Saturday, October 20, 2018

Geek Gab Talks About The New Halloween Film

The Father of Battleboars saw the new Halloween, and he has one of hell of a discussion with co-host Dorrinal about it and its context in the wider world of horror films. Well worth the time spent listening to it, or watching us in the chat.

I'll let Daddy Warpig speak for himself on how good (or not) this film is, because it's a nuanced view, but it's got a fatal flaw that marrs its potential to become a classic. There some Pedowood bullshit that taints the film, and some writing flaws that damage the narrative, but it seems to be worthwhile to Warpig if you're into horror films. Good to hear; horror may be cheap to make, but it's notoriously hard to do well because producers and other parties dismiss horror as a cheap cash-grab genre.

On a side note for the tabletop RPG fans: Palladium's offering their annual Christmas Grab Bags again, which you can order here. It's one of the best deals available for buying Palladium's products brand-new in print, and if you like any of their stuff this is a great way to get it. This includes both of Palladium's horror RPGs: Beyond The Supernatural (which you use for Halloween) and Dead Reign (for all things Zombie).

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Life In Fandom: Razorfist Warns You Off Daredevil's Season 3

The Razor rants about Daredevil's Season 3 and why you should give it a hard pass.

The best part? Taking the showrunner's shit-tier excuse for this hackwork apart with the words of a Hollywood 10 Communist--Albert Maltz--writing against doing just this thing.

The MCU is Kill. First the Network TV end, thanks to executive dickwaiving piss-contests. The Netflix (etc.) end? We knew this was coming when SJW bullshit got into Jessica Jones and Iron Fist, so it coming to the one clean show on that end of the continuity was inevitable. We already know what's coming for the films.

Hard Pass. That's what you're advised to do with this season, and with Marvel entirely going forward. DC? Might as well leave them behind also, and instead look for indies (e.g. Arkhaven) and foreign (European and Japanese) books for your comics needs when you're not mining the massive backlog from when Marvel and DC were good.

And if you want to know more about how this shit keeps happening, then Neon Revolt's expose on Pedowood player Franklin Leonard is your huckleberry.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Business: The Supreme Dark Lord Talks Indiegogo

For those wanting an update regarding Vox Day vs. Indiegogo, here is the archive of tonight's Darkstream addressing it.

The man needs no elaboration. If you backed before, but have been out of the loop, listen to this video and heed the man's instructions. If you decided to put down some cash now after what Indiegogo did, do likewise. This anti-competitive behavior cannot be tolerated, and since bestowing peaceful sunsets to the bad actors is not currently an option simply succeeding harder and faster is the best that can be done at this time. (Legal punishments notwithstanding, which is best left to the experts.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: The Failure of Island Expeditions

Battle For Azeroth added a few new instanced content options. One of these is "Island Expeditions", where the premise is that your man forms a team with two others to scout out small islands to explore and exploit for the new resource: Azerite. You do this in competition with an enemy team from the opposing faction, and the first team to collect "X" amount of Azerite wins.

Sounds like a fun competitive scenario, right? Searching out nodes, holding them long enough to exhaust them, occasional combat with the enemy team, and so on, right?


What we have here is an adaptation of the Rift system from Diablo 3: enter into an instance comprised of a pile of recycled art assets, fill up a progress bar as fast as you can, and maybe get something extra as a bonus when it's over. Do enough of them in a week and you get a bonus reward that powers up the expansion MacGuffin all men have ("The Heart of Azeroth", the Artifact Weapons of this expansion).

What this becomes in actual play is "GOGOGOGO!" style of play where the team rounds up as many hostile mobs as they can in a single pull, burns them down with Area Of Effect attacks at best speed, and any other objective is ignored because it's slower than just doing that. Since filling the progress bar determines who wins, and doing that fills it fastest, there is no exploration. You just attack the nearest mobs, and murderhobo your way across the map until you're done.

The sole exception is when this is done on PVP Mode; by default this is a PVE mode, where the enemy team are bots (and you can see your sides bots over by the NPC where you queue up to do this bitchwork), but on PVP Mode you actually have enemy players against you and that sufficiently changes the dynamic to restore (partially) the intended mode of play for Expeditions- for now. (Once they figure out that it's better to just race and ignore the other team, this will resume.)

The devs have had to adjust Expeditions several times already, first to fix bugs and other errors reported during the Beta and then to fix rare item drop rates to bribe players to keep queuing up for this snorefest. They are not fun, they don't do what they claim, and there is nothing to explore; if you get bored with the thought of farming randomly-generated dungeons for a slim shot at better loot (D3 Rifts) and the useless prestige of a high score or best time, then this is a flop for you- as is the case with most World of Warcraft players.

The point?

Either the devs are incompetent, despite access to all the data showing them the revealed preferences of the players over years of play, or they're cynically exploitative of the players in service to stakeholders who hold them in contempt (as most casinos do, since we're talking about the same slot machine psychology being used in MMOs). The former would believe that players would actually explore a map before racing to complete the game, while the latter expect that despite it being unsatisfying the Skinner Box systems in place would keep players playing indefinitely.


The users define the tools. Tools that have no purpose will be abandoned. Games and game systems are no different, something game designers routinely fail to comprehend; Island Expeditions are superfluous adjuncts to core gameplay modes that actually matter to World of Warcraft, which is why they failed- that they were designed in such an incompetent (and cynically exploitative) manner only makes their abandonment easier. No amount of additional maps, or mobs, etc. will change that until fundamental reformation of the underlying systems actually make players change how they approach playing this mode of gameplay- and the devs are too full of themselves to ever do that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Business: Razorfist Rants, "Fallout 76 Gameplay Emerges! (And It Blows)"

The Eloquence of Execution, Razorfist, put for a brief rant on the soon-to-crater Fallout: 76 and it dovetails nicely with what's going wrong with World of Warcraft and other big properties in gaming.

The thread? Cynical Skinner Box products with equally cynical User Retention schemes meant to squeeze maximum profit per user as the core concern, over gameplay and aesthetics and anything else you might think would be important to the health of a successful intellectual property in the gaming sphere.

Yes, this is a persistent problem. Rather than bother to figure out how to better satisfy your audience with fulfilling gameplay these companies wuss out like the soyboi bitches they inevitably have become and turn their games into gambling simulators cunningly concealed as the games whose corpses they wear as skinsuits. At least the CCG/TCG genre doesn't bullshit you into thinking that it's not about making you act like a slot slut; they're the honest whores here, sad to say. This? This is the hot chick who plays you into being her paypig while holding up her end as little as possible, like camwhores on Twitch.

Listen to the Razor. The only hard thing this game ought to get out of you is a hard pass.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Follow-Up: Asmongold Struck A Nerve

Yesterday Asmongold released a video. It's rather straight-forward (and lengthy).

This video prompted a Reddit thread at /r/wow and the response was huge. Reddit being Reddit, you had to sift for the better stuff, but overall the thread reveals that Asmongold's take was hardly a minority sentiment; the current state of the game isn't that good and the party responsible for its stewardship have failed.

In short, the disconnect between Dev and Player has been only getting worse (despite Legion) for years now- since Wrath of the Lich King. Asmongold calls the live game a Skinner Box for gambling addicts, and he's right; a lot of the frustrating systems changes over the years since Wrath have been just that- to turn the game into a series of slot machines meant to use known psychology to keep players playing for as long as they can before frustration sets in and they quit.

Why does this matter? Because World of Warcraft is what "RPG" means to most gamers world-wide, and that definition even filters back to tabletop RPGs (and has for years now, as D&D's 4th Edition shows). What seems to work here is what others will try to copy in their games, even in long-established games, because they (in cargo cult style) want to get the same results so they ape the forms accordingly. Mix in SJW bullshit, and a bad situation turns into a catastrophe wicked fast.

Is there a way out? Yes. Kill the RNG slot machine bullshit and return the game to a certainty of progress: do x, get y guaranteed. This is why private servers running older versions of the game have their following, such that Classic is officially a thing now:

Classic couldn't come at a better time really, assuming it comes out sometime next year of course. In terms of design and philosophy it's the complete opposite of retail, the negative reception to BfA is pretty much the best advertisement Classic could get. No more theme park and slot machine shit, just an old fashioned adventure with tons of heart put into it, and while that's not to say it doesn't have its flaws (because there are plenty) its core principles are so strong that they more than make up for them.

I await Classic for that reason. Compared to Live, Classic was as close to a proper RPG as any videogame could get. There's another big reason for why everything went wrong, but that's for another post.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: How To Piss Off Your Audience (World of Warcraft Edition)

Late last week, the World of Warcraft team's leader (Ion Hazziikotas) joined Blizzard Community Manager Josh Allen (aka Lore) for another Q&A livestream. The questions answered were already selected, meaning that answers were also likely prepared beforehand. Of course this community engagement went over with the usual grace and dignity, which means that it was a shitshow- obviously. (h/t to Taliesin & Evitel for the catchphrase)

Asmongold (pictured) and McConnell (offscreen) express common sentiments in the playerbase, which is why I'm using this long clip from the former's livestream of the Q&A as it happened. (For something closer to, say, The Alt-Right DM's takedowns of D&D5 and its terrible take on RPGs, HeelsvsBabyface will scratch your itch.)

This is how you piss off the audience that pays your bills and justifies your existence. There is a pattern expressed here that I need to spell out, and this is the pattern:

  • Game Dev makes a thing.
  • Players meet challenges in the thing in a manner wholly unintended or undesired by devs.
  • Devs condescend to Players instead of taking the hint and changing course to cater to clearly expressed Revealed Preferences.
  • Players say "Fuck This" and disengage increasingly until they go play something else that does cater to their preferences.

The key tell here is all about this Azerite Armor issue. (WOWHead's guide on Azerite Armor is here.) Because the devs screwed up the rollout, the intended process--farm up multiple sets, one for every Specialization your man will play--got junked by the Players in favor of going to the Reforging NPC and just re-selecting armor powers as necessary. Due to the escalating costs per Reforge, this got into the hundreds of thousands of gold for the most frequent users very fast; these users were also hardcore top-end raiders.

The Dev response, as seen here and in the Reddit AMA, is tone deaf; the correct response was to accept the players' preference as valid and tank the reforge costs down to trivial levels of expense. (Otherwise known as "Turning into the skid".) Look, when you make a widget and it turns out to be a better hammer than a wrench, you're a fucking retard to refuse to accept the reality that your widget is a hammer, but that's exactly what the WOW Team's doing here- and they wonder why there is so much acrimony over Battle For Azeroth.

The Devs are not fixing the problems because they refuse to admit that they are problems, or that the problems are what the players correctly identify as the actual problems, and this is very similar to tabletop RPG devs being tone deaf to what their audience actually wants (assuming that they're not out to replace the real audience with fakes like themselves).

The game isn't fun when the systems do not work. The error is compounded when those responsible for fixing it refuse to solve the problem properly, which is the case here, and until the circumstances allowing this cancer to persist change then the negative feedback loop will continue- and that means watching the biggest MMORPG ever collapse in real time. The possession by their own egos is the fault here, and until humility returns the problems cannot be solved properly, and if they won't seek it (and they won't) Nemesis will force it upon them.

And when I get to Island Expeditions, you'll see how this is not just about one key feature.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Narrative Warfare: Tragedy & Hope On "A Casual View of America: The Home Letters of Salomon de Rothschild, 1859-1861"

It's been a long while since Tragedy & Hope put out something normie-friendly on their YouTube channel, but that happened a few days ago. It's relevant to our present situation in the United States, and thus throughout the Western world in varying degrees. At just under 90 minutes, this podcast is less than your average Premier League match and a far better use of your time. Not light viewing, so be clean and sober; have your notepads handy. You're going to learn something today.

Book Tour of "A Casual View of America: The Home Letters of Salomon de Rothschild, 1859-1861" Edited by Signumd Diamond and Published by Stanford University Press, 1961.

The video description has links to Richard Grove's sources as well as the gear he used to make this video happen. If you prefer BitChute, there is a link at the YT page to the BitChute account.

This a Narrative Warfare post because the podcast is about how one of the most influential families in world history manipulated what information gets out, how, and why regarding a past event (The American Civil War) and compares it to contemporary parallels threatening a repeat of that event. That is the essence of what Narrative Warfare is, so that's why it has that categorization.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Narrative Warfare: Arkhaven Deplatformed From Indiegogo

I was going to do a post about game design today, built around yesterday's Q&A by the leader of the World of Warcraft team, but then this happened:

That's right. Hours after Bleeding Cool published an even-handed interview with Vox Day, Indiegogo not only shut down the already-concluded and very successful campaign for Alt-Hero: Q, they also refunded every backer (when that money should have already been disbursed to Arkhaven Comics) and perma-banned Arkhaven Comics from the platform altogether. The Supreme Dark Lord decided that this need immediate addressing, and so took it up during last night's Darkstream.

One does not cross the Dark Lord like this and expect impunity. The Vile Faceless Minions have been unleashed with orders to dig, and dig they shall. What they find will only strengthen the eventual choice for reprisal, as it is highly unlikely that what Indiegogo did is wholly legal- not with that much money involved, and certainly not when it should have already been in Arkhaven's hands. SJWs are stupid motherfuckers, so the odds of them being so thorough are slim to none; it's only a matter of time before the crack is found and then leverage can be applied- and I think a crack's already been found (a likely prior example already came up before 11pm Central Time last night).

Get your popcorn and notebooks ready folks. This will be both fun and educational.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Anime Informing #StarKnight: The Mecha

The Giant Robots are on parade here in #StarKnight, and one doesn't need to look long or hard to see both the Real and the Super versions out there. That means that you're going to find influences from the big boys on both sides--Gundam, Macross, Mazinger, Getter Robo--because it's impossible to avoid them; I won't get into them here. Instead, this is going to talk about lesser-known shows/manga/etc. that went into what's going down.

For the Real Robot side of things, the Knights In Giant Robots thing is what you should be noticing. That means Dunbine, Galiant, and Escaflowne (albeit with beam swords) because these heroes and villains get into sword fights in and out of their mecha. Just swap to lightsabers and you can see how and why I did just that with #StarKnight. Juxtaposing them are the GERWALK-style mook units such as the Goblin and Hobgoblin that Red Eyes makes his men pilot into battle (and, like their namesakes, die in droves), taking their cues from Orguss and Srungle.

For the Super Robot side, where some say "They're superhero stand-ins." I went one step further and (following Mazinger) made them mythology references. There's two in Book One, both are not subtle about what they refer to, and they do all sorts of Laws-of-Physics-Are-More-Like-Suggestions sort of shenanigans. Sure, you'll get your blazing swords and rocket punches and called out attacks, but there's a little bonus for those who know their mythology/history. They're at the level of plot-devices in Book One, but you'll see more of them as we go along.

Being that Book One is our introduction, the crazier stuff mecha shows have done are left out; gotta save something for the sequels. I'm doing some avoidance of well-known tropes in many of these shows, Super and Real alike, while changing others to suit my purposes. (If you're looking for Typical Mecha Protagonist, you want to keep an eye on the page--Creton--as he grows over the series; Roland's more like The Shadow or James Bond in that he's an Iconic Hero.)

Speaking of Later Books, here's something you can look forward to seeing, in terms of inspirational images:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Narrative Warfare: Peterson Is The Enemy's Asset

Jordan Peterson is not an ally against the SJW Death Cult. He is an insane fraud and has value only to the cult in the form of discrediting opposition. Once more, this time regarding the Kavenaugh matter, the Supreme Dark Lord hammers this witch good and hard. Tie the bent leaf to a stake and strike a match already.

While Peterson is insane, the rest of the Intellectual Dork Web figures are garden-variety frauds that know full well what bullshit they're spewing. All of them should be dealt with accordingly as frauds engaging in subversion of the nation and the country on behalf of hostile powers, and nothing less will get the job done at all- nevermind done properly.

From the Supreme Dark Lord's own post

Let me make it clear for you: Jordan Peterson is a used car salesman, except the used car he is selling is himself. Okay? He's not your dad, he's not your uncle, he is somebody who is making a lot of money off of you and people like you because you're dumb enough to fall for this guy! Look, I'm a writer, I am an editor, and I knew before I finished the first chapter of 12 Rules of Life that Jordan Peterson was an intellectual charlatan. Now, I will admit that I wasn't aware that he was a complete lunatic until I read Maps of Meaning. I didn't realize that there was something genuinely wrong with him until I read Maps of Meaning and I didn't realize how totally full of bullshit he is until I watched some of his videos.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

On The (Slow) Demise Of Google Plus

Google Plus will be shut down in August of next year. Folks are panicking about finding and getting alternatives up and running, suggesting this or that; I advise caution and making transition plans now while executing them slowly over the next 10 months. There is no need to hurry, folks, so calm down and take it nice and easy.

Most of the groups affected are tabletop RPG groups, who were among the few to find Google Plus sufficiently useful to stick around. Finding another place with sufficient similar functionality, especially if files are involved and privacy is a concern, is not an idle matter. Going off half-cocked, as I'm seeing some folks doing, is ill-advised; fortunately, it's also easily remedied at this point just by slowing down. Take the time to talk and consider your options, folks; you need to handle this like you would buying a car- decide what functions you need fulfilled, then pick the option that best does that.

As for myself, I've been asked for what social media services I can found at; this is now in the Contact tab, with the caveat that Twitter is the only one I'm actually active at as of this post (the rest, for the most part, are to drive traffic here). I don't even use my YouTube account for much other than chatting in others' channels when they're live, aside from the video I made for the campaign. (And yes, I've been told I should do more with it; I don't have a clue as to what.) I'm an old-timer in Internet reckoning, so I prefer blogs and email over most social media tech.

Which means I like a good rant, so here's Razorfist doing one on Ubisoft being Woke. That's where I'm taking off for today.

Monday, October 8, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: Battle For Azeroth - Warfronts Wanting

When I said that the World of Warcraft team consistently nails aesthetics but has lacking gameplay, these two videos showing what's coming in the 8.1 patch demonstrate this with aplomb. These are from the Public Test Realm, put up on WOWHead's YouTube channel, so things are (in theory) subject to change (but in practice it won't until it goes live and users find the bugs) but this looks feature-complete so at most it's tweaking and inserting cinematics.

What is only touched upon briefly, and only on the Horde video, is that all of this is a set up for the new Darkshore Warfront scenario. This requires remaking the overworld version of the zone (which will be phase-locked so characters below 110 won't be affected) into a mirror of what you get in the scenario; this has already been done with the Arathi Highlands. The new version is an end-game content zone, filled with rarespawn NPCs to farm and (hopefully) World Quest targets to kill while you wait for your faction to actually do the scenario.

Yes, Warfronts are a clusterfuck of a new content type. He's hyperbolic about it, but Az of HeelsvsBabyface isn't out of line with his rant about Warfronts.

There's nothing fun here. It's already a Solved Problem, so all you do is follow the known sureshot strategy and speed-run to victory and your welfare epics; you can chain-run scenarios, so you can gear up a character from the 320 item level minimum to 340+ in a few hours while watching Netflix (or whatever). The dumpster fire that is Looking For Raid isn't this easy (or boring). This should have been Player Versus Player, and the replacement for Battlegrounds, but no we get this instead; one look at the map for Arathi (and its clear rooting in Defense of the Ancients, the original MOBA map, down to Creep Waves and the win condition being the destruction of the enemy's core- personified in the enemy commander) makes this crystal clear.

They're a fuckup of a system, and Darkshore won't be any better. It'll just be the same thing with a new skin, and that's what is so disappointing. They could have, and should have, done this as a wholesale replacement for the old-and-busted Battleground system. That they didn't do this displays institutional incompetence far beyond what led to Warlords of Draenor because this was such an obvious course of action to take, and you can count on this bad influence showing up elsewhere.

Like the Island Expedition system.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

On The Occasion of My 44th Birthday

Today's my birthday. Forty-four trips around the sun are now complete.

It's been a quiet day, but a good one so far. My sister bought me tickets to a MN United game (and some buttons), my mother got me a gift card, I've had Chinese for lunch and there's apple pie waiting for after dinner. The Vikings are winning as I write this post, Cirsova's appearing on the Superversive Livestream, and the Metro City Boys will be live in about an hour from now.

I'm enjoying a day where I can truly relax and enjoy this world, flawed as it is, because it's got beauty in it yet despite the works of the monsters among us; that gift card's going to getting me some more of that treasure into my house. Speaking of dinner, that's time is coming up soon, so I'm going to wrap this up.

And I'm looking forward to writing this post a year from now, talking in part about how well Reavers of the Void did as well as where Books 2+ of #StarKnight are doing.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Anime Informing #StarKnight: Space Operas & Starship Action

Anime informed #StarKnight. There's no disputing this. There's a lot to account for, and I've written about many of them previously. You have the Leijiverse, especially its most famous part (Space Battleship Yamato), and of course the best Space Opera out of Japan: Legend of the Galactic Heroes. There's many more, and I've also talked about them previously.

Collectively, these are the shows where the fleet actions and hero ships of #StarKnight come from. Other influences include Dairugger XV (Vehicle Voltron for some of you.), with the bonus of the Super Robot angle, and Tytania. Each of the groups and players in these works have aesthetically and practical distinction that makes audience engagement easy to achieve; the Cosmo Force looks this way, the Free Planets Alliance looks that way, and so on.

It informed Reavers by having the Red Eyes pirates use either stolen ships or very simple original designs, reflecting their outsider status, and then the contrast comes easy by having House Ireton and the Solar Guard have aesthetically pleasing designs as well as superior discipline and coordination in their actions.

While we're not talking in terms of tens of thousands of warships (LoGH), we are talking about small fleet engagements; if you've seen Yamato's 2202 arc, you'll see some of the fleet actions between the Comet Empire and the Earth/Gamillas allied fleets. For hero ships, clearly that's Harlock and Yamato itself. Not that the Gundam guys have been slacking; it just takes time to make quality work, but it pays off when you get stuff like this. (From Origin 6.)

And that? That's a rough approximation of how the relationship between mecha and warships goes, in general; specifics will vary from book to book because each book covers different situations in different locations with different circumstances. (e.g. Macross Frontier's first fleet battle for comparison) Why? Among other things, it's because Super Robots and Real Robots relate differently to the same environment; Kotetsu Shin Jeeg gets into this.

Now combine these influences with the best of the West: Lensman, Star Wars, and others. That's how these influences mix together to create what you're going to see in #StarKnight.

Since some of these are available commercially in the United States, links:

Friday, October 5, 2018

My Life As A Writer: Something From Book Two

It's Friday. Time for something tantalizing to occupy your imagination for the weekend.

Imagine a lightsaber duel, in freefall, on Mars, as the combatants descend in parallel to the beanstalk anchoring a space station in low orbit while their allies scramble ships to catch them. To my knowledge, that's never been done before; it's going to be in Book Two of #StarKnight. Yes, one of the combatants is our man Lord Roland. The other is one of the villains of Book Two--which one is too early to reveal, other than to say it is not a returning villain--Go ahead and draw that if you like; I'm game for some fan art.

And that's not between giant robots. Not even powered armor. No, that's two men (albeit suited up) in freefall trying to kill each other with beam swords.

Yes, this means the plot outline is coming together. Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Business: Someone Got The Memo

Late last night Person of Wolfness alerted me to this TV series pilot. Now you get to watch it. It's about 30 minutes, so do it over your lunch break.

Besides seeing some old B5 alums get work again, I have this to say: someone, somewhere, got the memo and is at least trying to put out something that isn't utterly degenerate crap. This is crowdfunded, just like Anaxar was, and I hope it doesn't meet the same fate (that is, getting shut down); it helps a lot that this is an original IP and not a fan film.

What I want to point out is that this is another step towards dis-intermediating the extant gatekeepers (and the streaming services that would wish to replace them). Here you have a pilot with production values on part with (e.g.) Andromeda but with far smaller parties achieving those results, and that's a big deal; it means that making satisfactory live action film and TV is increasing within the reach of independent creators.

Don't be surprised if this goes to series, somehow, but that's beside the point. The point is that Pedowood and its counterparts elsewhere are no longer the only viable game in town for we in the West. (And, increasingly, you folks in the East also get the benefit of better indie production capacity.) Other changes need to come about to make full use of the potential, but this technical capacity is nonetheless encouraging; our friends will soon be able to leave Big Media just as we indie authors left the Big 5.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: Battle For Azeroth Summarized

It's been a few weeks since Battle For Azeroth launched for World of Warcraft. Already we've got problems, but first let me talk about the good stuff.

  • The art team nailed it, again.
  • Cinematics are fantastic.
  • The music is just as good.
  • The narratives are satisfactory, and often full of shout-outs to more famous examples of the genres presented.
  • The new hubs are different, distinct, and yet quite functional; you're not going to keep your Hearthstone bound to a location other than one of them (unless you're a Mage).

The problem is that, aside from the last part, those are aesthetics and aesthetics are not fundamental to commercial success in MMORPGs. Gameplay is, and that is what is severely lacking.

As with the past few expansions, the questing experience while leveling to the new cap is both speedy and satisfying. The route has already been optimized, such that an addon--Azeroth Auto-Pilot--is available to skip everything superfluous (cutscenes, non-relevant quests, etc.) to reaching the new endgame as fast as possible. The problem is that the past issue with replayability (with alternate characters) remains and as such the demand for speed-leveling addons remains; this is never a good sign, and that this still persists reveals not so much an issue with Blizzard (as this is an issue in all level-based games) as it is with the very concept of levels. (Which I have posted about previously.)

It's once you get to the cap that you start running into issues. There really isn't much to do. There is one raid, whose hardest difficulty requires stupid levels of metagame wankery to beat, and it's already been beaten. The dungeons are already getting stale, even with the revision of Mythic Plus, and the new content options have already started turning players off due to the lack of effort put into them- Warfronts (not PVP despite the name) and Island Expeditions (which might as well be Nephalim Rifts, as they feels the same in execution).

Crafting has already been revealed to be a joke in bad taste, the deflationary rebalancing of the economy is already taking its toll, and people are reacting with their feet: the unsubscription rate so soon after launch has been higher than expected. "WOD 2.0", a second Warlords of Draenor, is the summary meme for the problem-state the game is in right now. For my part, if there weren't two more playable race options to unlock I doubt I'd be playing either; putting two of them behind content gates from Legion and holding back two more for a future patch has not gone over well with the player base.

And yes, you come into this expansion grounded again, and you need to earn flight back in a two part Achievement- the latter half of which isn't in the game yet. Enjoy being stuck on the ground, despite the zones again being build with flight in mind.

And then there's the new gameplay systems: Azerite Armor and Power.

The Armor takes the place of class-specific gear sets from the raids. Each one has a set of traits attached, which you choose according to your character's class and specialization and limited by the level of your Heart of Azeroth medallion. The latter is your new widget, which are you expected to power up by farming Azerite Power; it levels up as you do so, and its level limits what your Armors can do. This would be staight-forward if not for the fact that higher-powered Armors require higher Heart levels to active; this means that an epic raid drop can be a downgrade in your power until you can activate its traits, which can be identical to an Armor you already wearing.

TL/DR: New system is over-complex, counter-intuitive, and runs contrary to expressed design objectives and thus is rightly shat upon by the players as being bad.

Recommended? Not at this time; if a later patch doesn't fix these problems, it will become a hard "no". For now, if you're not already in then stay away.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

My Life In Fandom: The Anime Informing #StarKnight

It's not a bad time to be an anime fan in the West. Not the best time--that was some years ago--but not that bad either, and hopefully the great days will come again soon.

But what is lacking is an appreciation for the great shows of yesteryear, the classics that defined genres, in the younger cohorts raised on streaming services and the outright glut of material coming out of Japan. It was telling when, some time ago, several of the marks doing reaction videos for Super Robot Wars X didn't recognize Aura Battler Dunbine or Nadia.

And mecha fans? Well, it's no secret that the Real Robot subgenre's dominance--specifically Gundam, with some also-rans--has been nigh-total since Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann over a decade ago. This matters to me because I'm mixing Real and Super Robots with #StarKnight, and I can't just rely on half-assed (memories of) Voltron for maximum impact. That's like writing a Sword & Planet series to an audience that doesn't know John Carter.

So, with a little help from my friends, allies, and associates--you know who you are--I'll spend some posts in the run up to launching Reavers of the Void on the Eastern side of things informing #StarKnight. (Don't you worry, the Western side will get its due.) Not all the time, but at least once a week or so, and if it's available in the US for streaming or sale I'll gladly link to where you can find it.

In the meantime, run on over to TV Tropes and (re-)read the pages on Mecha Shows, Giant Robots, Super Robots, and Real Robots. Oh, and some Space Operas, because those massive fleets didn't come from nowhere. As for some other common tropes, like The Power of Love in Music, that I can do upon request.

We'll come back to this later this week.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Year Four Begins Now

Welcome to Year Four of the Retreat.

No grand plans or goals to announce this time, as the trajectory I'm on makes such a thing moot. I'm making the transition to professional author, and that alone will dictate a lot of what goes into the blog and its sisters going forward. I won't turn this into a blog of relentless shilling; if you read Brian Niemeier's blog, then you know he talks about things of interest to him as often as he does things related to his work. You can expect that here also. In short, I plan no changes to how I go about using this platform, other than to have a backup prepared in case this goes down for some reason.

It's good to be able to say that. It means that I've reached the point where I know what I want to do, and I have a regular audience for it--those "thousand loyal readers"--so I've found my niche more or less and should instead focus on keeping that going as well as I can. In short, I found my footing and I'm standing firm on it now.

So let's get on with the new year then. There's adventures to be had, so let's go get them.