Posts Tagged ‘Mechanics’

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TSW: The Knights of Mercy And The Mystery Of The Ur-Draug

July 23, 2013
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I seriously hate this guy.

He’s big, he’s blue, he’s butt-ugly, and he’s humiliated me and my guildies in the Knights of Mercy more times than we can count. He’s the elite version of the Ur-Draug, last boss in the Polaris instance in The Secret World.

No boss has given us half so much trouble in any of the other elite dungeons, but we always seemed to hit a roadblock with him. For weeks, he had been wiping us time and time again, and nothing we ever did seemed to make a smidgen of a difference. Making sure we had stacks of debilitation on him – check. Saving all our emergency cooldowns for when the big damage comes in – check. Giving back-up heals a try – check. Positioning, deck changes, switching roles – check, check, check.

NOTHING worked. NOTHING ever stopped him from handing all our asses back to us on a silver platter.

And here’s the annoying thing: we would do amazingly well on him for the first few tries, before wiping for whatever reason. No big deal, so we brush ourselves off and go again.

But the kicker is, instead of improving our performance, we always seemed to do worse with each subsequent attempt. That’s exactly what happened to our group last night, through no fault of our group, I might add; everyone was bringing their a-game. No, I’m talking absolutely no chance at all to beat Mr. Tentacle-Face, to the point where he would just one-shot me, the hapless tank, as soon as I engaged.

To say he hit like a Mack Truck would be a gross understatement. According to my combat log, his cleave got me for 16,000 on one attempt, and it only got worse. 18,000 on another attempt, then 19,000. Okay, sure, it’s penetrating damage, but can you seriously expect any tank in this game to survive these crushing numbers? At most, I’m sitting on about 13,000 HP. I mean, we’re not even in Nightmare Mode here.

Finally, we decided this had to be more than just plain bad luck, and that something wonky clearly had to be going on here. In a last-ditch effort, I decided to exit to Agartha, then run back into the dungeon, hoping that in doing so something might reset on my character or in the instance, because quite frankly, the abuse we were taking from badass Cthulhu here was getting pretty ridiculous. And since we were sure we were doing everything we could correctly, well…it had to be the game, right?

Down, boy.

And stay down.

I honestly didn’t think it would work. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I got back, we got him down on the very next attempt. With only four people too, since one of our DPS went down accidentally right at the start. Not only did the Ur-Draug not one-shot me anymore, he didn’t even do enough damage to make our healer break a sweat. In fact, the fight became disgustingly trivial.

So what the hell was going on? I still don’t know, but whatever the problem was, it acted almost like an invisible debuff on the player, or a buff on the boss, which applied itself only after about the third wipe or so on him. Exiting the dungeon and coming back in seemed to fix it, at least for me. I don’t know why we haven’t encountered this problem on the Ur-Draug before now, but then again, we’d always gotten him down within the first or second attempts on all our previous successful runs of Elite Polaris, so I guess you could say we never got the chance to see him go all weird like this.

So the moral of the story is: Try not to wipe — at least, not more than 2-3 times anyway. (Unfortunately but also highly amusing for us, it has become somewhat of a running joke that the motto of Knights of Mercy is “Let’s Wipe It.”) Hopefully, this post might be of help to others if they ever find themselves stuck in such a situation with the Ur-Draug. I don’t know for sure if it’s a bug, but I’ve given Funcom a heads up about it all the same.

And if it is a bug, well…it’s gotta be one of the strangest and the cruelest I’ve ever experienced.

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STO: Shoot ‘Em Up

July 7, 2011

Steady...

Star Trek Online Season 4 launched today, and brought changes to ground combat. A lot of changes. Like, I don’t even know where to start.

But I kept a clear enough head to know that in order to experiment with ground combat, I first had to find ground combat. Thus I went with good old “Diplomatic Orders” even though I’ve done that mission about a gazillion times, but you know what they say about tried and true.

Nevertheless, the level of cognitive dissonance between what I’m presented with and what I’m experiencing is alarming! At once I am thrilled with the changes but also at the same time painfully aware I’m going to have to relearn the fundamentals of ground combat all over again, ahem, as evidenced by the fact my Vulcan butt was handed to in a sling me by a horde of smug Klingons not ten seconds into the fighting.

The biggest thing is Shooter Mode, which you can swap in and out of by pressing B. It’s not Call of Duty or anything, but it’s everything the devs promised — faster, more responsive, and significantly more visceral. I felt like a big game hunter, stalking the jungles of P’Jem for a nice Klingon trophy for my wall.

The ground game has also been completely rebalanced or modified, including values for health, damage and most abilities. You really can’t approach ground combat the same way anymore, which was probably why I was clobbered so easily. Simple cover mechanics have also been added, which I suppose I should learn, STAT!

Quite honestly though, the changes are a huge improvement. Throughout STO’s lifetime, there have been months where I’ve canceled my sub and many more times that I’ve been tempted to let it run out, but there’s a reason why I always come back and these major updates are it. There are a ton of other things I need to try out, but the ground combat revamp was what I was most anticipating.

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Books Versus Games

May 19, 2011

Drew Karpyshyn (author of the the Mass Effect books, the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old RepublicRevan) is one of the authors I “favorited” on my Goodreads page, so that was how I saw the notification for a new entry on his blog yesterday, in which he contrasts Revan as a game character versus a book character:

“To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.

Now, I suspect some of you are already getting worked up about how I’m ruining SW canon by nerfing the Revan from the game. Well, tough.”

You tell ’em, Drew. Sometimes I think what FUN! it must be to be a Bioware writer and be able to write cool books, but in the end I see stuff like this and I can’t say I envy him his job. There’s already been resentment from some Knights of the Old Republic fans over the establishment of the male, “redeemed by the light side” canon Revan, and it’s hard to believe now that even his power levels are under contention.

I respect canon as much as the next gamer, but there’s gotta be a line drawn somewhere separating game mechanics and the elements that makes a story good. I played a female Revan in KOTOR and I’m not pissed off…heck, I’m happy I even had the choice to begin with! Like Mr. Karpyshyn points out, games and books are not the same thing. You do one thing to make a game fun for gamers; by the same token, you must do another to make a book fun for readers. Good to see him sticking to his guns.

To be honest, when a video game tie-in novel actually tries to work in too many of the game mechanics into the story, I get annoyed. I’m okay with a little bit — just enough for flavor — but I really don’t need it thrown in my face. It’s harder to get immersed when whatever I’m reading is making me think about stuff like class, levels, abilities, quests, etc. If an author needs to take a few “artistic liberties”, I say by all means — because I’m reading something, even a game book, I’m definitely in it for the reading experience.

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Beating the Learning Curve

January 21, 2010

Arg, come on and hurry up so I can play...

For me, nothing beats the feeling I get right before I try out a new game. I’m in high spirits from the time I pay for it at the store to the moment I’m sitting in front of my TV or computer, waiting for it to load or install. I’m excited about things like the challenges I’ll encounter, the worlds I’ll get to explore, or the enemies I get to waste. But whatever. Before I can do anything of the sort, I have to learn the game.

This for me has got to be the worst part of playing any new game. And I’m not talking about things like finding out what races you can play or what zones you can visit, etc. That’s learning about a game, which usually involves exploration and discovery, and is actually the fun part! Contrast that with learning how to play a game, by which I mean getting right down and dirty to dissecting the mechanics–anything from working out which buttons to press to figuring out how much crit you get from each point of agility. I know I could very well be in the minority here, but while people who like this kind of thing can argue that it’s just another form of exploration and discovery, I just know it’s not the same thing.

To me, this is the stuff you have to get past in order to reach the meat of the game. Simply put, I start enjoying myself once I know what the hell I’m doing.

A newcomer to the genre won't understand why this is legendary.

Take any product with lots of features. In general, you don’t get the most out of it until you actually learn what all those features are. This is why your $2,000 cappuccino machine complete with a professional frother comes with an instruction booklet. It’s there to give you all the information you need to enjoy your purchase. Your average MMO is the same way; you get the most out of your game once you learn it inside and out. The thing is, for a first-time MMO player, that’s going to be a staggering amount of information. And unfortunately, most of it is not going to be in the manual.

The idea for this post came after talking to a friend of mine who says he will never ever play an MMO. To be sure, they aren’t for everyone, and I think the huge learning curve is part of it. Even the most experienced of MMO gamers have to go through a learning process with each new game (and sometimes with each new expansion or patch) and this is why I will force myself to suffer through even the most tedious of tutorials. And yes, I will read every word no matter how obvious the instructions. I just don’t want to be scratching my head later on because I got cocky.

Still, it’s a little easier for people like me, or for anyone who has had at least one MMOG under their belt. But consider what it might be like for your MMO newcomer. Even the things that we think are intuitive might not be that intuitive after all to the noobiest of noobs. For example, for someone who has never even played an RPG, the idea of stats would be a difficult concept to grasp. I had a friend in this boat, whom I caught with Intellect swords on his World of Warcraft lowbie warrior. When I asked about it, he told me. “I wanted a smart character.” While this is funny, I didn’t laugh because he was new, and also because it was then that it hit me. Stats are weird. Intelligence? Strength? Luck? Wisdom? Perception? These are all great qualities I would put on my own resume, so why shouldn’t the newcomer feel the need to take them all?

If you were just button-mashing as a kitty, you were doing it wrong.

Now, to the above example, I could have easily told the guy “L2 read tooltips”. But, please. We all know reading is optional in MMOs. All joking aside though, most people don’t like to play games that make them feel like they’re studying. And to someone who thinks reading tooltips is a pain in the ass…well, just wait ’til he gets to the higher levels. I’m going to keep using World of Warcraft as an example because most people are surprised when they hear about the complexities of theory crafting. “Why, that sounds like math!” they say. Uh, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Pages and pages of mathematical equations exist out there whose sole purpose is to show you why that weapon is your best-in-slot or why you should or shouldn’t be using a particular rotation. That’s why it always makes me laugh when I see comments like “WoW is so easy my 7-year-old daughter can play it!” or “Oh, WoW is just all about button mashing.” Well, I can tell you that none of those people ever raided as a DPS feral druid (Note: experience is based on pre-Patch 3.2 observations). This was a class whose ridiculously complicated “rotation” inspired hilarious works such as this. One can argue that WoW has been dumbed down in many ways, but it’s still not as “mindless” as some claim it to be, not if you wanted to raid or PvP effectively (or in other words, not be bad) and if that’s what it takes to get the most out of my game, I will suck it up and learn, math be damned! The irony here, of course, is that the burnout from theory crafting is part of why I’m taking my indefinite break from the game.

Still, even before you get to this point, the MMO-newcomer has major obstacles to overcome. First, one must learn their way around the user interface. And I’ll tell you, the UIs on some of the MMOs I’ve played look more like mission control for a shuttle launch. Can you say, the hotkey is your friend? Second, there is the language. Like all cultures, members the MMO community use a collection of jargon and slang to communicate with each other. And yes, that includes a healthy dose of acronyms. DPS? PUG? WTS? BoP? LFG? How about WTF? Because that’s what the new MMO player is probably thinking when he reads something like “LF3M Kara, need MT and CC then G2G, PST!”

Frustration leads to the dark side!

There’s a lot more I can name that would make the MMO-noob’s head explode, but I think I’ve made my point. A learning curve is something we all have to beat in order to get the most out of our games, and the MMO can pose quite the challenge to someone who has never played one. For some, learning can be fun but it can also be a barrier. A person who doesn’t get it is not going to enjoy themselves, and they’re also going to struggle. Struggling leads to frustration, and a frustrated person doesn’t usually keep doing the thing that’s making them frustrated in the first place. So it doesn’t matter how awesome a game is, if it’s too complicated from the get go, the new MMO player won’t stick around long enough to find out.

For example, my best friend in real life who has never played an MMO couldn’t get into World of Warcraft after playing the 10-day trial. This initially surprised me, considering how much we have in common and the fact we share many interests because of it. But then I thought about it. I may have gotten hooked so quickly because I was fortunate enough to be part of a great guild soon after I started playing. Not only did that social aspect provide me with a fun environment in which to play, the wonderful people in it also helped me understand a lot of the game mechanics in a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, I doubt my friend even had the opportunity to join a guild in her 10 days of playing. God forbid, she might even have encountered the ugly side of the community during her adventures through the low levels. After all, nothing turns a person off faster than being subjected to Barrens chat.

It’s just a shame, as I was probably out of the country at the time my best friend was trying out the game because she never told me about it until after the fact. It makes me wonder if it had anything to do with the learning curve. Could she have gotten into WoW if I had been playing with her and had been there to give her tips? For developers, helping new players beat the learning curve becomes a question of how user-friendly (not the same as “easy”) you can make your game for newcomers to the genre, especially the beginning areas. However, I do believe it is the community that can make most of the difference. So what to do if you’re one of those who are looking to dive into the wonderful world of MMOs but don’t want to be overwhelmed by the deluge of information? Hook up with a friend who already plays! And if that’s not possible, find a supportive guild of like-minded people, stat! Much of what there is to know can only come from more experienced players.