Daily Blogroll 1/27 — Inevitable Backlash edition

Yeah, I’ve been MIA for a couple weeks now. Work time is creeping into home time. It’s so cold when I get home that I find myself cuddling up with blankets and a cat on the couch, watching Netflix (tonight: the Canadian comedy “Slings & Arrows“, season 1). I’m not wild about this “winter” thing in general. I haven’t been able to get on the bicycle for a few weeks now, and it’s really making me antsy.

Anyway, Rift beta 5 is underway. I logged in last night and made a warrior on the Belmont server and met my guild, Black Company. Played up through level 9, got caught up in some rift fights, had a little fun, but you know… I’m losing enthusiasm for the game.

Does that sound bad? I vowed to play Rift up to the level cap in the company of a guild and see all there was to see. Shouldn’t I be really excited?

I was really excited when it was me discovering a world of mystery. I was pretty damn pleased to try out different souls and make my own unique class. I was jumping for joy when I realized one didn’t need to grind quests with the rifts opening everywhere, just handing out adventure and experience.

But now, you can get a dozen decent build suggestions everywhere you look. There are guides for all the dungeons, all the quests, all the warfronts. By the time the game ships, the game will be completely known and over-examined. It will be SPOILED.

I’m still going to play Rift, and enjoy it. I just see that it’s going to become the same damn thing as with WoW, where my refusal to learn anything about the game other than what I discover for myself makes me look like a raw clueless newbie to everyone unfortunate enough to group with me. I really hate that feeling.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll 1/27 — Inevitable Backlash edition

Weekend Gaming: EVE, EQ2, STO, DDO, Dragonica Online

I’ve come to realize, over the years, that I really suck at MMOs. Easily distracted and easily bored, the sort of long-term, intense concentration that is the mark of the truly successful grinder is impossible for me. I can’t be the only one; the newer crop of MMOs seem made for people with short attention spans. World of Warcraft’s “Looking for Dungeon” tool lets you defeat the ultimate evils of Azeroth half an hour at a time. EQ2’s newest mission maps reward you if you can finish the entire instance before the necromancer is done buffing her pet.

Star Trek Online has its “episodes” — all the story they can fit into 45 minutes. You get a little story, then you have some ship battles. A little more story, and you beam down to the planet to kill some folks. Some more story, and you enter a building to wipe out some industrial replicators.

And it’s fun! I’d changed up my Science Kit last night, so most of my old abilities were going with the old kit, but the new one worked with “nanites” — the microscopic miracle machines that are the remedy that cures all ills. I now have packets of GOOD nanites, that infect me and those around me and heal me (or my allies) up to three times, as needed. And I have packets of BAD nanites, that infect enemies and cause them to take more damage from attacks. As well, I can tune my tricorder to send out all sorts of disruptive signals. So that’s fun.

I really enjoyed roaming the galaxy in my Galaxy-class cruiser, but I’ve been watching the last season of Voyager and just had a hankering to fly it myself. For just 140K energy credits (or the price of a common Mark I tactical console if bought from the Exchange), I bought my own Intrepid-class long range science vessel. Unlike the Galaxy, Starfleet engineers have given the Intrepid the ability to TURN.

The upgraded science officer positions also let me unleash the awesome power of the Viral Matrix III, which holds a ship meek and defenseless for 16 seconds, during which time I dismantle its shields and feed it plasma torpedoes until it’s full.

Finishing last night’s episode opened up “The Tribble with Klingons” — I can’t wait to see what that one’s about! @Longasc sent me a blue tribble last night, I’ll definitely be taking it along on the journey.

We met again in Dungeons & Dragons Online again last night to further explore The Waterworks, which the game helpfully describes as ‘the heart of the kobold infestation in Stormreach”. Well, what part of Stormreach ISN’T infested with kobolds? The Waterworks by any other name would be a sewer, and Stingite, Shintai and I trundled through pipes and tubes and traps and oozes for hours… just to get to the instances. I know it’s SUPPOSED to be subterranean and all, but why is it so dark? You’d think a dwarf would be able to see better down there.

My Hobbesian cleric leveled to level 4 last night, the last of our group to do so. I’ve been lagging behind on the solo adventures I’ve been meaning to do so that instances open at the Hard level when we come to do them as a group. Since nobody had opened up the Waterworks instance we did last night solo, we had to complete them on Normal. So, we’ll be back at least a couple more times to gain favor and better loot.

The normal level adventures, done with a hireling, are almost the perfect solo gaming experience. At my own pace, I find more reasons to use the various wands, potions and spells that I find here and there. In a group, it’s all I can do to keep up and try to whack a goblin and toss a heal or buff now and again.

Still a great game for those who like dungeon crawls. I haven’t yet spent any money on the game, but that’s more because I have no idea what I would want to buy with it, than any reluctance to do so. I can’t imagine starting another character and having to do all those instances over again. If I did, I’d be playing a drow!

It was not a good weekend for me in EVE Online. Buoyed by my success with Ishtar blueprints, I bought 16 mechanical engineering datacores at 290K ISK each and, given the suddenly high price of Vexor blueprints, set a Deimos and a Phobos blueprint into invention. Both of those are based off the Thorax blueprint, which was very cheap. I used a two-run decryptor on both. I bought a Tristan original blueprint as the first step in the Nemesis Initiative, made some copies and put a Nemesis blueprint into invention as well.

All three invention jobs failed. Nobody bought any of my Tristan blueprint copies, either. The only thing I DID sell, was my last Ishtar blueprint.

I’m running short on decryptors so I headed out in search of more radar complexes. I found one — but it was empty. Every plex I scanned down was empty or was already taken. I found some Serpentis anomalies and cleared them, but the rewards were minimal.

If it hadn’t been for the level 4 mission I’d done with Kasul, the weekend would have been a total wash. That was a glorious mission. I dragged my Dominix battleship out of mothballs to tank, and my alt was in her Prophecy to help with the smaller targets. Kasul had his golden new Nemesis stealth bomber, and he was just sitting at range lobbing torpedo after torpedo into the mess. Things died FAST. After that mission, I started my alt training the Amarr version of the stealth bomber, the Purifier. Looks like a lot of fun.

I patched up EverQuest II to have a look at the changes. The AA tree for my troubadour was entirely changed up, so much so that I hardly knew where to spend my points. I visited the research assistant and got my latest spell, then started him researching the Master version of Perfection of the Maestro II for me.

As soon as I finish one game, probably Star Trek Online at this point, I’ll be heading back into EverQuest II, but as what class, I don’t know. I feel that the need for troubs is minimal at best in groups, and even where they are wanted, I’m a pretty poor one. I don’t have a full set of AAs yet, and what groups want is an AA right at the end of the tree. That’s pretty much all they want. LFG shouts usually are very careful to specify that the kind of bard they want is a DIRGE, or failing that, an enchanter of some sort for power regen. All fairly depressing.

My adventures with Sirhyl left my Fae berserker, Scatterfall, at level 48. Tanks have to deal with unrealistic expectations as to their abilities to survive ANYTHING all the time, but I’m thinking, with all sorts of healers on my second account, that she would have a better chance of living through the leveling process. I two-boxed my troub and inquisitor to 80, and most of the time, the troub was being carried by the inq. There was a solo fight in the Kunzar jungle where you had to fight an increasingly difficult opponent — the shackle series. My inquisitor sailed through those without trouble. I had to do all sorts of sneaking exploit tricks to help the troub through.

I may just switch things around, and carry the troub as power regen and other buffs and just play the inquisitor as my main, level to 90 that way. Or betray Tipa to be a dirge (but give up my Mythical? That would be a very hard thing to do).

Lastly, I haven’t been playing Dragonica Online much, but I’ve had a hankering to see something beyond the Port of Winds. I went through the very lengthy patching process — must have been six or more patches to come up to date — and spent a good hour learning how to play again by going through mission maps solo. Even on a weekend, there weren’t many people running missions in Traitor’s Ridge, so I wasn’t able to finish up the storyline there. I DID ding to 16 Archer while farming Windia Beach for quest bits. I came across a huge boss bat there, too, but I wasn’t able to get a good screenshot of it, as a high level player was one-shotting everything she saw, and I needed to concentrate on keeping my kill.

Fun as ever, and I have been sent to some of the maps on the other side of the Port of Winds. Leveling has been pretty slow; perhaps that’s why I don’t end up sticking with the game for any length of time. But best thing about F2P games is, they are always right where you left them when you want to play again.

I was invited once again to the No Prisoners No Mercy podcast this weekend, where the good Sisters Fran & Julie, Saylah of Mystic Worlds and I talked about the big questions of life — Good vs Evil, Allods Online and Ubisoft’s DRM, among many other things. While chatting away, I was in Wizard101. I did Sylvia’s tower in the Necropolis and then a large amount of quest farming in the Drake Hatchery. W101 is so much fun to do while chatting, I find :)

Daily Blogroll 9/17 – Kanye edition

Kanye pops up in Runes of Magic

Guy just keeps popping up everywhere, don’t he?

I am playing Runes of Magic now because, hey, WoW is coming out with a new expansion that I probably won’t play, so why not reminisce about good times in WoW by playing some other game? Runes of Magic only allowed me to pick from two races, Elf and Human. I thought they had some short folk in the character concept art, but I guess those were just meant to be children. It’d be kind of cool, by the way, to start of as a child in an MMO (optionally, anyway), and play children’s games of crafting, socialization, war and magic while slowly aging and learning more of the wider world and your place in it.

I’m a little late to the Runes of Magic scene, but I won’t let irrelevance slow me down. Expect a “first look” in a week or two.

Raph Koster is at the Austin Game Developer’s Conference this week (and I’d love to be there, too, to hear about all the new Wizard101 stuff!), and he’s been working his fingers to the knuckles transcribing various panels — he just posted a fascinating transcription of a panel about monetizing online games.

Because “Free to Play” doesn’t mean free. They expect between $5-$50 ARPU – average return per user per month (I believe it’s by month).

Speaking of modern gaming’s loose and liberal use of the word “free”, Free Realms is having a double Station Cash weekend Friday evening through Sunday night. Buy a Station Cash card, redeem it after 7PM PST Friday but before Sunday midnight, and they’ll match your donation. You have to redeem it within Free Realms, but you can use it in any SOE game that takes it. This puts a character transfer for your EQ2 characters at $12.50 each, effectively. Or you can spend it all on dressing your kitty like a pirate for International Talk Like a Pirate day.

If your F2P tastes run more toward stubby-legged cherubs than big-headed fairies, Dragonica Online has some Arr Ye Matey pirate wear in its cash shop, too. And of course, this is like Christmas Day for Pirates of the Burning Sea!

Here’s a little Pirate Alphabet to get in the mood:

Ravious at Kill Ten Rats has a fantastic interview with some folks at ArenaNet, the people behind Guild Wars and its forthcoming sequel, Guild Wars 2: Electric Boogaloo. Find out how the Wizards of the Coast folks have it so easy balancing Magic: the Gathering compared to the way tougher card game of primary and secondary skills, what the purpose of all those different classes is anyway, and what they’re keeping in mind for GW2.

Rer at (Insert Awesome Aion Name) was worried that the news that Aion’s Fortresses would only be allowed to be taken on that server’s prime time would really hurt legions (guilds) with members across time zones. Looks like NCsoft has taken that into account with a lot of tools to tell when a fortress is available for attack, which ones ARE being attacked and so forth to make it easier to get people together for those. Also, looks like the West Coast servers are gonna be the hot ones.

A random corner in RivervaleI used to twink my EQ alts by logging the alt in this little corner, dropping stuff there with my main, then logging in really quick and hope nobody had stolen it or it hadn’t just decayed. Was that cheating? *I* don’t think so. In EverQuest, that’s pretty much why people kept going to the old zones. Twinking — and farming stuff to sell — was the root of EQ’s social culture. It was the battery that kept the whole thing going. Gordon of We Fly Spitfires, alas, sees things differently. Is twinking just another form of cheating? Or is it a way to keep older zones active enough so that newer players can more easily find groups?

Syp thinks grinding has got a bad rap. In fact, it brings you to an almost zen-like state of relaxation. Seriously — grinding might be good for your health! So grind another rank of faction for your kids, because they love you.

If you’re gonna get that zen-like state going, what better reason than living through the apocalypse? Well, not quite living, not if you’re in Fallen Earth. You’re a clone of a DEAD person (oops, spoiler alert). Pete of Dragonchasers isn’t sweating the genetic stuff, he’s out scrabbling through the ruins looking for bits and pieces with which to make horrific weapons of destruction and finger-lickin’ fried chicken. Well, at least the fingers of one of those hands is lickable.

Spinks has words for those scallywags who pre-order a game just to get into the open beta, but then feel free to cancel it if they don’t like what they see. And those words are: go ahead! The game company gets good PR for all those pre-orders, and you got to see if you liked a game without shelling out big bucks.

Spinks is also liking what she hears about the new Captain’s Log in Star Trek Online. Yeah. The more I hear about that game, the more I like it. Please PLEASE I hope they take a cue from their Champions Online and make the STO universe a shared universe.

Openedge1 is stirring in his stone mausoleum… be frightened.

And Keen is agonizing over the server choice he must make for Aion. Every time it gets harder, whether for Pirates of the Burning Sea, or Warhammer, now this… at least Darkfall had just one server. Me, I just wait six months or a year these days. If the game still sounds like fun by then, I go for it. That’s what I did for WoW. Wizard101 lets you change servers at will. I don’t understand why more games don’t design their games around server pools. Dividing friends among different servers shouldn’t be a revenue stream. It’s a problem that needs fixing.

You know, if Lord of the Rings were anything like Lord of the Rings Online, Radagast the Brown might have had a little more trouble with the birds and beasts of the field than he let on…. and Melmoth of Killed in a Smiling Accident has the sad duty to write it all down. My problem with him, in LotRO, was — he was the one in charge of those annoying spying birds? When I met him in game, I wanted to ask him why he didn’t call those annoying pests OFF. But that wasn’t one of the conversation options.

Hudson writes about the closure of a dozen Star Wars Galaxies servers. I don’t think my server is among those, but I have long forgotten in which server I played. I suppose SOE is finally able to let go, now that news about their follow-up, Star Wars Babies, has come to light.

The Teal Nine Ring Highway Hazard has gotten subscribing to several MMOs down to a finely honed science. Get out your spreadsheet and follow along and you, too, can play five MMOs and pay for only one sub at a time.

Ardwulf, he of the one word Aion review, bids a fad sarewell to NCsoft Austin’s Dungeon Runners. I liked the game fine, just got too repetitive, but I am sad to see it go. I remember when NCsoft Austin was started with bright hopes and magical moonbeams to work on a mysterious groundbreaking MMO by game royalty Lord “Richard Garriott” British. I remember it just like it was Sunday. Now, what’s left of it? Gone, along with all our dreams.

The Friendly Necromancer spills the beans about the special PvP armor you can earn in Wizard101. -100% mana? Sounds like winning stats to me. But it does look cool, though making plate armor and metal helms kinda stretches traditional wizard-wear, doesn’t it?

A Titan under attack.

Keep gaming! I’ve had a pretty rough past couple of days IRL but I’m back now :)

A first look at Dragonica Online

Gawking at passers-by in Dragonica Online

There’s plenty of MMOs that promise to get you right in the action, but few of them really deliver. You have to zone out of the city, have to go hunting, have to buy provisions, have to find your quest area… and that’s fine.

But why make life complicated? Sometimes you just want to put a coin in the coin slot and slaughter stuff wholesale. But, with other people.

Arcade MMOs like Pi Story and LaTale and follow the lead of the genre leader, Maple Story — a side-scrolling world, easy and quick grouping, heavy anime influence, lots of enemies, over-the-top attacks and drop-in gameplay.

THQ*ICE’s Dragonica Online, currently in open beta, includes all these things, along with player housing, loads of customization, and a 3D engine which playfully toys with the whole side scrolling experience by having enemies and players turn and move around, devastating critical effects blasting monsters into the computer monitor (which cracks! They hit so hard!) and platforming aspects that have you moving in and out of the world as well as left and right, using conveniently placed hyperjump platforms to send you flying into a different path.

You choose from four different jobs at character creation, familiar to any RPG player. Warrior takes hits and wades into the middle of an army of critters, unleashing devastating close melee attacks; Thief darts around the battle, dealing vast damage with their twin claws; Mage uses the power of fire and wind to control the battle and gather things together for the big booms; and Archers use magical arrows to keep monsters at a distance, prevent them from attacking and helpless to avoid a continuous stream of longbow-launched death.

Healing (and power regen) is via potions or crafted items. Crafting is about as simple as it can possibly be. Monsters drop recipes fairly often; right click on the recipe, check the ingredient list, and if you have all the ingredients — trash loot from monsters — you press the button and out comes yummy food which can heal you, grant you more mana, or give you a wide variety of short term buffs.

While you can level purely by setting foot outside of town and killing everything you see, you’ll likely want to have quests in your journal for a little extra incentive. Every quest hub has a wide selection of your standard kill quests, some repeatable. Your main driver, though, will be the special storyline quest that starts off as a quest to just find a lost puppy, but expands into the story of an evil that threatens the entire world.

These storyline quests typically lead to mission hubs. Mission hubs are instanced maps with five difficulty levels, from solo to full group. The first two are fairly easily soloed, the third with some care, but you’ll want to partner with others for the last. Parties can have up to four players, and joining a party is as simple as hanging out at a mission platform and clicking on the “looking for more” bubbles floating on top of the group leader’s head. Dragonica Online uses the F1-F10 keys as shortcuts for most actions; the shortcut keys for the various misison difficulty levels are F1 (easiest) through F5 (elite), so you often see people looking for more for F3-F5 — the three highest difficulties.

The reward for completing a mission can be sealed (unique) gear, armor enchantment powders, XP potions and other good stuff. The number and uberness of your reward depends on your grade for the mission. You’re graded on contribution and speed, on a letter grade scale (S, A, B, C, D). Repeating F5 missions is one of the best ways to get xp and loot, as well as the sheer fun of killing huge crowds of monsters at a time.

With only four classes, relatively few character customization options and gear being fairly similar among people of the same class, Dragonica Online funds its free-to-play business model with an item store where you can find all manner of fluff gear. THQ*ICE has been giving open beta players piles of fluff loot, including giant kitty masks, toy balloons, resting chairs and unique costume pieces. Players have full control over their avatar’s look with a full screen of appearance slot inventory, so you needn’t sacrifice looks for stats.

Dragonica has full player housing support, guilds, and an achievement system to identify the hardcore players.

Free-to-play, side-scrolling Arcade MMOs are a fairly crowded field, but Dragonica Online’s humor and sheer over-the-top mega destructiveness keeps me coming back where other, similar games, were easily set aside.

Check out this video I made yesterday, showing the end of an F5 (elite) mission that wraps up the storyline quest from the starting city. I, an archer, join with another archer, a thief and a mage to whirl through the maps leaving wreckage in our wake. Note how the thief tosses enemies in the air where the archers can keep them lifted on a stream of arrows, while the mage engulfs them in fire. The special class abilities dovetail extremely well. The video looks best full screen, high quality.