Gnomes of Newerth?

I have recently found myself spending most of my farming time (in World of Warcraft, you silly, I am no agriculture-Gnome!) playing the closed beta of Heroes of Newerth. HoN is a Defense of the Ancients clone that is its own standalone game.

In case you've never heard of DotA or HoN, the gameplay has the standard God-perspective that most real-time strategy games use, and you command a single hero to move around the battlefield, cast spells and attack. Each battlefield is divided between the two factions (Legion and Hellbourne) with defensive structures placed along the main roads. The goal of the game is to destroy your enemies' headquarters before they destroy yours. Computer-controlled "creeps" are rudimentary soldiers that spawn regularly in your base and fight their way along the roads.

Now, if you are a seasoned DotA player, then you will not find any new gameplay here. However, because HoN is not simply an addon for Warcraft 3, it can offer player-focused DotA-specific features, including:
  • a more modern graphics engine with better details and effects
  • built-in voice-chat
  • dedicated matchmaking system
  • tracking of player ratings, ranks and statistics
I am fast becoming a fan of the gameplay. Of course, this does not imply that I am actually any good. Presently, my rating tends to rest between 1300 and 1400, although today it dipped below 1200 due to some really bad decision-making on my part. There is definitely some finesse required to play this game well, and I hope to cultivate this over time. So far I've discovered that melee characters are especially difficult for me to master, so for now I try to steer clear of them when choosing from the 57 different heroes available.

I have yet to find a Gnome amongst the otherwise varied roster. There are three unreleased heroes as I write this, but the likelihood of one of them being a Gnome is low. Gnomes are comparatively small creatures, and it would be unfair and uncompetitive to have a hero that is difficult to see and click on even before game mechanics and abilities are applied. Still, I hold some hope, as there are already heroes in the game that ride on various geometry-expanding mounts, something I am sure would help increase a Gnome's profile.

I heartily recommend checking out the game if you can. Keep your ear to the ground and act quickly when the next batch of HoN beta invites are available. The game is already extremely polished and enjoyable (even with my utter lack of skill). Once the entire hero roster is finished, the open beta cannot be too far off.

Oh yeah, and WTB more Gnomes. :)


Showing your colours, WoW-style

If you've spent enough time in WoW, especially in parties and raids, you'll have learnt how to identify a character's class simply by looking at its colour. Each character class has its own distinct colour, so that they can easily be identified in the Raid window and throughout the user interface. Below is a table of the character classes in WoW with their corresponding hexadecimal colour code:
Death Knight

What I've done in the above table, is actually use the class colour code on the text in the first column. How you do this is specific to the sort of place you use the code. For example, BBCode is a particular content format that is widely accepted in many different forums, and you can use the code like this:
I really like dealing damage with [color=#C41E3B]Vocah[/color], but I also like healing with [color=#FF7D0A]Hus[/color].
That above line will actually be displayed like so:
I really like dealing damage with Vocah, but I also like healing with Hus.

Notice how even though I don't specify the classes, experienced players will automatically know which classes I am referring to? The important part is the colour code, and figuring out how to specify font colours in the document format you are using.

You can actually download the official Interface Addon Kit and find out more about how Blizzard's user interface is put together. If you are a tinkerer at heart, then this is a good place to begin. I actually appropriated those precise class colours from the FrameXML/FontStyles.xml file found in the kit.

This was a little off-topic, but I've always found this handy and I hope you will to. I find these colours can be a simple way to enhance discussion of multiple characters or spruce up a forum signature without much effort.


Phase 3 = Profit

It seems Blizzard took their first steps into a world of microtransactions. This has been covered in tonnes of places, and my friend Vok mentions it over at Unreal Realities, but in case you've been busy tinkering with your gadgets you should know that Blizzard is offering vanity pets for cash (not in-game currency, US dollars or Euros).

I love vanity pets. I spent a month farming for the Disgusting Oozeling so that Vocah could summon it the day he was freed from the Lich King's service. I bought the Firefly from a guildie for 500g back when The Pacemakers were working up the courage to face Magtheridon. And just recently I purchased an adorable baby Murloc in a Spacemarine outfit for real Australian dollars.

Blizzard's decision to do this has got me thinking about a hypothetical situation in which they allow us to purchase in-game gold through their store. I realise that Blizzard has not announced such a move, and even if it were coming I doubt we'd see it until the expansion after Cataclysm. Back to my fantasy (or nightmare), let's take a look at the positives:
  • Third party gold-sellers and the seedy eco-system they foster, including account-theft and all forms of in-game spam, might be completely eradicated.
  • Assuming most of the highly-desired rewards (eg armor and weapons) are still earned through playing, money and time will still be no substitute for skill and dedication.
  • We would no longer have to do daily quests (or otherwise spend lots of time) to earn gold.
  • The many fixed and running costs of levelling and maintaining a character (eg skills, training, mounts, repairs, flasks) can be conveniently covered by players too busy to save in-game currency.
  • Players with real-life commitments will have one less barrier to keeping up with other players.
For good measure, here are a few negative consequences:
  • In-game inflation harms the economy, and measures introduced to combat this may be unpalatable.
  • Activision Blizzard might be tempted to offer any in-game item or perk for sale, defeating the purpose of cultivating player skill.
  • Skilled or dedicated players who are accustomed to feeling superior will resent players with real-world money.
  • Blizzard's official stance is that buying and selling gold is against the terms of service, and a sudden reversal of this policy may make them appear silly or frivolous.
  • Trading currency in this fashion may make the game illegal to play in certain countries.
I feel very uneasy about the idea of officially-sanctioned gold-buying, but there is a compelling case in its favour. The first items on each list are really the big issues. On one-hand, we have the possible end to account-hijacking and spammers luring players away from "acceptable use". On the other hand, we have a completely broken in-game economy with everything on the auction house costing millions of gold.

This topic will be an interesting one to watch. I can't wait to see what Blizzard will sell next. In case any of you wondered, I am definitely going to be picking up those pets soon, along with a few authenticators. So, are you hopping mad for vanity pets? Is the Blizzard Store your next stop? How would official Blizzard gold change your life?

PS: WoWenomics is a blog that keeps a good eye on the state of our virtual economy. There was an interesting post that shows you how to determine your gold-making skills, and I believe I ended up being an Apprentice.