Sunday, 31 May 2015

#GW2 maintenance mode and the anti-grind

During the week I disconnected from all my Guild Wars 2 feeds, stopped following GW2 fan sites and cleared out all of the articles related to GW2 from my Pocket reading list. Why?

Firstly, I love Guild Wars 2. I had two and half good years from that game and met great people. However, over the last two months my play time has dwindled to almost zero. I was still logging in everyday to get my daily reward chest and farm my home instance but now I'm not sure I can even bring myself to do that. I'm about to be away for a week and I haven't given a second thought to be being able to log on. Will I pick back up when I come home?  Probably not.

What changed?  Well, I had a bit of a revelation in the shower one day (I don't get much thinking time anywhere else). It's not complicated, I won't labour this or ramble. Here it is:

Guild Wars 2, as we know it, is in maintenance mode. We're basically in the pre-release period for a new game: Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

That's it, it's as simple as that. This came to me when I was thinking about what to play instead of GW2. I was thinking about GW1 and realised how ridiculous it would be to log into a game, purely to get achievements in another game I'm not even playing. It was then that the similarities between GW1 and GW2 occurred to me.

Since some of the changes that HoT will bring will be backported to GW2 this is not technically true but it perfectly sums up my psychology. In many ways it's like GW2 will get one last patch and then be done while HoT takes over. The problem with GW2 is that there isn't even a similar incentive to play building to HoT!

The talk of HoT being "expand-alone" makes me grow even colder. The last expand-alone game I bought was Dawn of War: Soulstorm. Expand-alone has a tendency to change things that you love and add little into the bargain. You might even hate the new things. So far HoT isn't offering much to freshen GW2 and the 'anti-grind'. If grinding is defined as "doing something you don't enjoy to get something valuable", does that mean that Guild Wars 2 is about doing enjoyable things to get worthless items? Far from being averse to change, I'm now worried that HoT won't bring enough.

What concerns me even more is that we're looking at two free to play releases from the same publisher in Autumn/Winter of this year. It would be weird to launch a paid expansion against two of your own F2P titles. I think that means HoT will either be here this summer or not until next year. Apparently next year is a popular opinion already (last paragraph). The GW2 content drought stretches on?

And speak of those F2P titles... I was hyped about Wildstar right up until they announced the business model and then my interest flat out died. Turns out that was probably lucky because, from what I have heard, I would have hated the game in the state it launched. But a game with that much character that you can dip in and out of with no risk? Sign me up!

As for Blade and Soul, well, I'd never even heard of wuxia (I'm guessing, based on my rudimentary knowledge of Mandarin, that's pronounced wu-shia) but now I have heard of it that sounds like a blast! Why wouldn't I want to give that a try?

So, Guild Wars 2, I'd like to remember you as you were. I'm not writing HoT off but I've never been one to hang on every announcement of a new game; I've stated previously that I hate all the guessing and speculation. I'm taking my leave and I might be back when all the cards are on the table*. Until then Tyria, I bid you adieu!

* though I'm likely to be playing the slots and not notice.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Thunderbirds Are Go!

I've always been a big fan of Thunderbirds.  As time goes on I find the original series even more astonishing. OK, not everyone likes the puppetry but the models and effects are amazing. Just amazing. Especially when you consider when they were done.

But more than that even the concept is exceptional and, although the time line might not pan out (i.e. no flying cars in 2065), the basic premise of the show is pretty much timeless. Chuck in the stories, the suspense, the music and it was just a winning formula.

In case you need a reminder, here's the original titles for "Terror in New York City" (great episode):

I mean, my son loves the Octonauts TV show and what is that if not a ten minute version of Thunderbirds aimed at pre-school children?  Admittedly, Octonauts has some really interesting natural history information and a dose of environmentalism that elevates it beyond simple rescue missions. My son can name a wide variety of sea creatures I'd previously never heard of.  Being a big fan of the ocean (I was once a qualified wreck diver) I hope his interest continues and we might go to see some whales once day.

It was while watching Octonauts with MY dad that I saw the similarities with Thunderbirds and that prompted me to get the entire original series on DVD. Shortly afterwards I heard that it was being remade. Cue weeping man babies in a very similar vein to the Ghostbuster remake. There were cries of "you're spoiling my childhood," etc. However, with the promised combination of HD digital animation and the WETA modelling, it should have been clear that the production team knew what it was doing.  What do I think of it? It's great! In some ways it's even better than the original because the episodes often dragged but all the key elements are still there.

Here's the titles for the first Episode of the new show, "Ring of Fire":

Thunderbird 2 (always my favourite) has a had a bit more of a facelift than the other Thunderbirds and that's good. I expect the elevation of a female character to a front line role probably upset the man babies again but I like Kayo. I like the addition of Thunderbird S too and I like that (spoilers) she's related to the Hood. The fact that they have apparently ditched the weird psychic powers is good too. I would have liked them to straight up swap Alan or Gordon for a Tracy sister but well, those man babies can be mean. Brains switch to being some sort of south Asian (?) tech genius is a bit odd but harmless and the retention of Parker and Penelope is good. New costumes, great too.

Like the original series the stories vary quite a lot between episodes but I always enjoyed the straoght rescue missions the most. So far I think the episode with the uranium mine, "Crosscut", has been my favourite. Although the two part season opener was great too.

For me, they've absolutely nailed the "remake". I enjoy it just as much as I ever enjoyed the original and I hope it's popular enough that they make a lot more. I just hope they use those episodes to tell good stories, rather than expand on the team. If Octonauts keeps going the way it is they'll run out of alphabet to name their Gups after...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Music in the movies #MCU

I'm starting to realise (in my old age) that the score of a BIG film can make a huge difference to my enjoyment of it. If I'm watching something with some truly epic action and the music is less than epic, then it just doesn't quite get me.

A good and recent example of this is Avengers: Age of Ultron. After I watched Avengers Assemble I had the theme in my head for days. Subconsciously, I pretty much spent the whole of Age of Ultron waiting for the Avengers theme and I was finally satisfied after the mid-credit sting.  As for the rest of the music in the film. Meh.

Looking back at previous Marvel movies there are some other absolute stand outs.  Firstly, the "Cap on tour" rendition of the "Star Spangled Man (with a Plan)" could be one of my favourite moment in the MCU so far. Then you have the actual First Avenger theme, which, with all the brass and pomp, has a deal in common with Indy and Star Wars. Thus evoking all sorts of happy, Saturday afternoon movie type feelings.

More recently, the Iron Man 3 theme absolutely smashed it out of the park for me.  Is there a better way to follow on from the inevitably "dark" sequel than to stick your tongue a little way into your cheek and have some fun? No. This theme is all about that.  Most of the AC/DC tracks on the preceeding Iron Man movies did a stand up job too.

I guess that brings us to Thor.  Sorry, Thor but... did your movies even have any music? Absolutely none of it stands out in my mind.

Rounding out the MCU, I guess we should mention Guardians of the Galaxy but there's not much to say. It simply has one of the best movie soundtracks. Ever. Which track is my favourite? It's a very tough call between "O-o-h Child" ("I'm distracting ya, ya big turd blossom!" (spoilers) and "Come and Get Your Love", the song accompanying an opening sequence that sets the tone for the whole movie.

Moving away from the MCU, I can't hear "For Whom The Bell Tolls" by Metallica without thinking of Zombieland (and I hear it often). I also have to give a shout out to Michael Giacchino who could be JJ Abrams' own John Williams. His work on Star Trek had me blubbing before the film had barely started and again at the end of Super 8. I'd like to blame being a parent for my (over) sensitivity to those two scenes but since we had our first child in 2012, that'd be a tough sell.

Speak of the great Mr. Williams, it could be the TIE fighters or the Falcon, but I'm pretty sure it's the combination of those AND the music that makes this one of the most exciting things I've seen for about 30 years.

Thanks for joining me for this unusually rant-free post. I'd like to bring this to a close with a less than fantastic movie with an absolutely spot on theme. Ladies and gents, I give you Pacific Rim.

Friday, 1 May 2015

From #GW2 to other things

Having (temporarily?) slipped the yoke of Guild Wars 2 I find myself with an abundance of time to do other things.

My Guild Wars 2 break wasn't an entirely concious choice.  About two months ago I tweeted this:
Since then I have done some stuff but mainly I have logged in for my reward, gathered in my home instance, confirmed that my items still haven't sold on the TP and logged off again. I can't remember the last time I went to a guild event.  I think it might have been a PvP night.

I have some idea of the reasons for my loss of interest.  I suspect the change of seasons has a lot to do with it. I've also been much busier with work and home life. Getting my 10k chest really did close a loop for me and, looking back, obtaining it had been a major motivator. I think the biggest issue, though, is Heart of Thorns.  The more we hear, the more we know that it's going to fundamentally change the game and in some unexpected ways.  In principle, I'm cool with that.  Whether I like where the game ends up in practice is another thing.  Knowing that, I'm not about to invest much more time in pre-expansion GW2.  In my opinion, this is the big danger of announcing an expansion too early.

Financially, and in terms of bank assets, I'm sitting pretty for what ever changes HoT brings. I'm not going to make any big investments in anything as we have almost no idea how the market is going to react come release.  Although it's fair to say that an influx of new players will spike material prices and that will have a knock on effect.

Most importantly my characters are exactly where I want them to be. I have been dissatisfied with my norn Necromancer for almost as long as I can remember.  The size of the model shattered the illusion of detail in most of the armour skins and, well, he looked like he was wearing a dressing gown (bath robe) most of the time.

I resolved that with the spoils from my 10k chest, buying an Identity Repair Kit and assuming the name, gender and appearance of my norn Elementalist (who was deleted having been birthday scrolled to 20 and used as a bank). Behold my Necro reborn:

Tore was immediately reincarnated as a Warrior, with the exact same appearance and name.
This solved my "which race to make my warrior" conundrum but left me an Elementalist short.  However, I'd long since decided that a male sylvari was the perfect choice for that. I don't have any good shots of him at the moment, though!

So, that's where I pretty much left off in Guild Wars 2.  Now, onto other things.