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Archive for December, 2010

ArenaNet, You Wound Me

Just when I was basking in the realization that I would not have to choose between Rift and Guild Wars 2, that each can offer me MMO goodness in their own respective ways – that I could, in fact, have my cake and eat it, too – ANet throws me the curveball of releasing Edge of Destiny, the second Guild Wars novel, on December 28th.

This is no problem at all, unless, of course, one was also invited to Rift’s Beta 3 event, which begins on December 28th.

Don’t worry about being late to the party, Hunter – I’ll be joining you a week into Edge of Destiny mania, just as soon as I’m finished pounding epic rift invasions into the ground.

Happy day off to those of you fortunate to have it, enjoy your respective festive celebrations, and happy retail hell day to our fine women and men in the service industry.

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Rift Take Me Away

Rift’s beta NDA has officially been dropped (I believe alpha testers are still to remain mum), so I can go ahead and say that I was extremely lucky in being randomly invited to both beta weekend events, and then managed to snag two VIP keys for Mr. Randomessa and myself, so that we could play Beta 2 together.

It seems everybody has something to say about Rift, so I’m not sure I have much to add. Since I don’t play WoW, many of the similarities other bloggers noted and commented on were missed by yours truly and Mr. Randomessa; we were more likely to compare Rift to the Warhammer we actually have experience with, with smatterings of EQII and Aion thrown in for variety. About the most damning thing anyone has to say about Rift is that it doesn’t do much that is new, and how damning you find that will completely depend on how new you like your gaming experience to be.

I went into the Beta 1 weekend thinking that I wanted things to be about as different as possible, because the only game that has drawn and kept my attention for years isn’t even on the books as a “real” MMO, but I am also the same person who played the heck out of Warhammer for six months before the population took a nosedive, and farther back from that, played a cleric and healed berserkers back in my text MUD days. It turns out that my “I like different” battle cry shriveled up as soon as I found out that in Rift I could be a chainmail-wearing, hammer-wielding cleric with a pet. Just like I used to in StrangeMUD fifteen years ago! And so it was that I was sold.

Rift’s appeal for Mr. Randomessa and I lays mostly in the little things: in the markings on Kelari faces, in the lazy character running animations (much hated on the forums but charming to me), in the way loot automatically goes into a bag on your UI when you participate in a Rift, so you can always collect even if you die. Rift appealed to us when I opened the map and hollered for Mr. Randomessa to “LOOK at it, LOOK AT THE INVASIONS” and when Mr. Randomessa yelled at me to “LOOK at that TREE, LOOK AT IT!” There was a lot of yelling at Chez Randomessa on Sunday night of Beta 2.

I found myself enjoying healing a group in a chaotic situation long after I thought I’d hung up that hat. I poured hours into leveling in the hopes that I would be able to experience a dungeon, came up short, but got to kill a tree with over 300,000 hit points, and keep people alive while doing it (while Mr. Randomessa crafted in a corner; something he always found disappointing about Warhammer). I got to hang out with a couple hundred people in the same area without a server meltdown, dance with a dwarf, and watch a bit of Rift lore unfold without having had to attain an elite level range or armor rating.

Beta event 3 will take place squarely in the middle of a week in which I have to work, and will end the morning of my only day off, so my story ends here. Mr. Randomessa, on the other hand, has strict instructions to devour everything and take notes. We’re going to need some more information if we’re to make this our new home, after all.

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Aerrevan has released

Hat tip to Aspen for bringing my attention to this game: Aerrevan, an indie fantasy MMO title, has now officially released and claims to offer some things out of the usual norm, including keyword quests (chat with that NPC to figure out what s/he wants!), no classes, a seamless world, player-run shops, open PvP for guilds, and a few more items on their Features page.

It’s not the prettiest game to look at, but I haven’t seen it advertised anywhere, and I maintain that indie titles like this need love as long as they have devoted development teams trying to do something different (since “something different” has been requested so much these days). So I am pimping it out here for whatever it’s worth.

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Between KTR’s post about MMOs charging subscriptions for content, and Syp’s post about MMOs claiming to re-invent the wheel and what may or may not be foolhardy about that, I’ve had a lot of food for thought over the past couple of days, and done more commenting than I usually do. So, I says to myself, self, I should probably slink away to my blog and continue here.

The beta testing and gaming I’ve been doing recently has helped me learn more about my tastes WRT MMOs (and I’m still learning): my reticence to maintain subscriptions has always had to do with feeling compelled to play, which, to others, might merely be a sign that I don’t enjoy a game as much as I should – and in some cases, as with LOTRO, it’s certainly true.

But I keep coming back to the sub-1000 hours I’ve spent playing my most favoritest game in the whole wide world, Guild Wars, over the past five years. I have literally played this game as much as I can stand, and enjoyed 99.8% of it – the only times I don’t enjoy it are when I end up having to repeat missions to get to the next nugget of story, or when I actually do dip into the grind/farm in order to acquire that elite armor, or that minipet, or that faction tier. That’s when I find myself playing for hours a night for, say, a week, and then leaving for a month because I need some time to myself.

There is so much I haven’t done in Guild Wars. I’ve never seen the inside of an elite dungeon. I haven’t finished the Titan quest chain. I most certainly haven’t Vanquished more than a few small squares of any given continent. I will never play any aspect of the game enough to get T1 Friend of the Luxons/Kurzicks.

But I love this game. I adore it, I think about it, I blog about it, I read the lore and I pitch it to every person I come across who might seem the slightest bit inclined to computer gaming. But ultimately I haven’t logged on since I completed Hearts of the North, and I’m really okay with that. I didn’t have to cancel my subscription, and I don’t feel that GW has somehow let me down because I didn’t have anything to do but “grind” after I was finished. I’ll be back when the next part of the story continues, and so on.

The subscription mentality, naturally, resists the prospect of a game being “finished”, because a) for most people the game isn’t the story, and b) because why pay a subscription for content that ends?

Well, why, indeed?

I’d been feeling mildly guilty about signing up for and playing betas and other things that fill the void for me between content bursts in GW and news about GW2 – and its eventual release – but I think I’ve been going about it the wrong way, approaching it from a viewpoint not my own. If I don’t mind that GW’s content has an endpoint, there’s no need for me to feel guilty about not logging in each day to chase carrots in which I have no interest, and in addition, there’s no subscription compelling me to do it.

Similarly, if I’m okay with leaving GW intermittently, there’s no need for me to feel I must remain “loyal” to GW and only play other games as a stopgap between GW updates. So what if I want to buy Rift when it comes out? So what if I want to buy DC Universe Online?

What if the people who only subscribe to WoW long enough to reach max level, then return to level through an expansion, and unsubscribe again, have it right? Is it so wrong, is it such a failure of the game, indeed, of the genre, to do that?

I am not in any way suggesting that the genre move entirely toward this sort of model just because it suits me. I will admit to having no solution for those unsatisfied with the model, because I do not crave what they crave. What would an MMO that didn’t heavily feature the endless pursuit of higher numbers and more bars to fill up look like, if it does not already exist in games like EVE or Darkfall or A Tale in the Desert, or if it did not explictly claim that it has a story that ends, such as A Secret World or Guild Wars 2?

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According to Chris Cao, as of today the NDA for DC Universe Online has officially been lifted, so now I can finally rest easy. I was invited to the closed beta shortly before the wave of pre-order invites went out post November 15th, and, since my husband and I both pre-ordered, we then got two keys from that as well. I’ve been busily tearing up Gotham City and Metropolis ever since.

And what a time it has been! While it is evident in many ways why SOE decided to postpone the launch of DCUO, I have had a relatively smooth beta experience, and a lot of content to burn through (much of which I have not experienced due to lack of gaming hours and a reticence to “spoil” content for myself). Vindictus has softened me somewhat to the so-called “action” style of gameplay, and while I will never be someone who can compete on a high level – I have not yet PvP’ed, and frankly I’m afraid to – I am a bit above button-mashing level. Why, I can even pull off a combo or two from time to time, with no repetitive stress injuries resulting.

Story-wise, in my opinion DCUO delivers, as we chase story nugget after story nugget, with copious voice work (still in progress) and epic boss fights and cut scenes. This is, as I’ve said before, exactly why I play these games, and even if the combat weren’t as satisfying, the story would keep me playing longer than most. Because the combat is satisfying and fun, it’s all the sweeter.

Relative downsides include a lack of character customization to start off with, which is certainly a deal-breaker for some. I’m not sure this is a title for the heavy RPers, as its UI is FPS-style with no ability to click on other players or “inspect” them, and I’m not even sure there are emotes, let alone extensive ones. Chatting with in-game text becomes cumbersome. This is an action title for sure, which makes it all the more puzzling to separate the PC and PS3 players.

Since we’ve been in beta, Mr. Randomessa and I have rarely played Vindictus, as DCUO has been providing us with much of that good old smack-things-around fun, with much more scenic and character variety (my complaint, not his). Character graphics are not as smooth or impressive as Vindictus, to be sure, but I value the opportunity to make a character that is unique and distinct, something I’ve not had a problem with in DCUO thus far. Ideally I could have Vindictus’s graphics and DCUO’s versatility.

I do find myself longing for more non-combat content, which I’m not sure DCUO will reasonably provide given, again, the FPS interface. With no crafting planned, we are left with exploration and collection quests, which are nice, but not quite what I’m looking for when I say “non-combat content.” But after playing these two highly-active games, I am not quite sure how I will happily return to other titles with numbered skill bars. I won’t go so far as to say Guild Wars 2 is my only hope, but I am really chomping at the bit to see how they combine the “active” dodging and target-free aiming with action bars and weapon-swapping. It may be precisely the combination I crave, but I won’t know until I can get my hands on the controls.

If SOE can make good on its promise to continuously provide monthly and quarterly updates to “earn” our subscription dollars, this could very well be a title we keep on hand and go back and forth between. I can’t see us maintaining a steady subscription, especially since ultimately we both crave a fantasy title, but for this game, I don’t think I’d mind paying my $15 to pop in and see what’s new from time to time.

But enough from me at this late hour. I’m happy to now link to beta gameplay, previously leaked, now kosher (beware story spoilers):

2-man team with Martian Manhunter vs. Aquaman

Solo VS. Isis

Villain vs. Power Girl

8-man raid

Really, just check out the user’s links if you’re interested in more. He has a ton, including a Smallville 5-man and a 2-man team saving Batman’s hide.

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Thwarted by IE

I am finding pickings slow for internet activity these days, for a combination of factors:

1) The only information coming out of Guild Wars 2 these days is heavily mechanics-based, and honestly, I’m just not that interested in the nitty-gritty details of energy potions or the precise number of traits to choose from, etc. I leave the number-crunching and theorycrafting to Mr. Randomessa, who delights in that sort of thing. Me? If I can kill the thingy with the thingy and get the next bit of yummy story, I’m more than satisfied. Just don’t ask me to name the thingy.

2) I’m up to my eyeballs in non-disclosure agreements. I’m not complaining, by any means, but I have never been so busy with non-gaming gaming as I am now.

3) The new Massively website (via Joystiq) does not play nicely with my workplace’s version of Internet Explorer. This means that the “submit” button on comments is not visible to me and I am effectively unable to communicate. By the time I get home to my CometBird, I have lost all interest and inclination to post, and the discussion has moved on far past my point of entry (as all forums are wont to do). It’s a real momentum-killer.

4) I’m feeling a bit lonely in Guild Wars these days. While I was glad for the ability to finish up Hearts of the North in one evening of play with few mishaps, my work hours have increased and that, in addition to my time zone, prevents me from making regular play dates. As a result I haven’t seen the MVOP crew in months, and am unable to join up with the Relics of Orr folks. See also #2).

(I am fortunate indeed for the odd chance meeting with Nugget.)

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