Category Archives: Rant

Offline Co-op

Remember the days when playing a video game with a friend was an easy thing to do? Just pop a cartridge into your NES (you may have had to blow on it first), plug in the second controller and go. It was a simpler time. No internet connection was needed. There were no headsets, cameras or motion controls. There was no Facebook integration (to be fair, there was no Facebook). Just you and a buddy, sitting on a couch, playing a game.

Gaming has come a long way. Games now have amazing graphics and sound, stellar storytelling, seamless UIs. Games can make us choose, can make us think, make us feel, make us react, or just let us hijack cars and run over pedestrians.

Gaming can be even more fun when you’re playing with friends (says the girl who always wanted everyone to leave so she could play the Goldeneye campaign rather than playing yet another round in the Stacks with grenades.) Big strides have been made to let people play games with others – but only in certain ways. Want to sit at your computer, group up with 24 other people from all over the world and take on a dragon? You can pay WoW, Everquest, Rift, Aion, FF, LOTRO. If you’re more into spaceships than swords you can play Eve, SWTOR, Starquest, Phantasy Star, or Star Trek. Want to join a team of people to shoot terrorists or aliens and listen to strangers who sound an awful lot like 12-years olds call each other fags? Then Counterstrike, Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo are all there for you. Want to collaborate or compete in large scale strategic battles? You can always find someone online to play DoTA, LoL or Starcraft with.

Want to play a console game with someone who is in the same room as you? Well, then your options are much more limited. Especially if you’d rather cooperate than compete. The majority of games seem much more concerned with enabling you to play with strangers online than allowing you to play offline with your S.O./roomate/sibling/parent/child/friend/dog who is sitting beside you on the couch.

My boyfriend and I have been trying to find console games that we can play together. It has indeed been a trying experience. There aren’t too many games that advertise having an offline co-op mode. Plus, when local co-op is actually included in a game, it often seems like more of an afterthought. We went out and bought games that advertised having local co-op. We tried Madden 25. It has offline co-op but, aside from the fact the game basically plays itself for you, playing on the same team was pretty dull for whoever wasn’t the quarterback. We got Tales of Vesperia. A multiplayer RPG? Sounds awesome. In practice, not so awesome. Player 1 basically plays the majority of the game by themselves and player 2 gets to jump in and control one character during combat. Yawn. We turned off that one after about 8 minutes. We picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops. There is offline co-op, but only for 2 specific modes – zombie survival and playing against bots. You can’t do the campaign or play against other people online together. My bf was going to buy Dungeon Siege 3, but was talked out of it by the cashier at Gamestop. It features a drop-in co-op that doesn’t allow the person dropping into the game to save any of their progress or items. Considering the game is a dungeon-crawling loot grind, this seems like a pretty serious issue. Some games even advertise having offline co-op when there actually is none.

Offline co-op

Offline co-op? Not so much.

There are a number of arcade style games that feature decent offline co-op. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Castle Crashers, TMNT are all games I’ve enjoyed playing with friends in the past. However, they’re all fairly mindless (and very short) side-scrolling beat’em ups. Those have their place, but sometimes you want to play something a little deeper.

In terms of AAA titles, most console developers seem to consider offline co-op a waste of time or something to be thrown in at the end, in a completely underwhelming way. There are exceptions.

Valve in particular has added some very good co-op play to their games. Portal 2 features the most complete co-op experience I’ve had and was definitely not an afterthought. It adds a whole extra campaign and hours of playtime to the game. Left 4 Dead also lets you play through the campaign with a friend (or three). Both of these multi-player games give you a choice too. You can play with someone sitting beside you offline, or you can connect with people online and play through the game. Other developers should take note – this is the way to do it. The only small complaint I have about these games is that co-op mode is not very intuitive to access.

Left 4 Dead start screen

Play campaign? No… Press X to Play with Friends? No…
Oh! There it is in small, barely contrasting text in the bottom left corner.

Diablo 3 also makes it easy for people to play offline co-op and we played that a bit on PS3. A nice thing about D3 is that you don’t have to deal with split screen, which I really liked from an aesthetic standpoint. However it has some serious drawbacks too. If you get items or level up you need to take turns with the menu screen to examine and equip new gear or choose new talents. This brings the pace of the game to a crawl. Also I had already played through it when it came out a year and a half ago on PC, and starting from scratch on console wasn’t all that appealing.

There’s a site called Co-Optimus, which is dedicated to all things co-op gaming. I’m hoping it leads me to some good games. A quick search for Xbox 360 Couch Co-Op games shows 256 results! That seems positive. However, once I filter out the genres I’m not really interested in (like Sports games), the party games (there are dozens of music/dance games), the games whose co-op is a half-baked afterthought, and the games that are generally just bad, the list isn’t that long. The Lego games, which have been recommended to me, look like a good option. Hopefully I can find a few more.

I’m hoping that the games for the new generation of consoles take into account that people may actually want to play video games together in the same room. So far, it’s not looking too good though. Dead Rising 3, the game I’m most interested in on the Xbox One, is online co-op only. Same with Ryse and Black Flag. Call of Duty: Ghosts has “co-op specific” content.

This is a plea that game developers make more games that can be played with others offline. I love video games and I’d much rather share my gaming experiences with someone I like enough to live with, or at least invite over, than some random online gamers.

Follow Friday and Other Baffling Twitter Phenomena

I’m feeling a little ranty today and I figured I’d take it out on social media since it can’t defend itself, and WoW has done nothing to provoke my ire lately. I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I love it more than hate it since I’ve ‘met’ so many awesome people on it who I like to chat with. But certain Twitter behavior can irritate me to no end, especially when I’m kind of grumpy in the first place. Here are the top offenders. They’re all related to filling my Twitter feed with a bunch of crap I’m not interested in seeing.

Follow Friday

Alright, I can understand this conceptually but, practically, most #ffs are duds. If I see:

#ff @Serrath_ @RunningTracy @ThunderRodent @WTSHeals @healiocentric @Therya_EJ @Rezznul @Restokin @Smmoke_ @SerrinneWoW @Kaleri_ @kurnmogh 

You know what the chances are that I’m going to follow any of these people? (Pretend that I don’t follow all of them already :P ) Zero. Why would I follow these people? Who are they? Why should I want to see what they have to say?

However, if I saw this:

#ff @Serrath_ because he’s taken over as the new healing lead of Apotheosis (sucker). He’s an awesome holy Priest, even though he plays a gnome.

Then I might actually follow, assuming I was interested in Apotheosis, healing, or Priests; and not too turned off by the gnome part.

If you really want to get someone some new followers, put in a little more effort. Otherwise, why bother?

The worst thing people do is when they post 12 big blocks of #ff tweets that list every single person they follow. Please, stop.

Thank you

I admit this is a strange one and I could possibly be the only person bothered by it. It’s especially odd considering I’m Canadian and all about being polite to strangers. However, it bugs the hell out of me when people say thank you for RTs. Yes, it’s great to be appreciative, but it’s also great to not clog your other followers feeds with 12 tweets that say “ty” to various people. That said, I do appreciate when people RT my blog posts! I just do it silently.

The worst Twitter thank you behaviour is related to Follow Friday. If someone mentions you in one of those big blocks of names in a #ff and you feel the need to thank them… for the love of god, just thank the person who wrote the #ff. Do not reply to everyone. Argh! (Reply All is a function that many, many people can not handle. Not just a Twitter problem.)

Auto Tweets

Worst thing. I seriously find these more annoying than DMs telling me about how you lost 10 lbs with Garcinia. So many sites do this auto posting BS – I find YouTube, FourSquare, and Raptr the worst offenders, and it’s the quickest way to make me unfollow someone. I don’t care that you liked a video on YouTube. I don’t care that you’re at the Tim Hortons on 4th and Main (and it’s kind of creepy that now everyone knows where you are). How twitchy my unfollow finger gets when I see these depends on my mood, but if I see more than one or two of these in a day from a person, I’m probably not following them anymore. It’s really annoying. There are a few people who I really want to follow so that I can see their actual thoughts on things, but then 25% of their feed is: “Played World of Warcraft (PC) in the last 24 hours. http://raptr.com/” and I don’t want to see that. I generally wind up following and unfollowing these people every couple of weeks.

PSA: Help control the auto-tweet population – check your settings on these websites and turn them off!

Alright, I think I’m done ranting. Oh wait – Get off my lawn! There, now I’m done.

Because I don’t like to write posts that are totally whiny, self-indulgent and negative, here’s a cool screenshot of Jasyla rocking her legendary cloak proc. Four wings are better than two.Dual-wing

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

Usually when I use the phrase in the title above, I’m referring to the official WoW forums. But today I found another place that fits this description perfectly: Looking For Raid.

My experience in LFR has been extremely limited. I’m not really the target player, and I’m somewhat opposed to being expected to do it. When Dragon Soul was released, a bunch of my guildmates ran it frequently to get their four-set bonuses quickly, but I wasn’t one of them. I would rather gear up a bit slower than run the same content each week on two difficulties (TotC, anyone?). I always considered LFR as a way to gear up alts when I’m bored, rather than something I’m interested in doing on my main.

Anyway, I haven’t done an LFR in months, but the topic came up yesterday and I decided I’d give it a go on my warrior to try to pick up a piece or two of gear. I queue up as dps and quickly get pulled into a group that is on Zon’ozz.

Immediately upon zoning in, I could see that this wasn’t going to go well. My first hint? No one would shut the fuck up. Raid chat was full of obscenities, people berating each other and stupid ASCII macros. And what are people not doing when they’re spamming raid chat with inanities? Any damage or healing! Though we killed Zon’ozz without any problems, after he dropped I was quickly reminded about one of the other qualities of LFR: loot drama. I started thinking about the groups of people who do LFR, and I think pretty much everyone can be put into one of four categories.

The people who just want it to end

These people are quiet and unassuming. They know what they’re doing, they do their job adequately, or even very well. They don’t talk down to the bad players in their raids or try to create drama. They just want to kill some bosses, maybe get a piece or two of loot, and get out of the raid before the people in the other 3 categories drive them to violence.

The Loot Whores

I’m going to go ahead and assume that loot is the driving factor for most people who do LFR, and boy can people behave badly when they don’t get it. There are the people who curse out anyone who outrolls them, and those who beg for people to trade them gear.  There are the people who roll need on absolutely anything they can, even if they’re already wearing it, or something better. There are also a number of people who feel they don’t need to put in any effort in order to get gear, they AFK or just stand around doing nothing while the rest of the group does their work for them. The worst case I saw of this was a Shaman – they had queued as dps, were in a healing spec and gear, and spent the whole time in ghost wolf with someone on auto follow. Until they were kicked, that is.

The assholes

These are the people who just like to cause trouble and make everyone else’s time less enjoyable. They spend all their time beings dicks to everyone else in the raid. They’re always sure to tell people, in the most rude way possible, how terrible they are. Then there are the griefers – like the dps who pull all the trash packs or pull the boss before the trash is clear. In the first LFR I did we had a Mage who kept blinking around, pulling everything in Yor’sahj’s room, then blaming it another Mage. The two then mages argued in raid chat through the entire (8 minute) fight, rather than doing any damage to the boss. In another LFR we had a Mage who thought it would be clever to put a portal to Theramore over the portal to the Eye of Eternity. Charming!  In the short time I spent in LFR I put 5 people on ignore because of the ignorant, offensive language they used. My report button got a nice workout too.

The Utterly Clueless

This group is what makes every boss fight take 4x longer than it should. I’m not expecting top-tier play from people in LFR, I’m really not. But I do hope for at least a little bit of effort. The damage or healing some people put out is just astoundingly bad. In the first LFR I did I managed to do more damage than all but one or two people on most boss fights. This is incredibly sad. My gear wasn’t great – no raid gear, I still had a couple of pieces of tank gear (I levelled as Prot) that I hadn’t been able to replace. I’m also just not good at melee. I see the error messages “Target must be in front of you” or “Target is out of range” pop up on my screen more often than I’d like to admit. But somehow I doubled the damage of half a dozen of the dps. A ran with a group of 4 Moonkin who couldn’t cast their way out of a wet paper bag and seemed averse to using any spell with a cast time. In one of the LFRs I tanked, the healers couldn’t switch healing targets worth a damn. Every time there was a tank swap it was a white-knuckle moment where I needed to use all my cooldowns as I watched my health start dropping and didn’t start receiving heals until I was almost dead.

It’s not just low damage and healing I’m complaining about either. So many people know nothing about the fights. The first time I fought Morchok four people died in the Black Blood. There are so many ways to avoid that. You could read your dungeon journal and learn that it is bad to stand in. You could ask somebody before the fight. Or you could just look at your health bar, see it dropping, see your screen flashing red, and run out of the goo on the ground. But people don’t do any of these things. On Yor’sahj, half the dps ignore the incoming slimes and stay on the boss, despite repeated raid warnings telling them otherwise. Switch to the Bolt on Madness? Stop damaging the Amalg on Spine? Not happening. It drives me up the wall that people come into a raid unwilling to work, unwilling to listen, but expect to be handed shiny new gear.

The most clueless person I saw was, unfortunately, a Druid. He was Feral (0/40/1). He was wearing an agility dagger with a Demonic Skull in his offhand. He had a number of pieces of blue pvp gear. The rest of his gear seemed to be anything that he happened to win a roll on in dungeons, be it a strength helm or an intellect trinket. He didn’t have a single gem, enchant or a lick of reforging.
I don’t think he ever used Shred, possibly because he never attacked the boss from behind. When I see people like this (and I’ve seen quite a few) I often wonder if they’re just trolling – I sometimes hope they are, because the alternative is so sad.

So…

Why do people put themselves through this!?

LFR came from Blizzard’s desire that everyone be able to see raid content. I’m not the target audience, but I have to ask those who are – those who don’t have the time or desire to be part of a regular raid team – is LFR an acceptable solution? Is it really worth it to spend so much time with random jerks who treat everyone badly or can’t be bothered to try?

PSA: Twitter, Communication and Manners

Imagine this…

Someone on the Internet has pissed you off (I know, I know, this is an outlandish situation I’m suggesting, but bear with me). Maybe they’ve disagreed with something you firmly believe in. Maybe last night in Dragon Soul they wouldn’t get out of the fire no matter how many chances they got and kept wiping the raid. Maybe they’ve just been an absolute jerk.

Despite common practice, the appropriate course of action is not to go on Twitter and snidely make vague, undirected comments about the situation. This doesn’t fool anyone. Anyone who has been privy to the situation will know exactly what you’re talking about. The person you’re making the snide comments about will know exactly what you’re talking about. I suppose that’s the point. However, acting this way is passive aggressive and tacky. At best it accomplishes nothing. Likely, it makes everyone involved more angry and draws more people into a situation they don’t really need to be involved in.

Try taking the high road. Directly tell the person in question that you’re upset with them and why. If you feel like being super mature about it, you could even do it in private rather than on Twitter. The situation has much better chance of being resolved this way.

Communication tends to work better when you say what you mean, to the person you want to hear it.

/soapbox

Too much of a good thing

I love video games. I’ve been playing them since I was about 3 years old. Sit me down in front of a computer or a console and I can game all day. My favorite games are huge, sweeping RPGs with lots of locations to discover, items to collect, monsters to defeat and easter eggs to find.

But I think I have a problem.

When I play a game I need to do it all – do every quest, get every scrap of experience, find every secret. And this is fun for me – until it isn’t. I sink so many hours into getting perfect scores and achievements that after many, many hours, I just get sick of the games and end up putting them down, unfinished, and don’t pick them up again for 6 months or a year, or sometimes I don’t play them again at all.

Recently this happened with Fallout: New Vegas. I started playing the game immediately after it came out.  I had a lot of fun exploring the wastelands and finding every quest I could and then all of a sudden, I got sick of it. I had spent so much time exploring and trying to find every bit of optional content that I kind of forgot what the main storyline was and I lost interest. I just picked the game back up recently (along with all the DLC) – but am I continuing the main questline? No. I’m doing more exploration and side-quests. Will I be able to finish the game before I get sick of it again? Who knows.

This also happened with another game I played recently, LA Noire. I really loved this game, but I was obsessed with getting 5 stars on everything. If I got less than that, I would immediately replay the case until I got it. The result? I turned a game I originally found very entertaining into a chore. I did manage to finish it, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I could have.

I’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. On my second playthrough of FFVII I decided I would defeat every Weapon and master every materia. After countless, painful, hours of chocobo racing to get the gold chocobo and the Knights of the Round materia I spent even more hours in the final dungeon of the game wandering around, getting into random battles and hoping to run into Magic Pots for their sweet, sweet AP. After this went on for quite some time (I think I managed to get my KotR materia up to 3 stars) I threw my controller down in disgust and never wanted to play FF7 again.

The list of games I’ve ruined for myself like this goes on and on. I don’t know why I do this, but I just can’t help it.

Strangely enough, the only game I’ve been able to throttle myself on is World of Warcraft. Though I’m definitely an achievement whore who wants to see and do everything in the game for some reason I’m able to do it in moderation. When the Molten Front dailies were introduced I wanted those achievement points, I wanted that hippogriff mount, but I took it easy. I did the dailies when I felt like it. It got my achivements and mount a few months later than most people, but that was okay. I knew that if I forced myself to do these things daily I would get burned out and stop logging in altogether.

I haven’t been able to figure out what the difference is. Why can I do the optional content in WoW (for me anything outside of raiding is optional) at a leisurely pace while I go at single player games until I burn out?

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

I generally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about sexism, whether real or imagined, in WoW. Perhaps I’m a bad feminist. I don’t have a problem with characters like Alexstrasza wearing skimpy clothes. I think she looks good. I would likely dress like that if I looked like her (and you know, lived in a fantasy world). I accept that many people find women (or men) with impossible body proportions attractive and often depict them ways that emphasize those assets. I don’t even mind so much that there aren’t as many prominent female characters as there are men in WoW. It’s a video game – I just want to play and have fun, not think too hard about sexual and social politics.

However, last week Vidyala posted a link to some artwork on the offical WoW forums on Twitter. Blizzard has been adding portraits of the faction leaders over the last few months and the most recent image added was of the leader of the Night Elves – Tyrande Whisperwind…in a matter of speaking. As I discussed the picture with some people on Twitter I found myself getting more and more angry about how she was depicted.

Here’s the picture:

Tyrande WhisperwindImage from Blizzard Entertainment (Original can be found here)

What is it about this particular picture that bothers me so much? In a word – everything. There is nothing right about this picture. Everything about it makes me mad. The only thing that could have made it worse is if Tyrande was naked.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

The first problem is that Malfurion is in it. Sure, he’s an important person in the Night Elf world, but he’s not their leader. Tyrande is. The picture is even called “Tyrande Whisperwind”, so why is Malfurion in it? Why does he take up most of the space? None of the other leaders have to share the spotlight in their pictures (except the Dwarves, but that’s a Council). All we can clearly see of Tyrande is one arm, the side of her face, lots of hair and one (large, melon-shaped) boob. The rest of her is obscured by Malfurion.

The second problem is the pose. The pose is wrong both symbolically and anatomically. While every other faction leader portrait shows the leader staring menacingly into the camera or looking intently into the distance, Tyrande is gazing at Malfurion. While every other leader is wielding some kind of weapon, Tyrande is clinging on to her husband. Come on. I know Tyrande is the type of leader who prefers peace when possible but she’s also a fighter. She fought the Burning Legion and in the battle for Mount Hyjal and defended Moonglade from Eranikus, but rather than portray her as a strong leader and fighter, she gets shown in a matronly light, surrounded by flowers, and enveloped in a man’s arms.

Then there’s the anatomy of the pose. As someone with zero artistic talent I feel a little bad about critiquing someone’s art, but really – people don’t bend this way! When I first saw this picture I thought it was a side view of Tyrande so I didn’t immediately see anything wrong with the pose. Then I realised her body was directly facing the audience, with her head cranked around to face Malfurion and her arm bent awkwardly behind her to hold on to Malfurion (though to me it looks like her shoulder is in front of her head/chest, which seems like a recipe for dislocated joints). After seeing what the picture was actually portraying, my first thought was that Malfurion had just broken Tyrande’s neck.  Narci had the much less violent and much more hilarious thought that an evil wizard had cursed Tyrande with back-tits. Either way, she doesn’t look comfortable.

So, while the Orc, Tauren, Troll, Gnome, Dwarf and Worgen leaders are all portrayed as strong, independant and battle-ready, the female leader of the Night Elves is portrayed as a delicate flower, being supported, protected (and twisted into a terribly uncomfotable position) by a man.

Please Blizzard art department, try a little harder next time you create a portrait of one of the few female faction leaders. Maybe you can put some more work into portraying Tyrande in a way that isn’t so diminutive (and offensive) before you start on your fourth picture of Garrosh. I hope Sylvanas turns out better.

Give Comments a Chance

I’ve written about this before. Others have written about it before. But time and time again, I see the same problem cropping up on new (and old) blogs.

Blogspot users, please, please make commenting easy.

This week I found 2 blogs I wanted to leave a comment on, but didn’t because after I wrote out my comment and had to choose who I was commenting as, I was met with options like these:

 

 

 

 

  • Google Account – This links to a completely useless Blogger profile page (useless because I don’t use Blogger).
  • WordPress – Thought this might be usable, but no, it’s for WordPress.com users, and I use WordPress.org.
  • LiveJournal – Seriously?
  • Typepad, AIM, OpenID? I don’t even know what those are, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have accounts with them.

So I left without commenting.

I’m sure that people aren’t making commenting difficult on purpose. If they didn’t want comments, I think they’d just turn them off. So I can only assume that people don’t know how difficult they’re making commenting for their readers.

Any Blogspot bloggers who are unsure about their comment settings, please do the following:

1. Log in to your blog Dashboard and go to the Settings tab.

2. Under settings, select comments.

3. Next to ‘Who Can Comment?’ select Anyone.

 

 

 

4. Save your settings (down at the bottom of the page)

Tada! People can now comment easily on your blog, with the fantastic name/URL option, allowing them to put in their own user name and link to their own blog, without having to sign up for accounts they’re not interested in having.

You can still use a captcha, moderate comments and your spam filter will continue to do it’s job, but this one little change will make commenting a whole lot easier for your readers and will likely increase the amount of comments you get. Who knows how many people have wanted to leave you comments but have been put off by the lack of options given to them?

Please spread the word to any Blogspot users you know.

*This message has been approved by the Bloggers for Easier Commenting Alliance*