Archive for June, 2009

City of Heroes/Villains issue 15 is live

June 29, 2009 Comments off

And so has the issue titled Anniversary been released, although a little bit after the actual anniversary… But close enough though. This issue is considered a small update by many people and the excitement is perhaps not at top. Still, I think the update contains a number of neat features.

For me, the Mission Architect improvements is a major piece here. The improved search and categorisation capabilities are going to be intresting to see how it works out. The Mission Architect toolbox is a neat addition for mission testing and the various improvements for level ranges, power customisations etc provides some welcome additions. Just before the update a set of video tutorials was published for Mission Architect. I think it is a bit unfortunate though that they did those for the feature set in Issue 14 and not Issue 15. While the fundamental basics are the same, it would have been nice to include some of the new features as well.

I also like that they have added more costume change emote and made these new ones available to everyone – the first emotes of this kind that was introduced were only available through the magic booster pack (bought separately).

The new strike/task forces are also going to be fun to try out. I am not a task/strike force regular – I do them from time to time, but not very regularly. It is a bit like raiding in some other games; I have no interest to do them regularly to get some kind of reward. But for a bit of fun with some friends perhaps it can be a nice evening session from time to time.

There are also a number of new faces and some new costume pieces to choose from. More choices here are always welcome.

But the update is certainly thin on content that is not Mission Architect-based. However, one can only assume that the majority of the effort is going into the future Going Rogue expansion.

But for me now is the time to dive into Issue 15 and play around with the new Mission Architect features!

Categories: City of Heroes

Jade Dynasty low level fast track

June 25, 2009 10 comments

Have you ever played an MMO where when you created another alt character that you want to go past the first few levels since this by now was old familiar and slightly boring stuff?

After a bit more in Jade Dynasty I think this is actually what the game designers had in mind when creating a few game elements. I did not realize this at first, but after looking at it more thoroughly it does make sense. But it is not immediately apparent when you create your first character – which also makes sense.

Initiate Skill Tree - Heavy Blow on top, Vigilance upper right

Initiate Skill Tree - Heavy Blow on top, Vigilance upper right

First of all is the skill Heavy Blow. This is the extra damage skill in the first skill tree (level 1-15) before a faction is chosen. Reading the description for the power, it does say that the skill does extra damage before level 30. What it does not say is that it does a sh*tload of extra damage before level 30 and from level 30 it is actually pretty meh, compared to other powers available then in many cases.

The fact is, that one can pretty much rely on Heavy Blow as the only power up to level 30, besides the auto-attack. But why would they make one skill so powerful for the first 29 levels? I think the reason here has to do with skill point allocation. The game itself does not take lightly on reallocating skill points. Resetting skill points can be expensive – the equivalent of USD 30 for a complete skill point reset and USD 8 for a reset of the current tier only (15 levels typically it seems), if it is bought from the game shop. Maybe there are in-game alternatives to get those, but such prices do not encourage experimentation and trial&error with skill points.

My guess here is that by making one power very powerful in the beginning, players would not need to spend skill points and thus perhaps allocate too much on less useful early skills, just to progress through the beginning levels. Of course, if you do not know or realize that at start, you will potentially screw up your skill point allocation anyway…

There is a minimum of 8 points that has to be allocated in the first skill tree as a prerequisite for later skill trees. So the best option here seems to be to have two points in Heavy Blow and the remaining 6 in Vigilance (increased resistance), at least for the two factions I have played around with so far (Modo and Lupin).

Some other elements to the low level fast track are some items that can be obtained almost right from the start:

  • Celemiracle Dew
    Provides 200k worth of hit point healing. Given that one of my Lupins at level 22 has about 800 max health, this is a serious amount of healing potion available.
  • Tigeren Crystal
    Increases attack power by 100 and then another 10%. Lasts for up to 8 hours
  • Turtoil Crystal
    Increases defense by 70 and then another 5%. Lasts for up to 8 hours
  • Double XP
    2 hours worth of double XP from combat

The last 3 are received by the quest God’s Gift, from the initial quest NPC Tanis Ka. Double XP timer starts when the quest is completed. The Crystal buffs also has 2 hours timers counting down for being activated when the quest completes. Once activated they last for up to 8 hours. If you die, they will have to be re-activated. But if the 2 hour countdown has passed, they are lost. The buffs these crystals give are significant – fighting level 30 mobs at level 15ish is no problem.

Those timers are real time – not online time. Timer will still count down if you go offline.

Now comes the final part in the puzzle here – the Espers and the Invigorate ability. This is as I mentioned in my previous post the “auto-pilot” in Jade Dynasty. What I had not realised then was really how it worked in more detail. Looking at the picture below, there is a “sword” shortcut bar in the lower right, plus another bar right below it. This is the Esper skill bar. Shortcuts 1 & 2 seems to be reserved for Esper skills, but 3-9 can be equipped with any skill available.

Invigorate settings

Invigorate settings

The HP, SP and EN slots are where “potions” can be placed for replenish health, spirit or energy. The settings windows can be opened from the “sword” and provide settings to set how often and with what priority different skills should be used. It also provides settings for looting and when to consume potions.

More Invigorate settings

More Invigorate settings

Another setting Window (the lower icon with sword and green thing behind it) provides settings on range and what to fight when running under auto-pilot.

Overall it does provide a quite comprehensive mechanism for leaving the character fighting, looting and gaining XP without the player needing to do anything. It is pretty “botting”, but in this case part of the game design. And combining Invigorate with the buffs above it is pretty much possible to just park the character in a group of mobs, turn on Invigorate and come back a few hours later to a character with a number of levels higher – at least with potions or buffs active.

In fact, I have been running a character in Invigorate mode as I have typed this (making screenshots etc as I go), which has pretty much gone from level 19 to level 23 in this time. Now I did not check exactly what time I started typing this though, but would probably be less than 1 hour. Most of this has been with the double XP buff running also.

I must admit I think the game has an element of attraction, even though it on first look much looks like a boring grindy MMO when looking at the combat. I think it would perhaps have been better if the grindy elements were not included in the game at all, instead of providing ways to bypass it.

But at least the game designers do seem to recognise that people might not enjoy boring grind play just to get to the “good stuff” and seem to have provided some means to alleviate that.

Remains to be seen if it works out well.

Categories: Jade Dynasty

One new big happy family of heroes and villains

June 24, 2009 Comments off

It seems that there will soon finally be time for the City of Heroes/Villains players to actually get one official community focal point, NCSoft will now be merging the forums of the European and American communities and upgrade to some new forums software.

Not a day too soon in my opinion – if people play the same game I do not see a reason to split up the communities, as long as any language issues can be dealt with in a reasonable way.

Now my wonder is also, when will everyone be able to actually play with each other? The single world approach that Champions Online seems to be taking is quite enticing.  And if you have played games like EVE or Guild Wars which handle this also, you really miss that feature in other MMO-type games.

Perhaps the future competition with Champions Online will help the motivation to make such a change for City of Heroes/Villains? I certainly would not mind that.

Categories: City of Heroes

Jade Dynasty – martial arts MMO first impressions

June 21, 2009 5 comments

Jade Dynasty is called a martial arts MMORPG, at least that is what it is referred as in an ad I saw and which peaked my interest when I saw a link to it. The post here are some first impressions from playing around in the game for a little while.

Time to become a kung-fu master - or something...

Time to become a kung-fu master - or something...

The game is currently in open beta. I had never heard of it until a few days ago and it seems to be a Chinese MMO which is now scheduled for release in Europe and North America, at some point. The company behind the release is Perfect World International, which already have some other MMOs released already.

I am both intrigued by the game, as well as finding it really mind-numbing. If you like grinding mobs and doing countless kill ten rats quests, mixed in with a few FedEx type quests – then this game is right up your alley. But there are also elements of the game which are interesting, in a way.

Read more…

Categories: Jade Dynasty

The colour of the game

June 19, 2009 3 comments

A recent post in the City of Heroes/Villains forums provide a hint on some things that are coming in Issue 16, with Issue 15 soon to be released now.

Issue 16 will not be the issue when the new expansion will be released and the post just shows two pictures. But given the names of those pictures they do hint at a new customisation feature – colour change of pets and powers. The pictures show a fire controller and a fire dominator, but with new colours for their pets and their firepower.

That is a pretty neat thing, even though it might not be something to scream and shout much about too much outside the core fanbase.

More information will be coming for Issue 16 in July, which my guess is means that it might be released some time in September.

Categories: City of Heroes

Virtual pubs and virtual casinos

June 11, 2009 7 comments

Melf_Himself made a good post about reward gameplay. Playing an MMO is a bit like going to a pub in my view. You go there to relax and enjoy yourself, socialise and chat with friends, perhaps play some dart or pool – and most likely drink something.

Spending time in the pub is not something I expect to get some particular reward from. And if it is not particularly enjoyable I might just head off to a different place or do something different. There is not really much pressure from the pub that I should do otherwise. They will of course want me as a customer, but they are very much just providing the facilities for people to enjoy themselves in some way, as long as they do not harass other customers too much.

A casino is a slighty different entertainment facility. There is a more focused set of activities you can do, much centered around the prospect of winning money. Also, the casino will gladly try to condition you to stay within the premises in various ways, in order to keep you gambling. The casino will happily keep you there to just sit by the slot machines all day if needed, doing the same thing over and over.

I would really like for the MMOs to be my virtual pubs, but some are putting in slot machines in the facilities and try to keep people around, enticing them with the prospect of loot.  Some seem more like virtual casinos, some are somewhere in between. And many are successful in getting people to the casino-like parts. I think this is unfortunate, but who’s fault is it? The virtual casino-like facilities, or the people that buy into that entertainment en masse (not just the occasional gamble)?

In either case I do hope that the attitude could be more pub-like. There can always be more pubs, but there can certainly be too many casinos.

Categories: MMO Games

3 years in spandex

June 8, 2009 Comments off

Last week I became Addicted. That is the 36 month veteran reward title in City of Heroes/Villains. In addition to the title, one get the option to place an Arachnos Flyer or a Longbow Chaser in the supergroup base, and each character can pick a mini-pet of choice, see the following pictures.

In addition to this I also got another character slot, which players get every 12 months for an active  subscription. This quickly got filled with a new character. I am a huge altoholic in City of Heroes/Villains and a quick check revealed that I have 33 characters currently – 20 villains and 13 heroes. A majority of them are seldom played though and 8 of them have reached max level.

A few statistics regarding the characters:

Archetype Number of characters Highest level Lowest level Total # of levels
Dominator 6 50 50 300
Stalker 3 32 23 81
Controller 3 50 10 78
Scrapper 3 42 6 74
Arachnos Widow 2 50 24 74
Corruptor 4 35 6 65
Mastermind 2 34 15 49
Brute 2 28 10 38
Blaster 3 15 8 32
Tanker 2 25 5 30
Arachnos Soldier 1 30 30 30
Warshade 1 14 14 14
Defender 1 10 10 10

The only archetype missing from the list is the Peacebringer. Most characters are below 30 and in that area there is plenty of choice on what to play. But because of the excellent sidekick/exemplar functionality and the auto-adjustment of levels in some type of missions (e.g. Mission Architect) there is really a lot of freedom of what to play at any given time. And I do still enjoy the game a lot. But this has also very much to do with the people in the game. Without some great people to play and hang around with the spandex time would have been much shorter.

So thank you everyone that has made the time in Rogue Isles and Paragon City so enjoyable the past 3 years!

Categories: City of Heroes

Elves – just say no

June 5, 2009 3 comments

I have not played much of Runes of Magic in the past few months;  gameplay got a bit repetitive in a grindy fashion so I took a break from it. The other day I got an email about the next update to Runes of Magic – Chapter II – The Elven Prophecies. This updates includes some possibly nice features, such as being able to train your own pets and introducing two new classes. But they also introduce elves as a playable race. Really, that is probably one of the best thing they could have done to keep me away from the game

Why must everything fantasy MMO fit into some Tolkienesque template? LOTRO is sort of excused, because they are providing Tolkien’s own setting in a way. If introducing a new race, use something that is not an elf, dwarf, orc or troll  – or a carbon copy of  any of these Tolkien templates.

Categories: Runes of Magic

Elementary, my dear Nelson

June 1, 2009 Comments off

The title is the name for my newest story arc in City of Heroes/Villains. Some of the previous arcs have been a bit longer and to some extent relied on clues to tell the details. This one has been intentionally created to be quite short and not rely much on clues – they are just there to clarify some details, but should not be necessary. Mission dialog text has also been kept a bit shorter than some of the other arcs.

Elementary, my dear Nelson - story arc

Elementary, my dear Nelson - story arc

I am fairly happy with the outcome, given some limitations of the Mission Architect system. Testing and tuning takes a lot of time. So some of the improvements introduced in Issue 15, currently in beta, should make life a bit easier in this regard.

The first idea to some parts of the story came from the Valérian & Laureline comic books Métro Châtelet, Direction Cassiopeia and Brooklyn Station, Terminus Cosmos. Unfortunately not even the City of Heroes character creator can come close to the special creatures found in that story, but they served well as inspiration. So did also the conflict, but that was completely changed to fit more into the City of Heroes canon.

Elementary, my dear Nelson - story arc

Elementary, my dear Nelson - story arc

Inspired by the updates that is currently in Issue 15 beta for City of Heroes/Villains, I have added keywords and status fields to my Mission Architect Story Arc page. For me status Final means that I still am interested in comments, but not likely to make anything but small changes to the story arcs. Status Looking for Feedback means for me it is good enough for others to play it properly, but could potentially get some rewrites – in particular based on constructive criticism.

Categories: City of Heroes