Thursday 22 March 2012

Stuff I've been doing

OK sorry for slow posting, it was D Day in the whole epic life changing malarkey so had other priorities :P For now here's just a brief catch up on gaming stuff...

I went on to Warhammer Online again a little bit. Credit where credits due, it was better than that first night from my recent post. Yet everything I said still stands true. It was better because I stayed grouped all night, remained in the one zone that had fighting in, didn't do many scenarios and crucially because I stayed on my highest RR character all night. Don't get me wrong, I maybe banging on about the gear/RR issues (and they are pivotal to gaining/retaining new subscribers), but the list of issues with WAR is very long.

Yet despite me knowing it's probably beyond salvage, for some strange reason I still hold an inkling of hope for WAR's future. I honestly can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe I'm should drink less.

In other news... I've just got into a very interesting Alpha test, though not sure about the NDA yet. Will confirm and comment if possible ASAP. The big surprise however has been Neverwinter Nights 2. I'm not sure who had the idea, but a bunch of my KF cronies and I have been playing multiplayer campaigns on NWN2 and it's been great fun. Pure PvE, yet a pleasant distraction.

On the PvP front other than a little WAR, it's just been Tribes: Ascend for me lately. Still enjoying that. Plus I'm going to be trying out a persistent world PvP mod for Mount & Blade: Warband. I'm hearing very good things about the mod in question. Info on that once I've actually played it of course.

Oh and I forgot to say, since I had a few comments on this blog and some interesting messages sent to me elsewhere... I will expand on that idea from my previous post about how to make stats and progression work in a competitive MMO. Soon.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Return to WAR no.3

Earlier this week I activated my 2 weeks free return to WAR. I was bored and a little curious to see how things were these days. First impressions were not great….

ORvR lakes were far quieter than when I used to play. Sure there was some action and I did have a little fun and got a few kills, but the lower population was pretty evident. It’s a shame it took so long for the forts to get sorted out, because today there are quite simply not enough players for them to be of any interest. WAR is most certainly not everywhere.

Also obvious was the gear gap. The relation between Renown Rank differences and time to kill is absolutely horrific and unchanged from when most of us quit before. As an occasional WAR forum lurker, it is amusing to see people constantly bragging of player skill when they are all so carried by gear. Though I guess it’s hard for people to be objective when they’re so close to something, especially when it’s giving them huge bonuses. Anyway, I tried out a few of my characters that have a range of renown ranks and the difference between them is frankly ridiculous.

I will log on at least a few more times to get a more complete picture of the state of ORvR on Karak Norn and perhaps it will prove to have just been an off night.

Scenarios were horrible. I knew it would be bad, I’d seen people talking about it being nothing but RR90-100 premades these days and yeah, they were right. This is of course fine when it’s premade vs premade and if gear is less relevant, but alas WAR is neither of those things. As such the scenario scene will be an unpleasant experience for the majority of returning or new players in Tier 4. Epeen bollocks about L2P and people deserving their power because of time played is just na├»ve nonsense, that kind of thinking does nothing to retain (let alone gain) subscribers. Which is evidenced by the situation WAR finds itself in.

So far this 3rd return to WAR hasn’t done much to change my opinion of where the game is right now. There are things in the pipeline to address the balance problems, but I’m not convinced they will be enough and even if they are I doubt they will arrive soon enough to do much. The fundamental issues with WAR (aside from the factions) is that it is no longer a competitive game. An RvR game has to be competitive or it will alienate new potential subscribers.

If I could have my way with WAR I would:
  • Remove all stats gains from items and make armour cosmetic only.
  • Give characters a stat pool to distribute amongst their various stats, so players can still customise their play style, but wouldn’t gain more stats through farming gear or playing more than others.
  • Renown rank would unlock the armour options and would also have new abilities linked to it. Sideways progression giving options, not stat power gain.

This is of course too brave and probably impossible to do anyway because of effectively redesigning so much stuff. It would however work and would result in a competitive game where player skill and organisation would be the defining factor in your results.

Monday 12 March 2012

Game IPs, Warhammer 40k, fiction and stuff

OK, this post is a bit of a mental stroll, so we'll see where it goes....

For some of us the theme and intellectual property a game uses is important. It could be something long established like Conan or something specifically created for the game like Mass Effect, but for those of us that care about such things we will want it to be of good quality and to fit with certain personal preferences. We want the game's atmosphere to envelop us and be a pleasant distraction, rather than a constant nagging irritation. A favourite IP well represented can cover a multitude of developer sins.

Myself, I get irritated by three things in particular.

First off there's the everyone's a hero crap. It's amazing how the NPC villages have populations that are lower than even the smallest guild of player controlled "heroes". It's just bloody silly. Plus if 90% of the people in these worlds are us heroes, well... damn we must be shit, because evil just keeps on happening. Now this isn't necessarily the IP at fault here, but it is part of how that IP is presented. It changes what could be a living, breathing world into a bit of a farce and something that just feels a bit weak.

Cutesy stuff like World of Warcraft does my head in with it's comedy gnomes and horrifically half-hearted "we're not evil really" faction. I loathe how meh the Horde are. That said, I do recognise that WoW is aimed at an incredibly broad market and whilst I don't like the way it looks or it's hokey lore, there's no way I can argue against it's popularity. Mass market = mass money.

Which also applies to that other hideousness that makes me to hurl over my monitor; the generic eastern style yawn fest. You know the ones, TERA/Aion, etc with their eastern-style-big-eyes/hair-angel-winged-cyber-emo-punk-goth-anthropomorphic-badger-people-bollocks. Invariably this is accompanied by lazy, generic and just plain dull storylines. It's fantasy by numbers, but it has broad appeal based purely on the aesthetic and it sells to those that do like those themes over other elements. Just like Final Fantasy MCMII and so on.

So whilst I don't like those style of settings, art styles and themes, and yes I can happily slag them off for hours, I'm also sure that their fans can do the same for the things I like. Plus whilst at first it may not seem it, my taste is actually a bit more niche. I like my gameworlds dark, mysterious and threatening. Warhammer and Battletech being prime examples of this; they're fantasy/sci-fi worlds that are gritty and in the fiction are populated by unpleasant, devious bastards. Sure they do have nods to humour here and there, but they're grounded in pure nastiness. However the bit that I really like are the small details, the things that flesh out these fantasy worlds and make them approach feasibility and this is where I realise I'm buggered.

Take Warhammer 40k for example and the upcoming Dark Millennium Online game. Warhammer 40,000 is my favourite setting of any IP in any format and I've made no secret of the fact that I'm looking forward to DMO. As such you might think it's my dream MMORPG in the making. But nope, you'd be wrong. It's all Space Marines, Eldar Aspect Warriors, Titans, big explosions, epic battles and total carnage, which in many ways is great, but actually I think it devalues the mythos attached to Spacemarines to have a bazillion players using one. I would much prefer to see something like Necromunda get made into an MMORPG.

Necromunda is a 40k game that is set within the bowels of a GIANT hive city, it's about gangs of street scum, criminals and those trying to enforce the law in the festering arse of the Imperium. It might not have Spacemarines or Tyranid Hive Tyrants, but we don't need them. Those things are meant to be rare anyway, so make them rare, make them special. I want a taste of the worlds that the Eisenhorn books deliver, worlds that are more than just battlefields for the latest spacemarine yawn-fest. Give me a window into what it's like to live in the Imperium with it's oppressive and violent atmosphere. I don't want to be a hero, I want to claw my way out of the crap and forge my own path, be that hero or villain. I want to be scared of Imperial law. I want to run from the Adeptus Arbrites.  I want to see the shops, homes and workplaces. I want to hear the conversations of people that aren't genetically engineered superhumans. And then I want it to go bat shit crazy as our gangs kick off. I want a sandbox, gang warfare, multi-faction PvP based game in a giant 40k hive world.

Problem is, it's just too niche a desire. Nothing like this will ever get made because it wouldn't have that mass appeal. In my head this idea is dripping with atmosphere and has immense multi-faction PvP potential, but that  just doesn't matter, because most people want their Spacemarine. Which is a shame, because as I mentioned before, books like the Eisenhorn trilogy show you that there's so much more flavour if you focus on the small details and give the reader a bit more chance to sink into your fantasy world. It doesn't have to be all explosions and shouting AVENGE ME BROTHER! every 5 seconds. I'd like to see some games that reflect that.

OK so this post started off about IPs in general and different tastes and then ended up with my ideal way of presenting my favourite IP, which won't ever happen. Bit of an odd post, but there you go.

Friday 9 March 2012

Mechwarrior Online - In game footage

Lots of excellent news for mechwarrior/battletech fans recently. MWO is very much being made as a simulator and looking to be extremely familiar to those of us with mech history. Much of what's on view or being said may not appear to be that much of a big deal to those who haven't played these games before, but believe me, it is all good so far. All very promising for another MW game with great depth and flexibility. I'll talk more about this when I'm not half cut from a night in the pub.

Thursday 8 March 2012

New Warhammer Online website is live

Took a while, but it's finally here and looks fairly good. Most importantly it's actually up to date! Hopefully Mythic will keep on their toes with it and that will help stem off some of the "dropped game" perception within the general MMO community. A little bit anyway. Hopefully 1.4.6 can arrive sooner than the normal patch cycle and we might get a little bit of positivity going. Maybe anyway :P

Planetside 2 gameplay videos

OK so some lovely person has put loads of vids on youtube from the Planetside 2 presentation at GDC. Lots of in-game footage and explanations.

These videos may explain why it's Planetside 2 I'm looking forward to far more than Guild Wars 2...

Vehicle pad and flight video with accelerated day/night schedule

Direct link

Outdoor battles, all sorts of carnage


Tanks, infantry, Galaxy transport :) , customising inventory, etc, etc


Campaign map, more infantry stuff, base capture, stats, guilds, etc.


Ground stuff, not much action in it but shows the style of some buildings, etc.


Some nice screenies here too.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

A mixture of hope and apathy

At the moment I’m kind of adrift on an uninspiring sea of MMORPGs. There’s no siren call strong enough to tempt me into paying a subscription fee, I’m just not finding anything particularly alluring. Too much of the same old same old I suppose. So instead I’m just fiddling about with single player and F2P stuff, whilst I wait for one of the more interesting online games on the horizon.

As always I am tempted to return to EVE, but also as always, it’s just not life style friendly enough for me and my regular AFKing. Alas, I can’t see me being able to play EVE the way I would like to anytime soon. Though it’s probably a positive thing that real life prevents me from doing so, as I know EVE can devour you like a Sarlacc with the munchies. For now I’m mainly playing Star Trek Online. Just nipping on for an hour here and there to play through episodes or missions and set my next batch of Duty Officer assignments running. It’s free to play, quite engaging and I’ve always had a soft spot for STO. That said, the game won’t ever be my long term MMO love affair, but is more of a regular casual flirtation, perhaps with the occasional tongue. Flashing eyes across the office, the odd late night drinking session, but not quite worth a divorce.

Oh, I've downloaded RIFT again and will dick about the free 1-20 bit. Not logged in yet.
The only other online game I’m playing at the moment is Tribes: Ascend. It’s free to play, the cash shop is not essential and most importantly, it’s fun. This reimagining of the classic Tribes 1 and 2 is getting better and better and I recommend people try it out. Just be warned that it is not like your normal online shooters. It’s MUCH faster and you have to learn to lead your shots a lot more than normal. It’s all about predicting people’s movement and it can take some getting used to. Anyway, it’s a good game and recommended.

At some point soon I will be making use of my 2 weeks free in both WAR and DAoC, but I doubt very much I would subscribe to either in the near future. Obviously I’m a fan of both games, or at least what they once were, it’s just that WAR would really need to do quite a lot to make up for the Wrath of Heroes disappointment. The less said about that the better. Actually, as I write this I’m changing my mind slightly regarding DAoC. There is a bit more chance that DAoC could persuade me to take up a month’s subscription. It did grab me last year, surprising me how well so many things still played and looked. I swear if that game had a decent UI update it could see a reasonable resurgence.

Aside from those retro distractions, for me it’s all about the upcoming games; Planetside 2 and Mechwarrior Online. There’s a load more Planetside 2 news appeared in the last couple of days, which I’ll gather up and post about soon. Mechwarrior is continuing to drip feed news at a slow steady rate, though we’re still waiting to see some in-game footage. I hear we may see something soon however. Mechwarrior isn’t a MMO of course, but this blog is about stuff that interest me, so meh whatever. Oh and Hawken looks great. Me like mechs.

Elsewhere, I’m not totally writing off Funcom’s “The Secret World”, yet I don’t find myself particularly caring about it either way. To be honest I’m not quite sure why. Despite my many misgivings regarding Funcom, I do like what they try to do and certainly TSW has many features that tick my boxes. My apathy confuses me slightly. If I don’t get on the beta then I doubt I will try it until well after launch.

And on the subject of apathy… If for a moment I take off my Hat of Trolling+3, yes Guild Wars 2 has much potential and does look like some serious PvP goodness. That doesn’t change the fact that it will never be a game I get excited about and I still find it hard to motivate myself to write about it, but it’s certainly one I would like to see realise its PvP potential. Obviously Kill Frenzy and I will try it out.

Hopefully sometime soon we’ll start to get more news on Dark Millennium Online and World of Darkness. Both games are perceived as being on rather rough seas, what with the challenges faced by THQ and CCP, but I guess we just have to wait and see what news arrives. I still have high hopes for both games, purely due to their settings. Actually that’s not true. I have some confidence in CCP to deliver something interesting and hopefully sandboxy. Plus THQ have some excellent 40k games in their stable, so we know they’ll do the 40k universe credit when it comes to atmosphere at least.

I think that’s it for major MMOs of interest to me, can’t think of anything else. There are a few small games I have an eye on, but they’ll get posts of their own at some point. Oh and for the record, Diablo 3 I’m indifferent to and World of Warcraft Panda bear stuff just doesn’t work for me. Sorry Blizzard, as if you care lol :D

Tuesday 6 March 2012

SWTOR 1.2 patch trailer

And basically it's lots of cool little things that are standard fare in many other games.

New raid and a warzone too, so that's some proper new content.

I hear that there is a redesign of Ilum happening. Alas I suspect that will be doomed to failure because of SWTOR's fundamental problems with it's two factions. Ilum itself can of course be dramatically improved, but I just can't see how they can fix the monumental faction imbalance and suddenly have loads of people wanting to play the boy scout republic dullness. Even if they put faction based population caps (instead of the ri-cock-ulous zone based one they implemented before), that will just mean many folks from the overpopulated side end up PvEing the PvP zone.

Anyway, it's perhaps foolish for me to focus on the PvP issues of SWTOR. It is after all designed primarily as  a PvE experience and on that front the 1.2 patch is looking reasonable I guess. It's not quite at the level of RIFT's content updates, but it should be enough to keep people interested.

Trion release a 2011 review + looking to 2012 video

And it's worth a look.

I was planning on checking out RIFT again at some point this year, it's just such a well made game and I do like the way Trion do things. No doubt will be a temporary dabble when I do though.

Monday 5 March 2012

In between my F2P dabblings I have been Minecrafting

Not exactly OMG amazing or anything, but it takes a lot of gathering materials and some careful building when you're doing it all with vanilla survival mode. Lots of perilous balancing on things... And damn I had some bastard Creeper moments to deal with...

Click me and I get bigger.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Saturday 3 March 2012

STO - Cryptic looking at adding a third faction and maybe a fourth

Dan Stahl, Cryptic's Executive Producer for Star Trek Online, has posted up the latest Ask Cryptic article where he replies to a range of player submitted questions. Despite there being a lot of the "promising but non-committal" answers that game developers tend to give, it is well worth a read and gives a bit of insight into future plans. Certainly Dan is promising a focus on adding new content, but the quotes I'm most interested in are these:

Q: (WazzaG) When will we see a Romulan Faction? I always read answers along the lines of “when the KDF has more content.” When will they have enough content so you can then launch a Romulan faction?
Dstahl: This is the number one long-term question on my mind and something I’m working directly with Jack (Cryptic’s CEO) and Perfect World to address. While I can’t give you a date, one of my goals in returning to Star Trek Online is to address this very issue.

Q: (KeithCrimson) When do we get to play as a Cardassian?
Dstahl: We’ve been holding off on having playable Cardassians and Romulans for the time being as we envision having a complete faction devoted to these races. That is the only reason we haven’t added them as playable species in the game yet. They are reserved for future expansions. That said, depending on what our timeline is for future expansions, we haven’t ruled out the possibility of having a few Cardassians or Romulans appear in Fed/Kdf ranks. So this is very TBD still.

OK so clearly it's not going to happen anytime soon, but it does sound like it will happen. Particularly the Romulans if that's the number one thing on their minds right now. Now, bare in mind STO is not a RvR game and as such a third faction would not turn it into DAoC in space, but aside from the obvious PvE additions and masses of new content, it would open up more PvP options. Plus it would sure make a lot of people very happy and be one hell of a news headline for the game. New factions are big media hype news, Romulan ships look cool, things that look cool and have media hype will attract players. And that's without considering the attraction for Trekkies.

STO has exploded in popularity since it went F2P, on a couple of occasions I've even had to queue to log in (not for long thankfully) and from what I see in game it looks like their cash shop is very successful. Everything in the cash shop can be earned without paying real money, since you can convert in-game currency "dilithium" into Cryptic Points to spend in the store, but that takes time to earn and it's pretty clear people are putting money in to get stuff quickly. Which is all good for STO and only increases the likelihood of Cryptic being able to introduce major expansions.

This is purely a personal opinion, but I suspect we will see an announcement of a playable Romulan expansion for STO being made around the Summer of 2012. Followed by a series of episodes related to it over the following months, then see it going into beta on tribble in December and going live Jan/Feb 2013. He says, speculating hopelessly :P

Thursday 1 March 2012

WAR dev on a right question roll

Keaven is on a mission it seems. Another dev discussion post and this one has yet more sensible ideas to suggest.

Wanted to start a new thread to consolidate discussions on gameplay enhancements/updates for things not necessarily part of the campaign, and not dealing with scenarios. Some things that fall into this category are...

  • PvE Gear Revitalization
  • Addition of new gear pieces to close RvR Gear Gap
  • PQ / Lair / Dungeon Revitalization
  • Talisman Charges/Refill mechanic

This won’t necessarily be for any one patch in particular, but will help focus our efforts over the next few patch cycles.

Uhm wow? Potentially more gear gap fixes, making PvE content relevant again and a change to the bugged yet flawed concept of talisman charges.

2 days in a row with talk from Mythic that I am liking. Keep it up chaps!

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Half man half pixel. Music obsessive, likes a drink, occasional bastard.