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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

League of Legends: The Worst of the Tribunal

Posted by Paragus1 Monday June 3 2013 at 12:35PM
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League of Legends: The Worst of the Tribunal


At the end of a night of playing League of Legends ranked solo queue, when you are alone in the dark trying to drink away the memories of the all the troll games you had that left your dreams of climbing the ladder shattered into a million pieces, it's only natural to want to find some sliver of comfort.  That moment when you realize that you would have been better off not playing at all today and you are staring the the bottom of your now empty glass of booze, where else can you turn but the Tribunal to find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  The good news, if any, is that the Tribunal will affirm that you are indeed not alone.  The bad news is that it is a look deep into the rabbit hole that is the worst community for any game in history.  It's not an easy look, but a horrifying look at the worst of humanity manifesting itself in digital form.



A consider myself a fairly avid user of the Tribunal.   I've reviewed over 600 cases and contrary to what many people do, I actually read them.  You don't need to look far into the case files of any given day to see something hilarious or horrific (depending on your point of view).  Today I am dedicating this blog to showcasing some of the best and worst things I've come across.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, than this blog entry will speak volumes.

Let me preface this by saying that I actually do enjoy League of Legends as a game, and this is not a bash against the game.  I am just spotlighting the toxicity of what many believe is one of the worst communities in existence for any video game.

WARNING!  The following pictures will contain graphics and offensive language!   Proceed at your own risk!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well I hope you have enjoyed this look into the depths of human scum.  There goes a saying..."Don't hate the player, hate the game"  I'm fairly sure whoever said that has obviously never played League of Legends.

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Thoughts on Darkfall: Unholy Wars

Posted by Paragus1 Monday May 13 2013 at 12:51PM
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Thoughts on Darkfall: Unholy Wars

Ever since the delayed and eventual release of Darkfall: Unholy Wars, I've been contacted by several members of the community asking about my thoughts on the new version of the game given how much I covered the original.  I haven't written a real "review" of the game at this point for several reasons.  The first being that I haven't had much time in general to write with how busy work has been for me (I tend to do a lot of my blog posts when work is slow), and I have been focusing less on my blog here and a bit more on my Twitch TV.   The second reason I haven't written about the release is that I am not currently playing it.  The extended delay of the game basically decimated my guilds entire recruitment effort and personally I don't find myself on MMO footing as of late.   That being said, I finally have some time to breath here at work, so I decided to throw together just some of my thoughts on the new Darkfall.   I don't really call this a review since I have not played since the end of the beta, but I will touch on what I feel are some of the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of Darkfall Unholy Wars.

The Good

There's a few notable areas where Unholy Wars shines over the original Darkfall, so let's start by pointing out some the improvements over the original Darkfall.

The new Prowess System is by far the best single change in Unholy Wars that improves the game in a variety of ways.   Basically the system acts much like advancement system of old Asheron's Call 1.   Players earn prowess (experience) by killing monsters and harvesting, these points are then spent on raising various skills to improve your character in the areas of your choosing.  This helps crush the entire AFK macroing culture that plagued the original so badly.  Players are actually rewarded for playing the game and advance in a meaningful way by doing so.  Overall this is probably the single best change to the game.


The feat system basically supplements the prowess system.   The good thing about the feat system is that it rewards players for completing certain goals and milestones.  I like to think of feats as achievements or a passive questing system that rewards chunks of prowess for the completion of a wide range of activities such as killing monsters, harvesting, and even exploring.  It helps give new players some direction, which was a common complaint I've heard from friends who came from theme-park MMOs regarding the original game.



The exploring aspect of the game is actually rewarding when factored along with the feat system and the new map.   The new map is another change to the game that I found very interesting.  Basically the map is covered in a dark fog of war that lights up various areas only when you personally travel through them.  The good thing about this is that built into the map is the ability to toggle on and off locations of monster spawns, wilderness banks, and other points of interest which are automatically shown.   Old Darkfall players were probably very used to having to rely on going to some popular community websites on a regular basis to access this information, so having it built right into the game is a convenience.

The Bad

Like every game out there, Unholy Wars does have some issues.  To me I think some one of the biggest problems with the game is not so much what is in the game, but what is not in the game.   Obviously with the delay and lengthy beta, most people following the game figured out that Aventurine was obviously running behind schedule on their timeline to releasing the game.  This is glaring obvious by a lack of features that were supposed to be in the game and are not.



Class roles is one of the big ones.   The majority of them are not in the game, and the ones that are in the game still could use some balancing.   There is enough in the game for the game to be playable and enjoyable, but having a lot more in at launch would have been better.

Dungeons are still not in the game.  They are coming soon according to Aventurine, but the community was told a long time ago that most of them were done.   During the beta some "creative" players were able to access them by using various shady methods, but I feel that not letting everyone access them during the lengthy beta was a wasted opportunity to have the content tested properly.  The beta has definitely shown that the community is far better at putting features through the Q&A ringer a lot better then the AV dev team.  The lack of dungeons also falls into a larger content problem where players are looking for some other things to do in game besides grind out their characters and look for random fights.

The Market is another key feature that is missing and is promised to come soon.   Darkfall has always badly needed a real economy tool.   This is critical because not only does it help build an in-game economy, but it also offers another way to play the game for people who would rather focus on being traders instead of player killers.

The good news is that all of the above are things that can be added and are planned to be put in in the near term according to AV.  The bad news is most know AV's ability to meet their own stated deadlines is not the best.   Whether these issues ultimately drag the game down hinges on their ability to patch these things into the game in a timely manner.

The Ugly

I reserved this section to rant about one thing aspect of Unholy Wars that is just a mess to me, the User Interface.   It's common knowledge that the UI from the original Darkfall was not the most user-friendly and could have used improvement in some areas. After a lengthy redesign of the games UI, we now have a UI that is equally bad if not worse in many ways from that of the original.  I think I can understand where they were going with it, but at the same time I am baffled.   I really want to know what the hell the guy who came up with this mess was thinking, and if he still has a job, why is he still employed?

The Darkfall: Unholy Wars UI is probably the second worse user interface I've personally encountered in an MMO, only being best by FFXI.  The chat interface is a complete abomination and a step backwards in almost every measurable way from the original Darkfall.   The original allowed me to to resize each chat to the size of my choice and place it anywhere on the screen of my choice.  What we have now is a chat hard locked into a spot that I can't move, and can't be resized the way I want it.  It just completely clunky and lacking in customization that every other MMO in the last decade allows a user to do, including the previous game!   How we went from that to this honestly is mind boggling to me, and makes me think that whoever designed it not only did not play the original Darkfall, but probably never played a modern MMO.


The inventory system is another complete mess.  Instead of allowing players to see the entirety of their items on the screen at the same time, we are instead given a single thin row of items that has to be scrolled off the side of the screen.   Now honestly, the system in DF1 was messy and had it's faults, but the current system again turn a blind eye to every innovation made in inventoty management going all the way back to the original Everquest.  If they were insistant on getting rid of the jumbled backpack approach from the original game, wouldn't a grid make more sense?   The frustration with this system gets compounded by the fact that it is used for your bank as well, making managing and moving your items around a complete chore.



The entire hotbar system as been thrown out the window and now been replaced with a radial wheel system for using your abilities.   That's a clever idea I guess, but why?   The problem with the original Darkfall was that there were too many abilities and not enough hotbar space for them.  The new class system means you have less abilities to manage, which helps this issue a little, but again I'm sitting here scratching my head.  I found the radial wheel system unintuitive and an overcomplicated way to solve a problem that was figured out a decade ago when someone decided to add extra hotbars to the UI to accommodate players.  You can and will probably adapt to all of this over time, but I could probably get used to eating shit sandwiches, it doesn't make it a good idea.

The good news is that I'm not saying anything here that AV has not received in feedback from their players and testers already, and they claim to be working on UI enhancements to improve the player experience.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, despite it's flaws Darkfall: Unholy Wars is probably the best MMO experience in the marketplace right now.   It's one of the few games bold enough to deviate from the worn out theme-park linear quest-hub grinder formula that's killing this genre like a cancer.  Factor in that it also offers an open and seamless world with FFA PvP and full loot, and the experience it serves up is one that you will not find anywhere else.

Will it have staying power? Honestly I don't know. The fate of this game is going to be based on AV's ability to get the missing features and content into the game in a timely manner.   There is enough in the game right now to entertain for a little while as people want to establish their guilds and develop their characters and such.  But to have and hold staying power for all but the most hardcore players, AV will need to put the missing pieces into the game before people lose interest.  You may better off waiting to see what happens if you are concerned.  One the other hand, if they manage to deliver on the promised content in a timely manner, the game should be able to survive and retain people to offer MMO players a much needed alternative way to play an MMO.

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition

 

Darkfall Unholy Wars: The Delay...

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday December 12 2012 at 12:47PM
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Darkfall Unholy Wars: The Delay...

Last night the Darkfall community broke out into a virtual prison riot after the announcement from Tasos that once again the launch of the new Darkfall has yet again been delayed.   While people who follow Darkfall and are familiar with Aventurine in general are no strangers to delays, this one stung particularly bad given the timing in relation to the expected launch of the game. When I sat down at my computer last night after work, I read the news as it was posted and all my various instant messaging programs became to go into fits as rage literally spewed all over my desktop and I watched Forumfall go into a complete meltdown.
 


As I sat there in my chair face-palming, I began to wrestle with my own disappointment.   I had a launch editorial for the site here already written and submitted that the staff asked me to do. I had a few friends who had taken off for work, probably foolishly, prepared to hunker down.  I had already had meetings with other clans about launch plans, as well as my own guild members explaining to them what Inquisition's plans would be on launch.  Irate friends began to pile in vent looking for me, as is often the case when AV makes them mad, and an instant message from Tasos himself... "change in plans :( ".

After chatting for a while and expressing my disappointment in the news with him, especially considering the fact it came literally at the 11th hour before launch, I truly believe that AV is doing ultimately what they believe will be the best course of action for the game over the long-term.  After some time processing the news and our conversation, I calmed down and started to really think about whether or not there was some truth to what he said and began to ponder the benefits of the delay.

Obviously finding out at the last possible hour about the delay was an absolutely horrible communication blunder on AV's part.   Any sane and rational person has to admit this, and AV certainly realizes this by their own admission.  It was justifiably received by the community as a slap in the face.  But by the same account, I think any sane and rational person would agree that had the game launched at this time, the likelihood of a repeat of the original Darkfall's launch debacle would have been very high.

The article that I wrote that was to be published on MMORPG.com today talked about what a new Darkfall needs to do in order to be successful.  In light of recent news, it seemed unfitting to publish it today (perhaps it will be published at a later time), but one of my main points is that the launch needs to be better than it was last time.  The launch of your game is the critical moment when you have to make your case to the marketplace as a developer that your game is worth a purchase, and another debacle akin to what happened before could cripple Unholy Wars right out of the gate.

 



The silver-lining I see in all the madness and rage is that Darkfall: Unholy Wars will be beta tested.   Does anyone out there really think that if this game had launched without any real beta test that it would have went well?   Darkfall in its scope is a massive project being handled by a studio that is reaching farther than many of the large developer houses out there.   Those of you who remember the original should also remember the staggering amount of issues and exploits that emerged.  Those of you who remember all of those issues should also remember the damage it did to the game as a whole in terms of population.   Having a real beta test should hopefully help mitigate the chances of these issues crippling the new game out of the gate, because this time AV is going to be hitting a much much larger crowd on launch.

The delay also means that Darkfall's launch day will make a much larger splash because now it will coincide with the game actually being available on Steam the day it goes live.   This is important that people attracted by Steam have the chance to play on day one because the initial days will dictate who the power players are politically in the game moving forward.   I like to think of the initial rush to secure holdings at launch as a setting of the political chess board, and having players join from steam weeks or months after launch could diminish the initial splash as those players enter the game with the political gears already set in stone and being powerless to become their own cog in the machine.

Yes AV's handling of the situation was poor.   Neither us as gamers or they as developers are in denial about this.   Yes, they need to vastly improve aspects of their communication with their loyal community.   But once the rage subsides, I would urge the community to take a step back for a moment and realize how important it is to the MMO genre as a while that this game reaches it's maximum potential.   The MMO landscape for me shows nothing of any real interest on the horizon or even the immediate future.  As we sit here, big MMO developers are in the process of churning out the next big hype train MMO that looks just like the last 5 that came through and burned out in a month.  AV needs this game to succeed because it is their dream, but we as disgruntled MMO players also need this to succeed because we want other companies to know that there is a market worth pursuing in deviating from linear MMOs.   If waiting another few weeks increases the odds, then I think it's probably worth it, because the alternative means more of the same and a floundering genre that looks increasingly boring to me as a veteran gamer.


Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Darkfall Podcast Appearance

Posted by Paragus1 Tuesday December 4 2012 at 11:39AM
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Darkfall Podcast Appearance

Just a short blog post today in terms of words, but robust in terms of audio.   I was invited to be a guest on the MMO Smacktalk podcast last night to speak about my Darkfall experiences in DF 1.0, discuss some behind the scenes stuff, as well as some thoughts regarding the Darkfall: Unholy Wars launch.   If you are the type of person who enjoys podcasts and enjoys the content of this blog, then it may be something you enjoy while waiting for the game's launch.   Running time is a little under 2 hours, and contains language that is not suitable for children.

You can find it posted HERE or you can download it as an mp3 file HERE.  Feedback and comments are welcome.

Enjoy!

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Darkfall Unholy Wars: Interview with Aventurine

Posted by Paragus1 Tuesday October 30 2012 at 5:45PM
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Darkfall Unholy Wars: Interview with Aventurine

A little over a month ago, Aventurine surprised the MMORPG and Darkfall community alike when they announced the new version of Darkfall would be releasing on November 20th of this year. Those of you who have followed my blog a while know that in the past I have spent a lot of time covering the old version of Darkfall extensively and also had the chance to do a variety of interviews with Aventurine.

Several members of the Darkfall community have reached out to me to and asked to see if I would be willing to do another such interview. After reaching out to the folks at AV a few weeks ago, they have finally managed to squeeze in some time out of their busy schedule to answer some of the questions that I sent over to them.



1)  Regarding servers, the current version has 2 different servers for their respective regions NA and EU.   Can you say at this time if the new version of Darkfall will continue with this model or is a single server more likely?

Yes, Darkfall Unholy Wars will follow the same model and will have one EU and one NA server at launch. The location of both servers will remain the same.


2)  Darkfall: Unholy Wars is being marketed in many ways as a new game completely given the amount of changes it has over the older version.   Given that assumption, is it safe to say that all characters will be starting fresh at square one with a clean slate when the new version launches?

Yes, since this is a new chapter in the Darkfall Saga, everyone will start fresh. As we have explained this is also due to the fact that so many things have changed as far as character creation and progression is concerned that it would be impossible to transfer current characters to the new game.


3) In previous discussion with the community, you said that ..." Skills no longer benefit from macro-ing or scripting in the way they did in Darkfall 1.0".  Can you elaborate on any changes that may have been made to the way skills increases work that will make macroing either ineffective or unviable means of progression?

Well for one, it will be a lot faster for a player to reach the famed viable state. With only one role being active at any given time, a player that focuses on a specific play style will be able to become viable and competitive in a very short amount of time. Because of this, the need to macro will be greatly diminished. At the same time there have been many changes to skills and the way they affect and other skills. To give one example, in the first Darkfall, the skills that where macroed quite a lot where movement skills like run sprint and swim because of the benefits they provided to relevant passive skills. In Unholy Wars this will not be the case as movement skills can no longer be leveled up.

4) Some community members have been debating the incentives for clans to hold city or a hamlet given the amount of resources it takes to conquer and maintain a holding.  Is there any change in the new version that might make conquering a city more enticing besides bragging right?

This ties in with our new territory control features. Each city is tied to the villages around it and thus is the potential ruler of those villages. However villages are tied to more than one city so you will need to defend villages you have captured and retake villages you have lost. The motive behind all this is that villages now provide rare resources as well as a percentage of the rents to the owning clan.


5) In terms of magic, one of the more hotly contested issues in the community is the role of spell fizzles and spell surges as mechanics in the game.  Has there been a final decision yet on whether either of these will be present in the new version and what is AV's philosophy regarding the role of these mechanics in the game?

There has been some progress in this matter. Surges right now are disabled. Skills rise all the way to 100 and stay there. There is still a random critical hit mechanic though. Also, fizzles at the moment are set to 0% so they are turned off. It’s quite likely these changes will be left like this for launch unless testing makes us reconsider.

6)  In the promotional video released, there seems to be a lot of changes to the magic system in general.  How is the new system different from the old one in terms of the number of spells per school and the progression of learning new abilities?

The new system provides 5 skills or spells from the primary school and 4 from the secondary school. All characters also have access to a common school that contains things like the transfers; heal self and other utility abilities. In addition all characters also have the 3 default attacks, melee, magic and bow, at their disposal at all times. As far as progression goes, all characters will start with 2 or 3 skills/spells from all schools available and will need to unlock the other ones with the use of player points.

7) Some of the new features announced in the new version are the inclusion of a "momentum" and "wobble" systems in combat. Will all of the new character roles be affected in the same way by these systems, or will the various roles be affected in different ways? (Example: Magic and archery mobility being equally hindered by movement)

At the moment momentum affects all roles in the same way. In the case of crosshair wobble, only spells and archery attacks are affected. Keep in mind those effects are quite limited as we do not want to alter the manual aiming and fast paced character of the game.


8) Are there any changes to the housing system in the new version and how has the world make-over changed the number of plots that will be available?

The housing system has not been changed considerably. The only changes have to do with the herb garden and, possibly, the crafting station. There is now one herb garden and the items it drops have been altered as all node drops have been redone. As for the crafting station, we are considering removing the chaos station item and just include the specific stations.


9) Have any changes been made to boats and naval warfare in general to help mitigate the threat of swimmers boarding your boat?

In reality the whole boat mechanic feature is being reworked. All boats have been remodeled and retextured, their crafting recipes have been changed and their visual effects have been revamped. Unfortunately though there is still a lot of work to be done and we want to rebalance their attributes as well as play around with some more ideas and mechanics before we add them to the game. Because of this, only entry level boats will be included at launch. The raft is now a figurine that drops from pirate mobs and can no longer be crafted. In its place, players can craft the Wherry which is a small ship with no cannons. In addition the Launch is a small ship with one canon that can also be crafted by players. All other boats and ships will be added post launch.


10) Have any changes been made to land-based siege weaponry such as warhulks and cannons?

Siege weaponry falls under the same category as ships. It’s a mechanic we think needs a lot of work and discussion before we add it to the game. Because of this only basic siege equipment, such as siege hammers and battle spikes will be included at launch. To keep things more balanced, city player controlled towers will also not be included at launch.


11)  In a recent community discussion you mentioned "There is also a completely new feature, that we are very excited about, that will allow clans to play the part of merceneries in sieges."  Are you able to elaborate a bit and tell us some new information regarding this new feature?

This is the first implementation of a contacts mechanic that we have in the works. In the future we will add more types of contracts that clans can commit to. At this point, the mercenary contract is ready and will be included at launch. Essentially at this point, this feature allows a defending clan to issue a contract to any other clan in order to be aided in defending their holding. Also, any clan that is interested in this sort of work can issue a contract and send it to the defending clan. These contracts contain things like payout in the case of a successful defense. Also, to stop clans from issuing contracts to any and all defending clans without showing up to actually help, a bond will required that may only be partially returned if the defense is a failure. Post launch we will look into providing the same mechanics to attacking clans if it makes sense to do so and also expand the mechanic further.

12) You recently released a new video showing off the Baresark skill set as a first reveal of the new role system.  Could you explain what the concept of an "ultimate" ability is and how exactly they work compared to other abilities?

Ultimates are the most powerful skill or spell of each school. They usually combine multiple effects into one and they are in some way more potent than the other 4 skills and spells of the school. They also require more mana and stamina to be executed and they have a longer cooldown.

13) It's been mentioned that players will have the ability to switch between roles if they want but with a cooldown of sorts.   Could you explain how a player would go about switching their role and how long of a cooldown will there be roughly?

Roles can be changed through the Role window in the GUI. Players can change their role anywhere and how ever often they want with the following limitations. First there is a 1 minute channeling cast for changing your role so that it cannot be performed on the fly during combat or similar situations. Second, once you change your role you cannot change it again for 30 minutes. This is to impose a slight time commitment on the chosen role so that it is not changed on a whim without any reason whatsoever. Keep in mind both the channeling and cooldown times can be easily adjusted if needed.

14) Will there be an alignment system in the new version and if so, will be the same as it is in the older version?

Darkfall Unholy Wars has a different alignment system. In reality we are keeping the whole turning red situation when you kill other players in place but turning red does no longer mean you get attacked by NPC guard towers. It is just there to indicate to other players you might not be someone they can trust. What they do with the information is up to them. However because this would make the entire world rather chaotic we felt we needed to create some areas where players can perform some basic activities in peace. All the racial capitals and satellite faction cities as well as surrounding areas where players will make their initial steps have all PvP actions disabled. Even players belonging to enemy clans will be unable to damage each other in those areas. The vast majority of the world of course remains as it was. As a side note, while NPC guard towers are now completely off as they serve no purpose, Player holding towers will continue to faction as before.
 

15)  Will Darkfall: Unholy Wars feature multi-core support?

Yes, Darkfall Unholy wars will support multiple cores.

 

I would just like to thank the folks over at Aventurine for taking the time out of what must be a very busy schedule right now to sit down and answer some questions with me today. Feel free to post your feedback and comments below!

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

 

Review: Guild Wars 2

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday September 5 2012 at 1:54PM
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Review: Guild Wars 2

Well the next train has arrived at the station, and Guild Wars 2 now has its time in the spotlight.  It is easily one of the most hyped games to pass through here in a while in terms of player interest, but does it live up to the hype?  As of writing this, I am on the verge of hitting level 80 on my Asura Ranger, so I feel I have enough time played at this point (80ish hours) to fairly look at the game and and talk about the various aspects of the game and how they are shaping up. I will mainly be focusing on the various types of content in the game and not so much the mechanics as they have already been hashed over extensively from beta.  During my time I have experienced the various kinds of content the game offers in terms of PvE, Dungeons, and WvWvW, so those are what I am going to focus on for today.


PvE Content

Let's start with talking about the general overworld PvE experience.   As many people have heard by now, GW2 approaches PvE a little differently than previous versions of this MMO model we have seen in recent years.   There is no quest log and no quest hubs.  I find this to be very refreshing because I don't feel like I am being herded down a series of corridors by my nose in traditional theme park style.  Instead we have what they are calling the Dynamic Event system, so let's delve into this a bit.

The questing is mostly done by going in proximity to hearts marked on the map which have local area quests going on.  This means in most cases that you don't need to talk to an NPC, you just start contributing by doing whatever the local tasks are, and once you have done enough, the heart is marked complete and you are given your small cash and experience rewards.  There is no kill-stealing or loot fighting, and this makes the entire thing a lot better than other MMOs.  A lot of these still boil down to standard kill quests, but a lot of them have you doing other tasks which in some cases offer an interesting variety.  An annoyance for me however is when there are several hearts that all have you killing the same monsters.  As an example, killing centaurs locally to finish a heart, then going a ways down the road and finding out you have to kill more centaurs, and having this happen several times in a row can be a bit dull.  In some rare cases it can be downright annyoing because the monsters you need just don't spawn because of an over arching dynamic event has occurred in which the centaurs are defeated making you scavange for other objectives.   It's not common, but when it happens it's annoying.  The quest system is GW2 is an evolutionary step forward for this type of MMO, but doing it exclusively and excessively can feel tedious at times.



The good news is that you don't need to focus exclusively on doing hearts.  Dynamic events pop up when you are roaming around that are worth a lot of exp and only take a few minutes, and on rare occasions massive world bosses (see "The Shatterer" pictured above).   It's very easy to get side-tracked or sucked into these when you are on your way to somewhere else.  Exploration is also a very real and viable activity that rewards you very well for uncovering new areas and seeking out all the various vistas and points of interest.   If you manage to find them all in a given zone, the reward is substantial.   Vistas in particular offer a great challenge for explorers as many of them offer serious platforming challenges and make you use your head a bit to figure out how exactly to reach some of them.   As a die-hard platform junkie, I absolutely love these, but some less coordinated players may find themselves struggling with some of the more intense ones.  Part of me wishes some of these things were not marked on the map forcing people to explore a bit more, but the game offers hidden chest achievements in each zone that are hidden very well and usually involve exploring deep into areas or doing some of the games most elaborate jumping puzzles.


One final note on exploration, I want to talk about the world itself.  I may be wrong on this, but I feel that Guild Wars 2 probably has one of the largest theme park overworlds I have seen, at least for a game that just came out.  On the verge of level 80, I am still finding new zones I didn't know existed and haven't even come close to exhausting the content in the ones I have found.   The world simply offers a massive amount to see and do in a wide variety of environments, almost all of which have shaken off that feeling of being boxed in by walls everywhere.  GW2 also does not fall into the pit trap of some other recent theme park MMOs in that it offers so many zones in each level range that you could easily play through the game with an alt and stay in completely different areas of the map for the first 50 levels easily, and possibly through 80.  We were even joking in vent last night that one could probably level entirely in snow themed zones and never see a green tree from 1-80.

The final icing on the cake is the inclusion of a personal story quest line.  Each player has his own personal story quest line that offers new content every 2-3 levels up until around 70 where you get one every level.   These quests often times can be completed in less than 20 minutes and offer massive experience rewards and usually a decent item.  The interesting things about this content is that the first 40 levels or more of it is probably going to be widly different depending on what race you are, what group of that race you belong to, and what decisions you make.  Even later on as the paths start to converge, players still get to make choices frequently charting what their next story quest will be.   The story is completely voice acted, and while its not amazing voice acting, it does get the job done.  Frankly I'm glad they didn't spend their entire budget on his like another certain MMO.  The story is decent and adding up all the time it would take to do all of the quests, you are looking at hours and hours of content here alone.

Dungeons

Dungeons have been quite a controversial topic of discussion, and it's something I wanted to touch on having done quite a few of them.  Basically every 10 levels you get a letter in your mailbox that a new dungeon might be worth checking out for its story mode.  Story mode offers you a nice little tale about what's going on in the place you are going through and how it fits into the lore of the game.


I have a love-hate relationship with the dungeons.  In itself, the story mode content is decent, but the difficulty seems to be a point of contention.   On one hand, some of the boss battles can be incredibly punishing even in story mode.   You absolutely HAVE to know how and when to use the dodge mechanic in boss fights, which is not a bad thing.   The problem is that some of the boss encounters have outright too much life, or have gimmicks that can be extremely rough on PUG groups.  While this can be frustrating at times because you will find yourself chain dieing, the dungeons also have waypoints which in most cases has my group bind rushing bosses down.   As long as someone is still alive bosses often don't reset so you just have this bindrush mechanic that diminishes the encounters in a lot of cases.   I think I'd rather have boss encounters that were slightly easier, but without the bind rushing.  The first 2 dungeons are not terribly rough, but there were certain battles in the level 50 and 60 dungeons that would have been downright impossible without the ability to bind rush them.  I think perhaps some of these were not really tested properly and might need to be reexamined.  

My other beef is that I feel some of them might not really be worth the time in terms of how long they take and what is rewarded.  I feel like if you don't do the story mode for the level 40 dungeon as an example right at 40, doing it later would be a waste of time due to the reward.   There is a nice exp payoff at the end, but the exp killing the mobs is lackluster.   So unless you make it to the end, your time would have been easily better spent outside doing something else, and the reward usually being a rare helmet is worthless if you are coming back after leveling up too far.  The explorable mode is a bit different in terms of reward structure where you earn tokens to get items of your chosing, but I feel as if it takes a few too many to get something useful.  It feeds into the mindset that my time might have been better spent farming money to buy something a lot faster elsewhere.  All in all though, they are very challenging and I guess it throws a bone to the more hardcore dungeon and gimmick encounter type players who may have enjoyed this sort of thing from WoW and other raid-based MMOs.

WvWvW

This mode offers that DAOC-style frontier fighting a lot of us older school MMO players rememebr from back in the day.  While it can be a zerg, it is also fun.   Considering that each team is capped at only 100 people per zone, and they are usually full, outnumbering the other team is not really a factor in who wins and loses as much who is better organized.  A variety of objectives really do make it so that a smaller group can spin off from a main force and contribute.   We tested this and managed to capture some supply points and other areas of interest while picking off some stragglers heading to join the enemy main force.  


While having capped population in these areas means organization usually prevails, it also means actually getting into these zones can take a long wait in the queue to get in.   Specifically getting into the central Eternal Battleground area can take hours on my server.   This can make playing with your friends or guildmates a difficult or frustrating proposition.  My fear is that this problem is going to be getting a lot worse before it gets better.  I suspect that a lot of players are focusing on leveling up in PvE before focusing heavily on this part of the game, and as the population collectively approaches 80, it's going to put crushing pressure on these queues to get in.   I guess it is a testimate to the fact people enjoy this part of the game, but I foresee this as a major problem approaching quickly in the next few weeks.

Ideally I'd like to see if they can increase the cap per zone, or somehow add new areas besides the 4 we have currently.   If there are thousands on a sever at a given time and only 400 can get in, there is going to be a lot of rage over the wait times.   Additionally, they have a WvW dungeon which is only accessed from the Eternal Battleground, which is the most crowded.   This is problematic in that you have people doing this place that aren't helping in the main battle but taking up spots.  While marketed as a WvW dungeon, it really does not stack up to Darkness Falls from DAOC.   The layout is far too linear having all 3 teams enter in the same room, where DF was more expansive having the teams enter far apart meeting in the many rooms down in the depths.   Darkness Falls also had a much better inscentive in terms of item rewards to draw people into it, where GW2 only has a single chest at the end giving people little reason to linger and roam when combined with its linearity.

A good solution would be to create another WvW zone that is completely underground like DF and more expansive like the overworld outdoor areas they have now.  There also is a real lack of a major underwater area in any of the current WvW areas that would help add a lot of flavor to what is already out there.  My only other beef is that I have not found a way to look at the WvWvW maps outside of WvWvW.   This would be very useful so I could better decide which of the area I want to queue up for.  Without seeing who controls what, I feel like I am picking an area a bit too blindly.  One of my favorite differences between GW2 and DAOC that I don't see mentioned often enough however is the lack of crushing crowd control abilities.   There is CC, but unlike DAOC and WAR, I find myself in control of my character more often than not.


Conclusion

Is Guild Wars 2 worth the $60 price tag?  I'd say it is because in a sense you are getting several games in one package here.   If you bought this game and simply played it for the PvE side and never touched the PvP at all, you would get more than enough hours of entertainment to justify the purchase.   But in a sense, that's just one of several games that is the GW2 experience.  For some people the WvWvW experience as a successor to DAOC would be worth the price, and in a sense you can do that right out of the gate without ever really focusing on the PvE side of the game, minus your time waiting in queue.   Even more than these, there is the instanced structure PvP experience which I deliberately haven't spoken about because I haven't spent enough time on it.   I'll let someone more informed on it pontificate on that, but with structured tournaments and such, that is another side of the game as well.


I like to compare the purchase of this game to something like Diablo 3.   Both are online RPGs with no monthly fee and similar pricing.   If you could justify the purchase of Diablo 3 and enjoyed it at all, there is no way you can't justify buying GW2.   At the same price point it offers infinitely more content in every possible way than Diablo 3, and has more depth.  Is GW2 the end all be all MMO?  I don't think so, but it is probably the best non-sandbox MMO I've seen in years.   Obviously I can't speak to the longevity at this time, but at 80 hours in, I think if I quit today my purchase would have entertained me enough.   Not enough for a monthly fee, but for a one time buy in price, absolutely.

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition - Jade Quarry


 

Rant: The Tortanic

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday August 1 2012 at 2:57PM
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Rant: The Tortanic

The announcement that The Old Republic (TOR) is going to head down the F2P route finally happened, and a game that has now been nicknamed by many to be the "Tortanic" is finally en route to its destiny.  The game lasted only seven month in the world of pay-to-play.  It's been a hilarious journey to those of us who realized that this experiement had only one logical conclusion way back when this thing set sail.  While myself and many others who saw this coming back in November were called "haters" and "trolls", I figured this would be a good time to point out the massive amounts of stupidity that helped fuel this debacle.


The Old Republic has been in developement for years and was granted quite possibly one of the biggest video game budgets on all time to spend on one of the most popular intellectual properties on planet Earth.  With all of these factors going for you, the prospect of failing on this grand of a scale seemed almost impossible to comprehend.

The developers came out and told us that they finally figured out where all the other MMOs went wrong and figured out what players really wanted in an MMO, and it's story!  So they spent all their millions of dollars for hiring voice actors to weave create these one-time consumable story content bits in the hopes that would sustain long-term subscribers.  Frankly I am still in an internal debate with myself trying to figure out who the bigger idiot is here, the people who really thought one-time story content was the key to long-term MMO success, or the people who gave them hundreds of millions of dollars trying to make that happen.   Regardless the entire conception of this project was a marriage of stupidity that cements the old saying that "a fool and his money are soon parted".

There were warning signs.  Internal staff members warned us that the Tortanic was a recipe for fail on a scale never before seen in the MMO industry.  We also can't discount the fact that any rational thinking person who played the beta or examined the premise of the game realized it wasn't going to work.  Sure there were whines from former SWG fans, but we were told that they are living in the past and the new vision is what people wanted.   I don't know about you, but I was thinking that what the next big MMO needs is to be is a cookie-cutter clone game that gets one of the biggest space operas of all time between two factions and turn it into a game of Hutt Ball.

There were the big game shows like E3 where the game was showered with awards for being the year's best MMO.  After launch, we got to read reviews where people actually gave this game high scores in graphics when the rest of us were wondering why the game had no hi-res textures. The gaming media completely dropped the ball on this in a massive way, and frankly, should be ashamed of themselves for any accolades this game got.   Stunning to rational-thinking gamers how so many publications and sites failed to remove the Star Wars from the equation and look at the actual gameplay and rate it on those merits.  I'll wager you won't be seeing many if any of these reviewers or "professionals" man-up and admit they were wrong.  It should be one of the biggest stories you'll never read, but you won't find any calls for accountability from these people anywhere outside here.

The gaming media truly are the passengers on the Tortanic, and the investors and developers are the crew.  The entire lot of these people deserved to be soaked by the icy cold waters of gamer's opinion.  As the water started to flood the decks, Bioware had the absolute audacity blame the players, because they made the game the players wanted after all!  Just remember the next time a big company looks like it might be doubling-down on a failed formula under the guise of a famous IP to also remember who gave out all the awards and high reviews for the most-predictable massive failure this genre has ever seen.

So I hear there's going to be an Elder Scrolls MMO...

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Rant: Why Ultima Forever is Doomed

Posted by Paragus1 Wednesday July 18 2012 at 2:33PM
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Rant: Why Ultima Forever Is Doomed

I know right away what some of you are thinking.   Is he really calling a game that was just announced doomed to fail?   Yes, I am.   Like a lot of people, when I heard the announcement that there was going to be a new Online Ultima game in developement, my ears perked up.   Finally after all this time one of the highest-held IPs in the MMO space is going to get some love and brought back.  Sweet!


Then I actually started reading specifics and realized that the devil was indeed in the details.  Let me walk you through how exactly I arrived here.

If you have been following EA / Mythic / Bioware the last few years, their presence in the MMO space has not been a very good one.  I've been chronicled the failings of Warhammer Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic for quite some time here.   Both of these games were based upon wildly successful IPs and it's safe to say at this point that both of them ended up as failures.  In the instance of the TOR many gamers and observers easily predicted that the several hundred million dollar MMO heavily banking on voice-acting and one-time story content was a recipe for disaster.  While many of us in the community here were scratching our heads dumbfounded how someone in EA did not see this coming, let me flashback to October of 2011.  Someone on the inside actually did see this coming as some may remember, under the guise of "EA Louse", he blogged about how the management and design of the project was a recipe for diaster...

http://www.gamerevolution.com/manifesto/ea-artist-soon-to-be-laid-off-burns-ea-management-2803



"And Bioware? Don’t make me laugh. They’ve spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. Shit you not. More than $ 300 million! Can you believe that?

And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker. They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work. That’s the best they have. The rest of the game is a joke. EA knows it and so does George Lucas,they’re panicking , and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.

Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA. Probably at the level of the Sims Online. We all know it too ……
"

During the blog in which these statements are made, EA Louse explains that he himself is slated to get layed-off shortly, and then goes on to explain various personell in the mangement who are failing, going all the way back to Warhammer Online before Mark Jacobs departed Mythic.  Ironically many of these managers to this day still have their jobs while the lower level people are getting axed.  While the entire read is very eye-opening, one of these names should jump out at you...

"Oh yeah, and he needed Paul Barnett. You know him as the crazy British dude that appears in random videos at EA to promote his latest bullshittery. We know him as the crazy British dude who we have no idea of how he still has a job. This man was supposed to be the savior of Warhammer’s vision and design. Now all he can do is promote his strange ideas about his little secret project web Ultima game that’s been almost universally criticized by all of us and focus groups. What’s that? You didn”t know Paul loves one of those old Ultima games sooooo much he’s making a literal copy of it for Facebook? Well, the cats outta the bag. Too bad it sucks ass."

So it looks like the same person with their fingerprints over the WAR diaster and the TOR debacle will be slithering off to Ultima to lay waste to yet another famous IP that MMO gamers hold in high regard.  Does anyone see a pattern here?   EA Louse layed it out exactly how all of this was going to play out and nailed it 100%.  Common sense does seem to exist inside the company, and yet somehow these are the type of people getting put out of a job while the people making the horrid design decisions get shuffled off to another project.

I reported in a previous blog post that EA's market value has lost upwards of 50% since the launch of the TOR.  These guys are in a market free fall and the people responsbile for screwing up all these big projects are still sitting in the driver's seat.  The powers that be at EA need to do a serious house cleaning of the decision makers instead of butchering the staff that actually works well.  The investors should be calling for their heads.  As for Ultima Forever, here's his vision...

http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/07/12/eas-paul-barnett-ultima-forever-reboot-is-not-an-mmo/

Doomed I tell you, doomed.


Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

League of Legends: The Proving Grounds

Posted by Paragus1 Monday July 2 2012 at 8:54AM
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League of Legends: The Proving Grounds

Over the weekend I found myself logging into League of Legends for the first time in a few months.   It wasn't because I wanted to have a reason to start drinking more Jack Daniels, a side-effect of playing LoL for me, instead it was because Riot managed to sneak a new map into the game under a lot of people's radar.  Even when I'm not playing LoL, I still follow the game and their announceement forum to see what they are up to, and I was surprised because there was literally no mention of this new map to be found anywhere on there.  After some fishing around, I did find a post on their general discussion, but it's easy to see how this has been missed by a lot of people I know.



The new map being floated out there is called "The Proving Grounds" and you won't find it by playing through the normal queue system.  In short, the new map is a single lane map much like the one found in the tutorial that is only available for custom games.  Now at a glance the idea of a map with only one lane might seem pointless, that is of course unless you are into a fan favorite mode of play called ARAM.

ARAM stands for All Random All Middle, which was a fairly popular fan created way to play LoL.  As the name suggests, all players would be forced to have their champion randomly selected and players are only allowed to use the center lane only.   In addition to this, players are not allowed to go back to base to heal or buy items.  Now under the old system, all of thee rules had be known to all the players in the game and the enforcement was sort of an honor thing where you would hope everyone in the game would abide by them.



This is where the real beauty of the Proving Grounds comes into play.   The map already being one lane automatically makes it so players are forced to abide by the center lane rule.  Additionally, the map has the other rules basically hard-coded into it.  Under the random options for the map, it prevents players from using the shop to buy gear unless they are dead or have just respawned from a death and haven't stepped off the base.  Another nice little touch is the map also contains little healing packs on the ground spaced out down the lane for people to fight over since they aren't allowed to go back to heal.

In short, the Proving Grounds is a boon to anyone who loved to play ARAM.  I'd highly recommend any current and formal player of League of Legends to head into the custom games and try out a game of ARAM.  The only downside I can see is that I really wish this map and mode would be rolled into the normal queue options without requiring players to go through the custom game list.  Regardless this is a large step towards that direction, and I think if Riot sees that ARAM and the Proving Grounds becomes popular, they will eventually make it into something bigger.

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition

The Silver-Lining: EA Lost 50% of Market Value

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday June 21 2012 at 11:45AM
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The Silver-Lining: EA Lost 50% of Market Value

A friend of mine passed me a link to an article today that I found quite eye-opening in terms of EA (Electronic Arts) and their performance as a company in the markets as of late.  In short, it basically shows that EA as a company has lost 50% of its market value since November of 2011.  You can find the article here...

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-06-21-stock-ticker-why-eas-market-valuation-has-crashed/



Now I am not going to pretend to be an expert in the markets, as so many forum trolls often do, but this is very shocking data.   As many of you know, EA is the parent company a lot of different game studios, the most relevent to this community is Bioware (Star Wars: The Old Republic).  As many of you also know, the amount of money it took to create this project made it one of the most expsenive video games ever made, well north of $100 million.  Seeing as the decline started right around the time SWTOR released, the gamer in me clearly is thinking that this is probably not a coincidence.   The article also speculates from the investor side...

"Something has gone terribly wrong for EA, at least in the eyes of stock market investors. There are several plausible explanations for this - each of which is likely to be true to a certain degree, since it's unlikely that any one factor alone is responsible for driving the price down so far.

Firstly, there's Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA's stock price went into decline after The Old Republic's launch, and hasn't recovered yet - and that timing is unlikely to be a coincidence. Expectations among investors for SWTOR were extremely high, given the game's much-publicised high development costs (which probably make it the most expensive game project ever), the strength of the Star Wars license, the track record of developer Bioware and, crucially, the tantalising possibility of building an ongoing MMO revenue stream for EA which would match the one enjoyed by rival Activision Blizzard from World of Warcraft. While it would be unfair to characterise SWTOR as a complete failure, it has certainly not been a success on the level which EA or its investors would have wanted. The game has lost 400,000 subscribers since February, and it seems inevitable that the company will be forced into an embarrassing (but probably commercially sensible) transition to a free-to-play model sooner rather than later."


Let's take a look as well at the fact that earlier this week, we saw another article scrubbed off the internet that mentioned that the developers of TOR were considering the F2P model...

http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/354256/Star-Wars-The-Old-Republic-Devs-Considering-F2P.html


Is there anyone reading this who still thinks that this game is not on a crash course for F2P?  This entire debacle is unfolding exactly the way many of us in the gaming community here saw even before the release.  If you are one of the many in the camp with me that thinks these cookie-cutter clone games need to stop being made, this might be a silver-lining.

It's sort of an old hashed saying on the forums around here that people need to stop giving money to companies that make bad games, because it only perpetuates the creation of more bad games.  Even if you buy a bad game and quit it, they still got your money because you voted with your wallet.  Gamers are a fickle bunch though, and seem to continue to support bad games and keep the cycle going, then try to justify doing it in the name of boredom or love of a certain IP / franchise.  While that exact same idiocy happened in this case, the investors on the back end who fund the creation of these games are now getting an epic financial burn.  Perhaps if gamers are too fickle to stop supporting garbage, the people who fund the creation of it will start doing what we as the consumers should have started doing a long time ago.



Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition