Pathfinder Online: Everything but the game is looking awesome!

July 16, 2014

I was recently talking to a friend about Pathfinder Online, with the gist of the conversation being that I love everything about the game on paper, from the design docs to what the devs have said, but actually seeing it in video is a complete no-go for me, and what that ultimately means.

On the one hand, ‘gameplay’ is a rather important aspect of any game, if not the most important. If what you are doing in the game isn’t actually fun most of the time, what kind of crazy person must you be to keep playing?

As crazy as most EVE players?

I mean, how much fun gameplay is there in many of EVE’s activities? Is mining ‘fun’? Are missions great gameplay? Even the high-point events like massive battles; for the average F1 pilot, is the gameplay really that great? I think most of the above can be answered with a “no, but…”. And that ‘but’ is huge (rimshot), because while mining is either boring or relaxing depending on perspective, it feeding into the best economy in the genre is a large part of what makes it such a popular activity in the game.

If Pathfinder gets the economy right, if it has interesting/worthwhile crafting, etc, would the fact that it has rather poor mining ‘gameplay’ matter? Because at this point I’d rather take poor gameplay but solid, sustainable systems over the opposite. If I just want great but shallow gameplay, I’ll play something other than an MMO.

Of course some of the gameplay has to be good/great. In EVE PvP can be thrilling, and at the highest levels (Alliance Tourney) it’s as deep and skillful as anything else. Pathfinder is in alpha still, so maybe the combat/gameplay will improve significantly, but even if it doesn’t, I can’t fully rule it out, even in the shape it’s in today.

(That said, please for the love of god improve the gameplay Goblin Works!)

 


ESO, DF:UW – Sometimes we go looking for something we already have

March 17, 2014

This past weekend ESO had another beta weekend, but I wasn’t able to play much as I had issues with the account my highest-level character is on. I did create an Imperial on my purchased account, but beyond that and testing mob collision quickly, I didn’t really play the game.

I did play a lot of Darkfall, as that game has sunk its hooks back into me. Momentum is a powerful force in the MMO genre, and who you play with is, IMO, a bigger ‘content driver’ than the actual content itself.

Quick example: On Saturday a few of us went out on a boat to attempt to kill the Ice Dragon. We failed; his regen offset our dps and we didn’t have enough people, enough arrows, and enough repair shards. One member of the alliance was driven to killing him, so much so that he pulled together the enormous amount of mats to craft the biggest ship currently in the game (a Ship of the Line), had it crafted, and put together a large crew to attempt the dragon again.

This time we were successful, and even though some uniquely Darkfall stuff happened (climbing to the extremely tall crows nests of the ship was the key to success, as at that height you are able to target the dragon with arrows much easier), the fight was overly long and the loot was terrible, so until its buffed we won’t be going again.

So overall not amazing content in terms of effort/reward, but something that entertained 16 people mostly because of those 16 people. If that doesn’t sum up WoW 40 man raiding, you didn’t raid enough. Is there such content in ESO? We’ll find out shortly.

Another comparison; DF:UW isn’t known for its PvE. ESO has a lot of PvE content and that is a major selling point. One of the early complaints about ESO is that the PvE is faceroll easy. Another is the combat lacks a real feeling of impact, and Bethesda has made multiple changes to that area to help fix the problem. I don’t think anyone has ever said PvE in DF lacks impact, nor has anyone called it faceroll easy by MMO standards.

Quick example: Near one of the hamlets our clan owns is a mob spawn with some easier mobs and one terror-level mob. Lately I’ve been making the quick trip out to the spawn to kill the terror. It takes me 2-3 minutes to kill him using full plate (3rd best warrior armor) and a leenspar greatsword (second best weapon). My character is maxed when it comes to spending prowess for a warrior and the related stats. I haven’t died to him yet, but each time I have to kite him a bit, recover hp/stamina, and use my life-leach attack as often as possible.

Beating that mob is harder than anything I’ve done in ESO, and that’s 100% ignoring the fact that at any point someone could come along and jump me at the spawn; something that can’t happen in ESO. In ESO I’d also never consider what gear to bring to kill him, I’m always wearing the best stuff I have. In DF I could wear higher-tier armor/weapons, or lower tier if I felt in greater danger and accepted that killing him would take longer. Also in ESO I’d kill him once and be done Perhaps not major decisions overall, but still decisions to be made vs no decision at all.

Another example: Rynnik and I set out to farm some Black Knights. We both had not completed the feat for them, we both could use the loot they drop overall, and Black Knights specifically drop the item needed to make the gauntlet for the new village requisitioning system. Three birds, one stone.

We recalled to his house as a starting point as it was close to the spawn, and we both set ourselves to Deadeye skirmishers since we were going to kite and bow them down. Rynnik also brought a party strongbox deployable so we could store the loot inside rather than carry it on us.

Things were going well for the first wave. We killed and looted all the knights, stored our loot in the strongbox, and waited for the respawn. About a third of the way into the second wave, a warrior and mage attacked us at the spawn. Initially they fought both of us, but shortly both focused on Rynnik and he ran them away from the spawn. I recovered and Rynnik circled back after losing them. Stupidly we started farming again, and quickly got jumped by those two again. I went down, Rynnik escaped.

I regeared quickly and made my way back to the area, as we hoped they had not found our strongbox and we could at least recover all of our farming loot. As we crept back into the area, we noticed the mage was standing on the nearby hill, and as we continued, we noticed the warrior was just returning. They found our strongbox, and the warrior had gone to get battlespikes to blow it open. As they were focused on opening the strongbox, we gained the high ground and prepared to attack.

I opened with a large AoE that puts a DOT and also slows anyone caught in it, while Rynnik went for more direct damage. The warrior reacted quickly and moved away, but the mage was loot-drunk and had his head inside our now-open strongbox. Taking advantage of this, we put a half-dozen arrows in his back and down he went. We fought the warrior for a bit, but the 2v1, double-skirm vs warrior setup was highly in our favor, and he too went down. He had banked my previous gear set, but in return we got his, the mage’s, and also all the loot from our strongbox. A nice ending to our little PvE adventure.

 


ESO Beta: The picture is starting to clear up

March 3, 2014

Developing opinions about ESO continue to… develop!

Overall I’m coming out of this weekend more positive about the game than I was going into it, and going in I had already pre-purchased the Rich White Man edition.

The good; my character from the previous beta weekend had to be shelved, as I think I gimped him. A Breton duel-wielding Dragon Knight in light armor did not seem to work. Now why is this a good thing? Because if you can gimp a character, that means character development has some actual choice to it and those choices matter. If you can’t gimp, everything is ‘good enough’, and that kind of design sucks IMO.

What’s even better however is that while talking to a buddy, he let me know that light armor Dragon Knight is a thing, but you use a staff to dish out heavy ranged dps. Apparently it works really well in PvP. I don’t want to get too ahead about this, but right now I believe ESO will offer a large range of builds, some more viable than others of course, with some great in one area vs another (PvP, PvE, group, solo, etc). If that actually happens, that will be a huge plus for the game.

The further I got into the game (up to lvl 11 this time), the better the difficulty feels. I’ve had a few tricky/interesting solo boss fights, I’ve gotten some public dungeon experience, and overall I still feel the game is opening up and getting more interesting rather than hitting a plateau. It really is an interesting mix of solo RPG ala Skyrim, and improved MMO themepark content. I can safely say we will see some ‘reviews’ where the reviewer only plays for 30 minutes and calls it hyper-linear or something silly. Those should be enjoyable in terms of blog content.

The bad: Bugs. Oh the bugs. /reloadui was used constantly to get out of buggy NPC conversations, and our small group ran into more than one boss/encounter that wouldn’t spawn or was broken. The game has a month until the 4.4.14 release date, so while there is still some time to get things fixed, I’m not expecting a bug-free release. What I am hoping is that they fix all the major stuff, like bosses not spawning, because those really sour the experience. Getting deep into a public dungeon only to have the game cut the experience short on you and others is not cool.

Those are the big points. I also got into crafting a bit more and liked it. Nothing crazy different, but again tweaked and expanded beyond what I’ve seen in the themepark space before.

Ultimately I think that is where ESO will either just be another title or something special; if most of the tweaks and changes to the standard formula ESO has work out (and I’m leaning towards that right now), the game will be successful. I don’t know if that means retaining 500k subs for over a year or what, but yea, successful.

I will say this right now, all the comparisons to SW:TOR are comically wrong. Worst case scenario ESO will do better than the Tortanic, because structurally it’s a better game, and more importantly, it’s a better MMO. I just can’t tell HOW good, in part because I’ve seen promising titles destroyed in beta or shortly after with ‘accessibility’ patches.


ESO: Sand in unexpected places

February 10, 2014

Quick ESO beta weekend update: At one point the three different quests I had were all bugged out (named mob not spawning), which initially made me log out because whaaa I can’t progress. Wanting to play the game more (a good thing), I logged back in a day later and just decided to wander off towards something on the map and see what would happen.

I found some ‘hidden’ gathering stuff, got some xp, and eventually leveled and made it to another questing area (still all the same ‘zone’), this one with working quests. Good times.

I’m currently leaning towards the CE and RP’ing a ‘better than you’ Imperial character. You know, do something out of character and really challenge myself with the RP…


ESO: Beta impressions

January 13, 2014

(If this post breaks the ESO NDA… um, sorry?)

I got to finally play ESO this weekend, and more than anything it surprised me. I wasn’t blow away and loved it, but I also didn’t hate it. I wish it was more sandbox, I hate some of the stronger themepark influences, yet after a weekend, level 8, and close to ten hours, I’m still unsure how I feel about the game, which is a good sign I think. Part of me expected to be disgusted with the whole thing instantly, and that didn’t happen.

The biggest surprise was how well the game uses the IP in some regards. There is no mini map, instead you get the familiar bar at the top ala Skyrim. It’s a small UI detail, but I love it. Just screams “this is Elder Scrolls” while also moving itself away from the themepark default.

I also like all of the random, small containers around the world that you can loot for little crafting bits, or read little lore notes; that’s straight out of Skyrim (and games before it), and while again a little detail, makes a small difference; finally you have a reason to check every room and corner for something, even if that something is pretty minor.

When you walk by NPCs in cities, they throw out little comments ala Skyrim. Immersion! Also first-person worked great and again pulled me into the game and helped distance it from ‘yet another themepark’.

I wasn’t listening to the quests (wanted to get as far as I could), but I did notice certain NPCs move with you from zone to zone, which story wise I’m sure is interesting, rather than having the usual one-and-done NPCs in most themeparks.

I don’t want to get into combat too much as I suspect some of it was debugger effected, but it feels like Skyrim. That’s not a total compliment as combat in Skyrim is pretty meh, but meh is better than straight garbage, which is what so many of these games have. I do like the system of limiting your available skills via hotbar slots. I know GW2 did something like this, but tying skills to weapons is more restricting and annoying (I don’t want to use a 2h sword but 2h sword has the skills I want, for example), while in ESO you have more freedom and options. Perhaps long-term the system sucks, but up to level 8 I liked it.

I mentioned in a quick post earlier the game being easy; it still was at level 6-8, but a bit better. I actually died because I pulled a mob group poorly, and I just wish MORE of the game was on that level rather than the usual PvE faceroll. I also have concern about the general PvE when approached as a duo or in a group; it feels like all of that stuff is balanced around doing it solo, which is again an unfortunate themepark flaw.

Speaking of themepark flaws, unlike Skyrim ESO is divided into zones rather than being a world. Hate that. The three early zones I saw were not small, but not huge, and while not as point-A-to-point-B as I’ve experienced in some themeparks, certainly did not have the feeling of freedom that you have in Skyrim, where you can just pick a direction and discover what the world holds.

I didn’t get a chance to try the PvP, although I’ve heard from those who have that it’s not bad (I’ve heard DAoC-like mentioned, but that is a tall mark to reach).

Graphically the game is interesting, in that the graphics are not worse than Skyrim (hyper-graphic mods aside), just slightly more cartoony. Character models look really good, while animations are pretty hit or miss (ala Skyrim). The game loaded quickly and ran great for me, but keep in mind I am playing on top-end hardware. No complaints on the sound, good stuff. (Funny side note 99% of you won’t get: some of the NPCs don’t have text recorded yet, so instead the text is read by a computerized voice. The voice made me think of the Barstool short videos, so I got a good laugh out of that).

Now for some fear/wishful thinking; if the later zones in the game are more linear, that would suck (how many MMOs have front-loaded the best stuff early after all). If the later zones are larger, more ‘worldly’, with the initial zones being more linear to ease people into the game, that would be awesome. If someone wants to confirm which it is, if that’s currently known, that would be cool.

So final verdict? Undecided, although a bit more positive on the game now than before this weekend. Looking forward to ‘testing’ it a bit more, assuming this doesn’t get the account banned.

 


Smartest dummy I know

December 16, 2013

Jester is a bit of a weird bird (and I say that with upmost respect).

On the one hand, he is that rare player that is worth hundreds if not thousands of subscriptions in EVE. He is exactly the type of player you want if you are a dev; he gets people excited for the game, he knows his stuff, and he represents the game and its players in an excellent light. On top of that, he is a top-level player of a game where being anything above average means a great deal, and his overall knowledge of all things EVE is amazing, as is his ability to communicate it via his blog.

On the other hand, dude is a complete doe-eyed MMO newbie outside of EVE.

He was excited for GW2 for all the reasons most of us saw as your typical PR fluff (living world, action combat, basically that whole manifesto of lies), and then when the game came out went through the expected non-descript cycle with the game and moved on, despite thinking it would play out different for him initially. (I’d provide links but lazy).

Now, he is looking forward to ESO thanks to that… interesting PvP video they recently released. The Keen and Graev comments section is a good reflection of what most thought of the video (and the game overall). I just find the contrast amusing; here is a man who is such an expert at the most complex MMO out, yet that same person buys into the terribly produced hype of themepark MMOs.

Maybe that whole Jester/Garth thing isn’t just a blog gimmick…


Darkfall: Unholy Wars – End of beta and the plan going forward

April 15, 2013

Originally I was going to chronicle the DF:UW beta from day one to close, but a lot of what I had down no longer applies, and after re-reading it, it was honestly not that interesting. Instead, I’ll just type up a few quick hits, and then talk a bit about what I expect at release and beyond.

Day one of beta was a comical disaster of epic proportions. You had the normal issues of login queues, disconnects, and patching failures that most/all MMOs have on day one. But magically, on top of all that, you had some pretty unique stuff as well.

For instance, since all new characters now start in a tutorial area, on day one everyone was piled on top of each other, and since DF has hard collision detection, most people were stuck and unable to move.

To make things even more fun, on day one characters stayed in the world even when you would disconnect, which meant the meatpile in the starting area was an ever-increasing trap of fail. The cherry on top was the inability to delete a character, and with DF:UW only allowing one character per server, if you were stuck in the pile, you were done playing.

For those lucky enough not to get stuck, they encountered the wonder that was the persistence bug. Basically, whenever you crashed or logged off, every item on your character and in your bank would go poof. For the first month or so, the only way to safely store anything was to put it in your clan bank, and you needed 2000 gold to start a clan. Oh the joy of farming 1900 gold and crashing!

Fast forward a few months, and Aventurine fixed many of the major issues and game became more (or reasonably) playable. Once that happened a lot of feedback was given and many things changed, not the least of which was the prowess system. In the last few weeks of beta, AV did a lot of patching around combat balance, and the last few days felt more like DF1 than at any point in beta.

Finally, debug mode, a mythical unicorn of performance issues and other assorted items, will be turned off for the live game, and what that means will be something to watch.

The false-start of the November launch burned a lot of Inquisition members, among them leadership, and as a clan Inq won’t be playing DF:UW at release. I and a few others will be playing with The Old Timers guild, and I’m really looking forward to being part of that well-established, solid group.

One of the interesting things right now about DF:UW is how similar it is to DF1 at release. On the one hand the game is missing a lot of features (few dungeons, few boats, no hot-spots like Sea Towers, only 2/4 specs per role), the performance is less-than-perfect, and no one really knows how certain aspects will play out (like the reduced number of holdings, or how the prowess system will hold up long-term).

On the other hand, even in its debug beta state, playing DF:UW is still more fun than just about any MMO out, the combat system makes games with ‘active combat’ like GW2 look like a bad joke, and it’s one of the few true virtual world PvP games out (still).

DF:UW won’t live or die by the minor tweaks it made to an established MMO formula like GW2 or SW:TOR did, simply because if a game like DF is your idea of a good time in an MMO, your options are to play DF or spin on your thumb (or fly a spaceship of course). It will live and die by how quickly AV can fix the major issues (and there will be major issues), and how quickly they can deliver the missing content and then keep going with new stuff.

DF1 was able to remain a subscription MMO for three years because in the first two, AV did a good-enough job with the updates and fixes. At the same time, DF1 could have been FAR more successful if major design mistakes (bloodwalls for example) where not present. DF:UW is that chance, and hopefully they don’t blow it.

Should be a fun ride. Hopefully it’s a long one. More to come as the game goes live tomorrow (probably…)

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 182 other followers