Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bored to Oblivion

Once again I hit that mark where I start to get restless in EQ2. Kunark was a bit disappointing. We finished all content in less than three weeks. Spell upgrades were so minor that in most cases I just held on to my previous version spells rather than waste the money. No dropped armor upgrades were to be found so I purchased a crafted set. So at 80 my Mystic is only in slightly better shape than she was at 70 and I'm just not inspired to play her. Also with mob difficulty cranked up so high, it's impossible to duo any dungeons here, even those eight levels below.

So while out getting some toys for my son I took a peek at the PC single-player game offerings. I am really behind the times when it comes to single-player games. They're usually too expensive and I don't recall buying any since Civilization I (I loved that game!). I always heard good things about The Elder Scrolls series and saw Oblivion on sale so picked a copy up as a Christmas present to myself. I also saw Fear at even less cost which seemed to be more up my husband's alley so picked that up as well.

For the most part I'm enjoying it, although it's not one of those games that compels me to play for long stretches. I'm still trying to get the hang of targeting. There is no crosshair or lock on targets so I'm swinging at what's in front of me. Unfortunately, I killed one of the good guys who stepped in front of the goblin and soon thereafter I was thrown in jail. I've been arrested three times now and have since had all sorts of shady characters approach me with various offers. My poor elf, whom I thought would be a nice girl, has developed quite a nasty reputation for herself.

A few times out of the corner of my eye I'd catch my husband jumping while playing Fear. He absolutely loved it but already completed it. Another reason I hate paying for these things. That one would keep me awake at nights so I'll just stick with Oblivion.

So for now I'll be tinkering with alts in EQ2 and exploring the world of Oblivion. Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Hopefully, 2008 will bring some more MMO fun our way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Random Stuff

PotBS - NDA is lifted and lots of reviews to be found. Not a bad game at all and definitely a change of pace from current offerings, but not everyone's cup of tea. And that is how it turned out for me. I didn't enjoy flying ships in SWG and even less so enjoyed the ship combat here. Guess I'm a landlubber at heart. Unfortunately, the land options weren't fun for me either, so I'll be passing on this one.

STO - "I personally think that MMOs need to be a better deal. Paying $200/year is a good deal for some but I don't think that is sustainable for the category and certainly rules out a lot of people who don't have the time to get enough value out of that expense." Ok I see where this is heading now. Removed this game from my radar.

Zuroth Online - This was the game that sounded very much like pre-NGE SWG and had many vets excited. That is, until they released this statement a couple weeks ago:

"One of the main things that plague an indie developer is time, money, and developers. Currently our goals are set very high (which isn't always a bad thing) but what we currently have planned is a very, very, very big undertaking (infact though any mmo is a big undertaking, what we're going for is even bigger). This leads to not enough time and it scares away potential developers.

What we're going to do to alleviate this problem is pretty simple - scale it down. Scaling it down will require many sacrifices that you all are probably here for and are expecting (all the prior SWG people especially).

So what are a few of the changes?

- Sandbox status is gone. We're moving to a more stream lined game.
- Move to a Leveling System

Some other features are getting changed to fit with the above. But... This doesn't mean we're going to become a carbon copy of what's already out there - we're pretty sure we're going to have some unique, and fun features that todays MMO's seem to have forgotten about..

Also I'd like to apologize to all the people out there expecting another SWG Pre-CU. It's just not possible with an Indie team... But you have my word if we ever get into a position where we can make a Pre-CU like game we WILL in a heart beat. But, right now we're going to work on the game, and hopefully make a game a few people would enjoy playing."

Citadel of Sorcery - Another MMO in very early stages. Will be keeping an eye on this one to see how it progresses.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rise of Kunark - A New Kind of EQ2

When I'm really involved in an MMO and enjoying myself, things get a bit quiet around here. And such has been the case recently in EQ2. My husband and I returned a couple months back. We were each doing our own thing with alts until the release of Rise of Kunark. So I brushed off the dust from my 70 Mystic and he from his Berserker and we set out exploring. A little over two weeks later we hit level 80. Well dang.

This has definitely not been the EQ2 of the past which involved some solo quests, lots of heroic quests and lots of slaughter, which some refer to as grinding. Typically, the zones after level 40 contained higher and higher concentrations of heroic mobs as you leveled, making soloing progressively more difficult. This changed somewhat with the release of Echoes of Faydwer, making it a bit easier to get through those levels. Rise of Kunark is completely different from them all.

Kylong Plains - The boat ride arrives here and within view of Karnor's Castle. While the names of places from EQ1 are familiar, there is very little visual familiarity to be found. Echoes of Faydwer had captured that familiarity and nostalgia; however, Kunark has none of that. I usually love the music in EQ2 and have it turned up. The Kunark music, however, does not evoke any sort of emotion and for the first time, I have the music turned down.

Ok so on to exploring. You will be loaded up with quests on arrival and will soon notice mobs hit quite hard. There are no heroics to be found anywhere, but these are not your typical solo mobs. This is more reminiscent of EQ1 where you had to be sure to single pull, because two of these can result in a quick trip to the resurrection point. The quests flow fairly nicely here. You rarely are sent back to kill the same thing, so everything is kept fresh and new. This changes later on though.

Quest rewards for the first time have effects instead of just stats. You might find health or power regeneration on them, or some sort of buff effect to proc on occasion. The non-legendary rewards are getting tweaked in an upcoming patch. It seems they didn't intend the effects to be quite so good. This will affect about half of the items I have currently equipped. Ah well. Also, certain classes have been a bit shafted in the rewards. Nearly all priest rewards have been leather. Unfortunately, the way mitigation is calculated, you are penalized for wearing armor not designed for you. So, a chain class wearing leather actually gets hit for more damage than a leather class in leather. I've been able to upgrade to some nice jewelry, but as far as armor goes, I'm still in the old stuff. They will be adding items to the faction merchants in the future to address this.

Speaking of faction, this expansion highly revolves around faction and progressively so. Kylong Plains just has one main faction to work up and it goes up very quickly. The faction here enables you to deal with the merchants and buy advanced mounts if your guild level is high enough.

Fens of Nathsar - Once you are done with Kylong Plains, you are sent here. There are two factions here and they are kill on sight until you complete a quest. Time to start stocking up on lots of invisibility totems as you sneak your way around to get this quest done. The repetitive quests start kicking in as you must kill chickens, cats and rhinos over and over and over. Also, the two factions don't like each other either. While you are working on gaining faction with them, they are asking you to kill the other side in some quests which knocks your faction back down. I'm one of those people who hates killing things that aren't aggressive to me, even more so when it involves a faction hit. I want everyone to like me! Yeah I know it's just a game. I put these type of quests off for awhile until I realized both sides were pretty darn nasty and said oh heck with it.

Kunzar Jungle - This is your next stop and I just hated this zone. It's small and mountains are put in your way so you must travel long distances to get anywhere. It felt like a confusing maze jam packed with mobs. I honestly had claustrophobia here and couldn't wait to get out. Now you have several factions to work up and you need to do so quickly because these aggressive npc's are pathing around everywhere. There were some quests here that I actually avoided. I had been doing some quests for the frogloks. Seems the iksar think they make good slaves and can be seen threatening and taunting them in their camps. So I was sent to help some frogs escape. Then the iksar gave me a quest about some escaped frogs I was to go out and kill to send a message to the others who might be thinking about escaping. I felt sorry for these little frogs and just couldn't do it. Quest deleted.

Jarsath Wastes - We still had quests left in Kunzar but were desperate to leave so off to Jarsath we went. Ah, wide open spaces....freedom! Again you have some aggressive factional npc's in your way you need to quest for first. And again you're killing lots of chickens, cats and rhinos. By this point, I was disgusted with both the sarnak and iksar and could care less about ruining faction to kill one or the other. Just give me my reward. Your initial quests are in what was called Overthere to anyone familiar with EQ1 and finally you are sent to the Skyfire Mountains section of the zone. Here is where it is a bit tough. While these are considered solo mobs, they are all level 80 plus. These would be very difficult to solo and everyone I have come across has been in a group.

So in summary, for my play style which is mostly duoing with my husband, it's been very easy to get through this expansion. Honestly, I've never leveled this fast in EQ2 ever. Ten levels in two weeks? We play for an hour or two at night and then bigger chunks on weekends. Unfortunately, for most players though this expansion has been a bit frustrating. The quests are all chains and people are really having trouble finding others on the same step to help them. While they are considered solo quests, they are not easily soloable at all. My guildmates have gotten frustrated with having to do the same quests over and over to help others catch up and many of them don't like having to constantly ask others to help them, so a good percentage of them have given up and are playing lower level alts for the time being.

I have some mixed feelings about the expansion. I realize once everyone is 80, it won't matter. We'll just be exploring the dungeons together and heck with questing. But I really hope this doesn't turn current players away from the game. EQ2 has always had a different breed of players. Some like not having to do quests and just grinding mobs. Many like having lots of group content that didn't previously involve all these prerequisite quest steps. Adding this type of play only at level 70 certainly isn't going to be bringing in the WoW players as they will still have to get through the early levels the old fashioned way, so I'm not sure what the actual intent was. Time will tell.

Monday, October 15, 2007

When Monthly Fees Aren't Enough

Money, money, money..... Seems Turbine has been sending surveys to its customers asking how willing they would be to pay extra for the following:

Increased inventory storage
Increased bank storage
Increased housing storage
More character slots
Access to special items and loot
Character customization
Special events
Faster support
Dedicated server
Dedicated forums
Dedicated chat channels
Be advised sooner of downtimes

While I realize they are just putting feelers out to see what sort of reception they get, the fact that they are thinking this is really disappointing. It also has me wondering if LOTRO is not as successful as they had hoped. Likely, they're just seeing how far they can push it.

So let's see here:

Increased storage - LOTRO is already one of the stingiest games when it comes to storage. I had never played another MMO with such limited storage. Players had been complaining about this on the forums. So their solution is to charge more rather than add a feature?

More character slots - This one is not too bad I guess. Currently, if you have used up all your slots on your server, you can create additional characters on other servers. And considering there are only a few classes to pick from anyway, not sure many would utilize this service.

Access to special items and loot - This would cause me to leave immediately. Horrible idea. Someone needs a spanking.

Character customization - Character appearances are a bit lacking. Pay more to finally look better? More spankings.

Special Events - Everyone would like a chance to participate in community events. Depends on the type of events I suppose.

Faster support - All customers should receive the best service regardless.

Dedicated server, forums and chat - EQ1 tried it. Didn't work well. But sure. Let all the wealthys hang out together on a server.

Be advised sooner of downtimes - Not sure what purpose this serves and why you would pay for this. So you don't schedule your day off from work that day? So currently they really do know sooner of upcoming downtimes and just aren't telling?

This is all so disheartening to see. I hope this isn't indicative of the future of MMO's. At least for now I don't believe Mythic will be going this sort of route. As Mark Jacobs stated "What I'm not okay with are games that are designed to be nothing but quarter suckers in the online space." And I'm not okay with it either.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best Features of Your Favorite MMORPG's

Keen and Graev have had an ongoing probe into what type of games people prefer. If a feature hasn't been invented or experienced yet you really only have past games to go by. So I thought I'd list each MMO I've played ranked in order of which I enjoyed the most and what features about them I recall enjoying most.

1. Everquest 1 - The features that stand out that I missed in later games are having a home village where you start and feel part of; setting up camp and killing mobs for a chance at a nice drop, faction, and experience (I hate quests); being able to pass on items to lower level players and buff them; being able to twink your second character; and also there were the warm fuzzies when you right click an npc of a certain faction and get a message that they regard you warmly (they like me, they really like me!)

2. Dark Age of Camelot - Odd as it may sound, I could spend an hour with my hunter exploring the forests of Midgard listening to the wonderful mood music in the background just plunking away at evildoers. Midgard was a bit dark and brooding, and the music combined with the beautiful viking structures just all came together. You had the option of experiencing in a dungeon or outdoors, doing quests, or doing mission-type instanced dungeons which were very quick with great experience. And of course the housing was great. It took me a year to save up for that Hibernia mansion with the climbable tree growing through the center. Also has been the only housing I've experienced where you can decorate your yard as well.

3. Everquest 2 - A great crafting experience, killing mobs gains reasonable experience as a means of leveling, and I love the collection quests to give me something else to work on. Also, as in EQ1, I like the chance at finding named mobs throughout most zones. And of course I could just hang around the Kelethin area listening to the music there. Just love that.

4. World of Warcraft - Zones were beautiful and manageable on my previous ancient computer. The night elf areas were unlike anything I'd ever experienced in a game. And they had a wonderful variety of zones....enchanted forests, snowy mountains, spooky Duskwood, and even prehistoric-type zones.

5. Star Wars Galaxies - Setting up your house almost anywhere, owning a shop and merchants to sell your goods, entertainers and cantinas filled with players hanging out together (at one time anyway).

6. Lord of the Rings Online - While I didn't like the gameplay, one aspect that I did enjoy was watching the npc's living their lives. This was particularly more evident in the Shire. I can recall one Hobbit in a boat on the river bragging how he just rowed all the way from Frogmorton. A nearby female proceeded to give him a tongue lashing telling him to get out of there before he drowns. The little things like that add so much to the "aliveness" of a town.

7. Horizons - Great crafting similar to EQ2 and again as with other games I loved the music in certain spots. And of course who can resist trying out a dragon, and a pretty neat looking one at that.

8. Anarchy Online - Quick dungeon missions for leveling. The Shadowlands expansion actually was pretty neat to explore and experience in for a time. Even without the expansions, playing the free version is not too bad and can easily be played for a few minutes at a time.

9. Dungeons and Dragons Online - The one thing I did enjoy was the class structure and the dungeons themselves. However, the group reliance and no sort of alternative play had me leaving fairly quickly.

10. City of Heroes - The only thing I enjoyed was character creation. The slummy cities were depressing to me.

I think that covers all that I've played for more than a quick trial. I'm curious how others would rank the games they've played and what features they enjoyed most from them. Would love to know!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Knowing Your Player Base

Anyone that's spent any amount of time in a particular MMO gets a pretty good feel for the type of players that reside there. And if you spend any amount of time reading up on future MMO's and seeing what players have to say on the forums, you can get an idea of what type of player will be playing in the future.

But sometimes companies make decisions that have me wondering if they spend any time at all playing their own game and mingling with players. So many times I've heard that some developers belong to raiding guilds. But this does not represent in most cases your typical player. Do they know who the majority of players really are? Or are they making their judgments by the complainers on the forums?

Putting the NGE aside and going forward, I've been looking at the most recent SWG expansions as well as the upcoming chapter and I'm just really baffled. My experience in both original and current SWG is that it consists of a lot of players who like to do their own thing. Back then people grouped up to get the mission bonuses, but everyone spread out and did the missions solo. We chatted together while grouped, but we were all on our own. Currently, when I'm out and about, about half of the players I run into are on their own. This is not to say there isn't a group presence because their certainly is, but I think the strong solo presence has been forgotten. These latest expansions have no resemblence to the existing content in SWG and the upcoming chapter will be adding yet more heroic encounters. Alienation of the casuals -- it's like witnessing EQ1 all over again.

Speaking of EQ1, I was going to add them to the pot here of not knowing their customers, but I've had a change of heart. Originally I had thought the progression servers were added to attract back the old casual players. And I thought clearly they don't know those players. I was one of them. Why would I go back to a server that raiders would flock to so they can be the first to unlock the content? In a short time, these servers would be no different than the rest once everything was opened up. But then the light bulb went off. I don't think we were the target at all. It was the existing raiders they were attracting all along. It gave them something new to do and I guess it worked.

Another company I think needs to be careful here is Turbine. LOTRO has a very strong pure PVE player presence. I recall talking about monster play in guild chat one day. Turned out my husband and I were the only ones in the guild who had even dabbled with it. The rest of our guild mates had absolutely no interest in it and no plans to participate. This was the case for the majority of players I met in game. However, if you were to read my server's forums, about 95% of the posts are about monster play. Turbine has responded to the complaints by adding some features to monster play. To their credit, they continue to push out content for the majority players but I think they really need to be careful about how much focus they put on PVP. People say it all the time but it often gets ignored -- the majority forum posters do not represent the majority players.

As I said, regarding most upcoming MMO's I have a pretty good idea who their target player is. However, one game I can't quite figure out is Chronicles of Spellborn. This will be a questing-based game with very little experience gained from combat. You will belong to one of five houses and it's been recommended that guild members all belong to the same house as they will all be in conflict with one another. Most zones will not be PVP-enabled; however, from what has been stated recently, you will be required to enter PVP zones to gather crafting materials and access certain content. This type of setup is slightly similar to Ryzom which hasn't fared well. So clearly they are not aiming for the PVE crowd. But I don't hear the PVPers talking about Spellborn. What about the folks in between who want to dabble in both? Most of my fellow bloggers fall into this category and I don't hear them talking about Spellborn either.

Spellborn has a lot of really really neat features. It had been on my radar for a long time but I just don't want PVP forced on me in any form. So who is their target player? I've heard it said several times now that many believe Spellborn will be a sleeper hit. Maybe it's unique enough but I think they need to define more clearly who they are to avoid becoming another Ryzom.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

RPG Posters

In case anyone might not have seen this website yet, have a look at RPG Motivational Posters. Here's some of my favorites:






Monday, September 24, 2007

Quit Luring me Back!

So Friday I open my email, and what do I see? A message from SOE that they have reactivated my EQ2 account until November. Grrrr. So naturally I immediately find my discs and begin the long install. Now if I had been a bit more savvy and knew certain things back then, I would have had a more updated disc to work from. But no matter, after 5 hours, both computers were ready to go. I assumed hubby got the same email, and since he always loved EQ2, knew he'd be a happy camper.

Both EQ1 and EQ2 are the only games I've gone back to more than a second time. As soon as the music starts playing as I'm loading and I see the splash screens, I start thinking of Daughtry's "I'm going home", because that's kind of what it feels like. And then I hear "these places and these faces are getting old, so I'm going home." And I picture all the past games which did get quite old. SWG and the beta I'm in leave me feeling anxious and frustrated quite often, so this came as a bit of relief.

Yeah I may be a bit overly nostalgic. Although there are still things I don't like about EQ2, whenever I play something else, I realize it still is one of the best MMO's on the market. It's nice to come back to your apartment and have all your things still there. Some nice person must have been feeding my dog, cat, and bird while I was gone, cause there they were fat and healthy.

So after a few hours walking around our local Applefest, and stuffing our faces with pulled pork sandwiches and apple donuts (oh man were they good), we settled into Norrath for awhile. Don't know if I'll stay past the freebie time, but it feels like home for now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reviving Horizons

For anyone who has followed this game as I have, you know that it has changed ownership several times now. While Horizons never had large player base, it did have some committed players and a very decent established community. But one of the more recent owners even managed to botch that up. Double billings, removal of the European and test servers, and doing absolutely nothing with the game as far as development, are just a few of their blunders.

Rumor had it that they defaulted on their payments to Tulga. Tulga briefly resumed ownership before it was more recently purchased by Virtrium. Virtrium is comprised of several former, well-respected Tulga employees, which has both existing and previous players very hopeful.

Looks like they've been quite busy implementing a lot of updates, including bringing back the test server. They are also working on bringing back the European server and the characters that resided there. They've also increased the monthly subscription. Not sure this was the right time to do this. However, they are also offering a lower price model, but with fewer bells and whistles such as owning a plot. So this may be a good way for someone to continue with the game if there still was some interest beyond the trial period.

I had played Horizons for about two months over two years ago. I saw it as a game that had so much going for it but just didn't quite get there. The crafting was great and where else can you play a dragon, and pretty neat looking dragons at that. You could pick up several classes all on one character. But the leveling left much to be desired. I remember hitting about level 8 and not being able to find mobs within my range to kill. And then there were the performance issues. My husband had a better system than I and could not play the game. He would crash every few minutes. So I was playing by myself and that was the main reason I didn't continue with it.

Even with all the new games on the horizon (pun intended), I will still be keeping my eye out on their progress. If they can get the performance stabilized and some content added, I will most definitely be giving it another go in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Grand Duchess Marianne the Sanguine of Melbury Bumpton
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title


Hehe. Thanks to Heather for posting about this one. :)

Credit Spammers - The Sweet Sound of Silence

A couple weeks back there was an announcement at the SWG site that they were looking for volunteers to be part of their new Warden program. They were looking for about 30 responsible people for each server who would be given the ability to silence anyone spamming credit sales or power-leveling services.

It went into effect a couple days ago and Mos Eisley is once again a happy place to visit. The first couple days you still saw the spammers sitting there, but the Wardens were doing their job and no chat was coming across the chat box or in chat bubbles over their heads. Today they just weren't there at all.

I've seen complaints about greedy SOE being too cheap to hire people to do this, blah blah blah. I think it's a great idea. A lot of players love helping to making their server a better place to be. And I think it's great for a company to have enough confidence in players to make them part of the process.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

SWG Update

We're still chugging along in SWG. I bought the two latest expansions a couple weeks ago. I haven't been to Mustafar yet as I am still too low level. I did pay Kashyyyk a visit though (yes there's three "y's" in there!). I was able to complete only a few quests. The majority of others were too difficult and apparently require a group to complete. Unfortunately my quest log is now filled with quests that can't be deleted.

One particular zone on the planet I still have yet to visit due to the required access quest. Gah, I hate access quests. I paid for the darn expansion, just let me in. This one involved a particular space mission. I broke down and took up piloting just to get this done. However, even though I've acquired a few levels of piloting, I still get destroyed fairly quickly during this quest, even when duoing. So I give up. All the group-required content in this expansion is causing LOTRO flashbacks. For my style of play, the original SWG content suits me fine. However, the expansion was a waste of money.

I thought I would take up the new beast mastery expertise with my alt. But unless you have been playing for a long while and have millions of credits to spare, it's just impossible to do. Not sure why they made this so inaccessible for new players, but there you go. Yeah we're still fairly broke by today's SWG standards and have yet to be able to afford a piece of armor. But I'm still getting by fairly well in my pre-NGE stat-less armor so not too worried about it.

I finally set down a home in Aquillian on Wanderhome. The mayor there is great and very helpful and found myself a lakefront spot. So stop by and say hello! I had a lot of veteran rewards awaiting me, so I got to fill my home with some nice items. I love the veteran rewards in SOE games. I love collecting nice things to decorate with. And for anyone that had taken up creature handling pre-NGE, you'll find your pets still in your datapad. I only had four pets and noticed a "stuff" command. Seemed a bit gruesome to kill my pet off and stuff it. But when I stuffed them and placed them in my house, they are actually moving their head around. So maybe Fluffy is still alive after all. I understand you can make a bit of money from selling pre-NGE pets. But I'd rather have my little collections than the money. I'm broke but happy!

So I'm still enjoying myself for the time being. The community here is still great and that's always a big part of what keeps me playing. And in spite of its flaws, given my gaming interests, it's still better than a good portion of other MMO's currently available.

Monday, September 10, 2007

YAY!!

I finally got one!

And that's all i can tell you......muahahahaha

;P

Friday, September 7, 2007

One Hit Wonders

Oh boy. Here we go again. I guess by now most have read the unflattering reviews of Tabula Rasa with the recent lifting of the NDA. Richard Garriott's statement from last week "I think we´ve created something that´s really groundbreaking" doesn't seem to gel with the reports coming in. Many beta testers did indicate that the game did seem to try to break MMO design molds, but that it felt half-hearted and didn't quite deliver.

Two of the issues that stood out to me were poor character creation and steep computer requirements. Another issue is lack of end game options. Players are expected to clone and replay the content with a new class. I'm sure though they will still have a market for Tabula Rasa. There are plenty of players tired of the fantasy mmo's and just looking for something different.

So what is it with the hype involved when someone has already put out a successful game? It's starting to feel like all games are just recycled versions of previous mmo's. Gaming companies want game designers who've already brought a game to market. So designers shuffle from company to company and we get the same stuff. Yeah I know they need people with experience but do they ever hire just creative idea guys?

Once upon a time, I worked for a surgical device company. More specifically, I worked for the department responsible for creating new devices. The guys there had been with the department for 10-25 years. They were great people but they just ran out of ideas. They would approach surgeons and ask what kind of instruments they might want. If the surgeon had an idea, usually the engineers would think on it and say "no, that can't be done." They would acquire patents of devices that other people created and then spent a year or two trying to make them actually work.

Then one summer our department hired a guy just out of school It was just a temporary job mainly to do some drafting type work. He had observed several surgeries, and rather than asking the surgeon for ideas on instruments, he had several of his own on how to make the surgery more efficient. He pitched the idea to the engineer he reported to and he didn't think it could be done. But he made it work. And the department developed their very own surgical device from scratch for the first time. The surgeons themselves hadn't even thought of that type of device and it was a huge success. Of course he was hired on full time.

I know there are people out there like this who would do the same for the MMO industry. I worked with this guy for four years. If he were involved in making games, he'd be the guy pulling 18-hour shifts creating a new gaming engine because the same one that everyone else uses won't accomplish what he wants to do. He'd be observing existing games and coming up with completely new ideas, rather than asking players what they want in a game. Because frankly we don't know what we want, especially if it hasn't been done yet.

Looking back on how that department worked, it has me wondering if some gaming companies might work the same way. We had Team Leaders who pretty much got the credit for the entire project, even though the people under them contributed just as much and sometimes more.

So attaching a name to a game certainly is no guarantee for any second success. Odds are they've already used up their good ideas and spent too many years listening to what players think they want.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

EQ2 vs. LOTRO

Looking at my stat counter, I notice quite a few hits have arrived from searching for "eq2 vs lotro". I saw a question posted on forums today by someone who recently left LOTRO and picked up EQ2. They were wanting to know what they would find in EQ2 that was not in LOTRO. Amidst the "SOE charges for everything, while Turbine gives free updates" debate, I attempted to answer the question that was actually asked. Since I no longer play either game, I thought I'd expand on that answer in hopes of giving an unbiased (somewhat) comparison. So for those of you who landed here in your EQ2 vs. LOTRO pursuit, here goes:

1. Armor/Weapon Upgrades - There are more options and more availability of decent items in EQ2. For similar upgrades in LOTRO, you will have to obtain them as rewards for group quests. Those who prefer full grouping and feeling they've "earned" their armor, might prefer LOTRO. Those who prefer having more options available, whether it be through purchasing via the auction house, obtaining from quests or raids, or crafting armor for themselves, might prefer EQ2. Without a doubt, armor drops off of npc's are more plentiful in EQ2. In two years' time in LOTRO, this may well change.

2. In-Game Expenses - Armor repair and auction house fees are negligible in EQ2. In LOTRO, along with travel expenses, these costs put a large dent in your wallet on a daily basis.

3. Graphics - The graphics of EQ2, along with the zoning will stress your system more than LOTRO. So if you have an older computer, LOTRO will perform better. One graphic style is not better than the other. They are just personal preference. EQ2's landscapes and structures have more a photo-realistic quality, while LOTRO has more of a painted fantasy feel.

4. Travel Times - With the harbor bells, speedy griffons and horses, travel will be quicker in EQ2. Both horse routes and player run speed are pretty slow in LOTRO. Some prefer longer travel times and consider it "meaningful."

5. Crafting - Crafting is by far more rewarding in EQ2. The items you make are useful, is not that costly to level, and you can make a very good living doing nothing but crafting. If you wish to be a pure crafter in LOTRO, you will need some high level friends to help you through the required crafting quests. To earn a reasonable profit, your best bet is to sell the raw resources rather than finished product.

6. Dungeons - If you enjoy a raid-type experience with a high likelihood of failure, but that can be done with six players, LOTRO would be more your style. If you like a dungeon crawl with a small group of not necessarily optimal classes, then EQ2 it is. We often duoed certain dungeons in EQ2, killing named mobs and acquiring nice upgrades for ourselves. This was not an option in LOTRO.

7. Grouping - If you want to find a group quickly, currently LOTRO will offer you more opportunities here. This may change down the road as the game matures, but as it stands now, groups are plentiful. As long as you're not picky about which quest is being worked on, you should have little trouble finding a group.

8. Experience - The way experience works in LOTRO is a bit unforgiving. You really need to kill npc's and complete quests when they are equal level, or con white. If you kill a blue, you take a big hit to experience. If you kill a yellow, the extra gain is so minor that it's not worth the effort and armor repair. Quests and deeds work the same way. Although with deeds, there is no stated level, so you have to guess what level it might be and complete as soon as possible or risk getting little experience. In EQ2, killing blues and greens is a very viable way to level, and taking on yellows is even better.

9. Classes - There are much fewer classes to choose from in LOTRO, but the ones they do have were done fairly well. I often thought I'd like to carry my captain or loremaster from LOTRO and bring it over the the EQ2 world, as I seemed to enjoy them more overall than the classes in played in EQ2. The only thing I didn't like are required class quests. EQ2 had them at release and eliminated them later. But some people like that sort of thing.

10. Collection Quests - Just one of those things EQ2 has that few games do and just an option of something different to do besides experiencing or crafting. I loved finding those shiny things on the ground! My husband, on the other hand, would have never wasted his gaming time on looking for those things. So he benefited from my finds. Again, not everyone's cup of tea, but there as an option.

11. PVP - Ok I can't offer too much as I don't participate. EQ2 has separate PvP servers for this. LOTRO has monster play which is part of all servers. The monster players have complained loudly of their gimpiness and have recently been bumped up 25% effectiveness. Aside from temporary trolls and rangers you can buy with your points, and all the complaints I read about "flippers" and who has the most stars, I know little else.

I've probably left something off that I'll remember later, but these are the differences that stand out to me. While many tout LOTRO as the game for casuals, I find EQ2 to be more friendly to casual play, particularly if you have short spurts of play time. Both good games in their own right, offering different styles of play depending on where your interests lie. Just as EQ2 evolved into a different game than it was two years ago, LOTRO will likely make some changes in the next few years as well.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One Down, Two to Go

I finally gave up and canceled LOTRO. I had taken three weeks off while playing SWG and came back for a few hours after the most recent update. I just can't bring myself to play anymore. So many seem to proclaim this as the game for casuals, but I see it as just the opposite. If you like to raid, but would rather do it with six people instead of 40, this is the game for you. If you like to solo or play in small groups, forget getting any sort of armor upgrades. That's just part of what was bugging me. But really it's just that I had no fun, and the quests felt like a chore. I was going to try to stick it through until the housing this fall, but based on how everything else is setup, I have this sneaky suspicion it's going to be ridiculously expensive to buy and to maintain.

Two games in the news this week pretty much sealed the deal I won't be playing. I was already a bit ho hum about Age of Conan. It just seems that everything coming from the dev's mouths lately is pushing the sexual features of the game. So sex gives you a buff now? Judging from the amount of posts that have been deleted on the forums regarding this topic, they continue to attract more of the crowd I want to avoid. I'm not a prude and don't mind sexual undertones. Heck, I used to run a virtual roleplay world based on the Gor series. But I think they would have been better off to let players discover those features themselves and promote the better aspects of gameplay. These guys seem so focused on this, they come across as giggling virgins. If anything, they've alienated more adults and particularly females.

I pretty much had assumed a few weeks back that The Agency would be operating under the "pay for your loot" model after hearing Mr. Smedley discuss moving away from subscription models for future games. But now it's official. No thanks. I will never play an MMO that operates under this model. And if this is the wave of the future as he seems to think, then I guess I won't be playing much. But I honestly doubt everyone else will be joining the bandwagon anytime soon. So if you're rich, you can have all that you want, and if not.....hmm this sounds sort of like the real world which I play to get away from.

They most likely will be successful in the Asian market with this model, but it will be at the expense of the North American and European market. Yeah they'll have their elitists who can buy their way through the game, along with those who never pay for games and beg the rich guys for their stuff.

Ok time for more coffee. I'm feeling a bit cranky.....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Game to Cure MMO Addiction!

Spotted this recently and thought I'd share!


Monday, August 13, 2007

Star Wars Galaxies - Is It Still Fun?

Well it's been a couple weeks now that I have been back to SWG. What I wanted to focus on was if the game is currently fun to play. I thought it best to put my existing characters aside initially and restart as a new player experiencing everything for the first time. This is not a post to bash the NGE and mourn over what was lost. There's been plenty of that for the last two years. I just really wanted to focus on the game in its current state.

Something I want to address that I mentioned in a previous post is the gold sellers spamming you on arrival. Having looked into the whole situation, I have a little better understanding. When I played EQ2 prevously, the 14-day trials were limited to the starter island. Since free trials are often the route of gold spammers, there really was not much they could do being stuck on that island. I was told SWG initially limited their trial to the space station tutorial, but the station is so small and there is nothing to do there beyond the quick tutorial; so it really was not a fair representation of the game.

Initially, GM's responded and would boot the spammers, but five minutes later they created a new account and would be back. So unless they pay someone to sit at entry point 24 hours a day on all the servers, not sure how they can get around this unfortunate situation. There is an option to turn off all chat by /afk players, but it is not selected by default. So any new players will just have to deal with this until they get their bearings.

I'll just highlight what I think works and what needs tweaking.

THE GOOD STUFF

1. Legacy Quest Line - When you first arrive in Mos Eisly as a combat class, you will receive a comm message on who to talk to. This begins the Legacy quest. You will be sent to various bunkers and caves to complete objectives such as breaking into the computer or killing mobs. Through this quest line, you will first receive a landspeeder and then later a faster speederbike. It will also provide you with various weapons of your choice.

You know how in other games you are sent two zones away to kill something, return to the npc who sends you all the way back there again to kill something else? I yell at them "why didn't you have me do that while I was there already?!" With these quests, you get there quickly by speeder or shuttle. And while you are at your target location, frequently the npc speaks to you via the comm telling you what to do next while there. One evening while we were playing, my husband mentioned reading about an upcoming game that would be quest-based that he won't be playing for that reason. I reminded him that we were currently questing in SWG. He said "Yeah, but these aren't grindy." Just so.

2. Combat - Bang Bang Bang, fast and furious. What else can I say?

3. Returning Vets - I would say about half the people I've spoken to have been pre-NGE players who just returned within the last two months. I had visited SWG very briefly about six months ago when I had Station Access, and the population has most definitely increased since then. The Mos Eisly cantina is usually fairly active and the Theed cantina is beginning to see a resurgence (Flurry server). Also, wherever I have been questing, more often than not, other players are there doing the same thing, making it easy to group up.

4. Class Fun and Goodies - I had logged in my former Teras Kasi and speced her to Officer to see what sort of things classes get at later levels (she is 57). I went out to the field to look over my abilities. Hmmmm, medic supply drop...wonder what that does? "Clicks button" A guy pops up on my comm and tells me supplies are on their way. Within a few seconds I hear the sound of a ship and spin around to see one flying in at me and dropping a box at me feet. Ok now that was way too cool :) I opened the box and it was full of stimpacks that group mates could take out to use for self heals.

I had another skill called Reinforcement which says it calls a pet to aid me. In flies another plane and out comes a soldier ready to assist me. Where else do you see stuff like this? I know I never had before and just absolutely loved it.

5. Entertainer - A big two thumbs up on the entertainer changes. I had both a master dancer and master musician at one time. Now, along with Image Design, the three are rolled into one. They have been given wonderful buffing abilities...stats, increased experience, reactive heals, tradeskill buffs, just to name a few. The buffs are required to be given in such a way that can't be macroed, so gone are the afk buffers from the past. They've been given the ability to make their own props (decorative swords, ribbons, glow sticks, etc. you wield while dancing). Also, just as combat classes do, they gain hitpoints and stats as they level, so those thugs who used to harass me in town now know better!

I logged in what was my master musician and was dismayed to find her a level 1 entertainer. I filed a petition and within a couple hours I was bumped up to level 50. Unlike combat and tradeskill, the entertainer levels very quickly and I reached 90 within two days of at keyboard play. A great way to meet other players. Having a lot of fun with her.

6. No Money Sinks - *glares at LOTRO* Previously, SWG was already not much of a money sink game. Buy armor, weapons, and then fluff stuff like housing and furniture. The Bazaar has always been very reasonable to use. It is even less so now given that they have removed item decay. Not good news for crafters but since much of the good stuff drops off mobs, the permanent decay doesn't make much sense anymore. So money hoarders rejoice!

Items They Should Address

1. Targeting - Oh boy where do I start with this one. So you see a thug, you left click it and bang bang and you stop shooting. Meanwhile he starts running different directions shooting at you. You frantically try to follow him with your mouse while left clicking till dead. This is the default UI. I went into options to have a look at keyboard settings. Seems I have to type "Y" to auto-lock a target and program my own key in for auto-fire since there is none by default. I chose the space bar. So I type my "Y" (only needs to be done once per character, not per session), left click to begin shooting, hit space bar to continue, and good to go using special skills. Phew! Oh but wait. I targeted another player who was standing in front of the mob. Click, click, click trying to retarget. Oh, I have to hit escape first to clear original target and then click!

I noticed I kept accidently attacking and firing my weapon. I discovered the right mouse button is keyed to secondary attack. I'm one of those who use my right mouse to look around, etc. while moving. So everytime I adjusted the camera or spun around with it, bang bang bang. Ok disabled. To be honest, not sure what a secondary attack is anyway. Guess I'll be fine without it.

I loot a few things and want to put some in my bank. It's been so long I forgot how to open up the bank. Left click? No that just shows the money. Right click? Didn't work. I look up the keyboard settings again. I see "Summon Radial Menu". Yeah that looks like what I'm looking for. And for that they have assigned the tilde key. The tilde key?? Well that explains why there are no creature resources for sale on bazaar. How many new players know to use the tilde key on creatures they have killed to harvest hides, bones, and meat? You see, when you kill an animal, there's the regular loot that you left click for and then there's the ummmmm tilde key loot.

I can understand having to use half your keyboard for maybe flying a spaceship but for regular gameplay it seems a bit much. Granted, after two weeks, I'm getting the hang of it and in the swing of things. But given that their intent was to make the game enjoyable to a wider audience, this should be high on priorities.

2. Grouping Levels - When my husband and I played together pre-NGE we had both mastered our professions and were able to kill mobs together. However, his profession choice resulted in his being a level 80 combat profession while mine is level 57. We attempted to group together for some missions and neither one of us got experience. I learned that you can only group with someone within five levels of you.

It's my understanding SOE has been adding things to SWG to entice pre-NGE vets back in. Now why would you bring us all in at varying levels and none of us can play together? I can understand the 5 level restriction on other games. But when you've modified your game so that everyone is scattered level-wise, you need to address that. Either make everyone who had a master combat profession all level 80, or let us group together.

I thought I would make an attempt to catch up to him. I grabbed a couple missions and headed out. I looked at my bar when I was done and it hardly moved. There is no way I am doing this by myself for 23 levels so I'm abandoning her for the time being.

3. Crafters - I had a master tailor previously and wanted to see what it was like to start again. The first few levels went by quickly, but at about level 20 it became a grind. I made it to 24 and couldn't take it anymore. I was still making the same pet food I made at level 1 earning the same experience for it. While my combat player was given the legacy quest which gained her two vehicles, my crafter was told to make a few items for people and then they sent me on my way. I kept returning to the original quest giver every few levels to see if he offered more but he'd tell me he had nothing for me at this time.

At level 15, I got a pop-up of an item received. Oh did I get my vehicle maybe? I looked in my inventory. It was an item to put on display in my house. Given that I was about as dirt poor as they come, that would be sitting in my bank for quite some time. Finally at level 19, the original quest guy had an option for me to say I need a vehicle. I had been hoofing it quite far to gather my resources so it was a welcome gift. I sold a few backpacks and some pet food, but it seemed clear that this class seemed more geared toward the player who had an existing character with money to fund the leveling up process.

4. Another Quest Line After Legacy - Those of us stuck in the 50's are a bit clueless as to where to go and what to do. And we also need a way to get armor and weapons, as the generic stuff we logged into has left most feeling pretty gimpy. If you really want to pull the vets back in, offer something similar to Legacy as an alternative to mission grinding and a means to gain armor and weapon upgrades. These missions really have been a lot of fun and I don't mind leveling this way.

So in summary, is SWG fun to play in its current state? HECK YEAH. And to be honest, it has been more fun than I've had in more recent MMO's. I'm a little concerned about hitting the later levels. I've heard when Legacy stops, it turns into a grind. So at this point I'm not setting down any houses yet and settling in. But I sure do plan to continue to play for awhile yet. It really has been a pleasant surprise and not at all the doom and gloom that often gets portrayed.

For anyone returning to a combat profession, I'd suggest starting over. You can now have two characters per server, so you can start on the same server as your original if need be. Starting anew will really give you a better perspective on the current game and result in less frustration.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Zuroth Online

Another new sci-fi MMO, Zuroth Online, is in the works, scheduled for 2008 or 2009 release. Planned features:

- Ranged and melee combat professions, entertainers, crafters, and certain specialty professions.

- Space combat.

- Battlefields for factional PVP which allows cross-server battles.

- Skill-based, no levels.

- Players can mix, match, and drop professions.

- Player housing and cities.

Hmmmm, something about this is all very familiar :)

They will be using the Multiverse platform. I had downloaded Multiverse a few weeks ago to take a look at their demo worlds and some others that are open to the public. I might be wrong, but I got the feeling this is the way to go when you're building the game from your garage with some buddies.

I wish them lots of luck. Given the similarities to pre-NGE SWG, they may very well have a large following.

Friday, August 3, 2007

From Middle-Earth to Tattoine

Though I tried to focus on the fun stuff, the negatives still kept getting in my way so think it's time for a little break from LOTRO. In a way, the whole leveling process reminded me of end-game EQ but minus the awesome rewards. Most of the group quests to me are no different than raiding....one hour to fill the group with just the right classes and then two to three hours muddling through elite mobs. Having only an hour and a half of uninterrupted play in the evenings and no desire for this type of play anyway, this leaves me with the Auction House to obtain my gear. Since the AH is so expensive to post items to, unless I know my item has a very good chance of selling within two days, I vendor all armor drops. And I'm guessing many others do too since there is very little to be found for sale. At level 39, I am still in level 21 pants.

So with my class trainer having no skills to offer after level 40 and there being no items to save up for, there's just nothing to look forward to. The Evendim expansion to me was a bit disappointing. It was supposedly the expansion with solo quests to get you through the 30's. More than half of the solo-designated quests were not soloable at all. Unless you are a class that can handle four to five mobs on you at once, you really need a friend or two to get these done. The zone is so dense with mobs, you can't take three steps in any direction without being ganged up on.

But anyways, being the glutton for punishment that I am, last night the other half and I resubscribed to SWG. I had Station Pass several months ago and had retried SWG for just a few hours. It was so unfamiliar to how it used to play, it was really hard to get back into. But my husband's been mentioning it often so here we go again. I only just logged in briefly this morning on the Bria server. My chat screen was immediately filled with spam from four afk players advertising their gold selling websites. I could not believe how blatant they were about it. This would not be tolerated in EQ2 so not sure why SOE is permitting it here. I've gotten tells and mail messages in other games but to be standing in the center of town shouting?

Ah well, I still intend to give it a fair shake. I at least want to level high enough to get out of Tattoine and onto prettier planets. If anyone is currently playing, please let me know!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rooting for the Little Guy

When I look at the anticipated MMOs coming up this year, while I will likely try a few of them out, to be honest I'm not overly excited about any of them. Or maybe my two-year anticipation of Vanguard has left me a bit jaded and wary. I had been hunting down some smaller names that rarely get mention to see what the little guys are up to. As often happens, many of these projects have been shut down and likely a good percentage of those remaining will also face a similar demise. But I would love to see one of these make it through and succeed. Here's one in particular I've been looking at:

Alganon - This one has been on my radar already for awhile. The gaming company behind this one was founded in 2006 by David Allen, the original designer of Horizons. While ultimately Horizons had many failings, I really liked some of the concepts behind it and think it could have been a great game with a few tweaks. Their four main areas of focus are community, immersion, interaction, and reward. This leads me to believe they are putting effort into the social aspects of the game, which is right up my alley. Solo and group play will be supported.

There are two organizations in this world, the Asheroth and Kujix, or basically your good and evil. Each organization has four races and five classes, with the healer class being the only that is the same among the two sides. So there are nine classes total. There will be PvE and PvP servers, with player-consented PvP on the PvE servers.

When you start a character, you are born into a unique family made up of many other players of the same race who are your siblings. The moment you log in your new character, your siblings will be informed. Just as in real life, you cannot choose your family members nor leave it, and there will be a cap at the number of members in each family. Families can work together to elevate their standing. This is also separate from guilds. So essentially you can belong to two community units.

Some other non-standard features include no level cap and your appearance can change as you gain power. Pure tradeskillers can rejoice, as they can do so without ever entering a battle. And supposedly they are addressing tradeskill issues found in other games such as costs to build up skills, difficulty earning profit, and difficulty finding resources. Also, something interesting they are incorporating is a system they claim to be more friendly to casual gamers. There are skills that can only be gained over time, so that a casual gamer who has been playing a year for 10 hours a week will have access to skills no power gamer can achieve without a year of play.

On paper, I see a lot of nice concepts and really hope they can pull it off. The only negative from my domestic viewpoint is lack of housing which they state doesn't fit in with their game. But if the gameplay is interesting enough, I likely wouldn't miss the housing all that much.

I wish these guys a lot of luck and success and look forward to playing this one.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Time for Some Sprucing Up

Looking at all the lovely blogs out there, I thought it was time to join the bandwagon and make some changes. So bear with me while I'm making some modifications. I haven't found any Blogger templates I'm thrilled with, and the couple that I did try just didn't work. I'm terrible with figuring out these codes so thought I'd just dive in modify the artwork instead.

Will most likely take me awhile before I can get things all figured out correctly and find the right combination that I'm happy with.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dungeons & Dragons Online - Revisited

Maybe "revisited" isn't the right word to use since my first visit was so short. I tried DDO during beta. Looking back, I believe I went into it with my preconceived MMO notions on how things should be. I remember thinking it was just a city with doors and nowhere else to go. To some extent that is still true but I've got a different take on that now. More on that later.

For those playing LOTRO, the character creation might look somewhat familiar. While I can't speak for the males, several of the female hairstyles are identical to LOTRO. The faces I believe are prettier in DDO. So I was happy enough with the few models I chose for various characters.

I rolled a paladin and initially I went with the stat and skill choices that Turbine suggested. I got to level 2 and was feeling somewhat gimpy so did a bit of reading on the forums and rerolled and am currently level 4 (there are 14 levels). While in other MMO's your starting stat choices are somewhat forgiving and can be made up for later, from what I can tell so far in DDO, one or two points here and there make a huge difference.

I had no prior knowledge of DDO whatsoever, so seeing terminology such as saves and throws was a bit confusing at first. I look at a piece of armor and aside from the AC number, really have very little idea of what it all means. But with a little bit of studying up, I'm beginning to get a better handle on things. However, I imagine this can be intimidating for many new players. While I like researching things, many (including my husband) do not and would rather be able to dive right in.

Once nice feature of DDO that you don't often see in MMO's is multiclassing. From what I gather, many of the classes gain little benefit from sticking purely with that class, so it is very common to pick up skills from other classes. While my paladin so far has remained "pure", my husband's rogue has picked up one level of paladin to gain one specific skill, and it has already made a noticeable difference to his damage output.

Back to what I said earlier about my changing perspective. When I decided to give DDO another go, I came in with the mindset of looking for the fun rather than picking it apart. I love a good dungeon. In most games I would spend a good chunk of time running across the open plains to get to a dungeon. While seeing the vistas on the way is nice at first, eventually it's just in the way. This was especially apparent in LOTRO. Some days I felt like half my play time was spent on a rented horse to get somewhere. So putting it in that perspective, the city with doors concept is not such a bad thing. Log in and get to the dungeon right away. That's not to say there are no outdoor zones at all. I just haven't gotten high enough to see them yet.

I liked dungeons in EQ and EQ2, not so much in WoW and really dislike them in LOTRO. But I love them in DDO. There are traps and hidden treasures to keep a rogue busy. Mobs aren't overwhelming, so it can be done with a small group. Also, mobs don't just stand there. They hop around trying to dodge you and trip you (a good reason to work up balance skill). And sometimes you need to use different weapons for different types of mobs. And of course there are treasures to be found. And every party member who clicks on the chest gets a few things reserved just for them.

Now for a couple things I don't like. I've come to the conclusion that Turbine has a love for adding nuisance mobs to their games to annoy the heck out of their players. In LOTRO it was those flies that follow you everywhere and debuff you, as well as the several variety of mobs that submerge under ground in the middle of a fight, regenerating health while you stand there waiting for them to pop up again. In DDO it's oozes. They spot you stealthed even though they are at the other end of the hallway, and you must not use swords on them or they will split in two. But their worst offense is they destroy your weapons. After one fight, my weapon was reduced to 8 durability. So you must carry several weapons on you. This results in high repair bills and permanent durability reduction to your weapon. I've gotten in the habit of buying 1 copper clubs off the vendor, switching to that weapon when the oozes attack, and then destroying the club when durability runs out. The fight lasts a little longer with the crappy weapon but saves lots of money and aggravation.

The other is the perceived lack of community. Most of the current players have been at it for awhile and have not been very welcoming to slightly clueless, poorly geared new players. The general chat channel is silent. There are no friendly waves or hugs being passed around. So we have not grouped with anyone else as of yet. Duoing is possible but difficult and I'm always thinking how much more fun the dungeons would be with a nice group of people along.

One of the tooltips that popped up mentioned that you can enter several instanced versions of the city if the population warrants it. Not sure if the population was ever high enough for more than one instance but that is not the case currently. It had me wondering why they didn't take the Guild Wars approach of having just one server. Since they are already set up for multiple instances, just seems there might be a little more life to the game done this way.

So, in summary I think if you can find a good guild or have an existing group of friends you play with, DDO can be a heck of a lot of fun. We've been spending more hours gaming than we have in a long time, so obviously we're enjoying it. If you're on your own and want to go solo, it can be done but it will be a struggle and not sure how enjoyable that would ultimately be.

I'm still subscribed to LOTRO, although I haven't played in two weeks and my DDO trial runs out in a few days. At this point, I still don't know what I'm going to do. Likely I will still hold on to my LOTRO subscription for awhle in hopes of I don't know what, and might still pick up DDO as long as we continue to have fun with it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Can Your Computer Run That Game?

Yeah I know I could probably just read the side of the game box and figure this out myself, but I found this site pretty neat: System Requirements Lab

I already knew my system wouldn't run Vanguard well, but seems I'm even worse off for Age of Conan. The recommended specs are for beta, so the final recommendation may change. I just hope for their sake they haven't created another pretty game that few can play.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Genre Barriers

Pixie Styx over at Strangelands posted on the possibility of designing an mmo that is not restricted by genre. This was something that really piqued my interest as it is something I often thought about. But as I stated there, I had always envisioned some sort of time travel mmo, or as Damianov suggested perhaps even alternate realities. The possibilities would be absolutely endless.

Feeling in a gothic mood, go slay vampires for a bit. Reruns of Jurassic Park inspiring you to take on a T Rex? Although I guess you could incorporate the elves and dwarves into an alternate reality universe, I'd love to see some unique races instead.

Why exactly is it that there is nothing on the horizon, even if only a couple different genres packaged into one game? I had assumed initially it would be an expensive undertaking. But I honestly don't know.

Regarding concern for immersion and connecting the various environments, Brandon was really on to something:

A character should transcend the setting he or she is placed in. Don’t get me wrong, moving a character from one setting to another will no doubt cause that character to get some details changed here and there, but the core of the character needs to supersede where that character is. If you cannot simply place your character in another context than your character is not “real” enough to be role-playing with. Character creates story (plot), creates setting. That’s the flow. Anything less than that and the character is not strong enough to stand on it’s own.

Aren't mmo's in a way like books? You have a character; you're in a world performing heroic deeds or whatever it is you wish to pursue. Just because most authors choose to keep their forest nymphs in the forest, can it be written no other way? If someone had already written a story about a druid's rowdy adventures in the wild west, would it only then be immersive to do so in an mmo? We are writing our own stories with our characters, and we are limited only by our imaginations.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Raidin' We Won't Go

The raiding vs. casual thing really gets people talking. And boy are there lots of opinions out there. I read a pretty interesting post at The Common Sense Gamer. Villainelle expressed a lot of my own viewpoints regarding the matter. While I would definitely flock to a game that had absolutely no raiding, I'm not certain that the two can't co-exist happily.

I am more casual than what most define as casual. I have a handicapped son, and I play/work with him until he goes to bed at 8pm. By 9:00 or 9:30 I'm tired because we all have to be up at 5:30am. Some nights I'd rather watch tv or read a book so don't game at all. Weekends I have more time to play, but my body's clock has gotten in the habit of waking up at 5:30 so there is no way I'm staying up late to play games.

But I do like having nice stuff that makes my game play easier. I always thought one of the best ideas I'd seen in any game to address this was the LDON expansion in EQ. You take a group mission for one of several dungeons and when you complete your mission, you are awarded points. These missions generally took about a half hour to forty-five minutes. Accumulate enough points and you can buy a stat gem that can be added to a slot in your armor. It took me several weeks to obtain one item, and a couple months to fill the three slots on my chest piece. The resulting chest piece was not quite as good as a raid item but miles better than regular random drops.

I didn't have to have THE BEST and didn't care that raiders did. But what I got was pretty darn good and made a noticeable difference in fights. Given today's more solo-oriented gaming, I guess you could expand on this and provide solo or two-person missions that would give only a fraction of the points. It would take you much longer going this route but at least you're not completely closed off to it. Or have a system that adjusts the dungeon to the number of group members so you don't have to sit around trying to fill that group.

I always wondered why I never saw that concept in another game. It was one of my favorite aspects of EQ and everyone benefited. And it didn't matter if you'd done one particular one already, you always got the points, so grouping up was easier than today's current trend in mmo's which involves being on the same step of the same quest before you find someone to group.

Let the raiders continue raiding, just give me something more than scraps, even though it might take me months.

LOTRO: 3 Months Later

There are so many nice things about this game. Even though my husband and I both started off with a lukewarm feeling about it, I was really hoping that as we leveled the positives would outweigh the negatives. My viewpoints on my experiences so far:

THE PROS:
Classes - Even though there are only a few classes available to play, I have found a couple that I have enjoyed. My loremaster and captain are my favorites. At 39, my minstrel is my highest level, however. I had enjoyed her initially and still do to some extent, but getting killed by a few green mobs because you can't channel off a heal when you're being pounded was very aggravating. Although I never play tanks, my husband usually loves them but abandoned his guardian in this game (also 39). On the other hand, he usually doesn't like hunter classes, but is enjoying the LOTRO version.

Setting - The world is beautiful. I'm especially fond of the shire and listening in on all the chatter of the npc hobbits. The world definitely feels alive. Seeing Rivendell for the first time was breathtaking.

Music - I really like what they did with the music system. Instead of the musically-uninclined mashing random buttons in an attempt to play music, they've made it so you can load up a music file and voilla!! you can play! No more long hours studying Esteban tapes.

CONS:
Money sinks - After an hour of play, I often have this three steps forward, two to four steps back feeling. The armor repairs are more than I can bear sometimes and one of my biggest sources of frustration. In order to stay ahead, I am forced to either take up a harvesting profession and spend a few hours each week looking for nodes to sell or head to a humanoid camp of gray mobs that will minimally damage my armor and kill them for hours for vendor trash. I passionately hate money sinks in a game.

Armor and drops - Armor drops are extremely rare and they really need to up the rate as well as the variety of armor that drops. I am a big fan of the randomly-generated drops where an item can drop off of any mob and the stats are random. Pretty much everyone is wearing the same thing and they are all from quests because the dropped stuff when it does in fact drop is often crap. Which leads me to:

Quests - We're probably in the minority regarding this, but I am not a fan of quest-based leveling. I don't mind doing a few here and there, but it is a requirement here. I'm finding the solo-designated quests are not very soloable at all. Go kill so and so....oh by the way he is surrounded by four friends and a few other buddies who you already killed but are beginning to respawn already. Grrrr. But even worse in my opinion are class quests. At 45 if you want your skills, you better find 5 people to do a very difficult quest to help you. Class skills should not be dependent on gathering forces in my opinion.

Experience - In most games I've played mobs have a set amount of experience they grant. That level 20 mob gives 100 experience whether you are level 19 or 23. Of course, you have to kill more level 20 mobs at 23 than you would at level 20 to level. But in LOTRO, the experience you get depends on what your level is in relation to the mob, or the con color of the mob.

At level 20 in order to gain the optimum experience, I need to kill level 20 mobs. Let's say I get 100 experience killing level 20 mobs. If I kill level 19 mobs, I will get about 65 experience. Now if I kill level 21 mobs, I will only get about 106 experience and maybe 108 for level 22. So there is absolutely no reason to get a bunch of friends together to kill higher level mobs. Also white mobs pack a punch to your armor, and we either lose money or break even killing whites.

Now, that level 20 mob which gave you 100 experience will go down to about 65 when you are level 21. It works this way for quests as well. Depending on what color the quest cons, you will get a certain amount of experience. Traits and deeds also work on this system. Unfortunately, though, they have no level associated with them so your best bet is just to do them as soon as possible to get the most experience points.


So there it is in a nutshell. My husband is logging in just to keep me company at this point. He lost interest after the first week. But we may be here awhile yet since the games coming up aren't promising for our play style, and I still keep hoping it will get better. I'm almost 100% certain Age of Conan is out of the question based on the community I've seen (last post I saw discussed how cool it would be to have prostitution as a profession.....ermm). Warhammer looks pretty neat with a sense of humor, but being pvp-based our stay would likely be short. PotBS and Spellborn are possibilities.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

As the World of Telon Turns

A few former Sigil employees have let their feelings been known regarding this whole debacle.

Here is an excerpt from a very lengthy interview at F13:

"Ex-Sigil: It's hard. I really wanted Vanguard to be a great game, but it seemed like we were blocked by stupid decision making at nearly every step. Good people busted their ass, only to be shown the door because they weren't a 'culture fit' moving forward. I don't believe Brad is a bad guy like some people are painting him on the various forums right now. I DO think however, that he believed people wanted to play a game that HE liked, regardless of the masses of people telling him they didn't like his ideas. He ignored the opinions of people who worked for him, and busted their ass for him, and it cost him dearly, at least in reputation. So many of us jumped at the chance to work with Brad, only to find out he was a paper leader. You can only fool me once. I never want to work for Brad or Dave ever again. There was so much good in the team, so much effort wasted. None of the people listed above should ever work in any position of leadership. Though, Jeff might have a chance. He learned lessons from this, I think. The others did not. The whole ordeal has been rough. I know I'm exhausted."


Nino posted over at FoH: "I promised not to be publically scornful, but I will say this: I hope those truly responsible for the deep rooted failings of the company lay in bed tonight and relive the events that transpired today in their heads, over and over. For not ONE of you is without your job come tomorrow morning." Follow the link to read the whole thing.

Obviously, there's a lot of bitterness and resentment and I sure can't blame them for feeling that. Sounds like Sigil was full of wonderful musicians without a qualified maestro to orchestrate them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The End of Sigil?

Life's been busy and I've fallen a bit behind in keeping up with various blogs and gaming sites. But what a shock to read F13 regarding the firing of Sigil employees. Supposedly an announcement is coming today so I'll have to keep an eye out to feed my curiosity. I may not have been fond of Vanguard, but having followed it for a few years I'd really gotten to like many of Sigil's employees. My heart goes out to those guys and I wish the best for them.

More surprising still was reading Grouchy Gamer. Assuming that what is posted here is correct, Brad had been a rare visitor to the Sigil office since last December. There are some other bits there regarding an irritating personality, but I take all that with a grain of salt.

I'm guessing SOE will pick up some of the cream of the crop of Sigil. And while I know many are upset about SOE having anything to do with Vanguard, I do believe the game can only improve from here. They may have botched SWG completely, but they did turn EQ2 around and have learned quite a bit from past mistakes. I'm not sure if I'd go back to Vanguard to give it another whirl, but I'm rooting for the game and hope it succeeds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

LOTRO Grouping Woes, Etc.

While I am really enjoying many aspects of LOTRO, my grouping experiences so far have been horrendous. I've met a lot of nice people but the majority seem to have this “every man for himself” attitude and just go charging into camps of elite mobs with disastrous results. I'm finding myself longing for a game with few quests at all, where you spend an hour or two with the same group of people and from level 1 you begin to learn what group setup and tactics work best for different circumstances. But I know that's unrealistic. No one will make that style of game anymore.

I'm sure I'll still be playing for awhile yet though. I like the setting and I even like my minstrel, which is a rare thing for me. I often play healers with my husband's warrior type, but usually don't enjoy the role very much and play some sort of dps/hybrid class on the side. But I think I'll be avoiding the group quests for just a bit.

I'm curious to see what they will be able to offer as far as housing goes. What I would really hope for is that there might be something similar to DAOC where you would have a vendor at your home, eliminating the ridiculously high auction house fees. It's gotten to where I'm vendoring most items rather than pay the high fees and risk the item not selling at all. They charge you a fee to place the item, and then charge another fee if it sells. Talk about double dipping.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Same Old, Same Old

I don't know how many times I've seen the "same old, same old" comment, or even worse "WoW clone", on every game released since WoW. Here's some comments seen on the forums today:

Its more of the same but very polished........... its basically WoW with better graphics. Its a good game but I cancelled my preorder because ive seen it all before.

If you are looking for the next big innovation, you will not find it in here.

If you're looking for innovation, skip this one.

LOTRO just emerged but although I haven't seen it I can only guess it's just more of the same Mages, Tanks type game so I won't even try this one.

This game imo is just another WoW clone

Why is it, that NO ONE can make a GOOD MMORPG?

From when EQ2 and WoW were launched, there has not been 1 MMO that has been unique. They all offer the same things.


I really have to wonder what players are expecting. Every game I've played (and I've tried almost all of them) has had unique aspects to them. But isn't the basic core of an MMO always going to remain somewhat the same?

I saw a post a few days ago stating that developers were just lazy and just taking the easy route in making games. Maybe I'm naive, but I really do think developers put their heart and soul in a game and want to put out a great product. But they also want to be successful. So what other directions can you go with an MMO that hasn't been done already?

SWG was very unique. It was the first game I played that wasn't level based. You could pick and choose abilities from various classes and create something unique. They had entertainers, which brought in a lot of people that wanted nothing to do with combat. The housing was great, and you could set up your own shop. While many people loved it, apparently there were not enough subscribers to SoE's liking, so they scrapped much of what made it unique.

Then there's Anarchy Online. Although they have levels, they have a similar system to original SWG in that you could put skill points wherever you wanted so that you could build your character differently from someone else. I believe they were one of the first to offer instances. They offered missions, much like CoH/CoV does now. This game was fairly unique, yet it never raked in the masses either.

So, looking at past games that did things differently and seeing how they fared, and considering how much it costs to make an MMO these days, do developers really want to try something risky?

Looking ahead at all the upcoming titles, Pirates of the Burning Sea certainly seems to steer away from the same old, same old more than most. I'm really rooting for these guys and hope they do well. Will be curious to see if their innovation pays off, and if so, if it has any effect on future games.

Speaking of "innovation", I came across something today that I really thought was a joke at first. What do you get when you stick a bunch of Lego's on a Bryce image? Welcome to Block Realm!!

Beta registration started a couple days ago and dangit it's full already. Ah well :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Final Word on Brad

Was reading Darren's blog Ok...Time to Leave Brad Alone and was pretty much feeling the same way. I've always liked Brad; I think he's well-intentioned and his heart is in the right place. Some posts I've seen aren't just critical, they are just plain nasty and uncalled for.

But Brad posts so frequently and says things that leave me scratching my head, that it's hard not to have a gut response sometimes. After following link after link from blog to forum to blog again, I inevitably found myself at the FOH boards (yeah I know....*smacks hand* shame on Aspen!)

First I came across a post that included the following "I don't think either the EQ 1 or EQ 2 launch suffered significantly from their hardware specs and the tech level they used."

Say what? So I kept reading on to see if anyone might have caught that one and Cuppy came to the rescue with:

"I can't speak much about EQ1 because I was not around when it launched. I will say that I definitely disagree with you on EQ2. EQ2 was complete @$%& optimization-wise when it launched. I built a brand new computer in 2004 that couldn't play EQ2 for @$%&. Everyone I know who was excited about migrating from EQ1 to EQ2 upon release decided against it when they couldn't run the game enough to enjoy it.

EQ2 was up against the release of WoW. We had two games coming out that were perhaps close to each other in anticipation, both with strong fanbases coming from previous games. WoW completely smashed EQ2 in subscription numbers and I accurately remember reading tons of posts from people who couldn't run EQ2 or thought it stuttered too much and were suckered into the feeling of polish in WoW with its 70 fps in major cities with older machines. I tried my hardest to get friends to play EQ2 with me but no one would because their machines were too old and therefore suited for WoW. Granted, EQ2 had issues with the gameplay, combat, and class balance upon release as well.

Now you've got VG that's released the same month as The Burning Crusade. Also have LOTRO in the future along with a few other games that are running smoother in beta than VG is in retail (due to their graphic style no doubt.) Once again, you have a game that runs for @$%& on computers that run every other game on the market fine. Couple that with the fact that VG (not unlike EQ2) did has issues with gameplay, combat and class balance.....you're setting yourself up to perform poorly when up against the competitors."

Further along I came across a post "How is it possible you watched EQ2 launch with hardware specs too high for its time and followed right behind it and made the exact same mistake?"

To which Brad responded "I've posted now several times that I wish we could have launched a bit later, but that it was out our hands. Financial realities, being what they were, made that decision for us."

I was going to comment here on that one, but someone else summed it up well.

"You were hoping to hold out for another 3 years until computers required to run VG on 'fun' settings were even remotely commonplace? Well, VG might have been done by that point I guess."

Ok and now I'm done. No more Brad posts!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Lord of the Rings

My husband and I pre-ordered LOTRO and started the open beta for founding members on Friday. Having spent time in the previous beta, I knew what to expect but it was the first time we got to play together. He started a dwarf guardian, while I rolled a human minstrel. While I love the appearance of the elven starting area, I enjoy the quests in the human lands much more, so hubby payed the 1 silver horse ride to get his dwarven buns over to Bree.

I already knew I'd love this game but the other half wasn't so sure, and he planned to keep his EQ2 subscription as a back-up plan. But by the end of the weekend, I think Turbine has won him over. That's not to say that everything is perfect and there aren't issues that cause frustration. But many of those issues involve the community, just as in other games, and there's just no way around that.

There are three types of mobs I've encountered so far. There are regular mobs, signature mobs which are just a little tougher but can be soloed if you wait until they are lower level, and then there are elite mobs which are group encounters. We picked up this quest which involved killing an elite brigand leader and a few of his buddies. We arrive at the hill top where they spawn and there are about 15 players standing about. I asked if anyone would like to join us to take them down. No answer.

The mobs in question spawn and are immediately attacked by various solo players. At various points the players realize, "oh crap I can't kill this" and they take off running with mob in pursuit. So now the hill is full of fleeing players. The mobs return to their spot and start attacking the other players who were left standing around waiting their turn. Again, they take off running.

My husband and I are standing a few feet back out of aggro range, watching and waiting our turn. Again, I ask if anyone would like to group up and again, no one answers. Eventually, everyone just left and we were left standing there alone. So we pulled one mob at a time and got the job done. It was a tough fight for two, but as long as we only had one of them, we were ok.

Hopefully, as people level, they will realize they can't do it all alone and will be a bit more receptive to joining others to get things done. Yes, there is a lot of solo content and you could solo to 50 if you really wanted to. But some of my most fun moments have been in the group quests. They involve some neat story lines and can be very challenging at times.

For anyone that's currently playing, particularly minstrels, I found a handy tool in the options menu. I can't remember exactly how it's worded but it says something about using your target's target for unfriendly skills. Basically, all it means is that I can keep the tank targeted for heals and any attacks I use will hit whatever he is targeting. I would have thought it would do this by default but you have to go in and check that off. Since some of my attacks increase my healing abilities and buff the group, I was having a heck of a time clicking between tank and target. Now, it's a breeze.

I see most people hit the level 15 cap over the weekend already, so I have a feeling a lot of people who don't normally craft will take it up since there is not much else to do. I started to craft but found it to be very expensive. Selling back to vendor only gives you a small fraction of what you spent on vendor components. I'm finding it more profitable to vendor all the harvestables rather than craft with them.

Overall, I'm really having a fun time here. I hear Turbine has this reputation for frequently adding content to their games so I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Preconceived Notions and Expectations

I was browsing the LOTRO forums and came across a heated and ultimately closed post initiated by one of the forum's long-time members. http://lotro.turbine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19985

Basically, the gist of the post had to do with the game not sticking to the lore of the books and many of those who had supported the game for years will not be playing. Being nosy, I followed a link over to the Arda Post where many of the disgrunted veterans have settled in. It seems several have moved on to Vanguard and report it to be so much more "intellectually stimulating."

Oh my goodness.

I was one of those who followed the development of Vanguard for years. I read the official forums regularly and had built up so much anticipation as had others. I was aware of LOTRO and glanced at the forums but otherwise didn't pay much attention to it, since my focus was Vanguard. Performance issues aside, it turned out to be not the game for me. While I thought I really did want to re-experience EQ1 all over again, the reality of it was that other games had spoiled me. I read so much hatred on forums regarding Vanguard, and I can't help but wonder how much of that comes from those who had been long-time followers and had built up so much expectation over the years.

I entered LOTRO with few expectations. I read the books over 20 years ago but had no intention of comparing the two. The movies took some liberties to make them appealing to the masses and I enjoyed them tremendously, so had no issues with the game doing the same as long as I had fun. And I did.

So now reading the posts from the long-time followers of LOTRO I again wonder if those built-up expectations have clouded thinking somewhat. Do you play and look for fun? Or play and look for inconsistencies and what's wrong? If you look for what's wrong, you will always find something no matter what you play.

Or maybe one man's boredom really is another's intellectual stimulation.