Day One: San Diego Comic Con 2010

Zombies at Comic Con 2010

Three days with no sleep standing in line for the Tron panel ...

It’s been a crazy day and a half, since I’m rolling the preview night into this write-up. Preview night, for me, basically means having a look around the Exhibit Hall, meeting people I wanted to try and catch and getting the atmosphere soaked up before the real work starts. In other words, I didn’t go to watch the actual preview this year, which was the TV show Nikita. Not that interested.

We all got Warner bags this year with our registration stuff. They’re huge, and they have different designs on and people used to queue at the Warner booth for them, so it’s been nice this year to just have one handed over. My friend got Human Target and I got a Batman one, so I grabbed the Human Target one, while he engaged in a game of bag-trading that saw him work through Clash of the Titans, Batman, Scooby Doo, Chuck, Fringe and finally The Big Bang Theory. But I’m happy with my Human Target one. The Exhibit Hall is huge, it’s just huge. And it runs the gamut from comic artists and book publishers, to games companies, along with the obvious film and TV presence. And people queue. They queue for swag, they queue to buy exclusive items, and they queue for autographs. And I hate queuing! So I go pick up the easy swag on the first night and see what else I might want. I did score lots of goodies from publishers, including a copy of George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones, and a bizarre book-related jigsaw. Also a Twilight iPhone cover.. hrrm, I shouldn’t mention that, right?

In all fairness, this year I wanted to check out games more, but they didn’t seem to all be ready to rock on preview night. So I might have to head back there. City of Heroes: Going Rogue had some terminals up, but no way to bag the in-game ghoul costume (and since I don’t play the game, in-game play didn’t really go it for me, but it looked pretty). DCUO was there (for the person who asked), but I didn’t check it out – they had lovely lanyards and my friend snagged one somehow.. we shall return. Then we went to see Super Hero Squad Online, as I’d promised to go hug the CM (long story, follow twitter ;p). My friend took the controls while we chatted and I have to say, I’m totally sold on it. Yes, it’s kiddie, but it’s gorgeous and the housing is honestly the most FUN MMO housing I’ve seen – complete with Hulk throwing sofas around the room to let off steam. So, that was a bit of a surprise to me, only because I’d never really considered it.

So we wandered, we got swag, we met friends from last year, and then we went to check if there was a line for Tron the next day. There was. And I’m a fool. So we took spots and settled in for a freezing night in a line. At least there was cover this year, as it rained. Also the Hilton sent us blankets, pillows and water. Was still freezing though!!! So let’s ignore the night in line, it’s not that interesting, but I had excellent company which helped.

And it was Thursday, the first full day of the con and I was near the front of the Hall H queue. First up was Megamind, a superhero/villain 3-D animated film starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill, oh, and Brad Pitt. The first three showed up, with Ferrell in costume. I’m not a huge fan of any of them and they didn’t disappoint, I found it quite a stodgy panel, with nothing quite as funny as they wanted. But, and it’s a big but, the film looks awesome and fun and is definitely on my radar now (not least cos they gave us all watches!).

Next up was Tron: Legacy which was as awesome as expected. They showed 8 mins of footage, they showed the new trailer, the entire main cast were there and made interesting comments (the panel is almost certainly on YouTube by now, so honestly, I’m not going into details). They recorded us yelling De-Rez, and other terms and they’re hoping to insert it in the film, so whee, I might be in Tron: Legacy!! That’s a cool give-away and a half. But when they packed up to go early, it was obvious Disney had more in store for us. Firstly we got a 3-D Johnny Depp Pirates teaser trailer, the next one will be about Fountain of Youth, and he’s so great in character, again, I know the footage is online, so go seek!

Then, Guillermo Del Toro came out to reveal his next project is Haunted Mansion for Disney. And they’re rebooting it, forgetting Eddie Murphy ever existed and making it scary and cool. Hrrm. I’m not a massive Disney kid, Haunted Mansion to me was an ok ride in the theme park… so colour me a little disappointed that he left The Hobbit for this. But – the first 999 in the hall got a signed, numbered Haunted Mansion poster (signed by the artist), so yay for swag?!

We left the Hall post Tron and went to find food before heading back to pick up our Haunted Mansion swag. I had wanted to dash to the 38 Studios reveal, but frankly I hadn’t eaten in over 12h and I was HUNGRY. Got to see the Westboro Church protest and counter-protest and headed back to the Convention Center. I did manage to catch the last 15 mins of the panel, but mostly when they were wrapping up. Luckily they have the game’s website up now, so all the info will be there. There was a reason I headed to that room though, and that was for the other panel that was on my must-see list – a Quantum Leap retrospective. But first I saw through the Aqua Teen Hunger Force panel, which was frankly a little bit awkward. Still, it was over and people enjoyed it!

Then I settled down for an hour with Scott Bakula discussing the impact of Quantum Leap with someone from TV Guide. It started off with the show’s credit sequence which almost made me well up and then Bakula took to the stage. He got a standing ovation, which both surprised and pleased me, and I totally joined in. And it was just a magical hour of him speaking and clips from the show, including the final minutes of it. Shockingly, perhaps, he annouced that a Quantum Leap movie was ‘on’ again and that producers were getting on-board and it should all go ahead this time. He did say that he and Dean Stockwell would be in it, but not as the main characters anymore. I’m not surprised at that, but glad that the project is underway and they all seem to be happy about it and on board to star in it regardless of characters!

And then I went to see Dragon Age II…

((If you’d like to see another take on Day 1, Geeks are Sexy went to some of the same panels as Arb but also went to the Scott Pilgrim one instead of Quantum Leap.))

Random LFG in WoW: Day 1

In which well geared groups are happy to help a new 80 out, and everyone still hates the Oculus

I had set this afternoon aside to try out some of the new content – yes, our patching here in the EU was very smooth as I predicted yesterday and instances were up, but yet to see what things are like tonight.

I tried a few runs on my newly level 80 Death Knight (I think it was Stabs who asked why I was bothering with an alt – the answer is a) because I want to and b) I wanted to redo the Icecrown quests again before 3.3 came out to refresh my memory.)

Just for the record, my DK does about 2k dps at the moment. Which I know is plenty for the regular heroics. Still, for the sake of karma, I plan to run at least one a day on Spinks and let new 80s come along.

1. Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. Group ran silently apart from a few comments in what might have been Swedish. They didn’t seem to care that I died on a couple of the bosses in their hurry to speed clear the place. I ran along behind and picked up the loot.

2. Heroic Violet Hold. I zoned in just as they pulled the first boss. I also zoned in by the instance entrance which is behind the lockin. If you talk to the NPC there, she’ll port you into the actual instance but not while a fight is going on. So I apologised to the group for standing there like a lemon while they got me a badge. After the boss died, I was able to join them for the rest – they were a friendly bunch.

3. Heroic Oculus. As soon as we zoned in, one person said ‘fuck’ and two more left the group. I took the 15 mins deserter buff rather than waiting around in the instance.

4. Heroic Halls of Lightning. I zoned in, the rest of the group laughed at my blue and green gear (ie. lol DK.) I countered with the witty and well thought out argument, “Don’t be thick, you don’t need 5k dps to do heroics.” This apparently convinced them because after that we went on and cleared it effortlessly. I suspect the enchanter in the group was on a silent protest because although the disenchant option came up, he kept pressing greed and seemed to get all the loot. I actually think from earlier instances that greed and disenchant have exactly the same priority and he was just lucky. However, the rest of the group got annoyed and booted him (I didn’t vote! I don’t like booting people!) so we had to 4 man the last two bosses. It didn’t stop us getting some speed achievement so clearly I wasn’t dragging them down too much.

5. Heroic Halls of Stone. Quiet, friendly group who really just wanted to do the encounter with Brann and then get the last boss so everyone could get the instance counted on the LFG tool and then get out. At my stage of gearing, I’d have appreciated the extra badges and drops but since I think it’s a fairly dull instance anyway, I could see where they were coming from.

6. Got onto Spinks and queued up to tank a random. Sod’s law said it was Oculus so we zoomed through quickly and got the Make it Count achievement for people. People seemed friendly enough, knew what to do, and were (relatively) happy to be there.

So far, my first impressions have been very good.

LOTRO: Introduction to Skirmishing

dinkydino666 has written a fantastic introduction to skirmishes on the EU LOTRO forums, complete with extensive screenshots. I’m glad I found it before it got pushed so far down the boards that it was lost forever to posterity.

Brief Summary of my Day 1 of Mirkwood

Downloaded patch data previously using link given by codemasters on twitter (did I mention that I love twitter?), they also posted about it on the official forums. Patched game up smoothly, logged in, and as usual spent 2 mins thinking, “Where am I? Why did I log out here? And where are my pants?”

Worked out that I was in Moria. Being surrounded by dwarves and in stone caves helped with this. Moria is stunningly beautiful when I’m not getting lost there or eaten by the monster-du-jour. It also contains relatively few spiders compared to the rest of Middle Earth, a deficiency that I imagine Mirkwood will more than make up for. If I was a dwarf, I would totally give respect to my ancestors to building all of that, and would also wonder how much it cost and whether they could have spent it on something more productive like curing cancer.

Hoofed it via goat to the 21st Hall, centre nexus of Moria. Located the skirmish camp off to the side and picked up the introductory quest which required me to go kill some orcs. Trauma, I am in Moria, wherever will I find an orc? Oh wait … that would be everywhere.

I head off in a random direction to locate orcs and kill a couple, enough to realise that the drop rate for the quest item is less than 50%. I then get annoyed by a loremaster stealing my kills — any stealther will be familiar with the frustration of having some ranged nuker throw a fireball at the mob you were just about to backstab — and explore further afield to find some orcs of my own.

Hm, not been here before. I see a questgiver! Shiny! Apparently I have located a crafting instance and I had actually been there before but had forgotten and hadn’t actually been into the instance anyway. I think .. well, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone here and pick up the instance quests. I have an hour to clear the place. I zone in and … it’s full of orcs. Bliss. Just me and them, all on our own, and not a loremaster in sight.

I complete the crafting instance neatly, with much stealthing, waiting for patrols, careful pulling and crowd control. And I complete my skirmish quest as well as picking up a load of wood to sell later. Result. A couple of my legendary items also level up, so I head back to the 21st hall to hand everything in and reforge my tools. I notice that all my weapon damage has increased. I still think I kill things slowly but that’s because anything is slower than the way I two shot same level mobs in WoW.

Off to the skirmishes and I’m now able to port into the tutorial — it’s snowing in Bree. Everyone on chat channels seems way more excited about the snow than the skirmish. I have a minion as well. We liberate Bree but I suspect I was doing most of the work — the quest NPC agrees and gives some pointers on how I can improve my minion’s usefulness.

I debate on what class I’d like him (or her) to be and decide on a tank so that I can focus on crowd control, debuffs, and generally killing stuff while he gets his face beaten in. I notice that my tank minion is now a dwarf, this is a good thing. I feel safer with a dwarf tanking for me, and have no idea why that might be.

I try a skirmish and do not die instantly. We’ll call that a success. The skirmishes all seem to involve waves of mobs which you have to kill. The next wave does not generally arrive until the last one has fallen — this may not be true for the Barrow Downs skirmish which is timed. Some mobs are accompanied by lieutenants, mini-bosses with different abilities. There are also random events that may occur in each skirmish which you can get more marks for dealing with.

After every few waves, you get a short break to catch your breath. It is continual action other than that, and even on the easiest mode it will feel as though you are constantly fighting. They last about 30 minutes, depending on how quickly you kill mobs and whether or not you die. My quickest time through was 21 minutes, but it does depend on the specific skirmish.

The skirmishes do involve other NPCs who fight with you. They break crowd control like pros. My minion on the other hand was well behaved and did not. On the other hand, the minion does do his or her own thing. The only control you have is directing which mob they should attack, and via which skills you decide to buy for them.

I was also able to try a group skirmish which was similar, but involved more mobs, tougher mini bosses and additional objectives other than just defending the NPCs. It was terrifically fun in a vaguely chaotic way. Everyone was able to summon their skirmish minions so there were a lot of bodies on screen.

I bought archer traits for my guy to use in the group skirmish (figuring that since we had an actual player tank, my minion was only going to get in the way). I suspect that people will tend to respec their minions as needed, but for now it’s easier to focus on improving one set of skills for them.

Being as how this is LOTRO, there are also traits for just about everything skirmish related. Traits for how many times you have completed a skirmish, traits for how many times you have killed a specific miniboss, and so on. The traits  reward more skirmish marks, which can be spent on customising your minion or on gear or consumables (a nice nod to the raiders, I think, I’d much rather do a skirmish or two to get my alchemy elixirs and potions than have to grind daily quests.) And of course you can also buy more cosmetic gear and items for your house. Whilst I like my current cosmetic appearance, I guess a psychedelic bathrobe doesn’t really scream ‘burglar’ and I might try for something more in character.

My first impressions are definitely positive, and I’ll write about this in more depth next week after I have had more time with the game.

It was fun running the solo crafting instance, then switching to skirmishes as a change of pace. Mixing in quests and monster play as desired means that LOTRO offers a very solid mix of single player gameplay these days. (I am mostly soloing because I’m behind the curve and I’m expecting that my friends will be keen to try out the Mirkwood content — I expect to catch up soon enough and it’s easy enough to sort out group skirmishes if people have 30 mins to spare.)  The skirmishes are fast and furious and not something to do for pure relaxation – they are also excellent xp for levellers.

Are older servers just different?

I was amused to find out earlier this week that my WoW guild is one of the oldest in Europe. I’m not sure how they knew, but it sounds plausible. It was a day 1 guild (ie. formed on the first day the server went live) on a day 1 server (opened on the day the game went live in Europe), and it’s still going strong. Credit for this goes mostly to a variety of guild leaders and officers but also to all the players who have ever been part of ARC.

(‘grats to us, and now we just have to sabotage the others.)

I hadn’t really thought much about Argent Dawn as a server until some friends of mine transferred over a couple of months ago. They were astounded by the differences they found – partly because of moving to a RP server and partly due to the server having an older community.

- They felt as though everyone knew each other, all the guild leaders did too. It’s not that we don’t have a lot of new guilds too, but some people have been around the block a few times ;)

- They felt as though the server had a very specific need/greed custom in groups. Which is true, it drives me nuts but people on AD like it if everyone passes on loot and then rolls on it later. Dates back to original WoW, before need/greed was implemented.

- They were amazed at how many raid groups we had. ie. raid groups which included players from more than one guild. This is a common trend in the day 1 RP servers, I’ve no idea if other servers with older communities do this also. It dates back to 40 man raids, and people wanting to stay in their friendly RP guilds whilst still raiding. And a few very talented organisers.

- They found the standard of PUGs to be higher than they were used to (again, this is plausible to me, I don’t see any of the real horror players I hear about)

I’m not sure at what point a server becomes ‘mature’, it would be interesting to compare notes or figure out some way to study server communities changing with age. But there is definitely a different feel to an older server than to the manic jostling for status in a new server.  On a newer server, the whole game can feel like an extended PUG. Sometimes that’s fun, it’s a chance to get to know new people and make your mark. Sometimes it is a nightmare. Older servers feel more settled. But does that make it harder to fit in if you don’t know anyone?

Do you notice the difference?