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Archive for October, 2008

Changing ways to win MMOs

October 30, 2008 1 comment

While I am not playing Warhammer Online and not trying to follow what is happening in that game, some tidbits of information still tend to reach my proximity.

Apparently there are some issues with many players only playing to win the game in a few limited ways in which the game provides. This leaves people wanting to win the game in different games somewhat frustrated at times.

Win in this context is to me to reach the max level in the game. Having levels in a game where your character improves with additional levels is an excellent game mechanic – it is easy to understand, easy to measure progress and often easy to associate some awards with the levels (increased attributes, skills, access to new content etc). It is also useful to help give the player som direction in a game – not everyone is comfortable being thrown into a sandbox environment from start.

So it is not really surprising that many players’ enjoyment from a game comes from progressing in an reasonably optimal way along the leveling path to win the game and other elements of the game may become secondary to that goal.

At least in hindsight (always easier in hindsight…) it becomes reasonably clear that less clear and goal-oriented game mechanics may not get the same attention, in particular when the target audience for these games widens.

So if this game mechnic is used at all in a game, why not either focus on it only, or try to get it out of the way at an early stage? Let people do their leveling, get to the max level in the game with only a limited amount of options to get there. Then after that, provide a more wide variety of game options.

With the leveling part done people with either be done with the game entirely or their appetite may just have been triggered for more. In the latter case there more options to offer different choices – people know the basics of the game and can more easily take on tasks that possibly could have been more dauting during the initial learning phase of the game.

The leveling time should be kept shorter in this case then; not the 100s of hours that has been the norm, but rather 10s of hours and more closer to time spend on single player games.

The message would essentially be “congratulations, yopu have won! Now when you are a winner we have loads of cool new stuff for you to try, covering many different play styles – enjoy!”.

Categories: MMO Games

Spellborn reborn website

October 26, 2008 7 comments

For those who not regularly check on Chronicles of Spellborn, their website had a revamp a few days ago. I think was a necessary step as the game gets closer to release.

Some of the game basics as well as some background lore are presented in a better way than before. Screenshots and videos also seem a bit more accessible.

My feeling about Chronicles of Spellborn could probably be summed up as curious.  The fact they have made a game with its own lore and no predecessors rather than some wellknown intellectual property (Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online) makes it potentially more interesting from an exploration perspective I think.

Their combat mechanics is yet a new approach to get away from the typical MMO combat and it will be interesting to see how that works out in practice. 

I also really like that they have taken a City of Heroes type approach to equipment vs attribute boosters, separating looks from the bonuses provided. Their approach makes more sense from a fantasy perspective and I am surprised that more games have not done this.

There are three archetypes, each with three disciplins, which allows for 9 types of character roles. To be honest, the descriptions for some of them does not give much clue what they might be in practice. But they do not entirely fit within traditional roles as far as I can tell, which I think is good. 

As far as I know the game is quest-oriented, but will there be lots of “kill 10 rats” type of quests, or more story-oriented like in Guild Wars or something else?

I suspect this game will be a slow starter, a bit like EVE. They will not get huge amounts of players directly, but if the different game elements work out well they could perhaps get a slow but steady growth.

Many of the things that makes me interested in the game are also things that can make it troublesome to market; no well-known intellectual property, not immeditately recognisable classes, new combat system etc. The approach they have taken to allow free play for the first part of the game before buying is a good way to work with the “word of mouth” type of marketing which I think they will rely on a lot. 

I think it can do well to start with the people who are curious and looking for alternative game apoproaches in MMO space. Also those who may be happy to see a more European focus as a contrast to the majority of the Western games coming from the other side of the pond.

The Qatar quests

October 24, 2008 1 comment

This past week my play schedule changed a bit from the ordinary. My guild was asked by another guild if one player could help them with some quests in the guild’s home zone, Qatar. That seemed to work out with my play schedules and while there were some zones to pass to get to Qatar, the flight paths between made it reasonably ok to get there.

Guild house

The zone itself is not the most populous zone and at first glance the zone design might seem a bit bland. However, it has turned out that there is really good loot to be obtained and many players has come into the zone. In fact, the amount of player characters originating from other zones by far surpasses the player characters that has Qatar as a starter area. The latter group tended to be easily recognisable with their specific guild capes and emblems, which they wear with pride.

While there are some neat elements of the original zone design, what is mostly striking today is the amount of player-generated content that has sprung up and changed the landscape. Some like it, while others feel that it does not fit in with the theme that the original zone designers might have had in mind.

The guild I was here to help out had a fairly impressive guild house. It had a bit classical style and perhaps not as daring as some of the newer guild houses in the area.

The purpose for my visit was to help the guild with some quests in the zone. These called for not only some specific classes in the group, but also a specific talent build. The others playing the same class were either spec:ed differently or were not high level enough and so they needed some temporary assistance. My participation thus had two purposes; complete some of the quest objectives and also help some of the guild’s regular players of that class with some hints of where to put the talent points for an somewhat optimal build.

More guild houses - also under construction

More guild houses - also under construction

The first few quest objectives tend to be a bit hard, but once the general quest solving strategy is figured out it can become a bit easier.  They have some pretty good players in the guild; so I think they are on the right track.

Unfortunately I did not get so much time to explore the zone; the whole visit got rather focused. And since I did not have a mount I had to rely on some of the other players. It is a zone where a mount is required – the other game transportation systems are quite lacking in the zone itself. Walking and running in the zone would take time and can be a bit risky; many mounted players act as if the game had no collision-detection mechanic is in place. FFA mounted PvP has been nerfed lately though and heavy faction penalties can occur.

One thing that is notieable as an outside player is the presence and acceptance of the developers as a part of the daily play time; with scheduled Q&A sessions multiple times per day and celebrations of the game design. Others might not agree on that level of commitment or which game companies developers are preferable. But in the end everyone wants good games and I have had a great time with the local players and will probably get back to the zone at some point later.

 

In the end, it is all about the players

In the end, it is all about the players

Categories: Uncategorized

Qatar blog break

October 17, 2008 1 comment

Due to work I will fly down to Doha in Qatar for a week, which likely means that I will not blog anything. Even if I would get the time for that there is a risk that it would not be possible. This is my first visit to Qatar, but I have been to other emirates in the region; some internet content are deeemed inappropriate and are blocked in my experience.

And not just adult content; this includes at least a number of forum and blog sites, gaming sites in particular. It could of course be different in Qatar, but I am not surprised if they have similar filters there.

So back in roughly a week…

Categories: Uncategorized

The facets of gods

October 16, 2008 2 comments

Following up on a comment in the Van Hemlock podcast 22 (great show) about the Asura skill Pain Inverter, I did some investigation through the Guild Wars wiki to find out where this skill could be obtained. It turned out that this skill could be obtained as a reward from an Asura named Kerrsh, in a place called Tarnished Haven. This was of course not a place I had been to so an expedition with my necromancer to head off and have a chat with Kerrsh. Leaving from the town Rata Sum the traveling was mainly through dinosaur-infested territory, which turned out to be a bit painful. 

Visiting Kerrsh

Visiting Kerrsh

Some less careful moments with multiple dinosaur groups attacking and the health and energy of most of the group members had been reduced significantly, which did not make progress easier.

After some careful progress through the dinosaur areas were left behind and encounters were replaced with the Quetzal Tengu, a bird humanoid race. A lesson learned here was to take out the Quetzal Dark (necromancers) quickly, since their Well of Pain:s did a good job at reducing the health of the team quite quickly.

Finally arriving at Tarnished Haven and speaking to Kerrsh, it seemed that Keersh was interested in learning some more about the human gods and provided an item called the Divination to track down various facets connected to the various gods.

The Divination was represented by a bar which was filled more and more if the team got closer to the location of the facet and decreasing if the team was going further away from it. When the bar was filled completely the facet appeared and had to be defeated.

Fighting a Facet

Fighting a Facet

Each quest pointed to a different area to go and hunt down a facet connected to a god. In total there were six facets to track down and defeat. Each of them provided a new skill in the reward. I must say I was pleasantly surprised, since I was not aware of these skills and they turned out to be quite neat I think.

The quest for the Pain Inverter skill could only obtained after all of the other quests had been done. The quests were reasonably fun to do and the rewards quite nice I think, so next will be to explore the best use of these to create some new builds for my necromancer.
There is one master difficulty quest remaining which will provide the skill Air of Superiority as a reward, but that is a task I leave for later.
Categories: Guild Wars

The sands of blood and fire

October 16, 2008 3 comments
Smashing the Mantis

Smashing the Mantis

My fiery missionaire has continued her exploration of Khopshef Province, quite frequently leaving a trail of dead and burned corpses after her. Adhering to slightly different ethics than my Cimmerian Bear Shaman, she has no trouble with helping the local militia to hunt down and defeat a slave rebellion, punching some undead fellows or just just rampaging anything in the vicinity – reward or no reward, she just seem to enjoy that.

The local Mantis population did experience this in particular while exploring their part of the province. I guess the bigger they and the bigger thumps they make adds to this…

This is one thing I think Age of Conan managed to do better than most other fantasy MMORPGs out there – fun combat. I have quite enjoyed melee fighting in this fantasy setting, which is something I have almost never done in other fantasy MMORPGs (Brigand in EQ2 is an exception).

Burn Mantis burn

Burn Mantis burn

While trying to put up some compelling and burning arguments about the bliss of being a servant of Xotli is a nice activity, Tatiana also did some exploration of the parts of the province that she had not been to.

This included a big interesting building in the southern part fo the region, which she learned was called the Black Castle. A bit uncertain if there were any possible converts there, she left without investigating further. After all, a Black castle sounds a bit burned, so maybe the bliss of Xotli had already been told to its inhabitants.

Later though when helping with some espionage on a local citizen she learned that there might be some transformed human that need the to hear the message anyway! A nearby parked caravan also expressed their displeasure with the inhabitants of the Black Castle, although there were some more commercial motivations behind their less positive attitude.

 

Black Castle

Black Castle

 

But the explorer mind was also pointing towards the big pyramid in the area, which the locals referred to as the Pyramid of the Ancients. While the surroundings around the pyramid was nice to explore, there has not too many in the area to provide the message of Xotli to except for a few lions. So Tatiana decided to leave this part as well for the moment. An assignment she had picked up was a about killing a chicken handler and one of his chicken. The thought of some fried chicken for lunch was quite appealing, so she headed off to find the chicken handler.

Finding him was quite easy, but it turned out to be difficult to convince him to end the existance in favor of Xotli or prepare some fried chicken. In fact he beat Tatiana completly with only receiving a few scratches himself.

Pyramid of the Ancients

Pyramid of the Ancients

Maybe fried chicken is not the best food right now. Around this point it seemed that Tatiana hit level 30 and an old Destiny quest suddently became plausible. So she headed to Khemi to find out more about this and this is the point she is at right now.

Categories: Age of Conan

Back to nature, one strike at a time

October 13, 2008 2 comments

When playing various characters in MMORPGs I often prefer those whose abilites make them a bit fuzzy in terms of role. This is one reason I prefer City of Villains to City of Heroes; the archetypes do not quite fit in traditional roles to the extent that they might do on hero side.

While I have not tried all classes in Age of Conan there were some of them that appealed to me directly from their descriptions; in particular Herald of Xotli and Bear Shaman. The combination of some magic/mystical powers with nitty-gritty big weapon swinging does have its appeal.

While my HoX has ventured into the Stygian country side, my Bear Shaman Wolfsbane was stuck in Tortage. This was due to that he had a bit of a tough time for a bit there in the early double digit levels. But after he got some more healing and smashiong powers under his belt it started to become more manageable. At 19, he defeated Strom and headed back to his good old home land of Cimmeria.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

All was not well though and Wolfsbane soon found hints that he should head off to Clan Moragh’s settlement and provide them som help with the threat from the Vanirs.

 

On the way he did encounter both a poor boy who had lost his belongings to some local wolfs. With his name, how could he refuse to help? He did feel a bit guilty about hitting some of the cubs near the wolf pack leader though, which turned out to have the boy’s belongings.

Continuing his path further down to Clan Moragh he encountered an old warrior who wanted some help with delivering some of his belongings to his family in the settlement. Since that was on the way Wolfsbane accepted the task.

Death is present at Clan Moragh

Death is present at Clan Moragh

After arriving to the Clan Moragh settlement it soon became clear that this was a place of sorrow and destruction. Being a shaman and a man of restoration as well as destruction (from his trusty club), Wolfsbane offered to help out. He started out with collecting some herbs to make medicine; but the Vanir were lurking nearby and the effort did not go without bloodshed.

One of the wounded suggested that it might be smart to strike at the Vanir camp where they kept their wounded and kill them while they were weak. However, Wolfsbane refused this – if they die that should be in a fair fight. There is no honour in killing the weak.

Some intelligence from another warrior indicated that the river might be poisoned – the Vanir may have placed rotten corpses in the river to transfer it to the settlement an infecting its inhabitants.

Fighting the Vanir

Fighting the Vanir

Performing some persuasive “talk” with some Vanir and investigating the river a bit into Vanir territory showed that the suspicion was true; there were corpses in the river! The discovered corpses were cleared from the river (not particularly nice work…). Further incursions into Vanir territory was discussed to stop future activities to infect the river water again.

With lots of “persuation by club” being performed, Wolfsbane ended up with a few more trinkets than he needs, plus a bit more cash. So he decided to support the local traders and craftsmen, which they seemed happy for – you do not really say no to some new customers in times like this.

 

Oh my, that is a mighty fine shield you have there...

Oh my, that is a mighty fine shield you have there...

I was happy to be able to get out of Tortage and into the “real” world for a bit. And the Conarch Valley is quite beautiful. I like the down-and-dirty approach for the Bear Shaman here and it is fun to play, even though he does not match my Herald of Xotli in terms destructive persuation. 

Unfortunately my gaming session did not go trouble free. After playing for a while I got a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death), which is something I had hoped would not appear.  Remains to be seen if this will be a recurring event or just something that happened now; it was the first time I got that with this computer set-up though.

But despite that, I quite enjoyed my Conarch venture so far.

Categories: Age of Conan

Back to Hyboria

October 11, 2008 4 comments

I have just got into a mood of dusting off and trying some previosuly played or looked at games again and see what they are like now. So first I decided to dust off my Age of Conan DVDs and reinstall the game.

When I originally started to play Age of Conan I never continued past the initial month. Not because the game was buggy (although it had its share of problems), but I did not really feel any urge to get in and play the game – too many frustrating bits and pieces, plus that I also had Issue 12 for City of Heroes/Villains, whose content for me was much more enjoyable at that point.

So now a few months later I have decided to play a bit of Age of Conan. Not particularly much probably, but a little bit every now and then.

The first step in the game was to start play what was my favourite character when I played, my Herald of Xotli – Tatiana.

Tatiana in Khemi

Tatiana in Khemi

At level 22, she had barely left Tortage and had just started to look arond a bit in the near surroundings when I stopped playing her.

Exploring Khopshef province

Exploring Khopshef province

One thing I decided when starting to play now was to not go the quest-or-die route and try to optimize the questing. I.e. not collecting all quests found from quest givers and try to complete all near each other in some area. Instead my character will mostly ignore all the quest givers, do a bit of exploration of the world on her own and pick up quests once in a while only, if they seem to have a reasonable challenge or story.

But first I decided to work on the quests I already had picked up during my previous ventures to Hyboria, some in Khemi and some in the nearby Khopshef province mainly. And do some exploration of the area at the same time. It is a nice region with a desert, Nile area theme. It relly needs graphics settings on high to look good though IMHO. Fortunately that was not a problem.

Running around abit on random led to a few encounters and enemies which were a bit of out of my league initially, in particular when they walked around in groups. Death is always near 😉 I did encounter a friendly Mantis though, but he did not provide much info about himself and his kind other than that they have some kind of hive society.

Chatting with a Mantis

Chatting with a Mantis

While I explored I also of course started to re-learn the bits and pieces that I picked up the previous time. After a while the combat started to flow reasonably well. The stats on the items are still not clear what the effect is, but since most drops or what I found at vendor was pretty similar or worse to what I already had, I did not have to bother so much with item stats, which I think is good.

The game still has lots of trash loot drops and not much inventory space. However I did notice in Khemi that additional bags were cheaper/larger than what I remembered them. Back then I could not really any bag I found in Tortage. But now I could buy a 12 slot bag for less than 10% of the money I had.

I still wish that there was less trash loot or some trash filter similar to that Tabula Rasa has.

While most of the quests were in Khopshef and Stygia, I was sent through follow-ups on those quests to some other parts, for example the Conarch village/valley area. I did not pick up any new quests here inline with my plan, but the area looks quite and I might put some time in my bear shaman to get out of Tortage and to Conarch.

I did not meet many players when running around. There were a few much higher level than me in the hub areas and in Khopshef I did encounter other players of similar levels, but never more than one at a time.

From a technical point of view I have not had any problems with the game so far, it has worked quite fine. They could do a better implementation of the screenshot function I think though, I do not see a reason to freeze the game for a short bit just for a screenshot.

Categories: Age of Conan

Fulfilling the Prophecies

October 11, 2008 Comments off

After the previous incident with the Vizier/Lich Lord, Wolf certainly felt a bit bad. It is not everyday a so called hero contributes to the end of the world as we know it – it certainly would not look good on the CV for any hero…

So there was not much else to do than to try to get rid of the Titans and the Lich Lord.

Starting with the Titans, it seemed that by opening the Door of Komalie this allowed for some Titan Portals to open, which now need to be closed again. Of course, these are deep into Titan-infested territory.

The Titans resembles to a large extent their surrounding with lava, rock and fire – but they are easy to distinguish from the environment due to that they tend to move and attack. Not only do they attack, but some formations of the Titans become other formations when they are killed.
So when a Burning Titan was killed, it transformed into a Risen Ashen Hulk (piece of rock thing). When a Hulk was killed it turned into two other creatures, Hand of the Titans and Fist of the Titans (glowing rock creatures).

In addition to this a bunch of fire imp like creatures called Sparks of the Titans also ran around in the area. Luckily these did not turn into other creatures when killed, but were quite good in making damage.

Can you spot the Armageddon Lords?

Can you spot the Armageddon Lords?

So a group of 3-4 creatures could often end up being a fight with 8-10 creatures and each group took a bit of time. On top of that Mr L Lord popped up every now and then to mock the team…

Finally Wolf’s arrived to an area which seemed to contain both the Titan Portals as well as a big bunch of Titan guys patrolling the Portal area. On top of that, three Armageddon Lords were also standing nearby with their backs turned.

First things first, the regular way of dealing with lots of enemies is the good old pulling trick. Luckily the Titan fellows did not seem to be too social and it was fairly easy to pull just one at a time of most of the Titans. And one Titan at a time is quite easy to deal with.

I spy some Titan portals...

I spy some Titan portals...

The whole process took a while, but finally the area near the portals was clear. Each portal was guarded by 3 portal wraiths, which had to be killed to close each portal. With all portal wraiths killed, all portals were closed and this triggered the interest of our good old evil-doer the Lich Lord.

Destroying the portals did not seem to cause any major concern for LL, or at least he did not show it. Instead he summoned up a few Titans and a surprise guest to the show, the undead corpse of Prince Rurik. I must admit it took a bit longer than a few nanoseconds to remember who Rurik was actually, since it was so long ago in the story. But then Wolf remembered and felt a bit embarrased for not remembering – it was his former boss after all…

After this summoning Mr Lord moved on to do some other evil-doer stuff.

With a bit of pulling Wolf’s posse managed to reduce the number of Titans a bit before actually causing Prince Rurik to attack. Prince Rurik was really sorry about the whole thing, said he was just following orders etc. Eventually Wolf’s team defeated Rurik and the other summoned Titans there.
Rurik passed on a hint to defeat the Lich Lord – beat him in the caldera area where the Door to Komalie was opened and the door would be closed again and the threat from the Titans would end.

Closed door, Dead Lich

Closed door, Dead Lich


Considering the circumstances that sounded like a good tip and Wolf’s team headed of for the caldera area.
Of course Mr Lich was there, along with a few Titans as well. The nearby Titans were defeated and then it was time for Lich himself. Being a big bad guy, LL is a level 30 enemy, which is higher than most encounters. The whole team started with the beating, which worked ok. Mr Lich had a habit though of teleporting himself back and forth, which caused some running around – sometimes into burning lava.
When the team throught he was killed through he just regained all his health a gain and the team had to start over. Some more Titans appeared also, which were taken care of before continuing with LL.
Finally Mr Lord was killed again and although he seemed to regain health again this seemed to be considered an actual real hero-does-the-job kill and the victory cutscene started to roll a fraction of a second later.

The World is saved! For real this time!

Lots of cheering and celebrations and Wolf was presented with a reward from the king of the creepy dwarves, His Highness Jails Ironhammer himself.

Now Wolf has finally and officially become one of the Cool Guys, have unlocked Hard Mode for the campaign, can access some end-game areas and probably have unlocked a few more cool skills also.

And yeah, he saved Tyria also…

Categories: Guild Wars

Beating the Mursaat, part 2

October 11, 2008 Comments off

Last time Wolf and his gang had started their path through the Ring of Fire mission, but ran into problem with the local wildlife. This time through a more careful approach was taken and as a result progress was much better.

After circling the Mursaat compound the Wolf team attacked the guard house from “behind” and managed to work our way a few Mursaat troops to get to the end and taking control of the guard house area. When this was done, the path to the entrance of the volcano, aka Abaddon’s Mouth, was available.

Once this was done our old buddy Vizier Khilborn popped up again to say a few words for the dead dwarf Brechnar Ironhammer, who had joined the posse but ran off and got himself killed right at the start.

Fighting the Jade warriors

Fighting the Jade warriors

Next task was to enter the Abaddon’s Mouth area and break through the defences the Mursaat had set up in order to open the Door of Komalie. Right at the start Vizier Khilborn dropped in to cheer us on, but as usual he soon disappeared again.

Fights from this point was mainly groups of Mursaat and their Jade warrior buddies. Also there were a number of doors (not Komalie) to be broken through which were sealed with Ether Seals, which needed some care and removal of nearby Mursaat/Jade troops first.

Wolf and his gang had gotten used to this fighting through, so it did not pose too much trouble. Once in a while there was a boss to fight as well. This was not much of a problem either, since there was generally only one boss and many of the regular enemies nearby could be pulled before taking care of the boss.

One of the Abaddon's Mouth gates

One of the Abaddons Mouth gates

When getting a bit closer to the Komalie area there were two bosses in front of an ether sealed gate. This fight took longer than most of the other fights in the area, but in the end they were defeated.

Mursaat boss fight

Mursaat boss fight


When Wolf’s team finally arrived to the Door of Komalie area it turned out that the door itself was more of the virtual kind, a magical entity to another dimension or something like that – not entirely surprising.

This was sealed by 6 ether seals in the middle of a caldera area. Whenever a seal was broken, a bunch of ghosts appeared and attacked the team. The Mursaat had not yet given up either and there was a regular stream of Mursaat guardians arriving to the festivities.

Vizier Khilborn, aka the Lich Lord

Vizier Khilborn, aka the Lich Lord


 
Finally the last seal was broken! The Door of Komalie opened! The rule of Mursaat is broken ! The world is saved!

 

…not!

Our Vizier buddy turned out to be the nasty guy that was shown a glimpse of a long time ago, the Lich Lord. By opening the Door of Komalie it allowed a bunch of creatures called the Titans to enter our world. By using the Scepter of Orr, the Lich Lord controlled these creatures and sent them out to conquer the various parts of Tyria. Real bummer…

Categories: Guild Wars