Eleven-Four

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Kiryn's place for rants about stuff. (version 6.0)

Pandaren children will haunt my nightmares

September 28th, 2012

I brought the spirit of fire to the temple, then left on my next quest. These odd little gnomes started swarming me, trying to chat with me about something or other, but I was paying little attention to what they were saying because I was trying to figure out what the hell they were.

They looked a bit like gnomes. Why are there gnomes on the Wandering Isle? Is this how I get introduced to the outside world? Gnomes swarming me in the starting area? Hmm. There’s something not quite right about their heads. I turn my camera around to get a better look… and I had to stop myself from screaming.

If my character is a dwarf dressed up like a panda-themed high school football mascot, these things are like gnomes wearing those plastic mickey mouse masks with the cutout eyes. Each one frozen in an identical, permanent creepy smile, with dark, cold, sunken eyes. They could not have made more disturbing faces if they tried. I think the pandaren halloween masks will be a great success next month.

Also, I think I’ve decided that it’s really weird how pandaren cut holes out of all of their pants for their little nubby tails. It looks really out of place. Those tails would fit just fine in pants! You don’t have to cut a hole!

Last night I was really feeling like the story was very tedious. What do you mean, I have to go find THREE MORE of these spirits? Ugh. But now that I’ve gotten towards the end of the zone, the dynamic between the two main characters is more interesting. I found the early story to be far too predictable, (Oh, the strongman appeared again, asking for a stronger material than last time? I bet this will eventually lead to me finding a material he can’t break with his face.) but I will give them credit: I was not expecting such a large river of blood, and the cinematic cutscene was a nice touch. Their faces are still hella creepy though.

The quest right after that was too vague, though. It told me to go out and find more healers, then protect them against the monsters. I went out, found a couple of healers, then stood around killing lizardmen for way longer than I probably should have, waiting for the quest to complete. When it didn’t, I eventually concluded that I had to go find more healers (even though they didn’t give me a number to go find) and that eventually did it.

I see examples of their laziness all over the place, though. Between the four or five times so far that a moving version of an NPC spawned on top of the stationary one and they overlapped for a second or two until the stationary one despawned, rather than making NPCs capable of movement, and the little cutscene after protecting the healers where the camera goes behind a tree to cover your view for three or four seconds so it can swap from the river of blood to the “happy healed all done” phase, I’m getting my immersion broken all over the place. Every few minutes I am reminded of the technical aspect of this area.

However, the environments are just plain gorgeous. It really does feel like they sank their entire budget into making beautiful new environments and didn’t bother to polish anything else. I think that’s why the majority of the advertisements for MOP are nothing but screenshots of lush jungles and temples and whatnot.

Note to self: add new mods to the setup.

Tooltip mod to move it to my cursor, or at least to a higher point on the screen, because right now the tooltip is sitting right in the middle of my minimap. It’s making it really hard to see where I’m going.

Quest tracker mod, because for some reason, the default quest tracker is only showing me two quests at a time, even when I have more. Have I completed my third quest? I have no idea. There’s a checkmark next to it in the quest log to say that it’s being tracked, and if I untrack my second quest, it shows up on the tracker, but otherwise it’s missing. Besides the fact that I can’t move it at all to be up in the top right where it needs to be.

Barely have any time to play this week due to solid overtime. I’ve been so focused on getting my UI set up for WoW that I haven’t logged into GW2 in days. Looking forward to the weekend for some solid game time, not to mention going out and getting some fresh air as well after being cooped up in this office all week. I need to take a nice walk to the lake, and go catch that new time travel movie. I’m a sucker for time travel movies. But… Hotel Transylvania is coming out too! How to decide?!

Mists of Pandaria – First Five Levels

September 27th, 2012

If you play, come visit Yinfeng (Silver Wind) on Feathermoon. We will probably be going Horde side this time, as we played through the new Wrath AND Cataclysm content on Alliance before, and this offers an opportunity to do a lot of new stuff.

As happens every time I come back to WoW, I start off with default UI. Very rapidly come to the realization that I cannot play like this for more than a few hours. Every interface looks stale and dated. The information I need is too small, surrounded by way too many useless graphical elements rather than being crisp and clean and functional, and is arranged as far away from everything else as possible.

My action bar icons are tiny little bits of color in this sea of gray tile and gryphons, with the actual useful buttons lopsided on the left with a bunch of useless menu and bag buttons on the right that I will almost never press. My health bar is this thin green bar surrounded by more gray in the top left corner, while my buffs are thrown over in the top right corner, forcing me to be looking all over my screen rather than having everything I need in one place.

The biggest annoyances are things I can do nothing about. I have to actually right-click on things to loot them? Where’s my Interact key? Why can’t I double-click on things in my bag to use them — it’s not like double-clicking does anything. It shouldn’t be hard for them to add that functionality.

Why do I HAVE to hold down shift or ctrl or whatever in order to see the gear comparison? The two of us were so sure that was an option that you could reverse, like auto-loot, that we spent a few minutes poring over the interface options before eventually giving up and concluding that it wasn’t in there.

I am rearranging my UI to be as similar to Guild Wars 2 as possible. No more than 5 main rotation attacks, on big huge buttons slightly to the bottom left. No more than 5 side abilities, one of which heals me and one of which has a really long cooldown. Make the map square and bigger, move it to the bottom right. Put my health/energy/chi in the bottom center between the two bars, with my buffs and debuffs just above the right bar. I’ll probably use F1 through F5 for Chi-using skills, unless the class ends up wanting me to stance dance often.

Here’s a pic in progress. I haven’t gotten the cast bar or party frames set up yet, and I don’t have any skills on the F keys so that bar is invisible right now. I’d still like to move my quest log into the upper right corner and make my chat log a slightly less in-your-face opacity, but it’s functional for the moment. I like having the buttons big enough that I can see the great artistic detail that went into them.

(Pitbull, Bartender, Chinchilla, rChat in this screenshot, also using Quartz and Bagnon for things you can’t see.)

I’ll have to avoid using Q or E for anything at all, sadly (unless my monk gets some kind of movement ability, which seems likely, to put on a hidden Q dodge key) which is a waste of keyboard real estate, but otherwise I’m going to confuse myself terribly. I can probably use tilde to swap the 1-5 bar between two different states (damage and healing?) to simulate the GW2 weapon swap.

That out of the way, Monk is reasonably interesting so far. At first I was like “okay, so I spend energy to get combo points on myself — isn’t this just paladin holy power without mana?” but then unlike combo points OR holy power, I do not spend all of them to use finishing moves, but instead I spend them more like death knight runes, one or two at a time.

I have been saying for a long time that I wanted a non-mana healing class, but from what I’m seeing of these addon options, the monk’s healing “stance” uses mana just like druids do when they’re not in beast form. Way to be creative, blizz.

I ended up with a cape reasonably early that goes down long enough to cover my tail, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the plus side, the cape is animated properly rather than sticking out to avoid my tail like it does on the draenei. On the other hand, what’s the point of having a tail if I don’t get to look at it? I wish I didn’t have to go into the options menu to turn my cloak on and off, but I don’t really want to install an addon just for that.

Oh, but I finally put my finger on why I hate the pandaren face so much. It doesn’t look like the face of a real creature. It’s frozen into that static plastic grin all the time, and all I can think about when looking at it is that I’m a female dwarf dressed up as the panda-themed mascot for a high school sports team, about to put on a cheerleader’s outfit and go get some teenagers excited about football. This isn’t really appropriate attire for a fantasy adventurer.

With monks available for all races, I’ll probably swap to an orc monk once we’re out of this starting area. I don’t know if I can keep using this stupid-looking character long enough to check out the new content.

Mists of Pandaria: Character Creation

September 26th, 2012

I’ve been playing the hell out of Guild Wars 2, and not posting here because I have little to complain about that isn’t being posted directly into their suggestions forum. However, my gaming partner is unsatisfied by the lack of his favorite trinity role in that game, and so we are returning to WoW on a temporary basis to level through the newly added content as a team before quitting again.

After having done my best to ignore most news about this expansion since whatever was mentioned during the Blizzcon panels themselves, I’m going into this as blind as possible. So far, I’ve created my female pandaren monk to cover as much new content ground as possible. I know that monks have subclasses to handle all three trinity roles, and they use Chi as a resource, but I know precious little else.

I am unhappy at the complete lack of facial feature options. I really dislike the female pandaren’s face, but my “face” options in character creation are all exactly the same face with different fur patterns around my eyes. I don’t CARE how much/little color I have around my eyes and how it’s arranged. I just want to fix that dumb-looking mouth and it won’t let me! =/

I am unhappy that in order to have a pandaren with a tail, I am required to have red/brown fur. I think the brown fur looks ugly. I think it’s going to clash with the colors of my future armor sets. I want to have a panda with black or gray fur. But no! In REAL life, only RED pandas have tails, so too it must be here. I would far rather have had a “tail” selection than these lame earrings. Then I could pick between no tail, the stripy tail, and the fox-looking tail with various levels of contrast in addition to whatever fur color I chose.

I am unhappy that my hair color is determined by my fur color, and they tricked me into thinking I’d be able to change it by having a “hair color” selection there. No! I only get to have a tiny dyed streak of that color on my bangs and all the rest of my hair is BROWN. Brown brown brown boring boring BROWN. Tauren hair color is determined by fur color too, but at least they don’t get my hopes up by having a “hair color” slider that only changes the color of the bands holding my pigtails.

These hairstyle options are terrible. I have every intention of running this character to a city as soon as I can and finding a better one at the barbershop.

Oh well. There’s a certain freedom to the knowledge that a character is simply a temporary diversion instead of a real person I’ll be identifying myself with for an indefinite period of time. It’s like when I’m creating a throwaway character for testing at work, and it doesn’t matter what I name them, and I don’t have to spend twenty minutes micromanaging their facial features because it doesn’t matter.

However, this whole process really feels like the art team was not given nearly enough time on this project, or maybe they’re understaffed. Or maybe they’re just getting lazy. Whatever the reason, I am so far unimpressed with this latest expansion, and the game is definitely showing its age in a time when so many other MMOs are offering a plethora of character customization options and sliders.

Why I am quitting Outernauts

August 7th, 2012

I’ve thought highly of Insomniac since the Spyro trilogy. I bought my playstation for that game, and it’s still one of my favorite series of all time. The fact that the Spyro games made after Insomniac were terrible convinced me that they were only good in the first place BECAUSE of Insomniac. So when I hear that Insomniac made a facebook game? Immediate signup. You’ve convinced me by name alone that I should play this game. The fact that it’s Pokemon in space is just icing on the cake.

I love this game! I love catching critters and leveling them up and seeing what they evolve into. I love the combat system, I love the music (this is the first Facebook game I’ve played where I leave the music on, it’s really good!)

Unfortunately, the game does not love me back.

With the amount of Energy I have, I can fight three or four battles, dig up a handful of plants, collect money and fuel from my homeworld, and then I can’t do anything else for an hour while I wait for my Energy to regenerate, by which time I’ve forgotten about the game and gone off to play something else.

As this is an RPG, I go in wanting to make progress on my character. Unfortunately, since the critters around me seem to level up as I do, and it is downright impossible to kill something if the skills themselves aren’t powered up through use, it’s a waste of Energy to try to get more of a feeling of progress by leveling up my weaker critters. They’re going to hit for 4 damage, die horribly in one hit, and I’ll lose the fight.

My only team capable of actually fighting effectively is my starter that I’ve been using since the beginning plus two critters I only recently caught at a high level. The entire rest of my team is too pointlessly low level with low level skills to be any use, and the item requirements for that “Training Dojo” are far too strict for me… I still have yet to find all of the items necessary to train even one of my critters up a single level. I’ve been wandering around this cave for days and still haven’t found a single stalactite. I hope this isn’t that “you can only get them from your friends” nonsense that will make the related quest (and this entire building) completely pointless for me.

But if I stick to my main team, the experience I get from killing enemy critters is so low that I might go up one level in two gameplay sessions. This results in me not even getting the mental reward of progress that I’d normally get from a game: level up, finish a quest, craft some neat item… all of these things require more than one play session to complete. There are no smaller rewards within reach during a single play session.

All of the items I can craft require items that drop off of enemy types I never encounter in the wild (such as flying types) or say they are found in certain places (such as caves) though I’ve never found any in such places. Either way, it is far from obvious where I can go to work towards these items.

Almost all of the quests I have right now either require items I can’t find or friends. I hate pestering my friends for things, since very few of them actually play facebook games (and those who do are already busy playing their existing games to add another). I might have one quest that actually leads me through the story, but it’s buried so deep under all of the other quests I can’t complete that I waste time digging through the unhelpful quest icons looking for what I need to do.

I could honestly see myself going into a classic RPG grinding trance in Outernauts, walking around and fighting enemies repeatedly in order to level up for my next fight, getting lost in the game for hours. What actually happens, though, is that I go into the game, I fight a few things, I start to get into it, and then the game tells me to go away, and my excitement level drops like a rock. I get frustrated at the game because I was having a lot of fun, and that frustration is the last thing I feel when I close down the game.

Therefore, the first thing I remember when I look at the game on my sidebar is this frustration, that I shouldn’t even bother clicking on it if it’s just going to leave me angry again when I close it.

As a serious gamer, I am obviously not the target audience for a game like this. I say this with every facebook game I try…. I am wanting something that this game cannot provide, so I’m going to stop wasting my time on it. I wish them luck in earning money from people who have more facebook-gaming friends and disposable income than I do.

For a Pixar movie, Brave was pretty disappointing.

June 24th, 2012

(Warning – spoilers)

I utterly agree with this review. I’ve had this movie getting my hopes up for the past year, and I had two or three different possible storylines in my head before watching it. Sadly, any of those would have probably been better than what I got.

I am mainly unable to ignore the giant gaping plot hole in the middle of the movie. Why, exactly, did she need to bring the bear with her into the castle? Couldn’t she have gone in to get the tapestry and some thread and brought it out to the bear?

And what part of the spell said that it had to be fixed near the bear? She could have gone in, with the bear hiding outside, fixed the tapestry (which is a perfectly natural thing for her to want to do, she can just say she regrets that she ruined her mom’s tapestry and wants to fix it as an apology, which is actually kinda the truth even if nothing supernatural is going on, so anyone who passed by should believe her), and then gone out to see if it worked.

No explanation was given for why she had to risk her mom’s life by sneaking her through a room of people who kill bears on sight and who are all actually carrying weapons at the time. She obviously didn’t need her mom’s help to fix the tapestry (I’m not sure how the bear would have done it anyway, with no thumbs), because she ended up doing it herself anyway. No explanation is given for why she apparently needs to bring the fixed tapestry TO her mother, as I would make the assumption that just fixing it would do the trick regardless of where the enchanted bear happens to be.

Also, I’m rather disappointed that they don’t really do anything more with the prince guy. I was hoping that they’d go back to HIS throne room and mend HIS broken engraving, and make HIM human again somehow. It’s really a bit sad that most of my better alternative storylines directly undermine the whole “female empowerment” thing that this movie was trying to do by causing the girl to fall in love with someone and realize that getting married isn’t so bad after all, but dammit, this is a disney princess story with no love interest!

They made all three of the suitors unlikable on purpose so that it felt less like she was objecting because she wasn’t ready to get married, and more because all three of her options were ugly as sin and she hates all three of them accordingly. You are rooting for her less because you agree with her viewpoint and more because you can’t stomach the thought of anyone getting married to any of them. I was personally rooting for the monster-bear to turn out to be a handsome prince like in Beauty and the Beast, and I was pretty sad that they just outright murdered him.

It plays out more like the parental-disobeyment fantasy that was The Little Mermaid. “I don’t agree with what my parents tell me to do, so I’m going to run away from home and consort with dangerous shady characters in order to get what I want, and see? Everything turned out just the way I wanted in the end, and everyone’s happy with it, especially my parents! I was right all along!”

But honestly, nothing at all was resolved. She thinks she got what she wanted, but all she ended up with was a compromise that she STILL has to choose one of those three horrendously ugly boys, but now she picks which one to marry based on which one can win her heart rather than which one is (perhaps accidentally) better at archery. It seemed to me like she still wouldn’t be allowed to choose whoever she wants. What happens when she’s older and she falls in love with someone who ISN’T the firstborn of one of the clan leaders? I sadly smell a sequel.

From the previews, I was expecting more of a “oh, you want to change your fate? *cackle evilly* Your new fate is to DIE!!” and gets teleported somewhere far away where she gets attacked by a bear, but she somehow befriends the bear and it helps her get back home to her family, because she misses her parents and they miss her, and upon defeating the evil witch and being reunited, they all come to a reasonable compromise about the situation.

Or the witch says “oh, you want a different fate? Here, take mine!” and switches bodies with her, so that the witch has the body of a young girl, and everyone else sees Merida as an old woman. Not sure where the bear comes in on that one though. Maybe she befriends the bear somehow so that she can have a powerful ally in hunting down the witch.

Maybe combine the two! Witch teleports her far away AND takes over her life, expecting that the girl will be killed by the bear and the witch will be free to enjoy the cushy life of a princess. Merida befriends the bear using her awesome courage and travels back home to stop the witch.

Ultimately, I think her request of the witch was utterly foolish. Ask to change your fate? Without giving any thought as to WHAT you are changing it to? Are you insane? That could be interpreted any number of ways. Do I just think this way after a lifetime of seeing this trope played out in terrible ways, and someone without such stories wouldn’t think about it? Honestly, she deserves it, after making such an open-ended request of someone who is so incredibly obsessed with bears. And we never do see her family’s reaction to the crazy number of bear knick-knacks that suddenly appear at the castle two weeks later.

But really, the witch doesn’t feel much like a villain. She doesn’t have any ulterior motive in doing any of this, other than “ooh, that thing is shiny AND IT HAS BEARS ON IT. Okay fine, I’ll make your stupid spell. Gimme!” She’s a well-meaning, misunderstood crazy person.

A Disney princess story that has neither a love interest nor a coherent villain? No wonder this movie was disappointing.

I will give it one thing, though, the music was astounding. I’ll leave you with my favorite song from this movie. It really makes me want to feel the wind beneath my wings again.