TSW: Guardians of Gaia

This weekend we had a quick session of Guardians of Gaia slaying as part of the anniversary event in The Secret World.

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Burn it up!

As was mentioned in the comments of my last post on this event, these world bosses have varied tactics. Actually the Golden Golems seem to be a copy of Pitiqtu Nasiru’s combat tactics.

A Golden Golem in an earthy disguise?

A Golden Golem in an earthy disguise?

This event has eight different bosses to kill for an achievement (plus a ninth in the Tokyo zone?), we didn’t even need to checkout the wiki for details on this because some nice player had created a lovely Info pane with the details (see screenshot below – unless you want to avoid spoilers). The Info pane system as a tool for the community to share info in game is a really nice idea!

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None of the mechanics are that hard to learn, but having some variety is sure better than the Golden Golem fights that are all alike. One Guardian can be a bit painful to learn if you’re unobservant (see screenshot below).

Following the crowd is a good idea here...

Following the crowd is a good idea here…

Also make sure you’re joined up to the Event channel (this Anniversary wiki page has the instructions at the top) as players are constantly shouting out any Guardians they find and you can often use the MeetUp right-click option to jump to the map in question.

The event offers some nice vanity pets, I’ve got three already in the first try at the eight boss kills. My healer companion even got a purple-quality blood magic weapon off a creature summoned by one of the bosses (Isatis we think), although mostly the fights just reward a signet or two. The fights are generally short so it’ll be well worth a couple more sessions to complete my pet collection!

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FFXIV: Bard is fun!

I continue to love playing the Bard class in Final Fantasy 14. Over the last couple of levels I’ve unlocked two new area damage abilities that have really opened up some tactical options.

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For twenty plus levels I only had Quick Nock which is pretty weak and short ranged. Now I suddenly have Flaming Arrow for area damage-over-time and Rain of Death for a quick burst of area damage.

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Rain of Death awesomeness

We’ve not played much these last two weeks as real life has been full of visiting family and a weekend away so it was good to get back to some Main Scenario Quest progress last night. We’re at level 46 and ploughing into Mor Dhona at present and I’m enjoying the building storyline a lot.

I had a challenging time in one particular instanced solo combat, it’s still easy for me to forget I’m mostly playing the mobile and relatively squishy damage dealing class having played Summoner for so long before. Bards in Final Fantasy 14 do get to inspire allies with their songs, but unlike the Dungeons & Dragons class they have no healing magic. So it’s easy for my one self-heal (Second Wind: courtesy of Pugilist) and one potion to not be enough to survive a fight that my husband’s Summoner/Scholar can easily tough it through with his access to the titan-egi pet tank *and* cure spells…

This fight was a lot more challenging than this 'victory moment' shot shows

This fight was a lot more challenging than this ‘victory moment’ shot shows

In the end I only had to try a second time and keep on the move for things to work out better, focus-firing the many weaker Imperials that accompanied this magitek monster was the wining strategy. We’re making good headway again now and have a clear weekend to get on with some serious leveling I hope!

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DDO: Hankering after Eberron

I was reading a Q&A blog post written by Keith Baker yesterday. He’s the original creator of the Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons (first released back in the 3rd edition era). This is my favourite setting, the one in which I’ve been running a campaign. It is also the background setting for Dungeons & Dragons Online the MMORPG created by Turbine. Reading the Q&A had me wanting to play the game again but, sadly, I’m too quickly reminded of its faults.

Hat design is not a DDO strong-point

Hat design is not a DDO strong-point

To be fair to the title it has some very positive points. The approximation of the 3rd edition D&D rules is *very* good, adapted for real-time combat and MMO tropes such as the combat role trinity (tank, healer , damage dealer). The character creation and progression system is amazingly deep and complex while offering a great ‘template’ system to allow MMO players who are unfamiliar with D&D  to skip much of this complexity. The storytelling is also pretty good with generally imaginative and lore-appropriate quests.

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But the core design of the game is about repeating the relatively small number of quests (each quest is an instance or dungeon) on different difficulty settings. It probably represents a sensible compromise for available budget vs content replayability but it also makes the game more grindy and less alt-friendly than other MMOs. You will repeat all the quests many times to level even on one character.

This combination of grinding dungeons and the relatively slow levelling speed led to what I would consider to be a tendency towards elitism and min-maxing of character builds to an extreme. Random groups for dungeons were a mad head-long dash from start to finish with little concern for healer mana or tactics. I’m talking here about the pre-free to play days especially and I was in a guild and they played this way too. Since free to play I’ve only played as part of a levelling trio but the game isn’t designed for small party cooperative play, it expects full party groups (6 players) if you want to progress at a half-decent rate.

So I’m left frustrated that I’d like to play the game but feeling less than thrilled with the quantity of content available and the rigidity of the party size. We muddled by as a trio until level 5 or 6 but by then the content was too challenging for such a small group.

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TSW: anniversary event from 1st July

I’ve just read that The Secret World’s anniversary event will be back for two weeks starting this Wednesday, 1st July. That’s potentially good news if we find the time for some ‘guardians of gaia’ hunting madness as these world boss fights reward a high ability point (AP) rate. We could sorely use them as we start tinkering with the very AP expensive higher end unlocks like the auxiliary weapon and augment systems.

Also this year there will new 1970s themed items up for grabs including a retro motorbike. We’ve not yet taken part in an anniversary event in this game, although I imagine it would be similar to the Golden golem fights we have seen?

The other open world boss monsters we have fought

The other open world boss monsters we have fought

One good thing this time around is that both my husband and I have better computers than the last time we fought an open world boss fight, and the attendant lag monster. Hopefully we’ll have better frame rates this time!

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Guild content – is it in vogue?

According to recent news guild content seems to have renewed focus in MMORPGs at present.

Guild Wars 2 adds the ‘guild’ back in

The Heart of Thorns expansion will bring Guild Halls into the game allowing big guilds to capture and expand a fortress with various facilities. Lots to do if you’re in a large enough guild to benefit from this content, although it’s slanted towards PVP it seems so not on my radar. Guild halls were a feature in the elder Guild Wars 1 game so it’s no surprise the game is finally adding this feature.

Neverwinter adds Strongholds

Sounding rather similar, Neverwinter is adding Strongholds for guilds to build up and then you can use a special ‘merged map’ mode to battle against another guild trying to raid your stronghold and vice versa. Since this is almost soley PVP focused again it’s of no interest to me. The Neverwinter guild I was in is barely alive now so I’ll not be seeing any of this without swapping guilds and I’m not interested in the game enough to bother.

Final Fantasy 14

Wiki details are sparse so far but Heavensward has brought Free Company crafting into the game, permitting guilds to build an airship among other items. Aywren does have a blog post with a nice description of this feature. These material-intensive items open access to Exploratory Voyages, which function like retainer missions it seems. My largish free company is working on building an airship so I hope to have first-hand details of what this actually means in-game terms soon!

These examples do not cover the standard guild-oriented activities such as raiding of course. World of Warcraft has a new raid in the 6.2 patch, Final Fantasy 14 will add a new raid two weeks after launch of Heavensward and so on. But widening the available activities beyond raiding or premade PVP does seem to be on the development plans of several games that I’m following. Is this a wider trend or just a few exceptions?

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Wildstar and community-building

Two very interesting posts yesterday that I’ve been thinking have some shared relevance.

Firstly Rohan has an excellent post on the FFXIV community and how Square Enix have helped to engineer a friendlier or more patient MMO community through game design and positive reward systems. He postulates that the relative slowness of leveling and combat may have weeded out many of the impatient players that are common to other MMORPGs (the “gogogogo” players, those who drop group at the first wipe in a dungeon etc). My husband and I have experienced this difference in attitude, certainly some dungeon runs have not gone super smoothly but where wipes do occur there’s a higher tolerance of failure – I get a sense that the players are more patient than in other games; not always but more often than not.

Secondly M J at Massively OP has written up an interview she conducted with Carbine devs about the upcoming mega-patch that will herald not only free-to-play to Wildstar this autumn, but also a lot of changes to the game. The post details proposed revamps of the character stats, a more even spacing of dungeons with an earlier intro to group content, quality of life improvements like always-on sprint out of combat and much more. All positive stuff although I’m glad I’ll have experienced a good amount of the game prior to these changes for comparison.

Wildstar has a turbulent history of targeting the “hardcore” and having included systems that encouraged elitism and poor group behaviour (e.g. requiring gold medal runs on endgame dungeon runs to get the best loot led to lots of players dropping group after the first wipe). I was turned off the game at beta by how highly competitive so many elements of the game seem to be (or have been). When zones were busy, challenges were my idea of hell and open-world combat was a mess of players dragging monsters over your fight so you’d grab aggro from them (accidentally or on purpose).

Even recently in my last gaming session I’ve seen an example of this competitive nature. I was collecting frozen tubers in Whitevale via a two-step process, holding ‘F’ to unfreeze them and then having to press ‘F’ again to collect the root. I was momentarily distracted by chat in the advice channel (a second or three) and another Exile character skate-boarded up and collected the item I had thawed. This isn’t a “two characters running for the same node” incident – I had already interacted with it to unfreeze it and someone felt justified in taking the item!

What I’d really like to see Carbine doing is not just making the game easier or faster but rather for them to focus some attention on toning down the competitive nature of the open world content. That in combination with some active encouragement for players to help one another could be a real help in building a more positive feel to the game’s communities and to the game’s reputation online.

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FFXIV: new jobs and classes

With the launch of the Heavensward expansion for FFXIV details of the new jobs have become available on wikis. As announced the jobs of Astrologian, Dark Knight and Machinist have no base class, but like previous classes they do have cross-class skills taken from a secondary and tertiary class.

Job Secondary Tertiary
Astrologian Conjurer Thaumaturge
Dark Knight  Gladiator Marauder
Machinist Archer Lancer

That’s a pretty mixed-up bunch from my perspective, I certainly got my predictions rather wrong!

Astrologian thus seems to be combining the healer magic of the Conjurer with the elemental damage of the Thaumaturge. Some of the job’s mechanics allow it to alternate between the Conjurer versus Scholar healing styles yet Arcanist isn’t a cross-class here.

Dark Knight ‘double-dips’ on the tanking abilities of the Gladiator and the Marauder – the two tanking base classes of the game. The Dark Knight actually follows the usual tanking-job patterns since both Warrior and Paladin can take elements from the other tanking base class. Dark Knight having its own abilities plus access to some of Warrior and Paladin makes it sound, to me at least, as though it may be a little over-powered though.

Machinist mixes the same class elements as the Bard with Archer (as secondary not primary class) and Lancer (as tertiary). The Machinist sticks close to the Bard formula with only a dose of Pugilist missing, lacking any hint of Arcanist (for the summoning of turret flavour).

The game has moved away from the class->job progression now so the cross classes were probably selected to fill certain ability gaps rather than to provide a specific, flavour-oriented, element.

Once I eventually get to level 50 and have all the Main Scenario quests done I’ll probably be looking at unlocking Machinist to give that a whirl. It’ll be complementary to my Bard main job from a gear and cross-class perspective. I’ll be interested in whether it offers any variation in gameplay though.

Trial with Machinist and Dark Knight

Trial with Machinist and Dark Knight

The game is certainly full, as you would expect, with players leveling the three new jobs. So far Dark Knights seem the most common just from my random observations, followed by Machinists. Sadly I haven’t yet seen an Astrologian in action but then I have a Scholar with me in all dungeons/guildhests etc so until we reach the larger group content that’s not going to happen…

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