Blizzard’s WoW | Hopes and Fears for the Future

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If you enjoyed playing Blizzard’s popular MMORPG ‘World of Warcraft’ and longed for the days when you could take a jaunt into Southshore and kill the Horde or Alliance to your heart’s content, then you would have found a place to call home on the Nostalrius servers. It seems that over 800,000 users registered with the server and 150,000 currently active users agreed that the latest World of Warcraft iteration ‘Warlords of Draenor’ is not a patch on the original experience. An experience that is no longer a playable option through the official Blizzard servers.

In fact, since the ‘Cataclysm’ expansion much of the original Azeroth was changed beyond recognition. In some ways, this was an improvement as it freshened up the levelling experience for those who had been playing for a long time and were levelling up yet another ‘alt’ character through the same old content that they had done a million other times before. However, they didn’t just change the content they started to change the talent tree systems, and also made the levelling experience into a speedy hand-held race to the end level content which was achievable in a matter of a few days in play time. A lot of old school players disliked this and, as the falling subscription numbers confirm, Blizzard started to haemorrhage paying subscribers.

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One alternative for these players was to look to go for a private server which is run independent of Blizzard and is run by a community of volunteers. Now some may argue about piracy and the fact that these users were not actively paying a subscription to Blizzard which is essentially true but they were not paying anything to Nostalrius to play on their server either. It was a community led ‘preservation’ effort to allow people to play a game they loved and keep their interest and community alive. In fact there are servers available that cover each separate expansion so that you can choose which particular version of Blizzard’s worlds you want to play in.

In fact my own experience with World of Warcraft started on one of these private servers as I didn’t know whether I would like the game or not. I played on that server for a few months and decided I liked it so I moved over to the retail servers through Blizzard and purchased a subscription along with my wife and we stayed paying our monthly fees right up until Warlords of Draenor. In total that was around £30 per month for both of us for the duration of approximately 7 years. I can definitely say that I would never have done that if I hadn’t sampled the private server first.

It seems to me a bit suspicious that Blizzard chose this particular time to tackle this group of private servers, as they have essentially turned a blind eye to them for a number of years. Now, with a movie being released soon, a new expansion on the horizon and the creation of ‘Classic Battle.Net’ (The platform to play legacy Blizzard titles such as Diablo II, Warcraft III and Starcraft) could Blizzard be eyeing up the release of legacy servers to entice back some of the subscribers they have lost from the peak of 12 million 5 years ago to the current all-time low of 5.5 million? It would certainly make sense from a business standpoint to entice some of the old nostalgic players back at a time when you are releasing new content to pique curiosity and hope that they jump ship to the current expansion. It does seem however that they also run the risk of alienating a substantial player base that loved and cared about one of their franchises enough to keep the nostalgia alive and to allow others to join in with an experience that would otherwise have been lost forever.

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Am I saying that all of these servers are run in a completely legitimate way with no money changing hands between players and server owners? No, I am not that naive and there will be some shady practices going on out there which Blizzard has the right to chase down to serve notices upon. I can’t help but think that it would have been far more worth their while to work with the community and try to build on what was already established instead of shutting it down. Instead, they are forcing the people who enjoyed the original experience to either play the cut-down and scaled back non-community driven version of WoW that exists in the current expansion, or allow the game they invested so much time and effort into, to turn to a forgotten memory. In any case, the cease and desist notice means that Nostalrius servers will be no more on April 10th of this year. Maybe we will see Blizzard roll-out legacy servers? if they did I would be tempted to check it out for nostalgia sake but would it encourage me to progress through all of the content they have to offer? I doubt it very much as the sense of community just isn’t the same as it used to be.

Naval Action Preview (The Naval MMO).

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Naval Action is an early access title with grand ambitions for the MMO scene. In some ways Naval Action is aiming to be the age of sail game to beat, featuring a huge historically re-created map of the Caribbean, authentic ships and realistic naval combat. Upon booting up the game you’ll be asked to choose a Nation to represent (Great Britain in my case) and you’ll be given a starter ship (a basic Cutter). The nation you choose determines where on the enormous map you begin and then you’re pretty much left to your own devices. As is often the case with Early Access there is no tutorial, and by design Naval Action features very little hand-holding, but more on that later.

Eager to find out what the open-world sandbox nature of the game was like, I hit the ‘sail’ button as soon as I’d located it on the entirely placeholder but functional menu system. I took a moment to admire my little boat bobbing on the water then set sail and sped off in search of a battle. After sailing around for a while I engaged in combat with a random NPC and after much hammering of keys and baffled grunts of frustration I got my tiny little stern handed to me. I returned to port with my tail between my legs. It was clear I would need to do some research. With the help of some informative YouTubers, I returned to the game with some understanding of how I might succeed as an 18th Century naval captain. Although not an absolute sim, Naval Action does opt for the realistic approach: cannon ballistics, the pitching and rolling of the sea, and most importantly wind are all important factors to consider when sparring with other ships.

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Fortunately, Naval Action goes some way to helping you avoid fights you can’t possibly win, but when you do get into battle you are transported to a separate instance where you and up to 50 others can duke it out across the waves. From my experience, these instances are entirely clear of obstacles and land (even if you start a fight near the coast) so there’s no danger of running yourself or your opponent aground. You can also escape from a fight if you have the speed to pull away from your attacker, it will be interesting to see how these mechanics will translate to a drawn out chase or when hunting in groups. In most cases, however, battles are a tense balance of ammunition, crew and sail management, all while trying to manoeuvre to keep the wind in your sails and your target within reach. This is also where I suspect Naval Action will divide the crowd: battles are long. You should expect most 1 Vs 1 battles to last up to half an hour or more. Just as it was in days of yore, cannons are notoriously inaccurate, stick a dozen or more on a boat on the ocean and they become even more inaccurate. Thankfully there are plenty of firing options, it takes some practice, but you’ll soon be skipping iron balls across the water and into the exposed side of the bad guys.

Clearly, the most amount of polish has gone into these moments of combat; the sails and pennants flutter in the wind, while movement feels weighty and cannon fire leaves a dense cloud of smoke wafting across the deck. As you circle your prey, you can chip away at their hull armour to encourage leaks or employ grapeshot in an attempt to reduce their crew numbers, or use chain shot to shred their sails to reduce their speed. You can set your crew to prioritise sailing or gunning or set them to plug leaks and repair damage. You can even perform boarding actions if you can get close enough although, weirdly, boarding is played out by selecting actions in a turn-based mini game.

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Naval Action is an MMO, meaning lots of people can play it at once, and I sincerely hope they eventually do because it can feel a little sparsely populated at times. Of course, the main goal is to form large fleets and go on the rampage. You can also take control of ports, smuggle contraband, craft items, build ships or simply trade goods between ports. I’ve read, in a few places, that Naval Action is comparable to Eve Online. There is some truth to this comparison but the biggest caveat that sets Eve apart from other multiplayer games is its single server structure. Naval Action currently requires you to choose from four servers and any progress you make does not carry over. If however, this game does eventually migrate onto a single server, then it will open up a myriad of possibilities. Players would be able to form power blocs of controlled and contested territory, a player-driven economy would develop as a result thus making crafting and trade much more meaningful.

As an early access game, there are a few quibbles, navigation is all but left up to you, this is by design but it’s a design decision that doesn’t produce any gameplay, and getting lost isn’t much fun. The lack of any land mass appearing in battle instances is a minor disappointment; I think it would provide even more tactical options. And Naval Action is no slouch in the resources department, you’ll need a fairly beefy PC to pump the water up to max settings – pun not intended. None of these quibbles are deal breakers, if you’re playing Naval Action it’s because you like ship porn. And Naval Action is like the holy grail of ship porn. It’s deliriously beautiful to look at. Each screen is like Patrick O’Brian book cover (look it up, kids). It’s a real pleasure to look at. It’s a good job too, because you’ll need to commit a lot of time to advance to the next ship with more guns, sails and crew. And while it’s still early days for the game there are plenty of mechanics to learn and skills to master, it’s not a game that’s intended to pass a few hours on a rainy weekend if this is your niche you’ll be here for months, if not years to come. Better batten down the hatches, a storm’s a-coming.

Pros:

-Realistic 18th Century naval combat

-Beautiful environment

-Ships!

Cons:

-Challenging mechanics

-Resource intensive

-Needs more players!

Black Desert Online review

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Black Desert Online is an MMORPG with a vast open world to explore.  Its features include great graphics and character designs, with a multitude of crafting, housing, mounts and animal breeding to explore.  Topping this off is the opportunity to take part in large scale PvP castle sieges.

So I guess the obvious thing that most people will jump to with Black Desert Online is to compare to the behemoth that is World of Warcraft.  I guess it is an easy thing to do as World of Warcraft has dominated the MMORPG genre for decades but with Black Desert Online entering the ring, Blizzard may just have to step their game up!

The first thing that grabs your attention in the game is the graphics and the character models. There are eight classes in total and each of them has their own distinctive character model that can be customised extensively before beginning the game. Some of the scenery and play areas in the game are breathtaking, adding vibrancy to the whole fantasy setting of the game. There are a few gender locked classes, which I have to admit was a little surprising considering the expansive nature of the character creation options that are available to customise your character.  This sometimes doesn’t sit well with the fans of the genre, so I wasn’t expecting gender locked classes at all, however, to me personally it isn’t something that bothers me as much as some other people.

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The combat system is fluid and uses manual aiming and positioning of your character, this makes it feel like you are actively part of the action.  Tab targeting is there, but it certainly isn’t a click once and nuke down scenario for fighting.  The fluid motion and the use of combinations of attacks means you can see some truly breath-taking displays of movement when your character is fighting.  Whilst it does have combinations you can use, the basics are not too complicated to prevent a novice from being able to play immediately.  They have successfully managed to move away from the ‘rotation’ mentality that has permeated almost every other MMORPG out there today and, as a result, have a combat system that feels completely different to anything I have played before.  Enemies range from foxes, weasels and wolves to some truly enormous world bosses. These can be fought on foot or on the back of a mount if you so choose.

As far as PVP goes I didn’t have the opportunity to experience any myself as of yet, but the general consensus is that it is a great experience.  The need for skill in the combat system of the game and the fluid movement animations should make PvP an exciting and almost MOBA-like experience for the players.  It is also refreshing to see that there is no faction vs. faction PvP element to this game which is something that I haven’t seen any other game do so far.

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The one thing that did strike me in the time I have spent playing this game so far is that there is so much to do, learn and experience that I have spent most of my time sampling a little bit of everything.  I assume that this is what the game makers intended as it seems to cater for, whatever type of mood you are in and whatever gameplay you feel like experiencing at any given time.  If you feel a little hung-over and want to chill out you could go and fish for a while, feel like some fast and frantic gameplay then PvP is an option, feel like some story based gameplay? then go and do some questing and knowledge gathering. They have each base covered for whatever you would like to do with your gameplay time available.  I have to say that I managed to clock up around 30 hours in the game over the three days of advance access and I barely even started to get into the depths of what this game is able to offer.  Every aspect is covered in this game from guild Vs. guild, warfare, crafting, exploration and so much more that everyone could find something that they enjoy doing.

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One of the most complex systems for me to understand as a beginner to this game was the crafting system. A complex combination of needing housing, nodes and contribution points had me pulling my hair out trying to understand everything that was going on with it all. Once you throw in the employment of workers to gather on top of all that, I just had to leave it well alone to allow my brain to unscramble.

This is where I think the only negative comes in about Black Desert Online and it is something that could really affect the uptake of the game.  The explanation for the different aspects of the game leaves a lot to be desired.  It is either a long process of trying to figure it out by yourself or you have to try and find a friendly guild that will help explain things. However, if you like the challenge of discovering the different nuances of the game out for yourself then this is the perfect opportunity for you.

All in all, it is a gorgeous looking game that will appeal to a lot of people and it is something I would recommend to fans of the MMORPG genres but if you do pick it up be prepared to lose a good portion of your time exploring the areas and getting to grips with the complexities of the different systems.  I will be continuing my playtime with this game as it has so much potential and I will revisit this review at a later date to let you know how I get on with it

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Destiny Review Part 2

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Welcome to part 2 of the Frugal Gaming Destiny review! As Destiny’s content differs the more you play, our review is in 3 parts. At this point I’ve just reached level 20, completed the story missions and have spent a good few hours with it’s competitive multiplayer modes. And the main problem I’m having? I want more.

It seems the main criticism Destiny is receiving is from a lack of content, but I disagree with this. On the surface, it might seem that 4 worlds and 20-ish missions is a little light. But as I progress, the replay factor is becoming more and more apparent. Heroic Strike missions where difficutly is ramped up. Random world encounters that band together everyone currently in that zone. Weekly and daily specialised missions to earn special loot. There’s always something to do, and as the DLC inevitably starts to roll out, Destiny will only continue to expand and grow.

No, when I say I want more, it’s because Destiny is so satisfying to play. I simply don’t want it to stop. I’ve battled every alien race now, and each one is different and challenging. You can’t get close to the Cabal. Don’t aim for the Vex’s heads. These little nuances and AI differences make for a real variety, and keep the gamer constantly on his toes. An MMO is always going to be repetitive in it’s nature, but the gameplay is so satisfying and balanced here that this isn’t an issue. Bungie have spent their years refining the FPS, and it shows all throughout Destiny.

I would have liked to have seen more variation and enemy types within each species, but then I stop and think. If there’s 4/5 enemy types for each faction, then we’re already looking at more enemy types than any of the Halo games. Once again, I want more. Not because there isn’t sufficient content there already, but because it’s so good, I don’t want it to end.

Mars_patrol_01_1410173760The story (or complete lack of it) is undoubtedly a disappointment. I can’t recall any of the characters names, or indeed anything that happened during my playthrough. I love narrative in games, so this was especially disappointing. The game does well in setting the scene and tone through the design of the levels and of the warring factions, but it still felt like a large part of the game was missing due to a lack of narrative.

Another complaint I have is the complete lack of instruction or explanation the game gives to almost all of it’s mechanics. I’ve found myself collecting Spinmetal or Spirit Bloom, with absolutely no tips on what to do with them. It’s often the case that games these days hold a player’s hand far too much, but it feels that Destiny is trying to establish it’s own game language and methods without including the player. As time has passed I’ve found out processes and techniques from perseverance and other players, but it would have been nice if the game was able to show me these things from the start.

Moon_Story_Sword-of-Crota_02_1410174326As you can see, these criticisms are all fairly minor, as the game is fantastic. It’s deceptively complex in it’s scope and ambition, something for which perhaps it’s not given the full credit it deserves. As it’s combining the best bits of already great games, it’s hard to see Destiny as a new entity, rather a collection of already-done features. But Destiny IS doing something new, as this kind of game hasn’t been seen before. World of Warcraft has this kind of scope and world environments, but lacks the engaging gameplay and graphics. Call of Duty has this kind of graphical prowess and gunplay, but it’s nowhere near as in-depth and open-ended. As I continue to gain gear and delve further into the Crucible deathmatches, I see a game that still has a lot to offer, 20 hours in. I’ll be concluding my review in part 3, after I’ve played more of the higher-level level content and advanced further.

Destiny has started something that will only get better. Along with Titanfall and Watch Dogs, the next generation of gaming is off to a slower start than we initially expected, but the potential we are seeing is truly exciting. And I can’t wait to play more.

Score: 8/10

Preview- The Destiny Beta

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The Moon dust has settled. The Sparrows have been switched off, and all Guardians have returned to The Tower. The Destiny Beta is now over, and with it the game now retreats into its final hibernation period, until its release on the 9th of September. And after the brief glimpse we saw over the past week, September cannot come soon enough.

I’m not going to go into details and boring lists of unlockables and classes, but Destiny does feel deep. The search for better gear and items is perfectly balanced between the achievable and desirable. I can confidently say that there are few developers currently working that could stand even the remotest chance of pulling this off. Bungie are one of them, and they are doing it extremely well. I coveted items from the Factions, whilst still enjoying the new weaponry I was getting at the time. I wanted to go further and the game nurtured this, teasing you of things to come, rather than hitting you with content gulfs between levels.

mars-02-destiny_1402057687One of the criticisms I did have was how similar the classes appeared. When my Hunter, a ‘lone-wolf who lives for the perfect shot’, was able to equip a rocket launcher from pretty much the start, I questioned how fair this was on the Heavy Titan class, and how in fact the only factors separating the 3 choices is the special abilities each class uses. Hopefully the class sub-divisions and later-game content will help in diverging players, that it’s more nuanced and subtle than we can currently observe.

On the surface, you could be forgiven dismissing Destiny as something already done. A Frankenstein’s Monster of other game parts, all cobbled together to reach multiple target audiences. But when you start going down this road of questioning, it’s then you realise the potential this game has.

Moon_-_Screenshot_3_1402057688The game is like Borderlands, yet it’s much bigger in scope and online functionality. The game is like World of Warcraft, yet it’s much more reaction-based and console-focused. The game is like Call of Duty, yet it’s more engaging and has more purpose to its multiplayer. Games have been borrowing and stealing aspects off those that came before them since time began, but here it’s different. It doesn’t feel like aspects of other games, rather the start of a whole new approach. Halo’s DNA lingers within it, but this is a different animal.

The real test will be in just how much content is going to be there for people to play, and how they can make it exciting for players. Russia was great to explore, and didn’t feel too repetitive. If they can provide enough content of that quality, and supplement it fiercely with DLC, this game has a real chance of laying down the 10-years-plus legacy it’s hoping for. Bring on September.

Written by Brapscallion.

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Some other Frugal Gamers wanted to add their thoughts, here what they had to say…….

PridedLlama

The hype for Destiny had completely passed me by, everything I had seen before the beta looked bland and rather uninteresting. Having gone hands on with the beta, my interest has been piqued but I’m still not quite 100% sold. It looks, plays, and sounds fantastic, but questions remain over the amount of content on offer in the full game. With just 4 locations confirmed to be included, I’m thinking this may get old fast but I truly hope I’m wrong. The story and the rather short length of the actual story missions also sent alarm bells ringing. I think narrative always struggles in MMO’s. It must be hard to create the same sort of emotional engagement that Bungie has done so well in previous single player games in such an open and shared world. That being said, the beta has taken me from no interest whatsoever to a planned digital purchase. I’m cautiously optimistic, but like a lot of new franchises of the last generation, I don’t expect it will hit its stride until the second instalment.

UglyGeezer

I was worried for Destiny, so this ‘Beta’ was a smart move from Activision/Bungie. They’re clearly confident in their product to be rolling it out so publically. There has been evidence in the past that these sorts of demo’s can hurt sales, I’ve seen nothing but the opposite in our own community.
On the back of this demo, I pre-ordered myself. It’s the closest thing I’ve played to Phantasy Star Online since the Dreamcast days, that makes me happy.

My hope? Content and variety, lots of modes, lots of variety.
My fears? That it was all a bit straight faced and serious and lacked the laughs.

FrugalDaz

I was impressed. The game play was solid, the games looked beautiful and captured my interest at least. I hate RPG’s and that silly area with the shops and all got on my tits. If I want a gun, give me a gun… Don’t make me run around an annoying RPG village looking for a shopkeeper to buy it.