Payday the right way, DF:UW boats, ESO beta

February 28, 2014

Random bits on a Friday.

Payday 2 received a nice free update recently, adding a new difficulty level to every heist and two new enemies, among other changes. The game continues to be another good example of how to support your game post-release, mixing DLC and free updates to keep people interested while still making money. Certainly it’s been one of the better games I’ve purchased in recent years, and is still highly recommended.

Went to a Sea Fortress recently in Darkfall. We had ten with us, and I was driving the boat. When we initially arrived we saw a few other boats fighting it out, and the hitpoints of the Sea Fortress were also dropping. We rolled the dice and tried to get the last hit on the tower, but no luck there. We then engaged one boat with cannon fire, only to eventually be swarmed by 4-5 large boats and another 3-4 smaller ships all from the same alliance. We held out for a bit, as I tried to sail the ship in such a way as to reduce the number of enemy cannons able to hit us, but eventually our boat was too damaged (slows the boat), the enemy ships caught up, and we got swarmed. Good times, and credit to the enemy for bringing so many people.

Finally, ESO beta is this weekend, and I’ve got a nice crew interested in the game. I don’t know if INQ is officially going to jump into the game, but either way I’m in and will have a guild up. Hoping to see some of the dungeon content this weekend, and maybe jump into the RvR area as well.


Fail and try again, succeed and move on

February 27, 2014

“Few people go back to content that was trivially easy; most people repeat content they failed the first time.” – Zubon

I believe the above is true on average. Yes, some people rage-quit instantly, while others love nothing more than facerolling something over and over, but I believe the majority of gamers follow the above, be they MMO players or not.

I think this is a major reason why so many themepark MMOs fall into the 3-monther category; players speed through content because they can beat it the first time, and aren’t interested in beating something trivial again so they aren’t as motivated to roll an alt.

WoW somewhat gets away with this because they have so much content, both during the leveling game and then at the level cap. The problem for other game’s isn’t so much that they can’t compete with that, it’s more that the players they do get just hit that wall and leave.

 


So is $60 the price point for skipping 9 years of content now? What tremendous value they place on their product.

February 26, 2014

Title stole from TAGN commenter Asmiroth, because it sums up my feelings on this whole thing.

Congrats, you are paying more to have less content. Or, in the situation where you want to play with all your lvl 90 friends RIGHT NOW, you are paying $60 for RIGHT NOW. /shrug


Themeparks: PvP is the filler between the cracks

February 25, 2014

Wilhelm is asking if an MMO must contain PvP. It’s actually a more interesting question when you really thing about it, especially if you limit the discussion to themeparks (the answer for sandboxes has its own tab on this blog).

Instinctively you might want to say ‘no’ for themeparks, because they are PvE focused and you would want that to remain the focus. Makes sense, on paper. But in reality, themepark PvE content is often one-and-done, and what is repeatable (daily quests, raiding) is often tied to some long term, but still one-and-done reward (rep grind, raid gear).

PvP shouldn’t be the focus, but rather play the role of filler between content updates. From my experience I think vanilla WoW did this best. Whether you were waiting for a raid to reset or had a night off, battlegrounds provided a nice side activity, made more rewarding as you could use your raid gear to get an edge (though not a brutally overpowered one from MC/BWL gear).

As time went on PvP in WoW got a bit silly, first with PvP-specific gear and later with rankings and all that stuff. It went from being a fun side activity to a game-within-a-game. It also didn’t help that all of the talent on the WoW team left and the interns ran the place, but we know that story.

I like, on paper, what ESO has planned. Once you reach the level cap, you can still PvE to gain more skill points for horizontal progression (you can only use a small number of skills at one time, so getting more skill points to open more skills doesn’t increase your power, just gives you options), but you can also get into the 3-way RvR battle areas. I think the limit to horizontal progression will help the PvP balance a great deal, as will the fact that (as of now) the best gear comes from crafting, not PvE, raiding, or PvP. Assuming that stays mostly true (a few items being BiS from non-crafting is fine IMO, so long as most stuff comes from crafting and the gap isn’t too great), I can see the model working.

I can further see it working because as players spend time on the repeatable content that is RvR, Bethesda will be given time to expand the PvE offerings. I don’t think ESO players will experience running into a ‘content wall’ like in SW:TOR.

So my answer to the question is yes, you do need PvP, but at the same time you need to ensure that the PvP remains a low dev time, high repeat, limited impact aspect. Not easy to get right, but certainly pays off if you do.

 


Pathfinder Online: How low is acceptable?

February 23, 2014

The newest Pathfinder Online video is out, and um… yikes.

I’ve said here before that I like a lot of the ideas Pathfinder has behind it. On paper, a lot of things that I believe make a sandbox work they have, and the game is certainly on my radar in terms of upcoming MMOs.

That video though? The reason I’m not a Pathfinder backer to begin with is their first video during the Kickstater campaign was terrible, and at the time the effort looked like some good ideas on paper without a team to execute them properly (Which, you know, is how one could describe 90% of Kickstarter efforts). The newest video, while better in many areas, still at its core looks terrible in terms of combat.

Now I don’t need Darkfall-level combat in an MMO to enjoy it. I think EVE is the best thing out by a mile, and while it’s combat is a lot deeper than F1 and walk away (unless you’re into that and only engage is such things), it’s certainly not what most would call great. But there is a lot of space between great combat and what this latest video is showing, and I’m left wondering if I could really get into a game should the combat remain this… well terrible.

I know the game is still in the early phases, and like I mentioned, this video is a lot better in many areas than earlier videos, but yea, the combat needs to improve between now and release. I don’t need perfection, but what was shown here is asking just a little too much from me.

(Totally unrelated side-note: My latest Banished town went into an amusing death-spiral. First I had an event occur that lowered food supplies, and while I was able to increase production to make up for it, that caused secondary production to suffer. That caught up to me when I ran low on coats and tools. Without coats and tools, people worked slower and did far less during the winter. This in turn further pushed food production down, resulting in starvation. As starvation killed people off, production dropped far faster than the population, as workers would die and would sometimes be replaced by a newborn. Babies eat food, but don’t contribute until they grow up, so things just accelerated down and down. A harsh lesson learned. Game is fantastic.)


DF:UW – A return to siege action

February 20, 2014

I took part in my first siege since returning to DF:UW last night, and good times were had. The siege was over an ally’s hamlet, and the enemy included my old clan the Old Timers Guild, so it was fun to see and kill some old faces/names.

The siege had close to 100 players total, with our side outnumbering the attackers by a few. Scroach groups were at a minimum, and didn’t impact the siege. I didn’t experience any ping or FPS drops, everything stayed at my normal 50ping, 70FPS. Siege performance had been a hot topic on Forumfall of late, so either the last patch greatly improved things, the people complaining are playing on welfare machines, or Forumfall was once again making a mountain out of a mole hill. My guess is all of the above.

The action of the siege came in two parts. The enemy initially charged into the hamlet, and while the attack somewhat caught us off guard, the push wasn’t coordinated enough and between our numbers and the guard towers, they were repelled quickly. I was fine with this, as the brief skirmish was a nice little warm-up. Between just having returned, changing over to using the Slayer role as my secondary, switching from greatswords to polearms, and still being terrible at FPS games, an ‘easy’ fight is a-ok in my book.

The second battle happened just outside the hamlet. The enemy was stationed on top of a mountain, and as the siege stones went live, we pushed into them. We had a group of warriors on mounts flank them while our main force drew their attention from the opposite side. It worked, they broke quickly, and the cleanup commenced.

Once the enemy was dispatched, our clan group went off to search for scroach groups, and we found one not too far away. That provided the most even fight of the night, with our 7-8 taking on a similar sized group. I certainly wasn’t the deciding factor or anything close, but having warmed up I was able to at least contribute here, forcing warriors off our primalists in melee and preventing others from chasing after people with some archery.

So all in all a good night of siege and small-scale action, and a quick remember of just how great the combat really is in Darkfall. It will be interesting to return to ESO for the next beta after this refresher with DF. I suspect, much like going from DF to Skyrim in the past, that I’ll be a little disappointed. Ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes.


Banished Review

February 19, 2014

Banished is a title I’ve mentioned here a few times, and it was finally released yesterday. Spoiler alert: I love the game.

To quickly cover some basics; Banished is a city building game set in a non-historic medieval setting. You start with a small group of people who have been banishes (and that’s as deep as the lore goes) and you use them and their starting resources to create a new town. Housing, food production, resource gathering, trading with merchants that come via river, dealing with disasters; Banishes has most city-building basics covered. There is no military/combat aspect. Maps are randomly generated, and you can tweak some aspects (small/med/large map, mountains or valleys, milder or harsher weather, starting difficulty, etc).

First it’s very important to note that Banished is the effort of one man. In that context the quality and depth of the game is stunning, because even out of context the game (based on the 4-5 hours I’ve played it so far) is fantastic. And it’s fantastic not because it has one new feature to write home about, or has stunning graphics, or because the 4th pillar of voice features some semi-famous ‘celebrity’.

No, Banished is fantastic because it’s very clear that the game is one man’s vision of what his ultimate city building sim would be, and he had the talent to pull it off and put wonderful, atmospheric graphics and sound around it. Playing the game is almost zen-like, in that you just get lost in watching it so often rather than constantly jumping between moving things along at 10x speed, executing a few commends, and going back to 10x (btw, if that’s how you play it, you are doing it wrong. Don’t be that guy and ruin the game for yourself).

Another great thing about the game is how flexible it is; you don’t need to build things in a specific order to open the tech tree (there is no tech tree, you are only limited by what resource you have and if you have people who can do the work), so if you want to move faster towards a trading-based town, you can do that. If you want to ignore trading and just build a self-sustaining town, that’s possible as well. You can focus on farming, or hunting, or goods production; the game doesn’t force you down a path to an ‘end-point’.

You can also do it all, and the game is interesting in that the difficulty does ramp up as your town gets bigger because as you have more people, a shortage of something hits you faster and harder, and once people start dying, it can be really tough to reverse the trend (though it is possible, and feels extremely rewarding).

I really can’t recommend the game enough if you enjoy city builders. It’s both familiar so you can get right into it, but also just different enough to feel special. It’s also great to see this game is currently the number one seller on Steam. A niche title made by one man beating out everything from huge publishers, even if only for a few days, is a great sign for PC gaming, and is exactly the direction a lot of us have been hoping things would go.


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