ArcheAge – It’s The New Black

Remember how I said I talked myself out of buying the ArcheAge Archeum Founder’s Pack? That only lasted through Thursday night, Friday, and Saturday. Then I bought it Sunday. I hadn’t even published my post about how I wouldn’t buy it before I bought it.

Stupid peer pressure.

Stupid ArcheAge RU not being in English.

Stupid ESO not being addictive enough.

Warning: I didn’t feel bad about spending the money because I already knew that I liked the game. If you’re not sure, and you want to try the game before spending $150, I highly recommend finding a way into the Russian version. Or the Korean version, for that matter.

Because it plays exactly like the Russian version, except most of the text is in English, most of the voiceovers are in Korean instead of Russian, and most importantly, you get 5 Labor Points every 5 minutes (online or offline).

But if you just want to take the plunge, rest assured Trion’s alpha is nothing like the Landmark or Trove alpha. ArcheAge is a finished game, it is only lacking English voiceovers and the occasional English text. And, well, it only has one server so it’s pretty crowded. It seems that tons and tons of people paid $150 to get into the game. The starter areas look just like a launch day. The housing areas aren’t quite gone yet, but it’s getting close.

This place is very safe from crows.
This place is very safe from crows.

I found a spot for my scarecrow way in a back corner.

Most of what I’ve previously written about ArcheAge still stands (see Foreign Invasion, Growing On Me, and Flailing Around). Now, however, I will be able to experiment more with gathering, crafting, farming, and trade runs, because I can actually read the tutorials that explain how those things work.

For example, I’ve now been able to build a farm, if you can call a piece of land the size of a postage stamp a “farm.” In a nutshell, the farming is exactly like Farmville (or at least, the ten minutes of Farmville I played before never playing it again). It’s a huge micromanagement time sink. You’re probably going to want to quit your day job in order to fully maximize the efficiency of your farm, because you’ll need to harvest and plant on precise schedules. This part of the game is very interesting, but over the long run I doubt that I will be able to keep up with it.

(As a side note, I have always wondered why more MMOs didn’t insert Farmville into their games, because it seems like a natural fit.)

Now the challenge will be to avoid playing ArcheAge too much. After all, you’ll have to start over again on launch day. (However, I think I heard that the alpha server will be transformed into the test server after launch, so it’s possible you’ll still get to keep your alpha progress in some form. Don’t quote me on that, though.) Ideally, I would want to time it so that I get sick of ArcheAge at precisely the end of the third month after launch. :)

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 …