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The Perfect MMO

Posted by Segun777 Thursday September 20 2012 at 2:16PM
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I have this idea in my head of my perfect MMO. It’s The Old Republic’s personal story, it’s The Secret World’s mystique and game world, its Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events, Final Fantasy’s class system and Blade & Soul’s combat. I’m never going to get that MMO, and besides you know what they say about be careful what you wish for.

A Blessed Shotgun works wonders on Demons

 

Blade & Soul is a new addition to my wish list of MMO’s. Well it’s a new addition in the sense that I had put it in that far off category, until a few days ago it didn’t even have a true English site, and NCSoft was refusing to talk about the game. With the closing of Paragon Studios and City of Heroes, the launch of Guild Wars 2, and the launch of the Blade & Soul in native South Korea; NCSoft is finally opening up about the game.

Nobody loves the workhorse

 

The thing is, whenever the game finally drops, it feels like it’s the second coming of Tera. Everything about Blade & Soul, feels like the yesteryears except for its combat and the story. In an MMO market that is likely beyond saturation point, Blade & Soul is markedly ‘so last year’.  From the distinctly Asian sexualization of both the male and female form, to the freeform combat style, to the reliance on flashy graphics over substance to sell copies; Blade & Soul looks poised to fail from the gate.

Tamer than the cover of a romance novel, and yet...

 

The thing that all of those MMO’s I named have in common with each other is that I got bored. When I had finished the personal stories in The Old Republic I quit, when I had leveled all the classes I liked in Final Fantasy XI I quit, when I had seen all the game world I wanted to see in Secret World I moved on, when Guild Wars 2 dynamic events get old I’ll be gone as well; in the end all the things that made me love those games gets used up. We’re always looking for our perfect MMO’s, both gamers and developers; Funcom’s Age of Conan game director Craig Morrison was quoted as saying “We can still make great games, just smarter and more efficiently”.

'It's always about timing' - John Crichton

 

The reason the perfect MMO doesn’t exist is the same thing that makes video games so unique; Time. More than any other form of entertainment video games take time, time to enjoy them, time to cherish them, and time to make them. Time is the Achilles heel of any MMO, take too much time to make new content and gamers will leave in droves. And while they may come back for expansions, each one brings back less than the last. The perfect MMO then isn’t in story, combat, graphics, or any other feature; it’s found at the nexus of time and quality. The Perfect MMO is a daydream on the perfect summer afternoon, it doesn't exist in anywhere but the recesses of our minds, the sooner we let go of the fantasy the sooner we start truly enjoying the here and now.

The War of the Dragon III

Posted by Segun777 Friday September 14 2012 at 4:37PM
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I hate dying. I take dying as an affront to my skill as a gamer. Death is not to be used as a lesson, it means I was sloppy or foolish or just plain stupid. I die in Guild Wars 2, a lot. It’s quite irritating how many times I’ve bite the big one. Guild Wars 2 has mechanisms in place to make dying less aggravating, at least that’s the idea behind it. I don’t know if it was intended or not but in reality death in Guild Wars 2 is an art form, let me explain.

When a player loses all their health in Guild Wars 2 they go into what is called a downed state. Their character falls to the ground and tries valiantly to kill whatever put it in that state because doing so grants a temporary reprieve; the person is given say ten percent of their total health back and is up in the fight. I should say that in a downed state the character can’t do most of the things it can normally do, so while it is still alive it’s vastly crippled.

The strategy for dying then especially when faced with multiple enemies is to leave as many as possible with a sliver of health left so that when you’re in the downed state you can quickly revive to normal status, albeit with very little health. Maybe it was intended, maybe it wasn’t but essentially the game often comes down to how well you play your cards in the downed state. No matter how good you are in normal play you’re going to get killed, a lot, and when death is hovering over, you all that separates the best and the rest is the downed state. I have to say I rather hate it.

Dying for me is a failure, it’s the proof that you made a mistake, not dying again is proof you made a correction. Now maybe next week I have a eureka moment and I never die again, but frankly I find that unlikely and it’s a crying shame. Sigh, I hate dying.

The War of the Dragon II

Posted by Segun777 Tuesday September 11 2012 at 2:53PM
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There is something completely cathartic about my memories of Final Fantasy XI. It’s not that I have rose colored glasses about that wonderful, frustrating game. I remember the highs and the lows. I remember reading James Mielke's blog post about the game. It filled me with such wonder and awe that somebody could love and invest themselves into an MMO like that. Final Fantasy XI was a great game and an experience I am not likely to ever see again. The industry has largely moved away from the grinding, party heavy MMOs of yesteryears and that’s a good thing, still it leaves me with some melancholy. Those days of sitting in an XP spot grinding out levels with a good party, shooting the breeze about nothing in particular are over. Guild Wars 2 has been a fresh breeze of delight in recent days. I’ve often been helped by and helped a passerby kill a boss or revive themselves; good deeds are not only customary, they are rewarded in Guild Wars 2.

It’s a small thing maybe, but MMOs in general, and online gaming in particular has a rather nasty reputation for bringing out the worst of people. Like alcohol in real life, people will say and do things online they’d never dream saying or doing in real life. There’s a line in The Secret World, where a character says "If I truly want to understand humanity, I need only read the comment section on YouTube" and then follows that up with “I hate the internet”. I laughed when I heard that but there is a truth in those words that is a sad indictment on humanity. It’s one of the reasons why Guild Wars 2 hits the spot. Time and time again I’ve seen people help each other out, stop what they were doing and revive somebody who bit off a bit more than they could chew; it’s like a world full of good Samaritans and no lawyers. I’m joking about the lawyer part, surely, maybe, probably.

Maybe in a couple weeks everyone goes back to being, well whatever it is that people think their doing making rude comments on the internet. For now though I’ll just bask in the glow of sugar and spice and everything nice.

The War of the Dragon I

Posted by Segun777 Saturday September 8 2012 at 1:22PM
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First thing you need to understand about Guild Wars 2, is that is tries its utmost to be a living breathing world. Secret World wanted to fill you with wonder, and TOR wanted to tell you a story; Guild Wars 2 wants to be living and breathing whether you’re there to see it or not. Quests are tied to areas, and while there is a little handholding, there is also a time when questing is all about finding logical outcomes. If someone is shouting ‘I need help’ then run up to them and talk to them and you’ll likely find a quest. If you’re going from point A to point B you’re likely to find someone who is doing the same thing and hey they have a quest too. Like Secret World before it, Guild Wars 2 is trying to do away with the quest hubs and trying to make it feel more organic. They still have spots where you will always find quests, ala their heart system on the maps, but they are only there as guides for the immediate area. If a heart has a number 11 next to it then it is likely an area best for level 11 characters. It allows an open feeling without having to say explicitly level 11’s come here. Because the players level scales down, anyone over 11 can go there and find some decent experience. In that spirit of ease, don’t forget to type back slash wiki, that will bring you to Guild Wars 2 wiki site right from the game.

Leveling was made to be as easy as possible in Guild Wars 2. Dynamic leveling is a big ballyhooed feature in Guild Wars 2, and what it comes down to really is choice. Personal storylines can be mostly ignored as you wish. If you find yourself having a tough time finding good quests for experience early on, then by all means go to Lions Arch. This city has teleports to each races major city, from there you can march to any races starting area and abracadabra you have more quests to run through. When you look at the overhead map in Guild Wars 2 you see more than a few areas of overlapping levels, which means quest areas can be switched back and forth. Not to mention pvp and WvW experience gathering and dungeon runs in both story and exploration mode combined with dynamic leveling mean that no matter how over leveled  or under leveled you get for an area you can always go to an lower level area and gather comparable experience for your level.

In keeping with the idea of a living breathing world though, just about everywhere I’ve looked at in Guild Wars 2 so far is climbable. No that ridiculous jump is not an accident. Guild Wars 2 has many a climbing challenge for the explorers out there. Every area has a select amount of Vistas, Guild Wars 2 version of TOR’s Datacrons. Getting to the Vistas gains you experience and bragging rights as some of them can be quite difficult. People talk to each other before they give you quests, npcs talk to each other about the world they lived and tell stories about their lives. Yes, they repeat quickly but it’s a nice little touch that lends itself to MMO progression where you aren’t likely to go back to some of these places anytime soon.

Combat is Guild Wars 2 is very solid. It’s no Tera but it does more with the tab bar than most any other MMO out there. Great sword play is a lot of fun with my Sylvari warrior. She is this tiny little tree person swinging a sword bigger than her body around and around, it always brings a smile to my lips. Do travel and quest underwater. Not because ArenaNet invented fire or because it looks it just looks freakin’ sweet, do underwater combat simply because it’s like finding a secret door in a house you’ve lived in all your life and thinking to yourself ‘how did I not see that’ (Yes, I did just drop a Doctor Who reference). It’s not that water combat is so cool, though it can be loads of fun; it’s just that after playing around in the water you realize that you must have been blind for a long time… water combat so simple and so genius.

If Guild Wars 2’s combat plays a lot like the lovechild of Warhammer Online and Rift. The story feels like The Old Republic meets The Secret World. Say what you will about where BioWare put its money in regards to story, it’s clear that they will continue to be the standard for storytelling in the near future. Guild Wars 2, falls into some of the same traps that Secret World did, with voice actors being used over and over again. Because Guild Wars 2 has more speech due to, not the least of which, it’s bigger world and longer storyline it’s much more noticeable, and when it’s bad it’s rather wincingly bad. That being said the storyline in Guild Wars 2 is still light years ahead of anything before Old Republic. The personal story is great; I’m especially having fun with the Sylvari Warrior I made. The female voice actor was instantly recognizable which helps when a line on the script is a little cheesy or badly written. More than a few of the voice actors involved should be recognizable if you play a lot of video games.

It’s early yet and I haven’t seen 20 yet on any of my characters (I have wicked alt-itice) but from what I’ve experienced so far there is legitimate reason to be impressed with Guild Wars. We need to see if ArenaNet can be successful with their new business model and of course we need to see how new content gets rolled out and how often but for now the skies are bright indeed.