Home? Not Impressed Yet …

I decided to “try” Home yesterday just to see if there was any reason to log in daily, weekly; am I missing out?

Before jumping in [Home and this article] I think it is worth quoting two Home articles from the official’ish blog, which pretty much summed up my prior opinion of Home.

Midway games will be available on a pay-to-play model, but will also have free “timed plays.” And as you master each game (meaning: you pass level 10), you in turn unlock unlimited plays for that game. Add into this the 100 + rewards (one reward for each level of each game that you beat – including a free personal space), and we think you’ll find the Midway a great value. [source: Home blog]

Like a real arcade at a fair or on a midway, right? Micro transactions are a good way to slowly let your cash slip away.

“Andy’s Room” transports players to the world of Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the other toys owned by Andy Davis. Packed with mini-games and fun interactives, Andy’s Room is a must-have addition to your personal space collection. Pick yours up this Thursday from the Estates store in the PlayStation Home Mall. [source: Home blog]

Ah, another micro transaction.

After jumping into Home, I made a virtual avatar, and decked him out with my minimal choices in my wardrobe. If I do not want a “bland” online presence, it looks like I need to play to play; rather shop to add some personality. Same for my virtual home space, which was virtually empty.

I walked around and explored a little while in the main meeting area, played a fireworks mini game and won a sparkler, and walked around in the midway space (play to play, no thanks) and poked around in the mall.

One thing struck me over and over. In a MMORP such as WoW you are paying a monthly fee, which enables you to upgrade your character’s (avatar) appearance by earning new levels, items, etc. The best I can tell, in the world of Home, you get in for free, but in general you do not earn anything to change your avatar’s appearance. I could be wrong on this one; instead you use micro transactions to do the needful.

Maybe there are free game spaces, and options to earn free items, but I did not stick around long enough to see if I could uncover anything useful. I just cannot see myself paying $0.11 for a “cactus in a pot” decoration for my apartment. Forget about paying $1.99 (and probably a lot lower and much higher) for a new jacket for my avatar.

Good for Sony for striking gold. I could not believe the number of avatars that I saw running around that must have spent a decent amount of money in the mall. Every one of these clowns has given Sony some real money for an upgraded virtual appearance. I wonder how much they have spent decorating their home space?

With all that said, maybe I am being unduly harsh. If you are use to throwing money fees at an online service, this is really the same thing, assuming there is some value to be found in Home over and beyond playing dress up. I have yet to find it, but I admit that I did not look too hard yesterday. I’ll try again later.


LOTRO – Free Online Beta

Just for shits and giggles I signed up for the Lord of the Rings Online beta to see if I can get in on some of the relaunch fun before the actual free to play relaunch this fall. According to Eurogamer:

You’ll be able to play up to level 50 – the level cap of the original version of the game, Shadows of Angmar – for free. In the LOTRO Store, you will be able to purchase “convenience items”, expansion packs, premium content, additional character slots, potions and character customisation options.

We imagine that the content available to buy in the Store will include that currently sold in the Mines of Moria and Siege of Mirkwood expansions, which between them have raised the level cap to 65.

The VIP offering will grant unlimited access to all premium content, priority server access, five character slots, a shared bank slot and a monthly stipend of points to spend in the LOTRO store “for one low price”. The price is yet to be revealed.

I would like to give this a go just to try out the Middle Earth world, and the concept of free to play is perfect for my pocketbook. I really need to upgrade my laptop to something more suitable for gaming.

One really interesting bit of this story concerns Dungeons and Dragons Online, which went free to play last year.

Since its free-to-play relaunch in September 2009, Dungeons & Dragons Online has attracted one million players, boosted revenues by 500 per cent, and even doubled the number of traditional subscribers to the game. A recent survey put it as the third most-played MMO in the US after World of Warcraft and RuneScape.

Of course that is not WoW is a distant contender, but I imagine the free to play concept will continue to catch on with other MMOs looking for their nitche in the market.


WoW – canceled account again.

Over the weekend I decided to close down my WoW account. To be fair, WoW is a fun game, but I just do not get $14.95/month out of it. Around Thanksgiving or Christmas when I have a few days off I will probably reactivate the account, but for now I will move on to other interests.

After being inactive for 18 months, what did I learn? The game world definitely focuses on multiplayer interaction and leveling up as quickly as possible for raids, instances, prestige, and other whatnots. For the most part I play WoW solo, so I am probably missing out on all the good stuff, but I just do not have the free time to focus on leveling up my characters to try to get involved with the big boys.

Maybe next time I will tackle the game from a different angle and join a guild. I did that briefly the first time I played, but I only knew one person in the guild, so it was often impossible to hook up online with someone I knew. I still think that would make all the difference in the world.


Painful return to WoW

After 18 months, last night on a complete whim, I decide to return to World of WarCraft. After finding my finding my boxed version game – the older version with 5 painstakingly slow loading CDs – I installed the game. This took a good hour. At least it felt that way, but I was not closely watching the clock.

After installing the software, the game downloaded a bunch of stuff (patches, installers, the typically PC gaming crap). Of course I ran into problems right away, which reminded me of why I despise PC gaming. I could not get the f’ing WoW installer to work. Instead I got a nasty error message:

Unable to install. You need to be an admin user to install world of WarCraft.

WTF? I am using Vista and there is only one user. I started farting around with router settings with no luck. I was not too keen on turning off my virus scanner, but thankfully Google is only one step away. This error message is fairly common for Vista users.

Next up was more installing, patching, and the like. I guess my version of WoW was old enough to warrant 2-3 hours of downloading, including a new installer program. A little after midnight, I gave up for the night with the progress bar at around 61%. I think I started around 9PM, so after three hours of nonsense, I was still not ready to play.

My youngest son kicked me out of bed around 5:30 this morning, and after another hour of installing stuff, it looked like I was finally ready to make a return to WoW!

Ah, but nothing can be simple when it comes to PC gaming. I could not get the damn game to start. After signing into the game, I was presented with a blank screen. No buttons. No instructions. Nothing. The only thing I could select was the cancel “button” in the lower right hand corner.

WoW without buttons

What happened to the buttons?

Next up was a lot of searching. Much like my experiences with The Hunter, it looks like the Dell Inspiron 1525 is just not cut out for gaming. I thought I was at a dead end, but then I came across this UI corruption and GMA 965 chip set thread. While my drive update did not go exactly as outlined, this did fix the problem.

So I was able to get started again in Arathor with Tuldar (Dwarf L15 Hunter), Kaldur (Dwarf L14 Priest), and Faltutin (Gome L39 Mage). I entered the game again with Tuldar, but I really do not remember how in the heck to play the game. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I am sure things will come back to me straight away, but I am not considering just starting over with a new character.


WoW pushes towards the 12 million mark.

I think it is pretty damn impressive that the World of Warcraft (WoW) subscriber base is currently at 11.5 million.

Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard’s most recent World of Warcraft subscriber figures revealed 11.5 million users are signed up to the game, with those located in the US paying USD 15 a month to play online.

That is one hell of a cash cow. I have considered re-subscribing, but at $15/month I will probably not get value for my dollar. Not that WoW is not a fun game – it is highly addicting and fun to progress your character(s) skills. I had a great time with it when I did subscribe – I just never got into group gaming with random folks.


Women love WoW?

OK, I have to admit that this story really surprised me.

“It’s amazing how Nielsen can get these numbers but they’re reporting a total of 428,621 female WoW players while there are 675,713 male players within the age groups of 25 to 54.

The statistic is even more impressive when considering that an estimated 675,713 unique male players of the same age group logged into World of Warcraft during the period, indicating that the WoW gender gap may not be as large as some imagine.”

Who knew that women love WoW almost as much as men? I know that Blizzard claims to have millions of users, so I guess the rest are male teenagers? Surely there are not hundreds of thousands of girls slogging though WoW?


WoW – A Daunting Task

There are a couple of guys at work that I consider pretty serious WoW gamers.  These are guys with multiple L70 characters, which got me to thinking.  My mage just made L38, and is about 20% of the way to L39.  If I manage to clear one level per week, I am not going to hit L70 until January or February of 2008.  Yikes!

A level per week may not seem that unrealistic, but I would have to spend around 5 hours a week just to meet this goal.  Is 5 hours per week unrealistic?  For some weeks it may not be, but I only have so much free time a week to devote to gaming.  I doubt I would ever spend it all on WoW.  I think it has taken me 4-6 hours per level for the last three levels, and that is probably being a little generous.  In other words, I need to hit 20% of my experience bar each hour to stand a chance.  Ouch.  Even if I could manage 10 hours per week (and that is not going to happen), I would not reach L70 until October.

The long and short of it is that I have a whole new appreciation for those of you that have managed to reach every increasing heights in WoW.  For me, the reality of the time required to hit L70 is a daunting task.


WoW Monday

Since Chris threw down the gauntlet, I had to play some WoW tonight (second time in the last few days), but I am nowhere near closing in on 70th level.  I guess I am just not good at leveling, grinding, power gaming, or whatever you want to call it.  I have a nice little quest in front of my right now where I am taking on some L38-40 bad guys; each are good for around 500XP per kill (thanks to rest state experience catch-up).  I took out about 10 of these guys before calling it a night, which puts me just under half-way to L38.  I figure I could grind here 2-3 more times this week for about 30 minutes, and maybe, just maybe, I can level.

When I first started playing, Chris said get to L60.  Now it is get to L70.  I am just not so sure I have it in me, which makes me a WoW flunky or something.  I still have not been on a raid or played though an instance, so maybe I just more cut out to be a console gamer.  That reminds me; I still need to open Elder Scrolls.