Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Monday.

Wow, what a lazy weekend I had. So lazy that I couldn't even bother to blog, despite the fact that I was basically home all day two days in a row. Sue me: I needed a break from thinking. New job that involves brain work + 70 miles of commuting every day = Jeff tired by Friday night. I think I did intend to blog, but every time I sat down at the PC, I somehow ended up playing WoW instead. Funny how that works.

I've said this already, but in Lich King, Blizzard has really outdone itself. The quest chains in Northrend (and for the Death Knights) are just outstanding--clever, engaging, funny, and in some places almost, if not revolutionary, then at least pointing the way towards what is likely to be at least part of the future of MMO gameplay. I'm talking specifically about the "phasing", which is the coolest thing I've seen in an MMO in a long time (other than Warhammer's public group quests, which also rock.) "Phasing," in WoW, means that the public zone you are in dynamically changes for you as you complete quests. In a way, this is somewhat of the holy grail that Chris Metzen was pining for years ago in an interview with me when WoW was still fairly early on. How do you make gamers really feel like they're having an impact on an MMO world? Rather than just being a guest at Disneyland, where nothing ever changes?

Phasing, it turns out, is an excellent answer to this question, and I'll be danged if I can even wrap my head around what exactly is happening. All I know is, you complete a quest, and the landscape around you, what NPCs are doing, whether a building is on fire or not, whatever, is now different for you than for players who have not yet completed that quest. You are not instanced. You are not on a separate server. You are still right there in the game with everyone, in that zone, but it now all looks different--and it is done without a load screen either. The fact that it is invisible this way is just astounding, and opens up worlds of possibilities now for storytelling in massive multiplayer games. This is just a first iteration of it. And what's funny is that Blizzard didn't even really tout this as a big deal for this expansion, nor has the gaming media really focused much attention on it. But I think it's going to go down as a landmark in MMO design and will influence games (and maybe not just MMOs) for years to come.

Jeez. There I go about WoW again. Sorry. I'm just fully addicted again and yes I know there are tons of other games to play, including some made by the company I work for, which you should all support, vigorously, with your cash! But back to WoW. I'm level 73 now and am having a blast with the new instances (put me in the camp that is happier that they are shorter and easier). And, personal query to fellow warlocks: I think I'm bailing on Destruction for now, but can't decide between Demonology and Affliction. I heart the Felguard, so I'm tempted to go that way, but conventional wisdom seems to have deemed Affliction the new cool spec. I dunno. Given I'm mostly a soloer, what should I do?

In other news, my back and leg are feeling a little better, thanks to my new regime of exercises, and my new consciousness about my posture and chair position. Thank you, physical therapist! And thank you blogger palz for all yer advice, too.

Finally, since I am no longer running, and have yet to pick an alternate form of good cardiovascular exercise (I'm still temporarily banned by my PT anyway), this means I need to watch what I eat a little better. Because I am sort of watching my formerly svelte figure (okay, so it hasn't been svelte for 30 years, whatever), getting a bit, oh, shall we say....rotund? No, we shant. That's too harsh. But yeah. One needs to watch it a bit. One does not want to be called Obesio McFattypants behind one's flabby back.

Which is why the EA Holiday party, this past Saturday night, was a bit of a disaster for me. I actually hadn't intended to go, at first. Not being much of a party guy, for one, but also cuz I actually had plans for a different party that I really did want to go to--but that one ended up getting canceled. So, the wife and I put on our fancy clothes (i.e. I ironed my Fallout t-shirt and wore the levis without the holes and spaghetti stains), and headed over to the swanktastic party in downtown San Francisco, which ended up being quite fun, for, ya know, an office Xmas party. One might be a little bothered by the fact that they had one of these given 1) the economy and 2) recent layoffs and game cancellations, but, hey, the people need their Xmas party too, even us Hebrew folk, and canceling altogether would probably be even more depressing. So they had one. And it was good and not overly obnoxiously extravagant the way they probably were back in The Salad Days. In any case, the point is that there was a LOT of food there, and most of it was not of the healthy variety. For example, there was this kinda stuff all over the place:

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Looks great, doesn't it? THAT'S WHY I ATE TWO TONS OF IT. There were also heaping, gigantic spreads of sushi, pasta, pizza, burgers, paella, etc etc etc. And why have just one kind of french fries when you can have three?

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The next day, Sunday, I sat down and watched five hours of documentaries on Africa. Now not only did I feel like a heaving, bloated oafsicle, but I felt guilty too.

YEAH SO THANKS A LOT FOR THE GREAT PARTY, EA.

47 comments:

Macroe said...

Thanks a lot for keeping your blog up. I really look forward to the time when you decide to trickle down more from your job than the yummy photos at the EA Xmas party. I do have a nagging suspicion that the photos were sim food... When will you podcast again Jeff? Anyway, best of luck and may I suggest swimming as your next cardiovascular sport?

Macroe said...

and since I'm at the top of the comments world baby (yay!), will you participate in Shawn's Elliott upcoming essay battle of the gaming illuminati? Looks to me like he wants to write a p.h.d. thesis.

Jeff Green said...

That bastard didn't invite me. :(

To be fair, though, the list seems to be heavy on the ex-Ziffers already (him, Shoe, Davison...)

tomsamson said...

Well,as usual i´m busy coding (this time playing around with iPhone stuff :) ) so not that much time :( :)
Read your post in the coffee break and its enyoable and witty as ever :)
I agree Phasing will influence the game world a lot in the future (although the idea that one sees the world totally different than all others around one did give me a weird feel of being on a trip in some way, but yeah, way better than player actions not having any effect on the game world at all).
Xmas party sounds good for a employer party, regarding staying fit more than anything else you should go swimming, least problematic for the bones and all :)

Macroe said...

Shall we do a FUCK THE RETRONAUTS on Mr. Elliott? A word from you Sir will raise your legions... though I can't necessarily say that's a good thing. Too many crazy fanboys out here!

Eric F said...

Hey Jeff:

http://www.wowhead.com/?talent=IcxMbhZ0gIzsg0icsMzZV

That's the build I'm using, I'm confident you'll a) have fun, b) be awesome at soloing as a warlock. Felguard + Drain Life + Dots + Shadowbolt = fun without any downtime at all. Also, level up Affliction when you're on the long haul to 80, and then totally respec however you feel once there.

And! Where IS this "phasing" you speak of? At least in Borean & Howling, I haven't come across anything like that. But it sounds like a good solution to the "MMO story" problem that, although just an illusion, at least makes the player feel like they're doing something.

Bailey said...

I feel your pain, trying to lose a bit of weight at the moment but there is so much tasty Christmas food floating around at the moment.

Anonymous said...

affliction spec for your lock all the way, its so amazing in pvp and in pve you never run out of mana or health if youre careful and know what youre doing.

TheK3vin said...

I played affliction most for most of my warlock's life, and loved (almost) every second of it. The feeling of laying DoT after DoT on your enemy to the point where they die a slow, painful death before they even reach you is awesome. Plus, with Haunt added now? Fughedaboutit.

Hanjun said...

EA has a history with Take Two. That's why Elliott left you out. Welcome to the corporate world, Jeff Green. By the way, fine performance on Saturday, 21 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. You must be the greatest Jewish basketball player ever.

Forest said...

Totally off-topic but I remembered you talking about the minutemen on a really old podcast and I watched a documentary on them on Sundance this weekend. It was totally rad and made me want to check them out. It was really interesting when they were talking about how punks said they werent punk when they had people from bands like black flag defending the minutemen.

thechosen2nd said...

If I'm part of the family do I get a Hanukkah present or get to come to EA with you on "Bring your ______ to work day"?

Demian said...

Jeff you have to check out the long wyrmrest temple quest chain(s) in Dragon Blight. I just finished them last night, and there was some MAJOR phasing going on. I want to talk about it but it'd be spoilertastic.

evilkumquat said...

Eric F: You'll get a good sample of "Phasing" when you complete the quest chain in front of the Lich King's gate three or four zones in.

Enjoy the screams.

On a related note, I'm not too fond of some of the phasing. The other day a friend of mine landed in a different "Phase" of Org while I was trying to get him in my group to finish some other quest chains, and I was stuck for waiting about 20 minutes for him to finish the zone so we could both be at Org together again.

It was a very odd feeling running to Org, standing RIGHT ON HIS DOT and listening to him bitch about not seeing me before it finally occurred to me what was going on.

This isn't a complaining about LK, but rather an observation: have you noticed how much more "grim" some of the quests have become? So far, there have been two or three torture quests (where you literally have to sit there and "torture" a mob to garner info from him), three or four corpse desecration quests and two or three child stealing quests.

Finally, the "cut scene" you receive at the end of the chain I mentioned at the beginning of this post disappointed me. One thing Blizzard does as well as everything else the do well (have they EVER made a bad game?) is animation. Sadly, the first big "cut scene" in the game isn't animated; it just uses game mechanics to tell the story.

They had two years. They couldn't have animated it like they did with the other cut scenes from releases past?

Delerat said...

Damn I haven't been to a big dinner like that in awhile. Makes me want to go out to an all-you-can-eat buffet!

I just got into WoW a week ago when a certain Legendary Thread tore down the last of my defenses. I'm really enjoying it thus far, but it'll be awhile before I get to check out this new phasing stuff.

As for watching your weight, maybe you should put in some time on the Wii. Nothing burns calories as good as flailing like an idiot does. ;)

Robert said...

Man, I know that tendancy that wow boots up instead of what you had in mind.
I can't count the times, for example, I'm gonna play another game with a few pals, but they end up waiting for me because I've started up wow automagically. I mean, It's not matter of a wrong click, even beyond launcher etc.
Extra in to the game now that I dinged 80 last night, which I had to stay up till 4 to do...

Looks to had been a great party indeed. Did they possibly have the best apple purée you've ever tasted? I went to such company party once, and I have not tasted anything like it since. I miss it.

Michael Auerswald said...

Hey Jeff, for your backproblems I suggest swimming. Did wonders for mine.

loserGenius said...

Been a reader of your web log for quite some time and the section that keeps me coming back is the "what'ya eatin" one. That said, i think i know why you are feeling bloated and round lately. You eat nothing but carbs. Just last night you had pasta AND bread AND beer. ALL CARBS!

Anonymous said...

Damn Shawn Elliott and his symposium. No Jeff Green but Robert Ashley. This is why I cannot trust anyone I would blame the French like I do most things but I might get banned. I guess he thinks Jeff would be too busy or without a copy editor would hand in his essay late but damn it. I am sure he did not invite Jeff because he is going to attack EA. OK EA had a few years of being the EVIL EMPIRE but come on they are trying look at Mirrors Edge. Why not invite you Jeff since you were around before the start of games reviews and merely middle aged when they started. OK I am kidding just have a free lunch hour and well nothing to do. Have fun. Damn just fond out Leigh Alexander is a girl now it Shawn’s symposium is invalid.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, there is some awesome phasing too when you want to start getting rep with Ebon Blade.

As for leveling, I would strongly reccomend felguard till you hit 80. Felguard is the new voidwalker and can keep the mobs off you long enough to burn them.

Once you hit Naxx though all pet specs should be reconsidered because your pet dies in almost every fight.

Also Kirin Tor reputation first for the spellblade at revered. FYI

-Oni

camnipotent said...

Mr. Green,

I'd definitely go Affliction. I used to be Demonology because I thought there was nothing cooler than a Felguard, but when it came down to it, the Voidwalker is a much better tank. If you're trying to solo most of the new stuff, I'm sure Demonology would help a bit, but I think Afflication and using your Void will help you melt faces faster. Max out Afflication and put the rest of your stuff in Destruction (Shadow Bolt 5/5) and you'll have a competitive character.

Best,

Cam

piratebrido said...

I'm kind of intimidated by WOW now. Never ever played it, but I feel I have missed the boat on it. Starting as a level 1 newb is a daunting thought.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, why can't you stop a random person on the street and borrow their phone?

Is that not how you do it in America? :/

Wetzel said...

I know that they kind of have to have a Christmas party, but to one of this degree after massive layoffs just seems to lack class. Did they really need massive amounts of candy and three kinds of french fries? I'm sure they could have cut back enough to prevent laying off at least one person.

John Rivett said...

Was there any "Goffio" or Nuclear waste candy at the EA spread? Or ear wax jelly bellys?

awa64 said...

As an Affliction warlock, I couldn't be happier. Felhunter is great, Dark Pact (using your Felhunter as a mana battery that refills faster when critting) is amazing, and between Haunt and Drain Life, you end fights with more health than you started them.

I've never actually *tried* deep demonology, but I've heard the Demon Form's kinda lame. If you want to keep Demonology, I'd suggest only going to the Felguard and using the rest of your points in other trees.

Jeff Green said...

So I went Demonology--for now at least. Just cuz I'm familiar with it. Demon form seems a bit weak though--30 seconds?? Bah.

Next respec will be Affliction fo shizzee

kicktheburger said...

Jeff,

Have you tried the web game Auditorium yet? I heard about it on the GWJ podcast. It's really cool.

Anonymous said...

Loved your work at your previous job and am enjoying your blog so please keep it up!

Tydigame said...

Phasing sounds like some kind of Philip K. Dick concept: you're already in this metareality of WoW populated by simultaneously real and unreal people, and then overlayed on top of that is the fact that even that fake reality is subjective and unshared. Pretty soon you're going to find out the NPCs are really real people and all the players you don't know are bots, and they're conspiring to keep secret from you the fact that you're one too.

Brandon said...

prefer Affliction to Demo any day of the week.

Gunsakimbo said...

You know.. it's weird. I never realized how buff you were until that one old picture of you dead asleep next to your then-young cat. Was that from all the prison?

Mike Heagerty said...

Nice Christmas party.

Gentry said...

I'm leveling a 64 warlock, and I'm confused about what talent spec to go with too. I'm looking forward to the promised dual spec feature that will allow switching between two different specs. Maybe that will make it easier to compare. I'm using a felguard for now.

crazyred said...

Physical Therapists; those folks are gods.

Love the blawg!

Anonymous said...

Demo or affliction....it probably depends on your server, whether if it's pvp or pve. On pve, I think affliction is the way to go for soloing quests since you can dot everything you see and with the haunt, you can even tank regular mobs a little.

On a pvp server though, affliction locks seem to be the new whipping boy though, especially any loser with a stun, like rogues, pallies, hunters, warriors, death knights...damn near everyone.

Oh well, I play an affliction lock now on a pvp server, so yay me, I guess.

Jim G. said...

MMO's with dynamic environments? Hmmm...interesting. Traditionally, the static environments within an MMO have been my biggest gripe against people paying god only knows how much a month for an sojourn in a world that doesn't even acknowledge their presence. If that restriction is now lifted in WoW, then perhaps that particular MMO now deserves a closer look. But as far as "phasing" is concerned there has to be something memory resident going on either on your end, or theirs (though the former is the far more likely scenario).

If I saw it firsthand I'd probably know for sure, but if I had to guess certain assets (such as textures, NPCs, etc.) might have dynamic flags associated with them (and such information might be saved on your hard drive itself) so the "game client" on your computer "knows" what you've done and loads such and such texture when game is either in progress, or you load up the game next time. In short, the world might change because your "game client" remembers what you did.

Pfangirl said...

Put me down as yet another vote for the Affliction warlock... especially if you solo a lot of the time, as I do.

With the vast majority of my talent points in Affliction, I'm now putting my post level 70 points in Demonology.

Thanks for the awesomely entertaining blog, BTW :)

Navn: Mats said...

1) Affliction
2) Your EA party sounds better then the one we got at EA-Madrid.. The standup-guy was hooorible, and the food was blee.. Also the music was to turned up to high. (Also my feet ache, my back hurts and you goddamn kids don't know nuthing about anything, and back in my days...)

Eric F said...

Wrathgate. Awesome.

Demonology. Awesome.

Glen Haupt said...

"I think I'm bailing on Destruction for now, but can't decide between Demonology and Affliction. I heart the Felguard, so I'm tempted to go that way, but conventional wisdom seems to have deemed Affliction the new cool spec."

Wow, nerd attack.

Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. I'm just saying...that was ridiculous for a non-WoW player to read.

Stephen said...

WoW? That game still around???

Actually I'm a sucker for packaging and any game with "Collector's Edition" emblazoned on the box. So I ended up picking up LotRO Mines of Moria CE the other day. I must say I'm actually impressed with this quaint mmo so far. Nice break from WoW actually even though it's kind of like playing WoW. It's no EVE Online mind you but LotRO is fun if you need elves in the diet. I mean if I'm going to support the "smaller" mmos in the gaming world it may as well have Hobbits in it. :)

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