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Blizzard’s Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 2)

Blizzards Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 2)

Last time, I explored the changes from The Burning Crusade’s end-game content to Wrath of the Lich King’s end-game content. It concluded with a discussion of something I like to call the “difficulty threshold.” It just means the point at which content becomes so difficult that the rewards are no longer sufficient motivation to make players overcome the challenges. This time I will be exploring the changes Blizzard implemented to make content that appealed to players’ wide range of difficulty thresholds, and how successful those efforts were.

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 2)

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 2)

For a faction that focuses on contract killing and conspiracy, the Dark Brotherhood is the last place one would expect to find quests that really resonate with the player. We’re introduced to characters—clients, targets, and assassins alike—and we can sympathize with them. We can see why most of our clients want their targets dead. We can see that our targets are not simply targets, but are people with their own lives. Our fellow Dark Brothers and Dark Sisters each have their own stories that brought them to Astrid’s Sanctuary. It is perhaps the most well crafted faction in all of Skyrim.

We join the Dark Brotherhood in Skyrim by investigating a rumor that Aventus in Windhelm wants someone dead. After killing Grelod in Riften, we’re abducted by Astrid and forced to pay for the stolen contract in blood. From there, we’re as good as in with the Brotherhood, having been given access to the last remaining Sanctuary in all of Tamriel.

The funny thing about killing people is that their relatives tend to want revenge. In Oblivion, Lucien Lachance killed Mathieu Bellamont‘s mother; Bellamont joined the Dark Brotherhood and rose to the rank of Speaker in the Black Hand, which is the Brotherhood’s leadership structure. From there, Bellamont conspired to destroy the Brotherhood by using the player as his instrument. The Black Hand is aware of this betrayal from within, and suspects Lachance to be the mastermind of this treachery; the Black Hand kills Lachance.

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 2)

Contract killing can be an ugly business.

In Skyrim, we’re going to find out what happens when you kill the wrong person.

World of Warcraft: Additional Character Slots

World of Warcraft: Additional Character Slots

On Monday, March 19, 2012, the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) was lifted on a Blizzard press event held the week before. The topic of the press event was the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. As a result of the end of the NDA, the internet was flooded with new information regarding the expansion. Among the topics fans eagerly awaited news for was the issue of character slot limitations. Currently players are limited to 10 characters per server with a cap of 50 characters per account. With the introduction of a new race and a new class, players began seeking an increase in the number of allotted characters per server. Blizzard heard their requests and announced . . . an 11th character slot. Upon reading the news my immediate reaction was “that’s it?”

Blizzard’s Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 1)

Blizzards Dungeon Design Philosophy (Part 1)

I have been playing World of Warcraft since July 2008. That means I began playing during The Burning Crusade expansion when patch 2.4.3 came out, the last patch before preparations began for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. While I did manage to hit the level cap of 70 prior to Wrath of the Lich King’s release, I never experienced any of The Burning Crusade’s raid content with the exception of Karazhan. Even then, Karazhan was not “current” content and I was unable to clear the entire thing. I never even did heroic 5-man content. My guild was a close-knit group of friends that mostly did regular (non-heroic) 5-man content.

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 1)

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 1)

“Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”

In Windhelm, Aventus Aretino is reciting this innocuous chant.  However, locals fear that he is trying to contact the Dark Brotherhood.  As an adventurer, it’s up to the player to investigate these rumors.  Idesa Sadri tells Grimvar Cruel-Sea that what is going on inside of the Aretino Residence is pure evil.  Heading into the house, the truth is far more sinister…

Skyrim: Dark Brotherhood (Part 1)

Aventus Aretino is a child.

Tiny Tower v. Dream Heights

Tiny Tower v. Dream Heights

Dear Mr. Young:

I came across your article entitled Copyrights and Copycats, and, as an avid gamer currently going through law school, my interest was piqued. I agree wholeheartedly regarding the distinction you make between the hypothetical Steamtown and Digcraft games (and as an aside, I would seriously consider playing the non-existent Steamtown game). Visual styles should not carry a lot of weight (although it should certainly be a factor to consider) when comparing two video games for the purposes of an infringement claim. Gameplay mechanics and the “feel” of a game should be far more important than claiming two games are the same because both worlds are made up of blocks. However, I disagree with your feelings towards litigation in claims like these.

World of Warcraft: Hour of Twilight Mechanics Explained

World of Warcraft: Hour of Twilight Mechanics Explained

When patch 4.3 of World of Warcraft was released, three new 5-man heroic dungeons were introduced: End Time, Well of Eternity, and Hour of Twilight. The instances have been out for two months now, but in my random groups I still find players that do not seem to understand how certain fight mechanics work. The two most irritating encounters are the last boss of End Time, Murozond, and the second boss of Hour of Twilight, Asira Dawnslayer.

Skyrim: Thieves Guild (Part 2)

Skyrim: Thieves Guild (Part 2)

On Tuesday, I started talking about the Thieves Guild in Skyrim.  Today, I finish talking about the Thieves guild in Skyrim.

To quickly recap: a man approached me in Riften, said I’m thief material, had me rough up some shops, and then sent me to go burn a honey farm.  After that, it was off to Whiterun to poison some mead and then tail an Argonian.  All of this sabotage and subterfuge happened because Maven Blackbriar wants me to investigate her competitors.

At this point, we’re five quests into the Thieves Guild, with a few of the side quests thrown in.  At this point in Morrowind, we would have done all of the entry-level quests for each of the guild branches.  We’d have been introduced to the Fighters Guild as the Guild’s bitter enemies.  We’d have run into the Camonna Tong, which is the Guild’s rival enemy.  In Oblivion, we’d have stolen five items, outsmarted the Imperial Guard three times, and investigated a missing Guild member.  In fact, at this point, we would be entering the end game for the Thieves Guild.

In Skyrim, we’re about to blow the lid on the financier for Maven’s competition.  Considering that the cost of making games has gone up, Skyrim can not have as many quests Morrowind did; following the example Oblivion set, we’re about to start the end game for the guild.  We’re going to find Karliah, discover where she got her wealth from, and what her plans are.

Skyrim: Thieves Guild (Part 1)

Skyrim: Thieves Guild (Part 1)

Writing about Skyrim is something of a challenge.  Sit down and play it, and then when you stop you’ve missed lunch and dinner, and people are waking up to go to work.  It steals your time.  After investing over 200 hours into Skyrim, I think it’s about time I wrote something about it.  Let’s talk about the Thieves Guild.

I had trouble joining the Thieves Guild, because nobody would tell me where to go or what I needed to do.  I stole some stuff, got caught, went to jail, but nobody contacted me.  That’s how things start in Oblivion; it’s a tad counter-intuitive that the Thieves Guild would seek out people who got caught, but whatever.  I visited taverns in Whiterun, Windhelm, and Solitude, seeking out members of the Guild that I could talk to and join that way; to join in Morrowind, you just have to visit a Guild contact and do a small errand for them to prove that you can, in fact, steal things.

I guess things really have changed in the 200 years since Morrowind and Oblivion took place, huh?

What I Learned While Playing the Super MNC Invitational

What I Learned While Playing the Super MNC Invitational

In Monday Night Combat, I often played Tank and Assassin.1  I was pretty good.  Not the best player, but I was definitely above average.  MNC was a lot of fun because it was fast-paced and action was spread across the entire map—which in turn meant I used the entirety of the map when I played.

Then I started playing Super MNC in November, and I found it to be lacking.  It was slow, action was always too far away, and very little of the map matters.  In fact, I’ll go as far to say that SMNC is the worst game ever.  It’s certainly worse than MNC.

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