Friday, March 31, 2006

How to "farm" faction in Guild Wars

Guild Wars a while back introduced the ability to unlock all skills, weapon upgrades, and runes via PvP by earning faction. As you earn faction you can trade it in for the aforementioned items. Usually it costs anywhere from 1000-3000 faction per item. Here is a great breakdown of how much can be earned in the various arenas of PvP.

I like Guild Wars PvP, but I won't say I love it. Not right now anyways. Without a good team playing against equally matched oponents... Guild Wars PvP is a hot/cold experience. One second you and your random team are red hot... the next you are pushing up daisys.

After much death, much winning, and a bit of searching I have found out a way to basically always win in Random Arenas. Random Arenas are 4 vs 4 matches that put you into random teams against each other. That means you have to get used to the fact your team isn't always going to be good or act as a "team".

What I discovered was the teams that were winning; were winning because of healing and healing alone. Looking into it further I found this article over at the Guild Hall about Guild Wars healing monks.

Basically all you are doing is playing the role of "heal bitch". If you are half way decent at the game and have the available skills you can pretty much guarantee wins for your team because you can keep em cranking out damage. Now you don't always win... some teams just are better and can coordinate well enough to take down a full blown monk.

For the most part though with my monk I've just been winning and winning. It takes usually 4-5 matches before a loss is handed to my team. Sometimes earlier if the team winds up heavily stacked as monks... those matches can last forever!

So I will push on with winning in Random Arenas... I have skills to unlock :) I've gone from 500 faction gain in a night of casual random arenas to almost 2,000 in a single hour :) Bling.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Now Playing: Guild Wars

It's called boredom. Not boredom with Guild Wars, but boredom with other games I'm playing. Battlefield 2 is great, but it seems every month I have fewer friends to play with. EVE Online is great and I love it! However, I don't have the time to get anything out of it currently. I am paying for my account, but that’s just to ensure I am training skills.

So I reinstalled Guild Wars a couple of days ago. I spent about two hours starting up my new Monk/Mesmer, named "Column I". I seem to be shifting towards using the name Column as my avatar names more and more in MMORPGs. I already have a level 17 Warrior/Necromancer named "Heartless Foe" in Guild Wars.

With "Column I" I've been focusing on completing every quest available in the tutorial area of pre-searing Ascalon. This is something I never did with my original characters so it is a treat to discover some of the missed items.

So far I haven't noticed any dramatic changes. The same clunky movement is in game and is still my biggest gripe. I am just a stickler for fluid and graceful movement which is something I don't see Guild Wars ever having. It's just very jerky and flat out warpy sometimes. This doesn't ruin the game experience, but when you pick the game up after a few months off it takes a bit to get used to again.

The biggest changes revolve around the graphics, but this is nothing Arena Net did. It is my new computer. I can run the game at MAX settings at a widescreen resolution. The game is much better looking and the extra screen space changes the UI a lot. I can put loads of things off to the side and still have a 17" screen area in the center clear of everything except my hotkeys and group window. This adds a lot to games and I can't ever imagine gaming without a widescreen monitor ever again!

I also got about 45 minutes to fire up the Guild Wars : Factions preview that was occurring this weekend. I started with a pre-made level 20 PvP character nicknamed a "Shadow blade". The shadow blade is a Warrior/Assassin combo with the Assassin being one of the new classes available in the upcoming GW:Factions expansion.

Sadly though, I didn't make it far into the Factions content. I did the first few quests that teach you about the various arena battle types; annihilation, priest annihilation, obelisks, etc. Then I got stuck on the "Defeat 5 enemy teams" part before having to log.

Hopefully I will get more time to experience the Factions event before it closes down. I suspect I will buy factions because of the territorial PvP concept and the fact there is no monthly fee. I like Guild Wars enough to play it for a week straight every few months, but not enough to be in a competitive guild for GW.

Update: 15 Nov, 2009 - Edited spelling, applied label, and removed broken images.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Can dreams come true? GDC rumors!

Grimwell has a laundry list of rumors from the Game Developers Conference.

Raph leaves SOE. Confirmed, see below.
Finally will give Raph a chance to get out and prove his theories right. He talks the talk, but needs to walk the walk.

EA is going to gobble up Mythic.
Unverified, but Mythic is small, lost a lot of money on Imperator, and is vulnerable to buyout. Lum can't tell us because he has work issues of his own so we must wait. Sounds sensible to me though.We've heard this one before. As long as EA doesn't mess with Warhammer Online!!!

The Cartoon Network MMOG. I call this almost verified. I sat in on a round table mastered buy a gentleman with MMOG experience who candidly said he was working on a MMOG for CN. Then I was introduced to a former UO dev who works there. Add in the fact that I received some 'Adult Swim' socks in my press kit and it's clear they are up to something.
Employing old MMOG devs is usually reserved for those who wish to make MMOG's. ToonTown for adults? Lots of interesting properties to mix up.Could be interesting, but doubt I would want to pay for a "ToonTown for adults". I don't like the industry shift towards "every game will be an MMORPG now so we can make more money."

SOE Loses SWG licence? Unverified. Would be a huge embarassment all things considered. Especially since the NGE went down recently, and burned the house.
Best thing that could ever happen. I've already talked about this here.

Wolfpack and Ubisoft not so friendly. Ubi dropped the price to "FREE!" and there is no SB2 announcement. Sat in on a PVP roundtable moderated by Damion Schubert and he didn't mention this, neither did the other WP friends. At the end of the day SB didn't bring the $$ on a large scale despite doing many things right for MMOG's and PVP. Possible, but not verified.
No Shadowbane 2 announcement makes me sad :( But there is plenty of other games on the horizon to make me happy. While Shadowbane was a great idea they failed on the business front. Failing on the business front almost always means failing on the game side of things.

Bioware Austin gets SWG licence. They did open that office, and there is a forum thread about the SOE loss part in which a Bio dev says to not decide either way until further data is in. Unconfirmed, but interesting. Would Gordon want to do that again? I hope they do something else like Jade Empire Online. I'd buy that six times!
Bioware + Star Wars + MMORPG = /drool!!! Grimwell may want an action-MMORPG, but I want a Bioware Star Wars MMORPG. This is almost too good to be true so I am holding back just a little.

Smedley Getting the Axe at SOE. This is a bonus entry, not from GDC. Something I was actually told last week and wanted to sit on and fact gather. At this point with Raph gone and SWG in question... it's hard to think this wouldn't be on the table.
Second best thing that could happen. That guy just doesn't "get it" and he confirmed it with his "We're going to dominate World of Warcraft" speach. I don't think this makes SOE any better, but Smedley just wasn't the man to make it better.


Those are some HUGE announcements that could be coming down the pipe in the near future and you heard them at Grimwell.com first!

Update: 15 Nov, 2009 - Edited spelling, applied labels, and removed broken links.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

No Longer With Gamergod.com and Updates

Due to my real life schedule, I have decided to stop writing for Gamergod.com. With my little bit of free time, I want to be gaming. If not gaming, I want to be posting on my blog or a message board. I'm here to game and bitch about it.

Also, Grimwell is done with Gamergod.com and has reopened Grimwell Online. So, expect to see me over there from time to time.

Blog Update @ Technorati : I am now ranked within the top 100,000 blogs on Technorati.com! I suggest everyone use it to search for the truth about games, from the mouths of gaming bloggers everywhere!

Another new template? I've been thinking about updating this blog's template again, so keep checking back for a new look. Any suggestions welcome.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post and applied label.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I met Vice President Dick Cheney today!

Vice President Dick Cheney made a stop locally today, so I strolled on down to be part of the crowd.

Have a great Saint Patrick's Day everyone!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fatal Flaw in Sony's plans for the Playstation 3

Joystiq has resounding coverage of the Sony PS3 conference going on in Japan. Check it out for some up to the minute updates!

Something caught my eye as I read through the updates. Update 11 to be exact.
Update 11: Beginning this November at launch, the PS3 "will feature community tools including lobby matching and voice chat," as well as "commerce features that includes bootable software via the hard drive." This is basically the PS3's online service, which was created with Sony Online Entertainment's assistance and will be provided free of charge--well, the "basic" service will be at any rate. "Premium" Live features, anyone? Thanks, bv, RobR, and untitled!
Now I bolded "Sony Online Entertainment's assistance" for a reason. I've been a critic of SOE for a long time standing. From the destruction of Star Wars Galaxies to the constant change of any and all of their titles I have rarely agreed with their "vision".

Sony is making a huge mistake letting the industrial machine at SOE handle their online application. While this is not a "game" per se there is definite qualities within SOE that detract from a "fun experience".

Really the only console networks we can compare it to at the moment are Xbox Live and Nintendo WiFi. Both of those are excellent products developed in house. Sony is following suit, but if you ask me they lack any sort of creative support at SOE to make this online app worthwhile.

It is well known SOE pushes hard on their projects and sacrifices both in community communication and product quality.

There is no doubt that SOE has the server technology and qualified personal to run a network, but it sure the hell doesn't have any creative minds to make this service anything but the day old stale bread of the Console Online Services. Any creativity will be shot down by suits pushing for a product that is "just like the other guys".

Let me spell it out. Sony's Online service for the Playstation 3 will be nothing but a dumbed down rip off of Xbox Live and Nintendo Wifi.

Update: 29 Nov, 2009 - Edited post, corrected spelling, and applied labels.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What I played in the new Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle

My previous Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle post details some of the changes in the new Trial of the Isle. Now I will share some of the fun I had with the various classes I tried.

Name: Ipad
Race: Kerra
Class: Inquisitor
Plays most like: A smiting cleric in Dark Ages of Camelot.
Comments: Basically this character starts out with a "smite" spell that you basically makes up your entire offense. You start with a basic heal and a few levels in get your second. Standard point and click heals. You also recieve a basic buff to increase attack power, but it really does nothing to help your pitiful melee. I was able to last through any fight by chain nuking and chain healing. Viable solo early on, but I would guess this is more the grouping hybrid healer.

Name: Idea
Race: Ogre
Class: Shadowknight
Plays most like: Any newb fighter class in most MMORPGs.
Comments: This was a pretty cut and dry experience. The Shadowknight starts with a minor direct damage spell that only can be cast in melee. You run around an whack things otherwise executing your simple basic melee attack. I found this character to be weak even after recieving the class specific "Dark Blades" stance. The character only picked up after recieving my quest reward two hand sword. With that big piece of metal in my hands it was a much better experience. Was able to hold aggro perfectly for the final dungeon fight on the Isle.

Name: Swash
Race: Dwarf
Class: Swashbuckler
Plays most like: A rogue from World of Warcraft.
Comments: By far the funnest class to play that I tried. Not only is the idea of being a swashbuckler cool it lead to an excellent nickname for my Dwarf. I became known as Swashy. Adding to the fun as the fact I played this character on the new RP PvP server. I actually role played for a good bit. I even started to create a small backstory (NOTE: I don't know much about Everquest lore).

/rp begin

Swashy came from a long line of dwarven pirates, but the sea had grown quiet and a pirates life became hard. Moving onto land Swashy was dishing his swashbuckling skills to the highest bidder, Freeport. He had arrived for an introduction and quickly got to work.

/rp end

The class plays very fluid and really made me feel like I was back playing World of Warcraft with my rogue. The basics of combat are almost mirrored between the games. You stealth in to get the jump, stun the target, and then move behind the target to execute a backstab style move. On top of this the swashbuckler can take a good bit of a beating. With the help of just a Defiler named Gallow I took out the final dungeon in no time.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The new Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle

So as I stated a while back I was going to play the Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle after the new changes were made to it. The boat ride is gone, the old isle is gone, and the class system has been rebuilt.

What I immediately noticed was the change to the classes. Instead of picking a base class you get to select your final class upon creation. This opens 16 different unique classes for you to try instead of the old four base classes. This means you actually get to use every last drop of EQ2's Trial of the Isle instead of running out of classes to try in a few hours!

The next big change that I noticed was the removal of the "introduction". Instead of learning how to move and interact via a voice guided tour on the boat you are just dropped into the world in front of an NPC. This is a change for the worse. The boat was a great introduction to the game and the voice acting really got you into the mood to adventure! This wasn't a big problem for me, but a new player could be turned off if they can't figure out to click on the NPC in front of them.

To learn about various features in the new TotI question boxes appear in the upper right. You are never directed to click them, but if you do you get a quick blurb of information about something that may have just happened. It is a poor system to introduce the player to the interface.

Another detracting point; the Isle is void of all voice overs on quests. This is a huge negative change. EQ2 prided itself on the voice overs! The voice overs added a lot to the game in the original TotI. This is EQ2's big show to win over new players and the removal of such a key feature is a huge mistake. Maybe the voice overs are being reworked?

Aside from the removal of voice overs and the tutorial introduction the changes to TotI are all positive. There are actually two Isles now; one for the good side and one for the bad side. Both isles offer different quest lines doubling the content of the trial. The map however is the same as the old TotI, but that is nothing major as its the content within that map that counts!

The new quests offer a better variety of quest types. There are kill quests, collection quests, escort quests, and even some good item interaction quests available. This familiarizes the new player with various NPC quest interactions that will be vital later in the game.

The quests also seem to make more sense to the world at large. You come into the world understanding there is a war between the good side and bad side. The new quest lines will have you learning a little bit more about the world events that have occurred. While there is events that strictly limited to the isles you still get the feeling that you are preparing for something bigger by the time you leave the isle.

Stay tuned for my commentary on a few of the classes I’ve tried and even hear about the little bit of role-playing I just may have done.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why letting Star Wars Galaxies die is the best thing that could happen... for Star Wars fans

On the heels of some pretty bad press coverage (Washington Post, CBS, etc.) and the cold hard facts that focus groups just don't like the changes to Star Wars Galaxies I have something to say. Letting SWG die is the best thing that could happen if you are a Star Wars (and MMORPG) fan.

It is unlikely that SOE would let SWG die, but it is very possible that they will rollback the NGE. Rolling back the NGE would be a toss up to whether the game could survive. My guess would be that any major change would completely alienate any remaining fan base and possibly push Lucas Arts to pull the license.

I am not an expert on licensing, but I couldn't imagine Lucas Arts letting the Star Wars name be dragged through the mud by the national media much longer. Lucas Arts was a driving force behind the changes to make the game more "Star Warsy" and I doubt they are pleased with the results. So I will blame both SOE and Lucas Arts for the current state of the game. After all we know Lucas Arts had to sign off on moving the time line forward and allowing Jedi to appear all over the place.

So what does this all mean for the Star Wars fan that is still looking for the game where they can experience the Star Wars universe in all its glory? If SWG was to die it would be very possible that the license for a Star Wars themed MMORPG could be up for grabs. That is a tempting prospect for any MMORPG developer with the current state of the market.

World of Warcraft has proven there is a market for MMORPGs that extends beyond just Everquest's 500,000 subscribers. In fact it extends far beyond that. The market is global for MMORPGs that want to support a huge development cost. While Star Wars is a global name it is unknown what sort of following a Star Wars game would have in the heavy gaming countries of China or Korea. World of Warcraft is one of the only games to really succeed in both the East and West.

What I do know is that a new Star Wars MMORPG would generate a ton of buzz. First of all there is SWG that has a few years under its belt that has taught us a lot about what the gaming and Star Wars communities want out of a game. We know that space flight and combat, action inspired game play, and Star Warsy"ness" are all required. We know there isn't people lining up to be Moisture Farmers. We also know there is plenty of wannabe Jedi in the galaxy.

A new Star Wars MMORPG should have a pretty solid understanding of what to build. It would be an exciting development period as SWG critics, SWG fanbois, Star Wars fans & critics, and MMORPG fans all battle to get a game that will bring the excitement that the Star Wars films and MMORPGs have brought to millions of fans. Star Wars galaxies is better dead than alive.

Update: 29 Nov, 2009 - Edited post, corrected spelling, and applied labels.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

World of Warcraft patch 1.10 Test Realm notes

Click here for the World of Warcraft patch 1.10 Test Realm patch notes.

Comments:

Weather has been added to several areas of Azeroth. Good change that add to an already immersive graphical style.
"Along with the new Armor Sets, the high-level 5-10 man dungeons have received some changes regarding loot. Many items have been improved in quality and use. In addition, several epic items, such as Headmaster's Charge and the Runeblade of Baron Rivendare, have had their drop rates significantly increased. In order to preserve the challenge of these dungeons, they have had their instance caps lowered. Stratholme, Scholomance, and Blackrock Depths now allow a maximum of five players inside, and Blackrock Spire allows a maximum of ten."
Finally Blizzard is getting a clue that challenge should rewarded instead of the number of people in the group. Just because a raid group has 40 people does not mean they should be rewarded for an easy jaunt through Molten Core. A hard five man dungeon should reward the player just as well (if not better) than a raid instance.
"Previously, quest experience was wasted if one completed a quest at level 60. In this patch, any quests done at maximum level will have their experience reward converted to a healthy amount of gold, thus adding additional incentive to completing those quests in your log once you hit 60."
Great way to reward veteran players... oh wait... whats that? You already did most of the quests? Oh sorry you are SOL. Great for the long run after the Burning Crusade expansion and people begin hitting level 70.

"You will no longer lose your current target when affected by a crowd control spell (e.g. Fear, Polymorph etc...)"
A change I had requested long ago! Sometimes it's the little changes that count!
"Frostwolf and Stormpike faction will now be gained by killing players of the opposite faction. Reputation will no longer be split up among the entire raid group."

Bye bye stupid collection quests and bye bye reputation gain in Alterac Valley for just sitting AFK. You actually have to kill people to get rewarded with reputation. Really sucks for the players that avoid fighting to complete objectives, but Alterac Valley was never really a worthwhile fight to actually care about winning.

I'm going to skip over the class changes as I realize Blizzard is going to do what they are going to do with class balance. Maybe in a few years they will have them balanced? Got me.

Overall the patch is looking good, but it is lacking any major content additions. Understandable with the Burning Crusade expansion they are building, but still disappointing since the patch took three months. Three months seems to be the rate at which Blizzard is going to patch and that is a slow down from right after launch. Most likely again due to the expansion they are working on. Hopefully we can expect a pick up on patch speed after the expansion release.

Update: 29 Nov, 2009 - Edited post, corrected spelling, and applied labels.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Raph Koster steals my hits!

Raph Koster has his monthly break down of website statistics.

In the search terms section one of the search phrases that lead to Raph's site was "heartless blog" to which Raph replied "Sniff. Meanie."

So I must conclude that Raph is paying Google to steal my hits.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mob Spawning and Immersion

Darniaq has a good post up entitled "Mob Spawning and Immersion".(bad link removed) I put some actual thought into a response that is shared below. Enjoy!

----

Encounters in MMORPGs are for the most part a small puzzle. It reminds me of the arguments of the "dumb" enemies in the "brilliant" Metal Gear series for consoles. The guards are completely stupid, can't see 10 feet in front of them, and fall for the dumbest tricks in the book (moving box anyone). The game has always been about a complex visual puzzle that you complete via an advanced tool also know as Snake. The story is dramatic and driven by movie like plots, but the gameplay will never be "movielike". Still the MG games are still IMMERSIVE! Read on to find out why.

Back to MMORPGs where you have dungeons ala Everquest 1 where it was more about being in the right places at the right time to "finish" the dungeon. You had to camp out the "boss" which lead to fair bit of "PvP" group/guild social dynamics.

WoW dungeons play the "everything is setup when you enter". You have to start at the beginning of the puzzle and get to the end for the "cheese". While the dungeons all aren't linear there is definite "fast" and "better" ways to do them... the difference between a veteran sodoku and a novice. After some experience you can do them relatively fast and move on to the next "harder" set.

A random encounter in the outdoors in WoW or EQ though is a puzzle in itself also. There is defined rules that you have to follow. Is it linked? Is the target out of "call for help range of others"? Is this something I can take? Then add in a group. Pull this... CC this... kill this... offtank that... etc.

So what we have is a bunch of puzzles with tools to complete them. How can you make a puzzle immersive? Variables! The more you toss into the puzzle the more the player has to manage. The more they have to manage the less they have to think about where or what this monster is doing in front of them.

By having monsters that are just there... standing like numb nuts without a purpose removes a lot of variables. Players have few "unknowns" because they can see what is going to happen before they pull. While you need a certain level of this to maintain a game aspect you don't need a lot of it. Players need to know they can go kill a few Orcs without having 1,000 Orcs charging out of the fortress and hunting them down.

Putting unknowns into the fight makes it a better experience IMHO. Instead of having a room with pirates just standing there waiting to be pulled you could have a trigger that has a half dozen more pirates drop in from a hidden upper ledge.

But lets try to get away from triggered events because that is another big block towards immersion. Well they won't attack me here, but I know if I move another foot they will start coming. This is essentially how most FPS games operate. As you advance to a new "room" (throwback to MUDs baby) you trigger the next set of baddies to fight. Now you could have a Doom 3 like experience (few variables) or a Half Life 2 experience (lots of variables), but still its setup on triggered events. Great for advancing story plots... bad for immersive multiplayer.

Randomness in encounters is key. Another key is removing static spawns. Dynamic spawning will be the future and Vanguard shows some promise of this in their "NPCs will fight each other". Its a method seen in WoW a little and some other games where a wolf chases a rabbit, but nothing on a large scale.

I am talking about something like the once planned Strongholds in Star Wars Galaxies. Structures that would "spawn" in the world and the NPCs would start building them up. If players did nothing about them then they kept growing until the players would have to deal with them. Sadly it never happened.

You can take that concept and work a bit with it having multiple factions of NPCs building. Each faction reacts differently to each other. So a Jawa Faction Stronghold would war with a Tusken Raider Stronghold that has grown to large right next door. Then from these strongholds you start spawning "layers". All NPCs would actually appear from a building until it was destroyed so in a way you have a visual key of where they are coming from. Don't want more Jawa Sandcrawlers spawning? Distract the Jawa Guards and send a crack team in to destroy the Sandcrawler factory. Every layer offers easier to defeat "groups" that are dispatched out like scouting teams, harvesting groups, trading groups, social groups (meant to give quests to players), etc. As you gain more layers the inner layers grow in difficulty.

Now players can go in and destroy it, perform diplomacy, trade, and all sorts of things. You can build up faction to get into a stronghold here or there while risking out right war with others. This is really all inspired by Will Wright's upcoming Spore (which will be one of; if not the best game ever). The whole game operates in this degree somehow, but much more advanced. A simpler system will come to an MMORPG soon enough.

I don't think "spawning" will ever die because after all players need something to kill and nothing breaks FUN worse than having nothing to kill. There is still ideas out there to make it much more immersive. I just provided one I've built from enjoying games and game design ideas I've experienced. There are much smarter people in actual positions to achieve such things in a game.

Update: 15 Nov, 2009 - Edited spelling, applied label, and removed broken link.
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