Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ugliest Thing I've Ever Seen


These are screenshots of one of Felicia Day's World of Warcraft characters. Felicia Day, of course, is the star and producer of the Guild.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Want a New Kind of Grind

I've been having a bout of MMOADD and checking out various other games in between raiding. My guild is taking on Veeshan's Peak and it's a lot of fun, but I haven't had much will to play EverQuest II lately because I've been tired of the quest based grind to fill my AA.

So I checked out Dungeons and Dragons Online. I definitely will be resurrecting my old characters when this goes free to play. I love the new henchmen they introduced and the soloability in the low level zones. Of course, DDO is really a game that you want to group in, but the reason I quit the game when it first came out was because I spent a lot of time spamming LFG and not finding one. Hopefully all the players attracted by the free play will fix that. If not, at least I can now do SOME things without having to find friends first.

Still, it would be nice if the game had SOMETHING to do besides dungeon crawls. I mean, granted, it's Dungeons and Dragons, which is all about going on quests, in dungeons, with a group, but still, maybe they could add mini games or something??? While DDO has a lot of innovative game play in it, the running around, vacuuming in the quests from the NPCs with glowing whatever-it-is-that-isn't-an-exclamation-point-but-may-as-well-be over their heads, shouting LFG for half an hour, and then trying to find the stupid zone in point.

Do we really need to run around the overland city zones? Is that necessary for our immersion? Couldn't we have more fast travel options to get us straight to the dungeon? It's not like we're being attacked in the city. And I'm not asking for easy mode fast travel IN THE missions. Do we really have to suck in all the quests from random people around the zone? Can't we find another way to dole out the missions?

So I decide to go see what's new in Age of Conan. I earned my Tempest of Set two more levels but then got bored of it. I guess if I was more interested in the PVP side of things or the citybuilding aspect, I might like the game more. But as far as the PVE went, it just didn't seem to offer anything I wasn't already getting in EverQuest II. It's just your standard quest driven grind, once you get past the incremental innovations in the combat system. However, while I loved AOCs combat system, it simply isn't enough to get me to come back permanently.

The issue for me is content: while they've added a ton of content to AOC, there's just more of it in EQ2. And it doesn't seem as hard to find. Granted, I've been playing longer, so I know where most everything is, but quests in AOC would often force me to run to then the opposite side of the map from wherever you get the quest, assuming it's even in the same zone. EQ2 was like that at launch, but most quests nowadays are much more reasonable in terms of the mindless running around they force you to do.

I also tried out the Aion beta. I've probably tried every MMORPG beta since 2000. This is one of the smoothest and most polished. Probably because it's actually a released game. I'm not quite sure what they are really testing. I didn't end up doing too much testing... the game was yet another quest driven grind. Pretty unabashed about it too. Pretty much every quest was "you know, my farm is overrun by Random Smelly Monster". You look over at it, and sure enough, it's overrun alright. But mostly by "Random Stinky Monster"s which don't count. And you have to kill them because your mobs are ont he same respawn point, and apparently the farmer IS in fact actually OK with his farm being overrun by things digging it up if they have different adjectives over their head.

I think I might be at the end of my rope with this genre. The only game that really excites me now is Heroes of Telara because 1) you supposedly can play with everyone on the server [players of any level will have something to do], and 2) the world WILL change. Meaning you CAN be a hero. Meaning I'm actually doing something -- responding to a changing world -- and not simply vacuuming the same exclamation points up on all my alts and doing the same things over and over again. In theory -- we know little about the game at this point.

I'm also excited about Final Fantasy XIV, if only because I loved FFXI. While Final Fantasy XI was a grind as well, it was a very different kind of grind, and I actually think it was much, much more fun camping mobs and hunting named monsters with groups. Much more fun than it is nowadays where we are forced to hunt exclamation point after exclamation point by ourselves.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Venril Sathir Down

My guild finally took down Venril Sathir. Some might not consider this as much of an accomplishment, since he had been nerfed. From the July 14, 2009 game update:


* Venril Sathir no longer punishes players via Qxzytl’s Conversion if they have too much mana. The ornamental statues in his encounter now have reduced health and do less damage.

I'm glad they nerfed him. While certainly the game needs its challenges, this fight had an extraordinary amount of instant fail conditions:

* One person was removed from the fight entirely, forced to spend it clicking on one of two miniature statues on the ground as they became active. Otherwise some sentinel statues become active and wipe the raid.
* Randomly at 90% the raid force is wiped by the statues even if the miniature statues are clicked in time.
* Every now and then he put a debuff on the raid force that had to be cured or else you would lose almost all your health and power.
* At a certain point in the fight, you have to use a charm slot item dropped by a previous raid boss to continue the fight, or else the whole raid force instantly dies.
* During the fight, Venril Sathir would instantly wipe the raid if anyone had their power over about 60% or under 40% or so. It's a little wider than that, but that's the range we tried to keep it in.

In the meantime, he's randomly distributing debuffs that either drain mana (putting you at risk of going under the lower limit) or feeding you mana. So you had to watch your debuffs or else you would easily go out of that range.

The main change in the last update was to remove the upper power limit. Now you could keep your power high and just fight him slow and easy. You still had to watch Toxic Infusion because that drained your mana. You still had to watch your debuffs or else you could end up losing too much mana.

There's nothing wrong with this fight -- the problem was that he was in a league of his own in terms of difficulty compared to every other boss in the same tier. In fact, he is more difficult than most mobs in the next tier: Veeshan's Peak. I think it would be great if they took this script and made a similar fight for some contested elsewhere (with the appropriate rewards), for the very advanced guilds. It just should be a mob like the avatars that are reserved for the most elite guilds, and not something in the middle of a popular quest progression. Even that wouldn't be so bad (nothing wrong with having some elite-only content), except this fight was disproportionately difficult compared to the other bosses in the same tier and the NPCs you need to kill to get your Mythical weapon vary based on your class. Therefore, the classes that needed Venril Sathir were screwed compared to the rest because no one, not even top tier raid guilds who cleared the next tier of content, wanted to go back and do this fight. Some people even betrayed their classes just to keep progressing while avoiding this fight.

So I'm glad they nerfed him. He's certainly not easy mode (well, maybe it was a LITTLE too easy): he still took a lot of coordination and we still wiped a few times from people who missed their debuffs or didn't cure Toxic Infusion in time (mostly players who were new to the encounter). But the fight was definitely much closer to where it should be to balanced with the rest of the Rise of Kunark raid progression.

So now we have a new head to display on a guild hall trophy case. And we're on our way to VP!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hyboria Is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

It's too bad Age of Conan wasn't like this when it launched. While I'm only level 28, so I can't benefit from the improvements they've made in content, they fixed most of the main issues the game had when I first played.

One issue I had was that itemization was confusing. I couldn't tell what the stats did, they didn't seem to have a noticeable impact on my character, and there didn't seem to be a clear way of telling which items were "better". Also performance is tons better. These have been streamlined so it's a lot clearer how new items improve your character.

Performance and the graphics engine are better now as well. I remember there was tons of lag and memory leaks and slowdowns and weird graphical glitches when the game first came out. For example - when the game first came out, every item in my inventory always had a semi-transparent floating yellow "?" floating over it. It would disappear when I moused over the item (causing the normal spinning item display to appear). It was cosmetic but terribly annoying because I'd have to mouse over every item in my bag first just to get them to look normal before I could look for an item. I've seen nothing of the sort this time around.

On the other hand, I think my Tempest of Set has been "rebalanced." I don't remember things being this hard. But maybe I've been playing the target and auto attack style of MMO for too long. :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

You Want Me To Go Where?!

Now I remember what I didn't enjoy about Age of Conan: the focus on questing. You barely get any XP from doing anything EXCEPT for finishing quests. What keeps drawing me back to EverQuest II is that its viable to advance your character in MANY ways: I can quest and earn regular XP, I can camp mobs for regular XP, and I can earn AA XP by mentoring low level players, hunting nameds, and exploring. Whereas in Age of Conan, I feel like I'm on rails because the only truly viable way to advance is by questing.

Unfortunately, this feeling is exacerbated by the fact that Age of Conan's quests tend to send you half way across the world and back. It's like the worst of EverQuest II quest design (a typical EQ2 quest: run around five different zones and collect four different things from the four corners of each zone) and the worst of World of Warcraft quest design (quest chain after quest chain after quest chain after boring, stupid christmas tree laden NPC hub after hub) mixed together. Except the NPCs in AOC all wear skirts.

On the other hand, Dungeons and Dragons Online has a focus on quests/missions, but I always enjoyed that there. I guess the dungeon crawl just works better for me than hailing a random skirt, running to a different zone, and then to the opposite side of that zone, then killing some random sort of dangerous wildlife that terrorize the land of MMOs.

Still, I am having fun. And, so far, I've only been soloing, which is hardly the full experience AOC has to offer. So maybe I'll have to find some time to be less anti-social, and see how the community is, and maybe try a dungeon or two in AOC. At least for the couple of weeks before DDO goes F2P and I get distracted by that.

Unfortunately, since my main is still young, having unsubscribed after launch at level 27 (now 28), I'm not even sure what there is that I can do at my level range?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Everyone Wants Me Back

I only subscribe to EverQuest II. Yet currently, I have free play time in the original EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, and Vanguard (which has oddly been reporting itself as having 1 day remaining for at least a week now). It seems every MMO I've ever played is clamoring to get me to come back. The most recent addition to that list is Age of Conan.

So far, I've been able to resist most of these pleas to resurrect my old characters. But I decided to bite the bullet and check out the changes in Age of Conan.

And man oh man, I totally forgot how to play. I died like a dozen times before I remembered. Hyborea is littered with my tombstones. If you also took Funcom up on their offer to return to the lands of Conan, I hereby apologize if you tripped over my corpse on your adventures. I do remember enjoying Age of Conan's combat system more. I like the fact your basic attack is directional so you do have to pay attention to shifts in the mobs defenses. While I'm playing a spellcaster, and therefore have something more akin to traditional hotbar combat, I spent some time with melee classes, and enjoyed the combination system. It's good to see a combat system where you have to pay attention. World of Warcraft always bored me because I'd spam hotbars and otherwise usually be staring at another screen. The only other game that has combat that is as interesting - that breaks the standard hotbar spamming model - is Dungeons and Dragons Online.

I don't know that I'll stick around permanently. The main problem I had with Age of Conan is that, aside from the combat, it offers very little that I don't already get from EverQuest II. I'm not that interested in PVP -- I never found PVP to make much sense in a game where time invested is the principle means of advancement. And combat alone can't captivate me.

But if you tried AOC at launch and left due to the general unplayable nature of it at that time, take advantage of this opportunity to try it again!