Blizzcon 2009 Day -1: In Anaheim

I have successfully made the 395 mile trip south from Santa Clara, CA to Anaheim, CA. This is my first time down in the LA area. Coming into LA on I-5 you cross a small mountain range, and head to Angeles National Forest, which is more of a National Scrub Brush Area than a forest. Once we hit the Los Angeles side of the mountains I almost thought I was in the Seattle area except the mountains had deciduous trees instead of evergreens. That changed shortly as we headed towards Pasadena as that’s when I noticed the horrible smog haze which seems to have settled itself over LA. Back in the bay we’ve had a couple of days where they suggested people with asthma not go running outside, but even on those days I didn’t see such a brown haze as I saw today.

The other outstanding thing out here was the traffic. Traffic was jam packed especially as we were coming into LA around 5PM. It took us a couple of hours to navigate our way around the worst of the LA traffic through Pasadena to Anaheim. Once we got checked into the hotel we walked over the the Anaheim convention center to pick up our Blizzcon registration info and our goody bags. I got a little Raynor marine statue, and a key to get a murloc pet in World of Warcraft. The one item the bag was missing that I really wanted was a Beta key for Diablo III. Sadly there wasn’t one included in the bag. But I did get some official Blizzcon hand sanitizer. Since I left home without my USB camera cable, I’ll post a few pics of the line (long, but it moved fast) and the goodies once I get back to the Bay area.

Wrath of the Lich King

It’s been awhile since my last post. In fact I meant to post this a couple weeks ago and sat on the draft for a couple weeks.

Since my last post I’ve kept myself busy with work, Japanese class, and bowling.

If were unaware two weeks a month ago on Nov 13th World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was released to the world. Since then I’ve gotten back into playing, hit 80 and started raiding again.

I have to say that this expac is the best so far from Blizzard. While I did manage to hit 80 in about a week from release it was probably the best 10 levels of the game. I didn’t do any boring grind but did all the quests I could. See Blizzard has revamped the quest system for the xpac.

In the release version of the game it was common for many tests to involve killing x of some creature, or saving someone then going back and finding our stranded friend is right where you left him. This time around Blizzard still has the kil 10 “Rats of Doom” but has expanded the quests so that there are many more dynamic quests. There are rail shooters, quests which require you to pilot a vehicle, races, button mashers similar to God of War, ones which transform you into a monster and more. Not only that they’ve done a great job creating a cohesive story which evolves as you play.

From the start it feels like you’re making a contribution to the effort to defeat the Lich King. From the start your interactions seem to feed into various stories. This really stands out with Blizzard’s new use of their phasing technology. With phasing Blizzard can control who can see you, what enemies you can see, and what landscape you can interact with. Blizzard puts this to awesome use to let you change the world. Save that guy in a quest? He’s saved forever. Save a town from an attack? The bad guys sieging the castle are gone.

This is really put to great use in the later zones such as Icecrown were the good guys don’t even have a foothold. Over time you fight off the undead scourge and build new bases. Certain enemy infested areas become a safe harbor where you can rest and repair.

The other best use of this technology is the Wrathgate quest chain, which terminates with a fairly epic in game cutscene followed by you laying siege to a horde main city. It’s sweet and some of the greatest fun I’ve had in WoW. In fact with their use of phasing the game really starts to feel like a single player RPG.

Also the gameplay doesn’t stop with 80. By the time you hit 80 you’ll still probably have 2-3 zones worth of quests to do, many of which will continue to evolve the overall plot. You also can rerun many of the level up instance in Heroic mode, try out the new level 80 dungeons, and if you have 10 or 25 friends hit up the new raid dungeons.

My guild is also making forward progress on raiding. On the 10 man side we’ve cleared everything by Malygos but haven’t really bothered with Malygos yet due to schedule (we cleared Naxx the week after release).

On the 25 man side we’re on the last boss of Naxxramas and should have him done and start on Malygos tomorrow. Sadly progress has been slower here since we’ve been waiting for more guildies to hit level 80. We completed most of 25 man Naxx with around 22 people so I won’t complain too much about our slower progress :).

Returning to WoW has been fun so far and I highly recommend this expansion to anyone who has World of Warcraft. To my friends without this game, I’d say give it a try but it’s honestly a lot more fun from 70-80 than it is to get to 70. They’ve just improved the gameply that much in the latest xpac.

Video Game First Impressions

Today two tidbits of videogame fun were released.  Blizzard released the opening cinemetic of their new World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King expansion, and LucasArts released their demo of “The Force Unleashed.”

Sadly neither of these exactly lived up to my expectations. On the WoW front the movie was sort of lame. They show a glacier, Arthas walks around in the snow, smashes the ground and raises an icewyrm. Whoop dee do. Sadly it made me less excited about the expansion than I was before.

Perhaps it’s just my time away from WoW and enjoying other stuff that has me bored with everything WoW. In fact I’m much more looking forward to Starcraft II and Diablo III than the new WoW Expansion.

As for the new LucasArts game I’ve been really looking forward to The Force Unleashed. This game sort of looks like the successor to the Jedi Knight series, and I’ve been waiting for a good lightsaber romp since Jedi Outcast. Sadly this game might not deliver.

The game is set just before “Star Wars: A New Hope” and you play Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who helps hunt down the Jedi. So far so good but there are a couple issues, firstly LucasArts in their genius have decided to NOT release a PC port of this game. Instead since it’s “really detailed” it seems that PCs are too weak to process all the graphics/physics. So this game will only be released on PS3, PS2, Xbox360, Wii, PSP, Nintendo DS, iPhone and some other cellphones etc.

Guess what? I think my PC can handle it. I think LucasArts has decided that the market for PC games isn’t big enough to warrant the port, or their afraid of piracy. Sadly while the game concept is cool it just doesn’t seem to fit well on a console. The controls are a bit convoluted and in my opinion poorly done.

Playing the demo I had problem controlling the camera even after I changed the default settings so that the x axis was properly reversed. It seems that the camera doesn’t stick very well to your character and I often found myself trying to kill a guy who was out of my view. Sure you can rotate the camera but it would be nice if it followed you a bit more tightly by default. Like with every other good 3rd person game (Ninja Gaiden, Uncharted, Splinter Cell etc.)

It’s also a bit disappointing since in the demo at least you don’t have any LONG ranged attacks except throwing stuff at people. This is sort of cool at first but as far as I could tell you couldn’t easily change what you were targeting with your force power. So when you’re trying to hit some Stormtroopers it can be hard to pick up the right box so you can toss it. I often ended up grabbing random crap and missing since the item was blocked by other boxes. They really need a way to toggle through force targets in your LOS without having to shift your camera/move about.

My only other real complaint about the demo besides the clunky controls is that the lightsaber fighting isn’t very satisfying. In fact it can take 3-4 or more chops with your lightsaber to kill a Stormtooper, and more sometimes to kill some random unarmored guy. Unlike Jedi Outcast where at least you could chop off some limbs while swinging the saber this game lets you hit a few times then the guy disappears. So the lightsaber combat just doesn’t feel like real Jedi lightsaber combat. In fact Knights of the Old Republic felt much better and it was TURN based combat.

The graphics and sound are pretty good and up to par for a current gen console game. It also looks like the game might have a good story. So despite the flaws in control (it’s not Obi-Wan bad) I’ll probably still pick this game up as I’m always a sucker for anything Star Wars.


Well I’ve done it, I canceled my WoW account. Sadly it’s because I really don’t have much of a reason to play anymore. Several of my friends stopped playing, then about 3 weeks ago my guild’s two tanks decided to take a break leaving us stranded.

On top of that one of the tanks was the primary raid leader and there wasn’t anyone really there to take his place. Even so we might have receovered but losing our two geared tanks sort of did us in. We were through Illidan and working on SWP and honestly you can’t just pick of a random tank to fill in when you’re that far. So people starting bailing pretty quickly and all that’s left in the guild are the super casual players, and people who got a bit tired with the whole raid grind.

I guess I could have joined a different guild but I myself was getting a bit tired of raiding especially without my friends around. Plus there’s always the fun of trying to apply to a new guild, and hoping that you don’t end up with a bunch of people you can’t stand. I just don’t enjoy playing with $random people I haven’t met enough to go through all that effort.

So despite having some of the best raiding gear in the game, I’ve pulled the plug on my account. Perhaps I’ll return with WotLK and start raiding again but who knows.

RIP Edge of Eternity

Nerdfest 2008? Should I go?

It looks like Blizzard has decided to host a Blizzcon convention for the year 2008 down in Anaheim Oct 10th-11th. As I’m currently fairly active playing WoW at the moment I’m tempted to go to learn about their upcoming games, try out Starcraft II, and maybe meet some WoW guildies in real life.

I’ve never been to a convention like this and I’m not sure I want to go by myself. My “real life” friends who play WoW are all still at school and hitting up a convention is probably out for them. Anyone out there ever been to something like Blizzcon (Comic Con, GenCon or some other ConCon)? Is this something that’s worth going to by oneself or does it need to be experienced with friends. Something tells me it’s not worth going unless I can drag convince someone to come with.