Archive for February 3rd, 2010

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Allods Online Closed Beta Extended

February 3, 2010

From the Allods Online website:

Due to the overwhelming response from players and the need to further test the latest patch, we have decided to extend Closed Beta Test #4 for an additional week, through February 10th.

Damn, and I was so looking forward to possible news of open beta (players will actually get to keep their characters from open beta at launch)! Oh well, I guess this means they won’t be wiping the character I have now for another week, so I won’t have to say goodbye to my Warden just yet. In the same news post, they also announced that beginning today players won’t be needing a key to gain access to the game anymore. So, let me try to figure this out here…this would make it a closed beta that’s really like an open beta that’s really not because their open beta is really like a release?

*head explodes*

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The Dialogue Wheel – Pros, Cons and the Falcon Punch

February 3, 2010

Playing Mass Effect 2 has led me to think about the dialogue wheel, the nifty little system that allows the player to choose conversation options when interacting with NPCs in the game. This isn’t my first exposure to it; I was familiar with the dialogue wheel from the original Mass Effect, and it has already been confirmed that Star Wars: The Old Republic will feature a similar if not identical system.

The idea behind it is pretty simple: the dialogue wheel comes up whenever you encounter an NPC you can speak with. Your dialogue choices are arranged around the wheel, and usually just a short snippet of a summary of what you want to say is shown. In Mass Effect, there’s even a pattern as to how these dialogue options are placed. Often, you’ll find the “paragon” or the goody-two-shoes option on the upper right, the “renegade” or the badass option on the bottom, and a more neutral option sandwiched between the two.

Given that the company behind the Mass Effect games is also the one behind SW:TOR, it’s pretty safe to assume that this pattern may be utilized in the upcoming MMORPG as well. Frankly, I’m pretty happy about this because I’m quite a fan of the dialogue wheel, though I do have some concerns. But first, let me go through the pros of this system:

1. It’s clean and tidy. A lot of UIs for MMOs are already way too cluttered, but the dialogue wheel is compact while still managing to serve its purpose.

2. It’s easy for the player to learn where everything is on the wheel. For example, in Mass Effect, whenever you wanted to learn more about something, the “Investigate” option will always appear on the left, and the “Charm” and “Intimidate” options are always going to be on the upper and lower left, respectively.

3. In my opinion, the most important advantage of the dialogue wheel is that for full voice-over games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: The Old Republic, you really don’t need anything more than the brief summaries that are shown. After all, what’s the point of displaying the full dialogue option when it’s just going to be read back to you seconds later?

And now for the cons. For the most part, the summaries on the dialogue wheel correspond well to what actually comes out of your character’s mouth…but sometimes you might just be surprised. The dialogue wheel leaves opportunities for players to select a response with the intent for their character to behave or say something in a certain way, only to have them end up doing something totally unexpected. For example, I doubt many people saw the following coming when they chose the dialogue option innocently labeled “I’ll shut you up!”

Sure, you can point out that any result would have been a renegade response based on the fact that the option was on the lower right portion of the wheel, but the last time I checked, sucker-punching someone in the face isn’t the only way to shut them up.

The fact that the summaries might not accurately reflect the full response is the biggest disadvantage of the dialogue wheel and my main concern regarding its implementation in SW:TOR. It’s all fine and good when something like this happens in a single player game like Mass Effect. Really hate the outcome of your choice? No problem, just reload and try again. But MMO players don’t often have that kind of luxury. While I have faith that Bioware will figure out a way to ensure their players won’t accidentally commit some major action without getting plenty of warning, not ever knowing for certain what your character might say or do will make many think twice before locking in on a dialogue option, thus making this system a possible impediment to the immersive experience and to a player’s overall sense of control.

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Damn You, Commander Romaine, You Useless Space Wench

February 3, 2010

So, you’re a Star Trek Online captain who has taken your ship through countless systems completing missions for the Federation, and while on your travels you’ve scanned for and collected stacks and stacks of anomalous samples. At this point, you figure it’s time to “craft” and you take your hoard of mats to Memory Alpha. As usual, you go find Commander Jenna Romaine as she’s the only one who’ll talk to you until you unlock the next tier of scientists. In order to do that, she points out, you’re going to have to keep turning in anomalous data so she can help you upgrade the items you have. Except that’s what she always says! So you’re like, “What the hell, Romaine, I’ve given you tons of this crap already, throw me a bone here!”

If you’re like me and looking for some answers, the bad news is, there aren’t any. As of this moment, there’s still no known way to tell how far along you are to unlocking the next tier scientist. That’s the biggest problem I have with the crafting in this game right now, not the fact that it’s really more of a glorified turn-in system (I’ve come to terms with that — really, you’re still farming/gathering mats and just think of Romaine as a workbench/loom/forge etc. with legs). The community is currently hard at work trying to figure out just how much data you’ll need to hand in before you can progress beyond Romaine, and I’m following the discussion very closely because I’ve just about lost all motivation here, especially considering how I’ve already out-leveled everything the upgrades have to offer.

UPDATE! From STO release notes for the Feb 4, 2010 patch:

The scientists on Memory Alpha were expecting you to purchase far too many upgrades before they would allow you to speak to the next scientist. Players will now find that other scientists will unlock after purchasing a moderate amount of products (based on the item values).

Looks like people were correct in speculating about items having particular values. The turn-in amount required to unlock the next tier must have been lowered, so if you have been handing in lots of data to Romaine without success, try now to see if anyone else will talk to you! For me, I had sold about five or six Phaser Beam Arrays before the patch this morning and the other scientists will talk to me now. To emphasize just how useless Romaine is, she didn’t even tell me that the other scientists had been unlocked, so I actually had to run around Memory Alpha and check. Anyway, that link to the forum has a wealth of information for those who require more details (God bless the OP and the good people who worked on that thread!) and now let’s just hope Cryptic will implement a way to make this system more user-friendly.

Time to wipe that smug grin off your face. *cocks gun*
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