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.