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Archive for August, 2008

Saving the world on two fronts

August 31, 2008 3 comments

On one front, the evil god Abaddon is trying to break free into our world, destroying all we hold dear.

On another front the Destroyers are popping up to do a similar things, perhaps not putting the world into Torment, but certainly eradicating life as we know it.

And destined to solve both problems is your truly of course, or at least my necromancer.

There has been some progress with the Nightfall campaign and I did defeat Varesh of Kourna – she did put up a good fight. However, she has just been a pawn for Abaddon and actually dealing with a god might be a bit more of a problem than a human, even a powerful one like Varesh. This led to a rather quick decision to travel to the Realm of Torment. The decision was so quick that there was not really any option…

A happy joyful place, Realm of Torment

A happy joyful place, Realm of Torment

As the name implies, the Realm of Torment (RoT) does not appear to be a happy place. No birds singing in the trees – in fact there is a distinct lack of flora and fauna in general. Except for various..tormenting…creatures. In RoT there are a number of different areas with exiciting names such as “Gate of Pain”, “Gate of Madness” etc. Each area seem to have different conditions applied to everyone in the area. This can for example be that one takes damage whenever a skill is used, energy consumption is higher than normal, healing is less effective etc.

Although progress was not without problem I still managed to make progress, at least until I got to the Gate of Madness mission. So far the major problem here has been to learn the movement patterns for the different mob groups – more than one group has lead to a wipe, or enough death penalty to get a wipe later. More real players would likely make this one easier.

Read more…

Categories: Guild Wars

Full time Architect

August 26, 2008 2 comments

NCSoft has recently announced the feature set for the next update of City of Heroes/Villains, Issue 13: Architect.The Architect title is realted to the mission designer tool that will be included in this issue, where people can design their own missions and story arcs.

I am quite excited by this feature; playing around creating missions is something I am looking forward to. I am a bit surprised also, I thought the mission designer would perhaps a few issues away when I first heard of it. That it is included already in the next issue is a pleasant surprise!

My real life job has “architect” in its title, so this means I will be an architect both at work and at home…;)

They also introduce the concept of a “day job”, something your character does when you are offline. Not sure if it just means one might get some more titles and badges automatically, or if there is something more to it. A real secret identity seems to be something they at least have considered and perhaps will be included in the future.

Some new powersets for corruptors and masterminds are also included, plus the ability to use shields. Since they introduced shields for the Roman NPCs in issue 12 it is reasonably logical that players will get those as well.

More missions in Cimerora are also added – that is certainly needed; somewhat lacking is a diplomatic description of the current state.

There also seems to be some measures to adress farming and some excessive prices at the consignment house with the merit award system. Essentially it seems that various activities will give “merits”, which can be used as currency to buy various items (recipes, costume pieces etc). Sounds a bit like the Prestige system in Tabula Rasa.

Overall it sounds like a quite nice issue. Given that they have announced the features now, my guess is that the issue will go live in about 2-3 months.

Categories: City of Heroes

An alternate WoW

August 25, 2008 13 comments

What if there was a World of Warcraft where the amount of content was the same as today, but the max level was somewhere around 20-25? E.g. when a Horde player hit Barrens and completed the quests there, he/she would be at max level.

From there on every mob, every dungeon would have enemies typically level 20-something, with big bosses perhaps into the 30s.

Weapons and armor would have various stats, but with smaller differences than this reality’s WoW. The stats could also be moved around with some work and you could obtain stat modifiers separately.

Only a subset of skills would be available when the max level were reached, but you could earn more and better skills through quests or indirectly through rewards that allowed you to buy more skills (i.e. rewards + money would be needed).

In this alternate WoW the end game would just be about raiding – in fact, almost the whole game would be the “end game”.

Would you play an alternate WoW like that? Would you stick with it? What do you think the guild structure and the community would be like?

This is just a thought experiment combining WoW’s content with some of the game mechanics of another game by some ex-Warcraft developers. Would a game like that have been developed with a different Blizzard?

Hidden cities, Blasphemy and Wurms

August 24, 2008 5 comments

Continuing my necromancer adventures to stop Nightfall and work out business with the Vabbi princes, she got a clue from one of the employees of the princes, Goran. Goran is not the brightest fellow, but he has his moments though. He clued us in on a hidden city where the princes were hiding.

Goran did help with getting into the city itself, but the local djinns protecting the princes were not as easy to negotiate with. Not only did they tend to be somewhat hostile, they also forced us to complete three trials to even have a chance at getting close to the princes. In addition to the creatures involved in the trials, the area was also filled with hostile groups of djinns, as well as some fire and ice traps which could kill the less careful adventurers.

The first trial basically was a matter of defeating 6 djinns, each which put a negative effect on the party until they were defeated.

The second trial was a matter of answering a number of questions related to the gods – knowing a bit of the lore here certainly helps. Each question had a multiple choice answer; if the answer was incorrect a group of hostile djinns appeared.

The third trial was a matematical problem; just some basic math skills are involved. You will know if you have found the correct solution pattern – all possible answers will make sense and they are all correct. Again, angry djinns will appear if you try an incorrect answer.

After completing it is time to meet the princes – almost. 3 djinn level 28 bosses are the last obstacle before meeting the princes, which of course have to be defeated. 3 djinns later, it was time to talk some sense into the princes.

As a necromancer who to some extent relies on reanimated corpse creatures to do the fighting, encountering djinns was a less pleasant experience. Djinns are spirits and us necros cannot reanimate those – so most of the mission was without minons.

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Categories: Guild Wars

The benevolent leader

August 19, 2008 1 comment

Recently I had one Newbie Enlightment moment. In Guild Wars you can team up with NPC henchmen. The henchmen can be of various professions and will try to fulfill their type of role in the team.

There is not much options to control your henchmen though, they pretty much tag along doing their own thing. Not as wreckless as in some other games though, so they are not too bad.

Early in some of the campaigns you learn the ability to control your henchmen (and heroes in Nightfall) through setting their “home point” at different locations, which by default is your own character. Thus you can make the henchmen go to other places than you and/or stay in other places than you.

It was only receently I realized that this can be quite useful and I have started to use it more and more.

  • A mission in Zen Daijun involved getting a disease regularly, which then is cured by a benevolent local creature. Diseases are infectuous, so all nearby characters will catch the disease also from a diseased character. The home point feature came in handy to keep the henchmen out of the way, so they did not get infected.
  • Henchmen are not that aggressive and will only start fighting if the team gets attacked, which can be a bit troublesome if you do not want to deal with the alpha strike yourself. However, using the home point to send in your henchmen well ahead of you helps to deal with that to some extent. Perhaps not that heroic behaviour, but works.
  • Enemy groups in Guild Wara seems to be good at spotting the Main Squishy in the team, e.g. the healer, the character with lowest level or worst armor. This was in particular experienced by my then level 14 elementalist teaming up with a bunch of level 20 henchmen and going for 20+ enemies. Enemies loved sending some of them to beat me up directly. Again, sending in the henchmen a bit ahead of me did help some dealing with that issue.
  • And of course one of the traditional elements in MMO team – pulling. While the henchmen are not the closest to a Leeroy Jenkins-wannabe, the do tend to have difficulty to stop fighting once they started if there are any enemies nearby. Using the home point to keep them away a bit and then go and pull some of the enemies back to the team seems to work reasonably well.
    A good side effect also is that they are less inclined to run away to fall when you have set a home point.

So overall I have been pleased to see that the home point feature has a few uses. This is probably quite obvious to experienced players. But I did enjoy that it was something I did realize by myself instead of reading it somewhere – that sense of aha! that you get is something that is quite enjoyable in games with a non-trivial amount of features and mechanisms – even if it is something quite obvious after you get it, like this control mechanism.

Categories: Guild Wars

Confessions of a bookah

August 17, 2008 3 comments

While my Necromancer is still on the path to sort out the Abaddon business with the Vabbi princes, she also decided to investigate the rumors of some underground activity in the home area of Istan.
A fellow in Kamadan was helpful enough to provide some directions and soon enough the party encountered and a cave entrance in the area, which seemed plagued by some earthquake activity.

Cave entrance in Istan

Cave entrance in Istan

Initially fighting off some corsairs a large undergound building complex was discovered. Further investigations lead to a group of dwarves and another being, all in a state of urgency. Before any explanations are given the whole group is attacked and all have to run a long way, to a portal which transports the group to a whole different area.

Buildings underground

Buildings underground

These events are actually the starting point for the Guild Wars expansion Eye of the North, aka GW:EN. The dwarves together with the other being is trying to deal with a threat from the Destroyers, but some of the portal network used has been destroyed. The other being is an Asuran named Vekk, and old race with great magical affinity. They consider other races to be inferior in general and call all non-Asurans bookah, which is a bit derogatory. Vekk did not fail to point out our inferiority.;)

Eye of the North building

Eye of the North building

The Eye of the North itself is a building in the frozen north, in the land of the Norn. The Norns are a race of large shape-shifting humanoids. The Eye of the North builing is however currently inhabited by a group of humans called the Ebon Vanguard. Originally an elite force within the Ascalon army, the have taken the Eye as a base of operations for their fight against the Charr.

At this point a choice have to be made to help either the Ebon Vanguard, the dwarves or the Asurans – three different storylines.
The choices for my necromancer was to start with the Asuran path. The Asurans seemed to be an interesting race to learn more about, so that felt like a good choice. And their Asuran version of the prestige armor also looked quite nice, so that was a nice potential bonus to strive for also.

Vekk

Vekk

Originally the Eye of the North expansion was aimed for level 20 characters only, but the entry requirement has been lowered to level 10 nowadays. A buff is applied to characters below 20 initially to help them handle the 20+ environment.

Read more…

Categories: Guild Wars

Funcom financials

August 15, 2008 2 comments

Funcom has released the financial report for the second quarter of 2008. Given that the by far most common searches that WordPress reports for my blog is related to Age of Conan population, my guess is that there might one or two that are concerned with those numbers.

Funcom earn a bit over 13 million USD in their second quarter, about 11.5 million more than previous quarter. This likely includes income from the 800000 copies sold and possibly some subscription fees. They reportedly have about 415000 customers. A customer either someone who has bought the game and is still on their 30 first days or paid the subscription fee after the first 30 days.

So about half of the buyers of the game decided they would not continue to pay for the game. But even if all of the 11.5 million USD is from sold games, that only means about 14.40 USD per game on average. That does not sound like a large share of the box price.

Still, this was about 1 million USD higher than their financial guidance, so they expected to sell slightly less. From that point of view the numbers are good.

But how much did it cost them? The operating expenses for the same period are almost 15 million USD, which is more than they earned. So even if they earned a bunch of money, they spent even more. Part of that may be the 3 MMOs they are developing (The Secret World + 2 casual MMOs). Since they do not release any details per game it may be difficult to get an idea of how much they earn from a particular game. However the operating expenses for all of 2007 was a bit more than 12 million dollars, so a fairly large chunk of those recent expenses in the last quarter only are probably tied to Age of Conan.

The projected income for the next quarter is estimated to be between 16 and 20 million USD. Not all of that is Age of Conan, although most of it. Subscription prices are different for different regions so it is not easy to translate to subscription numbers – it will mainly be guesswork.

Reducing the numbers based on Anarcy Online estimates and do some split between Us and Euro fees my guess is that they estimate to roughly keep the subscription numbers they have in the report, perhaps slightly lower. If they manage to do that then the game in terms of subscription numbers is a quite big success.

Is it a financial success though? It should be, but their high operating expenses is a reason for concern there. Judging from the info contained in their financial report presentation, it seems that they think that the future for good profit may be in the casual games space and perhaps not as much in large scale traditional MMOs.

That seems to be were they want to go and I think that is the right way for them.

Categories: Age of Conan

The Vabbi connection

August 13, 2008 1 comment

After escaping from the Kournan mainland the task has now changed to find and convince the princes of Vabbi that playing with warmarshal Varesh is not the optimal choice.

Considering themselves a bit more refined than the rest, the Vabbian nobles and princes are not the kind of folks one can just strike a conversation with directly; a Cunning Plan is need.

The princes will appear at a certain party in celebration of the goddess Lyssa, so an idea is to crash the party and try to get a chat with the Vabbian top dogs. We manage however to get an invitation to the party at Tihard Orchard, so it is time to jump in.

Tihard Orchard is a mission in the main story line and the first one here that you havce to play solo; no heroes or henchmen (would probably not want to bring Koss anyway, he might have insulted somebody). The mission is quite different from the other missions – you are to convince the princes of the Right Way and for the bonus engage in some of the festivities. This includes getting quite drunk (which was noticeable, as can be seen in the picture below…), show some kids how to dance, do an old battle re-enactment, get a nice gift for one of the princes and win a mime duel.

Defeating the mime was the most difficult part for me. Figuring out the right emotes and do them within the time limit took quite many attempts. Each duel was different, so it was not just about repeating the ones you got correct last time.

Mission accomplished after some time though, although my rhetoric was perhaps not the optimal judging from the outcome. It was a quite nice mission and a bit different.

Ended up in the Kodara Bazaar after the mission, a place where one can buy prestige/elite armor, i.e. better looking armor than the regular armor available. The cost to craft the armor to get a complete set would perhasp end up at 100-150 platinum with the prices I saw on the material necessary, which is many times more than what I currently have, so not quite something for a peasant like me – for the moment.

There are a number of other armor sets also, besides this Vabbian armor, so I might explore a bit more to get one of the other armor sets. Not sure if they will be cheaper though.

Categories: Guild Wars

Time vs item subscriptions

August 13, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft is in the process of changing their subscription model for Lineage and Lineage II, accoding to some comments on their latest earnings report call for Q2 2008 – this info is probably somewhere else also, but I first heard it on the call.

Instead of just offering a subscription with unlimited time, they will have three different options which you can choose from for that subscription fee:

  • Play with unlimited time, as before
  • Play at most 300 hours per month and get some in-game items
  • Play at most 100 hours per month and get more in-game items

So instead of spending a lot of time grinding for phat loot, one can spend less time in the game and possibly get phat loot anyway.

I do wonder a bit how much time some players spend on that game if the middle option is 300 hours. That is about 70 hours per week, almost twice as much many regular full-time jobs. Even the low option is one that would be more than enough time for me, most of the time.

Would a similar model be beneficial for other item-focused games, like World of Warcraft? Or any older and a bit grindy games, e.g. if items included were xp boosters or something similar?

Good Morning, Kourna!

August 13, 2008 4 comments

I learned a few things recently in Guild Wars which could certainly enforce the feeling of Newbie rank. The heroes one can play in Nightfall campaign do have specific professions. But in the same way as players they can have secondary professions as well. However, I had not figured out how to get a secondary profession for a hero, so I just assumed that some quest will appear at some point that will allow me to pick a secondary for the heroes.

But at point when I looked on the skill and ability view to set up the skill bar for the heroes, I did notice for the first time that the profession indication for the hero actual was a drop down list. And when selecting it all the different secondary profession options did appear! That was simply too simple….

Continuing the exploration of the hero views I also for the first time actually noticed that the inventory view also contained the heroes, not only myself. Switching the views I noticed that I could replace the weapons of my heroes, which up to this point had been of … starter quality. Putting a bit better weapons in there should maybe make them a bit more efficient.

My necromancer has continued the adventuring in Kourna, although the Kournan military seems all to happy to intercept. I did learn that one of my heroes, Koss, was of Kournan origin but had a fallout with his father when he decided to join the Sunspears. Koss isn’t really the sharpest tool in the shed, but he means well. So helping him and his family a bit seemed a good thing to do.

Last Tuesday also meant Tuesday Noob Club activities and this time it was focus on helping each other with missions and quests. With two of us being relatively new, NNs (Noobier Noobs) and IoAs (Ignorant of Acronyms), our current progress set an effective limit on what everyone could team up to do together. So we started off with a bit of Centaur Rescue and Kournan Beat-Them-Up.

AS the evening progressed more people joined and we were too many for a single team, so thus a split was made with us NNs getting back to Kourna with some of the NlNs (No longer Noobs) joining as well.

This resulted in a successful effort to rescue our former Sunspear boss from a Correctional Facility in Kourna, some general butt-kicking of Kournans and a bit of DiC (Demonslaying in Caves).This resulted in arrival in Vabbi-land and some new cultures to embrace.

A quite enjoyable evening and good fun all around, which I hope also was the case for everyone else.

Categories: Guild Wars