Guiding an instant high-level character

Playing my Esper in Wildstar has given me pause for thought on what the game, and other MMORPGs in general, could do to make it an easier process to take on a newly dinged max level (or near) character. If you as a player have already capped a character the hard way then such advice is probably not going to teach you much, but even then the new character may differ enough in play style to require adjustments.

Messages and calls waiting

In my case in Wildstar playing the Esper has confronted me with a couple of hurdles, firstly what on Earth (or Nexus) to do first? The game bombards a dinged character with calls and messages from quest givers and other NPCs. The majority are actually old stuff from leveling zones that your character just bypassed – I guess some players would resent missing anything like that but it’d nice to have such quest pointers as optional access items rather than a bombard of noisy calls coming in one after another.

I’ve been out of game for a while so other than Arcterra that I have seen, I wasn’t sure what else had come since and what would be best for this ready-geared and configured character. I knew enough to spend his action points (a.k.a. talents) and AMP points to enhance certain abilities. As for runing his lovely purple gear, he started with a solitary gold coin so buying runes of the auction house wasn’t going to happen for some time.

I fancied trying something new but going to Crimson Badlands soon taught me that not all end-game daily zones (like Arcterra) are the same. My Esper nearly died to the first trio of mobs, despite them not being elite or anything special. Here I think the game needs to be more directive in what the new level 50 is equipped for, there’s a lot to do at level 50 but it seems not everything is equal. By contrast, he held his own very well in a round of dailies in Arcterra killing elites solo and surviving very well in the 20-person boss fights. That, especially, pleased me greatly – in trying to decide what I wanted to ding to 50, my main criteria was a class that would be good for this kind of public group content. I found in both bosses it much easier to stay alive and to help others to do so as an Esper, despite the tanky-nature of Engineer I found it much harder to survive boss fights on that class because I didn’t have self healing.

I’ve faced this lack of content guidance in other MMORPGs for insta-dinged characters, for example in Everquest 2. It’s all very well bombarding a player with everything they could do, but perhaps the games should put a bit more effort into suggesting what they might be best starting with as something realistic for that new character, in whatever non-optimal state it is presented. The devs would be fooling themselves if they think their version of the prepared character is anything like as optimal as one that a veteran player has leveled and crafted, so players shouldn’t expect to be able to dive into the harder content, but likewise some indication of what is going to be harder or easier when levels cease to matter would be welcome. MMOs may well present this information but it’s probably couched in jargon – for example in footnotes that note a special stat requirement (e.g. 550 Heroism needed for level 1 prime expeditions in Wildstar).

Although I’ve not yet given it a go, WoW introduced the concept of class trial for level 100 characters. This allows you to play a specific class and spec for a set time in a special zone, with a guided tutorial to key abilities. It’s a nice concept for giving newer players an intro to how a high level class would play.

I suppose it’d be easy for this kind of guidance to be too directive or annoying to veteran players. Being told what to do is a real turn off for some players. But I play with family members regularly enough who lack the MMORPG exposure that I’ve had over the last nine-odd years. A max level character can be tempting, especially for someone who is new to a game and is stuck seeing friends or guildmates having ‘all the fun’ at level cap while you slog through the levels (we had just that experience in WoW back in 2007). But it must be very bewildering to the non-veteran to be suddenly bombarded with so much content and new systems when presented with that new character.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Wildstar, WoW | 1 Comment

WoW: dinosaurs!

This weekend there’s another micro holiday in World of Warcraft. We flew over to Un’goro crater to fight some buffed up dinosaur-themed bosses for Dinosaur Madness.

The event consists of eight moderately tough world boss-like fights. Each is a level 113 dinosaur, the only reward from a successful kill is the Dino Mojo item that gives a random buff to you and a selected player nearby.

The fights for the most part were easy enough, Queen Zavra is a bit tricky with the broken lines of summoned adds criss-crossing from all sides – if you’ve done Attumen the Huntsman in Karazhan then you’ll be familiar with this mechanic.

Sherazin proved to be too tough for the small group on our server doing the rounds. We then used the in-game group finder to join a cross-server raid to farm the bosses, but didn’t happen to get Sherazin before we stopped.

Overall it’s a fun little event, though there’s no major rewards from this: no collectible items or gear, so replay value isn’t that high. Returning to Un’goro is always a pleasure though as I have some major nostalgia for questing in that zone in early expansions.

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Wildstar: existing level 50 catchup

When I played Wildstar yesterday I decided to stick with my tried and tested Engineer rather than play the new Esper. I wanted to get back into the swing of the action combat, the dodging and the telegraphs before I then deal with a brand new class and build.

This character has languished in Arcterra of late, indeed I played a session or two there before the Power of the Primal Matrix update went live. While there I noticed a vendor selling white quality gear. White quality is usually effectively trash in MMOs, it lacks the stat bonuses you expect gear to give once you’ve progressed beyond the tutorial or starter zones. But comparing this vendor gear with my character’s quest reward stuff it was all much better – like 30+ ilevels better on average! So I had to take a full set of it to give him a big health and armour upgrade.

Catchup gear?

That will make survival in world boss fights a bit easier I suspect. Coming back into game yesterday I felt like something different, but besides Arcterra I was a bit perplexed how to start him on newer content like the Redmoon Rising pirate-themed stuff or even unlock the Primal Matrix system – my new Esper has a mail about this but my existing level 50 did not.

Turns out I needed to go to one section of Thayd, the Exile capital. There I talked to three different NPCs all stood around together and that unlocked the Primal Matrix system for him, gave me two new level 50 World Story solo-instances to do, and got me started on the Redmoon Rising content.

In the end I chose the first of the solo-instances for an Engineer workout, “Journey to Omnicore-1”. It was a fun run which gave me plenty of dodge practice and also a jumping puzzle to practice some of the game’s extensive use of movement.

A fun session overall, though I’m slightly spoiled playing a tank(ish) character. I wonder if I’ll find Esper to feel super-squishy in comparison?

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ESO: story in parallel

Elder Scrolls Online has an interesting variation on storytelling when grouped. It has a lot of voiced NPC dialogues – probably the most I’ve seen outside of SWTOR actually in a MMO. That’s generally a good thing in my opinion as I am feeling drawn into Tamriel and the faction story of the Aldmeri Dominion in particular, I’ve only played Ebonheart Pact in the past so this is all new to me.

In trying to think of a succinct phrase to describe the group play experience in ESO, the best I could come up with was “story in parallel”. It’s a midway point between two rather different models used in other games. In World of Warcraft most quest objectives when grouped are shared, very often if one person clicks something that updates an objective it does so for all players if they are nearby. That can be a boon and a royal pain depending on your group – if you have people who read at different speeds for instance then this group-progress-together model is not ideal.

By contrast in SWTOR, with the shared cut-scene delivery, story is more measured in its delivery – you are all paced by the speed of the cut-scenes and the group dialogue systems pauses and time-outs. In Elder Scrolls a lot of the story seems to be delivered through talking to NPCs before, in-between and after any action. These dialogues are individual and independent of anyone else in the group. The dialogues are voiced so that sets a pace of sorts, although you could in theory speed read ahead and cut the voices short a lot of the time if you wanted. A lot of the quest objectives likewise seem to be individual, e.g. all players need to “click X things”. It’s hard to be sure as I haven’t paid much attention to this in SWTOR but certainly this differs from the WoW norm.

ESO resembles WoW more than SWTOR in another manner, the heavy use of in-game ‘scenes’ to tell aspects of story without taking over control of your game – so rather than breaking into cut-scenes all the time, ESO will have NPCs act out important moments in front of you as you are playing. It’s certainly easier to miss this kind of story-telling, usually little epilogues or extra bits of dialogue between NPCs as you pass, but I find it a real boon to immersion to have things happening while I can freely look around and move.

Overall I’m liking the approach, even if there a lot of parallel reading/chatting and clicking of things going on. It actually forces me to be engaged with the story more, not that being forced is necessary as its engaging and well delivered, but there’s no chance to “zone out” and “/follow” another player through ESO’s content. That’s a good thing I think overall, less so for daily quests that you’ve done dozens of times, but for leveling story content the systems works well to keep everyone involved.

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Wildstar: an esper is born

Back from a weekend away just in time to create my new level 50 Esper in Wildstar before the offer expired. Contrary to my expectations I had to create a new character to ding, a slight shame as I had a level 3 Esper that I created some time ago.

In the end my husband also fancied trying this same class as well so he made an Exile Esper as that could pair with my existing level 50 Engineer for some high level duo fun.

My own new character will be good for trying high level public content (ranged dps is safer in big world boss fights than a relatively short-ranged/tanky character) and, if when I find the time, giving group healing a go. I had no time at all to play the new character or anything else so my impressions of the class at level 50 will have to wait, but I’m looking forward to giving the character a spin soon!

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Garish mounts

Massively has a discussion post about garish mounts and whether players should be able to hide them or have an option to filter them to be more lore appropriate. Many MMORPGs do go all out with a huge variety of mounts, they along with companion pets are a popular thing to collect. Everquest 2, as mentioned in the article, has a pretty zany selection of mounts – including giant bunnies, big dragons, clouds and more. Although the crafting area in New Halas can be a bit choked with a bizarre zoo of rideable creatures, I do not count this as being particularly out of character in Norrath.

EQ2 embraces fantastical mounts

World of Warcraft has its fair share of out-there mounts as well and most of them I have no issue with. I’ve become less bothered by the steampunk elements in the game but when they first introduced a full-on motorcycle I was pretty annoyed for a time. Cartoonish Gnome-tinkered gyrocopters and the like are one thing, but an actual bike that looks like something rather closer to a real world, modern vehicle, that somehow felt like a step too far. Perhaps it wasn’t the design of the mount that annoyed me so much as the plethora of bunny-hopping motorcycles making constant revving noises in major cities that irked me? That’s something that isn’t mentioned in the article or discussion – the option to mute other players’ mounts…

Erm, trying to take a photo here…

Oversized mounts are another aspect to this issue in WoW, stacks of mammoths or dragons on top of bank NPCs, vendors or quest givers can be a problem if it’s possible to block others from clicking on said NPC. It’s also quite a pain to get city-based screenshots without some monster mount photo-bombing the frame. I’ve even seen rather oversized mounts in SWTOR, some of the speeders are large enough to cause busy areas of the Fleet to look like a pile-up of crashed vehicles.

At least one MMORPG takes its lore seriously enough to strictly restrict the available mounts, Lord of the Rings Online, where horses and the odd goat are all you can ride. I can’t think of any other game that is this restrictive but there may be others. I’m happy enough to ride around Middle Earth on one horse or another, I can’t imagine having drakes or wurms as mount options in this game.

A goat in Bree-town!?



Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, SWTOR, WoW | 5 Comments

Wildstar: free level 50 character boost

From later today there’s a free level 50 character boost available in Wildstar, deadline to claim it is March 12th. Although my MMO rota is overloaded already I can’t resist an excuse to log back into a game I’ve enjoyed playing the past, especially for a free boost like this!

Room for a new level 50 character…

It’s of particular interest to me actually since I have long had a desire to have a healer at the cap, but lacked the motivation to level a new character through the same zones so soon after my first full run through of the game. This boost gives me the opportunity to give max level ranged dps/healer a proper try, albeit with the steep learning curve that an instant max level character brings. Although I haven’t looked yet, the linked announcement also has links to some helpful info for new level 50s and a guide for character boosts in Wildstar, so I have some reading to do!

My Engineer main

The issue is that tanks make great solo characters in MMORPGs but that, when it comes down to it, tanking dungeons doesn’t appeal to me particularly, not least if I’m pugging such content. My engineer is a hybrid tank/dps with his build and gear so he’s not at all optimised to do either role in the end game. I noticed just how squishy he is during the boss events in Arcterra for instance. Having a new character won’t solve the issue over gearing dps vs healer, but it will give me a trinity role I’m happier to play for group stuff.

Too close for comfort

That leaves me with a dilemma of which class to pick, I’ll have to dig into the meta of how each of the possible classes plays at high level and whether there are any downsides. I’ve always fancied Spellslinger, although I have a low-level Chua that I’d not want to delete any time soon. Esper is a class I’ve not tried properly and the spell effects do look appealing. Of the options my least likely is Medic, since it seems to be pretty close ranged even for healing.

Do you have a favourite healer class in Wildstar and how does that class play as dps?

Posted in Gaming, Wildstar | 3 Comments