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Archive for September, 2010

Around the Bend

Although Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 fans are gnashing their teeth a bit at the slowdown of information out of ArenaNet since Gamescom and PAX (there have been some nice exceptions), I welcome this time to catch my breath from the whirlwind of reveals.

I will be scarce around these parts for the next while, as I have been taking time to gear up and gather consumables for an upcoming boss fight that admittedly grants some pretty fine loot.

I do so love talking about real-life events using gaming terms. Did I mention I’m going to be leveling up, too?

Have fun, Guild Wars Pilgrims and veterans alike, ArenaNet scouts and watchers of all kinds.

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Vindictus Victorious

Having taken advantage of several Open Beta Key giveaways for Nexon’s Vindictus Open Beta, my better half and I have found ourselves spending considerably more time exploring this title than we usually devote to online gaming. I’d say we are about knee-deep into the amount of content (for certain values of content) that is available in the OB, and thus far it has made us forget all about a certain Cryptic MMO’s weekly episode updates, daily Guild Wars bounties and Zaishen missions, and even Guild Wars 2 media watching for the time being.

In a gaming first, I am playing a male character, since the Lann role is a dual sword-wielding damage-dealing tornado DPS with little use for subtlety, while Fiona is the tank a sword and shield character with powerful knockbacks and a bit more skill involved in utilizing her to her full potential. The game even warns you at character creation: Fiona is not for noobs. My better half plays her more than aptly.

Despite these character role/gender limitations, which normally put me quite off a game, I am enjoying myself tremendously in Vindictus. The smallest contributor to my enjoyment is how beautiful the game looks; even on my midrange rig, graphics flow smoothly, look great, and still deliver a decent framerate at normal settings, and yet the detail is stunningly impressive when you crank it all the way up to max. The story is nothing to write home about, but as an admitted story aficionado I appreciate the effort and that’s half the battle.

No, what impresses me the most about Vindictus is that the combat is so much fun, and that isn’t something I ever thought I’d say about an action game. My experience with Dungeons & Dragons Online was appalling, and with Chronicles of Spellborn I found combat something interesting, but more to be endured and grown accustomed to than something I was genuinely excited about. Action-oriented combat was one of my last niggling fears about Guild Wars 2: that if I can barely manage or remember to strafe in GW1, how can I be expected to add dodging to the mix? The answer, in Vindictus, is that it’s all in how the game lets you handle the controls. I have never felt dexterously-challenged by the lack of skill buttons to be mashed, or targets to be selected, by the use of the right and left mouse buttons or by context-sensitive kicks and throws. Not only that, but there’s something so incredibly satisfying about breaking apart a stone pillar, and subsequently picking up the pieces of that pillar to club enemies over the head with. Or picking up an enemy and throwing it at another enemy. Or grabbing an enemy by the neck and slamming its head into a wall.

Three days into the beta, and my better half and I are looking for ways to fit more Vindictus time in. It has already been declared “the best free MMO ever” in this household (though not by me), and we both know that when the game goes live, we’ll be rolling the Evie character and laying waste to everyone and everything with our Golemancy. While I will add the caveat that there does seem to be a degree of dungeon repetition the likes of which I have not previously tolerated in any given MMO, the ways in which combat can be switched up and varied on the fly really does lend to replayability in ways I didn’t expect.

It may not hold us off until Guild Wars 2 releases, but the environmental interactivity might give us a taste of what can be achieved with a good engine and implementation.

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In a bit of redux of my Public Quests vs. Dynamic Events post, via GW2Guru, here is the ArenaNet GDC panel on Designing Dynamic Events.

Designing Dynamic Events

If you have been following Guild Wars 2 and are excited about the possibilities, you need to watch this video. If you think Guild Wars 2 is an overhyped piece of derivative crap, you need to watch this video. And if you’re ambivalent on the subject, well… you need to watch this video. It’s around 45 minutes of presentation, and the rest reserved for Q&A.

What I really respect, and why I am so willing to take ArenaNet at their word on Guild Wars 2, is that they seem unafraid to examine and dismantle the systems that go into their game design decisions. It’s one thing to state that something is a good idea and wait for everyone to nod in agreement, and another to ask the questions of “why do people play games this way and not this way?” and be willing to test and iterate and observe the way people play their game and change accordingly.

Of particular interest is the segment in which Eric and Colin talk about the challenges they faced in dealing with players who are unfamiliar, even suspicious, of the mechanics being described, and how they dealt with those challenges. It’s not so much that I think ArenaNet has thought of every possible eventuality and nipped it in the bud as that I believe they’re watching and willing to learn and adapt. I majored in systems engineering many moons ago, so hearing Colin and Eric talk about systems and the big picture they’re considering here earns them huge thumbs up from me.

It’s worlds away from “working as intended.”

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I’ve been taking things easy on the blogging front, because I haven’t had much to report on the gaming front, I’m afraid. In some cases it’s by choice, but in others it seems the universe and/or my computer are conspiring against me.

I haven’t logged any time in Guild Wars for a while now; after my big push to get my Protector of Tyria title (and in the process, finally finish Prophecies on my main), as well as grinding Asura faction on the double EotN faction weekend, and trying to finish the War In Kryta content (still stuck on Battle for Lion’s Arch due to bad timing on my part), I got pretty burned out. I’ll not likely return until there’s another big WiK addition. It’s funny, because I was just starting to reconsider my previously-held position that I just can’t sustain gaming for hours every night because I was having such fun in Guild Wars, but no, I really can’t sustain gaming for hours every night. Fortunately there’s no subscription to cancel and re-activate, as ever, hooray for Guild Wars.

Since I was no longer playing GW, it was lucky that Gamescom came around right at that time, so I could drown myself in GW2 footage, commentary, speculation and all-around glee. While sill I want this game to come out so badly it hurts, that rush is finally starting to die down – though I’m still paying close attention to PAX – and I can turn my attention to other things.

One such thing is the resurgence of Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising and news of stress testing. NDAs prevent me from saying anything more about this, but I am excited to see that something is on the near horizon.

Another such thing is EverQuest II Extended, which I have gone ahead and created a character in, to putter around in New Halas. I wish I could be more excited about this, as generally speaking EQII has been one of my favorite MMO experiences and as recently as this year I had to wrestle with myself to keep from subscribing, so this ought to be a dream come true. However, I’m pretty disappointed in the way SOE has gone about breaking into the F2P market, from the segregated servers and abolition of live server free trials, to the absurd restrictions still placed upon EQIIExtended users who pay the equivalent of a monthly subscription. Had SOE handled this a little more deftly, I would have been sure to throw some money their way, whether to buy a race, or a class, or broker tokens, or the latest expansion – anything, really. Now I’m pretty determined to see how far I can get for free, and not sure I’ll continue on if that turns out to be “not very far.”

Finally, this weekend is the start of the Final Fantasy XIV open beta. While I already know that FFXIV is not for me – I tried FFXI as well, and boy, is it not for me – the game looks positively gorgeous in my opinion and I wanted to have such loveliness on my actual computer, even if just for an evening of tussling with an arcane menu system. Six client crashes and a character falling through the world later, and I think I’m about done. Also, I had a guildleve to work on, crashed on my way to the location, and it went away, unable to be reclaimed from the NPC I’d originally got it from. Still, I managed to kill a few things, take a few nice screenshots, watch two evocative cutscenes, had a same-sex demoness proposition me, and was invited to discuss male body parts by a lalafell.

Client issues or not, I’m reluctant to call that a complete failure based on the above experience alone.

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