Archive for the ‘MMO Trials/Betas’ Category

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Making Landfall In Landmark

March 27, 2014

landmark

My closed beta email for Landmark finally arrived late last night, so it wasn’t until this morning that I got to jump into the game to check things out for myself.

So you might still pretty unsure about what Landmark really is, given its attachment to the name Everquest Next. What it is actually is a branch of the game, but also a game in itself. In a nutshell, building and creating is central to Landmark, involving the gathering and crafting of materials, then building your flag and staking your claim in the open world so you can start constructing your dream project. Some people have likened it to Minecraft on steroids, and from others’ experiences that I’ve seen, that sounds like a fairly accurate description.

As of this afternoon, I have not even staked a claim yet; most of my time has been dedicated to running around gathering materials. A couple setbacks have slowed me down, the first being that my stuff for the Founder’s Pack never did show up. I’m hoping that when I log in later today I will miraculously find those items in my bag, because a Founder’s Pickaxe should speed things along, not to mention letting me have access to higher tier resources.

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Showing that tree who’s boss.

The second setback was due to my own neglect; having found a nice copper vein in the side of a mountain, I set my mind to a-mining, and I sort of let myself get carried away with it. Long story short, I literally dug myself into a hole, but instead of using the Safe Evac option, I chose to dig myself out instead. In the face of obstacles like tight spaces and the horrific things they do to the camera, I finally managed to escape and came away with a ton of copper to boot.

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I’m okay, I think I see sky!

Despite only having scratched the surface (though that gigantic hole in the ground I made might say otherwise!) I’m finding the game very interesting so far! Can’t wait until I can make my flag, stake a claim and start my first project.

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Elder Scrolls Online Impressions: Characters

February 26, 2014

Inspired by some of the comments on my last Elder Scrolls Online post, I’ve decided to talk about my experiences with different classes in the game. I think I’ve mentioned before how I wasn’t initially that impressed by the game in this regard, though that definitely changed as I progressed through beta and leveled more characters.

The gameplay was by far the biggest surprise, I think. I liked being able to make my own class the way I liked, so that it fit my playstyle. It wasn’t like that at the beginning, when admittedly I was still stuck in the mindset that my Nightblade had to be more of a traditional-style dual wield rogue, or that my Templar had to be a heavy armored sword-and-board tanky type character. That was my mistake.

It turns out the classes are a lot more flexible than I could have ever imagined. What I discovered is that there is a lot more customization with classes, as well as weapons, armor, enchantments, and of course skill points and talents. There’s really no set-in-stone way to play your character. I learned that I could go in and make my class the way I wanted and play the way I most prefer.  And the moment I started to branch away from convention I started being able to dominate more fights, being able to survive better. More importantly, I started having more fun.

Now as promised, here’s a showcase of some of my characters from the different weekend betas and the test server beta, and the way they looked:

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Elder Scrolls Online Impressions: Intro – Are You Going To Play?

February 15, 2014

skyshard

So you might have heard, the NDA for The Elder Scrolls Online has been finally lifted…up to a point. I’m still not allowed to share higher level experiences in the PTS (though that’s okay, I haven’t gotten too far in that anyway) but it’s nice to be able to talk about my impressions. I don’t have any big huge comprehensive post planned or anything about my “weekend beta” experiences because I’m sure that will be covered extensively elsewhere by other bloggers, but I probably will scatter this blog with thoughts on ESO all the way up to release and beyond, with whatever I am able to share from the test server.

I have some future topics kicking around in my mind — character creation, grouping, graphics, combat, etc. — but first, the intro post. And my question is, are you going to play ESO? I think most people generally are going to be interested in that one question anyway. My own answer is a definite resounding “Yes.”

I suppose that also answers the question about my overall impression of the game. It’s quite positive; I do like it. And honestly, it only gets better, especially if you have a buddy or two to play with in a group. I’ll admit I haven’t been paying attention to the press reviews lately, but I understand they haven’t been glowing. And that’s fair; not every game will be for everyone, and I think ESO may have a harder time finding its audience in its awkward straddling position with one foot in the MMO world and the other being held up by the success of Elder Scrolls franchise.

The truth is though, my standards are probably less rigid than they can be, and I’m someone whose gameplay style and tastes are pretty flexible, as long as I’m having fun. And to be brutally honest, I wasn’t having any of it when I first joined the beta in its earlier versions. But over time, the game has evolved to a point where I’m actually quite impressed, with the last beta weekend giving me the most enjoyable experience I’ve had so far.

It’s still not perfect, of course, but we’ve got a couple months until release so I’m optimistic. At least, my confidence was high enough that I’ve already preordered the game, so I hope I’ll be seeing some of you at launch!

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In The Time Of Neverwinter

April 29, 2013

Neverwinter

My decision to hop aboard the Neverwinter train came as a fairly recent one.

To understand how it came about, you have to know that in our family, I’m the one who keeps up with the news in the gaming industry, reads the reviews and blogs, researches the games and decides in the end whether to get them or not. So it’s not uncommon for my husband, even though he’s an avid gamer, to be completely clueless about what games are out there or what’s coming out, because he’s perfectly happy just letting me fill him in and playing anything that I play.

It definitely helps that we have very similar gaming tastes. I’d like to think I’ve always chosen well and that I know the kind of games he prefers and never had to push my luck or his self-respect with anything like Hello Kitty Online. The most important thing is that we get to play together, and bless him for trusting me enough to follow me into whatever MMO world I want to explore.

But still, I almost made a faux pas with Neverwinter. I’d gotten my hands on a beta key earlier this year, played a few days of the beta and liked what I saw, but when “soft launch” came this week I took one look at the sea of games we’re already swimming in and said to the mister, “Maybe we should pass on this, or at least wait until after the open beta when we can both play free at our leisure.” His answer: “But why?”

In retrospect, I suppose I should have foreseen this; that as someone who prides himself on having owned the original Dungeons and Dragons basic boxed set, my husband would be hard-pressed to pass up anything attached to the franchise, let alone an actual MMO based in the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter. So he promptly went ahead and bought us both each a Guardian pack, which is how I found myself in front of my computer Saturday morning downloading the client and trawling the multitudes of D&D name generator sites for ideas.

Ultimately, my husband ended up rolling what he calls a “classical cleric”, while I rolled a Wood Elf Great Weapon Fighter. Because if there’s one thing I like more than elves, it’s elves wielding big honking swords.

Alistara

Alistara Arborshale

It was pretty much all we played this weekend. I can already tell Neverwinter is not going to be as deep as some of the more involved MMOs I’ve played, but it’s still very engaging for a story-based online game supported by lots of dungeons and opportunities to play with friends.

The important thing is, I’m enjoying it; but apparently Neverwinter has gotten its hooks even deeper into my husband — which is incredible, for he is usually so even-tempered and takes a judicious attitude towards new games. I’d say 60 bucks, which is the usual price I’m used to dropping for a brand new game anyway, was definitely worth it for the chance to see things a little early and play with the gang of usual suspects, not to mention the items and perks that come with the pack.

Anyway, it’s only been a couple days and I still feel so green, but I’m slowly discovering that there’s a lot more to Neverwinter. Every hour, I still get surprised when I stumble across new game mechanics or systems that I didn’t know existed, while continuing to be impressed by how much is already in place. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, or looked into the Foundry. As I only reached level 15 yesterday, I’m looking forward to a whole new world still waiting for me.

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Let’s Revive This Thing A Bit…

March 27, 2013

Okay, so my little break actually turned out to be a pretty long break. You know how it is when things get busy; you say to yourself, “All right, I’m just going to put this blogging thing aside for a next little while just until I get back on track.” Except 2013 has been crazy from the outset, so the obligations just keep piling up and before you know it’s been more than two months gone and your poor blog has gone from “on a little break” to flat-out neglected.

Well, I’m back to change that. Part of the reason for my absence also had to do with the types of games I was playing. In January and February, I used most of my spare gaming time to catch up with the Xbox360 titles, some of which had been gathering dust on my shelf, still enclosed in their original shrink wrap:

  • Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood (if you ask me, this game is where the AC franchise reached its peak)
  • Assassin’s Creed II: Revelations (I just couldn’t bring myself to do everything, so I breezed through it for the story)
  • Assassin’s Creed III (I had to give up on this for now, the gameplay proved to be grindier than I expected)
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (loved this, loved this, LOVED THIS)
  • Dishonored (I may be too incompetent and inept to ever become truly good at stealth games, but I don’t care what anyone says, I love my dark ending)

Um, yes. That would have been an overabundance of assassins.

In terms of MMOs:

  • Rift (Hey, I finally bought the Storm Legion expansion!)
  • The Secret World (TSW Mondays are still happening every week, and as always I am dressed to kill)
  • World of Warcraft (golden rule: when you’re married to someone who doesn’t have as much time to game as you, play what he wants to play during your mutual game time. WoW will ever be my husband’s MMO of choice, and I’ve been having a lot of fun raiding in Mists of Pandaria too, so I’m not complaining)
  • Neverwinter beta (very excited for this)
  • Defiance beta (with the game’s release right around the corner, you’ll no doubt be seeing me write about it now that the blog’s also been sufficiently revived)

It has been revived, yes? Yes. I shall endeavor to post regularly again. Thank you, and good night.

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Player Housing And Dimensions

October 25, 2012

In this final post of my tour of the Rift: Storm Legion expansion, I will talk about what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature, perhaps more widely known as Rift’s housing system. Remember how I said in my last post that I was saving the best for last? Well, while I can’t speak for others, I have to say this was personally my favorite part of my almost two-hour tour. (You can find the first part about new zones here, and the second part about dungeons and raids here.)

I confess I was looking forward to my tour of the Dimensions feature the most, and believe me when I say it didn’t disappoint. First of all, I almost feel like it could have constituted an expansion all by itself. The fact that we get this intricate housing system plus two huge continents of PvE content and the dungeons and raids in Storm Legion is just starting to sink in.

Second of all, I am beginning to get a deeper understanding of why the Rift team prefers to use the name “Dimensions” rather than the term “housing” when referring to this feature. Sure, it may also sound better for marketing, but to me the plain and simple truth is, the word “housing” just doesn’t cut it; I don’t think it’s really enough to describe the sheer scope of we’re being offered with this expansion.

For this part of the tour, Elrar took me several dimensions in order to explain how the whole system works. The first one we went to, “Elrar’s Bar”, was a relatively simple endeavor in the Stone Flask Tavern location where I was allowed to muck about and get hands-on with everything. The first thing Elrar told me to do was to look up. The surroundings clearly showed that I was in the Stonefields area, but what I saw above me was most definitely not a Stonefield sky. Yep, it was one of those things Elrar had put in to customize his own little corner of Telara. Pretty!

Here, I was shown the basics and given an explanation of the system. I was told you can own multiple dimensions, but can only have one active. As to why, Elrar clarified that this is because the feature is still so new. Indeed, testers have suggested letting players have more active dimensions, but before the team can expand the system further they have to make sure current conditions won’t crash out the system. But in the future, who knows what’s possible? This feature will continue to be expanded. I didn’t press for more information, but it seems that in the meantime if you wanted to switch active dimensions, doing so is as simple as having all your items packed up into a box before moving.

As to how to gain ownership of new dimensions, I got the impression that they work a lot like many other items in the game — some will be easily accessible, while others will have varying degrees of rarity, with the rarest dimension “keys” being highly coveted and requiring the appropriate level of investment to obtain them.

I asked Elrar when is the earliest a player can have access to his or her own personal dimension. His answer: through a quest you can get at level 5, or in other words, pretty much as soon as you complete the tutorial area. That’s pretty great news; Rift developers are aware that not everyone who will be interested in housing will also be interested in questing, leveling, endgame, etc. and their goal is to make the Dimensions feature as accessible as possible. This will also allow newcomers to the game access to a huge part of the Storm Legion right off the bat, since I was told the bulk of the new areas in the expansion, i.e. much of everything else I saw on the tour, will only be available to level 50 characters.

Next, a closer look at the controls and decorating tools. As a “friend” of Elrar, my character had access to his dimension, though each player will have the ability to further customize these options to designate who can visit, place items, or make changes, etc. In the dimensions UI, you can also set whether or not you want your dimension private or public, but more on that later.

If you look at the screenshots, you can see that the UI is very intuitive. Clicking on the wrench icon will give you access to a bunch of options, allowing you to take an item and move it along multiple axes, or rotate it, or scale it, etc. You can do this with virtually every item. In this next shot, I took a formerly normal-sized stool and shrank it into a size fit for a dollhouse. In the screenshot after that, I was playing with the height of some of the furniture. Want a bed that floats in mid air? Sure, you got it! Can’t jump high enough to get to it? Create yourself a flight of floating steps using books! Pretty much everything seems possible.

Items aren’t just limited to furnishings. I already mentioned the way you can customize the sky with a projector, and there are also music boxes to add to your dimension, letting you set the perfect mood. With a click of a button you can bring up a list of all the items in your dimension, and actually doing so was how I came across a peculiar entry called “Dimensional Bartender.” Yes, Elrar has his own personal barkeep. I stood by as he served up a line drinks and then watched with amusement as Elrar’s character promptly chugged them all down.

From what I saw and heard, I got the impression that there will be various methods to procure dimensional items, with the most common items being easily accessible and obtainable, and those rarer and more unique items likely requiring more time and effort invested in the game.

Later, I was shown several other examples of dimensions and what their owners have done to them. The impressive display of creativity and user-created content simply boggled my mind, and left me with no doubt that this feature will have a profound impact on the Rift community.

Elrar had described dimensions as being virtual neighborhoods, a social system that is easy to access, share and explore. Indeed, there were many open to the public which you can enter from anywhere in the world. I could also see that a bunch of them were highly recommended by other players using the feature’s rating system. It occurred to me that certain dimensions can even have the potential to become in-game tourist destinations (“Hey, have you seen the ____ dimension?” “OMG, you have GOT to visit the _____ dimension!”) In fact, we ran into many other players while visiting the public dimensions.

In this dimension, the decorating has started in this corner of the house. Everything seen here has been placed there by hand.

In this one, the owner built the entire second floor from scratch, just adding to the basic structure of the house provided.

This next dimension features a boat in a lovely little grotto. I was told that the boat, also constructed from scratch, is made up of about a few dozen or so separate pieces — again, all placed by hand. This is sort of what I meant when I said that the term housing just doesn’t seem sufficient to encompass this feature. This is about way more than maintaining a home in a game, it’s also about the complete freedom to build and share anything you can imagine.

To further illustrate that point, here’s another dimension Elrar showed me. The owner has made a jumping puzzle out of it! Literally, the sky’s the limit. My own personal limit here, however, would be my crappy platformer skills. By the way, did I mention that I’m notoriously bad at jumping puzzles in MMOs? Not surprisingly, I didn’t get very far on this. There will be no prizes for me.

One thing I do know for certain now: there will be absolutely no jumping whatsoever required in my own dimension when I get Storm Legion.

Here’s a couple more screenshots to show two versions of the same building structure template, but their owners have done very different things to its exterior. The second house has been cover with rocks, creating a cave-like stronghold complete with hidden entrance, and which even has an added second floor.

Here are some more examples of fun things other players have built in their dimensions. Some of it almost puts me in mind of Minecraft on steroids.

I think housing is something a lot of people enjoy and would like to see implemented in more MMOs, so I wasn’t surprised when so much of the buzz I’ve heard surrounding the Storm Legion expansion involved the dimension system. But now I know it’s also because of the lengths that Rift has gone with it. They seem to have embraced it completely, intending full well to deliver their promise of giving players the ability to unleash their creativity and transform their dimensions into anything they want.

I actually thought of the Sims at one point, and considering what a big fan I am of the building and decorating capabilities in those games, I definitely mean it as a compliment. Can you imagine the potential for roleplayers? For everyone? My mind is swimming with the possibilities.

And so ends the write-up of my Storm Legion tour, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and thoughts. I was initially unsure of how I was going to present all this, but ultimately decided just to write about what I saw and heard from my guide and lay out everything as they were shown to me. I couldn’t help it, though; I just had to gush a little when it came to Dimensions. If you haven’t gathered already, I was very impressed by this feature.

Again, I want to say thank you to the Rift team and Elrar for this wonderful opportunity. But of course, I must also curse them now because I’m tempted to resubscribe right away and not to wait at all to buy the expansion.

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Dungeons And Raids

October 24, 2012

Continuing with the write-up of my tour of Rift: Storm Legion during the beta weekend, in this post I’ll focus on what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me regarding dungeons and raids. To view the previous part on the world and new zones, see here.

I was told that Storm Legion will launch with seven dungeons and a couple of raids — one 20-man and one 10-man — with another 20-man being added in the first big patch. It’s clear that just because they have a huge expansion coming out soon, this by no means indicates that the Rift team will be slacking on their update schedule. New content will continue rolling in as it has always done, and players won’t have long to wait.

I’ll confess right now that this post will be image-heavy. A lot of the encounters shown to me were still works-in-progress; that and time constraints meant that we didn’t do much fighting beyond Elrar exercising his supermod tour guide powers and insta-killing the bosses so we could check out the beautiful dungeon interiors. Works for me! It won’t do well to spoil the fights for myself at this early stage anyway, so I was happy to follow along, pressing my PrntScn key every two seconds in amazement at the environmental details.

Our first stop: Storm Breaker Protocol, a level 52-56 five-man dungeon. The first thing we did was climb into a mech-like robots, giving us access to a set of cool-sounding abilities like Eradication Pulse and Rocket Salvo. We proceeded to clear trash, and I was told players will also get a chance to fight bosses in these Storm Breaker robots. Elrar confirmed that these kinds of fights are new to Rift; like many of upcoming features we’ll see in Storm Legion, they’re the result of ongoing experimentation with new ideas and implementation of mechanics by the Rift team, ultimately letting the player response guide their decisions.

By the way, I want to mention that the level 60 character provided to me was a Mage, mostly because I told Elrar I was fascinated with what I’ve seen of the new Harbinger soul. In the end, I didn’t actually get much of a chance to experiment with his abilities during the tour, but the good news is the little I did see of his conjured blades and weapons spells confirms my suspicions that this “melee battle mage” soul is as unique as it looks.

The next dungeon we saw was Empyrean Core, a level 58-60 five-man instance intended for players towards the end of the leveling experience. Some stunning bosses and sights in there. Honestly, the following screenshots I took don’t do that place justice, as I lost a lot of the nuances created by the play of light and shadow.

Next, Elrar brought me to the Endless Eclipse, the 20-man raid that will be available about a month after Storm Legion’s launch, where players will eventually get to battle Regulos. Which reminds me, I want to mention that all throughout the tour I was being provided with commentary about the game  world’s history and background information behind all these instances. There’s context in all we’ll get to do in the new expansion, and not for the first or last time, I wished I was more well-versed in Rift lore.

Here’s a few images from that place; as you can see it’s appropriately “deathy” in there. Again, I want to emphasize that it looks so much better in game with all my settings cranked up.

 

Finally, we checked out Frozen Tempest, the 20-man raid that will be available at Storm Legion’s launch. Here, players will get to battle Crucia, the power-hungry dragon goddess who controls the minds of the Storm Legion cult which makes even Regulos shake in his boots.

Got some great pics in there of the two of us getting our butts kicked, because Elrar forgot to turn on his supermod powers of invulnerability. Here he is getting stomped on by a giant harpy (and I was next)!:


Stay tuned for my third and final post in which I will talk about what I saw of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature also known as Rift’s housing system. Believe me when I say it deserves a full post dedicated to it all on its own! Not that everything else I’d seen so far didn’t look fantastic, but Elrar definitely saved the best for last during our tour. And thus, so will I!

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