GW2: The game Mythic tried to make

April 30, 2012

Let me get this out of the way first; GW2 is worth the $60. If it had a sub I’d feel differently, but as it does not, what GW2 does is worth the $60. All of the below is based on getting a character to level 15 and ‘finishing’ the first zone, and playing a few more to 5-6.

Overall GW2 is good-enough, but where all of the jesus MMO talk started I’m not quite sure. It’s not that, at all, and if you go into it thinking it will be you will walk away very disappointed.

In a nutshell, GW2 PvE is what WAR must have been like before EA told Mythic to make WAR more like WoW. Your PvE options are public quests and area rep-grinds. The hype about GW2 PQs progressing and feeling ‘natural’ is just that, hype. You will see the same PQ repeat frequently, and none that I’ve experienced so far have an impact beyond perhaps turning off a warp point. The rep-grinds are exactly what you would expect; some basic tasks you can complete in an area to get some XP/items. Rounding out the options are ‘hidden’ mini-quests and the occasional rare spawn.

Not that the above makes GW2 PvE bad mind you. It can be pretty decent when things line up, but reinvent the PvE wheel ArenaNet did not. Still, getting WAR’s PvE right is a good thing, and something Mythic never actually pulled off. Bears bears bears does apply to GW2, so it has that going for it.

I won’t talk too much about PvP simply because in the first three days PvP looks nothing like it will three months in. What works or does not today is almost irrelevant.

GW2’s combat is what I want to talk at length about, because it’s here I’m most disappointed. It still feels like it did back when I played the game at PAX. It’s not as “stand and trade” as WoW, but it’s not the ‘action combat’ of Darkfall either. It’s this odd space in-between, where you can dodge sometimes, sometimes not, and hits require ‘real’ range but not really. It’s a tab-targeting system, but also one that will allow you to hit a skill and have it go on cooldown even if you are out of range. There is no friendly-fire, but you can hit an enemy you were not targeting it if happened to be along the path of your attack.

For example, you can circle-strafe to ‘bug out’ mob AI at range, like in DF, but not all the time. It depends on whether the mob has an “I’ll always hit you” attack, or a dodge-able ability. Same goes for using the terrain; you can bug the mobs out sometimes, but others they will just ‘cheat’ and climb up a cliff to get you. In WoW you can never do this because all mobs ‘cheat’, and in DF they never do. In GW2, it’s 50/50, which is very inconsistent and feels off.

I like that GW2 has a very limited number of abilities per weapon/class, and the swap weapon feature adds some nice depth, but why does the game still have auto-attack? Is it action combat, or Simon Says? Furthermore, auto-attack itself is very powerful, which reduces the player-skill cap and allows ‘bad’ players to still contribute a significant amount. This is somewhat of a non-factor in PvE, but in PvP it matters. In a high player-skill game like DF, one very good player could take out 20 ‘bads’, which is why elite groups worked. Even grossly outnumbered, they could still win, and taking down that elite player was very rewarding. With the power of auto-attack and tab-targeting in GW2, I’m having a hard time seeing that possibility. Elite players will still flock to each other, and they will still dominate WvW, but they will be forced to do so in large numbers, which is an all-around bad thing.

Some other random thoughts:

Graphically I think GW2 looks good, but not mind-blowing. The lack of DX11 is noticeable.

The personal story was solid in terms of single-player, one-off content. It’s not Skyrim, but it’s a step above the average MMO quest.

Having to use a weapon for X amount of time until you open up all the skills feels very much like WoW’s old weapon skill; a pointless penalty for finding a different weapon that long-term has zero impact. Same goes for unlocking weapon switching at level 9; its 8 levels you have to get through to play your ‘real’ character.

I’d caution anyone writing how great the ‘community’ felt. Its beta and everyone knows there is a wipe coming. People play very differently under those conditions compared to launch, especially in an MMO with a PvP end-game and 80 levels to ‘get through’ to fully reach it.

Level scaling felt horribly off to me. Fighting anything one level above you was a heroic effort, and anything two levels or more was going to roll you (unless you bug it out at range of course). This, combined with the down-leveling mechanic, meant that crossing a newbie field that happens to have one higher-level mob resulted in death, despite the fact that your character is really much stronger now than when he crossed that field 10 levels before. It’s immersion breaking in the worse way.

Getting item drops at your ‘real’ level off lower-level mobs is a smart design decision, assuming no-one figures out a great way to exploit it. Place your bets on that happening now.

My wife played the game for about 20 minutes, asked if she could stop, and commented that it would likely be a fun game in a group, but was the same boring stuff solo.

Over the weekend, I was playing GW2 when nothing was going on in EVE. When something was, it was not difficult to switch. Make what you will of that.

The login issues of Friday night happened again Saturday. Server switching did eventually work. I ran across a few bugs, but nothing horrible like a CTD.

Looking forward to another weekend and trying out a different class to 10+. The human warrior I played was interesting, while the human necro did little for me.


GW2: First Impressions

April 27, 2012

Super white login screen that initially blurs your text + loud music you can’t turn off + not being able to play thanks to some random error = Jesus MMO has finally arrived.

But hey, its only beta and it’s not like I paid for this…

To be fair, I’m sure ArenaNet had no idea how many people might be trying to log in, this being 2012 and this whole “first day of an MMO” thing being total new. Now if we had, say, 15 years to look back on and plan for this, that would be different. Also this being ArenaNet’s first MMO (get it?) and being just a tiny studio with a limited budget, what can you really expect?

slowclap


EVE: Jita Burns Trammel

April 27, 2012

I was there.

Jita Burns also reminds me why Trammel was such a horrible mistake. Most days, for most people, Empire space in EVE is ‘safe’ unless you do something stupid. Not all of New Eden is a FFA PvP gankfest like UO was in 97, or Darkfall is today.

But New Eden is also not Trammel, where the devs stepped in, took the easy way out, and made the world 100% safe. CCP found a middle ground, one that undeniably works, and allows for Jita Burns to happen.

If you were there last night, you know why that’s a wonderful thing.


EVE: Wormhole opportunities and threats

April 26, 2012

One challenging aspect of wormhole life is how dynamic the environment truly is. One day sites won’t spawn and you won’t have any connections besides your static, and the next you have three hostile connections and more sites than you can reasonably run. The uneven pace of ‘content’ makes finding the right amount of pilots difficult; on slow days you have too many, on busy days you wish you had more. When things are slow you have to work to create something to do, while when they are busy you need to prioritize correctly to ensure you maximize profits safely.

Connections, either to other WHs or high/low/null, are also a gift and a curse. On the one hand, connecting to a WH that you can farm for additional profits is a huge plus, as is getting a favorable high-sec opening to hit the market or bring in supplies. On the other, connecting to a WH occupied by a more veteran force can lead to expensive losses, and having an opening to a high-traffic known-space system might mean more visitors and potential threats/invasions.

The motivation in all of this is that the more powerful your Corporation grows, the more things look like opportunities than threats. When you have the experience and ability to defeat 90% of what’s out there, most openings will be to your advantage. On top of that, when things are slow you have the ability to successfully venture out and cause some trouble away from home.

INQ-E is not at 90%. Or 50% for that matter. Most connections are still a threat rather than an opportunity, and it only takes one overly interested party to really cause some major damage. With that said, living in the WH pushes us to progress at a much faster rate than high-sec. People very quickly learn the basics, either by doing their homework or getting blown up. The environment is certainly not for everyone, much like EVE itself, but when you make it work, it sure is fun.


GW2: Might as well

April 25, 2012

I pre-ordered GW2 today in order to buy my way into the beta weekends. I was going to hold off, but since I don’t expect GW2 to failcascade like SW:TOR, I doubt the box price is going to drop anytime soon, so buying the game today is likely to be the same thing as buying it in a few months. No sub cost is also of course a factor.

What I actually expect to get out of GW2 is another matter. I’m basically buying it play with the rest of Inquisition, and because it will hopefully be a nice alternative to EVE. League of Legends fills this slot currently, but I can’t play more than a game or two a day before drifting away, so I still have some gaming time to spare.

In more than one way, I’m actually hoping GW2 is super casual and very ‘accessible’, because I don’t want to invest the amount of time required for a ‘real’ MMO. I want to get to 80 asap, get geared, and just be able to jump into WvW when INQ has a crew going.

Basically, I’m looking for GW2 to be fantasy Battlefield 3. This upcoming weekend will likely go a long way to showing whether GW2 is up to that task or not.


EVE: Overpopulating New Eden

April 24, 2012

EVE is still called a niche MMO, despite having more subs than most sub MMOs, and despite being the only MMO with sustained growth after 8+ years. Perhaps when people say niche, they mean that EVE is the only truly successful MMO long-term, but somehow I doubt that.

But what if EVE was not ‘niche’? What if it had 2m subs? 10m? What impact would that have on New Eden, its players, and CCP?

If EVE had 10m players, how many of them would be docked in Jita 4 4? If 400k gets you 1500ish in Jita today, 10m would mean 37k+ pilots all in one system. That might cause just a little bit of lag, or require TiDi to be turned up to 99.99% 24/7. Can you imagine the market volume?

This would also cause silly amounts of competition over fixed resources like wormholes, null-sec systems, and low-sec regions. If the goons today blob with 2k, the goons in a 10m sub MMO would bring what? How big would alliances or coalitions get? And while Mittens does a masterful job herding the CFC in its current size, would anyone be capable of herding THAT many people?

So perhaps a 10m New Eden would be home to a huge amount of ‘small’ Alliance, each with 4-5k members, and only capable of holding a system or two. Or maybe someone could unite a hundred thousand players under one banner, and raise the bar of entry to an impossibly high level.

Another aspect to consider would be market manipulation. Would this be possible in a 10m pilot world? If it could happen, the scale would be enormous, and the profits unimaginable. Some alliances in EVE today are already super-rich, but what if someone truly had almost unlimited resources? If controlling the Trit market today is impossible, what are the odds when the population increases 25x?

For CCP, 10m subs would of course raise revenue to crazy amounts as well. CCP already delivers more content/updates than anyone else in the genre, so what would things look like when given so many resources? Jita with 37k being technically possible, or more Incarna dreaming?

While I don’t believe EVE will ever reach 10m subs, if it continues growing like it has for 8 years, at what point does overpopulation kick in? 500k? 750k? 1m? And when it does, how will the players, CCP, and New Eden itself react?


EVE: CCP ‘borrowing’ from RL

April 24, 2012

I found this amusing: RL beats EVE to mining asteroids.

To be fair, RL is ‘borrowing’ moon mining from EVE, so it all works out.


Job hunt

April 23, 2012

RL interruption: I’m currently looking for a new job. I’m a business analyst in IT right now, with experience running projects and just received my PMP. If you work at a place near Boston MA that has an opening, or know someone who might, please email me.

If you help me land a job I’ll let you join my EVE Corp!


EVE: Lame newbie excuses

April 20, 2012

One comment I often see related to EVE is that a new player was never able to find a Corp to join, and so only played the game for X amount of time and quit because he got bored, or because he could never figure out some of the games controls/concepts and quit in frustration. Unless you loaded up the game with the intention to hate it, what excuse do people have for not joining EVE University?

One can argue that EVE-U is not for everyone, and I would agree. But joining it, trying it, and finding it’s not to your liking is much further down the road than simply quitting the game because you never found a Corp. Same goes for the whole “I never figured it out” aspect; EVE-U is designed exactly for that, and does a pretty remarkable job in teaching you everything you might want to know about the game. And EVE-U is not some newly initiated project that might go poof tomorrow; it’s been around longer than most MMOs, and has refined what it does down to a science. The fact that you will be a joining a huge, always active, very helpful Corp in EVE is basically a best case scenario, right? If you quit the game after experiencing that, clearly it was not the game for you (and it’s not for many), but again that’s very different than the issues mentioned above.

This also somewhat relates to the topic of community perception that is going around EVE blogs. While EVE certainly has its fair share of villains, and their stories always draw lots of attention, it’s tough to argue the community as a whole is all bad when you have something like EVE-U around. How many MMO communities have something similar, and if they do, how does that establishment stack up against what EVE-U offers?

To me the perception issue boils down to two separate factors. One factor is outside reporting; if you base your assumption only on the media-reported ‘highlights’ of EVE (mega scams, null-sec wars), you might be tricked into believe that the entire game is only about that, and that everyone playing is either scamming right now, or planning to scam as soon as possible.

The other factor is EVE bittervets reporting on only what they see immediately around them. If they are in a ‘hardcore’ PvP Corp that has refined its combat doctrine over the years, and considers combat efficiency ‘srsbsns’, of course they won’t be real friendly to new players or show tolerance for them. And if that Corp only fights and really interacts with others like them, it’s easy to believe that what you see around you is what happens in all of New Eden.

But both factors show only a limited view of EVE as a whole. If it’s a direction that interests you, either the scamming or the ‘hardcore’ PvP, EVE offers that. But it also offers a lot more. EVE-U is an example, as are the countless high-sec, low-sec, or WH Corps. If the activity is at all possible in EVE, there is a Corp that is doing it, and more often than not, they will be willing to accept someone who is committed to that playstyle.

You might still get ganked/scammed/killed IRL while doing it, but then that’s why EVE is so great.


EVE: The skill plan trap

April 19, 2012

One of the biggest decisions a new player to EVE will have to make is how they approach training skills. At a very high level, you either train for now, or train for later. Training for now gets you going faster, but year-over-year results in fewer total skill points, while training for later requires patience/waiting but is more efficient long-term.

I’ve always gone with training for now, even as I sit at 35m+ SP with two different pilots. I’m all for some min/maxing, but waiting 6 months to train something because it does not fit into my current plan/remap is not something I’m willing to do, and I find the whole SP/hr chase somewhat lame. Of course at 35m+ SP, I can already do a whole lot. I can fly a T2 fit Battleship, I can fly a Tengu, I can use most T2 fittings, and I have almost perfect fitting skills, etc. If I push something back, it’s either some minor fitting tweak, or some specialized ship for a specific role. But even so, I don’t want to do it, SP/hr be damned.

The efficiency trap is far more damaging to new players, because they truly are limited in what they can do. Setting a plan to fly a T2 fit BS might sound good, but not being able to fly anything more than a frig for six months while you wait is going to be pretty painful. Not only will you yourself be limited, but you won’t be able to contribute or react to what your Corp needs, which is frustrating for a CEO.

A somewhat related issue is the perception of having skill points. If I see someone in a Hurricane, I assume they are flying it with T2 mods and in a way that makes sense rather than in a way that fits with the pilot’s current fitting skills. The performance difference between the two can be staggering. T1 fits without solid support skills just don’t add up. All those skills that add 2%, 3%, 5%, etc in one area or another might not seem significant alone, but add a bunch of them up, and suddenly a ship that should have 400DPS and 60k EHP is hitting for 150DPS, flies slower, is less agile, can’t web/scram, and pops quickly because it has 25k EHP.

My personal advice to all budding EVE pilots would be to first and foremost do what makes the game enjoyable for you. If you are not interested in flying BS, don’t train to BS just because you have heard they are useful. Same goes for long skill plans; only buy into one if you absolutely know what you are committing to. After that, train to fully fly a ship. Don’t just jump into the hull with T1 fits and low support skills and consider yourself done.

Currently battlecruisers are the most flexible ships, able to handle most PvE and perform well in PvP with overlapping skill training. If you don’t have a direct goal already, consider training towards a BC and flying it fully T2 fitted. Don’t skimp on the guns either; T2 guns might be a long train, but they are important and will allow you to hit harder for a lot less (T2 guns are a lot cheaper than meta 4 guns currently). Once you are able to T2 fit it, round out the ship with most of the support skills for guns/tank. Perhaps not all to V, but IV will yield good results, and those skills will continue to help out when you switch to a different hull.

I’d much rather fly with someone who can do one thing very well, than someone who can do five just OK. Having access to those five things is also important, but pace yourself and set reasonable goals. Not only will you benefit, but all those around you will as well.


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