Archive for the ‘MMORPGs’ Category

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Ok, you have no excuse to NOT get PlanetSide

September 22, 2009
MMOs for 5 bucks! SWEET!

MMOs for 5 bucks! SWEET!

So this week is MMO week for Direct2Drive’s anniversary, and they’re offering a selection of games for five bucks.  Now, normally I wouldn’t devote a post to this, but one title kinda stuck out at me on the list (aside from Age of Conan, of course.  Speaking of which, you should buy that if you have 5 bucks.  It’s not an amazing MMO, but it’s damn well worth 5 bucks.  I’d make a mention about EVE being 5 bucks too, but you probably jumped on that like a rabid wolverine.)

You should spend the 5 dollars and pick up PlanetSide.  No, I’m not joking.

PlanetSide is one of the games that has been trucking along quietly in the background for years now.  Not too many websites cover it, there’s not that many updates anymore, and it kinda gets boring after months of gameplay, but if you ever want an amazing game to jump into quickly and enjoy from day 1, then you want PlanetSide.  No questions asked.

For those not in the know, PlanetSide is the first (and pretty much only) MMOFPS.  The game sports multiple continents that can hold 100 players from each of it’s three factions, meaning you get to have 300 person battlefields.  There’s ground vehicles, air vehicles, hot dropping (first game to introduce a orbital drop as part of the action), mechs, battle armor, hacking, command abilities and more.  The action of PlanetSide has the tendency to quickly escalate into feverish firefight fits of action, where you don’t even know who’s shooting you from where.  All you know is that the sky is full of lead, and if you stick your head up it will probably be blown off.

Some of my best stories come from PlanetSide, and I wasn’t even a high level character.  Leveling in PlanetSide (yes, killing people gets you experience) means nothing more than more certification points that you can spend on gun licenses and implant slots for specialized abilities.  There’s no money in the game, just need to be certified for a gun (or vehicle) to use it (or drive it.)

The graphics, even for being a couple years old, still hold up just because the game will drive your computer nuts during intense firefights.  If the graphics were any better, you wouldn’t be enjoying the 200 person sieges.  You’d be watching a slideshow that ends in your character’s painful death.  But, lucky for you, that’s not the case.  Plus, even the smaller skirmishes are something to write home about, because the battlefield is persistent.  Capturing bases gets your side special benefits for battles on that continent, and capturing a continent means that you get to warp to the next continent in the line.  Every week, the map resets to neutral, and it’s once again a furious land grab.

The point of PlanetSide is to just have fun.  It’s like Battlefield 2 meets Team Fortress 2 meets World of Warcraft, except no endgame.  No raids.  No grinding.  Just having fun from day one.  That’s why I recommend this game to you, my readers.

For five bucks, it’s a steal, and now you have no excuse to not get it.  The monthly fee… well… that’s a bit iffy, but if you really enjoy the game, you’ll find the 15 bucks a month is well spent.  Plus, you can always cancel if you don’t want it past the initial month.  But, for five bucks, you have to try it.  Seriously.

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I don’t want to drink the Aion Kool-Aid

September 11, 2009

aionscreen

Recently many of my blogging brethren have talking about Aion, the new title from NCsoft.  Even the commenters on Massively have been saying the game has stunning gameplay, immersive storytelling, bountiful PvP.  Honestly, I don’t see it.  I really don’t.  All I see is a pretty game that has World of Warcraft and Lineage II shoved into it.

That last sentence probably offended some people in the audience, so let me clarify — YOUR GRINDING YOURSELF RETARDED.  CAN YOU HEAR ME?  DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?

Ok, ok, so offensive jokes and nasty tones aside, Aion‘s not that bad.  It’s just not that good, and that’s where my problem lies.  I’m afraid too many people are booting the game up, staring at the graphics (which are gorgeous, btw, don’t get me wrong) and immediately heaping all sorts of praise upon the game simply because it has some glitter and glam.  I’m one of those people who insists that graphics never make the game, and I’d like to keep those thoughts alive.

Before I go any further, let me say what I like about the game so everyone here knows I’m not just an insane Aion hater.  I like the graphics, they are very pretty and the CryEngine stands out wonderfully.  The customization options on the game are really great, and I feel like I have my own personal daeva, not a simple “choose what avatar may or may not represent you” list.  Also, third, the dialogue in the quest and NPC speech boxes.  This game has lots of writing and the translations are not half-assed.  Major props to the localization teams because they deserve them.  The storyline, for the most part when it’s presented, is interesting.

So, with all of the nice things now said, let’s go to the not so nice things.  Be prepared to grind yourself retarded on this game.  The experience does come slowly, and the quests, while they have great writing, just don’t provide that much incentive.  Take, for example, one of the Elyos starting missions.  You have to destroy these little furry creatures that are ripping apart this guy’s farm.  Why are they ripping apart his farm?  Who knows, they just are.  Now you get to deal with it.  Kill 5 of them and that will make it all better.  For all of this good lore and nice writing, sometimes the incentive just isn’t provided, and that sucks.

It makes things feel grindier when other games use this formula and can escape it.  Champions Online does this nicely via evidence collection, doing favors for public officials, or just stopping bad guys from doing something bad.  Why do I have to take out 10 of these prison guys?  Well because they just broke out of prison and they’re destroying local property.  Why do I have to take 5 pieces of rubble off of citizens in this hotel?  Because rubble KILLS PEOPLE.  So… Aion… Why should I kill 5 of these creatures to save this guy’s farm?  How about because he’s growing food for the local village?  How about because these furry animals are being driven insane by an Asmodian plot to destroy the Elyos food supplies?  How about that?  Just give me something.

Furthermore, at low levels, the game relies heavily on the auto-attack and doesn’t let you get through battles easily.  Even by my 10th level, battles were still being sustained for a while and just not going anywhere.  Granted I was playing a warrior, so my attack power wasn’t the best, but battles dragged.  Even when I was using my abilities, their cooldowns were so long I’d use them once per battle.  This slowly begins to change later, but it doesn’t do it as quick as you’d like it to.

So, my final beef — my biggest beef — comes from grouping with my roommate.  He’s a mage, I’m a warrior.  Together, we finally solved that whole issue of “slow battles.”  We started wailing through content left and right, destroying enemies while barely taking damage.  And even together, for all of our awesome, it still took us 4 hours to get to level 10 and reach our ascension.  Afterwards, what changed?  Nothing, really.  Now we had wings and we went back to doing the exact same crap we were just doing.

Now picture doing all of the stuff we did alone.  By yourself.  Without the benefit of the damage boost from the mage or the taunts from the warrior.  It would be painful… and, trust us, we killed lots of mobs to get to where we were with very little questing fun.

I guess that’s my problem with Aion.  It’s slow.  It’s Lineage.  You can see it pretty clearly in the design.  It’s Lineage II with World of Warcraft sprinkled atop.  It’s not new, it’s not amazing.  It’s the same old stuff we’ve been getting, just with a shiny coating and half-assed flight.  Oh, I guess it’s also worth mentioning that flight is not the game changer I thought it would be.  You get to fly for a minute at start (this goes up later when you get better pairs of wings) and you can use flight potions to stay up in the air.  They wanted to make flight tactical, but in doing so they killed it for PvE use.  Also, many areas disallow flight, so it kinda negates out the whole idea of flying combat to change up the game.

In short, this isn’t a bad game.  It’s just not the amazing superawesome engine that people are making it out to be.  Just like Champions Online isn’t the superdevil people were making that out to be.  Perhaps this is because I’m not in the Abyss yet, where Aion‘s focus lies, but I just don’t see this shocking change coming to the game.  It’s just nothing new here.  At least Champions brings some innovation to the table.

(Also, before the fanboi whining starts that Aion‘s innovation lies in the “new” PvPvE content in the Abyss, let me point you to the fallen Matrix Online, which included raid bosses in PvP areas.  Whoops.)

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An open letter to MMORPG.com: Back up your writers

August 3, 2009

It’s not too often that I like to critique another site’s policies or methods, especially a group that is technically a “competitor.”  Yet, after reading a post today on the MMORPG.com forums regarding one of their recent Darkfall articles, I feel that I need to speak out.

While not everyone may agree with it, MMORPG.com’s Jeffery Hargrove is a member of The Exodus Syndicate, the currently leading guild on Darkfall’s North American server.  His piece focused squarely on The Exodus Syndicate’s rise to power on day 1 of the Darkfall launch and how they did it.  While I don’t exactly agree with the relevance of the piece (it kind of felt like a “look at how l33t we are” account) I’m not someone who’s going to call for it to be ripped down.

But, people being people, they are calling for it to be ripped down off of the site for one small, tiny, insignificant problem — he mentioned bloodwalling.  To get everyone on the same page, bloodwalling is going afk next to a wall, which allows other members of your clan to beat on you to increase their offensive skills while you increase your defensive skills, all while you’re not at your keyboard.  It’s against the game’s Terms of Service, but the damn practice is so commonplace that it’s hard to NOT bloodwall, as it puts you at a high disadvantage in combat if your skills are too low.  But, seeing that skilling up anything in Darkfall is an extremely painful endeavor, no person playing the game “for real” can come close to someone bloodwalling… hence why everyone and their mother does the bloodwall.  They do it to stay competitive and not die every five seconds in combat.

The whole mention of the bloodwall is as follows:

Our bloodwall was the final contribution of players too tired to stay awake. Those who had fallen off earlier awakened to a few hours of un-interrupted skill ups.

Now, because people have complained so hard about the fact that he says The Exodus Syndicate has a bloodwall, MMORPG’s editor Jon Wood (Stradden) has taken a second look at the article.  He’s contacted the illustrious Tasos Flambouras from Aventurine and has asked if bloodwalling is against the developer’s wishes and if it is then they will take the article off the site.  In Wood’s own words:

If the aforementioned issues turn out to actually be against the rules we will, of course, remove the article from publication, take appropriate internal action and issue an apology and a correction.

I can tell you straight up that bloodwalling is against Aventurine’s wishes.  I can also tell you that, seriously, every clan does it.  I’m not committing an act of hyperbole here when I say that.  It’s just how this game goes, and I don’t see Aventurine walking in and booting people who do it.  I even admitted to doing it openly in my article, and my account hasn’t been terminated yet.

My point here, out of all of this, is MMORPG.com should not take down this article simply because it mentions a practice that the developer doesn’t want people to know about.  If he was explaining in detail how to cheat at Darkfall, then I would take issue with it.  But, in this article, he simply mentions the practice and that his guild has engaged in it.  That’s it.  He’s retelling what happened and that’s the basic practice of journalism.

You may not like the fact that Exodus Syndicate has been doing a bloodwall, but that has nothing to do with the veracity of this article.  The article is solid.  It happened.

If they rip down this article simply because it contains a word that Aventurine doesn’t like being said, then MMORPG.com is saying that they don’t want to back up the reporting of their writers.  It’s saying that when push comes to shove, they’re going to back down to a developer’s wish simply because an article might cause controversy.  Sometimes the point of a journalist IS to cause controversy, but only when that controversy is grounded in truth.

Bloodwalling HAPPENS.  I have SCREENSHOTS.  You can’t IGNORE IT or DENY IT.

Case in point — if Shawn Schuster pulled down my Darkfall article from Massively.com simply because Aventurine doesn’t want us talking about bloodwalling, I would have been furious.  Shawn saw my article before it went to press and he had the chance to stop it from going up.  He knew the content, but he put his seal of approval on it anyway.  If he would have taken it down, I would have lost faith in him.

It would have said to me, “Why should I go out and do my reporting when someone else can come in, suggest that they don’t like the content because it doesn’t suit them, and then have my article taken down?”  It’s abhorrent.  It’s lying.  It’s pandering to an outside source and denying facts.  It’s dangerous.

You do not rip my article, or any other journalist’s article down simply because the developer doesn’t like it.  You issue the developer’s rebuttal and leave it at that, so both sides get a say.  You really don’t take “internal action” against a writer when his reporting is grounded in truth.  Exodus Syndicate did this, he’s admitting to it.  He’s not slandering Aventurine or making up events.

If you agree with me, then go to MMORPG.com’s forum thread on this and tell them to back up Jeff.  Do it because I can tell you that his reporting is solid and that article doesn’t deserve to be ripped down just because it makes Aventurine look like idiots.

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I bought Darkfall

July 14, 2009

Like I said yesterday… I’m sorry.

I’m on the North American server. I like to think that it makes a world of difference.

Will be posting up impressions when I have them.

So far all I can say is that I got called “a dumb cunt” in the first two minutes of gameplay. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

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When you thought it couldn’t get worse…

July 13, 2009
Wow, boobs much?

This happened.

Seriously, this is just getting *%$@ing stupid.  I’m all for “sex sells” but this is just getting absolutely idiotic.

If I could take a shot in the dark at this, I’d say this is some sort of scam.  The developers of this game are still unknown, the players on the forums are walking around in a daze because they have absolutely no contact with who made this game whatsoever, and the game itself rips off from so many other games.

It use to be called Civony, but I guess that was too close to Civilization (which the game is truly based on) so they changed it to Evony.  But if you look in there, you’ll notice some sprites ripped off from other RTS games, such as Age of Empires.

Expect lawsuits… and if I was a new player I wouldn’t touch this with a 100,000 pole.  There are plenty of respectable games out there on the internet.  If you want, I recommend Dreamlords.

Update: Arkenor found more patchwork than I did.  I just did a look over, but Ark found, well, very solid grounds for copyright infringement and plagarism.

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That’s right, I’m totally being bribed by developers

May 1, 2009

I guess this is just my little beef, but I have to come out with it on my website.

I hate it when commenters say I or Massively are being bribed by developers to promote their products.

No, your daft little conspiracy theories on why we gave a good game a good grade are completely in your own little insane mind.  John Smedley is, in fact, not sending me piles of money via UPS.

You know what, if he was sending me all of the money that people keep saying he’s sending me, I wouldn’t give a damn.  I’d be rolling in it laughing and I wouldn’t be attempting to make my paycheck last from month to month.  But GUESS WHAT GUYS, I live in an apartment and can barely afford television.  Woo hoo!

So I want to leave you with a fun little tidbit of information — something that’s not advertised outside of the Joystiq network all too often, yet I think it should be recognized.

The writers of WoW Insider, Massively, and Joystiq (aka, the Joystiq Network) cannot accept any gifts over 20 dollars.  Now some of you are probably saying, “All right, who gives a crap?” to your computer monitors right now, but this is a pretty big caveat.

Do you guys know how IGN, Kotaku, and other sites get some of their writers to interview developers?  The developers pay to fly them out.  The developers offer hotel rooms, airfare, and sometimes food to make sure that writers get to their press events.  Developers do send thank you gifts and other items to writers as a token of appreciation for all the coverage that they get.  The company does not pay for writers to be flown out to small events thrown by developers.

We here at the Joystiq network don’t do that in order to maintain neutrality.  I’ve personally turned down some nice travel packages offered to me by gaming companies, thank you very much.  I don’t take bribes, and any opinion I offer on Massively.com is my own.

If you don’t like it, sorry, but I’m not being bribed to say what I think.

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Keen says what I said a month ago, Syncaine takes offense, I simply theorize and find a way to “aid” Darkfall

April 18, 2009

I hate to be the person who goes, “I told you so,” in arguments, but I believe that I need to do it in this situation.

I motherf$&%ing told you so a month ago.  But all y’all thought I was a giant jerk who couldn’t see the light of Darkfall‘s sandbox.  People were so busy bashing me for being a “Darkfall hater” that they were too blind to see that I really did play the game, enjoyed parts of it, but critiqued portions of the fundamental game that didn’t hold up to the main objective.

What was that line that I printed when Darkfall was launched?  Where was it?  Oh, was it this one?

While combat is pretty nifty and lag free, the monster AI is pretty awesome, and the exploration factor is phenominal, this game has huge incentive problems.

Once again, I don’t want to be the jerk of the blog, but I’m just kinda pissed that I got trounced on for saying the same thing Keen did just because I said it a month earlier, and because I represent the “big, bad, corporate MMO site.”  Keen has now said, and I quote:

For a game that is built around being a faster pace action oriented game, everything leads players to play at a slower pace.  I can travel from one side of the map to the other, but why would I?  There is no destination, purpose, or incentive.

Sound familiar?  (Btw, before you comment, please get Keen’s entire perspective by reading his post.  I think I got a good cut here, but I don’t want to take his thoughts out of context.)  Ok, on a less acidic note, I’m agreeing with Keen’s perspective on the game.  I don’t hate Darkfall and I’ve always said it has potential, but Aventurine needs to step it up.  Sadly, their track record doesn’t provide much indication that they will.

On the other side of the Internetz, Syncaine, the author of Hardcore Casual, freaked out a bit more than I thought he would on the subject.  Usually I find myself loving Syncaine’s posts, but I finally found one that I didn’t really agree with.

In short, he blames Keen’s problems on the fact that he’s in a giant alliance.  He thinks Keen should take the bull by the horns and go out and do things, rather than “relying on the game’s rules.”  It’s a heated post, in my opinion, and I don’t think Syncaine wished for it to come out like that, but who am I to say what Syncaine’s real opinion is.

When push comes to shove, however, I think Keen and Syncaine are both right in their own ways.  The difference is that I think Keen is getting to the heart of the matter while Syn is beating around the bush.  Players need reasons to beat the hell out of one another.

Syn brings up ad-hoc skirmishes — one of my favorite things about the sandbox design.  If you do it right, you actually lure players into exhibiting types of behavior.  They don’t realize it, but the best sandboxes are those structured to provide “toys” to attract people.  Dungeons, declared territory, points of interest — these are the things that should lure players there and then spark conflict.  How that conflict ends and proceeds is up to the player, hence the concept of sandbox.  The developer provides the tools, however subtle, and the player finishes the story.

The sandbox is not “make up shit so you have fun.”  Players should not actively have to consider “what can I do that’s fun?”  They should be able to see their own goals and forge on ahead.  For example, “There’s a mine with rare loot in it over the next hill.  I should get some of that.”  There’s the goal.  The developer never wrote the goal down for the player, or told the player that that is the goal.  The player found a point of interest (the mine) and has chosen to get a reward from it (the rare ore.)  How the player conducts themselves is now in the player’s hands.  Other people may interfere or may cooperate or may simply not engage, and that’s the nature of the sandbox.

Keen has gotten to the heart of that by saying, “there should be incentive, like rare ore in a neutral town.”  Because Darkfall provides everything everywhere, there’s no drive to go out and put your stuff at risk.  No rare items to fight over, unlike Darkfall’s sister game, EVE Online.  EVE provides areas with really awesome resources.  What happens in those areas?  Everybody wants them.  Conflict sparks, the sandbox is filled, and players have a good time without having to go out and actively seek “a good time.”  Players who don’t have the resources want it so they can use it, and players with the resource fortify their resource with weapons made from other resources.  It’s a giant wonderful circle of spending.

Syncaine wants people to go out and be more active.  That’s what Keen and I want; we want people to get out and be active.  Activity sparks opportunity.  But if you already have everything, as Keen’s alliance may have, then what do you need to be active for?  You have it all.  You have your resources, your building your weapons, your defending what you have because you don’t want to lose it.  Too many people are in that state in Darkfall, which now leads to sit, stare, and bitch.

If you have a city, have people mining, foresting, and herbing, have a crafter and have guards… what more do you need?  You have the ability to make what you need with all of that.  EVE made sure that wasn’t possible.  Whoops, Aventurine.

So, lastly, I’ll leave you with my idea.  One that would most likely spark some conflict, because Keen brought this up on Syncaine’s post.  Keen said that he has 12+ people in his clan on all the time, and it’s no fun going out and having 12 vs. 1 battles.  I agree.  The situation is not fun and the rewards are probably not worth it.   You go out, kill the guy, and you probably have better stuff than he does.  You take it, it goes into your bank, it does nothing.

But what if you could de-craft an item.  Disassemble it into component parts.  Now, that chainmail that no one’s going to use could be disassembled into a few things of metal.  Metal that you could put towards your bigger objectives, like a siege engine.  What would a little change like that cause?

My bet would be that there would be a rise in conflict.  I, basically, just turned all players into mobile crafting nodes.  Groups would go out looking for blood because they could add to their war coffer in a productive way.  This means larger groups would clash in ad-hoc combat.  I would go so far to bet that even commerce would go up, as a crafter could sell his items to a guild and the guild could disassemble them for their own needs.  Crafter gets his rank ups, guild gets some resources.

Would you get 5 metal from a piece of armor that used 5 metal to make?  Of course not, you need dimishing returns, but you all get my drift on this.  It’s not rocket science to provide incentive.