Posts Tagged ‘Multiplaying’

h1

SWTOR: Massively Yours

November 21, 2011

Gathering for a world boss.

Now that the gag order has lifted from the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta test, I want to get something off my chest. This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for the past few months, but every time the topic comes up I’ve had to hold my tongue because of the NDA. Well, no longer.

For a while now, it’s made me very uncomfortable whenever I go on Twitter, the forums, or other gaming community websites and see people apply the term “single-player MMO” to SWTOR in a deprecatory way. I’m sure we’ve all seen the type of comments. You know, the kind that imply SWTOR isn’t a real MMO, or that it’s just a single-player RPG pretending to be one, or something along those lines. It was so far-reaching at one point, that I began having my own reservations when I first got my invite to general testing, and wondered if SWTOR would not turn out to be the MMORPG I’ve been looking for.

Looking back now, I was crazy to have been worried. Even after just a week with The Old Republic, it was clear to me that this is a gen-u-wine, bonafide massively multiplayer online game, with all the delicious goodness that comes with a very large number of players interacting with one another within a persistent virtual world.

So I got to thinking, out of all the recent MMOs currently on the market and in development, why does SWTOR get singled out like this (pun intended) more than any of them? I mean, yes, it is possible in the game to level from the beginning to level cap solo, but if that’s the definition of a single-player MMO then a lot of current games would fall into that category as well. But I just don’t feel any game gets abused with the “single-player” label as much as SWTOR does.

I have a few theories, but I do believe the single most important factor that leads people to this misconception about SWTOR is the fact that it boasts story, companions, and a quest line unique to a player’s class. Well, if I’m correct, then this has proven to be a double-edged sword. Arguably, these features are the biggest draw about the game, but they may have also given some people the impression that SWTOR is merely a single-player experience disguised as an MMO.

Perhaps it is also BioWare’s reputation as a developer of AAA single-player RPGs. When people hear the name, no doubt their recent successes like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series spring immediately to mind. And yet, it is true that SWTOR is their first venture into the MMO space, so it’s only natural to to be curious whether or not BioWare can break from their long history of developing single-player games in order to make this monumental leap.

The thing is, it is highly likely that BioWare knew full well from the beginning that proving they can handle an MMO was going to be an uphill battle. I say this, because I’ve seen the way their game goes above and beyond to encourage interaction and socialization between players, as well as provide plenty of opportunities for group play:

  • Group Quests – Around half a dozen of these on each planet, intended to be completed with 2+ or 4+ players. The former are sometimes soloable, but the latter are definitely not. They mostly reward commendations or very nice blues.
  • Flashpoints – SWTOR’s version of instances, designed to be experienced by a full group of four players. In addition, some FPs have bonus objectives within them that require the involvement or cooperation of two or more people to complete.
  • PvP Warzones – Success in a SWTOR WZ often requires strategy and understanding of the rules and objectives, e.g. Huttball (dear lord, don’t even get me started on how many times I’ve seen a player who doesn’t know how to pass, or run a ball back to their own end zone). A group of random players will likely be at a marked disadvantage against a premade whose members are coordinated and knowledgeable
  • World Bosses – Most planets have one or two that I’ve seen. If the live game will be anything like testing, world bosses will also drop some very rare loot. For example, the boss droid on Alderaan has a chance of dropping a white crystal that as far as I know, you can’t get anywhere else in the game (at least in that build at the time). I’ve defeated world bosses with as few as four players, while others take more. The aforementioned Alderaan killer droid, for instance, took ten of us including a few high 40s to just barely take him down.
  • Crew Skills – Sometimes, crafting will require getting necessary materials from crew skills you may not have. While the Galactic Trade Network was still being tweaked in testing, many of us turned to direct trade with our friends and fellow players.
  • Datacrons – Here we get to the activities that are more specific to SWTOR. Datacrons are an optional element of the game, and are objects placed throughout the worlds for enthusiastic explorers to find. A few are easily stumbled upon, but most require some poking around the entire planet. Once you located them, however, the true challenge is figuring out how to get to them. I’ve encountered DCs that require everything from creative thinking, solving logic puzzles, finding unconventional paths, or yes, even grouping.
  • Social System – As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post, I love this feature in SWTOR and it’s the only MMO I’ve ever played with something like this. It is completely optional once again, but it’s a nice perk. To gain social points, all you have to do is group up and participate in group conversations. Every time you win a convo-loot roll you gain the maximum number of points for that roll. Even if you lose the roll you gain points, just less. Racking up social points will help you gain social ranks (I, II, III, etc.) and each time you go up one you get a nifty little title. And the best part of all, rare cosmetic and vanity items from social vendors become available to you!
  • Bonus XP – Thanks to my guildies for helping me confirm this, but I believe that unlike most MMOs, experience is not as reduced per mob kill for group members who are at a similar level, so you’ll be progressing faster. In addition, there are ways to gain bonus XP in groups — completing a class quest with your buddy will reward you with some XP when he or she completes it even if you don’t have it in your log, for example. Doing “bonus” type quests with others will also reward you some extra XP if you complete it in a group. It is a HUGE incentive, making it in a player’s best interest to group up whenever possible.

Thinking about it now, throughout my journey from 1 to 50, if I had seized upon every single opportunity presented to me during my time testing in order to take advantage of the above, I would have easily spent 25-33% of my time grouped up. Maybe even more. So you’ll forgive me if I really don’t see SWTOR as a “single-player MMO”, or at least not any more “single-player” than the bulk of what’s out there.

Solo-oriented players need not fret though! You can still play the game and complete your entire class story by yourself — nothing in your personal storyline will require a group. And as you can see, much of what I listed above is completely optional, and the advantages you gain are extra perks but definitely not of the game-breaking variety. But SWTOR is a huge game, and your class story will only be a fraction of the content — I do urge everyone to participate in group activities once in a while. If you’re a hardcore solo-er you’ll still have a lot of fun without ever having to group up with another player, but be forewarned you may also be missing a lot of good stuff!

h1

A Key Cog – Thoughts On Gears Of War 3

September 29, 2011

While nothing too much has changed about the gameplay from the previous games and the campaign itself probably only took me a total of 14 hours to complete, what Gears of War 3 made me realize is that a good co-op game is a very special gem.

Throughout the years I’ve played a lot of really amazing single-player games and have enjoyed having adventures and exploring worlds on my own, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. But every so often something comes along and I learn to appreciate all over again the fun of experiencing all the joys of a game with a family member or a buddy.

It’s great to be able to play some co-op with my husband, and when I do, the time just flies by. Likewise, when I see my good friend online working his way through the game I’ll just jump in and play with him, and vice versa. Afterwards, we might chat online about what we did or bitch about which one of us is the bigger ass for stealing the other’s kills. It just adds a whole different level to the gaming experience.

I think there’s definitely some value in it, and I recall a case of a family friend who was able to connect with his older son through sports, but was struggling to find interests in common with his younger, geekier gamer son — that is, until they discovered co-op games on the Xbox360 like Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead, Army of Two…and yep, Gears of War.

Combat in Gears 3 feels familiar like it’s clear they didn’t want to stray from the path too much, but I can forgive it since the campaign was such a wild ride. The game never really slows down, it’s always throwing you into insane situations each more explosive than the last, and most surprisingly, the story and characters found a place in my heart.

Let’s get one thing straight — I never pick up these shooter-ish type games expecting there to be much in the way of dramatic or emotional back story. But the truth is, even within its testosterone-laden bromantic plot lines, there was something that reached out to me. I even felt myself tearing up a little at a couple of the cutscenes, no joke. Of course, right afterward the game did throw a bunch of lambents at me and I almost died because my eyes were blurry and I couldn’t shoot straight.

The characters were also more fleshed out in this last installment of the Gears trilogy, and I especially liked the highly-publicized addition of the female soldiers. Sam and Anya kick as much ass as the boys and I love the dialogue and unique dynamic they add to Gears 3. Given how I was told 90% of the game’s and characters’ stories happen in the series’ novels, I may just have to pick up a Gears book one of these days.

Then of course, there is the multiplayer, which really has to be reviewed separately from the campaign. I was never really interested in exploring the multiplayer content in the previous Gears games, but I was in Gears 3 which should tell you something. I probably spent the least amount of time in Versus mode, preferring Horde mode where I got to defeat waves of enemies with either friends or strangers in matchmaking, as well as the new and exciting Beast mode which allows you to play the Locusts.

In fact, Beast mode’s probably my favorite part of multiplayer. For me, it’s mostly pure unadulterated fun, whether you’re blowing heroes up with a Ticker or slicing them off at the knees with a giant Serapede.

h1

Minecraft: 12 Things To See Before You Die In Bluekaedia (If Dying Were Possible)

October 20, 2010

Upon my return from vacation, I learned that a week in Minecraft can mean a world of change. A flurry of construction projects both big and small have sprung up on Blue Kae’s server since the last time I peeked my head in, most of which have completely altered the face of the map. Resolving to familiarize myself with the place once more, last night I took a torch in hand and decided to tour the land. What I ended up with is a collection of interesting sights to see in beautiful Bluekaedia, some of which I’d like to showcase here. Narrowing it down to just 12 was a challenge, as it’s possible in some areas to find a dozen points of interest my peers and I have created simply by standing still. So much to see, so little time. And if you’re on the server and haven’t checked these out already, you really should!

By the way, Bluekaedia isn’t the server’s real name, simply a personal nickname I’ve been using for a while now. As far as I know, the world has yet to have an official name, but frankly, I’m tired of typing out “Blue Kae’s Minecraft Server” every time and I think Bluekaedia sounds pretty.

Nature can thrive in the strangest of places

From the torchlit giant of a tree, growing in a gloomy basement...

To the floating woods out past the bay...

Not your typical hedge maze…

Cactus maze on Cutthroat Island, try not to prick yourself on the way out.

Portals into the past 

Giza meets Peggy's Cove.

A mysterious great wall.

Floating castles of the rich and famous

Who is this "Scary" and where can I get his autograph?

Scale new heights…

Walk the Skywalk.

Hit new lows…

The aptly named "Trail of Tears" leads to this mineshaft. No, seriously, where's the way out of this hellhole?

Triumphs of Vision

 

Earth, wind and fire (really obsidian, water and gold).

The skull mountain lords are most displeased with your insolence.

The explorers stumbled upon this glass house beneath the ocean waves.

In the presence of monsters

Kick back and relax in one of Bluekaedia's many delightful zombie pits!

h1

My 3 Joys In Minecraft

October 7, 2010

As Minecraft has become my latest preoccupation, I figure I might as well embrace it.

1. Creating

Every time I log in to our multiplayer server I’m just overcome with this urge to build. Even before I’m putting the final finishing touches on a current project, I’m already thinking about my next. Everywhere I look is inspiration for another construction waiting to happen. One day it’s, “Hmm, that island looks lonely, it needs a lighthouse!” Another day it’s, “I need something tall so I think I’ll build the CN Tower!”  Tomorrow, it might be “Maybe I’ll find myself another dungeon and make myself another zombie enclosure!”

It’s an addiction, I can’t help it.

Complete with glass floor.

2. Exploring

Just be careful not to get lost. Personally, I am just as directionally challenged in-game as I am in real life, so it’s no surprise that on our server, the “/home” command has become by bestest friend.

Forest fires can be an indication of the map expanding. Oh crap, did I just make the server laggier?

But sometimes getting lost is worth it. Something about Minecraft makes wandering off feel so rewarding. I for one never imagined that landscapes composed of blocky graphics could look so beautiful. I can never resist checking out any dark caves in the sides of mountains either, all the better if they lead to deep, extensive underground tunnels that might hold rare ores. Needless to say, I always keep my inventory stocked with torches.

3. Sharing

It’s not just about finding the “natural” formations that makes it so fun to explore. Often I’ll stumble across points of interest simply by checking in on my neighbors when I need a break from digging or building. It’s always interesting to see how someone’s area has completely transformed after a few days, and you think to yourself, “Wow, so-and-so has sure been busy!” A floating fortress or towering skywalk might blow me away, or sometimes it’s the little things like a sign left by someone off the coast that says “Merman Island” that will bring a smile to my face.

And of course, there are those lava spewing skull mountains that make you think "Holy shit, that is seriously cool."

h1

My Minecraft Adventures

October 4, 2010

Hard to believe, just a little more than a week ago I didn’t even know what Minecraft was, let alone understand what the fuss was all about. To be honest, the first time I ever saw one of my Twitter friends tweet about it, I thought it was a game about blowing stuff up with explosive devices. Granted, there is a little bit of that in the single player survival mode, but no, I’ve found through experience that much of the game is about the other kind of mine, the kind that involves lots and lots and lots of digging. And more digging.

But after only a few days, I find myself completely addicted. What can be so great about a game that involves so much digging and blocky 1980s-era graphics, you ask? You’d be surprised. This is the only way I know how to describe its appeal: imagine yourself  as a six-year-old again with your big toy box of Legos, except you have essentially an unlimited number of blocks to play with and an infinite virtual world in which to build. Oh, and zombies, can’t forget the zombies! When the sun goes down, beware the creepy crawlies that emerge and do what you can to stay alive! Also, I must add that while I’m a stickler about game graphics myself, I find that the blocky visual style of Minecraft actually works in its favor.

And of course, if you’re playing multiplayer mode (which is where I spent most of my time), it is in essence a building simulator where you’ll also get to share your creations with other people or maybe even band together to build extravagant projects. Though it’s true that multiplayer is more alpha than single player is, the fun to be had makes putting up with the bugs and occasional crashes worth it. Thanks to my blog friend Blue Kae who’s taken the time to set up a server for us to play around in, a few of us have gotten a chance to be quite busy this past weekend getting creative — mining, crafting, and constructing. While single player has its merits, what I love most about multiplayer Minecraft — or any game, really — is the social aspect and the interaction with others.

To get an idea of what goes on on our humble little server, check out this fantastic videopost made by Arkenor of Ark’s Ark. Yours truly makes an appearance, as Stefferoo the crazy flower-planting lady who likes to throw eggs at the unsuspecting passerby, and later on you can catch a glimpse of my stone house by the bay and my boardwalk along the beach. Also starring Petter of Don’t Fear The Mutant, my road-building collaborator! Thanks again to Ark for the video, and on his site are a bunch of other great videoposts too, so be sure check those out for more of his Minecraft adventures. And despite what he says, I think his Skeletor impressions are just fine!