WoW Legion, Last Impressions

In this post I will share my thoughts on the new features found in Legion. This will probably be the last time I talk about WoW since, barring a last minute change of heart, I’m planning to let my subscription end today, the 12th.

A brief character status update: In case you’re wondering, the brick wall hits in Suramar, the fifth zone. That’s where the grind begins and you’ll start wondering why you ever came back to WoW. This is the exact quest that did it for me:

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I went looking for other fun things to do. For my Hunter, there is the Unseen Path quest line, but it also bogs down in a heavy-sigh-inducing grind at this quest:

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Not to mention the quest to complete five 24-hour plus Missions.

Eventually I found some more quests in Suramar, in Moon Guard Stronghold (which was a navigational pain in the butt) and in Suramar City (which looks very similar to Draumheim), but my heart wasn’t really in it. I was watching television most of the time I was going through the quests.

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Artifact Weapons

The basic idea is to get a weapon that you “level up” with mostly passive traits (as opposed to leveling up your character). I’m very ambivalent about the concept. Honestly I’m weary of never-ending “skill trees” in games. I don’t want to pick whether my weapon is better at one thing or another thing. I want my weapon to be equally good at everything. In any case, I don’t see where the Artifact system adds anything particularly great to the WoW experience. It just adds complexity for complexity’s sake in my view. If I had a choice in the matter, I’d go back to regular old boring, simple weapons.

Thankfully you can transmog your Artifact weapon, so if you’re like me and you hate the idea of being a Beast Master stuck with a gun, you can change it to a bow.

Class Halls

In a previous post, I hoped that the different class paths would provide some variety for alts. Well, that hope was dashed on the rocks and drowned in waves pounding over said rocks. There’s a unique quest line for every class specialization, to get your Artifact weapon, and that’s basically it. Beyond that, the main purpose of Class Halls is upgrading your Artifact weapon. But in leveling from 100 to 110, there’s little reason to upgrade your Artifact, so visits to your Class Hall are largely irrelevant, except to pick up occasional quests that start there. (There’s nothing functional in the Class Hall, like mailboxes or trainers or banks or anything, so Dalaran is always going to be your better choice as a hub.)

Maybe Class Halls were designed for people who liked Garrisons and managing those missions. Sort of like an optional Garrison component. (Like the Pet Battle system. If you like it, it’s cool, but if you don’t, you can safely ignore it.)

Zone Level Scaling

This is a neat feature, although it had little practical impact on my game. The only real effect is that you can decide which order to play the zones. But there’s only four zones to choose from, so it’s not a tremendous difference.

(A more cynical view of level scaling would be that it makes the milestones of reaching levels 101 through 109 somewhat pointless, as no new territory unlocks upon reaching those levels.)

Transmog

By modern MMORPG standards, the new WoW transmog system for customizing your wardrobe is still a bit primitive, but for tourists like me, at least it’s within the realm of feasibility to change outfits. Given that you only get one gear set from Legion’s questing rewards, it’s a good thing, too.

Honor Talents

I discovered when I reached 110 that there are yet more traits available to customize your character, over and above the regular Traits. These are for PvP, though, so I ignored them entirely.

Bonus Objectives

I think these were in Draenor but just in case, I’ll include them here. (I don’t remember so many being in Draenor.) These are the larger quest-like objectives that you get just by entering an area, somewhat like public quests, except they are solo objectives for you alone, and typical reward Class Hall resources. At first I enjoyed them and finished all of them, but then I started to resent how much time it took to finish them among other competing players. When I realized that Class Halls and their rewards were somewhat pointless, I started to skip the Bonus Objectives.

For some reason, these Bonus Objectives stop at level 110. I guess at that point they turn into World Quests.

World Quests

From what I can gather, these are what you’re supposed to do in WoW for the next two years, until the next expansion. Basically you run to a spot on the map and do what it says to do, and then you get a reward which is usually either Class Hall Resources or Artifact experience or gold. They are somewhat similar to levemetes in FFXIV, except they are spread out all over the map.

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My choice to continue subscribing depended a lot on whether these things would be fun, and to be blunt, they aren’t. They are a treadmill of time-killing chores with negligible rewards (at least, rewards that are meaningful to me). I’ve heard they are better than the usual endgame status quo in WoW, and if that’s true, I’m very sorry for the folks in the WoW community who are unwilling or unable to try other games. Better to leave until the next expansion, when Blizzard will give us all the gear we would have gotten, without having to suffer through all this drudgery.

Companion Mobile App

It’s pretty cool, but as described above, Class Halls are not very interesting or necessary, and the missions therein feel very pointless to me. Therefore, the companion app is mostly an exercise in using up a phone battery.

Zones

I can’t remember enough about each zone to give individual reviews. But in general, I enjoyed the smaller scale zone stories and mini-stories found in side quests. (I generally prefer each quest to be its own self-contained short story anyway.) Often I find WoW to be too over-the-top silly, but I didn’t run into much of that, for which I was thankful. The overarching Legion story did not hook me, but I’ve never been invested enough in Azeroth to care whether the Legion destroys the world anyway. (The scenario at The Exodar was pretty cool, though.)

Val’shara had one of the more memorable and touching zone stories as I recall. I also remember Val’shara seemed very small compared to the other zones, and I got very confused after wandering into something like a PvP arena (Black Rook something I think?). I had to Hearthstone out of there twice after I got stuck in a section from which there was no apparent exit. After that I abandoned that quest line.

I remember thinking Stormheim was unusual in the way it was divided into a Norse area and a Greymane-versus-Sylvanas grudge match. It didn’t seem to “flow” from one story area to the other. Getting thrown into Helheim was an interesting twist, though, and it was pretty amusing to see all the people packed in there running around helter-skelter. The cut scene of Greymane facing off against Sylvanas was very cool. (Wish I could see it again.)

I don’t particularly care for the Taurens and their not-so-subtle Native American shtick, so that bogged down my enjoyment of Highmountain. (It always makes me slightly uncomfortable and worried that I’m indirectly supporting racism.) The scenario where you relived Hulm Highmountain’s exploits was pretty hilarious though (a clone army of Hulms!), and it was cool to see the Nesingway hunting party again. (I haven’t seen them since Stranglethorn, so that was one of the most nostalgic moment of the expansion for me.)

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All of the zones are visually beautiful. There are so many places where you simply have to stop and take a screenshot. In fact, many places actually look … hold onto your hats … realistic. Particularly areas of Stormheim.

At this point, though, I have to wag a finger at WoW, as I do most MMORPGs, for not having sufficient screenshot controls. How many times would I have loved to be able to pan the camera viewport up or down, left or right? Every time, that’s how many. And the names! The cursed, stinking, rotten names that don’t go away when you hide the UI. Eventually I just started playing with most names turned off. (I know there’s supposed to be macros to hide all that stuff before taking screenshots, but I don’t have enough patience to deal with that just for this one game.)

Dungeons

This is the first time I’ve ever done any dungeons in WoW at the time they were released. I didn’t do any dungeons in Draenor, the only other expansion I played at launch, because I don’t remember there being any quests that led you into dungeons. Or maybe I just ignored them. Or maybe I did them and totally forgot about it. I honestly don’t remember much of anything about my time in Draenor.

The Broken Isles questing is organized such that the last quest in each zone takes you into a dungeon which finishes up the story and grants you the widget that Khadgar sent you to the zone for in the first place. I did the four dungeons at the end of the first four zones, two twice, one three times, for a grand total of seven dungeon runs. They were noticeably more complex than the dungeons I’ve done leveling from 1 to 70, but they weren’t exactly hardcore either. Deadly Boss Mods and previous MMORPG dungeon experience got me through most of the mechanics without much trouble.

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Most runs were 20-30 minutes, but one of them took about 40 minutes to get through–I think it was the one in Highmountain–and I felt like I was going to die of impatience by the end of it.

Interestingly, more than one of those dungeon runs included a Demon Hunter tank. Demon Hunters have been pretty popular on my server group. I’d guess a very healthy percentage of players decided to start out with a Demon Hunter, instead of continuing an existing class.

One difference I noticed in dungeons is a lack of need or greed rolls. The game automatically selects which person gets the loot, and only that person can loot the item from the boss. It’s a nice addition. I don’t know if that’s new in this expansion or if it’s been in the game a while, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.

I’ve heard people complaining of dungeon queues, but I was in every dungeon as DPS within seconds, up until Saturday, the 10th, when I spent hours and hours waiting to get into Eye of Azsuna to get Advanced Corks.

Launch Issues

There were none for me. It was a totally flawless launch. One of the few things I do remember from Draenor was a lot of bugs, so this was a big improvement for Blizzard.

Wish List

I miss the pre-expansion Invasions. They were by far the most fun part of the expansion for me. Unless I’m missing something, there is nothing like that in the Broken Isles. They should bring them back. If nothing else, invasions would provide an alternative path to leveling from 100 to 110. (Once-in-a-blue-moon Kosumoth world bosses don’t count.)

I would have liked to see a lot more variety in the look of gear received as quest rewards. You only get one set of gear as an option, with minor color variations, all the way through. It made quest rewards totally unsurprising and humdrum. “Oh look, it’s another weird ring-shaped halo head piece for my Mage, same as before.” If you want anything other than “Standard Legion Class X” gear you have to grind dungeons or raids or transmog it up.

I mentioned this in my other post, but I would love to be able to read text from previous quests, replay cut scenes, and/or replay voiceovers and exposition, particularly exposition that happens during travel times. WoW tends to deliver story in very specific ways, and if you miss it or blink at the wrong time, you’re out of luck. I just want a little more control over the way I consume the story.

Curiosities

Why does the Dalaran Hearthstone sort to the bottom of my bags while my other two Hearthstones sort to the top?

Conclusions

Overall Legion is a fun expansion if you enjoy leveling in WoW, which I do, in short bursts. It is very much still WoW, though. It has not magically transformed into a new MMORPG. It’s still worth about one month of gaming enjoyment. But there isn’t enough “newness” in the expansion to make me want to continue a subscription.

In conclusion, I’ve seen a big chunk of the new stuff, I enjoyed it, I took a lot of great screenshots, now I’m ready to unsubscribe until the next expansion.

Early Legion Impressions

So far Legion is … well, just like playing WoW.

On your mark, get set, ...
On your mark, get set, …

I only played for about an hour and a half last night. I stopped right after I got my Mage Artifact staff Ebonchill. Obviously I haven’t seen all there is to see in Legion, but it starts out with … quests. Just like you’ve done in WoW for the last 50 bazillion years.

As yet there is no emergent new gameplay to be seen, which makes it a bit less interesting for me than the pre-expansion Invasions. I hear there will be something like Invasions somewhere in the expansion, though. Here’s hoping.

As per usual, this WoW Lore newbie has no idea what is going on or who any of the people or places are that the quests refer to. They really don’t explain much in the quest dialog text itself. I can only assume that there are external sources (like the trailers maybe, or comic books, or fan sites that deep dive into lore) that give some context to all of this.

Not understanding the lore is nothing new for me and WoW, though, and it wouldn’t stop me from playing. I mention it though because it would be nice if they could put some thought into helping new, super casual tourists to understand the characters and story. (Inside the game that is.)

Oh! I just thought of something they might try. They could link to the previous quests in previous expansions that would give you the background you need for the current story. In the quest text somewhere, it might say, “Click here to get the Level X quest that introduces Character Y.” (Like Khadgar, for example. I have no idea who he is or why he’s important in this expansion. And the whole thing where Jaida(?) stormed out of that one meeting. Who the heck is Jaida?) They could provide a whole list or index of the previous quests. Something like that. Maybe somebody could make an Addon like that.

Anyway, on to other things. I really like the concept of the class halls. It ensures (I assume) that each alt you play will have a different Legion experience. I don’t know how far the unique class path goes, but I hope it goes beyond the point where you get your Artifact weapon. So, for people who play lots of alts, this should be a bonanza. (I only have two characters at level 100 though.)

Unfortunately it was a huge disappointment when I got my Artifact and came back to my class hall to find a whole bunch of other players were trespassing all over the space that I thought I would have all to myself. Let’s hope I don’t have to spend a lot of time there watching people run in circles and jump up and down.

One thing that was a big surprise to me was how hard it was to get my Artifact. I’m playing a Frost Mage, who I just leveled from level 74 to 100 using Invasions. I thought I had all the ilevel 700 gear, but I got killed six or seven times in demon-occupied territory.

Likely to be attacked indeed...
Likely to be attacked indeed…

(I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I learned nothing about how to play my class solo from those Invasions.)

My experience of soloing with the Mage class over the years is basically that you need to stand there and kill the other guy before he kills you. Kiting is usually not an option since all the best spells have a cast time. The Mage has nothing in the way of self-heals, and also when starting Legion, I realized I had no healing potions because in leveling to 100, all of my previous potions became obsolete, and I never bought any new ones. (I don’t even know where to buy them.)

Usually the mobs in WoW are pushovers so killing them quickly is easy. But it wasn’t the case here. So it was that in fighting the Big Bad to get my Artfiact, I had to pull out every trick I could think of to increase my damage output and mitigate damage input. I think it took four tries before I got him. It was a very unexpected obstacle to overcome, since I seem to recall blowing through everything at light speed in the last expansion.

This is a good thing, right?
This is a good thing, right?

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s kind of cool to be challenged in WoW for a change. As yet I can’t tell if it’s just me or if they have actually designed it to be challenging. (My bet is that it’s me. I probably missed an obvious button I was supposed to push that would insta-gib the guy.)

ShareX For Uploading Screenshots

A while back I asked on Twitter if there was a way to automatically upload screenshots taken from games to some kind of online repository:

It turns out that ShareX has this capability.

You can’t actually take the screenshots using ShareX, because it doesn’t support full screen applications, but it has a feature where it will watch certain folders and upload any new files to wherever you want. (It defaults to imgur, but there are a zillion different options.) This is exactly the kind of functionality I wanted.

ShareX_Watch_Folder

I added all of the folders where MMORPGs save their screenshots and viola, every time I save a screenshot, it automatically uploads to my imgur repository.

Endgame Viable’s Imgur

The main reason I wanted something like this is that I usually write my blog posts far, far away from my gaming PC, so I never have access to any of my screenshots when I need them. Having them on imgur allows me to embed them in posts at the time I write them, as opposed to trying to remember to add them in later, which I almost always forget to do.

Legion Pre-Expansion Invasions Are Fun

I had fun with the WoW Zone Events aka. Invasions over the weekend.

But first, the biggest news from my weekend was that I finally moved all my furniture from the old rental house into my new house. I achieved my goal of picking the hottest day of the entire year to move. I believe it was upwards of 95 degrees Farenheit with a heat index of 105. (Google tells me that’s 35 and 40.5 Celsius, but that doesn’t sound nearly hot enough to me.) The temperature reading inside the old house was 92 by the time we left. Since I am not currently dead, I must have stayed sufficiently hydrated.

But enough about that. I re-subbed to WoW on Friday night because I kept reading about these pre-expansion Invasions. They sounded a lot like Rift Zone Events, which are pretty fun, so I thought it was worth $15 to check them out. I logged in to find that my talents were reset and I had no idea how to play my 100 Hunter anymore. This is not surprising, because it happens basically every time I log in after being away for a while.

I’m no expert but this time it seems like they’ve really pared down the number of rotation keys, because now I think I’m down to three abilities with Beast Mastery. I’m probably doing it wrong though. (I routinely forgot to summon my pet, so that’s how good I am at playing the Hunter right now. Not that it matters, because you can almost auto-attack everything and still succeed in WoW.)

Friday night I went through the Broken Shores quest thingy, which was kind of cool I guess. I literally had no idea who any of the characters were in that story so I had zero personal investment in it. I must be the worst WoW lore consumer in the world because I kept seeing all these people doing these heroic things and I kept asking myself, "Am I supposed to know or care who this is?" The answer must obviously be yes, but I sure didn’t. The only name I actually recognized was Sylvannas, but it took me quite a while to remember where I knew that name from. (From the early levels of playing my Undead Warlock ages ago.) Perhaps they should have put a refresher course in one of those cut scenes at the beginning for people like me who only pop into WoW for a month or two every couple of years.

Side gripe: I found it kind of annoying that the cut scenes were in a lower resolution than the actual game video.

Later I learned that most of those names in that Broken Shore event were found in my Garrison, which explains why I didn’t recognize them, since I stopped playing WoW about the time I finished my Garrison. I hadn’t even built a Shipyard. Strangely, when I looked around my Garrison, it seemed like there were quite a few more people there than when I last left it. It looked like a thriving metropolis. I guess it expanded while I was gone.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I got to experience my first Zone Event aka. Invasion. In short, they are fun. (I hate to be a smug sarcastic bastard about it, but seriously, if you like the gameplay in these WoW Invasions, you might want to check out Rift.) I picked up a bunch of item level 700 welfare epics for my Hunter (previously I think I was somewhere around item level 580-something). In typical WoW fashion, the events are really easy, except for when you get killed for no apparent reason. But since the Invasions typically take place right on top of a graveyard, it’s no big deal.

Then I discovered the true purpose of the Invasions: Leveling alts. I spent a little time playing my Mage (73) and Warlock (43), participating in one or two events each, trying to figure out how the new specializations and rotations work. Again, I feel like everything was simplified. It’s like they really, really want you to play one specific way with these updated specializations. Any skills that deviate from the baseline are gone entirely. Also am I crazy or can I switch between the 3 specializations at will now? I think you used to have to pick only 2 of the 3. Maybe I should, like, you know, read the patch notes.

At any rate I give the Pre-Expansion Invasions a thumbs-up. For me, they’re going to be a nice way to grab some levels for my alts without having to resort to dungeons or questing. I like doing group events without having to know or care who I’m playing with. Actually I wish they would make these Invasions a permanent addition to WoW because they were my favorite things to do in Rift. Unfortunately Rift’s population is too low to sustain the zone events everywhere now, but even in these dark days WoW still has a comparatively huge population to support something like that.

Doom Impressions

I bought Doom when it was half off on Steam a while back and have been playing it here and there. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the positive side, it’s a beautiful game, and it runs beautifully on my new gaming PC. It’s suitably fast and violent and hard on Ultra Violence. The chainsaw had me giggling like a kid when I found it. (Remember how the world thought the original Doom was over-the-top gruesome? Pretty funny to think about now.)

On the bad side, Doom has annoyingly long load times. This is a trend that I don’t like in newer generation games. I want to double-click the icon on the desktop and be playing in less than 30 seconds. Doom takes minutes to load up (on my new PC!), which makes me not want to click on that icon. Not to mention how long it takes between dying and respawning, a process that is supposed to be instantaneous in these kinds of games.

A game called Doom from id carries with it a certain expectation, and that expectation is running and gunning. But I feel like it strays too far from those roots. There will be 10 minutes of exciting shooter gameplay when you enter a new area, but it’s often followed by 10 or 20 minutes of trying to puzzle out where to go next or fiddling with weapon mods or worst of all, listening to 5 minutes of exposition from some unknown persona on an intercom. That’s not a component of shooters that I find enjoyable. It’s the, you know, shooting that’s the enjoyable part.

I’ve only played a few hours so maybe I’m missing something. (I wouldn’t expect a Doom-style game to be super hard to figure out though.)

Regardless, I’m still having an overall positive experience and plan to finish it.

Snap Judgment – Riders of Icarus

Welcome to another installment of Snap Judgment, where I fully evaluate every nuance of a game after playing it for less than an hour.

I downloaded and installed the latest malware … I mean, Asian import MMORPG … Riders of Icarus. I kid, I kid. But it asked me to reboot to finish the installation, which makes me wonder just what kind of rootkit it put on my system. Not to mention the extremely suspicious Nexon anti-cheat monitoring software that runs in the background. But I guess that’s the standard for Asian games now, because ArcheAge had one, and I think Blade and Soul, and maybe some others I can’t remember. I assume they’re all capturing my passwords and sending them to China, and not doing anything to prevent cheating.

Icarus itself is the most average an MMORPG could possibly be. The graphics are average, the sounds are average, the animations are average, the classes are average, the cut scenes are average, the story is average, the combat is average. If I had to give a nod to one thing I’d say the music was pretty good.

While I personally find the concept of flying whales pretty cool, there wasn’t nearly enough of that in the first 45 minutes to make me want to continue playing. Everything about the initial experience was … completely average, well-trodden MMORPG territory. Nothing in there made this game stand out from any other fantasy MMORPG.

Anyway, check out the video, so you don’t have to bother installing it.

Black Desert Online

TLDR; I’m enjoying Black Desert Online, and I think it’s worth $30. If you like crafting, it’s well worth $30. It’s not your grandfather’s MMORPG, though, and it takes some time to get used to it.

I mentioned on Twitter that I didn’t understand why people were drawn to The Division, and it occurred to me that I should explain why I’m drawn to Black Desert Online, in case anyone is looking at the BDO hype and scratching their heads.

It’s not the combat or the classes, and it’s not the leveling experience or the questing or the story. I consider those parts fairly average for an MMORPG. (Although I’ve grown to find myself weirdly interested in what the deal is with that Black Spirit.)

No, it’s the gathering and crafting and by extension the trading systems where this game excels.

This is where BDO shines.
This is what Black Desert Online does best.

But even more than that, what impresses me most about BDO is the way they’ve managed to bring something brand new into the MMORPG genre. This game is really a mashup of an RPG and a city-builder game. Once you press ‘M’ to open the map, you’ve transitioned to a completely different, Civ-like game. The way you hire and assign workers to build up your production empire reminds me a lot of Banished, which I loved. That’s the main thing that excites me about Black Desert right now.

That, and the fact that you can spend 50 hours playing and barely use any class abilities or fight any monsters.

I had the same sort of reaction to the trading in ArcheAge, which is undoubtedly coloring my BDO experience. In the first few months it was all very exciting to have the ability to build a farm and grow things and make trade packs and sell them in distant lands by riding a donkey across the dusty roads of the world. Those are things you don’t usually get to do in an MMORPG. Now it’s been ramped up and improved in Black Desert.

I’ll admit that newness is usually what attracts me to a game. Something I’ve never done before, or something done better than what’s come before it. I know there’s a lot of MMORPG nostalgia flying around the blogosphere right now, but from my own perspective, any time a new game comes out with a new or better mechanic in it, it’s cause for celebration. And BDO has a lot of new ideas in it. (Some of which are terrible, but that’s another story.)

Another thing that attracts me is the complexity of the game itself. I think it’s because I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoys figuring out complicated things, so I’ve loved experimenting with clicking on all of the buttons and reading all the descriptions and studying the crafting manuals and figuring out which things are beneficial and which things aren’t. (Sometimes it’s hard due to translation issues though… like a description will say something restores Energy but it means it restores Stamina.) It’s like I’m “leveling up” my own brain as I play. I’ve gone so far as to turn off all the chat functions so I wouldn’t see anyone answering questions, and I’ve avoided all but a few Google searches so far.

The launch itself was very smooth for me. (But then I didn’t have any pre-order items, which I understand a lot of people had trouble claiming.) I haven’t experienced any launch queues or lag. I haven’t seen a single gold spam. I also haven’t seen any botting behavior, but then a lot of automatic behaviors are built right into the game (AFK fishing, auto-running, etc.). It’s an interesting strategy to combat bots by building the botting behavior right in. :)

So that’s why I like Black Desert. It’s well worth the $30, in my opinion. I’ve already gotten my money’s worth and it’s only been a few days.

As with all MMORPGs, though, the question is will I still be playing a month from now? Will there be any future updates to this game? Will Daum fix any of the terrible translations? Will Pearl Abyss expand on the classes? Will there be anything to do once I’ve amassed a personal fortune from hauling crates of potatoes around? Will the game turn into a total unplayable gank-fest after PvP kicks in? Who knows?

Of course, what would a post about an MMORPG be without some complaints?

I was reminded of this after listening to @Syp on the MassivelyOP podcast: The first couple of hours of playing Black Desert Online is like being dropped into the middle of a bad dream or somebody’s acid trip. It’s got possibly the worst new player experience I’ve ever seen in an MMORPG. The opening cinematic makes no sense. The first NPCs speak in disjointed, poorly translated English, and sometimes they talk over top of each other. The NPCs say one thing verbally while the text says something completely different. Windows pop up all over the screen, covering each other, obscuring important text. It’s a bit like pop-up ads back in the 90s. It’s the worst. You just have to embrace the weirdness or power through it. I didn’t really start to “get” the game until a good five hours into it.

I initially had a lot of trouble with clutter on the screen. The “Simplify UI” setting helped a little bit, but it doesn’t do as much as I might like. For a while I turned off other players’ names. Eventually I think I just got used to the clutter. It needs a lot more settings to let you customize player nameplates.

My biggest complaint and disappointment about BDO by far is the complete lack of variety among player appearances. I mean, this game has the most amazingly detailed character creator ever seen, but unless you zoom way into people’s faces to examine their eyelashes, everyone looks identical. One sorceress might have white hair and another might have purple hair, but they’re all the same from the neck down. (Hair color choices are pretty weird, too, there’s very few “normal” choices.) The only variations in the costumes are a choice between Free Outfit and Cash Shop Outfit.

This point was hammered home for me when I saw Murphy’s tweet of his wizard’s face and I did a double-take. He looked exactly like my wizard!

Okay, maybe not exactly like mine, but it was close enough for me to blink.

I don't wear the hat in-game. It's the only thing that makes me look different from other Wizards.
I don’t wear the hat in-game. Wizard hats are dumb. :)

And I spent a lot of time giving my guy a broken nose and a weird-looking eye. Pointlessly, it turns out. The only thing you can do to make your wizard look different from other wizards is to disable the hat display. (Which I did. But now everyone can see my weirdly extended, apparently double-jointed neck.)

Wizard On Horse

BDO wreaks havok on my time-tracking software, though. It’s going to say I’m playing 24/7 because you have to keep it running all the time. :)

Looking At Unity 5 and Unreal 4

I totally stole this image from depaul.edu.
(I totally stole this image from depaul.edu.)

One weekend I got the idea that it would be simple for me to write a hit video game, make tons of money, and leave my day job*. I’ve dabbled at writing games now and then since I first learned programming back in the 80s, so this is nothing new (I have yet to actually complete a game, though). Anyway, I started reading up on popular 3D game engines. From what I can gather, there are basically two choices: Unity 5 or Unreal 4.

Unity 5

I started with Unity, looking at tutorial videos. I liked what I saw right away. The IDE looks nice and clean, the framework is well-organized and easy to understand, code is written in C# (which I use in my day job so that’s a big plus there), the tutorials are thorough. From a developer standpoint, I don’t see how a game engine could get much better.

My biggest worry, though, is that it won’t scale well. It seems perfect for small, simple games, but what about a large, complex, multi-tiered, multi-player game? What about a full-blown MMORPG with millions of players? What about a twitch game where maximum performance is vitally important? Will all that overhead that makes the engine so simple to use eventually slow down the game’s execution? Will the developer have to spend all of his time optimizing and tweaking and even replacing things to get around the limitations of the engine? Will all the abstraction layers keep the developer from truly optimizing the game? I don’t know the answers to those questions.

There is also a somewhat disturbing amount of designer-style editing that can be done in the IDE, at least in the tutorials. I equate it to ASP.NET development. There are a lot of nice visual web designers and drag-and-drop gizmos and data binding tools in Visual Studio but I sometimes (ie. almost always) find it faster and easier to write out code by hand for large-scale projects. Dragging-and-dropping something once or twice is okay, but dragging-and-dropping things a thousand times is a nightmare of maintenance issues. I hope there are code equivalents to all of the automatic stuff that happens when you drag-and-drop things around in the IDE.

Still, it’s a pretty popular engine. I looked over a list of games that use the Unity engine and found some fairly impressive results. The Forest is a beautiful game that runs pretty well, about which I once wrote: “Whatever engine this game is using should be used for all future MMORPGs, in my humble opinion.” Guns of Icarus also looks fantastic. Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a fine game. Besiege and Kerbal Space Program don’t focus on graphics but they are really fun. Shroud of the Avatar, which I haven’t yet seen in person, looks pretty nice in screenshots and videos.

And they are all indie games. I suppose now that I’ve looked into Unity I can see why smaller and/or newer teams would want to use it. It’s got a very low barrier to entry. I can easily see brand new programmers stepping out of college right into Unity.

Unreal 4

Next I looked at the Unreal engine. I gather that Unreal is the more “pro” option that big budget AAA studios use. I don’t know if that’s because it’s actually better or just that it’s been around longer and is more entrenched.

I ran into problems with the Unreal engine right away. The first problem is the tutorial videos. They aren’t good. They definitely assume you already have some knowledge about not just object-oriented game engines, but Unreal itself. They don’t walk you through a logical process of building a game from start to finish but rather skip around in somewhat puzzling directions. Most of them assume you have a huge library of 3D assets lying around waiting to be imported as well.

Then there is C++. That automatically gives it a much steeper learning curve than Unity. I’ve been around the programming block a few times so C++ doesn’t necessarily bother me, but it definitely gives me pause. I’m just one person, and writing C++ is time-consuming. Yes, it’s fast and efficient and exactly what you want to use to write games. But with so much of the computationally-intensive work done by the engine framework or the graphics card, it leaves mainly game logic for you to write, and there’s a lot of overhead to deal with in C++ just to write a bunch of if-then logic.

Conclusion

Since there is almost no chance of me actually completing a game, let alone getting it into a marketable state, I figure I should make things easy on myself and use the simple framework. That’s definitely Unity 5.

Now if only there was an easy way to make 3D models.

* My goals are always very realistic.