A tale of two intros

I didn’t manage to get very far in Path of Fire over the weekend, real life got in the way, my one attempt at playing through the intro instance on my Guardian met with a “disconnect and rollback” failure – half way through I was dumped out of the game and put back in Lion’s Arch. I’m not the only person to have issues, but I haven’t read much about widespread problems, so the launch seems to have gone mostly well for those with the time to play properly. Tonight’s gaming session was a first proper look at the expansion.

A dramatic arrival

This time around I was playing my Mesmer with his stalwart Asura Elementalist companion. We gritted our teeth for the expected solo trial of the intro instance, only to be very, very pleasantly surprised that both the new Lion’s Arch prelude instance and the pyramid-themed intro instance were multiplayer. Big thanks and kudos to ArenaNet for sorting that out!

Much more fun as a duo

The beta weekend pain was quickly forgotten as we zoomed through the fight with the cultists and unlocked our raptors as a duo. Afterwards we meandered around the farmlands surrounding Amnoon, picking up a few vistas and completing a few hearts.

Choya can be very mean!

The first zone was busy-ish, but not Guild Wars 2 busy, I guess most players are already well past this zone in the zerg rush towards whatever follows – at least we’ll see the alt characters as they come on through. I know I’ll certainly want to play at least two or three characters through enough of the expansion to unlock the new elite specs.

Gliders can still come in handy

Based on first impresssions, I’d say this expansion has some really nice features. More opinions will follow after I’ve had a chance to play some more. I noticed the materials store lock on certain items, inventory space is a bit of an issue for us in GW2; but we did spend some time sorting and selling as much as possible before leaping into Path of Fire so reserving a few temporary slots for crafting mats won’t be that big an issue for now.

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Guild Wars 2: the waiting nears its end

My characters, all four level 80s, are ready to step into the brave new zones of Elona once Path of Fire opens. Naturally I won’t be doing that with the mass zerg at ~20:00 UK time, we have visitors coming this weekend and my gaming time will be limited to a some World of Warcraft later in the evening (showing the ups and downs of getting family playing a certain game…).

Impatiently waiting…

As advised in comments, I’ve gone ahead and dinged both my Necromancer and Ranger to level 80. I’ll be playing my Guardian and Mesmer first into the zone when I get the chance, but do want to take the Ranger out for a proper test run as soon as possible after that. It’ll be interesting to see how differently they each perform in that intro story instance that was a bit of a painful beta experience on the demo character.

Happy Path of Fire day for those playing later today!

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EQ2: next expansion and catchup events

I read via Massively OP that Everquest 2’s next expansion has now been announced: Planes of Prophecy. The producer’s letter that gives this announcement includes a few details – our characters are off to various other planes such as the intriguing sounding  Plane of Innovation (Gnomes?) and the less glamorous Plane of Disease (something to do with Bertoxxulous?).

There’s some other tidbits: like last year, there’s a Gear up, Level Up! event with different weekly bonuses, starting from the 2nd October. That could be useful for me to sort out my main characters ahead of the expansion. Given that Planes of Prophecy is due in November, that gives me a good two months to explore the soon-to-launch Path of Fire expansion for GW2 – pretty good spacing for the two from my perspective. There’s apparently a prelude quest for the expansion live now.

I’ve been popping into EQ2 weekly for the summer catchup gear event, the same letter notes that there’s two weeks left of that too. I’ve still got this week’s to do at some point, it’s been one of those weeks, but I think I’ve managed to keep up with the event. There’s also a name purge coming for characters that have not been logged in for five years (as of October 17th). Time to visit some of my poor neglected alts!

Soaring new skies in November?

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Cooperative gameplay and combat

Through the same group of four friends I am currently experiencing two different takes on turn-based combat. This type of game is somewhat more relaxed paced than all the MMORPGs that I play, all of them have so-called real-time combat as a comparison.

Shadowrun Chronicles

I’ve played this game several times over the last year or so as duo, trio and now, this latest time, as a full group of four. The combat is turn-based, but player actions within the “player turn” are simultaneous – we normally coordinate via voice-chat to avoid the potential for your actions blocking or negating those of others.

The plus side is definitely the relative sense of immersion in the combat and the ability to act with some independence within that player turn. The downside is a UI issue – if you click to change active weapon or ability at the exact moment the game accepts an actual action by a team-mate, then your click may be ignored. That can lead to mis-clicking the wrong ability, or accidentally moving instead of another action if you’re not careful.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

We started playing this coop RPG this last weekend, although we’ve only played the one decent session so far. Here the combat is also turn-based but in a stricter sense – each character and opponent is assigned an ‘initiative’ order (a la Dungeons & Dragons and many other paper RPGs), and combat plays out one character turn at a time.

The plus side of the stricter order is you are less likely to mis-click or overlap your action with another player’s. The downside, I find, is your merely a spectator while awaiting your character’s turn. You can pan around the battlefield but that’s about it – interactions with the environment are strictly limited; you can’t even examine a foe while you wait for your turn.

The same but different

So two different takes on the same style of tactical combat. I can’t say I prefer one over the other wholeheartedly since they each have advantages and disadvantages. Compared to MMORPGs where you have constant control of your character and are usually in the action all the time, I do find both games to be a mixture of being more relaxing, yet also less engaging.

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GW: the event loot hose

We had a fun session in Guild Wars 2 yesterday, exploring deeper into the Auric Basin zone of Heart of Thorns. We even got our first go at a big meta-event in the Forgotten City of Tarir, rather surprisingly since we hadn’t progressed the expansion storyline this far as yet and the nearest gate seemed impassable when we passed it while exploring.

Exploring Auric Basin

The event was well progressed by the time we managed to find our way down to the central hub (a k a Legacy Pillars). Four groups of characters were simultaneously fighting giant Octovines – we did our best not to do anything wrong while still contributing.

Event in Tarir

After the vines were slayed, the zerg united and charged down into a series of impressive under chambers. We ignored story spoilers as much as possible and just hit the odd champion monster while marvelling at the sheer abundance of Exalted chests in every successive chamber.

Big chest, little chests

Seriously, this city and its meta-event are an actual Aladdin’s cave. So much loot. Naturally our inventories are mostly full of all the stuff we’ve been rapidly accumulating as we get back into playing the game regularly. Loot has always been numerous in GW2, even if the majority isn’t that useful. With this event and similar though inventory space becomes a real headache. When you’re following a zerg, around an unfamiliar event chain (as most still are to us in this expansion) and your inventory is constantly filing, the lack of back space is a real negative aspect.

So much loot….

We’ve not played much in the more recent era of the game so money is still pretty limited on our characters. At the moment, other than a couple of larger event bags I snagged way back (e.g. Ancient Karka Shell Box), my characters bags are mostly 12 slot at most. That doesn’t give me that much room for all vast array of potions, harvesting gear, quest items, gear upgrade items and keys (or equivalents).

Of course there are easy solutions: we could burn our limited funds on crafted bags from the Black Lion auction house, we could put down some real cash to buy extra bag slots per character or I could knuckle down and finish leveling armorsmith to make some bigger boxes (e.g. the 20 slot Orichalcum Box). There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them I suppose, I’d rather not pauper my main character just to expand his inventory; likewise I’ve just bought the twin expansion deal twice so spending more cash on gems will have to wait a while. The third option just requires me to get on with some mat farming and power crafting leveling, so I guess I’ll give that a go, anything to not constantly see the overflow window popping up…

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Player created treasure hunts

Playing through the latest of the Yun Zi summer event quests got me to thinking about treasure hunts. These quests are a delightful excuse to go flying around old zones and visiting places that I may or may not have seen in-game. However they fall slightly short of a proper treasure hunt as I would define it since there aren’t enough clues given to allow a less experience player to work out where the various locations or NPCs might be.

Admittedly the events are also a gear-catch-up mechanism so the quality of the treasure hunt mechanics are not probably top of most players minds when doing these quests. The developer time necessary to craft clues for each location for each week probably wasn’t justified given the amount of players, with more focus on progression, that will go straight to the linked wiki article for the list of coordinates.

This linked in my mind to a recent post by Bhagpuss that mentioned the Dungeon Maker system in EQ2.  As I think of this I don’t think I know of any MMORPG with a system for player created content that would support well a wide-ranging treasure hunt style activity. The Dungeon Maker in EQ2 and similar systems like Neverwinter’s Foundry are highly instanced – so not supportive of the larger zone a proper hunt requires. There might also be restrictions on the number of players that can be active at once in such systems, e.g. the max party size for a dungeon run, that’s not great if you want to run a treasure hunt activity for a whole guild.

My husband managed to run a treasure hunt years ago in World of Warcraft. It was held in a low-level zone to not exclude newer players or alt characters, and to make a fair playing field by using a no-fly zone (Azuremyst Isles). It was a success and great fun but the game’s engine didn’t help given the limited exploration gameplay in the game and the lack of any player made content tools. It would be really nice to be able to do this type of open world treasure hunt competition but with some actual supportive systems in place to make running it and judging the winner easier (e.g. having to place a character in each winning spot before the event started was a time-consuming pain for him).

Are there such systems in any MMOs I’m not familiar with? Have you or your guild run such an event?


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WoW: spell graphic changes

Yesterday I spent quite a few hours in World of Warcraft playing dungeons with a mix of different friends and family. As per usual we shifted between characters to make-up for any lack of healer or tank character in a given group. So I ended up playing my level 110 Hunter, Paladin, Shaman and Mage characters at various points.

The gang is back in town

One aspect of patch 7.3 that I had not paid much attention to, with the main focus being the new Argus content, was the changed spell graphics for some classes. I didn’t notice this at first, neither my Balance Druid or my Holy Paladin seem to have anything looking different now. But once I switched to my Resto Shaman I was very pleasantly surprised by the new ‘watery heals’ graphics.

Water has long been the theme of Shaman heals, but they’ve not necessarily looked that spectacular in the past. Now the healing wave spell is a flow of water corkscrewing up the caster’s body as (s)he chants. The chain heal spell, likewise, is  now a twisting tendril of water that winds through the air between the characters affected. Both are truly beautiful to watch.

The waters are rising…

As for Arcane Mage, the spells have certainly been updated although I’m less convinced by the change. The graphics for arcane blast and arcane barrage for instance are now more sinuous; for example arcane barrages’ missiles now curve and loop much more tightly as they head from caster to target. I suppose the same code used in the Shaman healing might also benefit the Mage’s in this regard. The spell effects are higher resolution and seem thinner and more defined. The sound effect changes for these spells I do not like particularly, to me the arcane barrage missiles sound like someone is hitting a bean bag when they strike their target…

I look forward to checking back on my Paladin and Druid, perhaps the changes are there but more subtle?

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