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Life is like a box of chocolates…

December 31, 2007 1 comment

…you never know what you are going to get.

Is the starting experience in an MMOG representative of how the game will be later? Is it worse or better? First impressions are important and many people will likely not spend that much time before deciding whether they will continue to play or not. Game companies know this of course, so usually one would expect the starting experience as good as it can be, given the limited abilities of a new character. That is of course assuming that it is an RPG style game where a characters abilities is extended and developed over time.

The reason for writing this is a recent revisit to Vanguard for me. I read on another blog that SOE had reactivated old accounts over the holidays and I thought I might give it a little bit of time to see if the game would interest me more this time. While the performance of the game definitely seemed better, it is not an apples to apples comparision. I have a better graphics card now than when I played Vanguard before and I did not see much people at all in the newbie areas I played, much less than when I tried the game for the first time.

From a game play perspective, I did not see any significant difference as I remember it and while the performance was an issue when I first tried it, the game play was the main factor that caused me to cancel it. It was the same feeling now, I had no urge to get back into the game and play. The environment still was the mixture of nice looking and ugly pieces. If I had been a new player without MMOG experience, I think I would have considered the tutorial part lacking. The game will be uninstalled from my computer, no plans to keep playing it after this “free trial” period.

So my thoughts are then if there is still some gems hidden which I will never get to because I do not like the starting experience? Or has the work SOE has done up to this point with the game mainly been fixing issues for those that where ok with the starting experience, but are still in the game or left at much later stages? Or have I just picked the wrong starter areas?

It may of course be working as intended and it is not some game play for me and never will be. If so, then I am happy that the starting expeience is the way it is – it is honest then.

World of Warcraft, City of Villains and Tabula Rasa are some other games that in my opinion have pretty good starting experiences/tutorials. Good enough to keep the interest getting some game play basics in place. I have some more mixed feelings about starting experiences in Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest 2 – there are multiple areas there which I think have varying quality, although none of them is directly bad.

So how quickly do you decide whether you want to continue with a game, for example if you are playing a free trial? Nowadays the free trial times are generally shorter than a number of years ago, but I think that is fine. Most of the time I make a decision within a few hours of play time, sometimes even in a matter of minutes. A couple of days or a week free trial is generally enough time for me.

Categories: MMO Games, Vanguard

You, robot

December 31, 2007 Comments off

This weekend I put in some more Tabula Rasa playtime. My Sapper was 29 and close to 30, but after skipping the laggy Torden Mires and heading straight for Valverde Plateau he could pick up a couple of missions, but the rest of them had a level minimum at 30+. But he still had two instances left in Torden Incline, Ojasa Atta Hive and Raksha Robotic Facility. I have had some bad experiences before with the Atta instances and had one good and quck run in Raksha before. However, in the latter case we were a group of five 30+ characters.

Running through Raksha that time had been a bit to fast for me to follow the story and explore the area properly, so I thought it might be a good idea to run it solo this time with my sapper. Raksha is not an easy instance though and one of the mission NPCs inside actually suggests that one should bring some friends.

There are basically two kinds of robots encountered, the warden bots and the reconstruction bots. Players typically have encountered them in the Torden Incline zone – wardens are the damage dealers, while the reconstruction ones create clones of other entities to fight you, pretty much. The Raksha facility consists of multiple levels, players have to obtain access to the different levels and the main objective is to shut down the robot production.

The reason for this is that the robots have been sterilizing people and to stop the facility from producing more robots that are sent out with this programming, the Central Dispatch Unit in the facility need to be stopped, first to avoid it sending out that programmign to the bots and second to get the information to reverse the process.

Going through the facility to reach the goals requires fighting many bots as well as destroying warden bot constructors, which regularly spawns new bots if they are not destroyed. Sometimes the number of bots can be a bit overwhelming and I am glad that my sapper had put some skill points in Hack, so that robots could be temporarily turned and fighting the other robots. There does not seem to be a limit how many bots can be hack-affected at any time, but aiming what a bit difficult at times to get the right bot to be “hacked”.

It took a while to get through the instance, there was a lot of running back and forth, repairing armor etc. I almost exclusively used polarity guns, which took down robots pretty fast, although only one at a time. In hindsight I perhaps should have tried an EMP shotgun also, not sure it would have been fast damage, but possibly more successful keeping them at bay. Something to test with next character visiting the facility.

Going through the instance did almost get me to the level limit, so the rest of the time I jumped in at some fights at the control points, which also helped filling up some of the remaining targets for the Incline Targets of Opportunity mission. I like the intense fights at these places and with both Incline and Plains having some areas where there is a pretty much constant battle going on between some outposts, this just adds to the fun.

My sapper then was cloned and then trained to become an engineer. Creating bots and turrets to fight for you sounds like good fun and this was one of the careeer paths I had in mind before starting to play the game. Still need to play a bit more to figure out how to play this character in a good way, but looks promising and fun.

The clone also trained and became a demolitionist. To make all the abilities available (except the signature ability) I did need to pick up two more Logos in Torden Mires through..So could not avoid that zone completely. Running around avoiding fights to get the Logos and pick up some waypoints worked pretty good though, it is when you try to fight that the real trouble starts. Unfortunately one of the Logos, Destruction, is in an area where there are Thrax troops constantly pouring in and fights are pretty much unavoidable. That was a quite horrible fighting experience, long reaction times and delays and lots of no updates at all on “hits”. This was valid for both me and the Thrax through so they were not really able to kill me either and it was a stand-off more of less. Fortunately for me another player came by with the itnention to get the logos as well and he managed to kill the nearest Thrax.

I will need to spend a bit more time with the Demolitionist skills and figure out how to best use these. They feel a bit more group-oriented to me, although certainly applicable solo as well. With three characters at 30 (medic, enginner and demolitionist) now though I will need to start spreading them out a bit again to not play the same content multiple times after each other.

BTW, Raksha means ‘protection’ in Hindi, which describes the original purpose of the robots.  No three robotic laws in effect here though, otherwise the robot problem would not have been there in the first place likely 🙂

Categories: Tabula Rasa