Are you still checking this blog?


Hi there,

If you’re reading this, it’s my unfortunate duty to inform you that you’re woefully behind the times. Fires of War is no longer with us. I’m sorry for your loss. But fear not! The same guy who brought you this blog has a new project, Game by Night! It’s the same quality content you’ve come to expect here but, newer, shinier, and self-hosted  which automatically makes it better. Sweet deal, eh? Why don’t you head on over and have a look. Don’t worry, we only bite when milkbones are involved. We’re pretty sure you’re safe.

– Chris, a.k.a. “Raegn”

We Have MOVED!!!

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Alrighty everybody, I have the site in good working order and we’re ready to make the move. Our new home is Game by Night. It’s a blog similar to this one but more open in format and, if I can say so myself, much nicer looking. If you enjoy reading this site, please visit us there. We offer an RSS feed as well as email updates, so be sure to update your information.

Fellow bloggers, I’m not asking anyone to, but I’d sure appreciate any help you can give in spreading the word and updating your link here on the side bar. Also, if you’ve been kind enough to link to me on your blogroll and I haven’t returned the favor, please let me know since I’d certainly like to.

Thank you all for your readership here. I’ve had a lot of fun. We’re just beginning over there, in the darkness, with a little introduction to a game I never expected to see. Come visit, won’t you? See you on the other side!

Quick update

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Hi Everyone,

The site is almost done! I have a layout I like and have customized. All of the placeholder sites are in place and waiting to be filled. The main things I have to finish up have to be done in photoshop, which takes a little bit of time. Pretty much all of my free time is going into tweaking, fixing, and creating at the moment, so I haven’t been able to play many games to write on. That will change soon. I’m hoping to have the site done tomorrow. For now, hang tight here and I’ll let you know when it’s done!

IMPORTANT: Fires of War is moving!


Since the webhosting sale was ending pretty quick, I decided to jump at the opportunity and signed up for an official domain name and hosting space. That means something very significiant for this blog.

First, once I have everything set up, the content found herein may be lost. I haven’t quite learned how to transfer things over or if that’s even a possibility given how I’m going about this.

Second, Fires of War itself will be discontinued. Many of you may recall that I posted a goodbye letter not too far back. All of the reasons that I stated in that posting were true. I felt like I lacked ambition and really much to discuss. It’s a bit of a funk that has something to do with feeling limited by the context which I’ve built for this space. Fires of War is an mmorpg blog. So, naturally, non-MMO posts seem a little out of place. More than that, the name “Fires of War” is fitting for a Warhammer blog but a little out of place for a normal gaming site. After all, the name doesn’t really scream “gaming” does it?  If I saw somebody going to, I’d think they were going to an Anti-War website before anything else. That’s not really what I’m going for.

My next dwelling will be more open in format. I even intend to have a separate page for short fiction, as that is another hobby of mine (not that I’m expecting the majority of my traffic to care about it, really).

That being said, it’ll pretty much be a name change for most of the people who are used to reading here ;-). I’ll be posting about some console stuff and other things in the media, or really anything that I find interesting, with a central focus on gaming. Think Darren’s Common Sense Gamer. Of note though, is that I may change the voice you’re used to hearing in my writing a little bit. I tend to limit myself from time to time here simply because I have an established readerbase that has expectations from me.

Interestingly enough, I should also be bringing a new voice into the picture from time to time. A good friend of mine, Ryan from The Game Seers podcast has signed on to be a contributer. There’s a couple of other people I’ll be talking to as well.

Along with all of this, I’ll be dropping the handle of “Raegn.” The truth of the name? It was an RP throwback from my early WoW days. After all, how cool would it be to have a name that said “reign” but different?! It’s not my chosen handle though, so transitioning into that.

So, as you can tell, a lot of things are changing yet in the most important ways remaining the same. A move to our own domain will be a good thing. We’ll lose some readers, initially, sure. That’s unfortunate but I’m hoping that most of you will follow along to our new home.

And the name of that home? (no, there’s nothing up there yet ;-)). I’ve also registered too, so who knows what I’ll do with that.

I won’t turn this into another, “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish!” post if for no other reason than we’re not moving yet. There’s preparation to do. I would anticipate I’ll have the other site up and ready by about the middle of next week.

Challenging the Concept of Challenge


Or, the truth about MMO gaming….

Since I started blogging, I’ve read a lot about how players want to be challenged. A good amount of this conversation has circulated around World of Warcraft and the WotLK difficulty drop. I always accepted these statements as understandable truths but lately I’ve been questioning just how true they really may be.

Do we play MMORPGs for the challenge? A lot of you will probably say yes and I’d have to disagree with most of you.

To better explain, let’s look at the definition of Challenge:

“A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking: a career that offers a challenge.” – American Heritage

Compare that definition to the current “challenges” of most popular mmos: pressing the right keys at the right times, staying out of the glowing shapes on the ground, try not to let the monster hit you, and put in enough time.

There’s more than that for some players but I think that about sums up the average players “challenge” in an MMO. The usual justification is that “it takes skill to play your class well.” Yeah, maybe, bust most MMOs don’t really require you to play your class “well” to succeed. They require you to fulfill your requirement which, we all know, doesn’t necesarily mean doing anything even near well.

By and large, MMOs follow a more time = more reward formula. Skill and challenge really have nothing to do with that. In the pursuit of equal opportunity, challenge has been lost in translation.

What does challenge mean to me? It means having to pay attention to a fight the whole time or risking death. It means more than auto-attack, 1, 3, 2, 2, 2. It means taking risks and making decisions that could make or break an encounter. In short, it means a much less forgiving game. For some players, dedicated raid/guild leaders and PvPers to name a few, that formula holds up. For the rest, time and repetition are the “challenges” they’re meeting.

But do we really play MMOs for the challenge of them? I sure hope not, otherwise we all went into this thing organizationally deficit, which, taken as a whole, is probably true (getting a group of people together is part of what makes a group leader’s job more of a challenge than most other aspects of play).

MMOs fill a different gap in our gaming lives. They provide a feeling of moving from one place to another, progression, that gives our gaming purpose. They give us a social outlet that gives it meaning and value. They give us a meta-game, a distraction from the day to day, and something to devote or intellectual resources to.

If I want “challenging” gameplay, I’ll turn to a game with difficulty settings. When I’m playing an MMO, I don’t expect any more challenge that knowing what buttons to push when and where not to stand — until that special little player comes along and pushes me outside of my bounds. The truth of why PvE will always top PvP in popularity is that most people in this genre want an MMO for what it is, a slightly dumbed down RPG they can experience with other people. And that’s not so bad.

Edit: I just read a recent article at Ferrel’s site, Epic Slant, that made me want to clarify something. He made the point that, yes, learning new encounters can be difficult. There’s no doubt about that. The reason I still feel that, on the whole, modern MMOs present little is that most people do not go through the effort of learning encounters themselves.  I wish more people would, I wish that I would, because it presents a far more exciting encounter until it’s mastered. There’s a social expectation, however, that counteracts that desire. The expectation is that you’ll either a) know what’s going to happen ahead of time; or b) keep up. That expectation pressures people to follow instead of learn.

WoW bought forth a massive influx of database sites so it’s no longer necessary for people to learn encounters on their own. The learning curve is drastically reduced for the vast majority of gamers because as soon as a guild or two clears through the latest dungeon, a strategy is put online that details everything subsequent groups are likely to encounter. Plus, for a guild with VoIP, only one person really needs to know the encounter well, and they can just tell the rest of the group what to do. Unfortunately, I also think a good chunk of gamers just want the gear upgrade at the end, too. Why bother with the frustration of learning the encounter on your own when the fight is just a means to an end anyways?

Perhaps a better statement is that modern MMO end-game is as challenging as players want it to be… most people just want it easy.

Looking for advice…


Hey Everyone,

It’s been a little silent around here for a few days! One of the reasons for this is that I’ve been looking into getting the blog moved to its own domain. I have to be honest though, I’m really just fishing. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m searching for web host reviews and trying to guess which one will be best. Right now, 1and1 Hosting is winning with a 6 month payment plan at about $4 a month. They’re offering 300GB of monthly transfer space which sounds good. But, hell, like I know any better. I’m pretty sure it’d work for the site now but, like any blogger who wants to invest in his site, I’m hoping to expand.

So, I’m asking you, well-informed reader, do you know of any good and cheap web hosts? More importantly, any good and cheap web hosts that won’t make me pay for 3 years up front to remain cheap? And also, any ideas on what kind of bandwidth goal I should be shooting for? Unlimited is nice, to be totally open, I’m looking for the smallest investment up front as I can right now.

Feel free to post in the comments but if you’d rather email, you can catch me at

Thanks in advance!

Non-MMO: Getting rid of my PSP

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I’ve had my PSP for about a year now and I’ve decided to trade it in for the Nintendo DS. Unlike many in the gaming industry, I’m not enamored with Nintendo or full of nostalgia for the golden days of eight-bit gaming. I have, however, had fun with their systems and thoroughly enjoyed many of their N64 titles (Goldeneye sniper mode was teh win). On the other hand, I can say the exact same for most of the other big game consoles.

Actually, after the N64, I pretty much gave up on Nintendo. After seeing the route the company went with the Gamecube, I knew that our ways had parted and couldn’t really understand the fanboyism of some of my friends.

Then the Wii came along and, despite the gimmicky controls, I remained unimpressed. Nintendo seemed intent upon staying behind the times. I mean, come on… in this day and age they can’t even put arms on their “Miis”? What the heck, Nintendo. Still, some of the games were alright, definitely better for playing with other people, but not good enough to convince me to buy into the fad.

The same thing applied to the Nintendo DS. The Nintendo crowd could keep their little kid games and test their Brain Age all they wanted. I went for the PSP. Good graphics. Good games. Good stuff.

Except, after playing with it for a year, I find myself at a loss as it sits on the floor of my closet, even while I’m searching for a way to distract myself at work.

After some contemplation, I have it pinned down. The PSP is a system that doesn’t know what it wants to be. On one hand, they push for cutting edge graphics and strong gameplay but, on the other, each of those forces the games to be shorter and shallower due to the space limitations of the UMD.

Playstation wants you to believe that the PSP is a PS2 in pocket with such titles as Grand Theft Auto and God of War, yet it suffers because it simply cannot compare to the original games, again, due to space limitations and a muddy control system.

But, wait, it’s not just a game system! It’s a movie system! An MP3 player! A PDA! On all three counts, it does not live up to its charge. Movie selection is lacking, even when you find a store that rents their discs. It’s a freaking block, so no one uses it for an mp3 player. And, as for being a web tool, well… it works for rudimentary web browsing. As long as you don’t have to type anything in less than five minutes.

So, after all this time, I find myself looking again at the Nintendo DS.  Are the graphics as good? No way. But at least the DS knows what it wants to be. It’s a casual console, designed for in and out fun. They don’t want to engross you in hours of deep play. They want you to return to it, time and again, for little pieces of fun and, when you want, devote big chunks of time.

But they don’t force you. And they don’t give allusions to being more than what they are. Nintendo makes clear the audience they’re shooting for and give players the tools to do more with what they’re given.

After over 10 years of sitting firmly in the Sony/Microsoft circle, I’m looking towards a different corner of the gaming ring.

Wish me luck with my trade-ins. Even a PSP is worth more than fifty bucks.

More Aion Thoughts From China Live

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I got the chance to explore a little bit more in Aion last night. As I was playing a few thoughts kept popping up in my mind. Since many of you were interested in my impressions, I thought I’d post them here until I write another “impressions” post. I have to say though, because I feel it’s important, I had no interest in Aion whatsoever until I tried it. I’m very surprised with how much fun I’ve had. Before this, the game I’d had the most fun questing in was WoW, hands down. For better or worse, Aion matches that experience. Here we go…

-> Without a doubt, WoW fans will call copycat on this one.

By level six on the Asmodyian side, you’ll most likely encounter a quest that has you killing restless undead whose burlap sack headwear bears an uncanny resemblence to those in WoW. Likewise, the glowy yellow bugs a reminiscient of those in Zangarmarsh. Combining that with the similar UI and the playstyle similarities, WoW fans may brush the game off. Forgot to screenshot, sorry.

-> Aion makes you feel rich… but you’re not.

By level six, I have over 2,000 kinah. Since there’s no breakdown (correct me if I’m wrong) of money into different types, you wind up with a lot of it. Where some games reward you with 50 copper for an early quest, NPCs here will reward you with 900 kinah early on. There’s a lot of money sinks though, so it evens out. Still, it leads me to wonder about the cash rewards later in the game. Little known fact: the Asmodyian faction leader is the Monopoly man.

-> No news here: grinding is there but worthwhile.

There’s been a lot of talk about how NCSoft is westernizing the game. The common understanding is that this means they’re reducing the grind. Still, I hope they leave it as a viable form of advancement. Right now, you can choose to either quest, grind, or a mix of both and all three options are worth the time you put in. I like having the option to turn off for a while and still get something done. The experience actually reminds me a lot of the Final Fantasy SRPG series, where you’d have to level up to prepare for boss fights. To me, that’s a good thing. Apart from XP, grinding will also net you vendor trash which is suprisingly lucrative. I made over 1k just from killing mobs between two quest hubs.

Grind also acts as a separating factor. WoW streamlined MMOs and in doing so they changed player’s expectations. Grinding will filter out people from getting to the endgame. While I’m not in support breaking down a game into casual vs. hardcore, I do think there’s value in making people earn max level. It gives the everyday player something to aspire to.

-> Legion (guild) banners are just cool.

Appears automatically after joining a legion

Appears automatically after joining a legion -- click to enlarge

I got myself into a legion last night and was surprised to see a new armor piece appear on my character. This is what trophies in WAR should have been.  Mythic, please take this example and use it in your game. Along with that though…

-> /Who search sucks.

No ability to search by legion tag? Poor. Demanding proper capitalization? Worse. This made it a chore to find members of the legion I was interested in because I couldn’t just search for “warmongers.” I had to go to the aionsource forums, locate members posts, search for their character names, and then move on to contacting them. And, beware people who have fun with capitals. “Cryptic” is not the same thing as “cryptic”.

-> I’m a little conflicted in how I feel about questing.

The polish in the questing experience is great. You can tell they cared about the quality of their questing experience and the mini cut-scenes (fly overs of your quest area usually) are really neat. Still, the quest text tends to be lengthy. Usually, I wouldn’t mind this since I’m among those who enjoy reading why I’m being asked to do something. Yet, since I know it will ultimately come down to kill, collect, or deliver, I find myself tempted to just skip it.

That’s about it for now. I’m really interested to dig into this game a little bit more now that I have a group of other English speakers to play with. I’ll put together another impressions post once I get my wings.

Weighing Out Payment Models


I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of the $15 a month subscription fee. It’s archaic and out dated in today’s gaming market. Thankfully, it seems to be on the way out, what with Blizzard even talking about getting rid of it (that will be the day).

But what are our options if we get rid of it? Micro-transactions, for one. Paid expansions for another. And then, there’s my personal favorite, the Eastern model.

Microtransactions are viable but not ideal. There’s too much temptation to offer “exclusives” to members that pay more. I’m all for allowing people additional customization and other perks, so long as the original game is flush with content. In other words, you should have a complete robust game before microtransactions come into the mix and, even then, the player should never feel pressured to pay. Microtransactions only work when they don’t negatively impact the game of free players.

Paid expansions are an interesting idea but hold the potential to be as expensive, if not moreso, than the normal payment model. Guild Wars proved that it can be done effectively but their expansions were true, full blown, content upgrades. In other words, real expansions and not just moderate patches like what you see emerging in games like Final Fantasy 11. If a game like WoW were to move to a paid expansion model, I think it’d take the FFXI form and wind up costing people more. I’m not a big fan of the paid expansion model.

Finally, we have the Eastern model. I’ve only recently had experience with this payment method and I have to say that I love it. This model involves paying by the hour and is seen widely in China and other Eastern countries. Many people seem to look down on it; however, I fail to see the issue.

To put it in perspective, I recently bought 200 hours on the Chinese version of Aion for a little under $10. Rounding up to an even 10, I’m paying roughly five cents an hour. For that price, you could buy 300 hours of gametime for the standard monthly fee we currently pay. That’s 75 hours a week and almost 11 hours a day, broke down. Great value if you ask me.

Then again, we have another rarely seen model, which is the Lifetime Subscription. I like this option in the same way that I like Guild Wars expansions. Somehow, it’s easier to swallow one bigger purchase than a monthly payment I have to budget for – even if it’s cheap. Lifetimes are valuable in that they provide the option of something to play, without the obligation of dropping a credit card number.

On the whole, I think I’m glad the monthly sub is on the way out. It’s not ideal, in any way, and, in truth, isn’t beneficial to the average player who won’t utilize the same playtime as a more hardcore player dishing out the same amount of cash. I’m not one for cash shops either but I kind of like the option to buy something neat for pennies on the dollar. And I think that’s where we’re headed. Hell, if WoW went F2P I might even come back. Yet, somehow, I think the day Blizzard makes that decision will be the day WoW is officially on the way out.

I broke…


I cracked.

I thought I’d steer clear of it but the temptation was just… too… much.

Like the fanboy I’ve proven to myself that I am, I went out and bought Final Fantasy 11 for the Xbox 360.

Don’t roll your eyes yet. The thing that pushed me to make the buy? The full game and all of the expansions for a mere $14.99 at Gamestop. Even if the game is over 6 years old, that’s a bargain price for arguably the most successful console MMO (only lasting console MMO) ever. And it’s Final Fantasy… come on.

How is it, you wonder? Well, I really don’t know. I haven’t been able to play it yet.

I bought it about six hours ago and it’s been a pretty incredible hassle since. Initially, I figured I’d pop the game in and go except it didn’t turn out that way.

The first thing the game asks you to do is install the PlayOnline Viewer (POL for short — a bloated launcher with email capability) and register for an account. I got done with the registration fine, except I wasn’t going to be able to be home to complete the full game download/update at the moment. So, I shut everything down and went about my business. Unfortunately, when I tried to start the game later that night, I got an “Unrecognized Disc” error. As it turns out, this happens when you don’t fully exit the viewer every time. The only fix at this stage? Format the hard drive. Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

But I did it, losing out on the several Xbox Original games and saves that I’d built up. When that was done, everything seemed to go smooth. Until update time. For some strange reason, I get to about 80% of the way through the update process and get error message POL-0250 which seems to result from server side issues and router configurations. After looking into it, I set my router up with all of the ports they needed (a mere 15-63,000 of them if you’re on a console).

The result? No change. The servers are up, so that shouldn’t be it and I’m at a loss.

Quite simply, *eyeroll*. I will give this game another few attempts over tomorrow. Depending on what happens, FFXI may find itself a new home on my shelf.

Update: Well, I got it to work. The fix? Returning my router to factory settings and older firmware. So, by disabling port forwarding and re-enabling my router firewall (with no exceptions), it worked. Kind of backwards, isn’t it?

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