Monday, July 29

Screenshot of the day

This would make more sense if we would be updating the side daily, but Age of Conan is just still too beautiful to just keep to my self. Over the weekend my assassin sliced and diced her way through the Hyrkanian steppes. Before she will be done there completely she went to Stygia to learn about her past (fun fight!), and went into the swamp to learn how to live off the wild. Now that she is almost level 35 she should be able to push the darkness back a little bit.

All the while I'll enjoy the beautiful world of Conan. It feels good to be back there.

Sunday, July 14

Yammob!

I found one just before I slayed the Tyrant. Good thing I have my priorities straight.

Sunday, June 16

From the ashes.....

Gone is the horrendous, mind numbingly painful to play game that was the launch of FFXIV and here we have, some years later, a quirky, well produced, jaunty little theme park ride that is A Realm Reborn. There was a lot of soul searching after the initial failure, the game was rebuilt  from the ground up, a new game director and a new vision, a vision that took its inspirations from the major western MMOs like WoW, GW2, Aion, Rift, etc. You can see their reflections in the initial gleam of the game. This is a smooth theme park ride with the FF twist....

Momodi: The diminuative matriarch of Ul'dar Adventurer's Guild

I've had the pleasure of spending lots of time with this game, sadly I can't talk about anything other than this weekends beta test (First part of CB 3, open to anyone who purchased the original game), but I will say that the developers have really listened to feedback. I'm impressed.

A run of the mill themepark?

We have the trinity, we have a heavily quest driven linear path, we have zones segregated by level, we have dungeons, gathering, crafting, guilds and the modern requirement for  'dynamic content ' (FATE system). We have several classes BUT, this is one of the obvious differences, one character can play all classes, no need for an alt unless you seriously can't control yourself and your altitis. Switching classes is easy as switching a weapon.

 
My wizard wielding a pointy stick and a chopping board, don't mess.

Character creation and the class system

Character creation is OK. You can choose one of four races: Big Guys (Roegadyn), Half Human/Half Cats (Miqo'te), Humans, Tall Pointy Eared Elves (Elezen) and Little People (Lalafell). There are also clans within each race. Starting attributes are affected by race/clan choices.

Visual choices start with a height slider, body definition (two choices), a few face choices (no sliders for individual pieces),  hair/colour choices, eye colour, eyebrows, nose shape, mouth shape, ear shape and voice etc. Not as detailed as Aion or GW2, it's a  fairly limited set of options. I couldn't find anything I was truly happy with for my Elezen. I'm hoping a few more face options come in before launch, the current options of  young or weird didn't cut it for me.

At character creation you choose a class, once you hit level ten you can go off and train any other. Interestingly I saw no options for starting with Disciples of the Hand or Land (crafters and gatherers), something that was available in version one.

 
Nahkti is off on his second job (or was it his fourth?) logging wood

Leveling is mostly done through questing, thankfully the stories are nicely written and characters have  personality. There is lots of dialogue to get through and cut scenes are very common, if you don't want story in your game this game is not for you.

The game does a great job of teaching you what you need to know as you progress, there are plenty of help screens that pop up at pertinent points in the action.  You can choose to switch them off if you don't want your hand held.

Each soldier/mage class has a hunting log, finding and killing each creature in the log gives you bonus xp.

Once you've completed your level ten class quest you can start to learn other classes. This is when you wish you hadn't sold or binned that level one gear....

 
On first equipping an axe, Nahkti's clothes fell off
  
Equipping a weapon/tool changes your class and your level changes to that class level, so when you start out on that second class your clothes dissapear, you can't wear those level eight trousers any more.. Luckily the game has been set up for this, there's an  inventory for armour, weapons, tools and jewellery, alongside that theres a gear manager that lets you save up to ten gear sets, each gear set can be over written so as you level a class and get better gear you can overwrite the save.

You need to go see the guild for the class you wish to learn, these are spread throughout the world, you dont get access to air travel until level 15. As a Thermatauge I wanted to unlock the Conjurer's heal skill to help me through some difficult content, I had to run through a few zones to get over to the area for the Conjurer's Guild to start learning and get the class quests (you can just equip a weapon but you'll miss out on skills if you ignore the guild).

Eventually the Jobs system kicks in, this is when you get two specific classes up to max level, and they combine to become one new class or 'Job'.  As an example I believe that Thermatauge + Conjurer = White Mage, a  healer. Classes are for solo play while Jobs are for specialist party roles.

Skills are earned through leveling and via your class guild quests (guild quests are available every five levels). What the game calls traits are really passive skills that auto unlock and offer no player choice.

You can use skills from different classes in your current build, these are limited, my lvl 17 thermatauge could use three skills from other classes he had learned, so he had a DoT from his level five  Conjurer along with a cure.

By the end of this beta I had a level 17 Thermatauge, level five Conjurer , level six Miner, level eight Botanist, level nine Weaver and level five carpenter, all on the same character.



 

Combat

Combat is run of the mill MMO combat, it's not as actiony as TSW or GW2, my mage couldn't move while casting, there is no dodge. Foes special attacks will show an area of effect while casting, giving you time to get out of the red circle before it hits. Fans of the series haven't been impressed with the loss of the slow, tactical skill usage of previous incarnations in the series but modern MMO players will delight in the death of the slow paced action that went before. It flows nicely and feels smooth, a completely different feel than the original games version. I think this alone will help it reach a much wider audience than it otherwise would have. It's fun now.

seriously; this UI needs a scaling function

During group play you'll get access to a group skill called a Limit Break, you can see it in the screenshot above, these are extra powerful skills, how they behave depends on which class triggers it. During this dungeon run, as the caster, I was asked to use it to trigger a massive AoE damage skill. First time was great, hit it at the right time and killed a mass amount of mobs, second time not so good, misjudged the size of the AoE and aggroed a couple more groups *grin*.

Dungeons are forced activities, solo players are going to find that one tough, the main quest line insists you complete them before you can progress. It does mean getting a group is easier because everyone has to do them but it also means a much higher chance of a bad PUG.

I did two dungeons this weekend both level 15, both on timers, both completed easily, I could have been lucky but I think their difficulty needs increasing, it was way too easy, both still lots of fun. Fight your way through trash to an end boss, nothing unusual. Because of their ease the timers had no effect, never felt like I was up against the clock, even had a healer go afk for ten minutes and we did fine.

Gathering & Crafting

I worked on two gathering classes: Miner and Botanist, they both operated in pretty much the same way.


When you approach a resource your interface shows you what items you can gather and your current percentage rate of success. This is very helpful for gathering the right resource for your crafting needs. Thankfully the horrendously slow mini game from version one has gone, now you can just gather away, sadly nothing much has been done to make it more than a grind. As you progress in levels you unlock skills, such as increasing your percentage chance of gathering items, you use your GP (Gathering points) on these skills, GP builds back up really slowly, there's a lot of downtime for your skills. You can increase GP by wearing the right clothes. There is an RNG chance of collecting a higher quality version of an item. As with all classes there are quests at five level intervals, the rest of the time it's grind your way through...If you have a lower level fighter class you could always switch to your gathering class when handing in quests to get their xp.

As with the Hunting journal there is a gathering journal,gathering the right items will give you bonus xp.




In the same way that your are given Hunting and Gathering logs, Crafters immediately have a set of 'work orders' to work towards in their logs. Initial completion of an item gives good bonus xp. At present there is no way to craft multiples of an item so it becomes pretty boring quite fast when you need to create 60 Hempen yarn, the process is pretty quick for low level stuff but still requires a couple of mouse clicks and a short wait for each one.

Skills are unlocked as you progress, they use Crafting Points, your clothes can increase the amount you have, like the Gathering Points they are slow to replenish. Skills so far have increased the success chance, quality level and given some CP. There is an RNG chance to craft a higher quality item.

It looks like there is potential to craft usefull stuff if you start early enough, I found it useful for those switching to a new class and ending up naked moments :)

I doubt gathering and crafting will appeal  unless you're a committed crafter in other games, there's a significant grind involved.  

In closing

This weekend has been great fun, SE should be proud in what they've accomplished here, they've turned the game in to something that has the potential to be a real success, I'm rooting for them and missing the game already. Combat is smooth, graphics are lush, story is great, what more could you want from a modern themepark?

Monday, March 25

Neverwinter - A nice little dungeon crawl?


Dulcy exploring Neverwinter Woods

Beta started Friday evening for me, wasn't sure what to expect. Reports over on the mmorpg.com forums have been bad, for a forum whose main population looks through rose tinted glasses back at anything pre-vanilla and/or sandbox that comes as no surprise. It's based on D&D, it's made by Cryptic and Perfect World, I was expecting a dungeon crawler in the same vain as DDO, it's what I got, albeit a little less complex than DDO, it has a much simpler rule set. Perfect World are no stranger to this beta player and I fully expect, as experience suggests, that the cash shop will play a little larger part than it currently does in beta, more on that later.

Sergeant Knoxx - An overly familiar face

Had no clue what class to roll, and having such a bad memory of the D&D rule-sets (gotta be at least 30 years since I played- feel old much? *ouch*) there was no synapses firing to help me choose. 'Great Weapon Fighter' sounded like it suited my mood of smashing things in the face.

Character creation was an uninspired affair, a few faces with age variables, a few haircuts and things like eyebrows which really doesn't make enough difference to be useful. The character models are pretty poor, so any fine tuning is a waste, there's not a lot of options to waste either. 

Dulcy - At least her armour looks effective.

Combat uses a reticule system, forget clicking skills, you're forced to use your keyboard, which for a clicker like me was weird at first. You have a limited skill bar with skills tied to mouse clicks (L & R) and bound to keys 1, 2, Q, E and  R, it was pretty easy to adjust to. As you level you unlock new skills to slot so you get some choice on your build, there's a feat system too.

You need to be pointing your reticule at the enemy to hit and with extremely few exceptions, you will be locked down while you attack. Only rogues get to dodge and that's the only 'actiony' thing about the combat, after being spoiled by the action combat of GW2 and TSW it felt like stepping a decade back in time. Didn't stop me having some fun though.

Foes big attacks will show a red area on the ground, since your stuck while attacking mostly its bloody annoying knowing you can't get out if it fast enough, swinging a sword stopped Dulcy moving. Once she unlocked a skill that involved movement she was a happier gal. Thankfully cool-downs aren't global, but quite long on anything but basic attacks, there's a degree of skill required for effective combat, it felt good once I got in to the swing of things. It shouldn't take you until level 15 or so to feel good about combat though.

The higher the level, the bigger the sword

Animations are pretty poor to average, the running animation is the same for both genders, doesn't work so well on women. 

There is no health regen, in or out of combat, unless you roll a healing class you are going to be spending loads on health potions, the game likes its money sinks, not unusual for a PW title. It got very annoying if you didn't remember to stock up before going dungeon crawling. At level 18 you get to choose your first companion, as a pure DPS class my choice was best with something tanky or healer, I went with a Cleric healer, things got a lot easier after that and I ended up with more potions than I needed.  Having this potion money  sink seems a needless frustration at early levels, the only way to regen health is at campfires or via portable alters (which drop from mobs and with no description it took me until level 17 to suss what they did *sigh*).

Dulcy and her healing Cleric exploring a wizards tower

Quests : make no mistake this is a very linear game, you gain no experience from killing mobs, quests are the only way to level, they are a mixture of dungeon based instances and open world. There are no alternate leveling paths, not a very alt friendly game, I will say though that the content felt fast paced so reliving it at a later date doesn't fill me with dread. The Foundry could really help here if enough passable content comes from players. there is a rating and review option for foundry quests so you can get a good idea of the quality before you partake. You can also tip the creator with coin if you're suitably impressed.

I soloed so I'm not sure how well instances scale for groups, they felt good for solo play, just the right amount of challenge for some relaxed dungeon crawling. Fun and to the point. Mob spawns out in the world were fast, great for crowded areas, not so good if your having difficulties. Lore is OK but nothing to get too excited about, I played some player made 'foundry' quests, whose writing and dungeon design was as good as Cryptics. Sadly the Foundry wasn't available for testing this weekend, neither was crafting.  

A player made Foundry quest, great quest chain which bugged out on me on the last step

Gear drops from mobs, can be bought from traders or you can use the Auction House. Some of it can have enchantments added, there wasn't any RNG in adding the enchantment (unless that happens at later levels), there is RNG if you're upgrading the enchantment. If you socket something it costs  to replace it, the currency for that has a chance to come from an hourly 'gift' you get by praying, it can also be gained by exchanging it for Zen (the cash shop currency). The same currency is used for retraining feats, re-socketing boost for your companions and  shortening training times of companions. 

Companions need to go off to train before they can level, the higher the level the longer the time, it  increased to 27 minutes for training from level 8 to 9, that's a long time to be without your companion, PW know how to make money from their CS, you will need to spend if you want to avoid frustrations. The cash shop already has superior mounts and companions, it will likely get worse post release. 

Nice sky by a floating rock with a tavern on it

Despite my cash shop concerns and it's likely impending frustrations at later levels, I had a great time leveling from 1-21. Definitely a casual game, a fun way to spend a few hours doing dungeon crawls, not a triple A title neither is it a game hardcore D&D fans should get excited about. I think there's a fair amount of RP potential if that's your thing. The dungeons have their fare share of traps, some simplistic puzzles and plenty of treasure if you have the right skill or kits, gives it that old school dungeon feel. Compared to games like GW, TSW etc I'd score it an entertaining 5/10 (the cash shop fears cause the low score), comparing it to most of its free to play competitors I'd give it an 8/10 on the proviso that its crafting is useful and is more than a heavily RNG based money sink.

I'm intrigued enough to stick with it casually across the next few betas. It was the kind of simplistic fun I needed while escaping from a weekend of mostly hard work. Looking forward to getting my hands on the foundry, some of the players creations worked very well. Seems you needed to register for a foundry beta. 

Wednesday, March 13

Quote of the ... year?

Not because that the quote is that brilliant, well, maybe it is, but more because we are not quoting a lot here on Yammob.

Bah Blizzard, we were breaking MMOs before they even thought about making one.
Joel "Nusquam" Bylos comment when somebody on the TSW forum suggested that Blizzard owned the term "soon".

Saturday, February 16

We Love Fine



I had ordered some stuff online. Some cool items, but that is not important now. At the bottom of the box was the packing list and invoice. But there was another badly folded piece of paper. First I thought it had ended up in my delivery box by mistake. But then I realized what I got my in hands. This is so brilliant and unexpected, I just had to share it.

Thursday, February 14

Dreamfall Chapters




Now that Ragnar Tørnquist and Martin Bruusgaard are no longer involved with The Secret World they turned their attention to something I have been looking forward. And I'm not the only one. Although I am not sure exactly why, but they have taken the most eagerly awaited adventure game to Kickstarter. Well, I guess collecting nearly a million dollar in just a few days is pretty good reason to go to Kickstarter. I'm one of the 10,000+ that has funded it. I'm pretty confident they will be made, and I'm utterly sure I would have bought it when that time would come. The only thing is that I'll pay for it a year or two too early.

Maybe I should add my thoughts on Kickstarter as an idea, but I'll just stick with "TLJ-3 is coming!"

Link in case Google is down: www.kickstarter.com/projects/redthread/dreamfall-chapters-the-longest-journey

Monday, February 11

So, I resubbed my SWTOR subscription today.

Actually I should say I extended the subscription I re-opened a month ago.
And I'm still having fun with the game.

Let's backtrack to how I got to try the game again.
During the Winterfest in GW2 the 'meh' feeling I'd been getting about ArenaNet's idea of throwing half-finished one-time only content at us, with the new twist of letting you repeat it for a week before showing the new half finished one-time only content crested. Frankly the only thing drawing me to the game was MU group events, and those kinda stalled during the Holidays and, alas, haven't really picked up during January.

Without consciously deciding to quit or cut back on GW2 I started looking around for something else. The Secret World was my first alternate destination, but then I started playing the Complete Content Unlock version of KoToR II, which had just reached "Final" state. About that content unlock, though I actually missed some unlocked bits I have to say that about 75% of the locked out content probably wasn't locked out due to time restraints but because it just didn't work. While some of the bits were interesting, most just messed up the pacing of the game, and the extra content in the End Game just added more interminable corridors to battle through with a few cut scenes of your crew members showing themselves hopeless incompetents.
However, after having played through KoToR II I wasn't satisfied and wanted more KoToR fix.

I first tried the original KoToR on PC. Erm, the fact it was awarded Game of the Year is a testimony to the quality of its storytelling, it's probably the worst Console to PC conversion I've ever seen. And I've seen a few. After that I tried out SW:TOR again, see what all the fuss about the F2P scheme is all about. It took me about 5 minutes to determine that if I wanted to have fun with the game I'd better resubscribe.

UI modding is great in this game
Even with "Preferred Status" my account was essentially crippled compared to a full subscription game. No Sprint... Remember running through Coruscant hallways without that? On the upside, with subscription you get it at level 10 now.
Severely reduced XP: I remembered how I was struggling with getting enough XP to progress on my Main, Are'zhou before. With half to a quarter of that, it'd be impossible to level without grinding Heroic Quests. At least as Preferred I had access to all my hotbars, check my screenshots and imagine only having 2 of them... Last but probably the least least was that it'd cost me about a month's subscription to buy hide-helmet unlocks for all my alts.... Do you have any idea how messed up most headgear looks on a Twi'lek? I wasn't going to suffer wearing some silly mask or tentacle-perforated baseball cap thing. So subscription it was.

Since then I've been having a blast with the game. Essentially by treating it as a single player RPG game really, with an auction house and a general chat I keep closed most of the time.
Going F2P didn't do the game's community any favours. Chat is filled with spam for Heroics (all the froobs need to grind these for a week to get any progress I guess, interestingly this does result in them being better geared than I am at the same level) and when it isn't, there's plenty of nasty comments from people trying to hide the fact they don't know the answer to legitimate questions by dint of snarly try-to-be-witty comments. The old adage about remaining silent so as not to be proven foolish comes to mind.
The difference between GW2's silent but helpful players and TSW's generally more mature and helpful community is palpable. If I weren't playing this game as a SPRPG I'd have quit within days.

Getting hitched
So how's the game now? Well, it's not really changed much but what's different is for the good mostly. I've brought my Smuggler (now my Main since I don't "have" to play Sith with the cool kids) from Level 20 to 47, and sadly you still see that dip in progress starting somewhere around level 35.
The problem is exacerbated on Smuggler as it's a Stealth class and that means (for me) you avoid many mobs that a regular melee class has to fight through by default. The result is the Smuggler loses out on about 5-10% XP. On the upside, she did marry her farm boy. I knew captains can marry people on board their ships, I didn't know they could do marry themselves. It may not be entirely legal...

It's gonna blow!
The trick to progressing without grinding seems to be to A) always log out in a Cantina for Rested XP or whatever it's called in SW:TOR and B) Rotate alts. Kinda like playing CoX *dodges a blow from Phé* I don't play each character each evening. Hmm I should probably mention that the Dreamstrider Legacy has expanded a bit. In addition to the original sisters Are'zhou (Sith Sorcerer) and Qwi'zhou (Smuggler) there's now Tyra'zhou a Jedi Sentinel and Khai'zhou the Mercenary (originally this was Cezka but I rerolled her after a forced name change and because she can now be Twi'Lek). I even got a Che'zhou (Sith Warrior) and Q'zhou (Agent) lined up but doubt I'll ever get those beyond Level 1 really. A nice thing about returning was that the Legacy system finally has features. One of the features is you can unlock races to be used for all classes. By default you can't pick every race for every class. As you may have guessed I unlocked Twi'lek for all classes and expanded the line of sisters a bit. There's some other interesting options in the Legacy system, but it clearly got taken for a ride and given a quiet talking to in a private location by the Cash shop system as well. A shame that. There's a few features I'd have preferred to see, like shared storage or ship furnishing that never made it, probably due to lack of development funds.

Talking about the cash shop, I actually laid money down there too. I got a not-quite-fluff Armour for my Smuggler. A fully decked out in purple mods L30-ish suit that I liked the look of.
With the extra coins I bought a starter kit for Tyra'zhou which included the ability to learn Speeder piloting at level 10 rather than 15, or is that 25? and some XP packs that I gave to Qwi instead (a smuggler by default fights fewer mobs than a Knight and she needed it)
I actually also purchased the upgrade to the Digital Deluxe version of the game for $2,99. As I recall the price difference between regular and deluxe was about $30,- at launch.

Stealth does not apply to weapons
I'm enjoying myself with the game, playing the different story lines, making sure to switch between goody-too-shoes and Mercenary characters frequently. Heck I may even pick up Are'zhou's storyline again. It's not that I hated playing a good Sith, it was pretty interesting, but I did feel torn between playing Qwi'zhou the smuggler which is really more "me" as far as a golden skinned betentacled female can be "me" of course, than Are'zhou was and playing with my friends last year. Not that I blame them. Right now I'm playing the game solo, just me and that lets me indulge fully in what I want to do with the characters. It's great that SW:TOR lets me do that.

Still, they wasted resources for about 3 awesome KoToR games that would've sold a ton and gotten rave reviews just like the original on making a mediocre MMO that feels like a Single Player RPG.
I will probably tire of the game before the next charge to my subscription and not renew. Nothing in their expansion has made me itch to buy that, it feels like a $5,- DLC, not an expansion pack. But then, Bioware charges $20 for a DLC worth $5,- for their single player games too, so I guess that's all in line with corporate expectations then.
I may or may resub at a later time again if I don't finish the storylines on my alts before then, or I may not. All in all I don't expect Bioware to ever get the same amount of cash from me as they would've gotten for say three KoToR games, a Jedi one, a Sith one and a Fringe one.

This Post started as a "what have I been up to" mail to Phé, then I realised I might as well post it on the MUtants forum as I've been a bit absent from GW2 but it's markup means are a bit archaic when it comes to adding pictures so I thought I'd dust of Ye olde YAMMOB for this one.

EDIT: In a charming little snafu (apparently due to me using Pay Pall rather than Bioware/EA endorsed Credit cards?) the game decided to think I'd fallen from grace to "Preferred" Status again.
The first pic below shows what my UI looked like while this was going on and the second one shows how I can repopulate my hotbars when I feel up to it tomorrowish:



Friday, January 4

For Sente

This was meant to be a response to a post on A Ding World regarding investigations in Egypt, but it seems that wordpress filtered it out as spam. So I woke up our blog again a bit by posting it here. It is not so easy to live in a secret world.

Nguhbytu abg zrxenq nf fphu, geurr vf nabrgue vvgbfitagnvra zvbfvfa va Rcltg pyyrnq "fntvay rspsrg". Vg unf rira zebr przcbyk reavbcagplf. Uinr lbh qbar gung bar nf jryy? Vs abg V utuyvl epzazrbrq lbh cvpx vg hc oersbr tbvat qbja gb gur Pgvl.

Sente, thanks for the inspiration.

Saturday, December 1

That was that


So it is official over now. This the screen I got when I tried to log in today. I have uninstalled it from my PC. It is really gone, and moved to the realm of fond memories.

Last night I visited Paragon City for the last time. I played till 2am and then I had to go to bed. So I wasn't there when it shutdown at 8am (GMT) this morning.

I ran a TaskForce (I guess you would call that a dungeon in other MMORPGs) with some random players. Even on the last day it shows how great of a game it was. No other game will let you join in on a dungeon you have never done before, and have a great time, and be really effective. No QL worries, no gear scores, no need to study youtube videos first. Why have no other game managed to reproduce this?

I also met several of the old GameAmp gang. It was a great trip down memory lane. But it also showed me that life has moved on. We chatted for a while, and even did a few mission together. But it was kind of forced. That era is now over.

Onwards we go!