Saturday, December 19, 2009

Death to the sheep

Content is a crutch for the weakminded. Real men (and real women) need nothing more than a deep flexible set of systems, and they will generate their own content. Immersive pregenerated storylines, classes with vastly different playstyles, and crafting systems that don't require a PhD in the game you are playing are all the the products of weak minded fools catering to the mindless masses of sheep that pollute our hobby.

This sarcastic post inspired by this post at Ancient Gaming Newb. He makes a great point.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Klingons in Star Trek Online has an interview with Jack Emmert up that describes how Klingons will work in launch STO. Highlights include:

-The PvE game on the Klingon side will not be nearly as deep as that on the Federation side. Klingon missions will focus largely on PvP, and Klingon PvE will focus largely on randomized encounters in deep space.

- Initially all PvP will take place in instances. There will be ten instances at launch, and the max players per instance will be ten per faction.

-Klingon ships will be able to stealth out, while Federation ships will not. Klingon ships will be more maneuverable and better at close range fighting than Federation ships. Klingons will get the only ship capable of launching fighters.

All in all, I have to say that sounds pretty exciting to me. Two factions at launch with vastly different playstyles sounds like a good thing. Some commentators are up at arms because it turns out the Klingons won't have a PvE game of the same depth that the Federation has at launch. However, I don't see it as a problem at all. I imagine that the majority of players drawn to the Klingon faction will be there mainly to "kick Federation ass!" If you are there mainly for the PvP, not being forced to screw much with a PvE game is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I did not hype this article nearly hard enough in my last post. I skimmed the article and linked it because it looked good. Only tonight did I get down to really reading it. "Prescient" would be an utterly idiotic understatement when describing it. It was published in 1991, and many of the major issues in modern MMO design were described with perfect clarity nearly a decade before UO and EQ came out. A few quotes:

On bandwidth requirements for future games:

Even in a more technically advanced network, however, bandwidth remains scarce in the sense that economists use the term: available carrying capacity is not unlimited. The law of supply and demand suggests that no matter how much capacity is available, you always want more. When communications technology advances to the point were we all have multi-gigabaud fiber optic connections into our homes, computational technology will have advanced to match.

On procedural versus handracfted content design:

It is really not a problem if every apartment building looks pretty much like every other. It is a big problem if every enchanted forest looks the same. Places whose value lies in their uniqueness, or at least in their differentiation from the places around them, need to be crafted by hand.

On what happens when you let real human beings loose in a carefully crafted virtual space:

Social engineering is, at best, an inexact science, even in proto-cyberspaces. Or, as some wag once said, "in the most carefully constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the organism will do whatever it damn well pleases."

Really a great read, imo. Well worth wading through even if it is a bit stuffy in places. As an aside, I plan to track down the book this article first appeared in. If the date is not legit, I'll update this post.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quick Hits: December 11 Edition

1up up has an article up about the first graphical MMO. I had never heard of it, apparently it came out in 1986 (!?!) and played a lot like King's Quest meets Ultima Online. Another more academic article with a screenshot here.

Mirkwood may be a lot of fun, but the last two nights I've actually been playing Wizard 101. Huh, almost broke into poetry there. In any case, it's hard to say what I find so compelling about the game. One major element is definitely the strategic feel of the combat. Last night for example, I figured out a new simple four turn strategy with my existing cards that made a spell that I thought was nearly useless shine. Then I got a new spell that forced me retool my deck and drastically changed my basic combat strategy once again. I also like the "buy hunks of content and own them forever" business model. I tend to play the game in randoms bursts, usually involving a new alt, so it's nice to "own" access to the first three worlds.

The 3.3 patch in WoW has been getting fairly rave reviews. I'm considering firing up my account for an experiment that involves trying to level up as much as possible entirely in single party instances. Would it be fun, or would the average inhabitant of WoW turn out to be such an asshat that I'd quickly get turned off? I know how I think it would go, but I'd love to be mistaken. . .

I have my main gaming rig back online again. I have to say, being able to play anything I like at a good frame rate while running i-tunes in the background is ten kinds of awesome. Although it makes the fact that I'm playing so much Wizard 101 (which runs fine on most pocket calculators) a bit ironic.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This just in: Mirkwood is a lot of fun.

Maybe it's simply a relief to have a normal outdoor questing zone after spending a year in Moria and Lothlorian. Moria was an amazingly well realized dungeon environment, but it was also oppressive and at times stressful to level in. Lothlorian had to be the most anti-climatic final zone I have ever seen in an MMO. You spend weeks struggling through challenges of epic proportions, only to be told that you need to spend a few evenings cleaning up orc filth before you can be trusted to even set foot in Lothlorian. Once in Lothlorian proper, exciting tasks like picking grapes and meditating await. The 1-60 game ended on more of a whimper than a bang for anyone that wasn't a raider.

Mirkwood addresses this issue pretty well. Now, after spending some time recovering from Moria in Lothlorian, you have a new final high level zone to move on to. The quest chains you need to get through to enter Mirkwood are combat heavy and fairly challenging. You'll want to get into a PuG for them if at all possible. There is also a steady stream of NPC elves coming along to help you fight in most spots. This simple device makes you feel like you really are part of an invasion force, rather than some lone chump that does all the work while NPCs laze about in camp and come up with new missions for you. So far, Mirkwood is a much more satisfying cap to LoTRO than Lothlorian was.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Double Dipping: Greed or Necessity?

Whether we like it or not, it seems than mainstream sub based MMOs are switching to a “double dipping” approach where they charge us a sub fee (or an enormous lifetime access fee up front) for access to their servers and then try to get us to pay for additional content and services on top of that. Sony has been doing it for years in Everquest II. They were the first to have paid “mini expansions” in between the release of full expansions, they were the first to have RMT servers where they take a cut of all the action, and they recently added trading card games to all of their main MMOs (EQ, EQ II, SWG) where you can buy booster packs that might have in game items.

These days, it's spreading. Blizzard has been flirting with the double dip for years. First via licensing their IP to Wizards of the Coast to make a card game that could grant in game items, as well as by charging exorbitant fees for services like server transfers and race change operations. More recently, Blizzard dropped all pretense and offered a in game pets for sale on their website. Given the success of the offer, I’m sure we will see similar offers in the future. City of Heroe and Champions Online both offer a plethora of optional costume elements in their online stores. Even Turbine seems to have caved. The free content updates since Moria launched have been positively meager compared to what they did in their first year. Turbine seems to have saved all of their substantial new content up for the Shadows of Mirkwood mini-expansion.

Some commentators have argued that you simply can’t fund ongoing development of a top teir MMO with a $15 dollar a month sub fee these days. I personally find that very hard to believe. Let’s take a successful 200K subscriber MMO. I think it’s safe to say that LoTRO and EQ II are at least in that ballpark, and others like FFXI and WoW have a lot more subs than that. At $15 a month per user, that’s about 3 million a month in revenue (36 million per year). If you release a full expansion once a year, at $50 per user that’s another 10 million dollar cash injection, plus random cash injections over the year due to new users and resubs (who need to buy the expansion to get up to date).

Do ongoing content updates for an existing MMO really cost that much to make? Given that entire MMOs can be made for a few million, you’d think 30 million a year in sub fees would cover one or two new zones a year in an existing game. What about the paid expansions? It’s not as if a sub based MMO developer really needs to make a profit on expansion boxes. As long as they break even, profit will come from the sub fees. Further, if the revenue for boxes alone isn’t enough to cover the cost of making an expansion, then how on earth do so many video game developers stay afloat charging absolutely zero sub fees for access to online shooters or subless “MMOs” like Guild Wars and Borderlands?

From that perspective, the new trend towards double dipping in sub based MMOs seems much more likely to be motivated by greed than necessity. However, I would argue that I presented you with a somewhat false dichotomy. It is neither greed nor necessity that primarily motivates double dipping, it is “common sense.” If you have a product, should you make as much money as you can off of it or less? If you answered the latter, you are running a charity and not a business.

What it really comes down to is this: double dipping will rarely hurt your bottom line. A tourist won’t be around long enough to notice or care whether you are double dipping. A core user is unlikely to leave due to double dipping as long as the additional goods and services seem optional. Nothing short of an NGE shakeup of core mechanics is likely to chase those guys off. The sub income from small number of core users that will get ticked and leave due to double dipping will likely be more than offset by the additional income from those that remain. Now that MMO developers have figured this out, expect to see a lot more double dipping in mainstream MMOs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Online Agenda

So it appears that I'm stuck on my backup PC for at least a few more weeks. What can you do with a PC that was pretty good five years ago? In no particular order, these are my planned gaming endeavors for the next few weeks:

Borderlands (on the 360): I am up to about 24 on a Support Gunner and 19 on a Hunter. I've finally been able to dabble in online play, and it is a heck of a lot of fun. Very little lag and voice chat works like a charm. However, I'm still playing mainly offline so that I can take my time and carefully dig through all the loot that drops. I'll likely be online a bit more once I've been through the main story at least once.

LoTRO: everyone in my kinship likely thinks I'm dead, it's been almost a month since I've been able to log on a weekend. Planning to catch up with things there. I'm also considering starting an alt on Landroval. Maybe a human burgler?

i-tunes: I absolutely need something I can play on my backup PC at a decent frame rate and still run i-tunes in the background. Harsh electronica makes killing things more fun. Wizard 101 and World of Warcraft both fit that bill, I may go back to one of them. DAoC is also very friendly in terms of system requirements, I might stick my head in there to see how the game is getting along (poorly I suspect).

Real Life Abates

In the past few weeks I have been to Santa Barbara and Santa Fe for working groups and given a 40 minute seminar in Athens Georgia in between trips. I'm back in town, and I finally had enough time to sit down with my gaming PC last night and try to figure out what is wrong with it. It now appears that something is wrong with the motherboard (it's at least not the power supply, GFX card, or a heat issue). It's still under warranty, however I will have to mail it to California to get it serviced. So I'll be gaming on my backup PC again until some time in December it seems. Ugh.

On the bright side, I won't have to step on a plane again for a while. And I'm actually going to be able to sit around and game this weekend. Huzzah!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Real life endeavors have been quite distracting of late, leaving little time to game or blog about it. Borderlands is crack on a disk to my peculiar tastes. Driving around in my pink space jeep until I decide to jump out and start shooting things in the face, all the while watching my pistol bonus slowly creep up or working my way up a skill tree is pretty much my definition of fun. Even that, I've barely gotten to play at all the last few days. Posts will be sparse here for the time being, but that doesn't mean I've gone anywhere. I'm simply traveling a ton this month.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Borderlands first impression

I bought Borderlands for my X-box 360 last night. I haven't played it online a ton because I'm waiting for them to patch out a bug that will wipe out all of your weapon proficiencies when you enter and leave a game (apparently all three versions, PC, 360, and PS3 are affected). As per my usual, a few quick first impressions.

The game is stunningly beautiful. Even on my 360 the game looks as good as anything I've run on my PC that costs three times as much and has died twice in four months. I am a PC gamer why exactly? Oh yeah, Borderlands is the only decent "MMO" worth playing on consoles right now, and it's no more of an MMO than Diablo was.

Reminds me of Diablo in a very good way. This is the most fun I've had with a roguelike since the original Diablo (never got into D II for a variety of reasons) and PSO. With rare exceptions, when I'm in the mood for mindless killing and loot pinatas I generally prefer to play a full on Rogue iteration such as Angband, with askii graphics and the whole two yards. I'm adding this game to my list of exceptions.

Very slow start. The first hour of the game was honestly boring as hell, apart from gawking at the stylish graphics. I started with a gun that bit horrifically, making every combat slow and tedious. And you don't start getting skill points until level five. Because of that, every class plays identically until level five. As soon as I found a decent gun, the game started to pick up. Once I unlocked my skill trees I was hooked.

Online is fun, but this is not really a social game. I bopped into one game to see what it was like. It was fast paced, fun, and I got three levels in twenty minutes. However, in the random game I joined there was no communication. I looked to see where folks were on the map, ran over, and started shooting. I did get rezzed a couple of times when I died, and I dropped my turrets at some enemy chokepoints, so we were cooperating. However, as far as I can tell there is no central hub where you hang out and organize parties. It has a "community" in about the same sense that Team Fortress II does. It's not an MMO even to the extent that PSO was.

So far I have only tried the Soldier. He gets a fairly insanely overpowered turret that he can lay down wherever he likes. It does a lot of damage and is next to invulnerable at low levels. You can give it the ability to do more damage, regen health in a radius, or replenish ammo in a radius. However, it only lasts about 30 seconds and you can only use it every two minutes or so (maybe less often). There is a skill that will let you use the turret more often deep in one of the skill trees, maybe that will help. However, right now it feels like I am 90% whatever weapon I'm using and 10% whatever skills I happen to choose. Of course, as I often do, I chose the character that seemed the simplest to learn the game with. Hopefully the other classes will have a bit more depth.

Some ups and downs, but overall a great game. I am very impressed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lego Universe

1up has just posted the most detailed preview of Lego Universe I've yet seen. The idea of collecting different blocks in the world so that you can build more stuff has my inner explorer titillated. I also like the idea of bopping around worlds with wildly different themes (e..g., Pirates, Space).

I also wonder of a game with such a simple character development system will be able to hold my interest. You basically collect hearts to increase your health, and collect items to earn new special abilities. It sounds very Zelda. Of course the Zelda games were slightly awesome, so maybe I'm worried about nothing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Champions Online Career Ends Abrubtly

A few days after starting up Champions Online, my main gaming PC died again. The PC nearly fired up when I let it cool off for an hour. I'll try start it up again tomorrow and hope for the best. However, I suspect that the CO is causing my video card to draw more juice than my power supply can handle, and burns it out if I leave the game running for too long. Certainly CO taxes my system a lot more than the other games I play. If the PC won't start tomorrow, I'll order a bigger power supply and see if that does the trick.

In any case, as I suspect it will be weeks until I get my regular PC going (barring a miraculous recovery tomorrow morning), I'll be blogging about games my backup PC can handle for a while again. DDO, maybe WoW, perhaps Guild Wars or EVE (both games I've long been meaning to try but never go around to). In addition, the console MMOs are finally starting to pop. Borderlands just came out, and I think the decision as to whether I should get it for the 360 or the PC was just made for me. Sony also has some games coming down the pipe that might spur me to get a PS3.

I did try to get in touch with BlueKae and AnjinM in game, just didn't happen to overlap with you guys today. I'm @Yeebo if I ever get going again, glad to know I wasn't the only one using an obvious account name :-)

Crafting in Champions Online: Guide to Low Level Items

The crafting system in Champions Online was a bit of a mystery to me. It's not at all clear from the in game descriptions what crafting you should pick if you want to boost a particular stat or set of stats. So, in a fit of anal, I made new alt and spent the entire evening talking to different crafting trainers and writing down recipes. So that future generations will not have to suffer through such tedium, I've decided to post my findings. Below you will find guides to the permanent upgrade items that you can make in tiers I and II. Some very important points:

1. Anyone can make bags and healing items, if that's all you want pick whatever appeals to you.

2. The specialization within a particular craft generally makes no difference. However I did discover one exception by accident. It stands to reason that there are a few others. I haven't checked every recipe with all three specializations of all three crafts (I'm not that anal).

3. These are only the stat boosting items. Power replacement items gimp the hell out of your stats for a chance at a proc that does massive damage. They only work on very specific abilities. For example, many work only on single handed sword attacks. I didn't consider them worth compiling stats on.

4. You may not get these stats when you actually craft something. The stats below are based on what the recipes on vendors list. I have gotten slightly lower stats when crafting items in some cases.

5. Major caveat: the stats on these recipes scale with level. Below are the stats a level 7 character will see on recipes. However a lower level character will find the stats to be lower, a higher level character will find them much improved. Take this as a guide to the stats that can be buffed by a given profession, more than the precise bonus you can get.

With all that in mind, the first two tiers of stat upgrade items are as follows:

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - 19 - - - - PU
10 + + 8 4 + 8 + + PD
30 - 19 - - - - - - PO
40 + + + 19 + + + + PU
50** - - 9
4 - 5
- - PD
75 + 12 + + + + 2 + PO
105 - - - 13 - - - 7 PU
115 + + 11 4 + 2 + + PO
125 - 13 - - - - 8 - PD
140 + + + 13 + + + 7 PU
155 - - 12 3 - 2 - - PO
170 + 11 + + + + 10 + PD
185 - - - 15 - - - 5 PU
**If you choose the Invention specialization the item grants 18 Con, 4 Int, and 13 Presence

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - - 19 - - - PU
10 + + + + 4 14 + + PD
30 - 14 - - - - 4 - PO
40 + + + + 19 + + + PU
50 - - - - - 14 - 4 PD
85 14 + + + + 4 + + PO
105 - - - 9 9 3 - - PU
115 + + + + 2 14 + 1 PD
115 - - - - - 2 12 - PO
140 + + + + 7 12 1 + PU
155 - - - - 2 14 - 3 PD
175 3 9 + + + 1 6 + PO
185 - - - - 5 15 - - PU
195 + + + + 9 + + 2 SD
200 1 4 - - - 3 11 - PO

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - - - - - 19 PU
10 4 + 14 + + + + + PD
30 19 - - - - - - - PO
40 + + + + + + + 19 PU
50 4 14 - - - - - - PD
85 19 + + + + + + + PO
105 - - 4 - - - - 14 PU
115 3 1 14 + + + + + PD
125 14 - 4 - - - - - PO
140 + + 3 + 1 + + 14 PU
155 2 1 14 - - - 1 - PD
170 11
+ + + + +
185 - -
- - - - 2
195 1 1 14 + + + 3 + PD
200 11 10 - - - - - - PO

I tried my damndest to find this info somewhere else, and drew a blank. If someone else is sitting on charts like this they need to make them easier for google to find. To any random readers, feel free to repost these to your heart's content as long as you give me credit. And remember, these are the stats at level 7.


Arms is a very good generic crafting profession. Pretty much anyone can use constitution and endurance, and strength is good for any character that melees a lot. For crit builds (i.e., dexterity and ego) mysticism is reasonably solid. For a lot of builds, you are simply out of luck. For example, if you want to boost endurance and recovery (common for ranged DPS), nothing really works all that well at low levels (though science may work depending on how it scales).

Hope this will be of some help to readers. Happy adventuring :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back in Champions Online

Finally fired up my Champions Online account. I'm two days into my free 30 days, and enjoying it quite a bit. A few thoughts.

The character generation system doesn't seem as arcane as it did to me before. Part of it is likely that I understand the system better now. Part of it is also likely that I've been playing a lot of DDO lately, and that game has a well and truly arcane character development system. However, I suspect that some of the tooltips and descriptions have been cleaned up a bit. Certainly choosing primary stats is much less confusing than I remember.

At least at the low levels I'm playing, rumors of apocalyptic nerfs seem exaggerated. I decided to roll up a new dude (actually, remake Electric Dude) and see how the post nerf 1-10 game plays. It did seem a bit slower than I recalled at first. However by level 7 or so everything was right as rain.

I sucked before, I really really sucked. I'm sure I still suck, just (hopefully) not as tragically. I finally figured out that the main attack in the electric power set arcs between multiple foes if you let it charge all the way up. That makes a huge difference when you are pulling groups of mobs. Now I can get them more than half dead before they reach me and then spam them all down with electric shield, taking nary a bit of damage from minions. How the hell I got a nearly identical guy to level ten in the OB without noticing that eludes me.

I also finally figured out what the is going on with the various energy sheath powers. Hint: grab the one that goes in your passive slot first, it will be on damn near all the time. The one you trigger may be a slightly better buff, but you won't be able to use it more than one fight out of three in a dense area.

Evidence of my previous suckitude can be found elsewhere. I switched over to my old main from the headstart weekend. He was parked right outside an instance entrance. I was level 11, they were level 13 and packed tight as sardines. I got my ass handed to me on my first pull. Respawned, watched the patrol patterns, this time cleared my way to the boss (a Master Villian). She proceeded to rip me a new bunghole several times in a row.

Once I got down to three stars decided to check over my build. Discovered that it bit badly. The two stats I was most heavily invested in were presence and recovery. Recovery isn't too bad, it means I regen power very quickly. Presence, on the other hand, is full of suck for a solo character. It reduces threat (useless solo), and buffs my non-existent pets and heals. I can see why I decided to boost it. The in game description of the stat is vague as hell, and it's one of the two powers given a big bonus when you choose the fire power set. That does sort of imply it's something you'll want. However, at low levels it's an extremely poor investment for a fire character. Even at high levels I'd argue that more hitpoints (con) or more power (end) are both likely to be more useful than a buff to the one pet the set eventually gets.

In any case, that was not the worse of my suckage. Oh no, not by a long shot. I had items sitting in my bag that I hadn't even bothered to slot. One item summons a ghostly hound for two minutes. Hmmm, that might be handy in a tough boss fight. Worse than that, I had a small stack of healing items that were also unslotted. Put both of those on my hotbar, spent a little money on a retcon, and went in an slaughtered the boss with ease (as well as the Super Villian and two minions that spawned behind me as soon as she dropped).

All in all having a lot of fun with the game. Look forward to seeing some of the higher level zones.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A few of quick hits

No, really it isn't in my imagination. The free content additions since Mines of Moria launched have been positively meager compared to what we got during the first year of LoTRO.

Dana Massey over at posted an opinion piece listing what he considers to be the top ten pre-WoW MMOs. I agree with most of his choices, though including Vanguard seems a bit questionable and I'm surprised Champions Online didn't make the cut. However, what I most enjoyed was the predicatable trainwreck of fanboy chimpanzee screeches and poo throwing that follows the piece. "WTF where is AoC!" "WTH is LoTRO doing on that list, everyone knows it's teh suxxors!" "Who the hell plays Club Pengiun?" ect. It's hard to believe how much I used to hang out there.

Finally, 1up has posted their review of Aion. The reviewer never got to the PvP endgame, which seems like a pretty important omission since the endgame is supposed to be one of the major selling points. However, I have to agree with his closing statement. If the game is so bland that he completely stalled out in the mid levels, he shouldn't be recommending it. The review addresses what I really want to know "Would I enjoy Aion enough to really explore it?" Based on the frequent content gaps he describes, probably not. Whether or not a MMO has a cool end game doesn't matter to me one bit if the leveling game stinks. I don't care if the endgame consists of Swedish models coming to my house to warm my bed and make me pancakes. If I'm not having fun a few hours into an MMO, it's leaving my hard drive. Plus the models might tick off my significant other . . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The state of PvP in LoTRO

This post over at Mike Darga's got me thinking about the PvP system in Lord of the Rings Online. As far I know, the PvMP system used in LoTRO is unique among MMOs. The bulk of LoTRO is a rich PvE game that contains no PvP apart from dueling. One zone, the Etinmoors, is devoted to PvP. There you can enter and play as one of your regular characters, a freep (free peoples...i.e., a normal character) or you can play as a creep (i.e., a monster player). A creep is a character that cannot leave the moors, and exists solely to oppose the freeps.

There are six creep classes, some of them very odd classes like "giant evil spider" and "stealthy wolf [worg]" that have no real analogues in other MMOs that I am aware of. The creep classes start at level 60, but weak 60s. They can eventually grow to be as powerful as a decently geared 60 freep, but only through PvP. To advance their abilities to the highest ranks, they have to kill human controlled opponents. Because of this, if you are playing creep side LoTRO is one of the more hardcore PvP games on the market.

In addition, the PvP in LoTRO is set up Realm vs Realm style. By that I mean it's modeled after Dark Age of Camelot. There are keeps to take over, whoever controls the most keeps gains advantages. The most important potential advantage to holding keeps is access to a raid dungeon in the zone. From a freep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to get rare gear. From a creep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to earn abilities that are otherwise unavailable. Also, like DAoC, there is no limit to how many players can log on a given side, which means that often the outcomes of battles are determined largely by how many players show up to a given fight. In my mind it makes fights in the 'moors a lot more realistic and varied than battle ground style PvP matchups ala WoW or scenarios in WAR.

It also opens up advanced strategies, such as having a small force serve as a distraction while the main force takes a keep or other objective. That's certainly not a dynamic you'll commonly find outside of MMOs that specialize in PvP. It's like a casual version of the PvP you'll find in serious PvP MMOs like WAR, DAoC, or EVE. I certainly don't have the patience to play something like Darkfall where deep PvP is the primary experience on offer. However, I thought it was great that a deep PvP experience was offered as a side game in LoTRO. I also thought it was pretty neat that there were six creep classes that are only available if you decide to PvP.

That is why it pains me that Turbine has seemingly stabbed their PvP game in the back and left it to bleed to death on the side of the road. For PvP to be fun from a creep perspective, a lot of freeps need to be out on the 'moors. Unfortunately, as it stands currently, a freep would have to be next to insane to engage in PvP for the primary reward.... gear. The PvP gear you can earn in the 'moors is the hardest set of level 60 gear to earn in the game by a wide margin. It takes hundreds of hours of killing out in the 'moors to get the full set. It is also the worst endgame gear for a 60 by an equally wide margin. The stats pale before even crafted gear, much less the gear you can get from Moria 6 mans. And the set has 0 radiance, making it well and truly useless for any serious end game content.

So why did Turbine do this? I suspect strongly that they are trying to consolidate their audience. LoTRO is arguably among the best PvE MMOs currently on the market. PvP was never anything more than an entertaining side game in LoTRO. Even in my kinship founded by hardcore PvP fans, PvPers were less that a quarter of our members. Development resources are limited. Do you devote 100% to your core strengths and try to become a market leader in that area, or dilute your resources on a side game to try and keep an additional small subset of your users barely happy? Turbine has seemingly made their choice.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Do devlopers like it when we rage quit? [a rhetorical question]

Player versus Developer has a post up that I quite enjoyed. He talks about how many MMO developers pretty much ignore feedback from players and simply do what they think is best for their game. If you follow developer blogs, you'll find that one of the strengths of a good developer is that they are willing to set part of their player base on fire to realize their core goals in terms of audience (i.e., amputating limbs to save the patient). Mike Darga has a great piece that touches on it. What really caught my eye was a quote within the post: "Learn to recognize which parts of your game and playerbase aren't important."

Fairly chilling advice from a player perspective. However, the most successful MMO developers undoubtedly are the ones that execute this well. Of course it's better to have a core vision that works 100% right from the beginning. However hindsight is always clearer than foresight. Over the course of a successful MMO, changes both massive and minor will be needed. Any change will alienate some proportion of the player base. I get this, and I don't knock designers for making tough decisions.

All that said, I find it puzzling that many developers don't try to do any damage control at all when they make big changes. It's as if they are so isolated from their community that it seemingly doesn't occur to them that (a) players will notice a change and (b) it will really really piss them off if it affects a core mechanic that they enjoy. From a bottom line perspective, the worst that can happen is that players will rage quit over a change. Yet MMO developers often fail to take any action to limit the proportion of their player base this reaction encompasses.

The absolute worst thing a studio can do is spring a major change on the player base without any advanced notice. Yet I see developers do it over and over. For example the nerf to PvP gear in Warhammer Online (I rage quit over that one), the defense nerf in Champions Online, and most recently the swing speed nerf in Dungeons and Dragons Online. All of those changes were patched in with little, if any, advanced notice. All of them were major changes that fundamentally altered a game. In each case, it was only after the community went absolutely ape shit that the developers deigned to even comment on the reasoning behind the changes.

Regardless of what a developer does, they are going to lose a some of their players whenever they make a change. However, it seems to me that explaining the reasoning behind a change and warning players that it's coming ahead of time can be the difference between "Eww, I don't like this...but I guess I can cope" and "What the mother!@$#...are you #@!$ing crazy?!?"...rage quit.

Think about it. You can manage player expectations, or you you can hit them in the face with something that utterly defies their expectations. Which do you think will provoke a stronger response?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

DDO: not as bad as I thought

After giving myself almost a solid week to cool off, I decided to try the combat changes with a fresh eye. I'm not sure if swing speeds have been adjusted a bit from the last time I tried them (this is what I suspect), or if taking a break from the game and playing much slower paced MMOs like WoW and LoTRO for a week gave me a different perspective. In any case they don't seem so bad to me now.

After spending an entire evening with the system, I can describe it more thoroughly. The current attack pattern is that your guy does a three hit combo, with a slight (maybe one to two seconds) pause where he leans forward holding his sword out in between combos. I have read that you gain more attacks in your combo chain as your base attack bonus increases but I can't confirm it (mine is at +1 on a level two wizard). I also haven't rolled up a new wizard just to see if his attack combo is fewer hits.

Overall attack speed is slower than it was before (at least at the low levels that matter to new players like me). The transition from the old system to this new one was absolutely jarring, and I'm still not convinced that it was warranted. Assuming for the sake of argument that the change was warranted, the way that Turbine handled the transition was horrible. We all wake up one morning and find that the combat has been greatly altered, without any real warning from Turbine that it was coming.

That said, I think the combat system in DDO is still overall quite good. Once I gave myself enough distance to see it with fresh eyes, I find that I am still having a lot of fun in DDO. Spells and special abilities are still as responsive as they have ever been. After adjusting to the pauses in between swing combos, the combat even begins to feel a little more rhythmic and strategic than it did before.

Edit: After more testing, the difference between what I remembered from last week and the way the game is playing now is actually lag. The patch originally added lag for me in places I wasn't getting any before. The crazy thing is that the lag affected mainly my swing animations, not walking around or other animations. In the last week lag has apparently been improved immensely. Tonight, it took me a while to stumble on a spot that was still laggy enough for the bugged animation to show up again. In those spots my dude now appears to swing exactly as I remember, holding the sword for a good long while behind his head before he decides to swing. Now that I am seeing the real swing speed nerf, I can see that I overreacted. If you give it a chance it's not that bad.

Warhammer Online Expansion [that should have been] Announced

The new expansion is entitled "Rise of the Horned Rat." In addition to many other changes and additions, skaven are being added as third a playable faction. If you are any kind of fan of the Warhammer miniatures game, then you were likely disappointed that skaven weren't in WAR originally (I certainly was). The fact that they are being added at all has me pretty excited.

The addition of a third faction is even better. When there are only two factions, there is no real system of checks and balances and one side tends to get into a hole they can never climb out of. You can see this very clearly in modern WAR, when on the majority of servers either Destruction or Order pretty much completely dominates end game RvR. In some cases, even lower tier PvP is affected, and new players of the underdog faction tend to leave or change sides after a few evenings of getting their butts handed to them relentlessly.

To me this expansion signals to me the Mythic finally "gets" that they made a some major mistakes in their original design. In my opinion, the third faction really should have been launch WAR.

Edit: indeed, as Jaydub points out, the expansion announcement is completely fake. Hit the clarification link at the top of the page I linked. Sorry to get your hopes up :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Raph Koster is the man

I tend to agree and disagree with his opinions with close to equal frequency. But he is consistently and inarguably thought provoking. In the latest post on his design blog, he put up a link to the slides from his GDC presentation. Really can't recommend them enough, it's too bad we can't see the whole presentation. Even based on the slides, looks like it was hum dinger.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Swing speed nerf in DDO

I read a few days ago that a patch had reduced swing speeds in Dungeons and Dragons Online. My experience has been that often players of MMOs perceive nerfs disproportionately. That is to say, the real effects are minor compared what you would imagine based on the whining you will see on message boards. That's why I had an open mind until I could try it for myself.

This time, I am sorry to say, the whiners are correct. Turbine looked at one of the best aspects of their game (the real time combat) and decided to gut it. My guy in game, with a 16 strength (mine is at best 9), now swings his sword slower than I could swing a sword in real life. He spends most of his time holding it behind his head, and takes a swipe every five seconds or so. The following post, from a doubtless soon to be deleted thread on the official forums, is me at my most ticked:

The entire time that DDO has been online... players, game critics, and even rabid detractors of this game have generally agreed that the combat system was pretty fun. In response to this praise, you nerf the hell out of swing speeds the moment the game starts to become popular. This decision defies any logic that is known to me, or that I can imagine.

Yes, this horse is already beaten in multiple threads. I'm sure this will get deleted, and perhaps get me a ban. However I am upset enough that I really don't care. At least I have said my peace. My best wishes to all of you in your future endeavors.

Apologies that this post is so different from my norm. However, I do feel that Turbine has made a major mistake.

Some have claimed that the actual swingspeed remains unchanged, and that the only change has been to the animation. That is possible, however my characters also seem to be hitting a lot less often than I remember hitting pre-patch. Regardless, the bit of the attack animation where your character holds the sword behind their head and waits to swing absolutely hammers one of the core strengths of the game one week ago: the combat felt real time.

The CMs have already hinted that some adjustment is coming. However, they could have saved themselves a hell of a lot of effort in the first place and not screwed with something that most observers agreed was pretty good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bear models in WoW

The new bear models are driving me crazy. I think that the variety in models is a great idea. However, their hindlimbs are completely wrong and their butts should not be sticking up in the air. To whit, this is what a bear looks like from the side:

Notice that the back is close to flat, and that the shin of the back leg runs directly into the foot. In most mammals the only elements of the hindlimb that touch the ground when walking or running are the toes. If you have a dog or cat you should know what I'm talking about. However, bears along with primates (including humans) and a handful of other mammals have plantigrade hindlimb designs. The hindfoot consists of both the toes and ankle (running between them).

Here we have the World of Warcraft druid bear model:

Look closely at the back leg. Notice how the line of it bends three times, once just above the foot? That's because the skeletal design is non-plantigrade. As a side effect of adding this extra span of articulation to the hind leg, that shouldn't be there in the first place, the bear's butt sticks way up in the air. It makes druid bears look as if they are in lordosis at all times. This is a characteristic posture that females of rats and many other mammal species enter into when they are ready to mate (not to be confused with the medical condition of lordosis). Hips high and rotated.

Color me anal, but the hind quarters of the WoW bear model bug me. Druid is one of the classes I was really hoping to get into in my retry of WoW. The fact that my bear form is anatomically way off and begging to be molested at all times pretty much ruins it for me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


As near as I can tell, it's Phantasy Star Online, for modern systems, set in a post apocalyptic world, with insanely beautiful graphics. If it lives up to expectations, looks like that one will be in my 360 tray for a long long time.

Edit: apologies for the broken link earlier, should be working now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


One of my favorite bloggers has recently put up a post where a pen-and-paper roleplaying game design theory is explained succinctly and related to MMO design. A great read that I highly recommend. Another take on EVE versus WoW from a design perspective can be found here, but honestly I only punted a ball that Anjin has knocked out of the park.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Online

This is nothing like a review. Only a list of impressions from a few hours in game.

1. A surprising and stylish fantasy setting. A mixture of the fantasy races you'd expect and oddballs you never would have guessed. A standout is their take on halflings, more like short "punk" (go Sid!) elves than anything you are likely familiar with. Golems as a player race is also quite odd.

2. Runs really well even on my stone age backup PC. I get better frame rates than many free to play MMOs, despite graphics that are tons more detailed. Whatever engine Turbine is using is a winner.

3. Combat is twitchy. On a melee focused toon, you may as well be playing Diablo. It really is that fast paced. Reminds me quite a bit of Champions Online.

4. There is no reason to have more than one quest at a time. Each quest sends you to an instance that you have to clear. There are no quest objectives inside the instance. The objective is to finish your mission any way you can.

5. The game is a bit too easy on someone that is very good at melee combat, such as a Ranger or Fighter. Conversely, it's very challenging on a pure caster. For example, as a Wizard the instances you clear for missions start to feel like puzzles. You can only cast X spells, and those spells have to get you through the entire instance. It can certainly be done, but you may not get it right your first try.

6. The character creation system is crazy deep. Even as someone familiar with the PnP rules the game is based on and an experienced MMO player, I've been using their character templates so far (these make a ton of decisions for you). As a new player to the game, it's hard to guess where to place 20 skill points or what feat out of the twenty that are available I'll want on the character creation screen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The future of MMOs is not a sandbox

As it stands now, World of Warcraft is the top western market MMO. Best guesses are that between North America and Europe it has around 4 million subs. It features classes, levels, quest based progression, and relatively restricted character customization compared to classless MMOs. These features are also found in Lord of the Rings Online, Runes of Magic, Everquest II, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online and a screaming ton of other MMOs that are relatively sucesful. Between them (along with WoW), these class/ level/ quest based MMOs serve the bulk of the western MMO market.

This is hardly the only possible way to structure an MMO. EVE online is often held up as a counter example by hardcore/ oldschool MMO enthusiasts (and crazy hobos). There are no classes, what you can do is limited purely by your skills and what ship you can afford. You are free to develop whatever skills interest you. You don't develop skills by crafting, killing fools, or standing in line at the bank. Instead, you decide what skills you'd like to work on and they start ticking up whether you are online or offline (as long as you pay a sub fee). There are a ton of other things that set EVE apart from typical MMOs. The entire game takes place on a single server, the crafting system makes the crafting in most MMOs look utterly shallow, and my grandmother doesn't bitch me out if my casting rotation isn't what is should be.

Can a non WoW-ish MMO prosper? Seemingly so. EVE now ranks a among the top ten western market MMOs. Likely among the top five, but the list gets very fuzzy past WoW (the rank depends a lot on who you ask). If the learning curve to even get started in EVE wasn't so insane, it might be able pass the 500K mark that most non-WoW MMOs seem unable to crack (in the western market). If any non-level/ quest based MMOs passed that mark, it would in turn signal the folks with cash to fund development that new MMOs don't have to be WoW/ EQ clones to prosper.

Sadly, I doubt that will happen in the next few years. I seriously doubt it will happen for EVE, DF, UO, or any other current sandbox MMO. None of them is particularly easy for a new user to pick up and play. Sure, they are incredibly deep and rewarding once you get past the initial hump. But the average western gamer doesn't like humps. I think EVE is roughly as successful as the current generation of sandbox MMOs has the potential to be.

I predict, instead, that Bioware's new MMO will be the next one to crack the 500K mark here in the West. It will feature classes, levels, and fairly linear gameplay. The wild success of the game will be attributed to its emphasis on story and solid professional writing. This will be an accurate assessment, as far as it goes. LoTRO, Guild Wars, and the more recent content from Blizzard have pushed forward the envelope on presenting compelling stories in MMOs. However, Bioware will likely take this to an extreme that will make NCsoft, Blizzard, and Turbine look like rank amateurs. The new MMO from Bioware will allow us to experience several movie's worth of story, all while chilling out in our undies in front of a PC. We will all be astounded, hail Bioware as heros, and perhaps get tattoos. "This is what has been missing!!!" we will all proclaim.

All the while, the concept of a sandboxy MMO with a big budget and a learning curve less harsh than getting afflicted with boils by Satan will remain untested. EVE, Ultima Online, Darkness Falls, Saga of Ryzom, and the editor that comes with Neverwinter Nights simply aren't new user friendly enough to give us a fair test. After watching the market fall in love with yet another class/ level/ quest based MMO, it will likely be a long time before we get a more openly designed MMO with a decent budget behind it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Having an Attack of Fanboy

I generally don't get excited about products that are still months from release. However, this really looks like someone is making a game just for me. Fast paced combat, deep storylines, and branching narratives are all really big on the list of features I enjoy in RPGs. Online, offline, or on a train...that really looks like a game I'd like to play.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thoughts on the Seige of Mirkwood

The next major LoTRO expansion is going to be download only, and it will cost $19.99. You can find a full feature list here, in the official announcement. Major features include:

1. Five new levels, and new traits to accompany them. I really don't care much one way or another about the five levels, but new traits would be welcome. I liked the revamp of the trait system in MoM, but most of the new legendary traits seemed mediocre to me. Certainly not worth the insane rep grind you had to go through to get them for the most part. Hopefully the expansion will improve this situation.

2. A new skirmish system (more details here). A series of encounters that scale to party size, from 1 to 12 man. Anyone missing from your party is replaced by NPCs. As you complete skirmishes, you get "skirmish points" that are used to develop a stable of NPCs that you can use to solo or small party ever more challenging skirmishes. A really interesting system , that once again shows that Turbine is not afraid to experiment. The monster play system, the legendary item system, and now this are like nothing else I've encountered in MMO space. Whether it will ultimately prove to be any fun or not, who can say. But I'm definitely intrigued.

3. A revamp of the legendary item system, and a way to earn new slots for your items. All I can say is thank god.

4. A new 12 man raid. Assuming it weren't radiance gated, I'd be quite happy about it. However, as it likely will be this content is irrelevant to me.

There is a lot of wild speculation flying around right now, including that the expansion is a stealthy a way to ditch the radiance system before the next boxed expansion comes out (wishful thinking imo), and that it's an excuse to push out a major revamp of the legendary item system (well, since they say that in their press release...sure..seems likely).

There has also been a lot of complaining by some players that this doesn't seem like something we ought to pay for, and that we haven't gotten nearly as many free content upgrades post MoM as we got in the first year after launch. In terms of free upgrades, I'm sorry to say the whiners do have a point. Let me break it down:

New Geography: Last year we got Evindim, Foreschel, Goblin Town, and a big hunks of the Trollshaws and the Misty Mountains for free. This year we got Lothlorian, which we were originally expecting in launch MoM.

Instances: Last year we got the Rift (a 12 man raid) and numerous 6 mans for free. This year we got a 12 man raid, and two mini raids, as well as 3 mans and solo instances. Altogether I'd say that both years were about even on instances. The big difference is the focus on solo and 3 man content post MoM versus 6 man and up content pre-MoM.

PvMP: Last year we got several major revamps of the Etinmoors, a new monster class, and a Darkness Falls style PvP dungeon. This year we got nothing whatsoever for PvMP. Instead, the freep PvMP gear was rendered utterly obsolete by MoM. This glaring oversight was never addressed or even acknowledged by the devs. They murdered and abandoned one of the core pre-MoM systems.

New Systems: last year we got several upgrades to the music system, an appearance slot system, a housing system, a faction system, and chicken play. This year we got absolutely nothing I can think of.

So what do I make make of all this? Honestly, it's not as gloomy as I just made it sound. Obviously LoTRO has a smaller dev team and a smaller budget for updates than it did last year. The pace and quality of the free content that we have gotten since MoM launched pretty much proves that. I also agree with the whiners to some degree, LoTRO certainly has been much less of a value this year than it was last year.

Even given that, I'd say it's still one of the best values among MMOs if you enjoy solo and small party PvE content. The digital expansion that was announced sounds larger than anything we have gotten for free in the past. And in my mind $19.99 sounds like about the right price. I'll withhold judgment until more details emerge, but the sky seems firmly in place from where I stand.

Edit: If you would like to read more about the expansion, Middle Earth Adventurer has a a great post with comments on details I didn't mention as well as links to reactions from the blogosphere.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


My PC is indeed still under warranty. One way or another I'll be back on with a decent rig by the end of the month. Missing most of the CO early start was a bummer. I was playing two slight updates of my open beta characters and enjoying the hell out of them before my PC croaked. Of course given the nerf cannon that was recently applied to the game, it seems as if I would have been in for some anguish regardless.

One quote that really bugs me in that producer letter is "A good number of players were complaining that the game wasn't challenging enough." I find this hard to believe, given that players almost never complain when they are overpowered. It has been remarked by folks more knowledgeable than I that the surest sign that a class is overpowered is that no-one that plays the class is complaining about it on message boards. I think there's a lot of truth to that. I also find it hard to believe that many players were complaining about the easy of combat in CO because it's a Superhero MMO, you should feel overpowered. Finally, the current most popular MMO on the market, WoW, is if anything easier than CO was during the open beta and early start. I know this because I switched back and forth between them in the same weekend (below).

I strongly suspect that what really happened is that Cryptic got terrified of how quickly players were leveling during the early start weekend, and decided that they needed to put on the brakes a bit. They tried nerfing XP gains in the last days of beta, and players whined up a storm. So instead, they buffed minion damage and nerfed defense across the board to slow down the pace of combat. Both inelegant solutions that won't have much impact on the core problem they are trying to deal with: superhardcore players will likely gun through the game and leave in droves withing the next few weeks.

I personally don't see that as such a bad thing, though the bean counters at Cryptic surely will feel differently. To me the strengths of CO are in catering to casual players and alt whores. It just not the style of game that hardcore players are going to dig long term, regardless of how long it takes to level. Hopefully things will have settled into some sort of sane medium by the time I get back to the game.

For the time being, desperate for something my backup PC can play at decent framerates and still run i-tunes in the background, I have fired up my old WoW account again. I had fun running around and buying everyone mounts and epic mounts. I also liquidated a level 62 character (my second highest) because his finances were in such terrible shape.

One thing that is really striking to me when I play WoW now is that the combat difficulty tends to be binary. Either encounters are so easy that you wouldn't have a chance of dying were you drunk and half asleep during combat (this has been tested!), or they are impossible at your level. There is nothing like the happy medium that you can find in most MMOs. For example, in Champions Online (at least over the weekend and in open beta) any time you are in a fight that includes a villain or master villain the game hits a "challenging but not frustrating" medium really well. Combat in general in LoTRO is also a good example of that in my mind.

WoW simply offers no real challenge for a solo player these days, at least not by the mid to high levels where most of my toons are sitting. Good for new MMO players I imagine, but to my tastes it becomes stale and repetitive quickly. I'm hoping that restarting one of my mains as a level one character of a super squishy class (Mage) will provide some entertainment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


My main gaming PC died yesterday. Awoke from a nap to find that it had locked up hardcore. Refused to respond even to a hard reset. Switched it off from the main power switch, and now it won't start up at all. Checks the system RAM and then dies whenever I try to power it up. It should still be under warranty (it's only a few months old). I'll call the manufacturer tomorrow. However, I have already resolved that if it costs me more than $100 to get it working again that I simply won't.

I'm typing this from my old PC. It runs WoW and Wizard 101 just fine. I can run LoTRO and some other older MMOs tolerably. However it won't run Champions Online at all ($50 down the pooper...yay), and runs many other MMOs that I enjoy (e.g., Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online, Free Realms) at such poor frame rates and at such low settings that I can't enjoy them.

In the last twelve years, three out of the four PCs I have owned died seemingly at random. One overheated when a cooling fan died and fried the processor (Win 95), one glitched out and forced me to reformat the hard drive to get it going again (Windows Millennium Edition), and now my latest PC has apparently died an equally random and horrible death (Vista). Unfortunately, I can't afford to replace the latest one.

In that same time I have had exactly zero consoles die, out of a half dozen I have bought. I have also had zero installation and set up issues with consoles. The main reason I've stayed on the PC for so long is that the three MMOs available for consoles; FFXI, EQOA, and PSU; are not to my tastes (to put it politely).

In the next month, one of two things will happen. It will turn out that I can fix my PC inexpensively, either because the damage is under warranty or because the bits I have to replace are cheap. Or I will abandon PC gaming as a serious hobby altogether, at least until competent gaming PCs go sub $300.

Just in case this is my last post for a while, I don't want to leave on a total sour note.

I still believe that MMOs as a genre are taking the first tentative steps. To be alive to witness the transition from MUDs to MMOs was imo akin to the transition from silent film to "talkies." We have only begun to see what is possible. It's been only ten years since EQ and UO. Did film reach the heights that are possible by 1940? How many films from the 40s and 50s do we even watch as students of history (much less because they remain compelling today)? Adoption of MMOs is still low (considering humans as a species), but steadily climbing worldwide. Eventually, I expect that virtual worlds will be as commonplace as e-mail and facebook. Twenty years from now, we will realize that the salty foam that gathered around our feet was the start of a wave that altered society forever.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why do I blog?

I assume that pretty much everyone that reads this blog also follows Bullet Points, but just in case Anjin has a succinct but though provoking post up. My favorite quote:

"If all I was looking for was validation from the community, I'd be dying my hair black and cutting myself by now."

I'm pretty much in the same boat as Anjin. I am truly greatful that some folks take the time to stop by. It helps my motivation a lot to know I'm at least whistling at few people instead of directly into the wind. But in the end, I do this mainly because I enjoy writing. Putting words together to make stuff is fun.

I also feel like there is a need for more blogs focused on general MMO commentary from folks that haven't yet become jaded oracles of snarkyness and negativity. I really get tired of reading blogs written by cranks that get pissed every time a new MMO comes along that wasn't design by Christ himself to cater to whatever their fetishes happen to be. It was just such a series of posts about a yet another new "good but not earth shattering" MMO that prompted be to start this blog in a drunken fit of pique. I'm glad that I did, it's been fun.

Hopefully that will be the most self indulgent post you'll see here for a while ;-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Champions Online: Photos from my vacation in open beta

Thought I'd post a few of the screen shots I took, as well as point out some of the specific features that caught my eye.

This is the first guy I rolled up, Electric Dude.

He is as close as I could come to a remake of one of my City of Heroes characters, an Electric/ Electric Blaster of the same name. In terms of appearance he's identical. He also ended up with the same travel power (teleport), and a lot of similar combat abilities. My CoH character has a lot more powers than this guy did even when I took him up to 40 for the closed beta event. However in terms of how the characters play, it's not contest...this guy is a lot more fun. His controls are more fluid, and somehow he just "feels" more like a superhero.

The mundane appearance of this character helps me stand out a bit in a game where most players are running around as super hero clones, S&M call girls, cyborgs, space demons, werewolves, and anything else you can imagine. I also feel like it contrasts well with his fairly flashy powers:

One of the things I really like is that as you level up abilities they become more impressive. Level 1 electric blast is above, level 2 is below:

I didn't take any screen shots, but level 3 is a real whopper. I also love how teleport works. When you teleport you wink out of existence and become a little glowing ball of light that can fly really really fast:

From the standpoint of another player, you disappear and reappear in a different spot. In addition, while you are flying around as a little ghost ball you are invulnerable to attack (at least as far s I can tell), making it a great escape power. It's saved my ass quite a bit during the end of beta event.

Next I wanted to see what a melee class plays like so I rolled up this chick:

As has already been pointed out by others the melee animations in this game are great. She also gave me an opportunity to try out the travel power acrobatics. It's sort of a compromise between super jumping and super speed, neither as high as former or as fast as the latter. But you still run hella fast and jump hella high, I really liked it. Plus when you back up you do flips!

Finally, I decided to get a little more creative with the character editor. I started with the idea of a fire imp, but ended up with something a little different . . .

This was also the first character where I messed around with the ability to change the color of your powers. I turned most of his fire abilities from fire orange to light blue to make it look a little more like "eldrich energy." Below is what fire flight looks like:

He looks super cool when he is in full flight, however I needed a third hand to hit the print key while I held the camera in place for a good pose. It occurs to me now I could have mashed it with my nose...maybe next time.

All in all, I am very much looking forward to playing this "for reals" when the game goes live for pre-orders.