Halloween and Bioware, but not related.

October 31, 2007

Just a quick note about NWN2: Make sure to complete the Blade Golem quest in the original campaign, the dialog from Grobnar (the gnome bard) is priceless. Really good stuff, well worth the bit of effort it takes to track the pieces down.

So the big news going around is that Bioware has (not) announced their new MMO, which will be star wars based. I’m not sure how I feel about that, not being the world’s biggest star wars fan. I never played KoTOR, or SWG, so I’m not an expert on how exactly star wars games play out, other than knowing they get panned whenever they release one for a console. I do play EVE, which is space based, and I enjoy that greatly, so I’m not completely against a space based MMO. Although I doubt Bioware’s game will be purely ship based like EVE, it will be interesting to see the mix between character and ship based content. But considering the game won’t be out for some time, and the fact we don’t even have a name or a single screen shot, we will have plenty of time to break the details down in the future.

Moving on, here is my breakdown of Halloween. When you are young, it’s a great day because you get a ton of candy and get to dress up as your favorite cartoon character, running from one scary house to the other. Then you hit that age were you are way too cool to dress up, too old to collect candy, and you just don’t really care for Halloween. And then you hit college, and Halloween becomes that magic day were girls are allowed to dress in lingerie in public and no one objects (but actually, would males object if that was a daily occurrence?), one of the great ‘excuse to party’ days for four years. And finally, the last stage of Halloween, the eerie stage where you are too old to dress up but no one told you, and you get dragged out by your wife to some goofy party wearing one of those awful ‘adult’ costumes. Oh and then you die, which in Halloween terms, means you resemble a decoration… odd.


Mythos update.

October 30, 2007

I’ve been playing a good bit of Mythos lately, my main character is at lvl 14, a human bloodletter, and overall it’s been very enjoyable. The graphic style is very nice while being very easy on hardware demands, and the sound adds very nice squish and smash noises without being overly annoying.

The big draw of the game of course is the item chase, bashing everything in sight in the hope of picking up some nice gear. Mythos does a great job with items for two reasons; it is very flexible in what you can use, and it has a large variety of item levels.

You are only limited in what items you can use by three base stat requirements; strength, dexterity and/or wisdom. That’s it, no classes, no weapon skills, none of that. At level 14 I’ve already gone through a wide variety of weapon setups, from sword/shield, to a big two hander, and currently duel wielding an axe (Sunder) and a mace (some green with nice stats). Anytime you find something that is an upgrade, you throw it on and have at it. The big advantage of this is that very few items that you find of good quality will not be an upgrade for you, as you can use almost anything. In previous games of this type, it was all too common to get a great rare drop that you could not use for one reason or another, and often-times trading proved difficult. This is simply not the case in Mythos.

The other item related thing Mythos does really well is in its expanded range of item quality. The levels, in order, are white/blue/purple/green/teal/orange (I think, never seen an orange item). I think I’ve seen in chat of people talking about red items as well, but I’m not sure where they fit in. The point is with that wide range of item qualities, most dungeon trips yield an upgrade or two, and if you really get lucky and pick up some green or teal, it’s a good high. Even a blue at level 14 can be in upgrade over a purple or green if it has the right stats, or might simply be higher level than your current stuff. It’s a constant carousel of gear switching, and a game like Mythos relies on that to keep you motivated.

All that said, Mythos is still in beta, and it shows in a few areas. One is the enemy variety, and how it is used. With the limited number of enemy models, basically almost every dungeon uses close to all of the enemy types, meaning all dungeons and quests look the same, or very similar. I’m sure (or at least I hope) this will be changed in future updates, but currently it’s the main reason Mythos to me is a 30-45 minutes at a time game, and not something I really get into. The above complaint also applies to the dungeon textures. The ones currently in the game are fantastic, but more variety is needed.

I’m sure I’ll talk more about Mythos as I get my character into the 20s and beyond, but so far so good, and thanks again to Bildo for the beta key!


EQ2 graphics wrap up.

October 29, 2007

Ah sweet victory. Not the worlds most exciting World Series, but a win is a win. Rolling rally time, woo hoo! And Sunday can’t come soon enough now, with the clash of the titans scheduled for 4:30pm (Pats vs Colts for those that do not follow the NFL). Good times for New England sports fan.

Just some final thoughts today on the whole EQ2 graphics debate to wrap it all up, here goes. I think more than technical aspects, it’s the overall style that does not sit well with me. Having played a bit more this weekend, I think I’ve figured out exactly what irks me. It’s not the overall that’s bad, as in many cases the graphics in EQ2 look really good, but all too frequent, you will see something that looks wrong, and it will completely break the illusion the game is going for. Being petty here now, but in Darklight woods, the trees have very fake looking roots at their base. The gf first pointed it out, and when I stopped and actually looked at it, she was right. They just look odd and out of place. Everything else is high quality and well designed, and then the base of the tree looks like a few large single colored polygons. Again, being very petty, but it’s there.

I almost feel like the graphic style SOE went for in EQ2 should have been reserved for EQ3. What I mean by that is that the very lifelike realism approached would most likely work much better in a year or two than it did back in 2004. With more graphic power, the aspects of EQ that are intentionally realistic would be much closer to that then they are now, and as a result the parts that are aimed to look more fantasy would stand out more. Right now the parts that they aim to look very realistic often end up looking plain and boring, and you wish more of the game looked a bit more ‘fantasy’. I think this is due more to the limitations of the technology than to a preference for WoW-like cartoon graphics. Vanguard certainly goes for a more realistic style, yet you don’t hear a lot of complaints about its graphics, and I believe a large part of it is due to the realism in that game still looking good.

If you know how chain mail is supposed to look, it’s easier to find fault with it when a game does not deliver, yet when an artist is drawing up some fantasy creature, you can’t look at it and say ‘oh look its missing some detail in its face’, mainly because you don’t have a point of reference due to the creature being fictional. As long as you can deliver on the look of the realistic parts, your fantasy bits will be that much more impressive, giving the player something to look at and be amazed.


Screen shot comparison.

October 25, 2007

Update: To try and make this a little more accurate, I went to the official pages of EQ2 and LoTRO, and picked two SS, the first a scenery shot, the second a character shot.

 EQ2 RoK treesLoTRO treesEQ2 RoK charactersLoTRO characters

*********************************** 

Since a nice discussion has started in the post below about EQ2 vs other games graphics, and I would like to try and keep the discussion to graphics only just to keep it focused if nothing else, I’ll just throw this up to keep things moving.

LoTRO screen shot EQ2 screen shot

The focus here is the ground. EQ2 is flat, boring, and lifeless. The LoTRO screen shot ground is full of detail, and bends in a natural way throughout the shot. It also just looks more ‘alive’ for lack of a better word.

As I stated below, the reason this topic interests me is because I don’t think its close; I really think EQ2 is way below its peers in the graphics department. Clearly people disagree, which is great, and I really want people to bring up reasons why the look of EQ2 works for them.


More EQ2 bashing. Is it just me…?

October 24, 2007

Something I ran across today while browsing around some blogs. This just floored me. I mean I read it and had to re-read it to make sure the comment was about EQ2 like I thought it was.

By Jason, a comment left on The Server is Down,

“Like many other folks out there…I am sort of a MMO “whore”, for lack of a better word. I have played them all and most to max level and some raiding. I have to honestly say I think EQ2 offers the most complete package. From lore to looks it has the most and does it very well.”

So we know Jason has played a lot of MMOs; how do you see stuff like WoW, LoTRO, DDO, EVE, even random stuff like SoTNW, and end up saying EQ2 offers the most in terms of looks? I mean seriously now, how does that happen? Put EQ2 and LoTRO screens next to each other, and you are going to honestly tell me EQ2 looks better? No matter what setting you have them at, LoTRO will look better, even with LoTRO turned down and EQ2 at max I’m not sure even then EQ2 looks better. I really must be missing something here. Maybe EQ2 looks really good on a small monitor or something, or on some odd screen size that fits it just right… something… like I said, this just shocked me.


NWN2 praise, EQ2 bashing.

October 24, 2007

NWN2 is awesome. So fanboi-ish, I know, but I’m really having a great time with the game, issues and all.

***Minor Spoiler Alert***

I finally made it to the keep, and so far so good. I was not able to do more than see the options it presents, but they seem very deep. I’m curious to see how the keep plays into the story going forward, whether it takes a central role or is merely a side-quest type option. So far the hints have been that it will play a major part in some upcoming battle/event, hopefully that does indeed happen.

I also really like that you see a very natural progression with your character. In the somewhat typical plot of ‘small farm town boy/girl to uber-god’ progression, NWN2 handles it well. For instance, you start gaining respect in the city by cleaning up the slum that is the docks district, which in turns gives you the opportunity to work in the merchant district. Proving yourself there gets you the chance to be noticed by the ‘higher ups’ of the city. You become a squire for a good reason, and that leads you to do some important things for the city of Neverwinter, which in turn puts you in good standing with the King, making further rewards seem logical. Perhaps not earth-shattering stuff, but clearly a lot of time was spent on the story and getting it right, and I think it really shows.

***Spoiler over***

If anyone can explain to me why alt-tabbing to get the FPS back up to 25-35ish from 10, and also fixing weapon glow and spell effect graphic errors works, please please do. My only guess is it has something to do with resetting the memory, either the RAM itself or maybe the graphics card memory. If that IS the case, does that mean something might be off with my memory, or is it simply an issue with NWN2? Overall though it’s a somewhat trivial annoyance, as alt-tabbing is quick, NWN2 pauses itself when you do it, and I generally don’t have to do it more than once every 20-30 minutes. Still, if I could get it fixed, that would be a nice.

As for the currently neglected game, EQ2, I have set a personal goal of level 30, at which point if the game is still ‘eh’ to me, I plan on quitting. I want to give EQ2 a fair shot, and I think level 30 is more than enough time. So far two things bother me about the game, the graphics and the combat.

To me the style of the graphics is somewhat poor, especially the character and mob models. The skeleton NPC model really reminds me of the mid-90s in terms of style/quality. Now maybe it has some really complex details and such, but at a glance, its very meh. Same goes for a lot of the other mobs, the wolves, snakes, etc. Not exactly terrible, but nothing even close to special. The armor and weapon graphics are nice, with some good detail in the armor, but sadly coming from WoW and LoTRO, they don’t compare. Now I know that might not be fair, considering LoTRO is a newer game, but still the comparison is there. Above all else though, the game runs poorly for what it is. Nothing that I see on screen justifies the game running so poorly on my system, and being so inept in tuning it down. WoW, imo, looks better, and never drops below 60 FPS for me, even in a 40 person raid with spell effects going off. EQ2 choked up in a major city, and that was without the screen being full of characters. I can’t imagine how far you would have to drop the graphics to make a raid even close to playable. And speaking of dropping the graphics down, the game looks like complete trash on the lower settings, yet still gives my older comp fits in certain spots. I swear at the lowest setting you could mistake an EQ2 screen shot for Meridian 59, its that bad.

As for the combat, while again not awful, it just does not do much for me. It’s not exactly slow, but it feels somewhat unresponsive and automated. I generally get the feeling that if I can’t beat a mob, I have no chance, and if I can beat a mob, I will always do so. It’s not like I can pull off the perfect combo of skills and that will be enough to take a tougher mob down, and that feels wrong. Hopefully this changes further in, but at level 20 now that is how it goes.

I think I really want to like EQ2 because of how highly so many people talk about it, and how supposedly after WoW it does so many things right. IMO, right now, the game is not even in the same league as WoW, or even LoTRO. Again I don’t want to jump the gun here and condemn it, hence the level 30 goal, so hopefully things pick up and EQ2 shows me why it should be in the same sentence as WoW and others.


The Orange Box, coming soon.

October 23, 2007

 

Not much of an update today, other than to say it looks like I’ll be picking up the Orange Box soon. The amount of praise Portal has received has convinced me it’s worth the purchase, and getting Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2 will be nice side bonuses. I was not the world’s biggest Half-life fan back in the day, and never really got into counter strike, but if the two come with Portal, I might as well give them a shot. Only problem right now is that my gaming time is maxed out between NWN2, EVE Online and EQ2, so I’ll have to wait until I’ve finished NWN2 before getting Orange Box. Still, looking forward to seeing what all the hype about Portal is all about.


Mythos beta, and more NWN2

October 22, 2007

Ah what a weekend. Redsox in the world series, Patriots 7-0 and blowing everyone out, BC ranked #2 in the country, the Celtics season about to start with the new big three, and the Bruins… well I think the Bruins have started playing, rumor has it hockey is back on. It’s a great time to be a sports fan in the New England area. Everyone jump on the bandwagon!

Back to a topic most readers here actually care about, it’s been an interesting weekend of gaming. I played a little Mythos thanks to Bildo, and I must say it’s not half bad. The graphics are very decent, although nothing groundbreaking, the sounds is on point, and overall the gameplay is good in a ‘break your mouse from clicking’ way. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it’s a decent Diablo clone. If I have one grip with it, and this might be improved in time, is that the game is limited in your character choices, with only three races and three classes. I found myself wishing for the distinct variety that Diablo provided, but like I said, hopefully they expand on that and add some more choices. The item balance also might need some work, as I had a few drops that were WAY above my current gear at the time, and when I got them they made the next few levels trivial. While it’s really nice to see that uber item drop, it does ruin the next hour or so in terms of challenge. Bottom line though, the game is certainly worth trying if you are a Diablo fan looking for some quick action, and from what I saw its bug free and runs very well, no graphic errors or lag.

In NWN2 news, I’m currently a few hours into act 2 in the original campaign and really loving it. Without spoiling anything here (I hope), I really have to say the trial part was great. It featured tons of interesting dialog choices, twists and turns, and some really great voice acting. A very unique experience in gaming that was very enjoyable. The story itself has really picked up, and the quests are well written and full of tough choices. The game makes it very easy to role play a good guy (like my Paladin), a neutral keep everything balanced character, or a more evil ‘in it for me’ type, both in terms of dialog choices and actual ways to complete quests. What I have found most interesting is that I am really enjoying sticking to my character, and trying to always be lawful and good, even if sometimes those choices don’t seem like the ‘best’ way to solve a problem. It puts the party into some tougher situations, and perhaps does not always lead to the greatest rewards, but it adds a great deal of immersion seeing realistic reactions from the game world when you always try to play it straight. It also makes me want to go back and play an evil character just to see how the different choices effect the overall game. For anyone reading this who has not given this game a try, I HIGHLY recommend it. Even though it has some technical issues, the gameplay and story more than make up for this.


Focus RvR combat.

October 19, 2007

Tobold made a post today about cross continent servers, and how they can impact a game. He brings up the point that if you have a multi-continent server, there will never be a downtime since it will be peak hours someplace in the world.

He also talks about how this type of server might impact RvR combat in a game like DAoC or the upcoming Warhammer. From my personal experience, raiding a relic in DAoC was generally done in the early hours of the morning, preferably on a week day. Not very doable for anyone who works or has kids. That’s a major problem when the highlight of your game is indeed these types of raids to steal back a relic from an enemy realm. If you bring in a cross-continent server, you possible solve the problem of a small group raiding at odd hours.

I feel that while this is one solution, and I generally support the idea of mixed servers, I also have to fault the developer for implementing a system that can be overcome simply by being online when the majority of the player base can not. If you are focusing on RvR combat, you should be able to create a system that caters to when your player base is online most. This might be possible by say closing the gates of a relic fort from 11pm to 5pm, limiting the raiding window to peak times. This type of limit might not only allow more people to be involved with the best part of RvR, but also cater to more diverse strategy from both the attacking and defending teams.

Has anyone heard whether WAR has anything like this planned, or does it not really matter in that RvR setup?


EVE is a sandbox with land mines, deal with it.

October 18, 2007

Stole the title from a forum poster, name escapes me now. Sums up EVE well though.


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