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To game or not to game... that is this the question.

So what is this blog going to be all about? Well mainly reviews of games that I am currently playing or beta testing. It will also house some ideas I have about the video game industry, and my views on where gaming is headed.

Author: kackilos

Growing weary of fantasy MMOs.

Posted by kackilos Wednesday October 28 2009 at 11:56AM
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Call it being snooty or picky… or even high maintenance, but I have become increasingly bored with the fantasy genera. By fantasy I mean the spell slinging, monster hacking, sexy elves “fantasy” games. My recent boredom with this genera has gotten me thinking about the reasons for my new found boredom.

It could be the overexposure as most MMOs that flood the market are based on the fantasy genera. Yes I know there are many games that fall into this category, but I am specifically speaking of the games that have the before mentioned fantasy elements. I know I am not as seasoned as some vets that play games today, but I think starting with EQ and playing nearly every mainstream MMO gives me a bit of a background. Another factor is that perhaps I am finally recognizing the type of gamer that I am.

I adored games like Planetside (stoked they are making a Ps 2, sad it is being developed by SoE) and Tabula Rasa (even though no one else seemed to). Although this is the case, I do not consider myself a FPS addict. Yes I have played Counter Strike, but then who hasn’t? Yes I own all of the Call of Duty’s, but fantasy MMOs have always held a space on my hard drive and my credit card.

Perhaps what I crave is depth, or an interesting story that I actually want to play out. I know what I am describing is your typical RPG, but then again RPG makes up a lot of what MMORPGs are about. Maybe I should just create a story and follow it while I game…but then there are no quests, and more importantly no rewards for my made up material (unless we are playing CoX). I am dying for a game that does more than assign me some quests, but rather gives me a reason for doing it. For example, say my character is traveling from the starting area to another town. Along the way I come across a village that is being attacked by demons. It makes sense for my character to get quests that directly or diversely related to that village’s demon problem. Give me choice or give me… well another game. Let me impact the world around me, beyond the auction houses prices. Let my actions directly relate to the world I run around in. If I wipe out that pack of demons attacking the village I expect something to actually happen. Let that village rebuild and allow me to shop and talk to the villagers about my heroic acts. Then again if I side with demons and burn that mother to the ground, I don’t expect it to be standing there next time I enter that zone.

Yes I do realize these options are simply not available in an MMO because how would other players experience the content I just finished or destroyed? It is just purely wishful thinking on what I view as a crucial thing MMOs are missing.

Now I am no developer nor are my views correct, but there might be a way for people to experience content and make it unique. Make special areas like the before mentioned village instanced. By instancing areas a player could experience the content how they see fit. If I, or my group, come across this village and decide to go all pyro on it we should be able to. This choice could take us to the demon lair to speak with the demon lord. If we decide to kill of the demons and save the village, the group would be taken down a different path that ends up with us at the demons lair only on less than friendly terms.

After completion of the mission the mark on our world would be evident through our choices. Either there is a village to return to, or there are the burnt remains of our destruction. Each choice takes the player down similar paths but the end result is unique to their choices.

Modern big name RPG titles have built up my expectations in what I expect a game to deliver story wise. Games such as Fable, Mass Effect, and the KoToR series may have ruined many games for me (shakes fist and yells like Stephen Colbert). These series have altered the face of RPG gaming through their ability to weave choice and story together to completely immerse the gamer. This action of making the gamer feel they are in control of the games direction plays a great part of what made these games successful. So why are fantasy MMOs not delivering this feeling of immersion into their games? Sure many games claim that you get the sense of your player growing stronger as they level, but in how many games do you really feel that your character is a grade A bad mofo? There is a difference between fighting one mob at a time and running into a stronghold and unleashing your awesomeness on any mercs that happen to be in your way.

So is it even possible for MMORPGs to take the community, social interaction, and vastness of their worlds, and weave it together with the story and immersion of RPGs? Maybe one day… maybe one day there will be a union between these two and they will produce the first coming of “epicness” we all crave.

Till next time, remember we are born gamers…it is not a choice.
 

Aion Review Part2

Posted by kackilos Friday October 23 2009 at 11:11AM
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Aion Review part 2:

In this part of the review I will cover some of the important factors both good and bad about Aion.

Game play:
Aion does not offer anything that most MMO gamers have not experienced. What Aion does do to make it a solid game is that they incorporate many popular MMO ideas flawlessly into their game play. So why bother playing Aion if it’s more of the same? Well because there is just enough difference in Aion to make the game an original play.


1) Flight – although it is limited in use this feature is a nice perk with many uses. Many people use the “glide” feature to help get around zones that are restricted flight zones. This feature is used to quickly and elegantly travel around, also it’s a pretty good run-away tactic should your character become overwhelmed.


2) Flashy and interactive combat – The combat is engaging and keeps the player paying attention rather than just mashing through a rotation. I will cover combat more extensively later


3) PvPvE end game – Although I have not experienced much pvp, beyond an asmo wondering into my territory, PvP is a large part of the end game. Large scale battles take place between the two factions to control valuable landmarks that buff the current owner’s faction. For anyone who has played Planetside I hear the sieges are very similar in nature, minus no one is shooting scifi-bullets at you. All while these battles are taking place there are instances that can be ran by either faction. Normally I am a PvE player, but I am excited to see how this mixing of PvP and PvE will go.

Combat:
Aion offers some interesting combat mechanics that focuses around two key elements, movement and skill chains. Movement is a big part as you character’s skills are impacted by how you move your character. For instance if your moving forward your character gains a 10% boost to damage, but also suffers more damage if hit. This mechanic is huge if you, like myself, are playing a ranger (go go gadget jumpshot!). The other mechanics are that if you are strafing(moving left or right) you gain a boost to avoidance, backwards a boost to blocking, both of these mechanics also come with a decrease in damage output.


Skill chains: skill chains are Aion’s version of a rotation. A good way to picture what a skill chain is to view them like a chain on a bike. The chain on a bike starts with a link just as a skill chain starts with a skill. As you progress down the chain each link/skill must be set up correctly or the chain/link breaks making the bike no function. The same is true for Aion’s skill chains. You start off with skill that links to another that must be activated before its timer runs out or the chain is broken and most be started again.
Combining Skill Chains and Movement Aion forces players to actively engage in combat rather than be a spectator.

Community:
Once you filter through the gold spammers the community in Aion is… well… talkative. Former WoW players will get a feeling of “barrens chat” which is only missing the Chuck Norris jokes, which I kind of miss at times. The before mentioned problem of gold spammers is problem #1 that NCsoft is dealing with. For those people, and there a lot of them, that rage about the gold spammers clearly have never played a game during its first few months off the shelves.


There are a number of people always in the LFG channel looking for tanks, dps, or healers, so finding a group is generally pretty easy. There are also a number of legions (guilds) actively looking for members to join their ranks. Between the legions looking for people or groups looking members to run difficult content finding a hunting party is never hard. On the other hand through , most of Aions content is solo content. I find myself soloing all the time as my Ranger, mainly this is because my class can solo extremely well with little or no down time. When my toon hits the levels in which there is strong group play I generally always look to clear the group content. This both lets me interact with other players and also lets me test out my toons grouping capabilities, and the XP and items are worth it.


One aspect I really enjoy within Aion’s community is a chat channel dedicated purely to your class. This allows you to discus nearly everything that applies to your class. This is a great way for players to discuss their class in game without having to consult the forums. Mainly the people that respond in the channel are helpful… and some are well those kids to borrow a term from Tim over at CAD the  (squeakers) that chime in with their words of wisdom.

Economy:
The economy is driven by the crafting system in Aion. Items are pretty rare as most quests just reward you with cash and utility items like potions or scrolls. So most the time to obtain new weaponry or armor you are either crafting your own or buying them from the auction house. This typically isn’t a problem if you are upgrading your items every 3-5 levels. Overall you will find that hording your cash is always a good strategy, that and if you don’t use it sell it. Just remember as easy as money can come in, it can be gone just as fast.

Crafting:
The crafting system is much like every game. You obtain raw materials and turn them into a finished product. As you level your skill you purchase new recipes to practice. Aion does throw some curve balls at ya that you might not be expecting.

First thing first there is the option to fail making a product, not only is this frustrating it also eats materials. Along with failing in crafting there is also criting a recipe. Normally this will result in more items produced or an item of a higher quality. Now you don’t have to worry about leveling independent gathering skill as one skill handles everything from food to ore.

Aion also allows crafters another way to raise their skill beyond harvesting raw materials, work orders. These work orders are the quests for crafting. They provide you with a few raw materials and a design for you to accomplish. Provided you have the cash this is a good way to level a skill.
I have not invested a lot of my time into crafting as I generally find that mind numbingly boring. I did tinker with it enough to get an understanding of the system through.

To finish this lengthy review off, I just want to note that Aion is a great game for people looking for something other than WoW to play. Beyond that Aion does not offer anything new and exciting to the genera, but like stated before it does not do anything bad either. Aion is a solid game to play, so if your curious pick up a copy and start flying around.

Till next time, remember gaming is always evolving and will continue to I suggest you do the same.

-Kackilos

Aion Review part1

Posted by kackilos Thursday October 15 2009 at 2:06PM
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After watching a few videos and reading some… spirited reviews on Aion I decided to wait a bit after launch to give this game a shot. So during my waiting time I did some research on the classes and the basics of the game; crafting, leveling, skill usage, grouping, etc. I highly recommend doing recon on a game before you actually jump into the swing of things. This avoids asking some questions and allows you the gamer a faster understanding of game mechanics.
 

I felt coming into the game that I had a fair understand of what the game was like. Boy was I wrong, the game was far more polished and immersive then I had originally expected. The first thing that caught me off guard was the voice acting by some characters. Although its nothing to special and there is no user control on what these NPCs will say it is still a feature most Korean crossover games lack. My favorite ascetic right now has to be the mini cut scenes that occur with some quests. This feature just adds a little some thing extra to the gaming experience that most MMOs lack.

In Aion you play a war hero who has lost their memories in a great battle. As you level your character your past is unraveled throughout a very long epic quest chain. This “recovering memories” is the main quest arch but is accompanied with hundreds of quests that are sure to both advance your character and prepare you to move into the next area.

Aion does at the start have a steep learning curve for new players. Personally I felt most of that curve disappear past level 10. At 10 you select your final class and start advancing down your final class’s skill tree.
Always keep in mind that Aion is a new game and some bugs and annoyances (gold spammers) will take time to fix. Aion does not shatter the MMO molding that most gamers are custom to. What Aion does do is combines many favorite aspects of the fantasy genre to produce a game that while not revolutionary still provides enough new material to keep gamers entertained.

In part two ill break down major aspects of the game and give them a point-by-point review. As always thanks for reading and remember when it stops being fun… it’s no longer a game.



 

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