Factions and alts

I’m finding myself rather torn in Wildstar over the faction divide. Thematically I prefer the Exiles – I just don’t enjoy playing evil characters that much (nor good characters surviving within an evil system). All the Exile races appeal to me, so I’ll happily play an alt of each of them at some point. But of course the Dominion has Chua as a racial choice. That’s a problem since these cute, albeit rather violent, little fur-balls are so adorable to play! So any chance of keeping to one faction to make logistics and the cumulative benefits of having multiple characters is lessened, especially if my Chua ends up being my second highest character.

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Chua cuteness x2

An example came while I was pottering around on my engineer over the weekend and I thought: “oh I should make some healing potions (well, injections in Wildstar) for low-level alts”. So I started making low-tier healing pots and then I noticed the one variant I’d never discovered – the shield restore pot. That heals the imbiber a chunk and restores some shield strength too. That’s rather cool and so perfect for my husband’s Chua Engineer tank. So after faffing to discover it, I made a stack to send over. Then of course, I was reminded by the game that I can’t mail cross-faction in Wildstar…

/frown

Crafting items to auction is fun, but I like to make useful items for my characters even more...

Crafting items to auction is fun, but I like to make useful items for my characters even more…

So I’m annoyed by the faction barrier in yet another MMORPG. Although I always have one or two main characters, it’s usual for me to have a group of alts to try out races & class combos and to look at the various crafting professions. Playing at least one character of each faction is also a good idea to get a more rounded appreciation for the game’s stories. It’s supremely annoying to not be able to transfer crafted goods to all my alts because of, I can only guess, PVP-inspired interaction barriers.

Now of course there is the auction house; I remember many times using the Goblin auction house in World of Warcraft to trade rare items or materials between factions, and I also remember the careful coordination with friends this needed and the fear of the item being snatched by someone else! In the modern MMO era I consider this option a hassle, plus it costs time and money to use.

Several MMORPGs have made changes towards reducing the barriers to alt-play: shared bank space, account level achievements & collectables, and even permitting mail to be sent across factions (e.g. Rift, EQ2, SWTOR for some points). It makes the game extra alt-friendly compared to the rest. Wildstar already has an Account Inventory (for the login rewards), so why not add an account bank – cross-faction, please! – or at the very least break down those faction barriers between characters on the same account so I can mail my alts!

P.S. Edited to add pictures.

Posted in Wildstar | 4 Comments

SWTOR: artistic style

Something I’ve noticed in SWTOR is how many planets depict the grime and decay of a galaxy that has been at war, on and off, for a very long time. It was mentioned in a Massively OP article a couple of days ago and that reminded me of this stylistic aspect to the game. The article mentions that Star Wars has a “lived in” feel to it, scuff and dirt marks etc. I wonder whether the art style goes beyond “lived in” to be more a portrayal of a galaxy that is in terminal decline…

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It’s not just the dirt you might see on walls, floors or objects. It’s also the state of decay a lot of settlements are in – outside the slightly polished and gleaming capital cities, life seems pretty tough in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Buildings may be damaged, boundary walls partially collapsed. Nature is also reasserting itself in many places – vegetation  invades the settlements or on Hoth the penetrating cold and ice is encroaching on the bases.

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Even in the city-worlds there are areas that are degenerated or in decline. As for locations like the moon Nar Shaddaa, well, the whole place is garish yet grimy in nature and character!

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Whether it is caused by war, neglect or a lack of resources; this decay of civilisation certainly seems to be a visual theme to this game.

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR

Wildstar: Space Chase and Steam

A second event is about to start in Wildstar, the Space Chase is on from the 10th to the 20th June, sandwiched in the middle of the longer Starfall festival. It just so happens that this second event starts during week two of Starfall, the weekly task this week is to do 5 expeditions. The currency for the Space Chase also drops in expeditions – so a nice bit of overlap there to get credit for both events.

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I was planning to get my 5 expeditions done for Starfall over the weekend so I’ll hopefully have a peek at the vendors and other details of Space Chase at the same time!

I’ll also be very interested to see what the starter zones are like after the launch on Steam, always nice to see an influx of new players in a game. Personally I’m not that fussed on Steam’s game-related extras like the trading cards or achievements. Re-downloading the game through Steam would take a while (it’s ~19GB); is there a concrete reason for doing so if you’re already playing?

Posted in Gaming, Wildstar

“Take turns” gaming

Last week the husband and I were looking for something to play together a bit different from our usual MMORPG stable. I happened to have Shadowrun Returns on my Steam account and had barely touched the game in the past so we setup my laptop connected to the TV and sat on the sofa to play it together in a “taking turns” manner.

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It feels like a very old-school way of gaming, memories of taking turns to play single player RPGs or platformers on consoles and 16 bit computers (like the Atari ST) back in the 1980s springs to mind. Patience was definitely a virtue back then as multiplayer was rarer, especially if you wanted to play with more than one other person. This was especially true of computer RPGs, cooperative multiplayer support for that genre only really came into popularity with the many Baldur’s Gate style games in the 1990s. Even then some of the classic RPGs remained stalwart single player (e.g. Planescape: Torment) and personal computers were so eye-wateringly expensive that owning multiple computers for coop multiplayer wasn’t always possible.

So we’ve been delving into the first game in the series “Dead Man’s Switch”, playing as a Mage archetype. It’s a fun game for sure with an interesting story and good characterisation of various Seattle residents trying to survive the grim and dangerous future depicted in the Shadowrun RPG. This post is more about the style of gaming than the game itself – I’ll do a review at a later date if we play enough to get through the campaign.

Playing like this feels more relaxing in one sense since you’re not required to be always responding to real-time events. MMORPGs, even the non-action ones, do require a lot of activity if you’re doing something other than idle in a city. A turn-based game like this is a very different pace altogether since we often pause mid-conversation or even mid-fight to discuss what options or tactics are best. That level of thinking and discussion can be missing from MMORPGs – you may talk tactics before a boss fight or triggered event but during it’s not so easy to do anything other than react to the situation as it unfolds.

Combat in MMOs tends to be more reactive

Combat in MMOs tends to be more reactive

Although I’ve enjoyed playing this way for a change, I do have some mixed feelings about taking turns to control the game. At times I feel like I would prefer to have direct control over some of the ‘runners in the team so I can be more actively involved in the gameplay. But then it is very nice to be sat on a sofa and to spend more time thinking and talking about the game instead of mostly reacting to it.

Do you play ‘taking turns’ games with your significant other or friends? How would you compare it to MMORPG gaming?

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SWTOR: Chapter 14 – Mandalore the Avenger

I played the latest monthly chapter to the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion yesterday, Chapter 14 – Mandalore the Avenger. It’s not much of a spoiler to state this is a Mandalorian focused episode with the hero working with an army of Mandalorians to further the war against Arcann and the Eternal Empire.

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This update takes our characters to the planet of Darvannis – once a Hutt stronghold. Apparently this isn’t a new planet to SWTOR, it’s mentioned in the description of the Operation (i.e. raid) Legions of Scum & Villany. Since I’ve never raided in the game and wasn’t playing at the time of its release back in 2013 I’d not heard of the planet before.

Dusty Darvannis

Dusty Darvannis

I enjoyed the presentation of this planet and the Mandalorians. They’re familiar enough as foes in the game whether out in heroic zones (e.g. on Dromund Kaas) or in instances (e.g. Mandalorian Raiders). My appreciation of them goes back a bit further since they featured in the KOTOR games and Boba Fett was one of my favourite characters from the original film trilogy. The chapter is pretty combat intensive; suitably so I suppose given that we’re teamed up with some of the greatest warriors in the galaxy (so they would claim).

The main open zone for the planet was pretty busy with other players while I was running this chapter. I automatically adopted my standard approach for this Jedi Shadow character – stealth past as many standard opponents/groups as possible. It’s just how I’ve always played him. Several segments had me advancing along narrow alleys full of such opponents so I stealthed past the groups between me and various objectives passing every so often another player that was fighting a group ahead of me.

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Stealth gets you around pretty quickly

After doing this for a while I found myself wondering what the other players would think of this? Do they care that a stealthed character is racing past them without helping? World of Warcraft’s next expansion will bring changes to tapping in the open world to (hopefully) encourage players to cooperate more often. I do wonder whether SWTOR could benefit from a similar system change…

 

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Wildstar: to skip on or complete Farside?

A perennial problem with modern MMORPGs is that of out-leveling content. My Engineer main character in Wildstar is now level 34 and has just received a quest to go to Wilderrun; the welcome page as I login also suggests I go check out that zone as well.

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The problem is I’ve just arrived at the Fatalis Fields section of the Farside zone and I still have a good chunk to do beyond just the zone main story: map locations to open, Eldan cube recordings to listen to and scientist missions to complete.

Hostile Tech: scientist missions to complete!

Hostile Tech: scientist missions to complete!

Rushing past peripheral content in an MMO is nothing new to me these days; in SWTOR I power-levelled one character (my Trooper) via the “12x bonus” last year just playing his class missions and then insta-dinged a Jedi Shadow to 60 to play the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion.  But this is still my first playthrough of Wildstar so everything in front of my Engineer is new stuff waiting to be explored.

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I’m sure if I level more characters through to the cap then I’ll want some variation of levelling zones to stave off that feeling of deja vu. So skipping some content now will help me to keep levelling fresh in the future. I distinctly remember, many years ago, planning which path of zones I’d use to level different alts in World of Warcraft. There are a few priorities I do want to do on this first character:

  1. Experience the revamped “World Story” as much as possible
  2. Max out Scientist
  3. Collect all the Eldan cubes I can easily reach

I’m not that fussed on experiencing all the little side-stories and ‘tasks’ that fill the zones – clearly it’s more content than I need to do to level. So I guess I’ll try to finish off my Scientist duties and then jump on to Wilderrun for the next adventure!

Posted in Gaming, Wildstar

WoW: the gulf between content and system changes

Although I’m on a break from World of Warcraft at the moment, mainly waiting on a date for the pre-expansion mega patch, I’m still following the news and discussions on the development of Legion. It seems of late that there’s a gulf growing between what I’m looking forward to with this expansion and what I’m not.

That gulf could be drawn roughly on system vs story lines.

 Good stuff  Bad stuff
Night Elf zone/lore Glyph removal/Inscription changes
Balance Druid changes? Artifact weapons
Vrykul zone/lore More ability pruning
Non-Orc enemies (Demons, Naga etc) Garrisons vs 2.0 (a k a Class Halls)

It’s a bit of a scratch list but it covers the main points I’ve heard or read about so far. There are system aspects to the expansion that may be positive – the level agnostic zones could make group questing easier or just could equally make the zones seem disconnected from the expansions story. The changes to tapping rules are probably a bonus but how well will they actually work in practice? Of the points I list only one system change is positive (Balance druid changes), while every negative I’ve heard about is a system change.

Otherwise I’m just not that happy with the general direction of most of Blizzard’s system changes. I’m not a “Vanilla WoW or bust” diehard, I played enough in Pandaria and Draenor, but there’s been quite an accumulation of simplifications over the years and it seems that Blizzard still hasn’t finished along that path. Given that the game’s population stopped growing years ago I’d say investing in yet another round of simplifications and outright system removals is a big waste of money and dev time at this point – surely they can’t still think that nerfing everything yet again will bring back all the players they’ve lost? The fact that they have held meetings with the Nostalrius private server team with much PR fanfare may at least hint that the devs are aware of some dissatisfaction among the playerbase over what WoW has become.

I’m looking forward to Legion for the storytelling primarily. Draenor had some pretty great story arcs despite me not really caring for the Orcs, Orcs and more Orcs core theme. Legion will move us on to enemies that I’m much more interested in any way: e.g. the Burning Legion and (maybe) Naga. They’ll also give some spotlight finally to the Night Elves – my original druid character is a Night Elf. There’s also a tiny ray of hope that they’ll finally remove the loathed straight-jacket ties of the Eclipse mechanism from my beloved Balance spec. That’s a system change I await with some optimism.

Yesterday I listened to the latest BlizzWatch podcast (ep. 76) and was disheartened to hear about the probable gutting of the Inscription profession. I’m oblivious to any stated reasons for doing this, glyphs have been a real fun addition to the game; indeed in Pandaria and Draenor the devs showed real imagination in adding lots of non-combat/cosmetic glyphs that add fun aspects to characters without any combat/power implications (e.g. Glyph of the Flapping Owl). I expect some effects will be kept in some form (I think they mentioned on the podcast you buy a book from a NPC instead); but why on earth gut such an imaginative profession? *shakes head*.

The expansion is all about Class Fantasy apparently yet some classes are a shadow of their former selves and at least one is losing more still in the coming expansion.  It’s been a long time since my current Shaman main felt whole. Totems were gutted some time ago reduced to reactive short-time buff spells instead of the positional/stackable buff spells they once were. Warlocks are losing some abilities to the new Demon Hunter class, they already lost some in the past to Death Knights. Oh and Shadow Priests are all going to suddenly convert to worshiping the Void

Of course I’m not in Beta testing, I don’t want to spoil storylines or deal with bugged quests ahead of the launch so I’m just reacting to non-spoiler generic news articles. I will play Legion at least for a few months to see what shape the game is in come the Autumn. Generally story trumps systems in my book, at least so far as the first or second playthrough. But the system changes, in particular the class tinkering and endless simplifications, do add up to a disconnect with the longer game – I’m not the altaholic I once was and I barely care about professions anymore. Here’s hoping I’m pleasantly surprised when Legion launches!

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 2 Comments