Archive for the ‘MMO Trials/Betas’ Category

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Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – New Zones

October 23, 2012

First of all, I want to thank the Rift team and especially Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols for the amazing opportunity of being offered a private tour of their upcoming expansion Storm Legion during this beta weekend. This Monday, I was provided with a level 60 character, and along with the masterful Elrar acting as my personal in-game tour guide, we traveled to a variety of locations in the game so he could show me some of the features while allowing me to get in some hands-on time.

I’ve always admired Trion’s dedication to building rapport with their players and their enthusiasm to reach out to bloggers and the gaming community, and I’m really grateful to have been included. I know several have already gotten their write-ups posted, so here’s mine.

The fact is, Rift and I have always enjoyed a genial relationship; I played for many months, leveling my Cleric to 50 and continued to enjoy the game for a long time after that thanks to the flexibility of the soul system and the frequent content updates. I did stop playing around last winter when pretty much all my MMO gaming came to a screeching halt when I gave birth to my daughter, but with the announcement of Storm Legion this summer I knew I was going to be heading back into Rift sometime soon.

I just had no idea how soon. I knew I wanted to play the expansion, but my plan was originally to hold off on it until next year when my current MMO plate isn’t quite so full, but after my tour on Monday I think I’m going to have to reevaluate that plan. It’s probably safe to say that some of the things I saw shifted around my priorities somewhat, and there are more than a few features I’d definitely want to get a jump start on and not wait around for.

Elrar began our tour in Tempest Bay, the massive new cross-faction city on its own island on the map. The mechanical eldritch theme it has going there reflects a long history of its highly-advanced society. I imagine once the expansion goes live and players begin flocking to this city for their everyday in-game needs, it’ll look sufficiently more populated and lived-in. For now, from what I saw Tempest Bay positively radiates the majesty and grandeur of a central capital.

Elrar and his supermod powers ported us to various locations around the world next, exploring some of the new zones. Storm Legion will add two gigantic continents to the game world, Dusken and Brevane. Each of them will be bigger than the original game world, essentially tripling the size of Rift. Level 50s will have access to these areas in the new expansion.

Our first destination, Morban. And yes, the mood of the zone is as baleful and sinister as the name suggests; in the area called the Forest of Flesh, my guide led me by several foreboding structures nestled in a twisted wood. It’s an eerie sight to behold and yet a feast for the eyes. Rift being an original intellectual property, Elrar explained how their artists get a lot of free rein to design and theme the zones. Indeed you can see the full extent of the creativity at work here in the unique lines and forms of the architecture and biodiversity.

Our next stop was Seratos, the next zone over. My guide ported me into an area called the Pus Swamp. Hmm, flesh and pus and hey, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here! I was reminded that we’re in the realm of Regulos now; everything here has pretty much been taken over by the planes. Speaking of which, throughout my tour I was treated to many interesting tidbits of background information and the history of Telara. So, not only has the Rift team been hard at work adding content to their game, they’ve also beefed up the lore big time.

I also had the chance to visit the Kingdom of Pelladane and the Eastern Holdings on the other continent of Brevane. Along the way, I got to see how quests will be treated in the new expansion. Firstly, I was fortunate enough to experience a spontaneous rift event during my tour and was assured that rifts will continue to be a main feature and the driving force behind the game. I was happy to hear that. Of course, there will also still be quest hubs where players can show up and talk to a bunch of NPCs, but Elrar also emphasized a concerted move towards improving the flow of questing and making it feel more like a natural and organic experience.

I was shown a couple of examples of this. In one instance, I was just running around the area when I suddenly stumbled across an item on the ground with a quest indicator floating above it. In another instance, me killing a random mob also triggered a quest. This obviously is a move to encourage more exploration; Rift has always been very good at doing this, what with their artifacts and collection system and such — but now there’s even more reason to go poking your head into every nook and corner, or killing every monster you see.

Storm Legion is going to be chock-full of new features and lots of cool stuff, and there’s definitely no way I can fit all that I saw on Monday into one post. So stick around, I’ll be sure to cover my tour of dungeons and raids, and housing and dimensions in my next couple of updates!

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Screenshot Of The Day: Kill Him, Mr. Bubbles, Kill Him!

July 21, 2012

Starring Kysha my Asura Guardian and DoubleUnder, my own, er, “pocket” Charr Big Daddy.

So is it just me, or are the Asura just so ridiculously adorable? Like, deadly adorable.

For many, the highlight of Guild Wars 2’s third and final beta test weekend which started yesterday is of course the ability to create Asura and Sylvari characters. I always figured that when the game officially launches, it’s going to come down to either one of these races for me.

However, last night as I was fiddling with the character creator, it occurred to me that due to my husband’s dislike for any and all cute, diminutive and “puntable” races in MMOs, playing an Asura with him might very well lead to some, ah, irreconcilable differences.

So that’s it, folks. Asura for beta, Sylvari for launch.

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Quote Of The Day: Judge Not “The Secret World” By Its Beta

July 16, 2012

While first glances make TSW appear to be just another MMO with a horror theme, the reality is the game is much deeper and varied than most of what we have been playing over the last several years.  It was then that I realized I had made a huge error in beta.  I had judged TSW far too early.  I had done a disservice to Funcom as a tester, and almost bypassed what was looking to be one of the best gaming experiences I had had in years.

- Paganrites

For the sake of full disclosure, I would first like to say I did not play The Secret World beta. TSW was the first MMO in a long, long time where I consciously and explicitly made the decision to forgo beta, opting to plunge in blind at launch and play with fresh eyes instead. Of course, those paying attention will remember that I caved during the last beta weekend and played for a couple of hours (dammit, I’m so weak). Still, as it was for such a short time and only barely a week before early access, I’m thinking it hardly counts.

Regardless, lately I’ve been reading up on the game a lot. My research around the net has brought me to many a gaming blog or community forum where I often see a reason commonly repeated by people who have decided not to play TSW, usually something along the lines of “I tried the beta, and I didn’t like it.” This is why this blog post by Paganrites caught my attention today (and also because I noticed that several of my Twitter messages make cameo appearances).

In a nutshell, it’s basically an earnest declaration of love for the game from someone who had originally been bitterly let down by beta. The title pretty much says it all.

You could say that I too judged TSW a tad too early, specifically the combat which I initially described from my brief beta experience as clunky and unintuitive. In live, however, it felt smoother and more fluid, and this was only five days later. At first I thought I’d gotten used to the combat; it didn’t occur to me that vast improvements might have been made to the final build, which appears to be the case. I say most of the time, what we see in beta is pretty close to what we see in live, but according to Pagan, those judging TSW by its beta could be doing the game and themselves a disservice, as apparently the difference between the final product and even the later test builds is like night and day.

Just some food for thought, especially regarding what he also says at the end of the article regarding not participating in any more beta tests. Understandably, most people I know prefer to “test drive” an MMO before making the decision to buy, and lately, so-called beta tests have become the way to do so. Still, there is something to be said about waiting to do quests and instance encounters in a new game for the first time during launch — there’s that wonderful shared experience of learning the fights together with others (even if it does mean dying over and over), and allowing yourself to discover the game as a blank slate and be surprised by things you never knew.

It’s the whole reason why I decided to stay away from TSW beta in the first place; even from the beginning it felt to me like the less I knew about it, the better. Ultimately I think it was the right call, as not knowing what to expect – especially in this game — definitely has its advantages. However, as difficult as it might be to resist, going forward I too will probably try holding off on any more beta tests on general principle. No telling if I will succeed, but I just have a feeling it might bring me more enjoyment in the long run.

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Played Lately: Week At A Glance

June 29, 2012

Well, this has certainly been a busy week for gaming, I’m sure my Raptr feed has not seen action like this in months. Here’s what has been occupying my time:

The Secret War

I’d originally planned on going into this “blind” but I caved during last week’s beta 4 weekend. My husband and I played a couple hours just to get a feel for it, and in the words of Mr. GC, “‘Ignite gas cans and draw zombies into the fire?’ God, I love this game!”

Zombie killling-wise, I’d say my sentiments echo his, but I do have my misgivings about the clunky feel of combat. Still, it’s something I can see myself easily getting used to. More importantly, I feel it’s a small price to pay to experience this unique game with its mystery-driven story and incredibly atmospheric setting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Funcom has focused most of its efforts. I’ve seen people describe themselves as getting “lost” in TSW, and I have to agree with that feeling wholeheartedly. I look forward to playing in the early access this weekend — Templar on Arcadia.

TERA Online

I’ve been dabbling in this MMO ever since I bought it for half-price earlier this month. I have to say combat in this game is drastically different from all other MMOs and is very engaging. Graphically, it’s also a feast for the eyes.

Still, I’m not feeling the motivation to play it much. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m not making the connection because I don’t think the reason has much to do with the gameplay, which I actually find quite enjoyable. It galls me to admit that it might be due to the art style. Maybe I’m just being shallow, but you’d be surprised how much something that could have an impact on my experience. I’ll probably go into it a bit more in a separate post at a later date, but for now I plan on getting the most out of my free month and we’ll see where I’ll go from there.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

This is still my MMO of choice, and will probably remain so for a while even when newer games this year will come out and vie for my attention. Patch 1.3 was released earlier this week on Tuesday, and I had been looking forward to checking out the updates it offers.

I haven’t really had a chance, though. For the last few weeks, I’ve been playing on the Imperial side almost exclusively, concentrating on leveling up that Bounty Hunter I’ve always wanted, the class I’d dreamed about ever since the game was announced. Coupled with my husband’s Sith Warrior, we’re steadily making progress towards level 50 and I hope we can keep up the pace, as level-capping her is currently one of my MMO goals. Right now we find ourselves on Hoth, on the cusp of wrapping up Chapter 2.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

I swear, I’ve had this game and AC: Revelations sitting on the to-play pile still in their original wrapping since…damn, I think November of last year. In fact, I think I picked them both up during a Black Friday deal, telling myself that I’d better get it now at a good price since I had definite plans to play both at some point anyway. Famous last words. Incidentally, that’s also how I ended up with my unmanageable Steam to-play pile.

Okay, so it was probably a terrible, terrible idea to start this game Monday on the eve of the Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC and Mass Effect 3 extended cut releases, but I had a feeling deep down that if I didn’t open that box like right now it was never going to happen otherwise. And so, I spent the day playing Ezio and getting used to climbing walls and shoving around civilians again. I also discovered something about myself: I am way too impatient and bloodthirsty to make a good, stealthy assassin.

Mass Effect 3

No spoilers. I downloaded the extended cut for the ending first thing Tuesday and fired up my last save point that afternoon in order to see the changes. However, this time around I decided to choose a different ending, opting for red instead of green. Then, I watched the other endings on YouTube.

As you may know, I’d just finished the game earlier last week, with the original ending. I had a friend tell me that I should have waited for the extended cut to arrive before I did, but after seeing the new ending I’m glad I didn’t. Having played the original version so recently made me appreciate the new one all the more. It really emphasized for me my problem with the old one in the first place — not the actual events of the ending itself, but instead just how lazily the entire sequence was executed.

The new ending fleshed out the story, explaining some of the ramifications and the fates of my squadmates and friends. More importantly, it had feeling — which was what I felt was lacking in the original. I was almost brought to tears in the final moments, and that’s when it hit me: the storytelling is what I like most about these games, and the emotions they evoke. It’s not the what but the how, as in this was how the story should have been told, in the BioWare way that I know and love.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard

No spoilers. This week, I made my return to Tamriel in order to play the new DLC (I own the game for the Xbox 360). Thanks to the new content, I get to be a vampire lord! Er, a very nasty and ugly vampire lord, as in no one will be swooning over me anytime soon. Disappointed to say that playing as a vampire lord is a bit of a pain though, and I’ll probably only do as much as it takes to get my vampire perks, then go back to fighting and adventuring in my Nightingale gear.

I also get to ride a new flaming undead horse, which to me was a very timely addition, seeing as how one time these bandits shot and killed my last horse almost the instant I quick traveled and loaded into the zone. I wasn’t even on it! I’m not kidding, that actually kinda pissed me off, damn cowards that would shoot an opponent’s horse…

Uh, back on topic, so far I’m liking Dawnguard. Still, I’m not sure if it will be worth the money for some. As most expansions like these go, there seems to be one main quest line driving the entire thing, spruced up with some goodies like new weapons and locations, etc. on the side, but not much else. It also makes the gameplay feel more linear than I’m used to getting from Skyrim. You do, however, get to go deeper into the lore of the game, which is one of the strongest aspects of the Elder Scrolls series and incidentally something I happen to really enjoy.

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GW2: The Strangeness Of Grouping

June 11, 2012

As other gaming couples must know, love is about refraining from playing an MMO without your other half, never leaving them behind in experience and out-leveling their character without their express consent or knowledge. In fact, that’s a pretty surefire way to bring about spousal aggro in this house.

As such, my husband and I have always maintained at least one character for the purposes of concurrent leveling in every MMO we play together, and lately it has become apparent that this spousal-leveling contract has been extended to game betas as well. I guess it will come as no surprise then, that we also played together for the Guild Wars 2 beta weekend.

I was really liking the look of my Elementalist…until my husband said, “Hey, Lucy Lawless!”

We started over with new human characters for this BWE; I made myself an Elementalist while my husband rolled a Guardian. We journeyed across Queensdale hitting up “heart tasks”, personal story missions, dynamic events and any other activity we came across along the way. We had a blast. Something interesting that I want to bring up though: after several hours, I started to notice something — GW2 is the first MMO in which partying with my husband has felt “off”, and sometimes even downright awkward.

I guess it’s not surprising, given what Arenanet has said about de-emphasizing grouping. Of course, this means that while partying is supported, it doesn’t feel as necessary as they do in other MMOs. Obviously there are lots of benefits to this. Gone are the days of kill stealing or competing tooth and nail for mobs in crowded areas, for instance.

And yet, for someone like me who probably spends up to 90% of her MMO game time playing with at least one other person in the group, GW2’s brand of cooperative PvE takes some getting used to.

For one thing, concurrent experience gain is much more unpredictable. For example, if I run around with a bunch of people during a dynamic event whacking at centaurs and killing them one after an other in quick succession, that gains me a lot more experience than my husband who is sitting off to the edge of the group whittling down a enemy’s health by himself. Likewise, while we’re both completing tasks for the denizens of Queensdale, my husband’s XP takes off because he’s killing worms while I prefer more passive tasks like feeding bags of oats to cows for their cute floating pink hearts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two group members’ XP bars fluctuate so greatly while still doing the same things together.

While our rates of experience gain tend to even out eventually, I have to say what still feels missing is the synergy between us. That’s the biggie, I think. One of my favorite things about always playing with my husband is the inevitable discovery of how our chosen classes simply click. I mostly PvE, and in playing within a structured group, a lot of the time I end up learning more about how my class plays by observing the abilities of others and seeing how my own can play off of them. A wonderful thing happens when the mister and I play together, just me and him; gradually we come up with unspoken strategies and somehow I know all his moves before he makes them and vice versa. I can see there will be less opportunity to do this in GW2, when there is little reason to attune to each other as most everything is done with every other player who is in the same area.

The strange feeling of grouping in GW2 is just an intriguing observation that occurred to me this weekend, and is by no means a criticism. Really. Of course, the most enlightening moment for me is when the realization hit that we don’t actually even have to be partied up and the little difference it would make! We still did though, if for no other reason but the fact it’s easier to see where each other are on the mini-map.

It would be interesting to see what other gaming couples or people who frequently group together will make of the GW2 duo-ing experience. I think leastwise, it adds a new dynamic.

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My Top 5 Gaming Highlights Of 2011

January 6, 2012

I’m always so behind on these kinds of things. I realize we’re already six days into 2012 and almost figured I would skip the rundown this year, but oh what the hey…for tradition’s sake.

The five things that gave me much joy in the past year:

5. Rift

If I didn’t give Trion a tip of the hat it would be a great disservice — considering they kept me playing their game for much of last year, quite a feat when you take into account the influx of F2P MMOs in 2011 to distract me. Looking back, there were quite a few games that excited me but ended coming up short, but Rift wasn’t one of them. In fact, it was one of those pleasant surprises that caught me off guard; the rifts and flexible class system were what drew me in, but it was also the impressive number and frequency of updates from Trion that made me go back for more.

Oh, and the advent of area loot. Best thing since sliced bread.

4. NaNoWriMo

Last year I included Goodreads on my highlights of 2010 list, which wasn’t exactly related directly to gaming but regardless made an impact on my gaming life because of the social aspect behind it. I include National Novel Writing Month this year in my list for pretty much the same reasons. In November 2011 myself and a handful of my fellow gamer bloggers/tweeters took the leap and participated in this challenge, and I have to say any activity is more invigorating and inspiring when you’re doing it with a group of friends.

3. Launch of Star Wars: the Old Republic

Duh. This game has been on my radar since I was still in college, so yeah, I would say the launch of SWTOR was kind of a big deal to me. At one point on the eve of December 20, 2011 I had to pinch myself just to make sure it was really happening.

SWTOR’s impact remains to be seen, but already I get the feeling that story and voiceovers in MMOs are going to be a big deal. Even last year I noticed more games adding their own VOs and cutscenes — from Star Trek Online to World of Warcraft. I mean, after five years of not caring and saying shit all to me, Thrall finally wants to get chatty? How timely.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Every once in a while I like to indulge in the single-player experience, and I’m so glad in 2011 I had Skyrim. The last time I was so absorbed by an RPG was probably Dragon Age: Origins, and my game time in Skyrim was probably close to double the amount of time I spent in that. I bought the guide, I bought the soundtrack, I read the Books of Skyrim compilation, and quite honestly, if I could I would go back in time and buy the collector’s edition. The game isn’t without its bugs, but it’s the whole experience that counts — and for me it was such that I would happily throw money at Bethesda if it means they will continue making immersive games like this.

Now if only BioWare and Bethesda would have a hot night of sex; their lovechild will probably be the RPG to end all RPGs.

1. Republic Mercy Corps and Imperial Mercenary Corps

I won’t lie, getting into the SWTOR beta and being able to play it for six months was pretty damn exciting. But actually being in general testing wasn’t what made the experience a highlight for me. As much as I enjoyed reporting bugs and writing up my feedback every week, in point of fact, it was the friends I made and the relationships I forged over that period of time which made it memorable. As we all know, finding a good guild can be a challenge. Early last year, I was content on waiting until closer to launch to start guild-hunting, but lo and behold, during testing I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing group of players. The result: the RMC and the IMC, a pair of great guilds I am happy to be a part of.

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Screenshot: SWTOR End-Of-Testing Dance Party

December 5, 2011

You know me. It’s just not a real party unless I can dance to the end of the galaxy in a teenie weenie gold bikini. And don’t think I didn’t notice Qyzen the lecherous Trandoshan totally checking me out…

And so ends my six months of  Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. After so long, I have to admit it was quite the heartfelt moment (at least as heartfelt as you could get club-dancing in a slave girl outfit), but as everyone knows, the launch date is almost upon us. On the 15th, early access begins for the first wave of pre-orders. On the 20th, the game will be officially released, and so our galactic adventure can begin in earnest.

What a ride it’s been. My thanks to the BioWare team of course, but I also owe much of my enjoyment to my guild the Republic Mercy Corps/Imperial Mercenary Corps. The pre-launch guild program may be locked now but it’s never too late to join us, and I shall pass on further details such as status of the guild and server info as soon as I know.

Onwards to launch!

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