be reset. I doubt you will find people /afk in the middle of a capital struggle. If nothing else, your team mates would probably be furious and find out where you live and... write a letter saying how furious they are. (That's a Team America reference by the way, go see it if you haven't already)

Since Keen and Graev's Age of Conan podcast ended when the cancelled their subscription to AoC, they (or Keen to be exact) join forces with Warhammer Online bloggers Snafzg from The Greenskin and Syp from WAAAGH! to start a new series of podcasts about WAR, called ChaosCast. The first episode is out, and I look forward to hear more from it.

Naughty or Nice - choices in gaming

In Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition the alignment system (which decide if your character is good or bad) will be getting smaller. The previous 9 different alignments become 5, but other than that nothing is changed. The mention of alignments stirred something in me that I have felt for a long time, just couldn't identify. Where is the ability to make choices in MMORPGs, to make your character more than just a name?

The basics with alignment is that if your character is chaotic evil, he will kill kittens just for the fun of it, and if his paladin is lawful good he will help innocent and uphold law and order. Even if your real self would not do any of these things. Playing as your character and do what he would do instead of your real self is the basics of roleplaying. And it's really fun.

In recent years we have seen a huge success for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG, a acronym that make most people slightly dislocate their tongue), mostly thanks to World of Warcraft who is so tuned to the masses that it has 10 million subscribers around the world. Other MMORGPs are Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and Dungeons & Dragons Online just to name a few in a fast growing group. What all of these games have in common is that they are just simply massive multiplayer games with roleplaying in them that you play online.

Yet there is a disappointingly small amount of roleplying in them, despite the name. You create your character with customized look and a name, and as he play more he gain more levels, but that's pretty much the end of what the game has in common with role playing.
Now, I'm not saying that all MMORPGs should force people to roleplay, that would make them lose so many subscriptions that they would have to shut down. But the actual roleplaying part of these multiplayer online games has not improved a slightest bit in the recent years, despite all the new titles. Character customization gets better, Age of Conan is a proof of that, but there has been no addition of that thing that shape your character. I'm talking about a alignment system.

A alignment is pretty much a short-short version of your characters history. No human is born evil, or good for that matter. Everyone is shaped in the history of their past, and further shaped in what will come in the future. If you start training as a apprentice to a priest or paladin in your youth your chances of becoming a good guy is pretty big. If you are whipped by your father every week or start out in a bad neighbourhood there is a chance you will turn out to be evil.
Not that it's just black and white; the most evil tyrant who torture people every day can be kind and loving to his dog, and the good priest who heal poor people might have a fantasy for small boys.
Just because it says "lawful good" at your character sheet doesn't limit your options. For someone to be good or evil there must be the option to be the opposite; without choice there can be no good or bad. When you reach the prison chambers in the tyrants dungeons there is choice to let the prisoner out, in which case you would have done a good action and your alignment moved towards good, or you can choose to leave him there, and your alignment moves towards neutral, or you could let him out just to kill him, and your character turns more evil.

The most recent MMORPG Age of Conan have a feature that is obvious in any roleplaying game: conversations. However Age of Conan's conversations serve no purpose other than to tell a story, there is no difference between telling them you will gladly serve or say you will kill them. They will just laugh and send you along anyway. This is of course a step forward if you compare with World of Warcraft's quest dialogues that's nothing more than a pointer where the quest mobs are. But where is the choices that make a difference? What will it take to get a real massive multiplayer online roleplaying game?