Sunday, July 21, 2013

World of Warcraft To Test Using Real Money to Buy Experience Buffs

By Bixyl Shuftan

While World of Warcraft players have been busy with the Battle of the Barrens and other places, earlier this month there was some news that Blizzard would be testing out something never done before in the game - allowing players to gain experience faster by using real money purchases.

The buying of game items, or "micro-transactions," are not new to gaming, or even to WoW. Some smaller Internet games such as Evony allow players to purchase a variety of buffs, better equipment, etc. As these purchases give the buyer an advantage over free players, they are sometimes called "Pay to Win" games. Larger MMOs have tended to avoid such offers, not wanting to give loyal players who've gamed a long time the impression someone can just buy their way to the top and avoid the time and hard work in getting there. Instead some, WoW included, offer the sale of items that do not affect gameplay, such as mounts and pets.

In Summer 2011, Eve Online players protested plans to allow the purchase of items that would affect gameplay, and eventually the company relented. "It's one thing to add non-game items and make money off that," one reader wrote, "It's another entirely to screw up the whole game mechanics so that veteran players who've worked a year to get where they are get bumped by some snotnosed kid who's using Daddy's credit card to buy his way to the top."

Earlier this month, Blizzard forum moderators admitted to plans to "exploring" options after it was discovered there were plans for items to be sold at an "in game store," such as an "Enduring Elixir of Wisdom" that gave a 100% experience boost. The store will reportedly be only on Asian servers at first, and the item is described as currently only on test servers and only available to players level 85 or more.

The response from the players was mostly negative, "The item itself is mostly harmless … the problem is that it opens doors to (the) 'Pay to Win' model. And we already pay the game and a monthy fee just to skip that." Some stated they would leave the game, or feared others would if the In Game Store was released. Some stated they wouldn't mind the option to level other characters this way once a player had brought one up to the maximum Level 90 anyway.

This comes soon after some less than happy news for World of Warcraft. In May, Blizzard stated they had lost more than a million players in the first three months of the year, from 9.6 million n January 2013 to 8.3 million in March. While most of the losses were from Asia (where the in-game store will be tested), some Western gamers left as well. This continues a long-term drop from it's peak of 12 million in 2010, and the company admitted further decline was likely, "we expect to have fewer subscribers at year end than we do today." The reasons for the drop, players were leaving for cheaper games, notably those playable on mobile devices. The video game industry, in addition to virtual words such as Second Life, has been facing increased competition from handhelds such as tablets, iPods, and others.

At the time, Blizzard stated they would be investing more in WoW, with more storylines and features. Since then, the Darkspear Rebellion was introduced. But that even the largest of MMOs would resort to "dabbling in the darkest gold-producing alchemy of them all" of microtransactions allowing those with deeper pockets an edge over conventional players, this could be taken as a sign that even the people behind World of Warcraft are wondering if it won't be long before they no longer dominate online gaming.

Sources: Gamasutra, BBC News, Rock Paper Shotgun, Blizzard Forums,

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, July 19, 2013

Game Review: Final Fantasy VII Returns on Steam

By Grease Coakes

Lots of people remember the old Atari game systems with the old games combat and space invaders with very primitive graphics. A little later the Nintendo entertainment system stormed across the world with Super Mario bros and classics like Metroid and Zelda.

Fast forward about ten years or so and the First Playstation became the popular gaming system of the time. Squaresoft a gaming company from Japan well known for its Final Fantasy RPG game series came out with the seventh game in the series. Back in 1997 when it was released it had state of the art graphics not with the characters but with realistic looking environments. By today’s standards the blocky avatar you controlled as Cloud was a graphical joke. However the environments made a solid attempt of looking realistic especially in Midgar where you start the game. Considering this was back in 1997 before the year flipped to 2000 and beyond, Final Fantasy VII was a major feat.

In combat however the avatars are better looking 3-d models as your characters do battle with bad guys that you encounter to gain experience Gil and so on. In fact one of the main features of FF VII is the active combat system. Instead of turn based combat like in a dragon quest game where you can take your time deciding what to do your team will be attacked as you tell your characters what to do.

So yes if you do nothing and step away for a bathroom break or your roommate badgers you to death about taking out the trash when you get back your game may be over as the pixel Cloud and his buddies were told to do nothing.

The story itself starts in Midgar as you control a blond spiky man named Cloud who was an Ex-Solider. Caring for nothing but himself, Cloud was hired by Avalanche, a resistance group against the powerful corporation Shinra. Barret the group leader doesn’t trust Cloud’s arrogant attitude, but lets him help in the mission anyway.

Barret and Cloud sabotage a mako reactor as Barret explains it’s unethical for Shinra to drain energy from the earth to power homes etc. Cloud could care less as he just wants his payment of Gil. The game from then on starts as possibly one of the greatest role playing games in the history of video games.

The game play is simple where you command Cloud and your team to attack cast magic or use an item like a potion during combat. However each character can only cast magic if he or she has Materia equipped to their weapon and or armor. Having a Restore Materia equipped to Cloud lets him cast cure to heal hit points on himself or others. Fire Materia allows a character like Barret or Tifa to cast fire attack spells. Materia is created as condensed life energy and allows magical abilities. Most materia very slightly reduces physical attributes while very slightly increasing your magical power. Over a long period of time you gain AP or attribute points to make your material level up to give you stronger healing or lightning abilities. You could just constantly fight enemies early on to beat the system and level up your materia to fire and cure 2, but it would take a very long time to do so.

Another addition to combat is the limit break where a bar fills up a little or a lot depending how much damage your character takes. When the bar fills up instead of attacking your character can do a Limit break instead. Aeris a weak physical character her limit break heals everyone on your team. Cloud does a Braver, which is a super physical attack with his large sword. As you level up your characters gain new limit breaks along with higher hit points and magic points.

The game from years ago is still the same from 1997 with a slight brush up of the graphics along with the same music and sound effects. When I talked to a dog I heard a good attempt of recreating a dog’s woof. It missed by a mile or so, but I enjoyed the sound effect anyway. The movies in between scenes were graphically good though for the time. Pixar or another computer animation company could easily blow those scenes away in one of their movies today though. However Squareenix left the old school movies as is and only improved upon them cleaning them up. Cloud’s sword twirl at the end of each battle and Tifa’s stretching are still there. In fact when I loaded up the game for the first time there were the charging chocobos with the Squaresoft logo very much if I started up the game 16 years ago.

Another feature that I liked playing with was the color change feature to change the color of the background behind the menus and dialogue and combat. There’s a screen with four corners and you can change the color of each corner to customize your very own color scheme as you helped Cloud and his friends fight Shinra and whatever other baddies came your way. I remember changing the color scheme every so often.

There’s something shocking that happens later in the game, but if you never played FF7 I don’t want to give it away. If you really must know ask a friend or use the web. But if you want to find out for yourself and you tell your friends “No! Don’t tell me! I want to find out for myself!” More power to you I won’t give away what happens.

When I played Final Fantasy 7 for a little bit before I wrote this article, I greatly enjoyed playing through the game as I played on my computer years ago when I didn’t have a playstation. I’ll savor the game by playing a little bit now and again and not rush through the game as I barely got anywhere in the game anyway so far. Final Fantasy 7 is a classic game that even if you hate video games and RPG/s you can at least give a try, or you could be reading this article and you beat the game 100 times before and you want to beat the game 101th time on steam on your computer.

It’s available for download on steam at for a low price of $11.99. Swing Cloud’s big sword or shoot Barret’s hand gun (no really his hand is a gun) for the first time or you’re a hardened vet of the game. This game is a smart buy.

Grease Coakes

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Breezes Thoughts: "Twas an Old Lady ..." Part 3

Little old lady is disguised as a beauty gal walking through Arizona trails. She gasps in amazement  when she wandered into a town called Tombstone . Seeing many colorful baskets  that you can ride inside  and above the baskets all so many different big air balloons filled with Gas.  Gas, she thinks.  where they figure out how to fill Gas in a Balloon. Thinks must not be the kind of gas she knows.  Shuddering, she decides not to ask question .

Oh boy!  There she sees a balloon that is from the Apaches.  Let her describe it to you. It is a wigwam,  and the basket contains a campfire. She knows the tribe is talented in hunting and creations for headdresses and bracelets and necklaces and the making of beautiful dreamcatchers. But this balloon just thrills her.   Seeing more big balloons raising to the deep blue sky, is a sight to behold.

Higher and higher they go, flying oh so close the the mountain top and  - oops, hears a shot  from near where she stands. Seeing an outlaw with shotgun in hand.  Meanest man in the land, trying to pierce a balloon to the ground.

She hears the thunder of a posse coming to find the outlaw, but he flees to the hidden caves scattered round.  Time for  this little lady to run for her life.

Goodbye til next adventure.   July 4th 1899.

Breezes Babii

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Breezes Thoughts: "Twas an Old Lady ..." Part 2

Here she found a lady siting by a waterfall. Imagine this in the outskirts of desert land.  Hiding  behind a boulder as not to scare the lady away, the Old lady in the shoe was delighted with all the glory is to be found along the way. To swim and dive in the  deepest cold mountains streams and see the fishes all fleeing fast as their fins can go. So many different species here she has found, only to discover a 7 Seas sign of fishing allowed. Is there nothing more relaxing than to fish and swim and she knew what treasures this land has provided.

So if all you readers like the thought of the Old West. come and discover what wonders to be found in Tombstone Arizona.

Breezes Babii

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Egypt Sim: Getting Away From the Crisis

In recent days, the counrty of Egypt's been in the news. It was February 2011 in which Mubarak, who had ruled for decades, stepped down from power after many days of protests. But the optimism that change would lead to a free republic was darkened when the elections were won by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. While the new president, Mohamed Morsi, appeared somewhat moderate at times, there were calls from the Brotherhood for an Islamic state under their brand of Sharia law, with crushing restrictions for women and war with their neighbor Israel.

More and more of the public grew increasingly upset with the government, and in recent days there have been numerous protests in Cairo, some of which resulted in clashes with pro-Islamist groups. Crowds demanded Morsi resign from office. Finally on July 3rd, the military made it's move and seized control. Morsi was forced out of power and in house arrest. Warrants have also been issued for the arrest of about three hundred Brotherhood members. The result was cheers from the demonstrators. Celebrations went on for hours.

In Second Life, the demonstrations against Mubarak two years ago were reflected at the Egypt sim, followed by celebrations after his ouster. Dropping by the Egypt sim today, the place was much more subdued. The people there were mostly gathered at some gaming tables, chatting with one another in text and voice. The sim owner, Faresgaser Firelyte, happened to be there. Chatting with him, he explained that they were here to relax, and not take their real world troubles with them into Second Life.

But there was one concession to events in real life. Not far from the tables, a memorial had been set up. It was done up in red white and black, the traditional colors of Arab flags, and with a plaque that read "To the memory of all these wonderful people who lost there lives for freedom trying to make the world a better place to live."

Meanwhile, developments in Egypt continue. An interim president has been selected until after the next elections. Some outside the country have mixed feelings as it took the military to oust the Brotherhood from power. But for now, the crowds at Cairo are expressing little if anything but cheer with the Islamists out of power, "No more beards!"

Bixyl Shuftan