Don’t forget to look up!

A work-colleague once extolled me to always remember to look up when touring a new city or place. Whether it’s to see unusual architecture, a pleasing vista or something further away; it does prove true, even walking around my own city I occasionally see something new or unexpected when I take my eyes off street-level.

Interestingly the same maxim can also be very useful in gaming as well. It’s all too easy in MMORPGs to keep your character’s view fixedly level with the ground, but if you do then you’re probably missing out…

Beautiful skies

I encountered this view of towering architecture with a starry sky overhead while exploring the western edge of the Desert Highlands in Guild Wars 2. The stars track slowly overhead, two very bright ones were emerging close together above the left hand wall’s summit. This chimes with posts I’ve made before about how beautiful sky-boxes can be in MMORPGs.

Architectural grandeur

In dungeons looking up is rarely on your mind. But World of Warcraft’s dungeons have some sumptuous design work, often on areas that you barely notice unless you’re in full tourism mode.

Missing a clue

Looking all around for clues is important in Secret World Legends, even up! In confined spaces it’s easy to ignore the ceiling as your point of view appears to cover all around you. But a cunningly positioned written clue is only visible if you look up while close-by.

Finding those objectives

In Guild Wars 2 looking around, including upwards, is pretty important as the mini-map will show if a vista, mastery or hero point is nearby but it won’t tell you where in the game’s often complex, vertically layered, zones the objective lies. So looking up (or down) can be the most effective way of finding where you’ll need to jump, glide or ride to next.

Unusual sights

While in the city zones of Stormreach in Dungeons & Dragons Online, a shadow will on occasion pass over the street. If you bother to look up you will see a graceful Elemental Galleon sailing overhead. These airships are just decorative, but as a massive fan of the Eberron D&D setting, details like this really speak to me.

Beware an ambush

Keeping your eyes open and upwards in DDO can be good for your character’s health. There are often enemies hidden away in corners, on raised platforms or even harder to reach places. It can be a painful lesson if he or she doesn’t keep an eye on their surroundings!

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Posted in DDO, Gaming, Guild Wars, TSW, WoW | 1 Comment

SWL: lockbox ennui

There’s a discussion surrounding lockboxes circulating again. Massively OP has a post decrying them, and I’m inclined to agree. I’m not rabidly against them, I play many MMOs that feature lockboxes of some kind; but I certainly (personally) see nothing positive in their inclusion in a game.

Just a sample of the many, many lockboxes in NW

Playing Secret World Legends recently the lockboxes are so common. We’re World of Warcraft players of old, so when a purple floating loot icon appears you immediately think “oh, wow, epic loot!”. But no, it’s just a loot box every time. /sadface

Bad colour choice is bad

We’re in Savage Coast now and loot in general seems a lot rarer than it used to be, there are a lot of randomised loot bags but almost no dropped loot anymore – except for lootboxes. It’s very reminiscent of Neverwinter in terms of loot boxes raining down on you. Oh and we’ve seen a second kind dropping most recently, perhaps because we changed zone or because of the upcoming Halloween event.

24 lootboxes already?

Lootboxes as an inventory management issue does irk me, if inventory space is limited or monetised in a game; showering loot crates of different sorts on the player is a good way to get me annoyed with that game. I wonder whether MMO developers have ways of tracking “negative-monetisation-effects” (design choices that dissuade players from playing more/longer)? Overloading my character with lootboxes will *not ever* encourage me to buy more inventory via real money transactions, I will just delete the boxes more regularly, or even immediately to free up space.

Clearly I’m not the target audience for lockboxes, I get no pleasure from the randomised loot therein because the appearance of the box isn’t tied to any particular effort. I’m not against randomised loot in general, I’m fine with the chests in DDOs dungeons for instance or the standard trope of random boss loot in dungeons (in WoW or similar). But hiding loot behind a paywall is a step too far for me personally. Lootboxes for me are at best an ignorable evil of current MMO-monetisation, I can’t see them as a positive feature or desirable loot delivery-mechanism.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter, TSW, WoW | 2 Comments

DDO: puzzling a solution

Having played a good amount of Divinity Original Sin 2 recently, I have come across many instances where the group has been able to puzzle out a solution to a blockage to progress or a challenging fight through strategy and the application of items in our possession. This isn’t really about puzzles as in-game tests, but rather how you can take more than one approach to moving past an obstacle or defeating a tough opponent.

It’s a type of gameplay enabled very much by the RPG roots of D&D and similar games, in Divinity there are many different elemental-style effects and spells to consider when fighting enemies – some will have a greater effect, others a lesser or even inverted effect (e.g. poison healing undead opponents). The heritage of this is clear to see in D&D and is similarly well modelled in Dungeons & Dragons Online as well.

Beyond selecting the right abilities or weapons for a given opponent, which is adds a layer to combat for discussion and coordination in a coop game; there are also utility abilities in DOS2 that offer interesting solutions to problems. In exploring a fort in a recent play session we made use of the teleport spell to bypass several locked doors and traps – the area was still fun to explore but we didn’t need to find quite so many ‘key’ items as perhaps someone playing without teleport might need. Said solution couldn’t work without coop either, since the spell only works on someone or something other than the caster.

Teleport can bring the treasure chest to you…

This support for creative thinking is one of my pet topics. It seems that dungeons in most MMOs tend to be linear affairs with boss fights interspersed by ‘trash’ groups. Any game or dungeon that gets away from that tired and rather boring trope is great in my book. Having game systems that offer utility abilities, and that encourage players to think on how to use them, is almost as good as having lavishly crafted puzzles to defeat – arguably it’s better than puzzles since the latter will grow stale with repetition. How better to keep repeated content fresh than to simply give the players more leeway in how they beat it?

The perfect example of this presented itself when I was putting my artificer character through his paces in DDO. I was running the classic harbour quest “the Kobold’s New Ringleader” for reputation with the Coin Lord faction, when I hit a snag I’d not experienced. In the mission there’s an iron grate blocking a semi-secret section. Opening this in past runs was never an issue, either my character was strong enough or someone else in the party could. This time solo’ing it with my trust iron dog companion, I was stumped by the lack of strength.

Hmmm

So rather than give up, or immediately check the wiki, I thought about what I could try to get past it. I completed the remainder of the dungeon, handed in. A quick trip to the marketplace to visit a friendly potion vendor and I took the quest again on the next higher difficulty to try again. I’m well versed enough in D&D to know that potions of bull’s strength will give my character a chance at opening stuck doors. That turned out to not be enough either as my rather waif-like elven Artificer wasn’t strong enough still. Rather than give up however, I did some more thinking while my character rested at the shrine. If you can’t go through a door, what about over it?

The early dungeons in DDO have a lot of stacked crates – they are set in the harbour’s warehouses after all. True enough if you take a moment to look up there is a narrow path through the wall of crates to get over to the other side of the gate! So without wasting any more time or gold, I was able to complete the hidden section. In a mixed party the gate is unlikely to be a real challenge, any half-decent Fighter, Paladin or Barbarian would have enough strength. But that’s the point of this post: having more than one solution, and challenges that you can’t automatically defeat just by having awesome combat prowess, makes for a welcome change!

Brains over brawn…

Posted in DDO, Gaming | 1 Comment

NW: back at the top!

I finally dinged my Hunter Ranger level 70 today, it’s been a slow but steady march this summer to get him to the current cap. Of course his gear is terrible for a newly dinged level 70, so the “top” in the title is only his level and not his potential effectiveness.

He’s actually my fourth character, two others (Cleric and GWF) are locked in defunct leveling pairs and I fell out of the love of playing my original solo character (a Wizard).

Always with the Dragons…

There are other characters to level for sure at some point, but if I continue playing Neverwinter in the short-term I’d best get my Ranger off to Chult for the most recent expansion!

Three cheers for himself!

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GW2: embrace the bounce!

We’ve finally found enough time to push further into the Desert Highlands region of the Path of Fire expansion in Guild Wars 2. This region is noticeably different in geography from the previous sand-dune fest of the Crystal Oasis.  Lots of barrier cliffs blocking access to mastery points, vistas and other objectives.

Thankfully, within the same session we reached Highjump Ranch and unlocked our lovely new springer mounts! These adorable bunnie-roo (they look to me like a rabbit/kangaroo cross) mounts have a high-up jump ability, and a smash-down attack too.

As with the raptors the new style of movement and the special ability are fun to learn, and having unlocked another mount we are thinking back to all the locations we’ve seen that we couldn’t reach.

Wheeeee!

Otherwise the play session remains a real mix of wandering randomly, exploring things we find along the way and collecting as many mastery and hero points as possible. Having a second mount gives us even more use for masteries; we’re still just under a third of the way to unlocking our respective elite specialisations (Mirage and Weaver respectively). I haven’t unlocked enough to try mine properly, and to be honest I’m enjoying Chronomancer just a little too much – I will give Mirage a go, but it seems unlikely it’ll become my go to spec.

Tik tok on the clock…

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars | 1 Comment

The Autumn gaming squeeze

I’m finding less time to game at the moment, weekends have been busy since returning from holiday, and my weeks are busier too with the start of the academic year. I do still have time for some Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire with my husband, and for the near future our small-group games have settled on Secret World Legends or Divinity Original Sin 2 to play with friends depending on if there’s three or four online.

DOS2: burn it with fire!

The real crunch time-wise is in my solo gaming. I’ve just not been finding the time for my usual desire to mix-up my MMO gaming to include some side games for my own interests. My Neverwinter run is winding down, I was playing the Tyranny of Dragons campaign almost every day over the summer, but I’ve completed all the easy to do segments. My Hunter Ranger is creeping towards level 70 (currently 69.4) via invocation and Leadership crafting alone now. The summer quest series in EQ2 is over too, I’ll have to try to find something else ‘bite-sized’ I can do to keep active in-game as I await the next expansion launch. That’s making it harder to blog as well because I’ve less time for writing and fewer hours in-game to inspire posts.

Here be dragons

Things will hopefully settle down again into a new rhythm once I get further into October. As a random, non-gaming, aside I’ve started learning beginners Japanese as well; a long-term goal that has always been on the back-burner. At least when we finally inch our way into the Kaiden zones of SWL, I may actually have learnt enough to read some of the signs and other writings dotted around!

A long way to Tokyo…

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars, TSW | 1 Comment

SWTOR server merges and character names

I note via Massively OPs article that server merges are coming to Star Wars the Old Republic on November 8th, and they’ll involve some of the usual issues such as duplicate character’s getting a forced name change. The three remaining European servers will be split by language, so presumably all the English-speaking player characters will end up there.

The character limit of 52 per server won’t be a problem for me. Nor will forced name changes of any characters lower than level 10, I don’t have anyone that low these days. Characters that haven’t been played for 90 days or more will encompass most if not all of my characters,  however. Furthermore priority is given to subscribers and I’m not going to resub to a game I’m not currently playing just to increase the change of keeping some names…

There may be some other unforseen impacts of this, the loss of any ability to “start again” on a new server, for instance. On the plus side it does negate the issues of server choice I was contemplating last week, unless you want to change language community entirely. On balance I’m in favour of mega-server architectures for MMORPGs, it seems like this is a move to such a system, whether spurred by tech advances or population decline.

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