[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.)

Housekeeping notes, and wordpress updates

I don’t write about the blog itself often but for those who have been following along, you will know that I sometimes turn various new WordPress features on and off.

The last update was a few months back when I turned on the ability to rate posts. I thought  it might be fun for readers to be able to give quick feedback (like the equivalent of a thumbs up or down) if they didn’t feel inspired to comment, and maybe I’d learn more about what people liked. Bloggers generally tend to measure the popularity of a post by the number of comments received and number of hits – but number of comments might just mean that you wrote something controversial, and not necessarily just a good post that people liked. This isn’t a money making venture so I’m not pressured to write posts that will get a lot of hits; from my point of view this was pure curiosity.

It has been an interesting experiment. There hasn’t been a lot of feedback, possibly because the ratings don’t show up on the RSS feed or because people read from the front page and not individual posts, but it has been a good pointer to when a few people liked what they saw. So thank you if you did take the time to score a post.

thumbsup

I’ve now turned that feature off, and instead turned on the ability to score comments. You can now go score each other :) WordPress use a slashdot style of scoring where you can either give a comment the thumbs up, or thumbs down.

So, have at it!

WordPress introduces the like button

Part of the reason for changing things around (other than FOR SCIENCE!) is because WordPress is now featuring the ability to say that you like a post. If you are logged into WordPress while browsing blog posts, you will notice a new icon on your menu bar.

wordpressheader

If you find something you liked then you can click there and:

  • the writer will be able to see how many people liked that post
  • you’ll have the opportunity to reblog it (this also has the side effect that if you wanted to reblog something to say how much you hated and despised  it, you have to hit the like button first)

So what is reblogging? Bloggers often get inspired by each other. I know that many times I have started a post by saying, “I read this really good article on blog X ((insert link)) … ‘”

When you reblog a post, WordPress will insert the title, link and some text from what you are linking and then let you add comments underneath. I’ll reblog a post later today with some comments as an example. The idea, I believe, is to make it easier for bloggers to repost something cool that they found with comments of their own underneath.

If you are interested to know more, here is WordPress’ news on the new features.

16 ways to speed up your raid

We used to have a cartoon up in my old office that read ‘Meetings: the alternative to work!’ and it showed ten people sleeping around a big desk, compared to one person sleeping at a desk on their own. When a group activity drifts from the core reason people came along, you’re potentially wasting a lot of people’s time.

I notice this a lot recently because I’m running ten mans on a very limited schedule. Three hours per week. It isn’t much, but we all wanted to see what we could do anyway. People enjoy the ten man raids and didn’t want to give them up.

And even though I’m far from a hardcore raid leader, there’s nothing like a tight time constraint to really focus you on making the absolute best use of the raid time available. I mention hardcore here because one of the big differences between raiding hardcore and … err.. not… is the emphasis that raids leaders put on keeping things moving quickly. So it’s a little odd for me to be in that position.

These are tried and tested techniques that I use to make it work. Our progression certainly won’t set the world alight and I still don’t know if we’ll be able to get to the end of the instance. But as long as people are keen we’ll keep trying. The key to my mind is that you don’t need to choose between having fun or having progression. You can do both.

  1. Don’t panic, have fun. Whatever is going through your mind, try to at least sound calm and focussed.
  2. Keep things moving. Don’t let people dawdle, they can chat on TS while they’re running to the next boss or waiting for loot to be sorted. One of the factors that separates progression from casual raids is how quickly people get back into the instance, buffed up, and ready to pull again after a wipe. Train your raid to do this quickly.
  3. Go in with a plan. Before the raid, have a plan in mind for what you hope to accomplish. Tell the raid what it is. Have backup plans also (e.g. what will you do if for some reason you can’t achieve your main goal), but don’t tell the raid that. In a raid like Ulduar there are some optional bosses – skip them if you know your plan involves fighting something new.
  4. Keep talking on voice chat. It sounds silly but it really does help people focus, even if you’re just reading out what they can probably see on their screens anyway.
  5. Use /readycheck freely (but also wisely). As well as letting you know if people are ready it gives the raid a heads up that it’s time to stop chatting and start fighting. It’s also much faster than asking on voice chat ‘Is everyone ready?’ and waiting for 9 other people to say yes.
  6. Get people to give you feedback after a wipe. How was the tanking? How was the healing? How was dps managing? Ideally they’ll do this while you are running back so by the time you get back to the boss you’ll have been able to formulate a new plan for the next pull. Remember: time is limited so you absolutely need to learn as much as you can from each wipe.
  7. Train your raid to read up on bosses beforehand so that you don’t need to spend five minutes before each pull discussing strategy (again). But do quickly run through the basics if anyone isn’t familiar with either the fight or your tactics. Make sure you know if anyone is attempting an unfamiliar role in a fight so you can make sure that they are prepared (ie. know whatever they need to know).
  8. Learn to delegate. Tank assignments, healing assignments, and loot master can all be done by other people if you don’t want to do them yourself.
  9. Know when to call the raid or move on. Sometimes you’re making no progress on a boss. If you don’t know why (i,e. there’s nothing obvious that you can ‘fix’) then don’t waste everyone’s evening on the same pointless fight. With practice, you’ll get a good sense for whether a wipe was useful or not. Similarly, some nights the whole raid – self included – is just playing badly. Some people have a 3 wipe rule, after three wipes, they move on. It can be a good idea to save an easy boss for last (Razorscale works well for us) so that you can always end the night on a kill, it improves people’s moods.
  10. Don’t dither. If you aren’t sure what to do next (ie. which boss to try next, which tactic to try next) then go ahead and discuss it, but do come to a decision. Also, don’t be overly cautious. You’ll learn more by actually trying a fight than by standing around for ten minutes freaking out over strategy.
  11. Before a pull, check that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and that tanks and healers have their assignments. When you are running through at speed it’s easy to forget something, a quick check can save a lot of time.
  12. Practice pulling trash quickly. Not really an issue in Ulduar, since there isn’t much trash in there.
  13. Use a lightweight loot distribution strategy. You don’t want to be spending ages sorting out complex DKP after each fight. Need/ greed works fine in small raids. I just let anyone roll who can use the drop.
  14. If you aren’t 100% sure whether your current raid is viable against a boss (maybe because of odd raid composition, or having one or two people who aren’t as good) do not let anyone know your doubts in advance. When your raid pulls a boss, they should all believe that you are absolutely certain they can kill it. Sometimes they will surprise you. At least give them that chance. After a wipe, you can decide if the fight is doable or not.
  15. Allow one 5 min break in a 3 hour raid. Pick a natural break in the raid if possible (i.e. when you need more time to think about your plan or the strategy for the next boss). Don’t let people take random bio breaks or afk outside this unless there’s some emergency.
  16. Have a plan for what to do about disconnects. If someone doesn’t come back after 10 or 15 minutes, what are you going to do? Try to find a replacement? Get someone to ring them who knows their RL number? Whatever it is, try to avoid having your raid sitting around for half an hour getting bored.