WildStar Gushing From MMO Reporter

I’ve been hearing more and more about people’s WildStar beta experiences lately. Apparently they lifted some of the NDAs. They pretty much gushed about it on MMO Reporter Episode 152, and what they described sounded like a solid themepark MMO with action-oriented combat, and how can anyone not like that? No word on the endgame yet, though.

I like The MMO Reporter podcast, by the way. It’s one of the best ones if you like a more “casual” style of podcast. This was the funniest part: At 19:30, when Harry was complaining about WildStar controls: "If you have your right hand on the mouse and you have your left hand on the WASD and you have to keep moving to avoid enemy telegraphs, try to hit the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 buttons at the same time."

*crickets*

OMG LOL. Sorry Harry you just totally lost every bit of MMO cred you had with that statement. (I kid, I kid, I think he’s funny.) Apparently he hasn’t ever played TERA, GW2, Neverwinter, or any PvP in any MMO ever. But then later Harry talks about wanting to get back into GW2 PvP. How exactly does he play GW2? With the arrow keys? *gasp* By clicking abilities with the mouse?

Mortal Online – Why is this Fun?

I’m at a loss to explain it, but I’m digging Mortal Online. When I’m staring at my desktop full of MMO icons trying to decide which one to play, MO is the one I usually click on.

I’d be hard pressed to tell you why this game is compelling. I log in. I run out to the Graveyard and kill some undead to make some money and practice my blocking and swordfighting. I gather some plants and chop up some trees. I tame donkeys and horses and ride around. I cook up some food to feed myself and my animals. I make myself some leather armor from pig skins. I practice swimming in the ocean. I read books to train skills.

Somehow those incredibly boring-sounding activities end up being fun and engaging.

And that’s despite all the obvious bugs. This game has a very alpha quality to it in that there are a bunch of polish bugs that shouldn’t have made it through basic quality control. You get the sense that the developers are just a couple of guys in someone’s basement, eating chips and banging away at whatever code interests them, with no regard for the big picture. (I don’t actually know how big or small Star Vault is. But I’d guess small.)

Combat is incredibly weird. It’s first person. Half the time you can’t tell if you’re going to hit your target or not. You can’t tell if blocking is going to work or not. There’s lag and rubber-banding all over the place (though that seems better in the last patch). I can’t even imagine what "real" combat is like (ie. PvP), when your actual life is on the line. If I go below half of my health I start running like a screaming little girl.

For that reason I tend to avoid combat. Honestly, there isn’t very much to fight in this game except for other players, and the only other players I could realistically defeat are newbs who are even more newbish than I am, and what am I going to get from them? So far the wilderness is about 90% empty of players or monsters, which is great for exploration. When you find mobs they are usually clustered in a small area that you can easily go around.

A Day In The Life

One day I was wandering out in the rocky desert east of Meduli. I found a herd of horses and I managed to tame one that was old enough to ride for the first time. (Previously I had been riding donkeys.) I was on my way back and decided to stop and chop some wood for some reason (I think I was testing to see if it was a different kind of wood). Then I spotted somebody approaching on a horse.

The guy was wearing real armor and carrying a shield, which was a sure sign that this was a veteran player. Oh crap, I thought. I’m probably going to get killed and lose my brand new horse. Thankfully I wasn’t carrying very much, for the exact reason that I knew I might get ganked by some random PK.

It turned out that he wasn’t there to kill me. He just stopped by to say hi. I cautiously told him I was new and just wandering around and he offered to take me to Bakti, which at the time I had never heard of, so I said sure. We rode southwest and the terrain changed from depressing desert terrain into really nice green grassland with occasional pine trees.

Riding to Bakti
Riding to Bakti

I probably slowed him down a lot because I had to keep resting my horse because my stamina ran out pretty quick. (Fortunately I was good enough at riding by then to avoid being embarrassed by getting thrown from the horse every two steps.) Soon after taking that screenshot I actually lost him among the trees (because it’s pretty easy to get lost in this game) and I figured he would just leave me and keep going, because I apparently have a poor opinion of humanity, but eventually he came back and found me. He showed me a spot where I could get a steppe horse, which I made a mental note of for later. While we were there, a rather intimidating-looking "red" walked by so I have a feeling it’s a protected resource. My guide said we only survived because the red’s guild knew my guide’s guild. We went by a town called Vadda which had a lot of reds around so he advised me not to go there. Eventually we made it to Bakti and I thanked him for the escort. (As it turned out, Bakti wasn’t all that safe either because right outside of town there was a big PvP fight going on, which I watched from afar.) I stabled my horse and logged out for the night.

Later I had to consult an external map to find out where I was, because in-game I had no idea which direction I had gone or how I could ever retrace my steps back to Meduli, where my base of operations is. (By "base" I mean the place where the bank with all my meager possessions resides.) There is no in-game map in Mortal Online, if I haven’t mentioned that. After orienting myself, I set off northwest on my horse and eventually made it back home.

That kind of sums up the PvE experience of the game. Wandering around, chopping wood, taming horses, meeting strangers and wondering if they are going to be nice or if they are going to kill you on the spot for no reason. It sounds horrifying but the non-combat systems in the game are so deep that you can find a lot to do without ever learning to swing a sword.

GW2 Winter Wonderland of Doom

I ducked into GW2 to check out the Christmas event. As usual, there is nothing to gain from doing the events except some cosmetic fluff, because god forbid you actually get to advance your GW2 character in any way. But I set aside my anti-horizontal-progression Scrooge-like sentiment for a bit and did the events anyway, and they’re kind of fun.

Most of them, anyway. There’s a dungeon which I skipped because I didn’t want to deal with a group. (Naturally most of the achievements revolve around the dungeon.) I did the snowball fight which is just a PvP Capture-the-Flag kind of game that doesn’t let you use any of the class abilities you’re used to. The bell-ringing event was interesting although I had to re-bind my keys to have even a remote chance of getting anywhere with it. (I use TRGVBH instead of the normal 123456.)

Then there is the jumping puzzle which is pure evil. I don’t do many jumping puzzles because, well, why bother? It’s just a stupid achievement. Maybe you find a chest at the end which gives you … nothing worth anything because your character is already 80. But I thought, okay, well, this is a special jumping thing, and it’s for the kids, right? They need their presents delivered. So I got into the Christmas spirit, thinking it wouldn’t take very long anyway. Well three days and fifty thousand deaths later, I finally did manage to get through it and jump into the big Christmas box at the end.

Made it!
Made it!

You’d think that getting through that jumping puzzle of doom once would be enough to get a big fat achievement, but nope. That’s only Stage I of the achievement. Next you have to get through it twenty times to complete Stage II. I shudder to think what’s after that.

And by the way you don’t get anything but Wintersday gifts when you get to the end. So far I haven’t gotten anything useful from opening Wintersday gifts (except the achievement), and I haven’t found anything worth trading for the old socks or whatever.

So here’s my problem with the jumping puzzle. There are three paths up there right? But you don’t get anything special for making it up each path. Why isn’t that an achievement? The other problem I have with the jumping puzzle is the teeth-gritting determination I now have to get that Winter Wonderland Mastery achievement if it’s the last thing I do. I can get past the snowflakes with about 50-75% reliability now depending on how "fresh" I am, and I’d say it’s about a 50/50 chance I’ll get over the disappearing gift boxes, and after that I’ve got about a 75% chance of getting past the rolling snowballs, because that part’s pretty easy. So I figure if I keep at it I should have that Mastery within a week.

So here’s my unwanted advice. The trick to getting over the snowflakes is to not think about it too much. The more I try to concentrate on the jumping, the worse I do. The hardest parts for me are when you have to go over the two little candy-can logs because it’s not a straight-forward jump and it totally wrecks whatever rhythm you’ve built-up from the snowflakes. You have to let up on your forward key after you jump or else you’ll sail past where you can land.

I recommend taking the “2 chances” option from the Asura dude. The presents are completely worthless because you can get tons of them from other events. Going over the boxes, I find it easiest to go straight up and forward, which seems to work most of the time if you get the jumping rhythm working right. (You can still make it, by the way, if one of the last two boxes disappears under you – just keep jumping and you can sort of scale that wall.) If I have to go left or right my chances of making it drop dramatically.

I usually stop after I get over the gift boxes otherwise the snowman’s breath of wind usually knocks me off. I see a lot of people that keep charging forward and get knocked off.

The rolling snowball boulders is the easiest part, as long as you remember that it’s easy to slip off to your death. Don’t try to go diagonally over any corners – I fell a lot like that. If you go through it "normally" you won’t have to worry about getting caught in a red circle.

I do the final jumping part pretty conservatively, and I always stop after each jump so I don’t have much forward momentum. The jump distances are pretty short and I’m afraid I’d overshoot my targets. I’ve always had plenty of time before freezing to death.

So that’s how you do it. Piece of cake. And I don’t know why I wrote that much about it, except that I’ve been doing it over and over and over and over again.

P.S. I got the Winter Wonderland Mastery achievement! It then reset so I could do it over again, so now it looks like I didn’t get it at all. Lame.

Fallen Earth Impressions

Fallen Earth is one of the sort-of kind-of AAA-ish quality MMORPGs that I haven’t ever played, so being generally bored with all other games, I recently started playing it.

The key word there is "started." This is actually the second time I’ve started it up. The first time I made a character and took one look at the 1990s-era graphics and promptly uninstalled it. This time I am deliberately overlooking the weird graphics so that I can evaluate the game itself. (The graphics aren’t that bad but they are primitive compared to recent titles. It reminds me a lot of the style of Fallout 1 and 2, perhaps intentionally.)

On this second attempt I have made it to level 2. It already feels like a chore. Here are just some of the things I don’t get about this game.

You get a horse pretty early on. That’s cool. But when you get off of your horse, he stays where you left him. You can actually wander off and lose your horse. You can get him back if you find a stable guy to "tow" your horse back to town. I’m not sure what to make of this feature yet. It’s realistic, but it’s an extra thing to think about that I’ve never had to think about before.

Speaking of the horse, while riding, if you side-step using the strafe keys, you stop dead. The horse side-steps about 50 times slower than it runs forward. This is very annoying, because I use the strafe keys literally all the time to look to either side while I’m running, and I don’t feel like I can do that here. Also, when running, your guy’s strafing animation looks weird. I don’t understand why he isn’t tripping over his own feet.

The mouse controls are a bit weird too. It’s a weird hybrid of shooter controls and MMO controls. It’s a left-button-to-attack kind of game, but the way you switch back and forth between mousemove and pointer mode feels very unintuitive for some reason. Maybe I just haven’t gotten into the flow of it yet, or don’t yet have my keybinds optimized, but it feels extremely awkward compared to TERA and Neverwinter. In those games, I never have to worry about manually switching modes, it just "works." In this game, though, I constantly find myself in the wrong "mode."

Finding quest objectives is not very intuitive. You have a quest tracker, but there isn’t much of an indication of where to go. There’s no sparkly line or pointing arrows to follow, so I assume it’s a game where you need to dig up the answers on your own. Which is fine, except the quest text doesn’t give you very many hints. It says, "Find the garage," it doesn’t say, "Find the garage down the road to the west." After wandering around aimlessly for a long time, I finally noticed that there’s a very subtle red X on your radar map that points you toward your quest objective. That was a big help.

It's even Christmas in Fallen Earth. Presents right by the ammunition.
It’s even Christmas in Fallen Earth. Presents right by the ammunition.

I’m still undecided. I haven’t played enough to give it a fair assessment yet, but the "first impressions" are not very good. It’s not very approachable.

But on the plus side, it looks like it has a lot of "stuff" in it to keep you busy. Skills to learn. Gathering to do. Crafting and whatnot. Lots of fiddly bits have appeared in my inventory that I don’t know how to use or what to do with. So that part’s cool.

Why Don’t People Like Poor Desmond?

Tobold recently was not impressed by Assasin’s Creed 1. He expressed the same baffling opinions that I often hear about AC, which gives me a chance to be baffled in a public blog post.

I’ve always like Assassin’s Creed. At the time AC1 came out, I thought it was mind-bogglingly revolutionary. It was the best mo-cap I’d ever seen, the graphics looked realistic as crap, the city landscapes were amazing, and it had so many friggin actors on the screen at once. Also, nobody had ever seen "Parkour" before. All of that innovation is unfortunately lost on a modern audience, though, and all anyone sees when they go back to AC1 is the boring and repetitive gameplay.

But anyway. What baffles me is why everyone complains about the Desmond parts of Assassin’s Creed and how it "interrupts" the game for them. That’s always been my favorite part. To me, that’s where the actual story of the game is, the over-arching plot of the series. What’s going on with Altair and Ezio has always been secondary to me, just sort of a side plot that allows you to unlock the real story. The main reason I kept playing through the repetitive gameplay was to find out what the heck was going on with Desmond and Abstergo and the Ancients or whatever they’re called.

At least originally. I was blown away by the meta-story in AC1 and the cliffhanger ending. I eagerly played AC2 and Brotherhood to see what happened with Desmond and all the meta-things they revealed.

After Brotherhood, they succumbed to fan pressure and made the Desmond side of things more optional. So optional that they’ve basically just been phoning it in story-wise. I think the people who originally came up with that meta-story are no longer even there, so it’s kind of pointless. AC Revelations had a Desmond story but it was completely unrelated to anything (plus Desmond looked totally different). In AC3, it’s like they’ve entirely given up on trying to make a compelling meta story. From what I’ve read, it’s even worse in AC4.

<

p>Personally I wish they’d get back to that part of the game, or maybe make another game that tells that story. Or publish a book or a movie or something. Revealing that meta-story was way more interesting to me than running around collecting feathers.

Bye Warhammer!

Bye Warhammer! I wish I’d been able to log into you before you left, but your publisher apparently can’t manage simple things like letting people easily login and play you, even when you’re free. Gotta think that might have something to do with your departure. Anyway, you weren’t a bad game. Certainly better than EQ1 or AC which are inexplicably still running approximately fifty years later.

Warhammer Online is the first MMORPG I’ve played a significant amount that shut down, and only the second MMORPG from which I’ve lost significant characters. (I lost my original Asheron’s Call characters when Turbine moved from Microsoft to their own servers.)

Bye bye Otteinmed. (I used to play at 1024x640??)
Bye bye Otteinmed. (I used to play at 1024×640??)

FFXIV Free Company Housing In 2.1

Wow. I just read an article on Massively about the pricing for Final Fantasy XIV guild housing. It’s rather high, and it has enraged the FFXIV community. At least according to the article. For myself, I’m not into housing on a good day, but I’m definitely not into housing if it’s going to cost me a bazillion jillion gil for a starter house.

Before we get to the housing, I’ve got to say, Square Enix knows how to put out some friggin’ patch notes. The FFXIV 2.1 patch notes are the most detailed patch notes I’ve ever seen, to the point of obsessive compulsion. It’s a complete encyclopedia of patch information that must have taken an enormous amount of time to put together. Kudos to them.

(My personal favorite new feature: Ability to add people to the blacklist by clicking their name in the chat.)

Is the housing too much? At first glance it sounds outrageous. On the other hand, premium land should be expensive, right? On the other hand, if it’s so expensive that it takes a massive campaign of gil farming to get it, it will absolutely suck the fun out of the game. I know from personal experience that if it costs a bazillion gold to buy a house, once you’ve collected the bazillion gold and bought the house, you pretty much are done with the game. (This happened to me and some friends in Ultima Online after we saved up to buy a mansion or castle or whatever it was. We didn’t play much after we got it.)

I’ll say this: The only way they will lower the prices is if literally nobody buys. But you know guilds are going to buy no matter how much it costs or how much they complain, and that will justify the prices Square Enix set. If they set a ridiculously high price and people buy anyway, they have no reason to lower them.

P.S. Square Enix responds. Spoiler: No changes.

Invert Mouse Forever

Why doesn’t everyone use invert mouse? I simply cannot comprehend it. Yet informal polls show that only about 30% of people use invert mouse.

I choose the invert mouse setting because I want to mimic the controls of a flight simulator, which is pretty much the de-facto standard 3D environment control scheme. In a flight simulator (and presumably a real airplane), you push the stick forward to go down, and you pull the stick back to go up. So clearly when using a mouse, you should roll the mouse forward to aim down, and roll the mouse backward to aim up.

If you don’t use invert mouse, wouldn’t you get totally confused if you ever played a flying simulator? I know they don’t make them any more but they might come back into vogue one day and then where will you be? You’ll be the one looking for an invert mouse option and complaining that the game is unplayable when you can’t find it! What do you think of that?