EVE: Space Famous

April 21, 2014

The latest EVE Blog Banter topic is about “space famous” individuals and everyone’s thoughts about them. Jester has his entry here.

The topic reminded me that I had previously talked about the importance of such players, here in more general terms and this post about my personal experience. I still agree with my 2012 self on the topic; the more “MMOish” your game is, the more important and beneficial the ‘space famous’ players are, at least the ones ‘space famous’ because they impact a lot of people, either directly or indirectly.

Side note but not really: It was kind of depressing skimming blog entries from 2012, in that they just had a lot more passion and drive behind them. Sure, more than a few were ‘off the handle’ rants or seemed to focus on laughing at Massively and the comments section, but overall more was happening on the blog itself and clearly in my gaming at that time.

I’ll of course lay some of the blame on the MMO genre. I mean, I’m currently playing one game I fully expect to kill itself with its next major update (DF:UW), and the other is a really fun solo experience with bits of multiplayer that, while entertaining, don’t really ‘fit’ into the game for me just yet (ESO).

On the horizon the only title I’m legitimately excited for is Pathfinder, but having seen so many similar titles not even come close to delivering, I’m not going to be a fool again and jump in head-first here. It would also help if more of the Inquisition core group was looking forward to it, but I don’t believe they are (or it’s not on their radar just yet). Blah…

#EVE #DF:UW #ESO


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…)

 


Darkfall: Unholy Wars – Voicing the Manifested Vision in White Shades

December 20, 2012

Darkfall is under NDA right now, so while I’m writing about it, I can’t post details until the NDA is down. Whenever that happens (current date I have is Dec 27th) expect either a long post, or a bunch all in rapid fashion.

Without breaking NDA, I will say that DF:UW is indeed a sequel to DF1, rather than the suspected ‘large patch’. It’s also already provided a single high point above anything in my one month trip to 80-ending in GW2, and done more to encourage grouping than any ‘fix’ to the formula that Anet aimed at. Wish I could say more, but ‘soon’.

I’ll be deleting any comments that break NDA here, so save me the clicks and don’t if you are in the beta.


Darkfall: Beta blues

December 12, 2012

Darkfall Delay; part 72,343.

First off, massive points for announcing the delay minutes before you are set to go live. There is trolling, and then there is AV. Just next level stuff that gets forumfall to exactly where it needs to be; on the bleeding edge of suicide (get it). The delay sucks, but at least beta is going to start Monday (hahaha).

Having the beta sucks a lot more though. We live in a world where everything in an MMO is known and well documented before the game even comes out, so it would have been fun to have everyone go in blind for DF:UW. Especially because DF is a virtual world rather than a generic themepark, so things like city locations, farming spots, and builds matter more here than knowing the layout of the next zone in something like GW2.

Having this beta and letting organized guilds pre-plan everything is also going to take away some potential fun. Pre-beta, everyone was going to scramble and take cities they believed would be worthwhile, but that very well could have ended up with powerhouse guilds in below-average cities. That would have resulted in motivation for sieges and conflict. The pre-release meta-gaming was already great fun, with alliances spreading misinformation about their plans and where they will go.

With beta, all of this will be known, and so the most powerful alliances will grab the best locations, while the have-nots will have to settle for lesser spots. That right there will reduce conflict, at least initially. A pity.

Another pity is what day one will look like now vs in a no-beta state. Without beta, day one would have been a wild scramble with unpredictable results. With beta, organized clans will be following a tight script for success, while those less organized will instantly fall behind much further than they would have otherwise. The scramble would have been a chaotic mess of fun. The script execution will be doing what needs to be done, which is important and ultimately leads to what we want (winning), but short-term is a lot less fun.

Of course things could be a lot worse. Instead of a delay, Aventurine could announce that they plan to sell UI elements for $5 apiece in the cash shop, or mount skins for $50. They could have announced the addition of a new race, the pink anime bunny from outer space. Or a RM auction house. Or that they plan to add a new gear tier a week after release. Or that they have downgraded their graphics engine to EQ2-quality. Or just done basically anything that SOE has ever done.

Now that would be worth raging about. A delay? Welcome to Darkfall.


Pre-Darkfall filler

December 3, 2012

With the (first?) delay of Darkfall 2, I’ve had some unexpected free time in terms of gaming, and I’ve tried to fill the time with a few different titles. Perhaps the “I’d rather be playing DF2” effect is kicking in, but nothing has really grabbed me of late.

Planetside 2: I picked this up mostly because a few Inq members are playing, despite the fact that it’s an SOE game. KTR covers the first impressions of the game well, and I fully agree. Additionally, I think the game looks atrocious for a shooter. Just something about the character and weapon models looks so off to me, especially in a genre where Battlefield 3 exists. Unfair? Maybe, but there ya go. The draw distance is pretty good, so it has that going for it.

I can’t really get into the game though. Solo its 100% pointless, even by FPS standards. In a group, its better, but then everything is better in a group. It’s still 99% pointless though, as objectives change hands quickly and other than personal progression, what exactly are we fighting over? Maybe it’s because I expected a little more MMO in PS2, when really it’s just a bigger Battlefield with a cash shop? Expecting to uninstall this the day DF2 is out.

Legend of Grimrock: Bought this on a Steam sale for $3, so in terms of value I’m already there. I liked this title for the first few hours, as it’s nice to play something old-school just with a few modern upgrades to graphics and sound. The game has lost me at about the midpoint however. My biggest grip is the combat; rather than RPG tactical pacing, where deciding what to do is more important than how fast you click, LoG instead expects you to ‘exploit’ the game by moving back from mobs after you quickly click your attacks but before the mob can react. I know that’s “working as intended”, but it feels off and rather dumb. I’d like the game far more if it was turn-based.

Along that same line, the difficulty of the game feels wrong to me. The puzzles are fine, a few are a bit too vague, but most are solid and you feel good when you solve them. A few are annoying along the same lines that the combat is annoying, they are more timing based than logical, and LoG has some questionable (at best) controls. If you have sloppy controls, don’t design your game around precision movement or timing.

Finally, most of the secrets lead to great loot. This is somewhat typical, but with the combat difficulty being what it is, it feels like if you don’t get all the secrets, the next level is extra annoying. Not hard, mind you, just annoying thanks to the combat ‘dance’ style. Less loot, more/longer dancing. Zzzzz.

Legend of the Cryptids: P2W card-collecting grind game for the iPhone. Normally I would not mention these because they are all the same and all terrible, but LotC is a giant waste of talent. First off the artwork in the game is amazing. Some of the coolest monster drawings I’ve seen, with good takes on traditional stuff. The special effects are also entertaining while being brief enough to not get annoying. The UI is really solid for an iPhone game, and performs very well.

The problem is there is basically no game here. It’s just click this, see something happen, click again. You upgrade the monsters and such, but it’s never a choice beyond “upgrade everything, eventually”. You can’t lose, just get slightly delayed, and of course you can always pay to move on anyway. The multiplayer aspects are the typical bother strangers and trade stuff for stuff blablabla Farmville.

Again, I only mention it because LotC would be a really solid product if there was a game underneath the beautiful exterior. As it stands, wasted talent/potential.


MMOs: It’s a hobby

November 1, 2012

My previous post sparked some good discussion in the comments, and requires a follow-up post. For additional background, see Victor’s post.

I think what I failed to clarify is perhaps how I expect an MMO player to play, both as a gamer myself and as a guild leader/officer. To really get the most out of the experience, you have to be around ‘enough’, and into the game ‘enough’ to care. ‘Enough’ is tough to nail down into an exact number, but as I previously said it can and sometimes should require a solid block (2-4hrs) of time, along with a minimum of 10 hours a week. If you can’t commit to either, I don’t think you can get the most out of an MMO.

First let’s address the large block of time. If you can’t sometimes pre-plan your life to play for 3 hours on a Sunday night (example), you either need to work on your life balance a bit or MMO gaming just might not work for you. This is not to suggest you need to be on for 3hrs EVERY Sunday, but when giving a weeks’ notice or so, move some stuff around and plan to be online. I honestly don’t think that’s asking too much, and again, if it is, wrong game for you.

The other is general weekly activity. I say 10 hours but really it’s going to depend on how well you use your time, and how active you are outside of playing as well. If you can frequent the forums and contribute that way, and generally attend pre-planned events, you might not need to play as much overall as someone else. But yea, if you can’t login at least 10 hours, I just don’t see how you can keep up and be anything more than some occasional random name online (more so if leveling or some steady progression is ‘required’, like in DF1 and skilling up).

So what kind of game does that leave us with, and what kind of content should we expect?

Most importantly, the game needs content that justifies that 2-4 hour block, such as a city siege, a fleet Op, progression raiding, etc. Combining a few 30min content chunks into one lump does not count, because ultimately what you put into the content is what you get out of it. The whole peaks and valleys vs steady stream thing. Working towards something significant as a group is a core value of the kind of MMO design I value/favor.

Now don’t confuse the need for large-blocks with relying on them exclusively, or removing the bite sized chunks overall. You need those little chunks to fill in the gaps, but that’s exactly what they are, filler, and filler is what it is. It can’t be the focus, and they especially can’t drive development at the expanse of the larger items. GW2 IMO ‘fails’ here because the game is all 30min chunks with no regard for those large pieces. It works well-enough for a casual stroll once in a while (hence no sub fee), but it lacks any substance or purpose outside of killing 30 minutes. And again, if all you are looking for is to kill 30 minutes solo (or alongside other bot-like players), GW2 likely works great for you, but that is so far from what the genre was built on, or how it works in games that do virtual worlds well.

More on this I’m sure, but I’ll stop for now.


Xcom Ironman is like playing Darkfall, minus the NPC aliens

October 22, 2012

I’m a little late in jumping on the Xcom bandwagon, but its every bit as good as you likely have heard.

I went straight into Classic/Ironman, and I’m glad I did. So far (game 11), I’ve not survived longer than June (maybe July…), but the fun comes in losing and rethinking not only on-map strategies, but long term stuff like research focus and base layout.

I think I’d find the game far less entertaining if I first played it on a lower difficulty, and especially without Ironman forcing restarts rather than reloads. So far in every game, while bad luck certainly contributes, ultimately the ‘bad luck’ could have been avoided with better planning or execution. With reloads, it would have accelerated the learning process and hence shortened the enjoyment of the game. I have no doubt that at some point, I’ll have figured Xcom out and then it will just come down to execution and luck, which while still fun, is not as great as having to figure it all out as you go step by step.

Also Xcom Classic/Ironman is a fantastic primer for Darkfall. Losing your best squad member to an unlucky alien crit is similar to putting on your Sunday best gear bag and getting ganked before you even get to swing once. It sucks, but usually it’s a pretty memorable suck that just motives you to get better rather than ragequit.

It’s a lot like this latest DF video really. On the plus side, the new UI looks good, the video is solid quality overall, and um, ‘gameplay’ vid. On the other, why are there no mobs around, and why is a stomp ability involve swinging your arms? Plus the game is a month from release and you show off 2 of 5 skills from one class in a video? Oh AV.

Edit: Quick note about Inq; we have a very solid crew of returning and new players, and everyone is very excited. So if you are still looking for a clan (and if you don’t have one for DF, you should), we are still open and looking for players that will fit in.


The good times will return

October 18, 2012

As we draw closer to the release of DF:UW (which, considering AV just made DF1 free, indicates it might actually happen on Nov 20th?), the launch brings up an interesting question that has often been alluded to on blogs and forums; if a game you loved re-launched, would it still have that same magic it did the first time around, or are people really viewing those experiences through rose-tinted glasses?

If returning clans and general forum interest is any indicator, DF:UW will certainly look very similar to DF1 in terms of who you will be playing with and fighting against. Personally, I’d be shocked if the magic does not return, simply because the core formula works, and on top of that the game engine has had three years of intense beta testing to polish it.

Unlike so many other MMOs, DF’s problems were not core design flaws, but issues that can be attributed to a limited budget or poor issue focus by Aventurine. Rather than the game putting up a giant “game over” screen the minute you hit the level cap, DF suffered because different clans were driven away by different bugs (desyncs,acid pools, bloodwalls, firekicks, city defenses, AoE spam, insta-rays, etc), and as more clans left, the ones remaining lost allies or enemies to drive the game forward. One look at EVE’s long null history and the bitter hatred it has inspired for years is all the proof you need that names and history matter, and without it people are more likely to drift away.

Another example might be TAGN’s recent posts about an unofficial WoW server running vanilla WoW. Maybe it’s just me, but his posts about the early leveling experience have been the most interesting WoW-related posts I’ve read since… whenever I stopped posting about how WoW sucked because of WotLK (and the number of comments to his posts would reflect that). Wilhelm is a great writer, but his posts are also entertaining because the context is far closer to the core of what an MMO is vs the stuff you do in more modern MMOs. Posts about the 1-20 leveling experience in GW2 are mind-numbingly boring for a reason, and that reason reflects more on the games overall design than on the author (and some good ones have tried). How many MoP leveling posts have you read with interest? I can’t wait to start blogging about in-game activities in DF:UW, and I’m guessing more than a few of you are looking forward to those as well.

One of the strawmen of people saying to go back to UO if I liked it so much is that not only is current-day UO nothing like what made the original release great in terms of design, it also lacks the players that made it great. An MMO’s design determines who it attracts. There is a reason The Mittani and players like him play EVE and not GW2. And should EVE ever turn into GW2, those players will leave.

The players that made DF1 so great in its early years are back. Now assuming AV delivers on their end, and a year or so in don’t attempt to release DF2014, the good times should be here again, no glasses needed.


DF:UW – Inquisition and you

October 15, 2012

As previously mentioned, Inquisition will be going all-in on Darkfall: Unholy Wars come Nov 20th, which is rapidly approaching. So rapidly, in fact, that AV should have released more info about it, but hopefully this is just another case of AV being AV and not something more sinister like DF:UW not actually being ready for the 20th. As the real cure for all that ails the MMO genre, a delay would be earth-shatteringly bad for all of humanity. Your prayers are appreciated towards this most holy (yet unholy, :rimshot:) cause.

And as Darkfall is not a flawed-at-the-core MMO that restricts you from playing with others because the devs are lazy (themeparks), having more people is never a bad thing. And so long as those people are actually people you want to hang out with, like all of us upstanding folks in Inq (myself aside, since, you know, I’m evil and all that), the more the merrier.

So this is that rare, once-in-a-lifetime chance to join us, assuming you are indeed cool and upstanding (or evil, always room for evil), and become a member of Inquisition for Darkfall and beyond. You’re welcome.

Aside from offering the chance to hang out in vent with me (just don’t talk to me unless you’re in full epics, thanks), you will also be joining a long-standing and very stable MMO gaming community with strong ties to developers and key community figures, as well as a clan in Darkfall that is going to actively do stuff and be part of big things, all while understanding that most people have a life and it’s not entirely devoted to gaming.

Just over a month to go until MMO gaming is saved. Do you have a proper place to celebrate?


GW2: Review at the midpoint

September 5, 2012

I hit level 41 last night on my Human Elementalist. In that time I’ve completed (all items checked) three zones, done all storyline quests up to my level, have two crafting skills to 130ish, ran the first instance in Story Mode, done a bit of WvW, and completed two cities. I also have an alt at lvl 12 that I’m playing along with my wife.

Let me just get this out of the way: GW2 is a fun game. It’s worth the $60. It’s a solid MMO and a good step towards what all themepark MMOs should play like. It has its flaws, but none of those flaws (save one, WvW queues) are crippling or have a seriously negative impact on your enjoyment overall. Anet has some work to do, but what is there now is very good.

Some of the highlights:

Classes play differently in a substantial way. Even my Elementalist (ranged magic) plays different from my Ranger (ranged physical), which is a huge credit to Anet. Double bonus for how classes play in group situations. A lot of people make a big deal of the holy trinity not being present, but the real major step here is that every combo of classes brings something different but still viable to the table (at least for PvE and WvW. I’m sure in 5v5 min-maxing is king). Playing your class well is also noticeable, which is great.

Except.

That you can still skill-smash 95% of the PvE and progress (at least to 40, blablabla it gets harder), and in large-scale WvW player skill falls to the all-mighty zerg. (Programing note: In Darkfall even in a zerg player skill matters, a lot, so the idea that in every MMO zerg>skill is wrong and should not be accepted as a simple truth.) At the end of the day, GW2 is still a mass-market themepark, and while it’s a very good one, it would be silly to assume niche-market design, which player-skill>zerg is most definitely a design decision. Not a huge detractor from the fun, but worth mentioning.

Zone design is mostly solid. While the areas within a zone are grouped by level ranges, they are not as hard and fast as in most themeparks, and you will find yourself going back and criss-crossing often. This gives the zones a fake-life feel. They are still zones that don’t have any impact on the world (there is no world), but the smoke and mirrors are high quality.

The big thing I’ve noticed is that certain zones have a LOT more content than others, especially in terms of events. Those zones really keep you busy, while the less-designed zones play more like a hub-to-hub themepark.

Gear is plentiful and easy to acquire, while at the same time feeling like it makes little impact. Upgrading to a Master-level weapon five levels better than my old one was not noticeable. I’d say this would be a negative, but with the way GW2 combat plays, it does not bother me all that much. I’m more focused on kiting while dropping skills than looking at the numbers that pop up, and mobs tend to die at a similar pace whether I’ve just upgraded or I’m due for one.

WvW is a lot of fun and is well designed. I’ll cover this in more detail in its own post, but from what I’ve experienced so far Anet got a lot of things right, including the all-important scoring system. That said, the one massive issue is the queues. The Eternal Battleground is well named, because that’s how long the queue for it is on our server, and the three side zones also feature lengthy (1hr+) waits. As more players hit 80, this will only get worse (unless the game itself fails and people drift away at a clip faster than new ones come in, but I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. GW2 is a good game). It’s also bad enough when trying to get in solo, but organizing a guild group is basically impossible unless everyone has a 2hr+ chunk of time.

The tricky part about the queues is how different servers feel about WvW. Our server was pre-planned to be a powerhouse, with both Darkfall and DAoC guilds/alliances joining. We all enjoy PvP, and we wanted to play with and against quality opponents. The derpfest that is going to happen at the bottom of the server rankings is not something we want to be a part of, but in return we get horribly long queues. Bad design, and something Anet hopefully fixes soon by increase the cap. The derp servers will derp amongst themselves anyway, while the top-end servers will have plenty of people to fill out WvW even at 150 or 200 caps. The zones are big enough to handle that, and people can always transfer off non-WvW servers if that’s something they really care about.

I’ve talked about ‘dynamic’ ‘events’ before, and at level 40 I’ll just repeat myself: they are, at times, interesting quest chains that you forget as soon as the UI fades away, while still being flawed thanks to current player zerging of zones. Missing the ‘world’ ‘event’ stuff is not game-breaking, but for that much design effort to be spent for so little reward right now is less-than-optimal. They are overall slightly better than WAR’s PQs, but not by much. That said some of the dialog or fluff around them is cute and solid attention to details. 99% of the player base will totally miss all of that though.

GW2 crafting is themepark crafting. It’s a gold sink and a grind, and the rewards are meh. Discovery is completely forgettable other than being an XP boost. I’ve always said MMO crafting is more about the ‘what’ than the ‘how’, and the ‘what’ in GW2 is as flawed or pointless as it was in WoW and all other themeparks.

The UI is overall great and very responsive. That said, why do crafting mats go into your bags? You can already one-click send them to your bank, so why not just have them automatically go there? Must I really open my bag every few minutes to click the little gear icon? Also wtf is the point of crafting-specific bags that are the same size but require more mats as a regular bag under this system? Other games have those for a reason, but GW2 lacks it.

The one dungeon I ran was interesting, and played very different from a traditional themepark instance. More on that in another post as well.

So again, GW2 is solid and worth your money. It’s the direction I’d like to see themeparks go if themeparks must exist. But MMO Jesus it is not, and cancer has yet to be cured. Anet has some work to do, and they have already had some missteps like getting ban-happy over nothing or over-fixing karma gear pricing (lvl 40 gear for 9600 karma is silly).


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