Random musings: SWTOR event, MoP trailer, and GW2 fanboism

I was hoping very much that Bioware would be able to use the SWTOR world event (that had been hinted at by dataminers after the last patch) to regain  the community’s confidence. Demonstrating the ability to keep putting out good quality updates  would do a lot to win people over to the future of the game in the upcoming F2P environment.

Things began with the news bots on the fleet, directing players to Nar Shaddaa to pick up the first part of the quest. The second part followed via in game mail, which led to another questline that runs in parallel. Basically the A questline involves characters trying to find various items in a scavenger hunt. The B questline involves trying to figure out whether the scavenger hunt has a nefarious underlying purpose.

Some of the scavenger item quests are supported by actual quests telling you where to go and (vaguely) what to do. Others are hinted at via in game conversations. I’m not entirely sure what the clues are since I didn’t personally see any, I may not have been hanging out in the right area, or not for long enough. I imagine a lot of people are using websites to find their items. Dulfy, as usual, has a great summary for anyone who is interested in running through the event.

Rewards are mostly cosmetic, with a couple of weapons included with purple mods that only cover a couple of classes.  If you finish the grand acquisition quest there are some titles and light side/ dark side points up for grabs also. We have also been informed that the event will last only for one week.

Rohan wonders if the event was designed to allow hardcore players to run through it quickly with slower paths for more casual players. This would have been cool if true, it was a good idea on his part; but it turns out one of the ways for players to complete things fast was a bug and the quests don’t actually expand slowly to include all the items eventually.

I was hoping for something more similar to the rakghoul world event, which included dailies, explorations, collections, and so on. This is an event with a smaller scope. I would personally give it a resounding ‘meh’ so far and have not really heard much in guild chat about the acquisitions after the first day or so, so I don’t think they are very excited by it either. The event has also been plagued by bugs, particularly one early on which rewarded players with ALL the items if they did a particular space mission.

I can’t feel this bodes well for the future. I’ve nothing against small scale events, but it would be nice if they were … a bit more fun? Anyone else tried to solve any of the item locations themselves?

And then the over powered new race/new class beat everyone else up!

moptrailer

So as is becoming the norm, Blizzard released a short trailer for the upcoming expansion. Apple Cider Mage does a shot by shot feminist analysis :

…the fact of the matter is that this trailer is literally and utterly masculine. It features male power fantasies and counterpoints them with a more wise, agile man. It’s all men! All men, all the time. Just the way we like it, eh?

She’s not wrong.

However I quite liked the trailer and here is why. From the very earliest days of Warcraft as a RTS game, the theme and in fact the subtitle was Orcs vs Humans. I feel that what Blizzard have done with this trailer is present a very classic Warcraft scenario (ie. an orc vs a human) and then thrown a panda into the mix to show how it changes everything. That’s it. That’s the actual story of the expansion. Portrayed in one short, and very pretty, cinematic. The butch male orc and butch human in the new trailer do look reminiscent of the box art from the old Warcraft games.

warcraftboxart

So I think the trailer does a good job of setting the scene, with callbacks to the very core of the WoW lore and backstory, and then showing what’s new in this expansion. I would have personally preferred to have also seen some fly bys of the new zones, dungeons, bosses, creatures, and so on. I want to see how pretty it is.  I preferred the Cataclysm cinematics from that point of view.

The GW2 backlash to the backlash starts on time

It is an incredibly normal part of the MMO cycle for a new MMO to be hyped to the stars and back during beta, for the backlash of criticism to begin shortly before launch, and for die-hard fans to decide that arguing with critics IS the hill they want to die on … still before launch.

It is also true that criticising a game that everyone else loves, or waxing lyrical about a game that the majority seem to hate will tend to get a lot of page views. It’s called being contrary; but that doesnt mean that people raising contrary points are wrong, per se.

Azuriel has drawn the wrath of the GW2 fanbois by listing some features of the game that he thinks are merely OK. He also comments that he has pre-purchased his copy and has every intention of playing it. But that won’t stop the tide of haters once the fans decide to strike.

It will be interesting to see how views pan out on this game on release. I expect to be playing next week, assuming the servers hold up, and I agree with Azuriel that dynamic events are not the be all and end all of PvE. I think I did like the WvW much more than he did, but he has also played the beta for longer than me. Time will tell. Hopefully the fans will stop piling on any views of the game that are not 100% enthusiastic once they are actually busy playing the thing.

[Links] No news is good news edition

I wish I could package some of the good cheer that has enveloped us here from hosting the Olympics the last couple of weeks; whatever doubts people had beforehand, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the whole thing. Plus Paralympics still to come (that’s the one where I actually have a ticket to go see the Athletics Winking smile ). I’m surprised that the blogosphere hasn’t picked up on the Olympic theme more, I was half expecting to see discussions around sportsmanship in gaming (like: hardcore Olympic athletes don’t smack talk each other, and they congratulate each other after a good race/ bout) and whether e-sports might ever be included in a modern modern pentathlon. Alas, it was not to be.

Big up though to The Godmother who does share my Olympic enthusiasms!

The Secret World: one month in

The Secret World launched on June 29th, which means that it has now passed the one month mark, which also means time for some punditry on how things are going. Short form: not meeting publisher expectations. Blogger reactions on the other hand have been very positive. Players are enjoying the game and the general buzz has been good; unfortunately not in projected numbers, it seems. (So: philosophically, does that mean the game is a success or a failure?)

Scott at Broken Toys quotes from Funcom’s note to shareholders, highlighting  that projected sales for TSW will not be met. This is bad news for players, and likely worse for employees as at least 10% of them will be laid off.

Flosch at Random Waypoint gives his first reaction to this:

I really want TSW to succeed. It’s earned its right to succeed, and it shows that Funcom seems to be a company able of learning, which in and of itself is rare enough that it should be rewarded, not punished. Plus, I am having so much fun in the game now! It would be sad to see Funcom fail 100 meters before the finish.

Sente at A Ding World notes that the sales for TSW are pretty much in line with his expectations, that it’s likely that retention will be better than for similar MMOs, and that TSW is going to be available on Steam which might also extend its reach.

I did not expect then to sell over a million copies of the game and if they sell 500K copies of the game the first year I think that is fairly reasonable actually in todays market. Not because the game is bad, far from it. I think the game is great – but I think it is also a game that does not go out of its way to attract the big masses.

I see a general theme that solid games are being released onto the market but because the pre-launch predictions by publishers have been wildly over optimistic, costs aren’t kept in line and a game that probably should have been a success may end up labelled a failure. We’ve seen it with 38 Studios, SWTOR, and now TSW. It’s a failure of the marketing team (stupid projections) and bean counters, not necessarily of  design.

Terra Silverspar also writes a good review of TSW at one month in, explaining what she does and doesn’t like about it.

If I were to give this an overall, I would say wait until it goes Free to Play. I’ve heard they are adding more hairstyles and such, but hell, I hear a lot of things about MMOs that just launch that turn out to actually do very little. I really did want to like this game, as I said, but it just buried itself under the weight of a lot of things that just make it not very fun for me to play.

EQ2 will require players to pay for future content in cash, not coins

SOE have been very up front about tweaking their F2P offerings if the money isn’t coming in quickly enough, and I wonder if this heralds a general trend.

Starting Monday, August 27th, 2012, we will no longer accept Station Cash as a payment method for Expansions and DLC Packs. Real-world currency will be the only way to purchase these products.

So basically: like most other F2P publishers, SOE allow you to buy their in-house virtual currency with real money and then spend that virtual currency in their cash shop. They are now not going to sell expansions and DLC in that cash shop, instead you’ll have to buy those in actual cash from their website (which we could call the real cash cash shop, or something.) The cash shop will now be restricted to cosmetic items, bag space, and the other usual suspects.

Presumably this was because players were stocking up on the virtual currency when there were sales on with the aim of using it to buy future expansions/ DLC – we can call this “acting like sensible and forward thinking consumers who are confident in making a long term commitment to the game.” So rather than just making the DLC more expensive in virtual currency terms, they decided to remove it from the cash shop altogether so I guess they have more control over what people pay for it and when.

Monetization changes in MMOs generally mean that not enough money was being generated using the previous method. So maybe the virtual currency is now being seen as a hindrance in selling that type of content. This is likely to be pretty rough for anyone who was stockpiling virtual currency in EQ2 with the aim of buying future DLC; that’s now money down the drain that they can only spend on virtual goods and other stuff they might not want.

In a quite prescient post, Green Armadillo wonders if it’s possible to monetise an MMO via DLC. I think games like Wizard 101 seem to manage OK but I don’t follow them closely enough to know if they are also putting more pressure on players to spend more.

My conclusion is that it’s better not to plan too far ahead with MMOs these days. Don’t assume that your game of choice won’t shift to F2P in under 10 months. Don’t assume that your virtual currency hoard will pay for an expansion next year. In a genre that’s traditionally all about the long term planning, it rather sucks to be forced into short termism but c’est la vie.

In vaguely related terms, Jester discusses specific money making strategies in EVE connected with the faction wars.

CCP in general and Dr. EyjoG in particular have been bemoaning the fact that there is too much ISK in the game for quite some time which is why you’re seeing an increasing number of sinks in the game.  The recent addition of the need to purchase data-cores for ISK is a good example.

There are two main reasons for a dev to want to introduce more money sinks into a game. One is for game balance reasons, to keep people who have built up huge money hoards motivated and give them stuff to spend the cash on. EVE has a second reason, which is to generate more income, because of the mechanic by which players can exchange RL money for in game cash (via PLEX). Players can never really be sure whether changes are made for the balance reason or the monetisation reason (or both).

Dust to Dust

CCP’s new FPS game, Dust 514, is in beta at the moment, and we’re starting to get some feedback from players. The exciting thing about this concept is that it hooks into EVE so players can interact by blowing each other up or something. The rather unexciting thing is that EVE is a PC game and Dust is a Playstation 3 exclusive, so it looks as though CCP are aiming for very different audiences (ie. as opposed to EVE players who like FPS games.)

Chris at Game by Night casts a FPS-fan’s eyes over the game. He finds the learning curve steep, and wonders whether existing console FPS players will find that a turn off.

CCP makes it pretty clear that they’re looking to expand the MMO audience to a whole new demographic, which is awesome. <…> My concern, however, is that they’re stacking the chips against them. Excel Online is alive and well in DUST. Look at the first video in this link. I see that depth and think “wow, that’s awesome.” Your average Call of Duty player will probably think, “holy sh*t, that’s a lot of stuff to worry about.”

My prediction is that players who get over the learning curve will absolutely fall in love with the game. There’s really nothing else like it or even trying to be. There are design quirks but I’m also very much aware that this is CCP’s first try at something other than a PC MMO.

TAGN notes that CCP have recently raised $20mil in new funding. If that is based on Dust popularity, then CCP may have a lot riding on this one. Will their funders give them enough time to build a core playerbase slowly and grow it, or would an indifferent launch hit the parent company hard? It will be interesting to watch this one from the sidelines, because a game with a steep learning curve might not be the one to pull in loads and loads of F2P players.

What else is in the links file

Ratshag hangs up his blogging hat; he’ll be greatly missed and I wish him and his family the best of luck for the future. (I was going to say that he’s always been a voice of reason, but maybe voice of unreason is more accurate Winking smile )

Pixelated Executioner tells the story of what happened when he reported another player for racism in WoW.

Stropp explains why he thinks that Windows 8 will be a catastrophe for gamers.

G. Christopher Williams writes in PopMatters about why some people are really interested in whether their opponents are upset in PvP.

Many bloggers and current SWTOR players share their reactions to the news that SWTOR is transitioning to F2P in November. Ravelation compares her experiences in LOTRO with the proposed SWTOR setup.

Welshtroll reflects on why he loses enthusiasm for games when they go F2P.

It seems that the GW2 honeymoon period may be over as the cold light of reality breaks over the darkest hype. One of the questions seasoned gamers are asking is what sort of longevity the game might have without a traditional PvE endgame. Kadomi presents a carefully thought out list of pros and cons for the game, explaining her final decision not to play.

Kurn writes about his decision to leave WoW after playing and raiding for many years:

It’s not just because I’ve been playing for nearly seven years. It’s not just because I’m tired and have other stuff in my real life I should really be paying attention to, either.

It’s because I have satisfied my curiosity.

Tzufit wonders where new or inexperienced players are going to learn to raid in WoW these days. I suspect they might go to older content, as I do see raids run to Wrath and TBC raids for transmog purposes. But Cataclysm certainly didn’t provide an easy learning curve for new raiders.

Day Z, the incredibly popular zombie survival mod for ARMA is being turned into a stand alone game.

Keith Stewart at Hookshotinc shares his confessions of a middle aged gaming writer.

I am aware, when I go on press trips now, that I am old enough to be the father of some of the other journalists I am with. <…> I am ancient enough to remember playing games in black and white, on old Grandstand consoles; I played Pac-Man in a Blackpool arcade when it first arrived in Britain; I even remember when Sega was a serious force in the industry. That stuff makes me feel like Rutger Hauer as the majestic yet dying replicant in Bladerunner – I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Aly at Mistress of Illusions muses on why L2P (learn to play) is such a popular insult in MMOs, and what this might mean for GW2:

Speaking of Guild Wars 2, there has been criticism regarding the learning curve. Namely, that there is one. People don’t want watered down game play or another WoW clone, but when presented with something different, some people can’t handle being taken out of their comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s valid criticisms to be made but no complaint should ever begin with the phrase “I had to learn…” It’s a new game. You should have to learn. There’s nothing wrong with learning, and it’s a shame that a generation of gamers have stigmatized the act of learning.

Jeromai urges players, and particularly bloggers, not to let other players’ opinions of a game affect their enjoyment. He also admits to his love of cheesy games, and notes in the comments:

But my real point is, Popcap and other casual game manufacturers can hide some seriously solid gameplay behind initially unappealing to the so-called ‘hardcore’ gamer looks, and we will slowly get to that as I fiddle around with the games.

First seven thoughts on: GW2 beta

gw2beta_castle

This weekend was the first time I’ve had a chance to play the Guild Wars 2 beta. This is still a beta, which means that things can change before launch (and afterwards, obviously), so I’m not going to sweat the details in favour of sharing some broad stroke impressions.

Short summary: Fun was had but I can’t say I felt hooked until I tried WvW with Arb. WvW is really good fun and looks to me like the heart of this game. PvE is fine also but the parts I saw weren’t as compelling. Mechanically, the game is quite fussy, bordering on complexity just for the sake of it. This probably depends a lot on which profession/class you pick. Not so much ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ as ‘easy to learn enough to play the thing and not realise you haven’t grasped your class’s core mechanics.’  While the game can be quite slow and peaceful if you are in a quiet zone or quiet time, if you are in a zone filled with players you may end up with sensory overload from stuff going on all over the place all of the time. The ‘heart’ style of PvE questing where you get some choices about how to make the local questgiver happy was pretty cool and I liked it a lot.

Oh, and I really liked the vistas (will explain below.) I cannot imagine how genuinely new players would stick with the game long enough to learn it though, and even experienced gamers may find things confusing.

Classes I tried were elementalist, warrior, and mesmer. Up to about level 8 on the highest. I will probably go with an Elementalist main, but I did like the Mesmer a lot even if I totally failed to pick up on the skill chains. I didn’t try any crafting.

Anyhow, here are some points:

1. The game world is large and bright, and interesting to explore.

Some zones do feel much more open than others, the Norn starting area is spacious for example. Asuras felt more boxed in. But Arenanet are comfortable with building huge structures for players to explore; the castle in the screenshot at the top for example. They’ve encouraged some exploration via exploring achievements (you get told how much of the zone you have discovered) and vistas, which are points marked with little floating maps that reward the player with a pretty, soaring, cut scene of the surrounding area if you can get to the vista point. Some have minor jumping puzzles associated with them.

We found them fun.

2. Tutorials are hit and miss. Skillbars get replaced a lot with no warning.

Some of the in game tutorials were great. The introduction to the mists (WvW) for example, was really well done. I did wonder why the guy was emphasising the need to carry supplies around, but we figured that one out fairly swiftly after actually getting into some keep take/defense action. The professions though don’t get much explanation at all. Best you can do is mouse over all your available icons, read the tooltips, and give it your best shot.

The game also loves to completely replace your skillbar icons when you pick up some usable item or get into a downed state (near death), typically without giving you any time at all to check what your new skill icons actually do before you have to use them. Cue random button hitting and hoping for the best. If you find this confusing, it is because it is confusing.

I now realise from comments on KTR that the reason I thought some of my abilities had flickering icons was because there was some kind of chain mechanism going on (where you hit the same skill button more than once and the skill that fires off changes). I have no idea how you were supposed to really figure that one out.

I don’t mind complexity as long as I’m not expected to grasp it all instantly, but it’s a good idea for devs to at least throw players a bone or two when it comes to figuring things out. Even if it’s just a link to a player-driven wiki.

3. Dynamic events are fun. Underwater is fun.

gw2beta_underwater

This is a bunch of Asura fighting a huge shark underwater – still not entirely sure how you can cast fireballs underwater but hey, magic!

One of the nice things about dynamic events is that you can just roll up and join in, no need to be part of a group or have a gear check, if you’re in the area then you’re in. After the event finishes, then medals are awarded for participation (ie. gold, silver, bronze) and you’ll get some xp, karma points (used to buy stuff from merchants) and in game cash. Since the xp is great compared to most of the other things you’d be doing, it’s pretty much always worth joining in. Also some of the dynamic quests have several stages and fun little stories.

I’m not entirely sure about how much they change the world (until the next time), because like most people, I probably wasn’t sticking around long afterwards unless I was already questing in the area.

Being underwater is similar to flying in that you have 3 dimensions in which to move. I enjoyed it a lot, albeit not really sure how badly I wanted to learn yet another tray of abilities.

4. Weapon switching is an interesting mechanic, but ultimately I preferred GW1 skill design

So, depending a bit on which profession you pick, you will have 5 skills that are determined by the weapon/offhand you are using, and 5 slots that are filled by skills earned using skill points, which are a bit more flexible. (It probably gets more complex than this at higher levels but bear with me, I only saw a few hours of beta.)

On an elementalist, for each weapon you can also unlock four different elemental attunements (ie. 4 whole bars of skills). This feels like a lot of skills to remember. Plus you have to unlock them by killing mobs/players while using that weapon. I had thought that needing to train up weapon skills had gone out of fashion but clearly that’s not the case here. The elementalist is a particular edge case because it’s crazy flexible and has a massive amount of abilities available at any time. I can’t actually think how other professions are balanced against it.

It is definitely interesting, particularly in the early game when you still have a lot of skills to unlock. I suspect later on things settle down and get less confusing as you get used to what is available.

But still, the weapons felt like a hindrance rather than cool themed sets of abilities. So I might have one cool ability to leap into combat and zap people and another that lets me leap backwards and leave a trail of fire … but they’re on different weapons and different elemental attunements so I can’t easily use one followed by the other. This is where I was missing GW1 and its more flexible skill set design.

GW2 (like GW1) is a bit fussy with its buffs and debuffs. There is a fairly complex game around applying and removing various buffs, conditions, and other variously named categories of buff/debuff. There are also combos in the game, which I know because the game told me I completed one during one dynamic event. Since it did not tell me anything more than this, I have no idea how that happened or how to repeat it. It is something to do with how abilities of different professions interact, presumably it’ll a) all be documented on websites somewhere and b) we’ll have more time to figure it out while playing with friends anyway.

5. If you hate miniskirts, avoid the Norn casters.

gw2_beta

This was the point where I decided my elementalist would not be a Norn. I don’t care how soon I am able to pick up a longer skirt so I don’t have to see her knickers when she runs, IT ISN’T SOON ENOUGH.

Asura costumes are fine though. The characters generally looked good, and I was sad about the knickers thing because I liked the Norn hairstyles (even though long hair clips horribly). Anet give some good long hairstyles for male characters also. I was also amused that I could create a human male mesmer who looked a bit like Littlefinger.

6. World vs World PvP is really good fun. We were reminded a lot of DaoC (which is good)

In our brief 2hr stint in WvW, Arb and I had a lot of fun. The zones are large, the keeps and castles are large also. There are siege engines. You can tote supplies around and help build siege engines or mend damaged walls/doors (and in fact you probably should.) It can all seem quite complex at first but if in doubt, you can just follow someone who looks as though they know what they are doing, or look for current battles marked on the map. People were quite good about yelling useful instructions (like ‘go to keep X everyone’) on the general chat.

The WvW zones have some vistas and skill challenges, which work the same as PvE zones. I’m not sure if they have dynamic events other than player driven ones.

gw2beta_siege

This is us with a zerg attacking a keep door (I think we are Team Blue in this zone). You can see fire being flung from the trebuchet behind us. The green door is where Team Green (ie. the team who held the keep currently) could slip inside, which is a similar mechanic to WAR and DaoC. The gate’s healthbar is shown in red, when the health is zero the gate breaks open. You can also attack sections of the walls. Defenders can stand on the ramparts and shoot at attackers, stand behind the gate and repair it with supplies, or use their own siege engines.

Basically, if you are involved a keep siege you WILL want a ranged attack otherwise you will be very bored. I think every profession has at least one ranged weapon

gw2-oil

Defenders have access to burning oil which they can throw on people attacking the gate also. I probably shouldn’t have been walking so close to the burning oil with a lit torch.

gw2beta_treb

Trebuchets have a pretty long range. I marked the treb with a red circle here, and you can see its been set up well out of reach of the defenders (unless they have a treb of their own) but can still attack the ramparts.

In our game, we ended up with a three way fight inside the big castle – there are three teams involved in every WvW zone, coded red, blue, and green, and players will also have a name label showing which their home server is. It was a bit mad and the lag with a lot of people involved was quite significant.

Arb said immediately, “Lets go upstairs, you always have to go upstairs in keeps. There is probably a keep lord.” And she was absolutely correct. To take a keep, your team kills the keep lord who is an NPC.

7. The Auction House has buy as well as sell orders.

You can buy or sell on the AH from anywhere in the world, but have to actually be in a trading post to pick up things you have bought. This all seemed to work very well. It is possible to set up buy orders, and when someone sells an item, they will see if anyone has buy orders out on it. If so, and you sell for that price, it sells instantly.

I would imagine the buy orders are generally lowball so you’ll probably make more by selling at a higher price and being patient. But this was beta so who cares, really?

I liked the functionality of it. By comparison, the mail is weaker. You can’t mail your own alts, so if you want to give them spare items, you will have to leave those things in your vault (which is shared between alts on that account/server). You can however, send and receive mail from anywhere.

The release date tango

  • The Secret World has just started its early access period prior to launch on July 3rd.
  • Arenanet have made the (gaming) internet explode by announcing GW2 release date as 28th August. (Like Tobold, I plan to pick my copy up then because I think it will be cheaper.)
  • Also Turbine will be releasing their Rohan expansion for LOTRO at some point this Autumn/Winter. I don’t imagine that will have a big impact on the other games, but you never know.
  • So the big question now is when will Blizzard release Mists of Pandaria?

In previous years, MMOs have tended to shuffle their release dates around each other. There is an advantage to having an earlier release than competitors, in that bored players will pick up your game just because it’s new. On the other hand, the typical MMO tourist spends a month or so in a new game and then moves on, so timing your release for a month or so after another game might work better.

  • Notorious clashes in the past have been when Warhammer Online released on Sept 18th, 2008. Blizzard released Wrath (probably their best expansion to date, imo) in November of the same year, just in time to pick up disaffected WAR players.
  • Cataclysm was released on Dec 7th, 2010. Aion released in the West on Sept 7th of the same year.

As gamers, we may tend to read too much into these things. Q4 is popular for gaming releases in any case, it picks up the Xmas market, returning students, and gets cash inflow before the end of the calendar year.

Still, it’s interesting that the big MMO releases this year seem to be edging earlier and earlier. There are good reasons for Blizzard to launch MoP as early as possible:

  • If players get hooked on GW2 before MoP launches (I see GW2 as more of a competitor here, as it’s also a fantasy themepark MMO), the barriers to switching from a sub-free game to a full subscription + pay-for-expansion WoW are much higher than switching from another sub game.
  • Players who picked up an Annual Pass (these are Blizzard’s core gamers, the ones they can least afford to lose) may get pissed off if they can’t get at least a couple of months of MoP as part of their annual lockin. Especially since this year in WoW has been rather a content desert.
  • No Blizzcon this year to act as a distraction to the playerbase.

So will Blizzard release against GW2, or will this expansion, like the previous ones, get shunted back to the end of the year?

More on female costuming in games: Dragon’s Dogma, Tera, Guild Wars 2

So, which of these games is the odd one out among Dragon’s Dogma, Tera, and GW2? If you answered Dogma (because it’s PS3 only) or GW2 (because it has no release date yet), then you’re technically correct but go to the back of the queue.

The answer is Dragon’s Dogma because it gives you a very wide range of looks to pick for your character, covering all the fantasy staples from full ornamented platemail to viking chicks in string bikinis and furry boots.  Unlike the others which stick you in something godawful. I’ve been intrigued with Dragon’s Dogma for awhile since playing the demo at ComicCon last year, and downloading the demo convinced me that it is the one to look out for if you’re interested in an open world fantasy game with a more active combat style than typical MMOs.

You also get to customise your own companion/ pawn, so I made a wizard who looks a bit like my RL partner so I can order him around (don’t pretend you never do this either! Smile ). There’s a good set of choices including fat and skinny characters, stances that are hunched at the shoulder or shoulders-back/boobs-out, and choices of voice actor too. One other thing, which works surprisingly well, is that all the hair and makeup options can be used for characters of either gender. So if you want that gothy male mage with eyeliner or a female warrior with a buzzcut and tattoos, you can do it (or, ya know, vice versa).  I’m really taken with what I saw on the demo, and especially liked being able to target specific parts of the monster in ways that affect the fight. For example, shooting a flying monster in the wings to bring it down, or cutting the snake head from a chimera to stop the poison. Also there seem to be different tactics that can be used, depending on you and your companions skillset and size/bulk – for example a large (and fearless) companion can grab the griffon by the leg as it takes off and wrestle it to the ground.

So thumbs up for Dragon’s Dogma from me, not sure if I’ll buy it at release but definitely aim to pick it up at some point. If you have a PS3 and like that type of game, try the demo.

Apart from the flexibility, what I really liked about the character generator was being able to create just about any fantasy character stereotype that I could imagine. See, I’m not against characters fighting in string bikinis or casting spells in belly dancer outfits, but I want it to be thematic and I want to have choices. Despite some of the clothing being quite skimpy, none of the characters actually looked like strippers. They looked like characters from fantasy art.  I think that’s a powerful point to take away.

More on clothing

Rohan has some screenshots of the crazy stuff his TERA character is wearing, this isn’t one of the prepubescent looking race, just daft armour. I rarely wish ill on any new MMO, but I won’t cry if TERA crashes and burns purely because those design decisions don’t deserve to be rewarded.

Kadomi has a brilliant three part roundup of her experiences in the GW2 beta (which are mostly positive). Go check them out:

Quest Mechanics

A look at the design manifesto (does GW2 fit with what arenanet have claimed?)

Barely covered (clothing for female characters in GW2)

The last link includes pictures of the cloth casters. Having looked at the TERA pictures first, my initial reaction is that GW2 isn’t that bad (see, it could be worse!). The Mesmer looks terribad in both male and female versions, however. Purely from a point of taste. I never really got that ‘dresses like a showgirl’ vibe from GW, the Mesmer there was more of a semi-kinky aristocrat which I think is a look I could go for more easily on a mage of dubious ethical purview. If I can’t have my frockcoat, breeches and riding boots back, I’m not going with the Mesmer for sure.

There’s also something very teen about the Necromancer look. I think it’s the somewhat gothic vibes along with fluffy pompoms on the boots.  I assume ‘perky goth’ is the design goal, but it makes her look about 14.

It is one thing to have a strong design direction, but I’m not fond of the look. I’m just glad I’ll have Dragon’s Dogma to fall back on for my fantasy staples. Even Diablo 3 is starting to seem more appealing, gearwise.

[Links] GW2 beta, Jita Burns

avengers

Here’s a couple of Avengers* screen shots. That was good fun, an ensemble film that did justice to all the individual characters. Recommended for any superhero fans. Incidentally, Black Widow doesn’t actually wear stilettos anywhere in this film, and especially not while fighting. She’s seen carrying her heels after the first scene where she has a fight, but never actually wearing them.

Given all the hot characters swanning around in tight/ revealing outfits, it’s kind of noticeable how sexless superheroes are as a genre. Gwyneth Paltrow lit up the screen in the few scenes she was in though.

* How did they ever get away with having him call her a ‘mewling quim’? Hilarity all round.

GW2 Beta Feedback

So this weekend was the first ‘open’ beta for GW2, and consequently there are a lot of initial impressions around the web. I’ve linked a few here, but my summary is that opinion was generally positive (although if you’ve paid £50 to be in the beta, there’s quite an incentive to look on the bright side). People enthused about the active combat, the pretty environments, the dynamic quests, and the WvW. However the game isn’t yet finished or fully polished, and in particular issues around server choice (all your alts need to be on the same server) and the overflow mechanism which currently splits parties up when they zone will be red flags if Arenanet leave them as they are now.

Working out how to evaluate a beta is tricky. Most people will still only have low level characters, the server economy and PvP setup won’t be fully mature, and performance issues and balance tweaking could easily change before the end of  beta.

Core mechanics and ‘theme’ are much less likely to change. A warning note to me is Keen’s comment that combat is much more difficult for melee than ranged, with the dodging etc. A few people have also commented that circle strafing is an important strategy, which is worth noting to any players who really hate all the bunny jumping/ circle strafing type of tactics. It will be interested to see if more people comment on this in future betas as they have higher level characters, because that’s not a great balance feature.

GW2 Feedback:

  • Chris at LevelCapped“there are some issues, and not all of them can be attributed to “beta””
  • Tremayne’s Law — “the automatic levelling down of players to match the area they’re in is pure genius”
  • Tales of the Aggronaut“This time around I allowed myself to wander aimlessly, explore, and work my way through the various objectives on the map in a much more fluid way.”
  • Of Course I’ll Play It“every mechanic in GW2 seems designed to just be as player friendly as it can possibly be.  Buffs don’t work on your party, they work on people in your area.”
  • Raging Monkeys“I am enjoying the combat mechanics in GW2, as I knew I would. Auto-attack and circle strafing take some getting used to”
  • Melmoth at Kiasa – “The devoted passion of EVE’s players is something which I also recognise in the Guild Wars community, as well as in the team at ArenaNet, and I feel that it is this passion which is intrinsic to the best of MMO experiences.”
  • Keen says Overflow has got to go and wonders if the combat feels clunky
  • Cyndre at KillTenRats“Within an hour I wasn’t even bothering to do most of the events because they were terribly uninspired and the rewards were simply not motivating enough to grind content to achieve.”

I also noticed comments about the voice acting not being very good and stories a bit lacking. SWTOR has raised the bar hugely in this respect, I think players haven’t entirely realised yet how much. (I was playing an Agent over the weekend and … frankly the storytelling on that class is phenomenal. And such clever use of MMO mechanics like quests to simulate mind control. The only reason I’m not writing posts about it is because I don’t want to give out any spoilers.)

ie. Expect all future MMOs to feel lacking in voice acting and storytelling if you’ve played SWTOR at all. They won’t come anywhere near. Judge them on other aspects instead.

Another thing to watch out for with the WvW setup is that players will tend to flock to the realms with the best WvW reputation, at least if there are bonuses to be had from winning the WvW battlefronts. Especially the PvE players who want the bonuses but aren’t personally interested in PvP. I’m going to be interested to see if ArenaNet has any plans for server balancing to try to spread the PvP guilds out a bit.

Burn Jita

OK, EVE event coming up. Goons decided to siege a high security trading hub this weekend. The problem with trying to report on EVE events is that there are three reasons why these player driven events are meaningful to people:

  • You were there, or personally involved. Events that affect a large amount of players are more meaningful to more people. There is some debate about exactly who gets affected and by how much.
  • An impressive amount of player organisation was involved. Like, an event which took 3 months of planning by hundreds of players.
  • Many players are deeply invested in the game/ event and will be talking about it as if it was the most important thing in the universe. ie. lots of spin.

EVE has a lot of highly invested players, and being on a single server means that a single player driven event can affect a lot of players. Having said that, congrats to everyone involved in making it happen – but I still wouldn’t go near EVE with a bargepole.

I am a bit puzzled how if the blockade happened for 2 hours per day in US prime time it could really count as a blockade. I mean, I don’t even play EVE but presumably if I could just log in before work and do my trading while the americans were asleep, it’s not a very exciting event. If you do this properly, you get your minions on other continents to get involved too and have it happen around the clock, surely.

Gevlon argues that Goons are spinning their influence out of all proportion. Well yes, that’s what happens in every EVE player event. Something happens, and then everyone argues about whether it affected them or not – because if you buy into the sandbox, then you want to FEEL as though you were affected by other player’s actions. It’s the next best thing to being there yourself, which if stuff tends to happen in other timezones, won’t always be possible.

More Links

The Wizard 101 guys announce a new Pirate themed game. That’ll be worth keeping an eye out for.

Jester at Jester’s Trek wonders if players have an abusive relationship with EVE Online. I’m not thrilled with that metaphor – I think addiction works better to describe what he’s talking about. But I also don’t think it’s a positive way to look at a game, I would have stopped playing before that point.

Scary carries on with his Bloggapalooza, in which he asked a load of MMO bloggers (including yours truly) some deep and meaningful questions about gaming such as “if you got reincarnated as a game character, who would you be”?”

Harpy’s Nest considers what it means to achievement minded players if Blizzard make all achievements account wide in the next expansion.

“I repeat content on my alts just because there is a blank space in my achievement list. I explore places I know like the back of my hand, flying over old familiar hidey holes, taking screenshots and thinking about all the memories they gave me. I do old favourite quests and farm rep with people who already love me on four other characters. I get out into the world because my achievements aren’t currently shareable and I know plenty others who do the same.”

This is pretty much the opposite of how I play, incidentally. So I think it’d be kind of amusing if I could create a new panda with the “Hand of A’dal” title from my old druid, and the Chinese Olympic memorial pet (it’s a little flying chinese dragon, so v appropriate actually) from my warlock. But I can see that for people who love grabbing achievements on new alts, this would actually cut down their content.

Skaggy, who is one of my SWTOR guildmates, has a new blog intended for newcomers to SWTOR. So go give him some love! (And watch out for new blog encouragement events all over the MMO blogosphere next month.)

[GW2] Pre-Order vs Pre-Purchase, or why only badly organised people pre-purchase

So Guild Wars 2 went on sale yesterday. You won’t actually be able to play the finished game for months, although they’ll let you in for the odd beta weekend, bugs and all. But if you pre-purchase then you will have paid full price already. Let’s run that by again. You will have paid full price for something you can’t use properly for months, at which point you may also be able to buy it cheaper. Congratulations on making a poorly thought out purchase there, dude.

When even Ravious is saying that this might not be a great trend (and he never criticises Arenanet)  it’s worth paying attention. Clearly MMO devs in particular would love to jump on the pre-purchase bandwagon. Of course it’d be better to get people to pay while the hype cycle is in full swing and any balancing/ content-free/ or endgame issues haven’t yet come to light. Meanwhile, you the consumer have spent that money on something you aren’t going to be able to use yet. I suppose that won’t matter to people who don’t have to live on much of a budget, which is the market for these offers. For any fans, there is no reason at all not to wait until launch, buy the game then (for the same price or possibly cheaper) and all you missed out on are a few meagre beta weekends. Anet still get your cash, you still get your game – we can call this novel purchasing model “the exchange of money for goods.”

The other thing he said that surprised me was that Diablo 3 was also available for pre-purchase. Now why in the name of anything would anyone do that unless it was part of the WoW Annual Pass (which I’m also dubious about)? I pre-ordered Diablo 3 when it was announced, got a really good price on Amazon, and I can still cancel the order if I decide before launch that I need the money for something else. THAT is what pre-orders have always been about. What exactly is anyone getting from the pre-purchase that makes it worth more than that? (the answer is either nothing, or perhaps the ability to download it instantly on release if that’s a big deal to you).

You could make the same argument about Kickstarters but they aren’t typically mass market AAA affairs, and need your support to make the game at all. It’s a different type of consumer experience. They’re designed so that fans can support their favourite creatives, and typically offer plenty of insight into the creative process so that funders can feel involved. (Also, we don’t know whether Kickstarters/ crowdfunded as a concept is just a flash in the pan and people will get bored of them after awhile.)

But meantime, pre-purchase is not so much F2P as pay to wait.