Halo 3: Recon Becomes Halo 3: ODST For Some Reason, Has Nathan Fillion

Ok, so remember how Bungie made a big deal of rolling out their newest project, Halo 3: Recon? It’s not called that anymore. Now it’s Halo 3: ODST.

“Stay tuned to Bungie.net in the coming weeks and months for development updates and new details on our latest project,” says the website. “In the meantime, please remove ‘Halo 3 : Recon’ from your memory banks and replace it with ‘Halo 3 : ODST.'”

I guess that’s one way to do it, changing the name of your project after you do your huge initial PR push, replacing a straightforward subtitle with one that’s meaningless to all but your most committed fans. (ODST stands for “Orbital Drop Shock Trooper,” by the way.)

The news of the name change came too late for the magazine GameInformer, which arrived in the mailbox today with the title “Halo 3 Recon: World Exclusive Details Straight From Bungie.”

The article did have several interesting tidbits in it, however. Foremost among them, at least for me, was the news that Nathan Fillion will be playing the squad leader that your rookie character belongs to. You may be familiar with Mr. Fillion from such roles as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly and Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. If you’re not, I don’t want to know you.

New World of Warcraft Armory Achievements are Stalkeriffic

The Armory, the public page of World of Warcraft characters, recently updated to include the new achievements that went live with the expansion.

While there’s no personal information on the page, the new achievement let you track what someone’s online activity with a pretty reasonable precision. For example, let’s take a look at the updated page of Supernovan, aka Kevin Werbach, co-leader of the FCC review team, since he’s the only public figure whose WoW character I happen to know.

Werbach logged in on 11/23 to pick up that baby bear that Blizzard was giving away. That’s the first day the bear was available, so he’s clearly still keeping abreast of WoW news.

He doesn’t seem to be doing much these days with his character, probably since he’s busy with his new responsibilities. He did log on for a run at the Headless Horseman during the Halloween event, but since he’s missing the easier seasonal achievements like getting a paper mask, he probably was just on and off real quick.

If you look at his “Feats of Strength” awards, though, you can see he has the Senior Sergeant rank from the now-obsolete PVP system from before 2007. That’s no small feat, since even earning your way up the lower ranks of the old system made you grind out hours of play over a minimum of several weeks. Dude was a fiend!

Also, he’s got Mr. Pinchy! At a 1 in 500 chance to fish up from an already uncommon school of fish, he’s either really lucky or he’s got an astounding resistance to tedium.

That’s just an example. So, should you be worried about someone following your Armory page? Or in local-news-ese, ARE YOUR CHILDREN IN DANGER FROM CYBERSTALKERS IN VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES?

Probably not. This stuff is pretty tame, even if it’s a little weird to know that strangers can tell when you’re logging on and how you’re spending your time.

Plus, if MySpace and Facebook prove anything, it’s that people will already share reams of embarrassing information about themselves to Internet strangers with no incentive other than the possibility that someone might pay attention to them. Someone looking at your virtual pet count is probably not as important as your boss looking up photos of that bender you were at over the weekend.

You might want to take those down, by the way.

Zombie plague ends in World of Warcraft. Who else wants a piece?

It’s all done. The undead threat is over by virtue of plot macguffin. Looks like I won’t be demonstrating to the zombie hordes in the town square how god-power keeps my paladin’s pimp hand strong.

This has been Blizzard’s biggest experiments in an in-game event, and though not everyone will agree with me, I’d say it was a resounding success.

First, they nailed the zombie movie aspect. At the beginning, the outbreaks were small and almost comically easy to put down. The zombies were slow and dumb and hardly a threat. Then they tweaked the strength of the infection up over the course of a week until the capital cities became swamped and overrun. They were slow, but there were too many of them. You couldn’t check your bank or auction off items without having to fend off a bunch of players-turned-undead.

That’s the second thing they got right. With the last undead invasion Blizzard tried, it was just a bunch of Scourge out in the middle of the game’s most deserted wastelands, standing still and doing nothing. That’s hardly threatening.

You can talk all you want about how the next villain is the most powerful thing ever created by people with a lot of apostrophes in their name. That’s not very impressive, until he reaches into the servers and pretty much griefs everyone for a couple of days.

I know a lot of players don’t appreciate the main areas of the game getting crippled into near-unusablility, but that’s the whole point. Lighten up a little, folks. If Blizzard ever repeats this event, just remember that if you can’t beat ’em, you can always join ’em.

 

Blizzard mutates an old disease

A few years ago, a simulated infectious disease accidently spread through World of Warcraft. It was actually big enough that it got a mention on NPR.

What’s interesting is that Blizzard seems to have copied that disaster for the current zombie plague sweeping through the world in advance of the game’s new expansion, with plenty of tweaks to hopefully make it a little more fun.

 

“Corrupted Blood,” as the effect was called, was part of a high-level boss fight. One player would get infected, taking gradual damage. The disease would also spread to other nearby players. It was intended to make the infectious people spread out before they infected other team members.

Problem was, people figured you could carry the “disease” outside the boss fight, and it rampaged through the capital cities. Players at lower levels were pretty much instant goo if it infected them.

This was powerful end-game stuff, so infected players at lower levels were pretty much instant mush if it caught them. Blizzard quickly patched the game to keep the disease from leaving the intended encounter.

So, three years later, another infectious disease is burning through the capital cities, except this time it’s purposeful.

They’ve tweaked it more than a little. It’s much slower, for one thing. The original corrupted blood, like real life fast-acting diseases, would have burned itself out in short order if players hadn’t found some fairly glitchy ways of keeping it going, like passing it to unkillable, uncurable pets. Players have a chance to get the zombie plague cured by one of the non-player characters Blizzard has set up for the event, though as the disease gets worse, its timer gets shorter before you succumb, and many healers are being removed.

Secondly, falling to the zombie plague isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You rise again and go to feast on delicious brains. That can be pretty fun.

Still, a lot of players aren’t totally happy about this. Not everyone wants to deal with the undead whenever they head into town. From the official forums:

Frankly I’m fed up with Blizzard and this “zombie infestation” is the last straw. I’ve started my Everquest download and will be switching over entirely.

World of Warcraft: Return to 3.0

By now everyone should have had a chance to go over the changes in World of Warcraft that dropped in yesterday’s 3.0 patch. But with the blitz of new talents and abilities, there might have been a few more subtle things you overlooked.

For instance, you probably found the new space-saving pet tab when you tried to mount up for the first time and the epic ride you saved for months to buy promptly vanished from your inventory. That has a way of grabbing your attention.

But while you were frantically looking for where in hell Fluffy the Gryphon just went to, did you notice all your battlegrounds tokens are no longer clogging up your backpack? They’ve all moved off to the new currency tab.

Speaking of new tabs, here’s one you’re going to want to become familiar with. It’s a new tab on your spellbook, hotkey “P” by default. It’s one of the more publicized changes, but it’s important, so pay attention.

This is where you put glyphs from the new profession, inscribing. Even the simple ones that you can equip at level 15 can give you dramatic boosts on the cheap.

Big circles are for major glyphs, small ones are for minor glyphs. Ironically, the minor glyphs are extremely expensive on the auction house right now, even though they’re supposedly less powerful. The recipes for the minor glyphs can only be discovered haphazardly, so they won’t be common for a while. In the meantime, people are churning out the regular recipes to level their skill, so supply is plentiful.

To use glyphs, you’re going to need to stand next to one of these lexicons of power.

Ask a city guard to point you to an inscription trainer. I don’t think there’s one in Shattrath, so you’ll have to head back to the Old World.

Scribes can also make “vellums,” scrolls that enchanters can store their enchantments on and sell on the auction house. Finally, after all these years, you don’t have to stand on the Ironforge bridge and spam the trade channel with sales pitches.

Here’s something that would have been handy if that were still the case. You can link your entire tradeskill recipe book with a shift-click.

Now if someone asks you what you can do, you can let them decide for themselves what they want.

By the way, if you hit level 70, there’s now an incentive for you not to immediately swap out your gathering ability.

Miners get this health bonus, skinners get a damage bonus and herbalists get a free healing spell.

Lastly, a purely cosmetic change: dynamic shadows. You can find the slider under video options.

Here’s the old shadows.

And here’s the new shadows. Check it out, the sweet-ass giant bug pet isn’t casting a blob anymore.

It would look a little better if I was writing this in the daytime and the in-game sun was up, but you get the idea.

WoW runs on low-end systems, but if your computer has the juice, you might want to consider turning these on. They’re subtle, but they look real nice. I guess Blizzard is doing a little future-proofing with shiner upstarts like Warhammer Online and Age of Conan throwing down a challenge to the MMO throne.