Friday, July 20, 2012

Catching up

So what's been happening...

Diablo 3...Didn't last as long as I'd hoped, lets be honest. The myriad issues have been widely documented so no real need to go into them too much here.  I ultimately lost the desire to finish Inferno with the feeling of playing the game becoming indistinguishable from a bot and leveling alts was too repetitive in the end.

With both a Monk and Barbarian around the mid 30s slogging through Nightmare in order to do Hell in order to do Inferno felt like a chore in to be undertaken before the good stuff.  Hardcore mode was a bit of a non-starter with the way my characters would nearly always die upon its first encountering an enemy each session due to the game freezing as everything belatedly loaded from Blizzard's servers.  There was nothing to do about this and the game is clearly quite badly optimised in this regard.  I could go on about the Auction House (its not pvp or pve its pv-ah) the immersion breaking disconnect between what happens on screen visually and the hit detection, the laughable storyline, Bliz admitting that there's no endgame, Inferno mob affixes (immune? the last bastion of the creatively bankrupt dev) the underwhelming loot yadda yadda...

Lets say it was a disappointment.  However looking at my characters i seem to have a good 150hrs of time played so from that respect i must have got my money's worth and like any single player game, once you've had your fun its time to move on.

So it didn't bridge the gap to Guild Wars 2 sadly.  I pre-ordered rather than pre-purchased as paying to beta test is not something i personally want to support as acceptable practice.  I'm sort of old-fashioned in imagining that beta is beta rather than an extended product showcase cough, SW:TOR cough... Also although is frustrating to wait i'd rather not spoil too much of the content for myself beforehand.

The way i'm determined to play the game is to take my time with it, slowly discover everything and explore.  No need to rush to max level.  Also if its a 'three monther' that's just fine.  Its free to play and three months will be more than i got from D3 for the cost of the box price.

In the meantime for my gaming fixes the Steam Summer sale conveniently started and provided me with Portal 2 for £4 and Trine 2 for £3 both of which are of course very good and worth a bit of blogging about separately.

I also rescued my Wow account and reconnected it to Battlenet and took advantage of the 7 day free Cataclysm trial to mess around with a few alts.  I'm in two minds whether to buy a month's sub for to carry me over to GW2 I don't really fancy buying both expansions at this point in time though having left Wow previously shortly before Cata hit.

I suppose i should also say what happened to Eve and Rift so that this blog's stories connect up.

Lastly and obviously can't say too much about this due to the NDA i got in to the End of Nations closed beta this weekend.  Having missed playing a good RTS not going by the name of Starcraft really since the days of Total Annihilation this caught my interest as its published by Trion (although developed by Petroglyph) and although no longer playing Rift i have no bad words to say about them and would happily recommend Rift to others.  I downloaded and patched up and had a quick play of the tutorial and will endevour to play some more over the weekend.  As mentioned above I will indeed attempt to beta test it ;)

Anyway, there you go... a gaming life.  I don't think i'm a natural blogger which explains the frequency of postings.  I don't feel the need to form and expound an opinion on every issue of the day, i much prefer to read other's.  But now and then i have a few half formed opinions buzzing around that i would like to write down and formulate so i think this is basically how this blog will go.  Its a cathartic thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Eve, again

I've dipped in and out of Eve over the years. My most successful attempt to 'get into' the game occured last year where i dabbled in several different features, learned an awful lot and finally felt like i was over the 'hump' .

I set myself a challenge to make the game free to play. Eve is a subscription based MMO, but it uses a 'plex' system where players can buy game time with in-world ISK. This Pilot's License Extension can also be traded on the markets like any other product and thus has steady but fluctuating value. Current prices are around 5-600million isk.

Players both buy the plex with real world money and trade it for isk, as well as buy plexes with isk instead of using real world money and the system suits both those who are time rich but real world money poor and those monetarily rich in real life, lacking the time to invest in Eve but still desirous get most out of their gaming experience.

Given my goal, you might be thinking a legimate question right now, If i don't want to pay a sub, and want to make it instead free to play and all my efforts are towards that end, would it not be simpler to not play at all?

Well, i guess that was my conclusion when i stopped playing before. But i think this also happened for other more important reasons than the game not being interesting and fun in and of itself. Making isk in Eve is a measure of success for most players. Even if your primary focus is pvp, to be successful in that you have to fund your activities somehow. And i believe that it takes a lot of skill and craft to make pvp profitable on its own. Many players fund their pvp sorties with mission running, ratting, industry etc and see this as a good trade off for their fun.

For me, i have less interest in pvp, so defining my success by the amount of isk i can make feels like a legimate goal and being rich enough to buy plex with isk rather than real world money is a signifier of achieving this.

In my dabbles of yesteryear I didn't really commit to any one project and i think that contributed to letting my sub lapse before achieving my goal. My most successful endeavors probably came from tech 1 level production, namely heavy missiles. It was easy to produce the missiles with a reasonable margin by shopping around locally for ores, putting sell orders in Jita, then reinvesting the proceeds, producing larger and larger batches of missiles.

I attempted to use multiple production lines and to refine the number of runs (a two week run left too much money tied up in product) but i didn't really achieve a satisfactory equilibrium. I was also aware that there was more money in tech 2 production but only briefly dabbled again tech 2 blueprint invention and research.

One of the limitations was also the time spent hunting for cheaper ore and fitting the whole logistics around how much would fit into my hauler. For instance, inevitably the weight of ore needed to make the number of missiles that filled my hauler was greater than its capacity.

I will probably use this again as a secondary income source, especially as my production skills are mostly all maxed out at level 5, but i have recently discovered Planetary Interaction and decided that this will be my focus towards achieving the isk/month that will buy my first plex. The numbers have been plugged in, alts have been coerced, skill trained and created and i believe PI will provide enough passive income as well as occupying a satisfactory middle ground between the paranoid ennui of mining and the investment heaviness of Manufacturing.

And PI and how i fare with it will be the subject of my next post.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vlog 1.0 and being a Mercenary.

Sooo what have i been up to?

Well, usually i see reason to blog through my own experience rather than weighing in with my own view on the issue of the day in the blogosphere, (the reason why i'll never been a prolific blogger i guess) and recently there's just not been much to say. I suppose contentment breeds complacency other something...

Having tried and failed to enjoy Sw:ToR, Rift satiated my MMO needs and i've felt no desire to resub.

I've applied, along with 1 million + others to the Guild Wars 2 closed beta. The recent press closed beta and the videos i've seen from it do look amazing and its gone back to the game i'm most looking forward to this year.

I can see a large proportion of Rift's PVP playerbase leaving to play GW2's World v. World, server vs. server pvp system. With its ongoing struggle, actions achieving consequences that last beyond one instanced warfront and sieges, weapons and all the other goodies Rift player's have been asking from Trion, well its enough to turn even me into a hardcore pvper.

Talking of PVP patch 1.7 reorganised Rift's PVP ranks into 1-40 instead of 1-8 (remind anyone of a certain Galaxy far, far away?), pushed the level of the first pvp set up, implemented some bolstering, attempted to group warfronts into brackets where possible and most controversially introduced the 'mercenary' concept.

Now Rift's matchmaking system for warfronts will, if one side lacks players, place some players from one faction on the opposing faction's team. This is not an opt in or out system which is where most of the controversy arises with many forum threads from irate players stating that should they be merced, they would make no effort, would afk or take the deserter debuff rather than play for the filthy Defiant/Guardian (Delete as appropriate) faction scum.

I can see some RP reasons for this, especially on RP servers and for anyone who takes their RP seriously i think they have some valid objections. However i believe Trion have looked at their metrics and concluded that any opt out could become too widespread and would negate the effect of the mercenary system on queue times, which they (and i) believe are what matters to players most.

And queue times have gone down, there is no doubt of that. What's more there is the added bonus, and bonus is the right word i think, of being able to pew pew down players from your own faction. Maybe its just me, but I know no level 50 Guardian players by name. Maybe i don't pvp enough to recognise regular opposition players, but i do know of a fair amount of Defiant players on my server, either by reputation or some interaction and the chance to focus them down has been great fun. This system also of course could find you fighting your own guildies too, bringing added spice to the warfront for sure.

So I think everyone will have their own view on the mercenary system based on what's most important to them. For me, faction RP and lore don't really feature heavily in my enjoyment of Rift. To say the lore is weak is not true, its just simply easily avoidable. Its there if you want to get into it.

In the end, i just want to get straight to throwing fireballs in other players faces and get my daily warfront done and if queues are <1minute, then thats all good for me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On still not playing SW:TOR

I left a long enough reply here on Raging Monkey's that i'll just link to it rather than regurgitate it here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On not playing SW:TOR

Well, zero motivation to log in and play SW:TOR today. I actually missed Rift to be honest.

Maybe its exacerbated by playing it virtually solo which is making it feel very much as Gordon from We flySpitfires puts it: "Mass Effect combined with a MMO from 2007."

I started to lose a little interest in the Sith Inquisitor's storyline around Dromund Kaas too. Perhaps it doesn't help that the conversation option of 'And i should give a crap, why?' is so freely available with quest givers. I'm roleplaying that i don't care! Go me! how awesome... oh wait...I actually don't care?

Its like some kind of meta level of 'kill ten rats' quest irony...we know you don't care why, now you get to say you don't care, but then do it anyway! This, in MMOs, is taken as progress. (Okay you can choose to refuse the quest and do something else for the xp, like say, killing ten rats....)

Even a game that impressed me so much as Skyrim i can go a few days in between plays. Some times I'll go long enough between plays that the thread eventually snaps like it did in ME2 and i'll forget the story and any enjoyment i was having with it. It will end up on my list of games that I keep meaning to finish but know I will never actually get around to. Certainly wondering if the same will happen here.

So feeling a little like i may have wasted my money to be honest.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On SW:TOR - PVP, Crafting and a smidge of Bounty Hunting

My Sith Inquisitor reached level 10 and off i hopped to the new zone eager to try out the crafting systems and PVP in this game.

Before that though, I answered the question of whether the two group quests were infact soloable, the answer being yes, just. It is also possible to skip these entirely, continue with solo quests and still reach level 10 and be on your way to the next destination if you prefer to. It definitely would have been more fun to group of course but with a companion in tow it definitely isn't 'forced' group content.

I initially picked Treasure Hunting for my first 'Crew Skill' which saw my companion bring back a companion benefit (bit suspicious that). I started to skill up Synthweaving with Archeology and realised that i also needed Shadowsilk to progress to the next recipes so I dropped Treasure Hunting for Underworld Trading which will supply it.

Reverse Engineering works similarly to disenchanting or salvaging in other MMOs, returning materials but also giving the chance for blue recipes from REing greens, and Purples from REing blues. I have only created blues so far, with each piece containing an additional stat to the green version. I don't have an excess of blues to RE yet but it seems to be well worth doing so far.

Its an interesting dynamic to have your companion(s) do your crafting for you. The early recipes take about a minute to craft and can be queued up to fuve times. The mission style material retrieving Crew Skills are taking 3 minutes which is time enough to make a cup of tea but not really much of a strategic decision as yet. Remembering to queue something before a Warzone pops being about as strat happy as I've managed so far on that. Once recipes start taking a number of hours then there will be decisions to make if you're also intending to do leveling content at the same time.

Having watched TotalBiscuit's videos of pvp in SW:TOR I have to agree that it really is a lot of fun. It did help that in my first Warzone I topped the damage and kill totals as the lowest level player on my team (smug grin), but even in the second which was more balanced and the third where i was mostly getting owned it was all great fun.

Players do seem to have more health in SW than Rift which at least at this level means no one was getting 1 or 2 shot. I was feeling rather ineffective at times. One of my key skills 'Force Lightning' barely scratching some players but i definitely prefer this to the inevitable whining about OP abilities which would be much more apparent in Rift.

There's plenty of tactics to play with. The key confrontation for me being in trying to maintain distance on a Jedi Warrior by using knockbacks, stuns and slows and yes ,the old MMO PVP run around your opponent in circles is very much alive here.

So a big thumbs up to PVP so far.

I also managed to solo the first Flashpoint all the way to the last 'boss' (yes, if i can solo anything, then i will...) My meatshield companion couldn't take the damage from one of his attacks very well and combined with adds that took a bit of killing on their own I couldn't whittle his health below about 10%. I might have to admit defeat and drag my absent friend into this, or perhaps level past it a little and come back.

I also started on a Bounty Hunter up to about level 5. Initial impressions are that the blaster combat is also good fun and the storyline took a nice early twist. There's also plenty of opportunity for 'saying you did when you didn't' until my nose got extra long and pointy.

I still logged Rift today to knock out the two Kelari Expedition dailies which took all of 10 minutes. I may perhaps be turning into a 'Raidlogger'.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On umm.. yeah SW:TOR

So.. yeah, that bit about not playing SW:TOR....

After 'pre'-ordering it last night i received an email at 8pm tonight granting my pre-release access. Not bad really as I wasn't expecting to be in all that long before the 20th given the belatedness of my pre-ordering.

The download itself was fairly painless. The download speed from the servers was faster than it was actually stating and I have it installed on PC and laptop after a day of afking/Skyriming.

Perhaps rather portentously the email arrived while I was logged into Rift completing the PVP quests for the nth time, laughing that i was receiving credit for closing PVP Rifts by being somewhere in their proximity while not PVP flagged and in general going through the motions, mowing down Stilmoor mobs without too much thought.

Friday nights can be a little quiet, for various reasons, but Rift did feel a little too eerily quiet. And so with the choice of same old, same old in Rift or the new Shiny thing. I chose the Shiny.

Now I have no real expectations for this game. A big reason that I am playing it at all is not to lose contact with a good friend and I promised to level up with him. I otherwise would have happily let it pass me by and waited for Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3. But i have to admit that the opening cinematic was very impressive, getting me in a Star Warsy mood which to be honest, I had totally forgotten, it being several years since i watched any of the films.

So yes, not a Star Wars fangirl. Not a Bioware freak (Mass Effect 2 was fun, but i haven't finished it) Not particularly itching for another Wowalike hotkeyed mmo....

But i gotta say. Its pretty good.

The Good.

The cutscenes had me laughing, cringing, pondering... just basically giving a crap... Very refreshing. I played my Sith Inquisitor as a Captain Sarcasmo type and there was plenty of oportunity for that. Having watched Husky Starcraft play through the same zone, i chose a few different dialogue choices and was pleased with the results. I think ultimately if this game gives me the chance to level one of each class and provides interesting and varied enough story lines for each, then I'd be happy enough with that. I don't have any expectations for endgame or for much longevity beyond that.

The Combat.

Most mobs are connected to several others, so pulling one will usually pull two or three more, resulting in a rather more interesting combat than i was expecting. This is a great idea from Bioware, making the player feel epic and powerful from the start in a very Star warsy (i'm making this a word) kind of way.
My Inquisitor received three initial abilities and a buff and had reached seven when i logged off at level 6. Initially it did seem a little confusing which was which, but things started to come together quite quickly with a hugely enjoyable stun that sends all mobs flying allowing you to get some quick hits in before they recover.

Instanced content.

This works quite well with seamless transition into solo areas containing certain scenes of dialogue or combat. This does solve some of the issues of overcrowding in the starting area and competition for mobs.

Its intuitive and slick.

If you've played other MMOs then you'll pick this up in no time. The map icons are a little different, but the UI isn't as horrible to use as i first imagined. With the general chat in the top left hand corner, its actually easier to ignore which is both a good and a bad thing...

The Bad.

Some of these are very minor like the initial mouse sensitively which is rather high and i haven't found a slider to turn it down (Its not where it most likely should be at least).

It could be the most solo friendly MMO yet. And yes i put this under a bad thing because for those 6 levels other players were nothing but a possible inconvenience to me. In swapping between instanced areas and open world content my reactions were one of relaxing and basically preferring the instanced area, in the same way i enjoy the Chronicles in Rift or soloing old dungeons in Wow.

The was no incentive to interact with anyone else other than seeing a few pleas in General chat of LFG for xxx quest which seemed quite common for two quests in particular. I'll be interested to see if they are in fact soloable when i get to them.

But coming to this game like so many conditioned by Wow and Rift and the normal single player leveling experience i wonder if I will make any kind of connection with anyone whilst leveling or whether the only possibility will be to jump into a random guild and hope for the best.

However, my overall impression is of pleasant surprise. I'm looking forward to the PVP which does look to be good fun. I hope it doesn't have the same issues that fundamentally broke the PVP in Rift. What this means for my Rift time now, I'm not so sure. I'd still like to raid and down all the bosses in Hammerknell but as Star wars and Christmas take twin shots at our raiding numbers, whether it recovers and sees players returning after this inevitable dip only time will tell.


Doesn't work at all on the laptop (dual core 2gigish, no special graphics card) Can't rotate the mouse, zoom or move... I'll put this in the Bad. But also admit, it was a long shot..