Monday, September 12, 2022

Call of the Wild: The Angler Multiplayer Woes

  The multiplayer system in Call of the Wild: The Angler does not work and is poorly designed.  It should be the top priority for the development team to fix and make fundamental changes to.

The multiplayer mode in CotW: The Angler allows up to twelve fishergamers to drive, boat, and fish together on a single map (known as a reserve in the game).  Unfortunately the "join friend's game" does not seem to work as I have yet, after dozens of times trying, been able to join a friend's game.  In fact most of the time the game doesn't even represent the online/offline status of friends correctly (usually saying they are offline when they are online playing).  The "join game" option on the friends list does throw an error at the user though and then connects to an online map anyways.

More irritating than "join friend" not working is the mind boggling decision that random match making
online multiplayer would be defaulted to ON with no option to have friends-only or private sessions.  To top it off the setting for turning mutliplayer off does not save properly so every time you launch the game you have to remember to go turn it OFF again.  Fortunately there is no chat or way to communicate with other players in the game so right now there is no risk of getting spammed or told something that would make my mother blush.

Defaulting to ON may seem harmless, but it can mess with the new player experience.  What I ran into in my first fishing trip is that I couldn't do the boat driving 101 or driving 101 because another player had spawned a boat or vehicle and it wouldn't allow me to spawn another from the same terminal.  Also since we were all playing right at the launch of the game I have no doubt some of my early frustrations not being able to catch fish in the beginner spots for the tutorial was directly because a dozen other players fished the area out (which is a real possibility with how the game works in populating fish in the world).

Anyways; it is 2022 and there is no reason to be defaulting players to multiplayer match making with random strangers unless that is what they explicitly want to do.  I do not understand why the system does not work exactly like Expansive World's other game theHunter Call of the Wild.  In theHunter you have to actively turn your map into a multiplayer session and then you can control if its public or friends only.  It is just baffling that the Angler went with random match making turned on and provides ZERO options for setting up a friends-only session.

Other improvements needed in multiplayer.  Voice or chat communication is a must have if there is going to be random match making and public servers.  Ideally we'd also get the "search for available games" browser available in theHunter so we can find games (especially important when new maps launch).  There also needs to be away to share your catches with others nearby or over chat.  How am I supposed to brag about that monster I just landed?   I guess I'll just lie about the catches like I do in real life.

At least it is neat to see other players fishing.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

The Witcher

 My history with The Witcher was the video games first (1,2,3 right in order), then the show on Netflix, and now finally the first book.  Here are some thoughts on the experience.

When I first watched the show version of The Witcher on Netflix the first season was difficult to follow as far as a storyline.  Still it was an amazing show with near perfect casting, great acting, and the gritty feel of the video games.  I can imagine no other actor than Henry Cavill as Geralt to which the author, Andrzej Sapkowski, agrees.





“I was more than happy with Henry Cavill’s appearance as The Witcher.” The novelist added, “He’s a real professional. Just as Viggo Mortensen gave his face to Aragorn [in The Lord of the Rings], so Henry gave his to Geralt — and it shall be forever so.”


 Having read the first book, The Last Wish, I realized how faithful the show's first season was.  Reading the book helped me better understand the narrative arc and what it was trying to convey.  Which then helps set up the story in season 2 and now I'm hooked even more into the world.  I am not sure I will read much more of the series, but man I can't wait for season 3 of the show and hopeful for many seasons beyond.

This has also brought me back to remember my times in the video games.  I will admit the story lines of the games is not fresh in my mind, but I feel like parts of the games fit together better.  It's actually surprising how the games, show, and books really fit together.  Again, Henry Cavill just nails it as Geralt and when I drop back into any of The Witcher games he is who I see in Geralt.  Visually as well the world has consistency across mediums.  Specifically the Nilfgaardians are spot on from book to game to show.  Amazing work by all the teams involved.

It's fun getting to see properties like this take off and have success in the main entertainment areas I have interest in.  I hope The Witcher sets a blue print for others to follow.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Housekeeping Incoming


 I am going to be doing some housekeeping on the blog.  As I strive to hit my goal of "a post a day" I want to get the blog looking a little better for all one of the readers out there.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

First Week Thoughts on Call of the Wild: The Angler

Call of the Wild: The Angler launched last week and I've gotten a few hours to put into it.  I shared my pre-launch thoughts here so I wanted to follow up on how the game shaped up.

The first item I was interested in was the open world aspect of the game.  I've enjoyed my time exploring the world and finding different fishing spots.  The driving and boats are a bit like driving a hammer in a swimming pool, but they are better than hoofing it out on foot.  There is a good bit to do beyond fishing and for anyone looking to get a pot of money to start out with doing the "Golden Tour" quests around the map is a great way to get starting cash.

I mentioned a "proven track record" for the developer in my first post and I feel the game has launched in a good state.  There are no major bugs and stability + performance has been good for me.  Scanning the forums, discord, and Reddit there has not been an uproar of issue reports so I take that as a good sign.

Now, there is the other side of the track record, which is "is the game fun/challenging?".  That is a little more of a "jury is still out" situation.  There are some things that were done in theHunter Call of the Wild (Expansive Worlds last major game) that would be perfect fits for Angler, but for some reason were not part of the base game.  

The first major gap is the lack of a skill/perk progression system. The only progression, and I hesitate to call it progression, is earning cash and buying heavier gear.  Once you have that heavier gear you can catch anything with it which means you plateau pretty quickly.  A skill/perk system that unlocks better rods/reels/fishing methods along with "knowledge" type skills would go a longs way to improving the game.

The second major gap, which dove tails with my comments about heavier gear being a plateau, is the lack of a "harvest check" equivalent system.  For anyone that played theHunter the harvest check system served as a way to ensure you used the proper equipment when hunting different animals.  You could not earn a diamond trophy rating by blowing away a turkey with an elephant gun.  Oddly there is no such check in the Angler; if you catch a blue gill on 50lb braid and a heavy rod/reel and its a diamond ... it's a diamond rating.  Since you can see the fish in the water this makes catching the diamonds trivial.  

For comparison; after casually playing theHunter for close to a year I've yet to bag a diamond kill.  I came close a couple times with diamond-eligible targets but missed my shots or in one sad case used the wrong caliber weapon.  In the first hour of Angler I caught multiple diamond fish and to be honest they felt no different than any other fish.  

I still have confidence in Expansive Worlds to improve this game but there are some head scratchers on design decisions for the game thus far.

I was also excited to give multiplayer a go, but its implementation is buggy and also in the "head scratchers" category of design choices.  Multiplayer is on by default so you are always put into a multiplayer match unless you turn the setting off (which you have to do every session).  Joining a friend is difficult because they are always getting set to a full map with everyone being defaulted to multiplayer.  This system makes no sense and a game like this should NEVER default to multiplayer = on.  I should be able to create lobbies that are public, private, or friends only.  The developers have acknowledged the issues so I am hopeful for quick resolution to the issues.

Over all I am having fun with the game.  It is a relax and chill style game.  The fishing doesn't require a ton of skill, which I assume they will address longer term, but its enough fun for me to log on and catch some fish every day.  With the lack of a progression system it's hard to see a long term investment so I'd weight that as a key priority for them.  Anyone looking for an arcade like fishing experience with a side of open world exploration this a game worth giving a try.  If you are looking for a full fledged fishing game then I'd hold off until they make some improvements.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Let's do this! A post a day!

I miss blogging.  Kids arrived and blogging was kicked to the curb.  But I can do this.  I can do a post a day.  Time to get some thoughts out; whether just something I experienced in a game or a quick reference guide to something.  

Here we go!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

On the precipice of Call of the Wild: The Angler

We are on the precipice of Call of the Wild: The Angler launching tomorrow (8/31).  I've been waiting a long time for a solid fishing game on PC and I am excited for this launch.  Here is what has me excited (and a couple things I am hoping will be adjusted in future patches based on community feedback).  I'd recommend watching the game play reveal trailer first. 

What has me excited?

Open world fishing game.  Instead of being plopped on a shoreline or in a boat somewhere the game will place the player in an open world full of not only places to fish but also other areas to explore and side quests to go on.  While I am here for the fishing it is good to know there is a world to go along with it.  Bonus: the map looks amazing and much larger than I anticipated; areas like an abandoned mining town look amazing to fish in and around!

Proven track record.  The developer, Expansive Worlds, has a solid track record with theHunter: Call of the Wild.  If Angler follows along the lines of theHunter then I expect a solid stream of content coming to the game.  Yes, that means I expect to pay for additions but in today's market it is something to be expected.  I never felt theHunter's model of add on content was predatory and I've been happy to pay for the content that interested me (and in some cases paying for convenience).

The fish exist in the world.  Many fishing games don't have any actual fish in them; the fish *poof* into existence when they are caught.  In Angler the fish spawn and are visible in the world allowing for players to target them and see them interact with lures and bait.  This is powered by a complex spawning system that takes several factors into account on determining what fish is where.  Once there you can see and target the fish (of course in deeper water you won't see the fish).

Multiplayer.  Up to 12 fisherplayers can be in a single map.  Assuming it works like theHunter it will be simple to host other players or join other players sessions.  I look forward to playing with my oldest son.

What needs to improve?

Admittedly I haven't played the game so I am basing this off live streams and early access content creators, but there are a couple big items I am hoping will change early in the games life cycle.

Strike indicator.  When a fish strikes your lure there is a large yellow "STRIKE" banner on the screen.  This is fine for the tutorial and for those that want it, but I'd prefer the ability to turn it off. I want to key off rod, line, or other feedback from the game to know there is a strike.

Clunky cut scene when catching a fish.  When a fish is caught, instead of the fisherman bending over or netting the fish, instead the game cuts to a scene of them holding the fish.  I'd much prefer to see the fisherman get the fish out of the water and have a screen more like theHunter's harvest screen with details about the catch.

What should they add?

I can't leave the post without a small wish list of content I'd like to see them add.  For anyone that has played theHunter you know that the community's feedback will be key to what gets added.

Fish finder... of course!  There are already boats so this is a no-brainer to add.  Also would like to see versions added that can be used from the shore.

Fishing kayaks.  The hot trend in real life fishing are 'yaks (aka fishing kayaks).  Fishing kayaks are the ultimate customizable fishing apparatus (way more so than bass boats in my opinion) so are a perfect opportunity to enhance the game and offer an array of customization for players to add and show off in multiplayer.  

Tournaments.  Not sure if this was already a thing or not, but if its not... I want to be able to host a tournament that is enforced by the game.


Tight lines; see everyone on the water tomorrow!

Thursday, April 07, 2022


See the source image

Let's talk about the term "sandbox game".  We'll take a look at a couple games I consider as true sandboxes and a couple that misuse the term.  Through this exploration; the definition -- my definition -- of sandbox will be apparent.

Games I consider as true sandbox games

  • Foxhole
  • Minecraft

Games that need to stop using the term "sandbox"

  • Albion Online
  • Crowfall 

Starting with Foxhole there is a very clear sandbox.  First, I can log in and choose what I want to do and in order to do what I want I need to either pull resources together myself, use resources shared by other players, or steal resources from other players in the Sandbox.  Important to note; the game allows me to choose any path, change path, or blend paths.  In my first couple of hours (outside of the tutorial) I moved seamlessly between logistics (known as logi in game) supplying other players to the frontline where the fighting was at (and once there I switched between playing medic, infantry, and frontline logi).

The "frontline" in Foxhole also illustrates another of my tenants of a sandbox; the world can be changed.  In Foxhole the frontline is defined by the players changing the world.  There is a world map in Foxhole that defines some features (where water bodies are, what area is a mountain, etc) but beyond that everything else is defined by the player.  The frontline area I ventured into was in the middle of a field; one team on one side the other team on the other side.  Our side had dug in foxholes and trenches.  Behind those were numerous medical tents and forward bases; all placed by players.  A little further back a group of players were working on a hardened base with cement fortifications.  Somewhere in the middle were players setting up long range artillery.  All of this build up was defined by the players choosing exactly what to build and where to build it.

Another key aspect to the build up was that the resources came from the game itself.  Every gun, bullet, bandage, and piece of building material was manufactured by a player somewhere and then transported by a player in a player-crafted vehicle to that area.  Nothing happens in Foxhole without a player somewhere putting in the work to make it happen.  And the end result?  A sandcastle that can be smashed by the other kids in the sandbox who can then take that sand and make their own castle you get to smash.

The frontlines of Foxhole are exactly why Foxhole is a true sandbox game; they are defined by the players collecting from and manipulating the world with minimal restriction and that manipulation has meaningful impact on the game.

In summary; what we take away from Foxhole in regards to the term sandbox:

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")

If we roll what we learned from Foxhole into Minecraft we see that we hit all of the marks at an entirely new level. In my opinion Minecraft is the truest sandbox game in existence.

  1. In Minecraft the world is literally made of resources that players make use of without almost any restrictions. 
  2. Players can change the world in Minecraft; to a degree well beyond what a game like Foxhole allows.  
  3. Changes to the world in Minecraft have direct impact.  If I dig a hole straight down and a pig falls into it... well... bacon.  
  4. As mentioned and bearing repeating there is little restriction in what you can manipulate in Minecraft
  5. Players in Minecraft can be in combat one second and digging that bacon hole the next; there is no concept of a role in Minecraft.  The player do anything at any time.

So that covers items 1 and 2 from my Foxhole list.  The question is then; is there any other tenants of sandbox games that Minecraft brings to the table? 

Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")

Somewhat already covered by the bacon hole example, but to expand on the impact players can have in Minecraft I'll talk about multiplayer servers as that's the closest equivalent to the MMO space.  On a multiplayer server under non-modded players are free to modify the world however they see fit.  If player A stacks two blocks then player B can break those two blocks and if they so choose place them somewhere else.  If player A digs a bacon hole then player B could fall into it ending in death.  There have been numerous "chaos" servers whereby the entire world becomes an apocalyptic wasteland with anything resembling order quickly converted to chaos by the players.

There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")

At the end of the day some form of restriction will always exist in games just as even in the real life sandbox there is eventually an end to the sand and physical limits on what you can do with it.  Minecraft is no exception here.  But Minecraft goes a long way in minimizing restriction.  For example; I can build a house out of any material that I can dig up and stack.  A fond memory for every Minecraft survival player is that makeshift shelter of dirt and wood blocks hastily assembled to survive the first night.  For the most part; if you can dream it you can build it in Minecraft.  Journey into the world of mods and the sky is the limit.

Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")

Minecraft has no real concept of a role.  One moment the player is digging a hole and the next they are in combat and the next they are an interior decorator in their home.  The only requirement is that you need to have picked up some sand and turned it into whatever you need for the activity you want to do.

With the exploration of the "true sandbox" that is Minecraft let's look at some not-a-sandbox offenders in the MMO space.

The one that jumps immediately to mind, mostly because the owning company uses sandbox in their name, is Albion Online by Sandbox Interactive.  Interestingly enough their video for "What is Albion Online?" goes a long way trying to defend it's place as a sandbox.  Let's go through the checklist.

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • All items in the game, from weapons to the bed you place in your house, are made from resources gathered from the world.  Players have to gather those resources and use them or trade them for others to use.  The big issue I have here as I'll also touch on later is that those resources are static, always replenish themselves, and harvesting them has no noticeable effect on the world (they will be back in the same spot in a few minutes for the next player).
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • Some may argue that players can change the game world, but I'd have a hard time buying the argument.  Resource nodes are static; always in the same place and players just keep harvesting and the resources keep re spawning.  Players can manage their own personal or guild islands; placing houses and items but that is all instanced off from the main world.  Outside of some zone control mechanisms and hide outs that are placed in the outer zones; players have no practical effect on the world.  What is on the world map today will be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    • As noted in #2; players have little impact on the world itself.  But I will give Albion points here because of the crafting and the fact that every item in the game was crafted by a player at some point and the material for that crafted item was gathered by a player.  
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • Albion is a combat-focused game.  While there is housing, farming, and some other activities on personal islands these are all just mini-games.  The game world is built and outside of things changing ownership (like a shop being bought by another player) most everything is already built and placed in the game.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    •  Albion ties a player's role to the gear they have equipped.  Want to be a mage?  Throw on a robe and grab a staff.  Want to be a warrior?  Grab a sword and heavy armor.  Each piece of gear grants the user an ability.  Players can change gear at anytime, but must "level up" each type of gear in order to equip higher tier versions. Crafting is mostly driven through a level up system but requires access to crafting stations so while any player can do it there is gating mechanism.

Final Judgement? Albion Online has some sandbox aspects but is far from the "king of sandbox MMORPGs" that it tries to bill itself as.  With that said; don't let this scare you off of the game.  I played it for several months and absolutely loved the time I spent with the game.  It is on the short list of MMOs I'd recommend and on the even shorter list of MMOs with original ideas; it just is not a sandbox.

Next on the evaluation list is EVE Online.

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • The world of EVE is massive; a series of interconnected sectors of space.  When playing it can often feel endless.  Within the endless space are asteroid belts to mine and enemies (affectionately known as "rats") to farm.  These make up the sand by which the sand castles (ships, space stations, and more) are built.
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • EVE gets a good score on this item.  Players can build and manage space stations in many areas of the game.  The only issue is that the game world is broken down into different levels of areas and in the "safe" areas there is not much from a player perspective that can be changed.  It is already defined by the game in these areas.  However the heart of the game is played in the "low security" zones where players define and control almost everything.  From my time playing EVE I learned the hard way that you don't show up unannounced to an area owned by someone else.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    • As noted in item #2 players have direct impact on the world outside the safe zones.  There are numerous legends
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • As noted in other answers the game is divided into different areas with different impacts on players.  In the far reaches of space in the low security zones there is very little restriction to what can be done as long as players spend the time to collect the requisite sand and toys.  In the safer areas the rules ensure sandbox enthusiasts are not stealing each other's toys.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    • This is an area where EVE falls down and ultimately was why I gave up on the game when I played.  Skill progression is tied to real world time.  Players set a skill to accumulate points which accumulate whether playing or not.  Players that have played for years have years worth of skill points accumulated.  There is no time machine for a newer player to catch up.   This limits the roles that an EVE player can enjoy. While fundamentally the game allows the player to change what they are doing at any point; functionally it is hardcore time gated as to be infeasible.

Final judgement?  EVE can count as a sandbox, but is best for those that are looking for a multi-year engagement to get that experience.  EVE is another game on the short list of recommended MMOs and that shorter list of games doing something unique.

 Now let's look at Crowfall.  All I'll ask "Sandbox?  Really?  REALLY!!??".

  1. The world is made of resources that players make use of (i.e. "the sand")
    • Crowfall does have resources to gather and those resources are used to make things.  Like Albion Online points are deducted here because the resources are static and respawn endlessly.  While there are is a campaign mechanic where campaign areas are time-limited (i.e. they go away after a month) and thus the resources within that campaign are not available forever; the practical reality is that another campaign will replace the current one and feature the same resources.
  2. The game world itself can be changed by the players (i.e. "can make sand castles")
    • Players can take control of castles and zones, but there is almost nothing that players can do to change the world.  There are "eternal kingdoms" (EKs) where players can build their own personal or guild zone.  EKs feature a lego-like building toolset.  If that toolset was part of the full game experience and not just a side feature for EKs then maybe I could see sandbox fitting but in it's limited state for EKs only it does not get any points.
  3. Those changes by players have meaningful impact (i.e. "sand castles can be smashed")
    •  As noted in #2 there is not much of anything the players impact so zero points here for Crowfall.
  4. There is minimum restrictions on what can be done where (i.e. "build my sand castle anywhere / permanent sand castles aren't already built")
    • Crowfall is a standard class-based MMO and zones are on rails.  In effect the entire game is one of restriction when it comes to my sandbox tenants.  Zero points here for Crowfall.
  5. Players can move between roles seamlessly (i.e. "eat sand if want to")
    • I repeat; Crowfall is a standard class-based MMO.  While players can slot crafting/gathering disciplines to change up what they are at the end of the day you are the class and race combination of your character and to change requires you to change your character.  Crowfall tried to advertise the concept of changing roles as changing "your vessel/crow"; whereby a character is really a vessel and you are jumping in and out of the worlds as different vessels.  In reality it's no different than changing characters in any MMO that allows you to have multiple characters.

Final judgement? Crowfall is not anywhere close to a sandbox and should not use the term.  My prior posts on Crowfall will give you my opinion on the game.  I'd not recommend it and it is not doing anything all that exciting or different.  It's a crappy World-of-Warcraft-a-like.

As can be surmised from my rambling I have a tendency to be attracted to games that purport to be sandbox experiences.  Then I play them and realize they fail to hit my key tenants of a sandbox as influenced heavily by Minecraft - yet I still enjoy and recommend some of them.  What that boils down to say is that games that advertise as sandboxes are really saying "I am different" and for anyone that knows me I tend to jump on the "I am different" bandwagons.  I'd still prefer that sandbox was more indicative of Minecraft-like experiences and thus not used in error by games like Crowfall. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Fast Thoughts on Final Fantasy XIV

With New World's recent announcement to delay launch until Sept 28th and my general dislike of Crowfall I've found myself in need of an MMO to hold me over a few weeks.  With the uproar around Blizzard/World of Warcraft and some high profile defections to Final Fantasy XIV (FF14) I figured now is as good as time as any to give the 8+ year old game a go.  I dropped my $20 into Steam to get the starter edition and here are some thoughts after a few hours of play and leveling two starting classes to level ten.

The immediate thing about FF14 is that it takes its time.  It is a Final Fantasy RPG first and an online game second.  Watching some new player videos and reading some guides it is strongly recommended to accept this fact before you start playing; which I am glad I learned about before starting or my expectations would have been off.  The RPG portion is also primarily solo driven thus far and other players are pretty much background noise at this point.

Also slowing down to match the Final Fantasy RPG pace of the game is the combat (at least initially in my experience thus far).  Cool down between skills is longer (I think 2.5 seconds) and classes do not start out with abilities that can be used in-between that global cooldown.  My understanding is later on I will have more "off global cooldown" abilities to mix in.  At first this felt a little boring, but now that I have two classes (Lancer and Archer) up to level ten I sort of dig it.  Coming from New World closed beta and Crowfall where action is fast and furious it is a nice change of pace; ironically also fitting my physical skill level much closer (I'm old and getting older and my reflexes reflect that).

The story in FF14 get's a lot of praise, but I am not sure I buy into it.  I am already just fast clicking past a lot of text boxes as a lot of NPC speech feels like filler.  I've heard it gets better overtime and that players really get engaged with the characters that recur in the story, so we'll see but for right now I am blowing through text boxes and only skimming for the basics.  I do prefer when there is voice acting in the scenes; it is a much better experience, but unfortunately that is few and far between for some reason.


As far as graphics and the game world the age of the game is showing in the starter area I am in (New Grandia?).  This does not detract from the experience; character models are great and there is an impressive array of variety to clothing, armor, weapons, and mounts.  However, the rest of the world is bland and mostly unimpressive.  Monsters sit around in tiny groups and often don't really fit with the area.  Buildings are inconsistent, some you can enter and others you cannot.  Interiors are well done for those you can enter.

I have found myself stopping several times to watch another player playing a song, watching an impromptu dance party, or craning my neck skyward after catching sight of an epic flying mount.  One memorable moment was going up a giant log ramp and a motorcycle-looking mount blew past me; engine roaring.  In the grand scheme I do find a charm to the game even with the dated graphics.

Random Flying Unicorn Mount with Flaming Horn

With what I've done thus far and where I am going I do foresee myself continuing to play.  I have not determined a goal yet to shoot for.  I did make a class change to Archer which feels better than the Lancer I was playing previously.  I like that it is easy to switch and I think the main quest line (referred to as MSQ -- main scenario quest) offers enough rewards that I may be able to keep both classes leveled.  After switching it was much quicker to level the second class and so I may dabble into a healer/support role; it seems like I need to always hit three different builds/clases in an MMO to find my home.  Also if I do end up in dungeon/raid content for some reason I don't want to be relegated to just a DPS role (which is Lancer and Archer).

I think FF14 will hold me over for a bit more at this point and I've already gotten my $20 worth out of it.  If time permits I would like to get through the original content and into what is called Heavensward (spelling?) as I hear its even better.  I am glad that I gave it a whirl and enjoy reading and learning more about the game.  If anything it is clear the community and developers of FF14 care deeply about the game which is refreshing.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Thoughts from New World Closed Beta

New World (from Amazon Game Studios) held a closed beta over the last two weeks and I had the opportunity to play a few hours over two weeks.  And by few I mean 50+ hours!  I have not enjoyed a game this much in years and I am here to tell you all about it so sit back and relax; it's a New World!

Visually Stunning!  Sounds Great!

The most immediate thing about New World is how amazing it looks.  I have a mix of screenshots scattered in this post (along with a few on my last post) and they barely do it justice.  Everything  looks amazing from the moment you set foot in the world.  Take a journey up to any of the mountain tops and the vistas are breathtaking.  Sit back in popular PvP areas and watch the fireworks as players battle each other; ranged PvP combat is especially fun to watch.  Walk into a settlement and marvel at the detail of the buildings (crafting workstations especially).  Combat effects, player movement, armor, weapons, and so much more are top notch.

Windsward settlement (aka town) buzzing with activity

The next immediate thing is the audio.  I play a lot of games and New World easily has the best sound I've ever heard.  In the initial rush of beta with tons of players chopping down trees, breaking up rocks, and shooting turkeys the world crackles to life.  As you move into caves the sound changes enhancing the feeling of being in an enclosed area. On numerous occasions I was able to find other players mining nodes or firing off muskets just by following the sounds.  Walking into a settlement has not only the visual pop but the audio pop of being on a bustling city street.  There is also proximity voice chat which can be shocking when someone drops that first fart.mp3 but otherwise is refreshing to not need to jump on a discord to talk to the person next to you in game.  One of my favorite beta videos is someone who hosted an impromptu guitar and song session in a local tavern; only possible because of proximity voice chat!

Proud home owner once again!

Fun Combat and New Content

Combat changed from the preview event and in my opinion it changed for the better.  Stagger is gone so you no longer get "stun locked" and fights don't revolve around who gets the first stagger hit in.  There is some debate about whether stagger could have been preserved, but I am personally glad it is gone.  New weapons were added; specifically I tried out the spear, rapier, and ice gauntlet.  All three felt good and brought new play styles; ice gauntlet bringing some more "magic" to the game.  I mostly played rapier/musket and spear/musket before I changed to great axe/lifestaff towards the end of beta.

With trying out life staff I got my first try at playing a healer in New World.  It is a very unique experience compared to tab-targeted MMO healing and ironically it brings some tab-targeting into New World's action combat.  There is a slew of unique control settings specific to healing; one of which is to enable tab targeting your own group members.  I didn't quite figure out the tab targeting but didn't really need to as area of effect healing was sufficient and I was not healing for any dungeon runs.  Healing felt a little too strong as a solo player; if you max your constitution and use life staff you are basically invincible inside your healing circles.

Dungeons (known as Expeditions) were not in the preview event and were brand new to the closed beta.  I only completed Armine Expedition (several times) and it was a straight forward beat em up; as long as you have a healer you completed it.  Rewards were mediocre; just random gear I ended up salvaging (which is what I do with the majority of gear rewards).  There is a repeatable quest each time you run Armine; the first time rewarding a unique dog pet for putting in your house and then giving a bucket load of experience for each completion.  It is good to see new content in New World, but work is still needed to make the expeditions more engaging and difficult.  Hopefully the higher level expeditions offer more challenge.

Hanging out at camp

Crafting and the economy

Crafting is in a good spot mechanically and seemed about the same as the preview event (i.e. I couldn't tell anything much changed).  There is a ton to craft and that lets you make use of all of the stuff you are collecting throughout your journey.  There is crafting quests as part of the town project boards (that help level up the settlements) which were great crafting experience and great leveling experience.  The only areas I am concerned about crafting are:

  1.  Gear drops like candy from quests and killing monsters (the good ole' kill a wolf and get a battle axe) and also there is great gear available from the faction vendors so there is not a market for crafted gear.
  2. Gear never breaks and leaves the game so once folks have their end game gear I am not sure where demand will come from for crafted gear.
  3. Everyone can do every craft so you can be self sufficient for consumable goods and components.  There will always be lazy buyers who don't want to do it themselves, but there is no way for a crafter to really make their mark.

If there is one thing Crowfall did well it was making a dependent crafting system where players had to work together to produce end goods and thus crafters fit into their expertise areas.  Crowfall also ensured that items leave the economy by permanently breaking at some point and thus drive demand for new crafted goods.  New World has to drive more in that direction or crafting won't be its own area for folks to focus on which will be a miss for this game.

Decorating the house

The economy (or market) of the game was hard to judge in closed beta, but that was expected since progress wasn't permanent.  Early on, it was easy to sell off some stuff like weapons as players looked to play with the new toys that came with closed beta, but that market closed up quick once folks realized everything drops weapons/gear and you will have more than your fair share of it before long.  Having played on a few different servers in different starting areas there is differences on what materials are readily abundant in each area of the map so that felt good that you different regions will hopefully have different prices for goods.

With that mention of regional differences one thing that definitely changed since preview is the ease of acquiring Azoth which is a limited currency (you can only store up to 1,000 at any given time).  It is primarily used for "fast travel" across the world and to aid in crafting.  In preview it was very rare so fast travel was not a regular option; moving goods from region to region required huffing it out on foot (there are no mounts).  You had to be a dedicated market mover to take advantage of price fluctuations per region.  With Azoth being more plentiful fast travel is on the menu.  The more inventory you have the more costly it is to travel so there is some checks in place on mass movement of stuff.  You can also move items between storage in each area for a small amount of gold per item (prohibitive on large quantities; useful for single items). With these changes it is now more realistic to play the game as an economy player (my favorite niche).

Player vs Player

Next up to hit is PvP.  Not much changed from the preview event that was readily accessible.  PvP comes in three forms; open world flagged PvP, wars, and instanced battleground.  The instanced battleground was only available to level 60 players which I did not reach in beta.  Wars are for control of territory in the game and there is an influence system that elects one company (aka guild) to set an army of 50 players for that war.  Wars happen at pre-determined times and unfortunately I was not selected for any wars during the beta.  

I did have my PvP flag on for the majority of of my time in beta.  There is an experience boost of 5% for being flagged and you can complete PvP-only quests for your faction.  The faction PvP missions were changed to be the same every time so you are always going to the same area doing the same things.  These missions contribute to territory control and being in the same area for everyone it can be hit or miss as far as action goes.  Sometimes its a ghost town and sometimes there is a faction furiously preventing anyone from completing missions (aka a gank squad).  Outside of faction missions I had a ton of random PvP encounters; I won some and I lost some.  While there is item damage on death the repair costs are reasonable at lower levels (but I hear they get significant at higher levels) I found that getting killed in the open world meant one of two things: a quick trip back to town that I needed to make anyways or a respawn at my campsite which I religiously reset nearby to any area I was questing in.  PvP kills give a good chunk of level and weapon experience so it was satisfying to get a kill; though I will admit I did more of the giving of experience than gaining when it came to player kills...

Weapons, Armor, and Experience

And with that mention of level and weapon experience it is important to cover how New World works in regards to character definition and progression.  There are no classes or races selected at the start of the game.  There is only humans and your skills are determined by the weapons you have equipped.  Then each weapon has a skill tree that you unlock over time as you level the weapon up (through using it).  You also gain traditional levels through gaining experience and pretty much everything gives experience so its not just grinding monsters.  This set up allows flexibility to switch between set ups; just as I noted previously how I tried multiple different weapon set ups before finishing up on a healer-like build.  

Mr Bad Ass

Armor determines weight class; the lighter the weight the more you can dodge: heavy armor can barely dodge while light armor gets a diving roll dodge.  I think heavier armor also plays into stability of some sort but not entirely clear.  I am not sure if I'm a huge fan of how the armor system works. Later in the beta it started becoming apparent the good PvP approach was to increase constitution which increases health while keeping light armor to keep the advantageous dodge roll.  That dodge ability is significantly better than any armor in my experience (similar to how Guild Wars 2's dodge mechanic was better than any armor or healing).  I am worried we will end up like Guild Wars 2 where everyone goes for the same armor types/stats and the rest of the armor is relegated to trash status.  New World needs to make each armor class more distinct and make some sort of change to constitution so it does not overpower other aspects such as armor.


Before we finish up this post I do want to touch on gathering in New World as it occupied a large amount of my time.  As New World started its development as a survival game the world was positioned in a manner where everything is collectible.  That bush over there?  Can be harvested.  That tree?  Can be chopped down.  That boulder?  Can be mined.  That stone?  Can be picked up.  That dead animal?  Can be skinned and chopped up for dinner.  Pretty much anything in the environment that catches a player's eye can be collected and the more visually distinct the better it is (and the higher level skill required to get it).  What this amounts to is leading the player to almost always having something to do; so many times while going from quest A to quest B I made a dozen stops to gather something.  

Taking care of the infamous dead trees from beta; if its in the world it likely can be chopped up!

My only gripe with gathering is that nodes are static in the world; always in the same place.  I can understand this for the basics like trees and boulders, but for the more nuanced items such as rare trees, metal veins, etc it loses some of the appeal to exploration players who like to explore every nook and crannie.  What feels special the first time you find a hidden node feels a lot less special once you realize it always re-spawns there.  This means high end gathering nodes will be on lock down by players walking a circuit between known node locations.  New World needs to randomize gathering node locations in some fashion; this change would make a huge difference for explorers! 

Chopping down the big tree


Over all New World has made great use of the time since it delayed its launch and delivered a better game.  The transition from strict survival game to more traditional theme-park MMO has created a unique experience that is unmatched in the market.  One of my complaints with the preview event was a lack of variety in content and the team behind New World delivered a bucket load of variety.  Is it going to match the 15+ years of content of a game like WoW?  No.  Is there still repetitiveness in quests? Yes.  However, what the New World team has shown is they can deliver new variety if given the time.  They added expeditions, new zones, and added enough variety to quests to prove it.  New World is on the right path and again it's unique history puts it in a position that is not available in any other game.  New World gives the player the best of both survival and theme-park worlds and that is exactly what has me pumped to no-life the heck out of it on launch in September!


 My crowning achievement of beta; getting my house up to the top points spot so it displayed to the public in Windsward!