Guild Wars 2 Microtransactions- My Take on Them

There has been a furor of sorts over the microtransaction (MTX) mechanics being implemented in Guild Wars 2. This has really got my mind going, thinking about how I'm perceiving this- and whether or not its a "game breaker". If you haven't read it yet, jump over to Mike O'Brien's blog post to read up on it before continuing to my take...

Got it? Moving on! Gems are the currency purchased with real-world money to buy cosmetic items, "services" and "time savers" from the MTX store. Gems can be traded to other players in-game for gold (the in-game currency you earn while adventuring). As ArenaNet has specifically stated that the MTX store will not offer players any items that grant them an advantage, I see no problem here. Even if the "services" are things such as limited use teleports to a guild mate's location, and "time savers" are things such as "20% additional XP for an hour potions", it doesn't unbalance the game. Consider my reasoning- The devs have already stated that there is no raid content, per se, at the end of the game. So, even if you rush to the end, there's not going to be the high-level raid for "uber raid armor set" that the traditional MMO players are used to. In World-vs-World PvP, all characters are set at max level when they enter the battlefield, so the match will be fair and balanced, relying on player skill. Even in the game world, your stats do not take a front seat to your skill, reaction time, etc. They're secondary. In addition, there is a third currency, karma, which is not tradeable, and is used to purchase the best items in the game. Also, do not forget the Hall of Monuments mechanic, which says that the rewards in GW2 are based on achievements, not power.

Now, the controversial part. At its core, trading gems for gold is essentially trading cash for gold, with an extra step. No matter how much you want to sugar coat it, if I buy a gem for $1, and trade it to Joe for 100 gold, I bought that 100 gold for a buck. However, knowing that neither gems nor gold will be purchasing "power items", I don't see a problem here. Joe gets the gems he wants to buy cosmetic/convenience items without paying real world money for them, I trade my unused gems for in-game gold that I can use for other things I want, and ArenaNet turns a dime. This keeps the free-to-play mechanic operational, while providing ArenaNet with an income stream to add additional game content. Everyone wins. I'm looking forward to seeing this game finished, and this MTX system implemented. If done correctly, this could finally break the subscription-based model that's so prevalent and open up a new, economically-friendly (read: recession-friendly) model for all future MMOs.


Bailouts, Our Money, and Firearms

You know, I've been thinking. AIG owns the leading company, American General. American General is known far and wide as being just a smidge shy of becoming a loan shark. AIG, as everyone in the world knows, has been kept afloat by federal tax dollars. Despite not being able to maintain its own livelyhood, AIG has paid hundreds of millions of dollars out to employees as "bonuses" meant to retain their services.

Here's where I draw the line. In my righteous opinion, if my lender is doing shady business practices, fails and is then supported by tax money that I pay in every year- I consider my loan from them fulfilled. Done. I take my car, house, what have you, and we're done.

Its the same with the banks that abused their station to prey on people who could not afford a home. They hype it up, get these people excited, and within a few years their rates adjust upwards out of their budget, and then the whole economy goes to hell.

I think its time for every tax payer in the US to stand up and say, "Screw you, corporate America. You abused your power. You became greedy, predatory, and blind to consumers' needs. You made bets you should not have and lost, and now you expect *me*, the citizen, to keep you afloat? Fine, if that's how you want it- the majority of your employees are deserving of the job and compensation they receive. But consider any and all debt I have to you paid in full since you're taking *my* tax money to remain in businesses. We're done here. If you don't like it, tough. Take it up with my friends Mr. Smith & Mr. Wesson."


BiG_Weasel reviews Dawn of War II

Years ago, my brother dragged me into the local comic/hobby shop, Werehouse Comix (yes, a werewolf was the mascot), owned by my good friend Mark.  He had been talking to some friends at school, and they were all about this new tabletop game called Warhammer 40k.  So, we scrounged up some money from our work (we were both teenagers at the time), and bought the starter set just to see what all the fuss was about.  The boxed set contained two starter forces- orks and space marines. He loved the oks, so I claimed the marines for myself (which was what I wanted anyway).  We played a few games just to get the jist of the rules, but before we knew it, we were knee-deep in minatures, dice, and playing games in the garage. Eventually, he stopped playing altogether, but I kept going for a few years and really enjoyed the game.

But what interested me most of all was the setting. Games Workshop has done an amazing job on the backstory of the game. Set in the 41st Millennia, the Imperium of Man is beset on all sides by enemies.  On the Golden Throne of Earth sits the immortal Emperor, saved at the point of death in his battle with the heretic Horus, preserved as corpse- revered as a diety.  The dark and gritty theme really registered with me.

As years came and went, I stopped playing 40k, but still loved the fiction. It wasn't until the original Dawn of War was released that I recalled how much I loved that world.  I bought up every expansion, and played through every campaign. Now that Dawn of War II has been released, I had to have it. So, I bought it, installed it, and I've had a tough time tearing myself away from it to write this review.

First, let me say that this is not a simple incrimental upgrade of DOW.  They've scaled back the scope of the game in multiplayer, and you'll rarely control more than a few squads at once.  There's no base-building, but you must upgrade your original base to gain access to new troop/vehicle types.  However, by doing so, they've created a great new tactical game, where cover, positioning, and reinforcements are all called into play. Sheer strength of numbers won't do the job alone (unless you're playing as the Tyranids).

The shining jewel of the game is the single-player campaign. This has you planet hopping, trying to quell ork uprisings, Eldar manipulations, and Tyranid swarm incursions.  You play  a commander of the Blood Ravens chapter, which was introduced in the original game, tasked with defending your recruiting worlds from the aforementioned aliens.  Your commander and squads gain experience for fighting and completing missions, allowing them to gain new abilities, and use the new wargear you pick up along the way. This expands greatly on the tactical flexibility of the game, because you can tailor your units for particualr missions.

I do believe that most DOW players will be put off at first by the changes from the first game. I myself had to adjust my play style to the new situation. However, the learning curve is fairly shallow, and RTS players should adpat within an hour or so of experimentation.  The game itself looks amazing, and the little details like destrucible buildings, missed shots kicking up dirt, etc really lend a lot to the new experience.  The system requirements aren't really all that steep, either.

Overall, I'm very pleased at the new changes, and I can't wait to see what they do with the expansions.  The only real gripe I have is that there are so few multiplayer maps out of the box. But, the single-player campaign alone more than makes it worth the price of admission.


My Forum Peeves

I joined Giant Bomb after the collapse of 1up, and have really enjoyed the forums. However, our forums here are no different from those on other gaming sites. Unfortunately, we often come across as uneducated thumb-jockeys, and I for one don't like it. A lot of posters to our forums should take note of a few simple things that'll help you sound at least somewhat intelligent.

  • Use punctuation. A period or comma now and then wouldn't kill you.
  • Capitalize your words when necessary.
  • Learn the difference between "There" (that's a place), "their" (that belongs to them), and "they're" (contraction of "they are").
  • LeetSpeak was never cool. Enough already.
  • The way to say a multitude of something is "a lot". The word "alot" doesn't exist.
  • Console/game bashing needs to end. Stop trying to justify your purchase. Sadly, the majority of console bashers are mad at themselves for making the wrong choice for their taste in games, and have to keep telling themselves their purchase is worth the money by moronic chest-thumping.
  • Comparing graphics on games is like comparing paint jobs on cars. Its all about what lies under the hood. Gamers forget that we play games to have fun, not so much to look at pretty flashing lights on our screen. I believe that Sara Palin would say "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig."
  • Baiting/Flaming is reserved for the US Congress. Please stop doing it on Giant Bomb.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

My Take on the Current State of Console Gaming

My fellow gamers, thank you for the opportunity to sum up the current state of video games. Although many of you are short-term players, a lot of you will recall the bygone days of the Atari 2600 like myself.  Over the years a lot has changed on the scene, and now we find ourself in yet another generation of consoles.  I'll tackle these one at a time.

First off, is the best-selling console on the market, the Nintendo Wii. Weighing in at a lean $250, when you can find one for purchase, it appears to be a bargain. However, the lack of good games, outside of first party releases, have left many gamers with a smallish white block adorning their shelves- myself included. There are a few  titles worth watching on the horizon for the "little box that could", but how they'll actually impliment the Wii's unique controls in a way that won't be just a gimmicky control scheme for a medicore game has yet to be determined.

To Nintendo, I say "bravo" for capturing the interest of grandmothers, parents and small children, all while suckering in your original audience with few worthwhile titles on your system.  Back in the day, you were the preferred console of the core gamer, but you've lost that ever since the N64's generation. Enjoy snowing the rest of your consumer base, Nintendo. The Wii I own will be the last of your consoles I'll ever own

Next up, is the always-untrusty Xbox 360. 2008 was a pretty good year for the console, with some decent exclusives hitting the shelves. However, the red-ringed wonder still hasn't alieviated the one thorn in its side- reliability.  Day in and day out, Giant Bomb is flooded with new posts of people having to call Microsoft for their coffin- and many are on their 2nd, 3rd or even 6th Xbox 360 console.

While we're on this, I shall say "shame on you!" to the Xbox gamers who continue to roll over and delude themselves into thinking that their purchase was justified.  A few decent-to-good exclusives are not worth going through the drill of holding your breath each time you turn on your console, hoping you won't see the red ring of death.  I myself had my 2nd generation Xbox 360 red ring on me, only to have it incorrectly repaired, then replaced, then promptly sold on Ebay.   Why do the hardcore Xboxers continually allow Microsoft to take you for a ride, time and time again?  And shame to you, Microsoft, for making your consumers suffer through this travesty. If there were a "lemon law" for consumer electronics, the 360 would never have made it past the first year.

And lastly, there's the Playstation 3.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen! The first two iterations of Sony's flagship system were phenomenal.  New franchises were launched, old franchises were updated, and good times were had by all. But, with the PS3, we're only just now beginning to see the upswing in the console's gaming library. A few exclusives, both current and future, are beginning to draw praise of the gaming media. The last few years, the PS3 has stayed in a distant third place to Microsoft and Nintendo.

To Sony, I'll offer a bit of advice on how to save your system. Firstly, decrease the price of the 80gb model $100 to a price point of $299.  In an economically troubled time like ours, discretionary purchases are heavily scrutinized, and every penny pinched. The PS3's current perceived value doesn't equal it's current sticker price.

Secondly, tout the benefits of PSN over Xbox Live.  Show that players can play games online without the need for additional service fees.  Thirdly, play to the biggest advantages PS3 have over their competition: You have more "core" games than the Wii, more reliable hardare than the 360 (and many of the same games as both).  Build up the perceived value through side-by-side comparisons. And fourth, advertise more. I see, on average, two Xbox commercials to every PS3 commercial.

Each console has their strengths and weaknesses, and sadly, I've yet to find one that's worth the price of admission. The Wii is amusing for a short time, but doesn't have the games to hold a gamer's interest for very long. The Xbox 360, despite the games, is so unreliable and unpredicable in that regard, that it's a gamble when you purchase and power it on.  The PS3, while more reliable, and with some decent exclusives, is so self-absorbed in its own "coolness" that it can't see the writing on the wall, and refuses to capitalize on the advantages it has over the competition. 

I think I'l ljust stick with my PC.


Why I like Warhammer Online

Many are the flame wars going on now between WoW players and WAR players, but I thought it may be good to put my two cents in as an ex-WoW player, and current WAR player. I left WoW before WOTLK after many months of being capped at 70, running all the same instances every weekend with my guild. While I enjoyed their company, fighting the same battles week in and week out got very stale, and I decided to leave the game.

I had been following the development of Warhammer Online since it changed hands over to Mythic. I was very impressed by what I saw, and was optimistic that the final product would be as good as they were touting. I managed to get into the closed beta (one of my many MMO beta forays), and was glad to see that the developers took every step of game creation seriously, and genuinely cared about what the players were saying about their game.

When the devs announced that they were cutting 4 out of the 6 capitol cities in favor of having a spawling city on each side of the good/evil line, I was a bit taken back. I was also upset that they removed a few classes they considered unbalanced for the game. However, after playing the game and understanding why they made these decisions, I believe it to be the best choice. I'm also very grateful that they continued to work on those cut classes and now they're adding them back into the game- for free to any player.

As for what I like about the game, there are several things. As an ex-WoWer, the game was easy to pick up and play. The interface is fairly similar, and the game mechanics still borrow heavily from the tried-and-true MMO formula. However its the unique features of the game that have really grabbed me.

My guildmates jokingly call me the "Tome junkie", because I'm absolutely addicted to unlocking every entry in the game's Tome of Knowledge. Think of it as collectable rewards for doing certain things in the game. You get XP, bonuses to abilities, new titles, etc all for completing these tasks. I liken it to collecting a set of baseball cards (or Pokemon for you younger set).

I also thoroughly enjoy the RvR in the game, which is their equivalent of PvP. Whereas in most games, PvP has very little effect on the day-to-day of the game world, WAR's RvR makes all the difference.  As the game's population advances, the struggle for control of the game world goes back and forth, until finally, one side can capture, sack and loot the other's capital city.

The open RvR of the game is unlike anything else on the market right now.  Taking a keep away from the enemy is very exciting, and involves the use of ballistae, battering rams, etc. It's really a sight to behold when you first experience it. WoW has nothing even remotely close to this.

The most important thing to me is the inclusion of additional classes, RvR scenarios, and additional content for free. The developers are working hard to keep the game fresh and give players something new, all while maintaining balance.  I'm very satisfied with my purchase of this game, and recommend it to anyone who'd like to try something different in their MMO.



I often find myself longing for the days of yore, back when each new game released was an event, and the subtle differences between similar games is what really made them stand out. As much as I enjoy today's games, I find the "newness" factor underwhelming. Could it be that I'm jaded, bored, and just plain old? My achy knee and increasing midsection would like to weigh in on that...

Recently, I've come to discover the joys of digging up old games- favorites of years past- and replaying them with the same gusto I had when they were released. As of the time of writing, I'm enjoying playing through the Legacy of Kain series on PC (I played them on PSX and PS2 back in the day).  I was thoroughly wrapped up in the storyline, the characters, and the world of Nosgoth when I first came across these games a decade or more ago.

Even now, I still enjoy picking up Mega Man's NES adventures on a nearly yearly (yes, I rhymed!) basis just for laughs. And what year would be complete without a stroll through Castlevania on or around Halloweeen? Just this past Christmas, I bought my 10-year old daughter a copy of Chrono Trigger for her DS, and she really has gotten into it whole-heartedly. She'll even admit that its a better game that a lot of the newer titles that have came out, Pokemon included.

Maybe there's something about the "charm" of the old school games that today's games are lacking. Everything on the market today marketed to the "core" gaming audience has to be cutting-edge, gritty, and adult-minded. What happened to the cutesy characters who had engaging gameplay, tongue-in-cheek humor, and were just plain fun? I was hoping the Wii would do that, but they've gotten too "niche" with the motion controls.

But, there's always hope. Some of the downloadable titles I've seen (Yay, Mega Man 9!) really spark that orignal feeling I had when 2D sidescrollers were the rage- that feeling of joy, of excitement, of youth.  Maybe, just maybe someone's paying attention. Maybe, against all hope, we'll see these games make a comeback. Maybe I won't have to dig up an NES in the future.