Sailing Around The Interwebs - A Guest Blog by Torr

Hello people of Blogland. This is Tzia's husband guest blogging for the first (and maybe only) time. You can call me Torr, which is what I go by in WoW. Tzia has been bugging me to guest blog here for at least two years, and I haven't taken the bait until now. I'm not much of a writer and I feel I usually don't have much to say. However, I recently wrote something of Great Wall of Text as a forum post on another game's forums and decided that it was too much to contain to just one location on the internets.

To clarify, this post is not about WoW, nor about me, but rather it is a side-by-side comparison of two games that I have experienced and which some of you may or may not know about. Both of these games are set in the glorious Age of Sail/Discovery period of history. Both have pirates, treasure, sailing, and adventure. These games are Pirates of the Burning Sea which is set in the Carribean of the early 1700s, and Uncharted Waters Online which is an anachronus game set in the entire world. Disregarding that one of them is pay-to-play and the other is free-to-play I have done my best to compare them from my perspective. Here goes.

As an early Pirates of the Burning Sea fanboi and an avid fan of the Uncharted Waters series since back in the day on the Super Nintendo, I would like to offer a bit of a side-by side comparison of these two games. Perhaps this may prove insightful for anyone considering ther merits or flaws of each game. I should start off by mentioning that I've now played both PotBS and UWO in beta and also that my playstyle tends to focus on exploration and trade more than combat.

Lets start with the fluff; graphics and sound.

PotBS has by far the better graphics. The open sea is simply put, amazing and has the power to draw you in to feeling like you are actually sailing. The ships are also rendered beautifully with a level of detail that astounds me at every zoom level. The sound effects are also pleasing to the ear. There's nothing quite as satisfying as hearing the boom of all three decks firing full broadsides at once. The soundtrack is good enough that it stands on its own. To this day I carry around the soundtrack to this game and play it from time to time in my car at work (I drive for a living). Every time I hear it, it makes me want to come back to PotBS and sail the open seas again.

In UWO the graphics are somewhat cartoony, and definitely have the anime style to them. This is to be expected considering the game was origionally made for Asian markets (and in fact has been available in Asia for the last 5 years). Although the cities have a better layout than in PotBS, the level of detail on each buliding can be somewhat lacking. The open sea in UWO is a bit better than the cities, if for no other reason except that you do not have to look at the cartoony avatars. The ships are somewhat simple, but there is still a wide variety of shapes and sizes to look at. The sound effects are one of the more dissapointing features of the game. The music feels true to the age of sail, and changes with each region you travel to (i.e. adding in African drums as you travel down the coast of Africa), but is still lacking the high quality I was accustomed to in PoTBS.

On to the meat; combat, economy, UI, and social tools

First, the fighting.

In PoTBS combat is king. In particular, ship combat is one of the best systems I have experienced in any game I have played. Its smooth, intuitive, and satisfying. Avatar combat has always lagged behind ship combat, but is none-the-less a dynamic system with no more (or less) button-mashing than your standard MMO.

In UWO, combat gets the lowest score in my books. Ship combat consists of double-clicking your enemy to death while moving your ship, and land combat is even less involved. Both systems are incredibly simple bordering on mind-numbingly boring.

Now we move to the money making.

The economy of PotBS had great potential, which seemed to never be fully realized. As a Freetrader I found my class to have very little economic advanatge over other classes. Also, with the increased use of Society based construction lines, the experience of a solo economic player has much to be desired. In theory though, I think the fully player-based economy has a lot of merit, if there are enough people on a given server to make it work.

In UWO, the economy is perhaps the crowning achievement. The system allows for solo players to trade at will, without the need for other players input, but simultaneously allows for every player in the game to have an impact. For example, when I buy a ton of wheat in Seville, the price for wheat goes up. With an incredibly wide range of goods available, and the whole world to spread them out in, the potential for a Trader type player is almost limitless.

Next, the User Interface.

The UI in PotBS is designed simply enough for a newbie, while retaining the flexability needed for more experienced players. There are a good deal of options available for buttons, bars, and other UI elements. Although nothing can compare with the open-modability of WoW, PoTBS does a better job than most in allowing for customization.

The UI in UWO seems to be designed to eliminate clutter on your screen. Almost everything is contained in a system of menus and sub-menus with only the basic information displayed on the screen at one time. This is a double-edge sword. While clearing space on your screen, it also has the effect of making some information rather cumbersome to access, especially for new players.

Finally, the Social aspect. Afterall, you play and MMO to play with other people, right?

In PotBS, the social tools are adequate, but still feel a bit limited. The Society system does the basic jobs of any Guild/Clan system in allowing groups of players to keep in contact via private chat channel and Society-wide mailing, but not much more. The chat channels are designed well enough to allow for greater communication amongst players, but still lack in some of the more nifty features found in games like WoW (item linking anyone?). The grouping system is not difficult to use and there seem to be numerous incentives for doing so (not the least of which is PvP).

UWO's socal tools have much more to be desired. The Company system also serves the basic functions of a Guild/Clan system with a private chat channel, and even has the added bonus of shared storage and a Company Store to sell goods to other players from. However, it is limited to 50 characters per Company, which is rather low for many people. There is, as of beta, only one global chat channel, which makes it difficult to have meaningful conversations anywhere (think Trade chat in WoW). In addition, the Tell/Whisper system is quite cumbersome and not very intuitive to use. Grouping with other players is also rather annoying, as you need to be physicly next to each other to form a group (since it requires clicking on the other character). Adding friends to your friends list also requires clicking and thus proximity, which is perhaps the greatest flaw in the social systems.

In conclusion, each game has its own strengths and weaknesses, and Im sure I haven't covered them all. As a predominantly economic player I am more inclined to chose UWO over PotBS, but I can clearly see how more combat oriented players would chose the opposite. In any case, these are just two of many, many MMOs out there which I thought it might be prudent to compare for those who may be considering either or both in the future.

More information can be found at:
The Official PotBS Website
The Official UWO Website

P.S. Tzia says she's sorry she hasn't blogged in a while. I'll be sure to bug her more about it now. :)


Kora's Story : Taming Black and Gold

It was in the midst of the Feast of Winterveil, and the blood elf huntress stood, hand steady on the hilt of a worn blade, the best she could afford. Her green eyes watered in the icy cold, blinking away wind stung tears as she watched the grass waver and move across the Barrens.

There! She squinted, and the shape of the leopard she had been tracking resolved out from the wind torn shadows of grass and branch. It yawned, topaz eyes blinking briefly. Her breath slipped soundlessly from her mouth, even as her fingers clamped down on the blade, then went soft as the ears flicked towards the sound. She glanced again at her feet. The trap was set. She rose from an easy crouch and her eyes locked with the topaz ones of the beast.

The leopard roared and leapt, fangs bared and claws unsheathed. Kora flung herself backwards, hoping the trap would hold long enough for her to convince the golden furred feline that she was not attempting to kill it, but befriend it. The cat yowled its displeasure, and a bladed paw raked through her shoulder in a lucky strike. Blood sprayed across the frozen ground, and the cat hissed and raged. Her hand briefly touched her shoulder, coming away bloody and then she held it out to the feline, ignoring the gout that ran from her shoulder.

A chant older than herself and the race she came from flowed up and out, wrapping a chain of the spirit around both the huntress and the cat, both who stared into the other's eyes, both needing something that only the other could give. Time slowed, and the wind fell silent.

The trap shattered and Kora's voice faultered, breaking the enthrallment. The cat leapt for her, she dropped the blade and threw up a hand. The crack of a totem hitting ground dazed both huntress and cat as a large wolf threw itself between the two. Kora made a wordless sound of protest as the cat skidded to a stop, fur rising along its back and the growl that issued from the wolf froze Kora in her tracks.

She recognized the pendant that hung around the beast's neck and realized abruptly that the wolf was not a wolf, but a shaman. Lupine lips curled back and fangs bared as the shaman looked between the hunter and the great cat that hissed and spat. A voice flickered through her mind, and she tipped her head up, then down, an aproximation of a nod. She didn't take her eyes from the gold fur. A small part of her will was keeping the feline still.

Her trap dropped at her feet, and she settled into the easy half-crouch, took a breath and the chant rose again as the shaman stepped aside. The cat leapt, and the trap held. As her eyes blurred she heard the shaman snarl, but her soul was locked to the chant her mind twined with that of the cat, she could not look away. When a heavy hand landed on her shoulder she blinked, dazed and trembling. Her eyes jerked up with a flinch, and realized that the shaman had taken his natural form, and a large tauren stood over her, holding her blade out. Then the feline nudged her hip and she realized just how cold she really was as she stumbled. But it was done.

"Thank you, Chieftain. I could not have-"

"We are a clan. You only had to ask."

-Bloodriver Rocks because help is always there-


Dragon Trifecta

Bloodriver took on three dragons last night. Sartharion was the first on our list. We ran it with all three drakes down, that was our "warm up" for the night. I didn't get hit once by lava. It was just a mild... well, we did it. Good... next! feeling.

Second on the list was our arch rival - Malygos. Our guild has not seen him downed as a whole in EoE 10 yet. The last time we tried had been an unmitigated disaster. This round we kept getting closer and closer, and closer. I died at least twice... figured out I could fire while being whipped around in Vortex as Surv... and took aggro away from Vela. That meant that Maly was trying to kill me as soon as I hit the ground. I splattered. I watch them wipe on drakes, get back up, try again.... splatter on first vortex (yep, same mistake) they wipe in Phase 2 this time, let's try that again.... Get to drakes, everyone is alive.... Maly noms me on Drake, I die. Healer dies, the rest of the group soon follows.

Let's try this yet again. Managed to get him to 13% before he enrages. Last try. Phase one flies by, phase 2 soars by, we hit phase 3 and the drakes and manage to say in a semi-cohesive group so the healers keep us healed and we pew pew at Malygos. We've got a minute to go before the enrage timer flashes up. He never got there, we watch Malygos DROP OUT OF THE SKY.

In between me dying on Malygos Torr ran to the store, got me a cappuccino, and came back. He was sitting next to me when the only thing that came out of my mouth was a happy "YES!" My guildmates errupted into cheers when he fell. My only wish, as we all celebrated, was that a certain person could have been there with us to see it. Maybe he was though, and maybe that's why we finally brought down the bane of our existence. Here's to you Solarion. We got the bastard, as you would have said. We got him.

Last dragon of the night was another of the Black Flight. We took on Deathwing's Daughter, Onyxia. Myst and Lin were able to run with us for both Sarth and EoE, but couldn't handle the whelps and the pure spell spectacle that was Onyxia + whelps, and DC'd to the point that they bowed out. We brought in a few to replace them, because the guild wanted its trifecta.

Onyxia nommed on trolls for a while. Troll Flambe is pretty popular amongst the black flight apparently. Either we were getting Belf Sautee with Mushrooms, or the tailswipe was trying to feed somebody to whelps, or somebody else wasn't getting out of Mommy's way when she was flying across the sky. Basically, Ony was being a pain in the neck. Most of the raid had been standing there through all three dragons. We all vowed to drop her and add her head to the Hall.

After scraping ourselves off the floor for the third time... we come back in, nobody dies, manage to kill the last Lair Guardian and bring Onyxia to bay. We dps her down, getting closer and closer and closer... then Vela chirps over vent, "She's down!" Niqo and I both respond with "NOT YET." She wasn't a corpse on the floor at that point.

I guess Niqo and I had both seen too many fails after somebody had spouted the above phrase. She did die though, and we all danced on her corpse and took pics. The Dragon Trifecta is Dead... in one night.

Sartharion - Dead
Malygos - DEAD!
Onyxia - Dead