Risk of What Exactly? (or how WoW is like penny poker)

Posted by on January 14, 2010 - No Comments »

gobl0If you are an MMO player and bother to follow MMOs enough, then you likely have heard the term “Risk versus Reward” thrown around. For those of you who thought you were going to the home page of an investment firm or Hasbro, Risk versus Reward is a term MMO developers use to describe the concept that as you deal with more dangerous situations in the game (usually that means fighting more and bigger monsters), you should be rewarded with better stuff — more money and cooler more powerful items.

So, if I kill a lone level 1 goblin, I might find he carries 3 gold and a piece of lightly used chewing gum. If however, I manage to down a level 900 Swack Iron Dragon, I might be the new owner of a brand new piece of +10 Holy Avenger Chewing Gum of Slaying and seven gazillion gold pieces. It sounds straightforward and every game has some aspect of Risk v. Reward inherent in its design.

Yet somehow, it seems that the vast majority of MMOs get it wrong.

The inspiration for this post was a blurb in my last post in which I fawned over Darkfall’s PvE. I found myself asking why my high level WoW warlock and my max level CoX characters sat idle and why I can’t even be bothered to put in the night or two it would take to max out my Champions Online character. Certainly, all of these characters are on the top end of that risk/reward curve and in theory, should be very exciting to play — offering top tier payoffs for my exploits. So why are all of these characters trumped by my three-week old Darkfall noob who can barely take on two trolls at once and for whom a PvP encounter means almost certain ganking?

Some of it is novelty, of course. A new game is new and shiny and the old ones… not so much. I get that and admit that some of my excitement about Darkfall comes from its newness. However, by that respect, Champions Online is a relatively new game as well. It has a lot of shiny parts that I have not yet experienced and still, the excitement is not there — even with the promise of epic, superpowered battles and high-end gear.

Where do these games, and in fact, most other themepark games, go wrong?

questgiverOne of the big problems is that most themepark games are linear in their progression. You start with a level 1 character in Noob Village, do the obligatory starter/tutorial quests which will take you to level 6 by doing such scintillating tasks such as “Open Your Backpack”, “Bring a Pie to the Weapon Vendor”, and finally “Kill 10 Randy Badgers”. Killing the badgers is the big risk, which isn’t really a risk because by design, the badgers are easy to kill at your level.

Once you hit level 6, you get a quest that takes you to a new area, where you are asked to kill 10 Feral Wolves. Now the wolves are tougher… more risk right? Well, not really. See, like the badgers you fought in Noob Village, these wolves are designed for you to kill easily at your new level. The wolves have powered up, but so have you and so while the wolves are objectively tougher, relative to your new power level, they are the same as the badgers. Risk is relative.

This trend continues as you progress to max level. Each new area you enter brings you new “challenges”, but each challenge is specifically designed for characters of your power level. What this means is that while you do fight different creatures as you progress, their level of difficulty stays the same. You are essentially funneled by the game designers into encounters with low-risk.

The situation gets even worse when you realize that as you progress through the game, the rewards you obtain are carefully measured to be appropriate for a character of your level. Sure you are getting more experience per kill, but the experience you need to level has increased as well. You are getting more gold, but the costs to upkeep your gear, buys skills and crafting materials has gone up as well. You are getting cooler gear, but it is the same gear that all the other level 10 characters have — having it is no big deal, but not having it puts you behind your peers. Rewards are relative.

Ok, but what if you decide to game the system and instead of doing quests designed for your level, you do quests that are a few levels above yours? If you are a level 10 character and manage to complete a level 15 quest, it is very likely that your character exposed himself to a fair bit of risk and would expect a high reward. You might certainly get such a reward in the form of a level 15 item. This is exciting until you realize the item has a hard level requirement and so you can’t use it.

Of course, you can wait for your level 15 item, but then you are wasting time and inventory slots that you should be using to acquire items you could actually use. And by the time you reach level 15 and are able to use your spiffy item, it isn’t that great anymore relative to the other items you have access to and you are powerful enough to have gotten it easily. You’ve wasted time and inventory slots on an item that is, by the time you can use it, the same as everyone else’s — the return on your extra risk investment is negative.

Now this isn’t the whole story. Many themepark games have implemented mechanics that deal with some of the problems listed above. I would argue that instances such as WoW’s dungeons help counter the linearity of the quest lines as they offer an optional “high-risk” way to get some of the best rewards in the game. You don’t have to do them, but if you do, you will get cool stuff. The Champions Online developers understood that people were routinely doing quests above their level and so they removed the level requirements on quest rewards to encourage the practice. City of Heroes has difficulty sliders on its instanced missions with better experience and influence for taking on the higher levels.

These are all good ideas and they help the situation a little bit. Still, the whole concept of Risk versus Reward is predicated on the idea that the player is risking something in the hopes of gaining something more in return. Ultimately, this is the biggest flaw in today’s themepark MMOs: Nothing is ever risked!

When you die in WoW, you take a hit to the durability of your gear, but even if a piece of gear breaks it is easily repaired with some gold. CoX gives you experience debt when you die, but the amount of that debt has been reduced over time to the point where you can often be out of debt by just letting your teammates finish off the spawn that killed you. The only penalty for dying in Champions is having to fly back to the battle. So… all this talk about risk and reward and we end up realizing the sad fact that The Risk Is A Lie. (And don’t even ask me about the cake.)

acesBut if the risk is a lie, then the reward is a lie as well, isn’t it? If we are playing a linear game with no penalty for failure and no setbacks, aren’t we just playing a slightly more interactive version of ProgressQuest? Yeah, I know… 1300 words later and you ended up with a curmudgeon post… “blah, blah, blah, kids nowadays and their dumbed-down MMOs. When I played, pre-Trammel Asheron’s Call before the NGE…”

That’s not exactly where I am going with this. See, I like many of the MMOs in question. I enjoy WoW. I played CoX for years and Champs Online, while sporting some ugly flaws, is still a fun game. But I do think we need to consider the fact that something is lost when game designers completely remove risk from the equation.

Consider the game of poker. Theoretically, playing a friendly game with your kids “just for chips”, penny poker with your family, dollar poker with your buddies and no-limit poker at a casino are all the same. The value of the hands are the same, the mechanics of the game are the same… and yet, the games are vastly different. Bluffing in penny poker is often silly, because the cost to call you is trivial. I’ll glady pay 50 cents to watch you lay down a king-high against my pair of threes. Now, let’s make the same call when the bet is $1000, or $10000. *gulp*

Now I have something to lose and whether I call or not is going to depend on the game situation, how much I stand to win (if I win), what I know about you, the strength of my hand, what I know about the possible strength of your hand, and how you’ve bet previously. Turns out, poker has just a tiny bit to do with mechanics and a whole heck of a lot to do with betting and if you aren’t playing with risk, then you are essentially playing a different game, and in fact, an inferior game. (Or at least a much less complex game.)

Do MMOs have a lot to do with betting? I think Darkfall does. Every time I leave my bank, I am making a bet as to the success or failure of my mission. If I bring a lot of magical reagents, or high rank equipment with me, I can now take on bigger challenges and thus, make my trip more lucrative. However, I am taking the risk that if I die, I will lose the costly materials. WoW, CoX and CO don’t have this element of risk and reward.

Imagine a game mechanically identical to World of Warcraft in every way except that the death penalty included the real risk of item loss. Suddenly, the game dynamics change. Who you party with matters… especially if they can loot your corpse. How you get to a quest location is now important because you won’t want to chance running through high-level spawns, or to places where you could be ganked by the enemy. Choosing what equipment to wear into a dungeon would invole trying to be as effective as possible while still mitigating the risk of death. Dungeon tactics would have to be more meticulous and better executed as a party wipe could truly be disastrous. Rare items would indeed be rare because they would only be attained by people who were willing to make a that high-stakes bet.

Would that be a better game? Well, I am pretty sure I am on the wrong side of history here, but I am going to say that yes, World of DeathpenaltyCraft would be a better game. But my guess is that it would be a less popular game. Humans are risk-averse and a lot more people play penny poker than high-stakes poker (myself included). Appealing to a mass-market (a good thing) means taking the risk out of the game (a bad thing).

To me, the next interesting question is this: Is there a way to add elements of risk into themepark games without ruining their mass appeal? Free-for-all PvP with full loot is probably not the way to go, but are there other things we can do to add that exciting element of risk back into our designs? I’ll tackle that in a post or two. For now, happy hunting!

Bright Shadow Review

Posted by on January 13, 2010 - No Comments »

Bright Shadow is an anime styled MMORPG that was developed by the Taiwanese studio Seedo and is a mix of popular concepts. Most players will find it resembling R.O.S.E. Online, but don’t let the descriptions on most websites fool you – Bright Shadow has nothing horror in it and is just plain Asian fantasy that we are used to seeing everywhere.  So let’s begin this Bright Shadow review.



You will see how basic Bright Shadow is from the moment you start creating your character. The character customization, just like everything else in the game, is pretty minimalistic. You can customize your gender, hairstyle, hair color, face type and skin tone. The problem is that every aspect of the character creation system is limited to 4-5 choices and that’s it. There is just not enough in there to satisfy you. This entirely eliminates the chances of anyone feeling unique and you will meet one clone after another. Once you are finished with your character, you will be taken to the beginner’s village, where you will have to withstand a series of horrible tutorials presented in the form of tests. Those are incredibly boring and horribly written but are recommended just because of the godly amounts of experience they will earn you. You won’t have trouble with the controls – they are very simple and are done entirely through the mouse(but there is an option for WASD controls). The HUD also makes a clean appearance – almost everything important is on the screen and what’s not – is easily accessible through a simple menu.



The combat system of the game is your classical whack-a-mole. And while the combat of Bright Shadow is bit clunky and lacks variety, it has it’s ups as well. One such is the “soul power” system. You can view the SP bar at any time during gameplay, above your HP bar. Soul power serves a wide array of purposes, but the most important one is – for using and acquiring skills. Every skill in the game takes a certain amount of SP and you’re okay as long as you don’t run out. But that’s practically impossible since SP is acquired by slaying monsters. This makes this vital substance easy to get a hold of. You just kill enough monsters until you get to what I like to call “skill spam mode” where your SP is enough to just keep on skilling. As for the experience rate – it’s low enough to scare away even the most grindy of natures, but the transition between levels are done smoothly so once you get used to it you won’t have much trouble. If you get used to it, that is. Another interesting feature is the so-called Umbra guide which is a bestiary where you collect cards dropped by monsters. You can use those to gain access to different buffs and stat augmentations, which will help you in battles. The controls for the game are nothing to fear – simple and smooth point-and-click system, standard for so much hack ‘n slash. But the real problem of the combat mechanics is the enemy AI and the troublesome pathfinding. During your battles, some enemies will try flee due to low health. The perfect time to strike, you think.. until you realize that almost every fleeing enemy is impossible to hit until it stops, which only increases the length of the battle and makes your enemy a great target for ks-ing players.

Cash Shop


Like almost every free to play MMORPG out there, Bright Shadow earns its money through an item mall where players can spend loads of cash on customizing and empowering their characters, which results in a lack of balance. The item mall offers hairstyles, clothes, mounts and potions that have effects such as removing the death penalty or improving the SP consumption. This is where you will notice that players that actually pay for the game earn get better drops than you, hit harder than you, or have better stats. Which won’t be such a problem due to the lack of any kind of PvP mode, but is still a nuisance.

Role Playing

As you start the game you will have no choice of class whatsoever, at least until you reach level 10. This is where you can make your choice between the Warrior, Shaman, Healer or Machinist(ranged). While the balance between each class is at a decent level, the real problem comes with the lack of second class transfer like in most games built around this role-playing model. The developers have promised to introduce second class transfer with the first major addon to the game, but that will happen later on with the release of Episode one. For now do what you can do best in Bright Shadow – grind.

Graphics and sound


The graphics of Bright Shadow lack detail, but compensate with the great art style. Everything in the game looks cute and lovely, and the character models deserve special admirations. The environment, on the other hand, does not look that and is just too basic. The engine of the game is quite advanced for a free-to-play project: has it’s own weather system, the optimization is good and it handles itself pretty well. The only problem I can see with the visual presentation of the game is for people that dislike the overall anime art style, in which case I would not recommend you even trying out the game as you will most likely be disgusted. As for the music – it’s quite good and very easy to take in by anyone. So the general feel of the game’s presentation is nice, aside from the horribly written text messages.


The final verdict for Bright Shadow: a nice, but a bit too basic free-to-play MMORPG. The lack of detail and variety may frighten hardcore players, but fans of asian-styled MMO’s will find themselves filled with joy over the gameplay mechanics, who are nothing different or innovative, but are nicely done and surprisingly addictive.

More Heroics getting the Nerf Hammer!

Posted by on January 12, 2010 - No Comments »

Can't NERF This!!I have been running Heroics almost religiously since the new and improved Dungeon Finder was released by Blizzard. Rewards are great, the action is fast, and it provides a nice steady income of gold. The down side is some of the dungeons themselves. Oculus was a big group breaker and would “pop” too many times, but was fixed by Blizzard Bribery.

The new one I see pop way too often is Old Kingdom (O.K.). I have been getting O.K. once a day for the last week and half! Coincidence or maybe some evil Night Elf Hunter plan, well maybe. Either way Blizzard has decided to bring the nerf hammer down and address some player issues. Here is the quote from Blizzard;

Ahn’kahet, the Old Kingdom
With that said, we plan on making some changes to The Old Kingdom in the next minor patch. For instance, Elder Nadox will only get one Ahn’Kahar Guardian and Jadoga Shadowseeker will only use her Ascend ability once during their respective encounters. In addition, a couple of the stagnant groups of bad dudes between the Befouled Terrace and The Desecrated Altar will be removed, while some of the roaming groups will have their pathing altered. These changes are not to make this instance easier, but rather to make it a slightly quicker run and more in line with some of the other Wrath dungeons.
I think you mean Anomalus. Yes, he will use his Create Rift ability less often. [...] we’re continuing to learn that time and difficulty aren’t synonymous measurements. For instance, Anomalus could use his Create Rift ability 20 times before you could kill him if we wanted to make it so. This would increase the encounter’s difficulty by a negligible amount, the hardest part of which would be staying awake.

The Culling of Stratholme
We plan to do something to allow players a quicker start to this dungeon, however, the fix to the scripting is more complicated than the changes we’re making to some of the other dungeons and likely will not be ready for the next minor patch.

I, for one welcome these changes. Anything that makes these old dungeons speedier, not necessary easier also makes them more fun. With cataclysm rumored to be out later this year, I foresee many improvements and changes coming our way.

Hulkageddon II is Running Wild!

Posted by on January 11, 2010 - No Comments »

Yes folks, back by popular demand is Hulkageddon II! The properly named EVE Online contest sponsored by renowned pirate Helicity Boson of the Python Cartel has begun January 7th, 2010 and is running until January 14th, 2010.

The rules are simple: Kill any and all mining ships on sight, podkill the owners, rinse twice and repeat. The rinsing is optional. Are you competing? Then you can track your progress here.

Prizes are worth well over several billion ISK and there will be 2nd and 3rd prizes to the most pirates killing exumers and mining barges. There are also achievements to be awarded such as “Nobody Expects the Inquisition” - Most kills in Amarr Empire space.  And my favorite, “In W-Space no one can hear you scream” – For the most kills of mining and mining related vessels and their pods in wormhole space. And that’s where I live, great.

The first Hulkageddon that ran in 2009 yielded carnage of over 66 Exhumers, 22 mining barges and 27 pods. Already 2010 numbers are overwhelming last years contest with a death tally at 982 Exhumers, 238 Mining Barges and 199 capsules!

You might ask, “Doesn’t an attack in High Security space bring the wrath of concord?” The answer is yes, but the trick that worked so brilliantly in Hulkageddon 2009 was to fit a small fleet of catalysts with 8 smartbombs and blast away. If they lose a catalyst, big deal, they get it back in insurance and loot.  All for the greater good!

The short term effect: the price of Hulks, being the best mining exhumer in the game, has quadrupled. The price of ore and minerals has gone up, as expected since the amount of quantity supplied has tapered off a small bit. And it has become generally unsafe to mine, ANYWHERE, Muhahahaaa.

The long term effects: In my opinion this isn’t the last we are going to see of Helicity’s  Hulkageddon. There might be a III or IV even a Hulkageddon V in your future. Much like the SAW series of movies, some people get their kicks off of watching someone die.

This is going to turn mining into a contact sport and raise the prices of mining ships, blueprints and eventually send the price of minerals through the roof.

The good thing is that EVE Online is the only, THE ONLY game that can support this type of creativity and PvP element in an MMO. I can recall reading a post where the author said that EVE was not a PvP game … now where did I put that link…

Yes, I play City of Heroes/Villians

Posted by on January 11, 2010 - No Comments »

Fighting one of the giant monsters in City of Heroes

“Yes, I play City of Heroes/Villains”.   That is what I end up saying every time I go to buy a game time card at my local EB or GameStop.  With the upcoming release of the Going Rogue Expansion Pack and DCU Online on the way I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss what keeps bringing me back to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles since I started playing March 20th, 2005. City of Heroes began in April 27, 2004 in North America and in Europe (by NCsoft Europe) on February 4, 2005 with English, German and French language servers.  They started when MMO’s were just beginning to gain mass appeal, with the biggest competition coming from titles such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies and we all know what happened to Galaxies.  Billed as the first super-hero MMORPG it quickly caught on with people who were tired of fighting ogres or enemies in a galaxy, far, far away.  Since its creation NCSoft and Cryptic Studios merged to become Paragon Studios in 2009 to become a dedicated IP for the game.

At first I was very skeptical of having to keep paying for a game that I just bought.  Call me old school, but I used to think that you should only pay for a game once and updates should be free.  It was some co-workers of mine at the time that kept telling me I should give it a try.  So after many weeks of badgering I downloaded the 14 day free trial and was hooked.  Suddenly all of those reasons I had before melted away as I smote bad guys and righted wrongs.  Then when City of Villains came out, I could finally embrace the dark side, sans lightsaber, running rampant through a whole new zone and mission maps. What keeps the game fresh is the semi constant releasing of free updates called “issues”  that constantly adds new content to the game.

What really sets the game apart for me is character customization.  Unlike other games where the most you can change is the face and hair, COH goes far beyond those simple restrictions.  Not only can you adjust the face and hair, but there is a wide arrange of costume options (notably far more for the female body type) to choose from.   The customization increased with the release of issue 16 (Power Spectrum)   where the addition of changing the color of certain power sets was given.  Mind you there are some powers that are still off limits; most noticeable are the archetypes that are unlocked after a hero or villain reaches level 50.  By allowing this amount of creative freedom it really lets the player have a wide variety of looks for their character and lessens the chance that someone else is going around looking like you.  This does not stop people from trying to recreate their favorite comic book character, but be forewarned.  The game developers do frown upon that and you run the risk of being “genericed” by them.  This mean your character will not only get a completely new outfit of their choosing (which can’t be changed back by you), but you might lose your name as well.

Example of of An Arachnos Soldier you can unlock after you get a villian to 50

One of the funniest incidents to arise when the game came out was Marvel suing the company over copyright infringement due to the character creator.  Their beef was that the game allowed players to make their heroes look too much like copyrighted ones such as Wolverine or the Hulk.  They went even as far as taking NCSoft to court over this issue.  Suffice to say they did not win the battle and no changes were made to the creation engine.  As mentioned before the company makes sure that you keep your creations original and not clones of copyrighted characters.

Here’s a brief summary for all those who still are not familiar with it before I get any further.  The way the game works is right at the start you get 5 archetypes to choose from, whether you want to be a hero or villain.  Each archetype choice depends on the type of game play you enjoy in a MMORPG.

For the hero side if you want to be an up-close fighter then scrapper or tanker is good for you.  Both are primary a melee set with various types of defense power sets thrown in.  If you prefer to be more of a range fighter then you are looking at a blaster, defender or controller.  The advantages to the controller power set is more holds and buffs to fellow players where defenders can include buff, but functions more of an offensive power.

A tanker (foreground) confronts one of the game's arch villains, the mad scientist Dr. Vahzilok, in City of Heroes

A tanker (foreground) confronts one of the game's arch villains, the mad scientist Dr. Vahzilok, in City of Heroes

When it comes to villains the same rules basically apply, just with different names.  For those who prefer melee combat and high defenses Stalkers and Brutes are the way to go.  For more of a range fighter with some healing buffs then Corruptors are more your game.  Then things get interesting when it comes to villain archetypes.  Masterminds give you the leader of the pack feeling as you can control a gang of thugs, zombies, robots, ninjas or military minions along with a range power of your choice.  With Dominators you get various hold powers along with a newly introduce healing aura of sorts.

As you level up in both games you increase your powers potentiality with enhancements of various types, including damage, accuracy or defense.  The game allows you to customize each power slot to what you want to emphasize more, offense or defense.  There is even an option to do a respect on your character if you have tried a power in a set and it is not to your liking.  The only powers you cannot change with a respect are Epic power pools for heroes and patron power pools for villains.  There is a lot more to say about the game, but I will save that for another post.

What really keeps me playing COX (City of Heroes and Villains combined) is the community within the game.  To me a good part of what keeps you coming back to a game, especially with MMORPG’s, is the people you play with.  In the years I have been playing I still have a great group of people I meet with on a nightly or weekly basis that are fun and good game players.  Nothing frustrates me more than joining a pick-up group full of strangers and dying over and over again because of player stupidity and poor judgment.  Although watching the infamous “Leeroy Jenkins clip from W.O.W” may be funny, living it in game is another story.  Luckily the death penalty of debt in the game is far less impactful as it used to be.   To me a good MMORPG lives on the support of the users and can make a difference between it surviving and dying.  Key to the success of the franchise is the developer listening to the users and making changes from their suggestions.  The power color customization is prime example of something the fans wanted for years and the developers worked on to make it happen.

I know for many MMORPG users World of Warcraft is still widely popular and still has more than the estimated 124,939 subscribers that COX has, but that does not mean it makes it a better game.  I for one like the ability to get a travel power early in leveling and not having to run back to my body when I run out of health.  Nothing to me is more frustrating than wasting time trying to get back to a mission or instance door to try again.  Not to say COX is perfect, there are times when I get tired of playing the same maps over and over again and well fighting in caves is just in a word, annoying.  Still for all that bugs me there is enough that keeps me coming back, even if I take a breakfrom it every once and awhile.  To me that, the true test of any MMORPG is what makes you come back to play it on a regular basis.

Well there is a lot more I can say about COX, but I don’t want to be long winded on my first post.  In future posts I will give my take on the special events that take place in game such as the Winter Event which just ended.   With Going Rogue expansion on the horizon look for more in depth coverage and possible developer interviews in the works for a future post as well.

So as I and many fellow heroes and villains anxiously wait for issue 17 and the release of the Going Rogue expansion, I state that “yes I am proud to be a denizen of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles.  I enjoy every minute of it, whether I am punishing evil or beating up the good.  Yes, I do play City of Heroes and will play for months to come.”  In the words of the Great Stan “the Man” Lee, Excelsior!

Russel is a freelance writer, regular MMORPG user and professional podcaster – Ramble With Russel (http://ramblingruss.libsyn.com)

Funcom Turns To Blackmail

Posted by on January 11, 2010 - No Comments »


Former subscribers to Funcom’s Age of Conan are reporting that the company has changed its recruiting tactics.  Instead of luring former players back with higher XP, in-game items and other bonuses, Funcom has relegated itself to straight up blackmail.

Don’t resubscribe, then your characters below level 20 will be wiped from existence. From the e-mail:

“Dear customer,
Thank you for playing Age of Conan.
As part of our maintenance your account is now flagged to have your characters below level 20 deleted as part of maintenance. Please re-activate your account now to ensure that your characters progress and names stay intact.
As a welcome back offer we would like to give you a time-limited offer for 7 days of additional play time if you choose to re-subscribe now. Please click this link to use this special offer!”

Funcom’s marketing department, which I can only imagine is also Satan’s marketing department, has crossed the line with this.  The company is not only willing to blackmail its players into resubscribing, but then turns around and pretends that it’s a perk.  You’ll get 7 days of play time if you bite on the “special offer!”

Honestly Funcom, do you believe your subscribers are so stupid that they won’t see past this scheme?  It costs the company approximately nothing to keep our characters archived on the database, or it should if Funcom is doing it correctly, and yet we are threaten with deletion.  I know some people will resub to save their toons, but in the end the company has damned itself in my, and many other player’s eyes.

I don’t care if this is a technical decision because servers or databases are being merged.  It’s a horrible move, period.  End of story.

Thanks for making the decision to check out Age of Conan again an easy one.


ICC Trash: A Step in the Right Direction

Posted by on January 10, 2010 - No Comments »

ICCmobs For those of you who play World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, you might have noticed that trash mobs aren’t as mindless and boring as they used to be. Yes folks, gone are the days of trash pulls that required no thought. It has become standard these days for tanks to just round everything up and let dps just AoE everything down. But Blizzard has taken a step in the right direction and implemented a creative way to make every Icecrown Citadel (ICC)  raid unique.

The Lower Spire (First wing of ICC) has very unique trash mobs. Most of the mobs are made up of undead melee attackers that do a significant amount of AoE damage when killed. This discourages people from AoEing a large group of them down and also forces healers to pay more attention. There are also sets of spiders that web wrap random people and a skeleton mage that must be facing away from the raid since they shoot down a path of ice that does a lot of damage.

Now my personal favorite mob in Lower Spire is the big skeleton statues that are on the sides of the room. These guys can only be activated if someone steps on an alarm. The alarm is invisible and can only be seen by rogues (they need to be really close to it to see it). The alarm is put in random locations so it is always a new experience every time you do ICC. The mob itself cleaves hard and has an AoE silence so healers and dps need to watch for it. I absolutely love this mob because you could be fighting a whole pack of trash mobs and someone can trigger an alarm (or two) making the encounter much more difficult, fun and interesting.

Now for the new wing: Plagueworks. I haven’t spent a lot of time in there, but like the Lower Spire wing it seemed to have unique mobs and traps set up.

gas2As soon as you enter you will notice blue gas/steam coming out from the sides of the room. You need to move in between them because the gas will kill you. I know from firsthand experience..that gas hurts…..a lot.

I have only encountered the flying Val’kyr Herald in Plagueworks. She spawns essences that take on the form of a random raid member. The essence will use abilities that a normal player will use so if a healer is “copied” that essence will start healing. She seems to spawn these essences very frequently so pulling two Val’kyr Herald at once is a pain.

Giving trash encounters that element of surprise, that feeling of uncertainty is a refreshing break from what trash mobs in Ulduar, Trial of the Champions (free loot, no trash!), etc previously offered. Hopefully this trend will continue as the other wings of ICC open up giving us the biggest and most epic raid ever.

Most Anticipated MMOs of 2010

Posted by on January 8, 2010 - No Comments »

2010 has just started, but everyone knows true gamers never rest. Especially MMORPG gamers. So what better time to take a look at some of the most promising and popular games to be released? Below we will take a look at the most anticipated MMOs of 2010.

Star Wars: The Old Republic


The dream game of any Star Wars fan. Usually video games, especially MMOs, based on popular franchises such as Star Wars are everything else but promising. But this case is different. We have Bioware: one of the greatest developers of role playing games. Also, the game is based on an established series with a huge fanbase behind it(Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). The release date for Star Wars: The Old Republic is not announced yet, but is set for somewhere around late 2010.

Star Trek Online


This game suffers from the same syndrome as SW: TOR. But it just looks so damn good to pass on. Star Trek Online, in development by Cryptic Studios(the guys behind City of Heroes and Champions Online), promises advanced avatar customization, an incredible world to explore and a great deal of content to pleasure even the most whimsical of fans. Besides, the game’s release is just around the corner – February 2.

Final Fantasy XIV


The console MMO genre evolved a lot with the release of the last Final Fantasy MMORPG – Final Fantasy XI. And now Square Enix want to prove once again that MMORPG’s are just as good on consoles as they are on a PC. Although the new Final Fantasy promises much, all we have for proof right now are a few shots and rumors. Final Fantasy XIV‘s estimated release date is set for late 2010.

Global Agenda


Hi-rez studios’ debut game promises you a grand, elf-free exprience. Set in a sci-fi world during the 22nd century where player-made factions struggle for survival, this brand new shooter MMORPG is looking good. Especially with the Unreal 3 engine behind it. Global Agenda sets the bar to new heights with its dynamic PvP, player-driven world, strategy elements and just plain awesomeness. The game’s release game is closer than you think – February 1.

Guild Wars 2


The sequel to ArenaNet’s Guild Wars is a must-have for any fan of the original game. Bigger, better and more much massive. This is Guild Wars 2 in one sentence. ArenaNet also promise to continue the tradition of developing MMORPG’s with no monthly fees. The game is still in early development, but NCSoft have promised to release it no later than Q4 2010.

All Points Bulletin


All Points Bulletin or APB for short, is a Real Life MMORPG in development by Realtime Worlds, the guys behind Crackdown. All Points Bulletin will offer a robust character creation system, player controlled cities, two factions – Enforcers and Criminals and a very competitive gameplay experience. Not to mention the game looks amazing on screenshots and videos with the urban environment being a great alternative to fantasy dungeons and space ships. All Points Bulletin is set for release around Q1 2010.

Mortal Online


A first person MMORPG in development by Star Vault, Mortal Online promises to take you on a glorious fantasy trip with its hardcore role playing system, brutal world and competitive gameplay where you are free to choice your own path. Mortal Online is powered by the Unreal engine which makes for a beautiful and slick visual experience. The game is currently in beta testing and the estimated release date is Q2 2010.