Missing the Boat to Azeroth

World of Warcraft

Saving for my September trip to Japan is draining all of my money which means that £30 on a game and £8.99/month to play it is simply out of the question at the moment, and that makes me sad.

My experience with the MMORPG genre is limited to say the least, consisting of around 20 hours of Phantasy Star Online (if that’s even a real MMO), a few hours on last year’s E3 demo of Guild Wars, and a couple of hours on the European City of Heroes beta. Until I decided that I was going to Japan I was saving my proverbial MMO cherry for World of Warcraft, knowing from the early buzz that it was going to be something special.

Indeed it is a very special game, with Blizzard doing what they do best by almost perfecting a genre on their first attempt while the competition spend years fixing bugged and flawed games, launch issues aside. As I regular on IGN’s PC General Board I read about people pouring days into it, and Penny Arcade‘s blanket coverage and outpouring of praise didn’t help my situation. As it stands I’ve still yet to set foot in Azeroth and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve missed the boat.

By now the vast majority of players will be fairly experienced and will know the ropes, so I know that as soon as I drop it as a little lvl. 1 thing with no clue what I’m doing, I’m going to be the n00b of the bunch for a long time. I will have missed out on those early days of intrepid exploration as people make the first ventures into the wider world, and there won’t be much for me to find that others haven’t already seen and told the world about already.

By the time I’ll have any spare money to play it at all it’s going to be October, the boat will probably have well and truly sailed with only the die-hard obsessives remaining, and there will be something else on the horizon. The last thing I want to do is be stuck playing with the kinds of bottom dwellers who get pissed off with you if you don’t roleplay your part. Maybe the game’s popularity will be enduring and I’ll have my chance to play it, but with so many other games to come in the meantime am I going to care? Time will have to tell on that one.

Broadband Upgrade

“BT is increasing the speed of all our packages, for both new and existing customers, at no extra charge.”

YEAH!!

My current 512k connection is OK but I’m certainly not going to complain at a free upgrade to 2Mb. It’s about time that they got with the times over here and dropped the 512k connections considering most other countries with prevalent broadband use have been at a minimum of 1Mb download for a while now. I can’t wait!

The Redesign

You may have noticed the overhaul of this site, by far the biggest since I set it up over two years ago. Apart from the obvious cosmetic change, the backend has been completely changed from the grossly inefficient, hand-coded HTML system to a new PHP and database system running under WordPress. Not only should the look be cleaner, but it will make updating the site infinitely easier and more frequent.

The old content will be ported when I get around to it, but the site will shift focus to become more of a blog on what I’m getting up to as an aspiring games journalist as I study for my journalism degree, and maybe some more surprises. Stay tuned.

There will be more changes on the way as I finish setting up the theme, but I welcome feedback.

Edge Retrospectives

Edge is one of the few gaming publications that I have a lot of respect for. They can be pretentious but their features are consistently interesting even when they’re not about things that are necessarily popular, they’re insightful, and their reviews with their strict adherence to the idea that 5 = average and 10 = revolutionary are great.

They seem to be one of the few who realise that when they recommend a game people are going to spend £40 on it, which is a lot of money for what can be less than ten hours of entertainment. Dishing out 9s and 10s might get people through the door to see what the fuss is about, but they’re not going to stay if they don’t trust your judgement on what’s worth their money. That is, after all, what they’re paying you for.

Brown nosing aside, since Edge’s recent redesign I think I’ve fallen in love with their retrospectives on overlooked classics. They are, without a doubt, my favourite articles in any current publication and are well worth dropping the £4 to own the latest issue. Opening this month’s and finding six pages on Skies of Arcadia comes second only to opening the issue two months ago to find six pages on Shenmue in the greatest things ever to happen chart. I enjoyed GTA San Andreas as much as the next guy but it’s refreshing to read about a genuinely classic game that perhaps didn’t get the recognition it deserved instead. Even the fact that it’s a “warts and all” look doesn’t matter, because these are games that I’d play over and over again given the chance and will jump at the opportunity to read about them again. Too bad not many others would.

Since two of these retrospectives (my favourite ones so far, I have to admit) have been on Dreamcast games maybe the console itself could qualify as an overlooked classic. That’s certainly what I consider it: second only to the SNES.

Keep it up, Edge.

Plans for 2005

Game Zone Live

Previous years have seen me do occasional pieces of freelance for various sources, but as 2005 marks my first year as an official journalist-in-training, I’m stepping up my efforts to do even more and, frankly, I’m really excited about some of it.

I had been planning on going to E3 this year since it’s likely that we’ll see some new consoles – Xbox 2 should be pretty definite and it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll see something of PlayStation 3 – but it looks like exams at uni will put paid to that idea, much as I’d prefer to be in Kentia Hall than in an exam hall.

Last year I helped out IGN with their coverage of EGN/Game Stars Live (now Game Zone Live) at the London ExCeL and, as long as they’ll have me again, I’ll be doing that for three days at the beginning of September. It’s good fun even if the show is no E3. Last year had some cool opportunities like playable Halo 2 (if you wanted to wait four hours, absurdly); playable, if slightly buggy, Splinter Cell 3; playable STALKER; etc, and hopefully the show will have gained enough credibility to get more exhibitors, and maybe even the return of Sony from their jaunt up to Alton Towers.

At the beginning of the summer I’ve got a placement to go back to Highbury (formerly Paragon) where I’ll spend two weeks probably doing menial tasks, but at least I can re-establish my name with them. Most jobs for journalists straight out of university are at former work experience places and I can think of worse places to work than there, if it ever comes to that.

The final, and definitely best, piece of work is that I’m going to this years’ Tokyo Game Show. Yes, Tokyo as in Japan, as if there was any other. It’s been a dream of mine to go to Japan for as long as I can remember, pretty much since I’ve had an interest in gaming, and now those Japanese lessons might pay off. Me and a group of mates are going to Japan for two weeks and taking in Akihabara, the rest of Tokyo, and maybe even more of Japan as well as dropping in on TGS for a day. It’s going to be expensive and it’s going to almost completely drain my cash, but it will be worth it.

Here’s hoping that something good comes of all this.