ArcheAge: The next big… something

July 30, 2014

Thoughts on ArcheAge as my “desperate for anything half-decent at this point” eyes glance over at it and its upcoming release:

I still don’t get what a ‘sandpark’ is, in terms of what you are trying to accomplish. I mean I get that best-case it’s the best of a sandbox in terms of open-ended content mixed with the ‘driven when you need it’ content of a themepark, but those ideas somewhat contradict each other. Plus let’s be honest, ‘best case’ isn’t exactly what the genre has been doing for the last decade.

Building on the above, one of the early criticism I’ve heard about AA is that the first X of the game is the ‘same old’ linear themepark questing, and that the ‘fun’ stuff doesn’t become an option until later. First, if your core gameplay (combat via questing) isn’t fun or engaging, am I really going to keep playing so I can fly around or sail a boat? I mean maybe I will, but I kinda doubt it. Second, why would a game not focused around, say, farming, keep me interested due to the farming? If I want farming, can’t I load up a game dedicated to that?

Realistically my hope is that AA is decent enough to fill a few months of time, both as a game to play as a duo with the wife and also (longshot) something that is good-enough to draw a solid representation from Inquisition so we can get into guild stuff. I’ve honestly stayed away from too much info about it because in large part I don’t care that much, but also to prolong the ‘newness’ phase with the game.

Get excited everyone…

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…


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.


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