Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My book of the moment

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden is beautiful, touching, full of sugar-sweet moments, but also tackles institutionalised homophobia in schools and even touches on those using religion as their basis for homophobic tirades. It's about two girls, Eliza and Annie, who fall in love only to find that, especially in Eliza's case, that her school isn't ready for her. It contrasts between poor and rich, open minded and closed minded, shame and pride. It's such a stunning book that I found it hard to sleep after reading it.

I read it all in one night, and this was after reading a good chunk of Scott Westerfeld's Goliath, and I don't regret staying up to read it. It was worth every moment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DC's New 52 - Four Reviews (Light Spoilers)

These reviews are ones I posted over on SFFWorld, but I'll add them to my blog too and give a bit of a better intro and a quick bit of editing.

I've been somewhat interested in DC for a while, but like Marvel I've found it seemingly impenetrable. There also hasn't been much in the way of characters or teams for me to care for. Whilst Marvel had the young adult X-Men with Mercury, Blindfold, Pixie, X-23 et al, along with Deadpool and some other titles, I never found anything really interesting in DC's stable until recently. Over the past few months, I've read the excellent Batwoman: Elegy and the first two Stephanie Brown/Batgirl trades, Batgirl Rising and The Flood, both of which I enjoyed. There's also been a few other things here and there I've been interested by. I found out about the New 52 a short while ago, and I've been waiting until now to give DC a fair try. I ordered four of the female-centric first issues, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Batgirl and Batwoman in order to see if I'd like them and wish to continue reading.

Without further ado, here are my quick reviews. Of course, it goes without saying that there are some spoilers ahead.

Wonder Woman #1
The art is the easiest bit for this one. It was clear, well drawn and fairly modest for DC. I am very worried that Wonder Woman will lose her height, however. She seemed to stand a good six or seven feet tall, but I reckon she'll drop down a bit later or stand at the same height as other women.

As for the story? I... am disappointed, I must admit. I will be honest and say nothing really had me wanting more bar Wonder Woman herself. Whilst I understand it's a set up issue, it didn't really bother to answer any questions nor give any real grounding, simply opting to say this guy will cause issues, Wonder Woman is hot and don't you know it, this guy is dead, centaurs exist and that was about it. I put it down and I wasn't itching for more. I had no idea what was really going on, how the events connected, and I wasn't made to care more about them.

Maybe a 5/10. It wasn't bad, but could have been better.

Birds of Prey #1
This is my second favourite of the four 52 comics I have. The art was generally very well done and, again, quite modest. Whereas Wonder Woman didn't thrill me, Birds of Prey really got me interested. There was just Black Canary and Starling in this issue and I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to know what happened next. I wanted them to find out what was going on, and I also wanted to know more about the upcoming Birds.

That said, I wonder if the author was annoyed about Babs. There's a bit where Black Canary meets up with Babs, and she comments on seeing Babs walking (It's emphasised). I interpreted it as a sly jab at the change for Babs, because she was an important member of Birds of Prey

A good 8/10, I reckon.

Batgirl #1
Yay, Batgirl! Like the Stephanie trades I've just read, Batgirl still has a good amount of humour, including a reference to Batwoman (Who is also red-headed and wears black). The art is also very similar in that it's rather dark but not oppressively so. It's a little less modest, I felt, but still fairly decent.

Of course, you can't comment on Batgirl without the change to Babs. I will say now that I don't buy it. It's potentially disrespectful to those who had Babs as an icon, especially as Oracle, plus it claims it's been "three years" since the events of The Killing Joke. That doesn't add up to me, personally, especially as the events of most comics from the past 20-30 years since The Killing Joke are seemingly still valid. There's no mention of Steph, no mention of the Birds, nothing. It's as if they've completely ignored it but everything else still stands. However, they have spun it interestingly and Babs is arguably weaker than she was before 52. You'll have to read to find out.

Probably a 7/10. I wanted to see more, but the changes to Babs do bug me.

Batwoman #1
My most anticipated read! Again starting with the art, it's still very clear and follows the style of Elegy in that some panels flow and others are more abstract, as well as the continuation of the different colour schemes for different aspects of Batwoman's life. However, parts of it didn't feel as polished nor as artistically beautiful as they had in Elegy. There's also a few clumsy moments here and there with some very odd poses for Kate as well as her changing cup size. At moments it seems very decent, at others it seems as if they've got her and Flamebird semi-nude just for the sake of it.

The writing was fairly good, too. I'm not sure what's happened to Renee but she's hinted at. The events of Elegy are still very, very fresh in Kate's mind - and her publication too - and as I read that recently, I thought it gave me a grounding point, but Kate does take the liberty of giving a quick overview of what happened. There's definitely some mystery so it's good to see that the Detective Comics style is carrying forward into this new trade. Batsy has another potential love interest, too, and I'm interested to see how that pans out. It also looks like she's getting more and more independent, although it seems as if she may be getting a sidekick.

Probably another 8/10. It's let down by some slightly wobbly art, and Flamebird does kinda just suddenly exist in this.

I think the new 52 is fairly promising, as a new reader, but it depends on your experience with DC in the past. Anyone who reads them with regularity will likely pick up on things straight away, whereas those who haven't might find themselves stumbling over things and not being quite sure of what's going on. Overall, I was pleased with my purchases, although Wonder Woman was a disappointment to me. I will certainly be picking up the trades for the other three, though.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - One Year On

I first played Clone Wars Adventures about a year ago, maybe a bit before then when it was still in beta. It was, and still is, a Star Wars-themed online game which revolves around the player doing a number of minigames for credits, which they can used to buy costumes, gear, housing items and a lot of other arguably cosmetic stuff. It's free-to-play and aimed at the younger end of the market, so it's hardly complex... Or is it?

When I played it for the first time, I found CWA to have a lot of potential but for a free-to-play game, there wasn't a lot of content. A number of games only had a handful of levels for free players, and even then the player could only access about a third of the games available. As for gear, you were given two ways to buy it - Credits or Station Cash. Credits are the in-game currency earned from games and a couple of other activities whereas Station Cash is the form of moon money Sony Online Entertainment uses in their online titles. Very little, if any, is able to be gained from gameplay so if you want certain gear items, pets or whatever, you need to stump up money.

I decided this afternoon to give it another go, to see what has changed over the past year or so and if I would be able to kill an evening by playing it. As I'm writing this about two/three hours after first going onto the site, I think the answer is obvious. I found the registration painless and simple, although the game still lacks any real character customisation. You have two races (I believe) per gender, and three variations per race. There's no customisation beyond that, so if you want a brunette Human female, she'll look like every other brunette Human female. I opted for a female green Twi'lek. The game then generates a name for you, but you can type in your own or randomise it. I cycled through them and ended up with Shaela Farslasher - Not inspiring in any way, but it would do. The next step was to choose my country and age, not my date of birth, and I was in! A short download and plug-in install later, I was ready to go.

The game plonks you in a starting area, after an introductory cutscene, where you're surrounded by new players, NPCs and vendors. You're given 250 Station Cash points, some credits and a couple of pieces of gear that depend on your character selection choice. I instantly dove into the store, and was greeted with a lot of new sets. Some looked amazing, some were overpriced, some weren't to my taste, but I flicked through. Many of the sets were locked down as Jedi Only, which means only those who are subscribing to the game can buy them. I found one I liked, the Ahsoka Tano set, and I bought it - minus the lightsabers - for 200 SC. This image gives you an idea of what Shaela looks like at this point:
Not exactly uncute, is she? After a little more browsing, I discovered that very few items are purchaseable for credits, and most of those that are require Jedi membership. I shrugged it off for the moment and went to my house. Yes, the game gives you a free house and a free trophy room! I bought a bed, which used up most of my credits, and that was it as most sets were, you guessed it, Station Cash and/or Jedi only. After getting bored of that within seconds, I went back to the main game world and went exploring. In CWA, you have a very small number of rooms to explore. I think free members get access to about six or seven rooms, with a couple more being Jedi-only. If you want to save time in selecting games, you have a game browser with all the games you can and can't play. There's a Daily Spin game to get free credits, and you truly to see - at this point - just how little is actually free. I opted for a game I loved from the first time I played, Stunt Gungan, in which you fling Jar-Jar and try to achieve the maximum distance. If you've ever played the Yeti games, you'll know what I'm talking about. I achieved a pittance of credits from that, and decided to run around a bit more.

Whilst I ran around, I was spammed with friend and group requests, found two adverts in my mailbox and was greeted by another advert as I explored. That didn't sit well with me, considering that the Jedi membership was flung in my face every two seconds. One of the disadvantages of running to the different hubs where the games are is that you don't find out they're members-only until you're there. I remember from my brief subscription period in my first time that there was a blaster game. I went to it, but I couldn't play it as I wasn't a subscriber. I looked at one game I could play, one called Starfighter, and free members had access to a grand total of two levels, out of something like 15. I think I'm going to stop there.

Clone Wars Adventures could be something really fun, even if it's aimed at the younger end of the market, but there's just absolutely no content to it. Kids will become frustrated by what little there is to do on a free account without putting money into it, and subscribing - whilst it offers a lot - just doesn't offer enough. There is absolutely no content to this game beyond being a paper doll simulator and a collection of minigames which vary in quality. By the time a child is able to play this without the parent's help, although I do suggest supervision, they will be able to take part in the much more accessible and much nicer Free Realms. CWA has an overly complex user interface that is sluggish and useless, it has nothing to engage you as a player, and your character is barely your own as you can't really customise them to any meaningful degree. You could spend, easily, a lot of money on costumes but to what effect? You can't communicate well with other players, and the chances are they just don't care about your costume.

I would suggest to give this game a wide berth. It's just not worth the time nor effort.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

LEGO Universe Online - Free-to-Play? Not really

I was fairly bored this lunchtime, so I thought I'd look into some more MMOs to see what updates I've missed, games that have surfaced and those that have, like many others, gone down the free-to-play route. Generally with free-to-play games, you have a good chunk of the game available to you with the higher-end levels or side levelling paths (such as alternate areas) cut off, along with a number of the game's features such as character slots, chat restrictions and so forth. LEGO Universe opts for a different approach, one I wasn't keen on.

Let's go from the start, shall we? It's a fairly quick and painless install. 20MB launcher download, then I had to download a new patcher (another ~20MB), and then it was about 500-600MB for the game. For me that took about three-quarters of an hour, so if you're on broadband, it'll likely be anywhere from two hours to maybe 20 minutes depending on how good your download speed is, but it could be more or less than those figures. Once that had done, it was into the game, and that's where the problems start. After accepting the licenses and logging in, you get to your minifigure select screen. Free users get just the one slot, which I didn't have a problem with. You then decide on your character's first clothing and hair styles, as well as their face. LEGO Universe opts for a roulette approach to choices, so you spin the wheel around your character to select the item you want. Does it work? Sometimes, sometimes it'll spin the other way, sometimes it'll ignore you - It's brilliant. The choices are fairly limited but, like with all LEGO, most choices are gender-neutral with a few female-specific pieces. You have a limited set of colours to choose from, so a few shades of blue, red, yellow, etc. Despite the limitations, you can make a fairly good looking minifigure that looks as if you've just picked them out of a set. I found, however, that a lot of the choices didn't seem to 'stick' in the overview. You'd select your face, it'd zoom out and your minifigure would have a blank face. The face was still there, of course, but just wasn't showing.

I got free of that with a minifigure based on Zoey from Valve's Left 4 Dead, and went into the next section to choose her name. Like Free Realms and, I believe, Clone Wars Adventures, it opts for a three-part name made out of various words. The spinners take forever to fully scroll through, so you could easily spend ten/twenty minutes coming up with a decent name for your minifigure. Being impatient and also in a funny mood, I opted for LoyalHoneyZombie. It made absolutely no sense, but because there were no proper names to choose from, I thought 'bugger it'.

You're then treated to a cutscene before arriving in the first tutorial area. Here you're told by a Sir Patrick Stewart sound-a-like (I doubt it's him) how to move and control things whilst a couple of minifigures introduce you to basic features of the game such as Imagination (which is used to build things) and smashing objects to find Imagination, life points, armour and coins. Within moments I was reminded of the Traveller's Tales LEGO games due to the way the minifigures moved, down to the controls themselves. I got through those missions with ease and moved onto the next area with no real complaints about the game so far. And, once again, this is where it gets worse.

You arrive in Avant Gardens, the first game area. It's bright and colourful, but there's some horrible purple monsters running around. You scuttle over to the first quest giver, and he tells you to bugger off to someone else. So, you do that - avoiding the enemies to your left, of course - and get your first weapon. Yay! I'll stop there, and describe how the quest pattern develops. Kill enemies, speak to NPC, kill enemies, go to NPC somewhere else, go back to enemies and kill them, go to NPC, get sent to another NPC, kill more enemies in the same place, go to NPC, use item to find a new area (through enemies), go back to NPC (going through enemies!), go back to new area (through enemies), fight enemies in new area, talk to new NPC, go to a different location, kill enemies, go back to new NPC, go back through enemies to another NPC, and so forth. You then get sent to a mountain and - no word of a lie - the quests send you up and down it about four or five times, if not more.

Once you've gone insane from that, you get moved on to the next area which is a vendor and travel hub. The quest sends you to your own private area (kudos to LEGO for giving it to you free) and into the most obtuse fight I've found in an MMO. I'll pause there and explain the combat system. It's closer to, say, Torchlight and Sacred than World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online. You pretty much slash at your enemies (or shoot at them repeatedly) with a few special attacks mixed in for good measure. Whilst it works fine for smaller enemies, you get plonked in front of a big health-sponge of a spider and I can easily see younger players getting frustrated and dying during that fight. I found my attacks did very little to her, and it took me a couple of minutes to get her down. Doing so gave me my own area in which to build, and as I'd chosen the castle-themed rewards, I plonked down a few pieces. It took a few moments to work out how it's done, and I felt it was handled inefficiently. Whereas with LEGO you generally build on a grid, Universe doesn't have that. You're free to build where you see fit, and sometimes it makes it hard to line up pieces. I would have preferred it if you were 'free' of your character to build on a snap-to grid rather than waddling around to put down pieces in a way you hope would work. After bungling together half a castle wall with a few trees in an area that felt much too small, I continued with the game. I went from my build area to the vendor hub and was told to go to a whole new world. I spoke to the NPC, went to the launch pad and was told paying members only.

Just think. I'd played for an hour, two at most, and I'd already worked my way through most of the content on the first world and wasn't able to progress. I was almost at the limit for my coins (the limit is 10k, I had about 7.5k - 8k) and was itching for more content, yet to progress I had to pay £7.50. I was sorely disappointed, because I'd hoped for at least two more zones. I had happily worked through an area littered with references to paid membership (From half-buried treasure chests to adoptable pets), only to be hit by a brick wall.

Is it free-to-play? Only in the way a demo is. It should have been called a trial, because there's just no real free-to-play content there. It's more like World of Warcraft's current demo/trial system. You have up to level 20 to play, and beyond that you need the game. Overall I was very disappointed to find it ended so quickly and abruptly. I expected much more from a free-to-play game, and there's just not enough content there to keep anyone playing for more than an afternoon or so, although a child might manage to make it last a bit longer. I couldn't play the game enough to decide whether it was worth subscribing or not, and I felt as if LEGO had just put out a glorified demo rather than a game.

Unless you're going to pay, give it a miss. Kids are going to be much happier with, say, Sony's two child games (Free Realms & Clone Wars Adventures) or even just a proper game. Adults won't find much unless they pay for it, too.

Random Image of the Week

True to form, I completely forgot to add a new random image. So, almost two weeks late, here's one.

It's the cover for Ari Marmell's Thief's Covenant, as created by Jason Chan.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Make Mine... DC?

I've recently been reading some DC trades, namely Batwoman: Elegy, Batgirl: Batgirl Rising and Batgirl: The Flood, and I've enjoyed them more than I enjoyed my Marvel reads. Whilst they've not exactly been problem-free reads, for example I didn't understand some aspects of Elegy, I've found them easier to get into and just generally more compelling reads. The titular characters also have another aspect that I've harped on about a little bit, and that's they don't have breasts the size of watermelon plantations. They're both relatively conservatively drawn and well proportioned, although of course they are a little thin.

Batgirl, with Stephanie, is a humorous and well-drawn read. She's a compelling character, she's a bit on the cute side, but it hasn't let the darkness that permeates Gotham-based comics get in the way of having a good bit of fun. Whilst there are some slightly darker moments, it's very arguably a bit closer to classic Batman in that it's fun, there's lots of people getting beaten up in a non-gruesome manner and it largely doesn't take itself seriously.

Batwoman, with Katherine Kane, is from the little I've read (i.e. just Elegy), a much darker and more serious read, but it's no less well drawn and has some of the most creative panelling I've seen in comics. Her sexuality, whilst a little controversial, doesn't define her character although it is an irreplaceable part of her that - were it different - would completely change her situation, perhaps even to the point of her not ever becoming Batwoman.

Has it been perfect? Of course not, as I mentioned above I found some parts of Elegy to be beyond me, specifically the werewolves (Or whatever they were). I didn't know them, I didn't know what part they played in Gotham, I knew nothing about them. It didn't affect the story too much for me, but they still had me scratching my head a bit. In Batgirl Rising, Batman was actually Dick Grayson (i.e. the original Robin) rather than Bruce, and I wasn't really clued up as to why, but aside from the banter between Oracle and Dick, it made little impact on the story.

I'll hopefully be receiving my new DC comics soon. I've ordered a few of the #1 issues from the reboot (Batgirl, Batwoman, Wonder Woman & Birds of Prey) to gauge if I'll like them or not, and I'll admit the Batgirl reviews have me slightly worried, but also if I'll continue to buy DC comics.

As for Marvel, you might be wondering why I'm leaning towards DC. I've found Marvel to be much less forgiving to a new reader. It's event after event after event, it's big breasts after big breasts after big breasts, even with the younger X-Men. Buy one trade, and you find you need another couple at the very least to fully understand the events going on. I also find Marvel's stable of female heroes to be less compelling. Spider-Girl I'm interested in, especially with the new girl, and I enjoy a few of the X-Men (Mercury, X-23, Pixie), but largely I find myself caring less and less about Marvel and its characters. Even Deadpool has fallen out of favour with me after a few over-priced trades (This is coming from she who bought The Killing Joke and Pixie Strikes Back) and the largely average Deadpool Corps, of which I have the Prelude and first collection.

So, from now onwards, I think DC will be getting a lot more attention from me. I'm very impressed with their attitude towards Batwoman, despite her tumultuous release history, and I'm hoping I enjoy their comics more than I have Marvel's.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Random Image of the Week

Thought I'd start a new feature, which is random image of the week. It'll be literary related, so it'll either be a book cover, something from a comic or something else. 

I've decided to start with one of the covers for Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, as illustrated by Michael Whelan. I have this book (The Del Rey/Ballantine edition) and I'm looking forward to reading it. So, without further ado, here is the lady herself!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lord of the Rings Online - A Returning Player's Thoughts

I've been playing a fair amount of Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO from here onwards) lately as it's now free-to-play, and I wanted to return to one of my characters, but I also wanted to see if the game itself had improved. I played it for a short while a few years ago, probably just before Siege of Mirkwood was released and around that time, and I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy the average slice of toast. It did the job, but not much else. With The Secret World on the way from Funcom and Electronic Arts, I thought I'd give an massively multiplayer game another go and see if it works for me again.

After a period of about two weeks, I think I can reach a fairly safe conclusion. Turbine have not improved the game all that much, and it is perhaps worse than when I played originally. In the move to free-to-play, Turbine have made a lot of the features paid-for, whether it's the classes from the expansions, bank storage, certain mounts, bag space and even travel destinations. I feel that many of these changes exist simply to profit from the user, not to actually give the user something worth buying. I'll explain. You used to have six inventory bags when you started your character, but now you have four. You have to spend, I believe, ~800 'Turbine Points' to unlock the other two bags (i.e. ~400 each) across all your characters. Going by the current pricing, that's somewhere in the region of £8-10 to unlock two bags. As you level, you unlock traits in which you have a certain number of spaces to place them, and they generally take the form of  improved skills and improved stats. Now you have to pay ~100 points per trait slot after a certain number have been unlocked. Basically, it's petty.

I am what is called a 'Premium' member, which means I had the game before the free-to-play changes, so I'm better off than some. I had a nice wallet of Turbine points (About £15 worth) when I started, some extra character slots, my items from a starter item pack I'd purchased and all classes unlocked. I didn't, however, have access to content I'd originally paid for by buying the main game, such as the bag slots and a number of quest locations (Such as the North Downs). I felt that it was very cheeky for Turbine (Originally Codemasters as I'm in the EU) to recognise I'd bought the game and expansion, but then feel free to charge me again to access content I'd done before.

I subscribed this week, just for a month, and it feels a bit better, but it's still looming over me because you notice a divide. You have people who are free-to-play and have access only to the base content of the game, so that's a certain number of instances, characters, classes, skills and so forth. You then have people who subscribe and have access to almost everything. I can do things that others can't unless they pay for that content. It's such a shame to see it divided like that, because in a way it makes it hard to find a fellowship or kinship (Often called parties and guilds respectively in other games) as you can't guarantee the other players have the same things you do.

As for the gameplay, it feels very much the same. It feels like you have a lot of attacks or skills that do very similar things to each other, and it's confusing to know what to use and when. I'm somewhat lucky in that I've had previous experience with similar classes in these kinds of games, so I've managed to piece together something that half-works for my characters, but I dread to think how other players manage. The game also throws a lot of trivial quests at you, even in the so-called 'Epic' quest line (Which is the main quest line, one that's mostly the same for everyone). You could go from aiding Strider and meeting Gandalf to collecting Warg pelts for some bearded git in the Lone Lands. It's quite wobbly in that regard.

Visually, I think the game isn't too bad but it looks the same as my memory had it, even with higher graphics settings. The animations are good, and I really like the natural movements and expressions of player characters when you're stood around (They look like they might be thinking, their eyes and lips will move, it's very human), but I find other animations to be hilariously bad (Such as lying down).

I'm torn, if I'm honest. I enjoyed it initially, got swept up in the world of Middle-Earth and had some really good fun, but lately it's stagnated for me and I feel bored again, and in roughly the same spot as I did last time. I'm unhappy with how much I feel has been taken out of the game only to be sold back to me, and there's just something that doesn't grab me. I can't see myself playing for all that much longer, because I'm just getting worn out and bored with it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blogging - Is It A Pain?

Blogging. It's that thing that everyone does, but I've got to admit I'm finding it quite hard to do. Blogs generally start in one way. You have opinions, you think people want to hear your opinions, so you create a blog to voice those opinions and discuss things with people. The problem with blogging, for me, is it's very much the same as going into the kitchen and completely forgetting what you were going in there for, leaving you with a blank mind and absolutely nothing of value to contribute to society.

I don't want this blog to be filled with, let's be honest here, trivial nonsense. I don't think any of my followers really give a monkey's backside as to whether I scratched my arse in the shower or not, but at the other extreme I don't want to be political and preachy about society or even myself and my issues. My aim is to talk mostly about books, comics and related media, but I must admit I've not done a great job of that.

So, here's to trying to keep a little bit more consistent with this. The blog might change a little visually, but I'm thinking of keeping the same theme. 

Until next time!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A few thoughts on book covers

Book covers. Those lovely things that adorn the books we buy, whether they're fantasy, horror or some horribly gushy romance tale that makes you want to throw up. They're marketing tools as much as they are works of art, and they can mislead the customer in the same way they can encourage them. I love book covers more than some, and it influences my purchasing more than the contents of the book can. I love the old style of fantasy covers, the style you see adorning R.A. Salvatore, old Brooks books or even the US copies of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I love that feel they have, the campiness and the sense of heroism. Sometimes they can look poor, but at other times? I'm blown away.

Let's take Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I haven't read the books, but I've certainly got an opinion on the covers. In the UK, he's published by Orbit Books, and they originally printed editions in the same work as the US ones. At some point they stopped doing that, and have switched to a mostly generic art style for every. single. book. in the series. The prequel is green, books 1-11 have non-metallic colouring for the titles and series 'stamp', and finally 12-14, the ones completed by Brandon Sanderson, will or do have metallic colouring. Beyond that, they're all the same. I'll post the cover of The Eye of the World, which is the first book in the series in terms of publication.
As you can see, it's fairly plain. Every single book in the series shares the same style of cover, with the only difference really being the colouring. Looking at that, it tells me nothing about the series, nor the contents of the book. Is it a dark book, a happy run-around-and-smooch-Elves tale, is it set in modern times or in a typical fantasy setting? How am I to know, looking at that? Where's the hook, where's the eye catching part of the cover? On the back they all have a very thin strip showing part of a scene, but you can't see all that much. A bit of a horse or a person, mayhaps. It's pointless. That cover doesn't make me want to buy the book (The fact I have it is irrelevant), because it doesn't grab me. The only reason it stands out to most people who look for it is the amount of shelf space those books take up, and the fact it's Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time.

Let's look at Terry Brooks' The Tangle Box, which is a cover that I do like. This particular cover appears on some UK editions of the books, and also some US ones. Currently Orbit UK are publishing them in a more 'current' style of YA-esque cover, and I believe Del Rey are only publishing the omnibii now, but I could be wrong on that.
The cover was created by Keith Parkinson, one of the all-time greats of fantasy art, and I feel that it is highly evocative of the series. Here we see Willow, oddly wearing clothes (She spends the first two books at least walking around naked, although I'm not complaining as those trousers are a lovely fit), talking to another character, whom I don't know yet as I've not gotten to the book. But to me, it shows what the series is about. It's a lighter hearted, lighter toned fantasy read with a more traditional feel to it. That cover is attractive to me, and I have an edition of the book with that very artwork due to it. It tells me that I'm picking up a fantasy series, and that there are female characters in it who may very well be interesting to read about, rather than swooning penis-fodder.

I will buy a book used if it has a cover I like. I've done it for Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War books, all of which I have in Del Rey editions, I'm doing it for Terry Brooks' Shannara universe of books and I will likely do it for the remainder of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow & Thorn. It's not so much that I want to screw the authors over, as I don't, but I think books are as much a piece of art on your shelf as they are something to engage yourself with. I love fantasy art, and I want my bookshelf to reflect that aspect of me.