GW2 – Feature Pack Survived

I took the plunge and jumped into GW2, post-Feature Pack. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The meaning of the traits came back to me as I was looking over them, and I dumped points into things that sounded familiar. I haven’t done anything even remotely close to min-maxing in GW2 so it probably doesn’t matter. Also I don’t do dungeons or anything competitive, so my lack of optimization won’t affect anyone but me.

I know that the new wardrobe thing is supposed to be easier, but I still don’t understand it. I have never been into skins, and honestly I don’t think I’ve done a single transmutation in the entire time I’ve had the game. Anyway it looks like it costs Transmutation Charges to change your wardrobe, which I don’t have and don’t know where to find (other than buying them with real money). Basically I got confuzzled and left the wardrobe for another time.

Then I wandered around killing mobs for a little while to see if anything was different. It seemed like the number 1 Necro Axe skill (“Rending Claws”) got weaker while the number 2 Necro Axe skill (“Ghastly Claws”) got a lot more powerful. Other than that I didn’t notice much difference, so I feel like I got my character back to a point where he can tour the landscape and see whatever new Living Story things might pop up in the future.

Overall, I averted the need to uninstall. On the other hand I didn’t see much to get excited about, either. Perhaps leveling another character would make the changes more obvious.

Pingzapper

I tried out a service called Pingzapper that might be useful if you’ve experienced weird lagging in MMOs or I guess really any game.

The alleged problem is that your ISP might be "traffic shaping" your data in a way that interferes with games. They are almost certainly messing up your streaming videos as much as they can get away with, so it makes sense that they would extend that policy to other areas. Because god forbid people should have high-speed Internet that they can use for whatever they want.

Ahem. Anyway, I hadn’t noticed any serious problems with my connection until recently with Final Fantasy XIV (say, in the last two months). It is most noticeable to me in Trial instances which usually require a lot of precise positioning and timing. What happens is everyone will freeze for up to a second (or more!) while I continue to move, then everyone zooms around on fast-forward to catch up to what I’ve been doing. A couple of seconds disconnected from a game is a really long time. You can imagine what would happen if a particularly bad AoE goes down during the lag spike: You die instantly when the lag is over. That categorically sucks.

So I heard about this service called Pingzapper. Allegedly it provides a tunnel from your computer to the game servers through some Pingzapper intermediary server. It’s supposed to hide the game traffic from your ISP, so they won’t interfere with it.

I installed the free demo, and it didn’t crash my system entirely, so I paid for a month, which was 3.99. So far, it seems to be working. I can confirm that those FFXIV lag spikes entirely vanished after I started playing through Pingzapper, and now I don’t feel like I have to over-run every AoE line by fifty feet just to make sure I’m actually clear of it. I was worried the game would feel slower because of shuffling the game data through more servers, but I haven’t noticed anything like that.

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p>All-in-all, I give Pingzapper a thumbs up. For whatever that’s worth. I can see these kinds of services becoming more and more necessary as ISPs continue to try their best to deliver less and less bandwidth.

Defiance Beta Results

defiance-quad1-fullFrom the unpublished archives: I tried out the Defiance beta. It was “kind of” fun but it’s not really my kind of game. MMO shooters never seem that great to me. Lag plays a significant factor in being able to hit anything. Also, maybe my expectations are wack, but I thought all TPS (Third Person Shooter) games were supposed to have cover mechanics. This one didn’t.

One thing that drove me crazy was the complete inability to see enemies and players in the environment until you’re standing on top of them. I hate that. The landscape, NPCs, and players are all shades of brown.

It also had a lot of cut scene action. Sometimes I wish game developers would spend more time on gameplay and user interface and less time on trying to make a movie.

P.S. I have not seen the show.

My Top 5

Saw this on MMORPG.com: The Best MMOs of 2013… So Far.

7. Darkfall: Unholy Wars. Haven’t seen it. Not going to look at it.

6. Age of Wushu. Really? Seriously? It doesn’t even have invert mouse!

5. The Secret World. Yes, but it should be in the top 3.

4. Star Wars: The Old Republic. Maybe, possibly.

3. Neverwinter. It’s not bad, but I’m not prepared to put it at #3.

2. EVE Online. No. I’m sorry, but no.

1. Guild Wars 2. I’m down with that.

I can’t help but wonder where is Rift and TERA?? Rift may not be #1 but I would sure put it in the Top 5. And TERA should definitely be there too.

This is my Top 5 right now.

5. Neverwinter. Probably doesn’t deserve #5, but I think it has a lot of potential.

4. TERA. Quirky Asian faire, but fun combat.

3. The Secret World. Quirky, but high quality and very immersive.

2. Rift. I haven’t played it in a while, but it’s the most evolved form of the WoW style.

1. Guild Wars 2. Setting the bar for innovation in MMOs right now.

 

BioShock Infinite – Game of the decade?

I finished Bioshock Infinite over the holiday weekend. I don’t often buy games as soon as they are released, because roughly 90% of the time they suck, and also 90% of the time they’re in a 75%-off Steam sale within a year. But like everyone else, I was blown away by the first Bioshock, so I knew there was a good chance this would be a great, culturally-significant game. Also, I knew there was going to be a twist in the story that I didn’t want spoiled by every jerkwad troll on the Internet. (I severely curtailed my social media presence and even turned off the global chat in GW2.)

My review: Best game of the decade so far. ’nuff said.

Infinite is an excellent example of how videogames have (or at least can be) morphed into just another medium for storytelling. It’s way more of a story than a game. When people think of videogames, they usually think of something like Asteroids where you just pointlessly shoot stuff to accumulate a score. Well, Infinite is nothing like that. It’s more of an adventure game, really. Remember those? It’s just like that. You walk around in an imaginary world and look for clues and talk to people to reveal the mystery of what’s going on. It’s just that in this particular case, you also shoot a lot of people. :)

In fact, the “game” part of Infinite actually gets in the way. I found it somewhat annoying at times to have to stop exploring to shoot a bunch of bad guys so the story would continue. Don’t get me wrong, the shooter implementation is great. The weapons are neat. The powers are neat. It’s super responsive. The enemies are not pushovers. But nobody is going to remember the cool weapons and powers in this game. Everyone’s going to be talking about the story and characters and scenery.

Honestly I recommend playing on Easy the first time so you can just blow through the enemies and concentrate on the story. I played it on Normal, which was “mostly” easy but got somewhat hard in a few places when I kept running out of ammo and dying.

It’s too soon to talk about the story without spoiling it for everyone, so I can’t say much. I’ll just say I liked it, and I was mostly surprised and pleased at the end. It’s one of those rare stories where everything comes together in one brilliant cinematic moment, and your jaw drops in surprise and suddenly everything “clicks” and makes sense. (As an aspiring writer, it’s the kind of moment you dream about creating.)

MMORPG Micro-Reviews

Being a little bored of Guild Wars 2, Tera, and Rift, I went looking on MMORPG.com’s list of games sorted by rating for free-to-play MMOs I haven’t played yet. These reviews are first impressions having played less than an hour of each.

Wizardry Online – Ridiculously old-school and very slow-moving. Supposed to be really hard, but in the beginning it’s just hard to have fun. The writers clearly aren’t native English-speakers. Surprised that Sony’s name is on this.

Path of Exile – Basically Diablo with extra bells and whistles to make it more complicated. Looks and feels nice, but not the kind of MMO I’m interested in.

Fallen Earth – Kind of old now but I never played it. Now I know why. Graphics are straight from the 1990s and the controls feel terrible. No need to continue playing this.

Guess I’ll go back to GW2, boring or not.

UPDATE: Forsaken World – Kind of cartoonish-looking, but since it doesn’t have an “invert mouse” setting, there’s no point in exploring it further.

Guild Wars 2 Head Start Weekend

The hype is finally over and Guild Wars 2 is out (if you pre-purchased
it, that is). After being down Saturday morning, GW2 worked flawlessly
for the rest of the weekend. Usually the hype far overshadows the
actual game. But in this one rare case, it’s possible that the hype
was justified.

Let’s talk about Guild Wars 1 for a second. I never got into it.
Certain things just bugged me. Mainly the lack of a jump. I’m not one
of those people that bunny hops everywhere, but I never realized how
often I jumped until it was missing. The other thing I couldn’t get
past was left-clicking everything instead of right-clicking.

So when I first logged into GW2, I was dreading having to live without
jumping and right-clicking. Imagine my delight when I was configuring
my controls (for ESDF, as I have to do for every single PC game huge
sigh
) and found a jump key! And I was even more delighted when I got
to the first NPC and was able to right-click to activate him!

I won’t go into the actual gameplay, because you can find ten thousand
writeups and videos on that elsewhere. I’ll just go straight into my
commentary.

GW2 is awesome. Really. You should get it. That’s it, nothing else to
say about it. Run, don’t walk, to your browser; buy it and download
it.

I say that having only reached level 15 or so (out of 80). I have no
idea what the “endgame” is like, or if there even is an endgame. (In a
game that has no subscription fee, one has to wonder why they would
bother with endgame content.) All I know is that between the story
quests and the public quests and the dynamic events, it is hella fun
for the first 15 levels, and each race has a different first 15
levels, so there is a lot to do for an altoholic like me.

I have not really decided on my “main” yet. I started with a
Necromancer but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of impact in a group
situation. I really like the versatility of the Elementalist, though,
so maybe I’ll stick with that one. Then again, the Engineer has a
bunch of cool turrets and stuff. (I still don’t understand why people
keep putting high-tech engineer classes in these allegedly medieval
MMOs.) And the Hunter has nifty pets. And … and … and …

The Secret World, Likes and Dislikes

Here are some of my impressions from playing The Secret World for a weekend of beta and a few days of the head start.

Likes:

  • The “investigation” quests are awesome! You can Google the answers, of course, but trying to solve them without is a trip. We’re talking old school adventure-style puzzles and riddles here. (Make sure to turn off General chat if you don’t want to see spoilers, ‘cause, you know, people are lazy.)
  • You can die. You don’t really know how powerful new mobs are until you attack them. (In fact, as it turns out, sometimes you have to die to complete quests, because the ghost world can be explored too.) It’s pretty painless—all you have to do is run back to your corpse, just like WoW.
  • Almost every quest is repeatable daily, so you never have to grind on mobs. (Though it is still fun to shoot zombies at random.)
  • Having an out-of-combat sprint toggle is great for getting around. It’s sort of like riding a mount, and you can do it from the beginning. I wonder if you can increase the speed later on?
  • The flexibility of creating your own “backpacks.” You can carry 50 things, but they can be organized into any number of bags of any size, which you can pin to the screen or not. For example, I made one to hold crafting supplies, another for things to sell, and another one pinned to the screen for healing drinks.
  • Humorous NPC quest givers and great voice acting (which you can easily skip if you’ve seen them before).

Dislikes:

  • Graphical stability issues. But I don’t hold that against PC games anymore—especially MMOs—because they are almost always buggy as crap for the first month after release. But this one really does not run well on my Radeon 5770.
  • Your character’s appearance never changes when you get new stuff. You can’t tell just by looking at people how long they’ve been playing or how powerful they are. Perhaps this should be filed under Misunderstandings below, but I still miss it.
  • You can’t assign hotkeys to inventory items. :/ You only get seven hotkeys for your abilities and that’s it, as far as I know.
  • It’s a pain to have to think of a first and last name in addition to a nickname, even though they don’t really matter.
  • Your account password can only contain letters, numbers, and a dash! Gah! (A pet peeve of mine.)

Misunderstandings:

  • Only three character slots. But then, the only reason to have more character slots in an MMO is to play different classes (or mule items), but theoretically, each character in TSW can eventually learn *every* skill, so there is no need to use more than one slot.
  • With new characters, you have to repeat the same quests/stories. In beta I mistakenly created a bunch of different characters to try different abilities, but see above where you don’t ever need to start a new character. (I am going to, though, because I thought of a better name. :)

Undecided:

  • You can only “equip” 7 active and 7 passive abilities. On the plus side, you won’t be filling action bars with a hundred different actions you’ll never use, and scramble to find keyboard shortcuts for them, but on the negative side, you have to start making choices about what to equip pretty early on. In a typical MMO, your abilities get more and more powerful as you progress, but here it’s more like you get more and more abilities to pick from as you progress. I think I like it, but it’s a radical shift in thinking.
  • “Assembly” looks like a complex crafting system for improving your equipment but I haven’t put much time into it yet.
  • There is a lot of running from place to place. It’s too soon to tell whether it will be an excessively annoying amount.

Note that I don’t usually take PvP seriously in MMOs (because, obviously, the guy with the best gear wins), so I can’t comment much on TSW’s PvP except to say that it’s there and people complain about it, so I assume it must be okay. :)

On a side note, I was a bit disappointed to see Tobold’s beta impressions of The Secret World, because his opinions are usually similar to my own. He has already written off TSW as too similar to other MMOs, but I don’t see it that way at all. I also get the impression he won’t ever like any MMO that contains combat unless it’s turn-based. (He blew off Rift, too, which is a clearly superior evolution to the MMO genre.)

I’m UltrViolet on Cerberus, Illuminati faction, if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

P.S. Someone should make a “hints” site for TSW. Not a site that outright tells you the answers, like all the ones that are currently out there, but one that just gives you a nudge in the right direction, like things used to be in the olden days of gaming.