• MMOs

    MMOs: The Stupid Hat Edition

    Perhaps I’m getting old. Perhaps I’ve just played MMOs for too many years. Perhaps I’m just overly cranky after the horrific headaches which have sidelined me during much of this month. I find myself firmly in that “You kids get the hell off my lawn” state of shaky belligerence and ire when it comes to gaming. ArenaNet, Bioware? Y’all can both kiss my butt, to be honest. Trion is the only one who gets a pass, because they make good games and take care of their players. You can stay, come up here on the porch and have a glass of tea.

    The Guild Wars 2 forums have melted down with anger and concern about the announcement that ArenaNet had, contrary to their original manifesto, actually created a gear treadmill game. There have been innumerable threads and posts deleted and locked in true ArenaNet style, but what was allowed to remain is a 190 page, 9484 post (and still growing by the minute) thread. I’ve been watching it with popcorn in hand, rather enjoying it all because I haven’t played GW2 in a while. Prior to this major misstep, they’d already pissed me off by almost totally ignoring bots and deleting posts on the forums which complained about them, so I really have nothing at stake here.

    I was looking forward to going back to Star Wars after it went free to play, since they were going to leave access to story questlines and limit everything else, which was fine with me. I could care less about access to Huttball or being able to run the same instances over and over again. I have to say, though, that this is the cheapest, shoddiest f2p conversion ever. Not giving you bank access is a bit unpleasant, but I can see that as a legitimate perk to sell in the shop. Inability to customise your UI and add additional action bars is pretty ridiculous, as is the fact that non-preferred players don’t have access to sprint. But the real kicker for me? The inability to hide the headgear slot. This from a game which is famous for having the ugliest headgear ever. Remember, I want to come back for the story, which was superb. I loved the way that they handled cutscenes, and seeing my character acting out the choices that I had made for her. And, shallow though it may be, I simply cannot do that if I have to wear a stupid hat.

     

    There she is, my beautiful, snarky Sith Lord wearing a hat that looks like a prop from a really bad 1950s sci fi movie. “I am Electra, from the planet Electronikos. Take me to your leader, Earthling, or I will kill you with my amplified brainwaves!” I just can’t do it. And I refuse to pay to remove it because it would be rewarding them for a really, really petty choice.

    So that game, as well, can just get offa my freakin’ lawn.

    And like the cranky old fart in the yellowing undershirt scaring kids away from his yard, I don’t have a lot of people left to talk to, and it’s a bit lonely. I still have a Rift sub, and will keep that up for a bit. But aside from that? Not exactly a wide range of choices for escapist fare. I miss being able to lose myself in a game. There was a time when I could lose hours and hours and love every minute of it. And now? Too cranky. Too disappointed. Too much of an old fart. And that makes me sad.

  • MMOs

    Guild Wars 2: Madness

    I’ve been trying to smell the roses, I really have. Not having to rush to endgame to keep up with friends or the guild is wonderful, and I’ve been indulging myself in everything: exploring, completion achievements, gathering, playing alts. And yet, still I level without feeling as though I am grinding or even realising that I am doing so.

    We have a couple of level 80s in the guild, one who has been there for several days. On the other hand, my necromancer Ravven is just shy of 40, I have a level 20 ranger, and several alts. Many evenings are similar to my experience of last night, which is doing chained quests in a mad tumble with a ton of other players. I think I did three levels just doing those and exploring Harathi Hinterlands. My bags became full several times over, and I sold everything that I couldn’t use – I was having too much fun going with the flow to leave.

    At the moment, the plan is to level Ravven the necromancer and Dravven the ranger, and then afterwards turn to the terrible twins, Kenzi and Kaylee Nyx (elementalist and engineer, respectively). They are going to be a lot of fun.

     

  • MMOs

    Guild Wars 2: The First Week

    I’d intended to do a writeup on the headstart and launch of Guild Wars 2, but I’ve been busy either playing or working. The headstart weekend was wonderful; we’d done the traditional shopping trip for gaming junk food and energy drinks, and the alarm was set for 4:20am on Saturday. Gods, did that feel early when the time actually came! We both got our really important names (although I lost Kaylee for my engineer) and were able to log in and play pretty much non-stop through until Monday evening. It was a bank holiday in the UK, and we had a very well-timed three day weekend. Hurrah!

    This was me during headstart (sorry, I forgot who’s blog I nicked this off):

    There were occasional issues, the normal login server problems, lag and so on. Guild chat and functionality is still borked today, although ArenaNet has posted that they are working on that at this moment. I have a very odd problem with lag that I cannot figure out: the game runs at an unplayable 10-15fps with the harddrive churning away unless I start EVGA Precision, which seems to shut whatever process is affecting the game. With that running, I have a playable 25-30fps (I have an older machine which could use a new motherboard and chipset). Any ideas?

    I love this game. My necromancer is only 26 right now, due to my preferences for exploring, vistas, taking screenshots and just dinking around. There are people who have reached level cap already, and I feel very sorry for them. In a game with admittedly no endgame aside from what you’ve been doing all along, why would you rush to endcap? Madness. The game is beautiful and immersive, and although I still hate the wooden cutscenes the story has depth. I am still torn between the different professions, which is a testament to how enjoyable and viable each one is.

    I hate the queue system with a passion. I end up staying in the overflow servers just because it is such an irritation to be constantly bounced back and forth between them, with message windows filling the centre of the screen at inopportune moments (like in the middle of a tough fight). This is the one thing that I really wish would change (as unlikely as that is at this point). I can live with it, but it’s one of the single most irritating “features” of a game that I have ever experienced.

    All in all, a great launch and a wonderful, immersive game. I’m going to be living here for quite some time to come.

     

  • Art,  MMOs

    Necromancer

    I was bored today, not having any freelance work (we’re all gonna starve! run for the hills!) so I worked on a little portrait of my prospective Guild Wars 2 Necromancer. Since I used the face that she’ll have in game, she looks different from the way that I originally imagined her: skinny, almost child-like, with big eyes, hollow cheekbones and streaming white hair. She’s not actually an albino, but she’s close. She grew up in the tunnels beneath the city, and the warrens where the poor scratch out a living. If she had parents (as she must have done) she has no memory of them. Very early on she realised that she could talk to the dead; they were her first friends. As she grew older she realised that not only could she communicate with the dead, she could also call them, make them rise and do her bidding. Whispers began, and soon she lost the few streetrat friends that she had. After that, she walked alone, accompanied only by the spirits of the lost ones.

    Teh drama, huh?

     

    Guild Wars 2 Necromancer

  • MMOs

    Guild Wars 2: Final Stress Test Thoughts

    We had a lot of fun in the final stress test last night. By fun, you have to understand that what I really mean is that I got a little taste of my drug of choice, just a bump to still my shaking hands and quell the addiction temporarily. :) Bring on Saturday morning!

    Logging in was quite scary, as I encountered a brand-new problem after login: black screen and game music without the ability to tab out or do anything except close the program (which was “not responding”) via the Task Manager. Quite worrisome. I did a clean install of Nvidia drivers and was finally able to get to character selection, although my framerate was MUCH worse than in previous stress tests and the BWEs. 15-25 fps was the standard for the night; I didn’t try WvW or anything that would have caused me to finally lock up.

    These are the system specs from my dxdiag file:

    Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    BIOS: Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG
    Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU 6600 @ 2.40GHz (2 CPUs), ~2.4GHz
    Memory: 4096MB RAM
    DirectX Version: DirectX 11
    Card name: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460

    Not a new PC, not a high-end one, but I’ve been able to play all other games with textures and so on on high settings. Why can’t I play GW2 adequately? (Note: buying a new PC is unfortunately not an option.)

    Aside from the initial problems, I did a lot of running around on various characters. I still don’t know which to choose as a main! I’ve never played a game that had me so conflicted over initial choices. I will probably start a human necromancer, a human or Norn ranger, and an Asura elementalist and let them duke it out, winner to become my main.

    There were dances! And I really hated them aside from Charr and Asura. I know that the human and Norn dances were funny (although Norn DEFINITELY should have been Techno Viking), but if I’m stuck with one single, main dance I’d prefer it to look a bit better – but perhaps I’m still scarred by being stuck with the Macarena all these years in Warcraft. :) Yes, it’s quite obvious that ArenaNet will be selling dances in the cash shop…but I don’t want to have to buy a decent dance. /cry

     

     

    And then we get to professions, which I didn’t have a chance to play with during the BWEs (being too concerned with choosing a profession and building the perfect face for each one). Phil spent quite a lot of time playing with the discovery function of crafting, and it’s actually really nicely designed. I think I’m going to go with Tailoring and either Artificing or Cooking on the necro (yeah, I know that cooking is a pain in the ass). I’ll be making lots of bags for everyone, in any event, in the beginning.

    Two days, twenty-something hours until headstart? I’ll never make it! :) See you there.

  • MMOs

    Guild Wars 2: Decisions, Decisions

     

    I’ve spent this beta weekend trying to decide on mains. I’d been set on rolling a human street rat Necromancer as my main…but having seen the supreme adorableness that is Asura, I’m not sure. They are freaking adorable. I generally don’t like small characters, as your point of view is too low and armor also looks odd, as if it had been squished to fit. ArenaNet has done a simply wonderful job with Asura. Not only do you feel as though you are playing a “normal” character in terms of size and seeing around other people, the animations are perfect. As soon as I saw my Asura elementalist spin her staff like a baton while at rest, I fell in love. Asura can be as creepy or kawaii as you wish, but either way they are tiny packages made of win.

    Elementalist made me re-think Necromancer as a profession; it was just so damned fun setting stuff on fire. But then I started thinking about how much fun Ranger was (as long as you could keep your pet alive), and I became confused. I literally have no idea whatsoever which I’ll roll as main at launch.

    What I did decide on are races and faces. My Necromancer will be the aforementioned pigmentally-challenged street rat with an affinity for dead things. My Asura Elementalist will be red-haired and floppy-eared, a bit like a serial-killer kitten. My ranger I’m probably going to also roll as human, although I was tempted by Norn. I love dark-skinned, ethnic characters in games, but usually the skins aren’t done well, or you can’t get any reasonably ethnic-looking features. Guild Wars 2 is a bit like that – many of the dark skins are either of a weird grey/purple cast, or are oranger than a character from Jersey Shore. They don’t really have a natural, dark mixed-race black or Asian skin that looks good in game, so I will have to do what I can.

    Perhaps I’ll start them all at the same time, and rotate between them until I settle on a main. Or perhaps I’ll just play my Asura Elementalist, because an adorable gremlin who sets things on fire is just too much to resist.

    POSTSCRIPT:

    I saw this on a GW2 Reddit thread – a recap of an overhead conversation between two Asuran children:

    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go “moot”.
    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks “crafting” is something you do on the “criver”
    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks sylvari and golem are precious metals
    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks Blood Legion is something you should see a doctor about
    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks “elemental” is four letters in the middle of the alphabet
    • Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks a golemancer is what you get when you ask a golemquestion

     

    Squee!

  • MMOs

    Personal Story: Cutscenes in MMOs

    I’ve really been enjoying The Secret World. As you get farther into the game, the story becomes deeper and deeper. The writing and voice acting are some of the best that I have ever seen, although the character animations let it down a bit. If you’re one of those “rush to end game, skip quest text, skip cutscene” type of gamers, you will really be missing a wealth of stunning material.

    So far, the early access and launch have been silk-smooth. There were some initial problems with loading screens (one of the usual culprits) and quests, but those bugs seem to have been smoothed out. I would have let Funcom DIAF without bothering to piss on them after the Conan launch, but they have almost entirely redeemed themselves with The Secret World. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. If you have an interest in writing or story you definitely should.

    When you look at three recent MMOs that have featured cutscenes as a method of telling story, you see some interesting differences. (Warning – these videos will contain spoilers if you haven’t played through these bits before.)

    Star Wars The Old Republic:

    In SWTOR the story was focussed on your character, and I would rate it the highest due to the immersion of watching your character act out their part. Smooth, well-written, and voiced by some of the best voice actors in the business Steve Blum and Xanthe Elbrick are two of my favourites. It was fun seeing the same scenes playing out differently depending on the choices that your group makes. All in all, this is my favourite treatment of cutscene video used in storytelling. Below is an excerpt from the series I did on Andronikos Revel (such a sexy pirate).

     

     

    Guild Wars 2:

    Guild Wars 2, in contrast, feels stiff and artificial to me. I confess that I do skip many of the cutscenes not involved with personal story in GW2, as they aren’t immersive or involving. I know that the art team made some possibly controversial choices in order to keep them in line with the “hand painted” look of the game, but the characters stand stiffly and never look at each other. It’s a shame, as this is an amazing game.

     

     

    The Secret World:

    And now we come to my current love, The Secret World. The scene below shows my character in a conversation with the guy in the junk yard. It’s profane, very funny, and features tons of spitting. He’s one of my favourites, although to be honest it’s quite difficult to choose just one – they’re all well done, smart, occasionally hilarious, and very well acted.

     

    The Secret World (at least at this point, not having seen the entire game) is more about the world story than your personal story. Star Wars was very heavily about your own personal story. Both approaches are done well, and both are enjoyable to play through. Guild Wars 2? Well, unfortunately for one of the games that I am most looking forward to, it doesn’t work well for either. Perhaps that isn’t meant to be a strong point of the game.

    “Shut your pie holes, boys!” I’m still laughing over Edgar in the video above. Isn’t that one of the best game characters ever?

  • MMOs

    TSW: Heading for Faerie. I mean Arcadia.

    Wow, I’ve been really bad about keeping the blog up – I’ve been busy at times, but not enough to warrant not having the time to write. Must be attributable to epic fail-ness at blogging.

    Yesterday morning I said on Twitter that it was my off-the-wall (haha) prediction that ArenaNet would announce the Guild Wars 2 launch date that day…just as a fun poke at the jersey crowd. And you know what? I totally nailed that sucker.

    And today is the early-access launch for The Secret World. I’m looking forward to it, actually. Partially because I really, really need a fantasy world to escape to (it’s been a long time since I’ve been really immersed in a game) and partially because it has improved greatly over the course of months of the closed beta. I was very luke-warm about the game but in its present state it is a very playable game. Will I sub after my free month? Probably not…but one never knows. Part of that will depend on the community that I find there.

    I’m rolling on Arcadia, which has been designated the RP server dimension. Originally it was called Faerie, which I was totally in love with, but due to Funcom bowing to pressure from homophobes it was changed. My first thought was that I haven’t had much respect for Funcom since my Age of Conan days and this really lowers it. My second thought was “why are people like that rolling on an RP server?” If I see people roleplaying bigoted assholes, spouting anti-gay rhetoric in chat, I’m going to have a problem with it. I can understand the PvP-centric fourteen year old boys not wanting to be known as “those Fairies,” but one would think that they wouldn’t be caught dead on the roleplay server.

    In any event, Arcadia here I come. As a Dragon, sowing chaos and watching the resulting changes. Be warned.

  • MMOs

    Midsummer Gaming Ennui

    I’ve been bored with everything lately, at least in terms of gaming. After giving up on chasing Guild Wars Hall of Monuments achievements as punishing and unfun, I’ve been at a loss for something to play. I miss my escape into virtual worlds!

    I’ve been levelling a baby rogue in Warcraft, and I think she’s currently 28. It’s been a lot of fun, actually. I started her in the Undead starting area due to my longstanding desire to have an undead bone pony, and really enjoyed the questlines. Sylvanas is one of my favourite characters in WoW, and it was interesting to work alongside her for several levels of quests. Oh, the Dark Rangers…please please please let Dark Ranger be a class option someday. I have always longed to play one.

    I’m still in The Secret World beta, of course, and can jump in and play whenever I want…but I don’t want to. Due to Funcom debiting my card early (for a pre-order, still quite miffed about that), I’ll probably give the game a shot when it launches. I’m just not excited enough to play through the beta, and then do it all over again.

    There is a Guild Wars 2 open beta weekend coming up and although I will play, I admit to feeling a bit meh about it. ANet really needs to start communicating with people and announce a launch date, probably after this next beta weekend. Their marketing plan has peaked way early and now people are feeling a bit let down about the previous oversaturation of information and the current drought. Although this is a game that I am still very much looking forward to, I have to admit that they are kind of pissing me off.

    So here I am, with nothing to do. Pah! The Secret World is coming out in July, so I will play then. The fall and early winter will be stuffed full of juicy MMO launch goodness, with GW2, Mists of Pandaria, and a very interesting Rift expansion. (Downloading Rift again right now, but won’t resub until closer to the expansion.)

    As always, it’s feast or famine. And this summer? Nothing to eat but dust and tears.

  • MMOs

    Guild Wars 2: Were we playing different games?

    I seem to be in the minority of Guild Wars 2 fans. My experience during the beta was pretty positive overall, aside from the hardware/network problems that led to errors while trying to log in, and also an inability to group up with friends. There were some minor issues, such as the auction house and the mail system. Once in, though, the game ran well and I had a lot of fun. I didn’t experience any issues with quests or content aside from some wild swings in difficulty level. Overall, very smooth considering the sheer amount of people playing that first weekend.

    If you read any articles addressing speculation regarding a launch date, however, there seem to be tons of people saying that the game is rough to the point of being broken, and that they would expect months of extra polish before the game launch. We’d be lucky to see it by December, if at all, blahblahblah. What the actual frack? Were we playing completely different games? Or do some people feel so entitled that they would be happy to pay for a game and then wait over half a year to actually play it, just to have a highly-polished experience? I just don’t understand that viewpoint.

    I think that GW2 is going to suffer from a miscalculation in its marketing timeline. ArenaNet has been hyping the hell out of it, and they’ve actually done a very good job to this point. But we’ve reached saturation level, and rather than building toward a peak of interest, it is going to start to die and turn to ennui and resentment. Also, even though Blizzard and the Mists of Pandaria beta have taken a pretty good thrashing to this point, if I were a game company I really, really wouldn’t want to go head-to-head against Warcraft’s latest expansion. I would expect a MoP launch sometime in November-December, and waiting that long with GW2 would be sheer insanity.

    These are the features that I feel are totally broken, and would have to be fixed before the game launches:

    1. The server overflow system. As implemented, it is horrible and breaks immersion. I would prefer to see different channels on the same server than this.

    2. On a related note, we need the ability to party up with friends. I am amazed that we would have made it to an open beta without this working. What the hell, ArenaNet?

    3. If you can’t get server overflow working, you need a queue system. It was really horrible experiencing error after error while trying to log in, knowing from reading the forums and Twitter that it was possibly due to servers being full, possibly due to some other unspecified actual problem.

    4. Yes, the game still needs to be optimised, but surely that has been built into their launch timeline.

    Secondly, there are some “nice to have” features that I would like to see. I wouldn’t delay launch for them, but it would be nice to see them before if possible.

    1. Better human faces. This is the only thing that would be nice to fix prior to launch, as my main will be human and I wouldn’t want to run around forever with a little-girl doll’s face. Would I push launch back because of it? No.

    2. It would be nice if the auction house worked better. I was confused during the beta that I seemed to be able to successfully buy things, but never received them. I later read that you have to visit a certain NPC to receive your goods. This is quite odd, and if they’re going to handle it that way, then there needs to be some dialogue to tell you where to receive the items that you have purchased. Easy fix.

    Aside from that? If the game went ahead and launched with the first section of issues above addressed, I would be happy. I don’t need a perfect, problem-free world for the first launch of a game, and there will always be issues to address. I would be more demanding if this was a game with a monthly sub – I pay for that polish, damn it. But as it is? I have already paid for it, I just want to be able to play.

    And that is part of what is contributing to my general irritation and ennui regarding the wait until launch, and why I would prefer to launch with minor issues rather than wait until the end of the year. I have paid for this. I like ArenaNet as a company, and I have a lot of goodwill towards them. This summer (aside from the probable June launch of The Secret World) is yawning pretty much MMO-free. I am no longer playing SWTOR or Rift. I haven’t played Warcraft in ages, although I did pay for the Annual Pass. The Secret World is better than I’d thought it was…but I still wanted to be playing GW2 in June.

    But perhaps I’m crazy, and my experience was vastly different from the experience that other players had. Your mileage may vary.