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Archive for April, 2010

The Bitter Wait

This past weekend, as my EQII trial came to an end, I set out to work towards a few more achievements in Guild Wars. I had a multi-year pause in the Eye of the North storyline to revisit; I fell behind most of my guildmates during our initial run and never got around to picking it back up again, until now.

Several near-wipes and a couple of hours later, I had finally bested the Disc of Chaos and appealed to a guildie to help me take down the Great Destroyer. This proved to be one of the more simple parts of the EOTN campaign, following the Guild Wars “Boss in a room” technique, and before too long I was claiming my Dwarven fire staff and receiving accolades from every NPC I had ever encountered in my travels.

All in a day’s work, my NPC friends.

My main purpose in finishing up now, of course, is to be able to witness the interactions between Lt. Thackeray and Gwen, to hopefully take part in assisting in their courtship, and to ramp up my involvement in the War In Kryta events. I have not yet been able to assemble all the necessary elements of Gwen and the Lieutenant’s inevitable picnic, nor have I had a successful engagement with the ominous Peacekeepers as yet (I keep wiping on them, no doubt in part due to having level 15 henchmen for the area, while going up against level 20 groups), but I have two more nights to try!

In the meantime, lovely treats like this new Guild Wars 2 Manifesto keep popping up and making me want to spin forward my clock until it’s 2011. Any shows of interest I might have for the slew of MMOs currently in some state of progress or another fades to a “meh” when compared to my anticipation for Guild Wars 2. I’ve been trying hard not to get too excited since there’s such a long wait to be had, but frankly, ArenaNet has a solid track record as far as I’m concerned, and if they say their game is going to be fun, then by gum, I know it’s going to be fun!

And if they say they want Guild Wars 2 to be “the best MMORPG ever created”, well, I’m on board for that, too.

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I have been spending the past week re-visiting certain old MMMO haunts. On the one hand, the whole White Mantle/Shining Blade kerfuffle is ramping up in Guild Wars and I want to try my hand at unravelling the mysteries in-game. On the other hand, I have signed up for a new Everquest II 14-day trial – my third such vacation to Norrath, which I will use to decide whether I really can talk myself into re-subbing to the game when New Halas and the rest of the goodies promised with Game Update 56 go live.

My attempts to return to Guild Wars have been brief lately, as I am mostly burned out on the game, having leveled 13 characters to max through various storylines. I am focusing on my main character now, trying to get her one last item to add to her Hall of Monuments: the Protector of Tyria Title. All I need for this title is to complete the mission and bonuses for each of the 25 Prophecies missions in Normal Mode (I would not even attempt Hard Mode; its inticacies are beyond my mediocrity, and I’m perfectly okay with that). So far I have completed 13 towards my goal.

Evenings consist of logging in to GW, asking around for my guild and alliance mates for help and company, then hopping the map in search of PUGs forming for the same purpose of mission+bonus completion. I usually only have time for one mission in any given evening, and my playtimes are erratic, so sometimes I get a PUG bingo or chatty Alliance chat, and sometimes I don’t see anyone at all. I hate myself a little for letting myself grind like this, but the title itself seems so simple to get as opposed to Hard Mode Vanquishing, getting Sweet Tooth or Alcoholic titles, or the much-awed Defender of Ascalon title, that letting the Protector of Ascalon title go unfilled almost seems a waste of a gimme. Still, I can only complete a few missions in a week before I feel the need to take another break from the game. And this is my favorite!

I’m really in need of new content, and I’m hoping the War In Kryta additions will help breathe some fresh air into Guild Wars for me, for the time being. In the same vein, I have returned to another aspect of the game that I gave up on a while back: the Bonus Missions. On this subject I will say I was a bit disappointed. I appreciated the new content, but didn’t care for some of the ways the missions were structured. While Gwen’s story was inventively handled, and Turai’s played more like a standard GW party mission, I didn’t like the Togo and Saul missions’ seeming over-reliance on monster skills to overpower mobs of enemies; in Togo’s mission in particular I felt like there was no room to develop a strategy because the margin for error was so small. To me, that feels more like bad design than challenging design.

Please note: the next paragraph will contain slight spoilers for the Master Togo mission The Tengu Accords.

Perhaps that’s just my own poor strategizing ability talking, but I recall fondly doing Guild Wars missions with other people where we were completely new to the material (oh, those halycon days of the first week of Nightfall!), and although GW missions are always pass/fail, it remains possible in almost every case to pull a team back from the brink of a wipe, regroup, and rethink your approach. Sometimes it does involve a bit of knowledge gained on the fly, i.e. this group seems to spawn when we do that, x boss spawned when we hit y point; but rarely did we have to learn the encounter at the expense of a successful mission completion. Having looked at Togo’s mission walkthrough after several frustrating attempts, I see that by its basic design you are not rewarded for being cautious. You are not rewarded for successful pulls. You are not rewarded for, or even given the opportunity to, direct your henchman effectively. More than one room is successfully won by using perfect timing of your overpowered AOE spell; to mis-time is to die, and to die is to fail. I can only hope this isn’t the direction ArenaNet plans to take GW2 in for future story-driven missions.

But those days are finally behind me. Now I am ready to move on to the real story; that of the war in Kryta and my character’s role in it!

As for Everquest II, I have been experimenting with different races for the benefit of different starting areas, and with a few different classes than I am used to. I have taken a Wood Elf through Kelethin for the first time, and am levelling a Dark Elf through to Freeport next. I know that Freeport in particular is an old-school area with lesser equipment rewards than the newer Timorous Deep or even Kelethin, but I want to know these areas’ stories, and not become burned out on TD just because it may have the most cohesive levelling experience.

Among the new classes I’m trying are a Berserker, Swashbuckler, and Shadowknight. Although I am normally a Mage+survivability person (see my Conjuror), I have come to enjoy the Berserker for her sheer ability to remain standing, health draining slowly, axes flashing in all directions. It’s the other side of “heroic” that I associate with these types of MMOs and I’ll admit to getting quite the adrenaline rush when I’ve just managed to outlive my foes. I have not got far with my Swashbuckler (which I am trying out because of the jaunty hat) and Shadowknight (since everyone else has one, why not me too?), but I look forward to getting more face time with them while my Berserker gains her vitality bonus over the next week.

And if not, there’s always another trial!

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You know, Everquest II, I already promised myself that I would not be playing any more subscription games, since I have one sub already and hardly the time to play it. You know that I enjoyed myself greatly the two-and-a-half months that I played you. You know that I even went so far as to try to recruit my better half and another good friend into the game, and that I continued to play on my own , completely unlike myself, when both of those attempts petered out. You know that one of the major reasons – perhaps even the only reason – I decided not to resubscribe after the second month was that I had hit a point at which I no longer understood my purpose in the game, and was frustrated by being constantly directed to EQWiki simply for locations to level up in, rather than being part of a connected story that made me feel involved in the world and made me feel like I was gaining power and influence.

You understand, then, that your proposed Storyteller feature and your Golden Path would be pretty much, oh, exactly what I want in an MMO. You understand that right this minute I want to rush home and resubscribe and pick up my level 37 conjurer where I left off.

You really are going to make me have this fight with myself, aren’t you?

Edit: Oh, wonderful, and you’re talking about streamlining travel, too? [Swoon] Stop, stop, it’s too much. I promised myself!

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Avatar Blues

Having spent some time at the Lt. Commander tier in Star Trek Online, whilst also dabbling in an assortment of other games I’ve posted about, I have been trying to determine how I really feel about STO, two months in.

I have certainly been playing infrequently, and in small doses; when my better half and I log in to play together, we don’t pull off more than a patrol mission and a story episode before calling it quits for the night. Sometimes we mix it up with a patrol mission mixed with PvP! And while I can honestly say it’s fun to fly around blasting ships and gaping at the scenic asteroid belts and planets we orbit (I’m not even tired of patrol missions yet; they feel much less grindy than “kill twenty boars” to me), at the end of the day the most exciting part of any game session is, for me, the moment when my first officer suggests that we beam down and check something out.

I have posted before about my fears that I would feel disconnected from the game if I spent most of my time being represented as a ship, and whether or not I’ve sabotaged myself by calling it, my fears seems to have come to pass. It’s not that I dread space combat, or the act of beaming up, exactly. I’m pretty good at the space side of things, but I do wish there were rather less of it. Even my mindset towards my Bridge Officers changes between when I’m on the ground and when I’m in space: I equip myself with Tachyon Beam and Beam Overload, but I train my First Officer in Draw Fire. In space, my BOffs are just buttons that I press to make myself more effective, but on the ground they are bodies I fight alongside, instruct to give cover, and resuscitate when they fall. I can’t stop thinking of my ship as a vehicle. It is not “me (in-game),” and I want, more than anything in this game, to be able to be “me.”

I hear that at higher tiers there are ground Fleet Actions, and of course the raidisodes (which I am unsure I will ever see) have ground content as well. I hold out hope that the ground game will be improved and expanded on as time passes; additional exploration content and, of course, more ship interiors will contribute to what is currently lacking.

In the meantime, I’ll just be hanging out in the exploration clusters, warping in and out of missions in the hopes of finding things I can apply a tricorder to.

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