Today is Day One of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, a month-long endeavor to welcome and encourage new bloggers into this terrifying public online world.

…wow, I’m really selling this, aren’t I?

There are over 70 blogs participating in this initiative, including myself as a sponsor, so if you’d like to throw in your hat, be sure to visit the NBI forums here. That link is good for either newbie bloggers themselves or anyone with an established blog who’d be interesting in being a sponsor. Starting a new blog is scary and there’s not much worse than feeling your words are going, unread, into the aether, which is why I’m so honored to be taking part this month.

Later in the month I’ll have a post up with some advice, tips and suggestions on getting your feet wet from my own experience blogging, and at the end of May I’ll be posting a wrap-up with all the articles written by the sponsors taking part.

Blog on!

Starting default face:

Side view

After modification

Scenery (high-res):

A norn and her bear.


Hot springs

So I figured out how to take screenshots without you in them. Just sit. Very zen.

1) They’ve toned down the spell effects a lot. A lot. It was amazing to throw axes through a fire wall whilst fighting alongside 10-20 other people and still be able to tell exactly which flaming axes were mine.

2) My day job and commute spared me the worst of the server/login drah-HAH-ma, and it wasn’t long before ANet brought down the servers for 30 minutes, then came back up incredibly improved performance. My Asus GJ73JH is pulling ~40fps no matter who’s on screen at the time, but obviously it’s a bit of a crapshoot whether you have the lucky good PC build or the unlucky scorned PC build. Reminds me of the early Rift semi-open beta weekends.

3) Older lady face.

*With regards to Katy Perry (though I prefer Karen Gillian‘s version myself).

When one of my Guild Wars alliance mates offered up a SW:TOR buddy key a few weeks ago, I took her up on it since I have been curious about how things would play out given more time to explore other storylines in the world. Since I discovered during the SW:TOR beta weekends that I liked the Bounty Hunter playstyle best (but didn’t care for the story), I rolled a Trooper this time, and had a better time of it. Something about the fact that I was a soldier made it easier to accept the game’s conceits (and most quests) and “just go along” with whatever was going on – I have orders, after all – rather than playing a civilian where I always wonder why they don’t just decide to up and leave. This is true of most MMOs I play, by the way – I like my grunt status, thanks.

Look at Aric checking me out, there.

I liked playing a Trooper enough to get past many of the other niggling things that I already noted rub me the wrong way about Bioware and traditional MMO style games, and the sad fact is that since Mr. Randomessa refused to join me on this experiment, leveling was easier because I never had to wait on or catch up with him either. So it was with regret that I reached level 15 on my Trooper and the game informed me that I would no longer be able to progress, nor would I be able to continue my storyline to the point of getting to ride in the ship I’d just acquired, or travel to another planet. I’d have known that if I’d read all the fine print, of course. Well played, Bioware.

I then rolled a Jedi Consular and an Imperial Agent and hated the gameplay, and further ran into the complication of my Consular being sent to the same planet as my Trooper and therefore running into the exact same quests I’d just completed a day earlier. I also had the frustrating experience of my Consular outright stating in her quest dialogue that she would try to find a peaceable solution to the quests my Trooper had previously solved by “lighting it up,” only to be faced with the same sea of red names that my Trooper had. I think I got the option to use Force Persuade at one point, which I guess is the game’s way of letting you have a peaceable solution, but I was kind of hoping I could do things with actual diplomacy rather than Jedi Mind Tricks. I know, I know, I was asking for too much.

At any rate, I liked playing the Trooper the most, but I didn’t like it “price of the box at launch cost for 30 days of play” much. If and when there’s a nifty discount on the box price of SW:TOR I’d like to free up her leveling path and see where I can get her, but in the meantime, she’ll remain in the hangar, ineffectually trying to board and re-board her brand new ship. For what it’s worth – which is not much – I would have bought the game at full launch cost in a heartbeat if I could play my Trooper at my leisure, instead of trying to get her as far as possible in a month’s time. But it was not meant to be. This is much more an indictment of the subscription model than Bioware’s game at this point, so I feel I’ve come a long way since that beta weekend so many months ago.

In a week’s time I expect to be very very busy, but it would have been nice to at least see if I could put the moves on Aric in the meantime.

Well,  I couldn’t let this one go by without comment.

Mike O’Brien on Microtransactions in Guild Wars 2

All right, we’ve all read it. We’ve seen the forum outrage (and encouragingly enough, some reasoned discussion about it in places like Reddit). Mike O’Brien cites EVE’s PLEX system as the most apt comparison to GW2’s gems, though I haven’t any experience with that system, so I will let more informed observers comment on that. Hunter notes the similarities to Runes of Magic’s Diamond currency, and raises what I think are valid concerns on that front.

I have a rather strong aversion to heavily speculating on things I don’t have much information on, so I can’t pretend to know how this will turn out when real players with real cash are let loose in GW2 at launch. I do strongly feel that the people who are most upset are forgetting a few things:

  • it’s impossible to buy power for the purposes of structured PvP
  • buying one’s way to max gear or even max level won’t be the I Win button it is in some other games due to level-scaling and the fact that the max-level continent of Orr is full of elite dynamic events that can’t be soloed.
  • further on the buying gear front, the most elite sets will still be those that are acquired in explorable-mode dungeons and not those purchased with either gold or karma. I would be surprised unto the point of hat-eating if you could trade explorable mode dungeon tokens or armor sets for gold.
  • even those items, such as siege weapon blueprints, which can be purchased with gold in WvWvW, require supply to build, which requires playing the game as intended. The worst thing that could happen is that a guild spends a ton of money to hold a keep for a little longer for one campaign after which two things will happen:
    • The rest of the servers will catch up in leveling to 80
    • The WvWvW campaign will end and they’ll be re-matched and lose their advantage

The other aspect that people are upset about is the idea that some will be able to buy their way past significant time investments. There are two parts to this:

  • The first is the stance that ANet will tune the game so that leveling without XP boosts will be tedious. I know the game is still in beta, so this is subject to change, but I think simply watching the videos that came out from the last press beta should put that worry to rest for the time being. Since the leveling curve plateaus, I don’t think it can reasonably be argued that we’ll hit a “grind wall” at this point.
  • The second part is that people fear that certain time-or-monetarily-gained rewards will lose their impact if players can buy the gold with gems. While I understand the sentiment behind this argument, I also think that ArenaNet never gave me the impression that this was a particular feature they were supporting. The emphasis on armor sets won in explorable-mode dungeons, for example, as a source of prestige, rather than extremely expensive armor sets, seems clear in retrospect. I think it’s safe to say that while there would be high respect given to a FOW equivalent type of armor in GW2, there won’t be as much value placed on the equivalent to Vabbian armor, which only involved a high monetary (and thus time, rather than skill) investment.

(Bear with me, as I know you can “buy” runs to the FOW to pick up your armor set, but buying runs as they were in GW1 seems to be done with in GW2, so I doubt the same would be possible there.)

For my part, I do intend to use the cash shop, but I don’t see myself buying items of convenience. Give me shiny costumes, minipets, character slots and the like and I’ll show ArenaNet the money. And hey, if I happen to earn enough gold over time to get some of those shinies for the mere investment of my time, I’ll do that, too. It’s not like I need that XP bonus to play a 2×2 PvP match with my husband and a couple of friends, to vanquish the Shatterer, safely escort a caravan full of supply for the glory of my guild, or to put an end to Zhaitan’s reign of terror.

Could any of this change? Could ArenaNet really change the XP curve to make it tedious and grindy to level without the assistance of XP buffs and boosts? Could they sell armor and weapons through the cash shop that gives stats above and beyond what is ordinarily obtainable or affordable in-game? It all comes down to whether or not you believe Mike O’Brien:

it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time.

Now that we have word that select press will be permitted to film what they experience over this Press Beta Event weekend, I am even more eagerly awaiting the footage coming down the line on Monday afternoon from the various outlets and may just make Youtube my browser’s homepage. I’m sure everyone has their own pet ideas about what they’d like to see updated or new footage of, from the wiki folks who need to make sure their skill icons and descriptions are up to date to the PvPers who are already planning out their strategies.

My own wish list that I hope to see come out of this beta event are probably predictable to anyone who’s familiar with my blog, and are as follows:

It might be a bit much to ask from a closed beta weekend, but I’m keeping the dream alive until the day betas open up and we  can all see how things work for ourselves.