TSW: patch 1.11 changes and story depth

Our latest session in The Secret World happened just after the patch 1.11 was deployed. The Enhanced Player Experience is the big-ticket news item for this update, the kind of marketing-speak label that has players of early MMORPGs twitching in a dark corner since revamps of game systems and content can radically change the feel of the gameplay.

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So far we’ve had mixed experiences of the changes to the leveling zones (everything before Kaiden/Tokyo it appears). Anecdotally our dps player found City of the Sun God much easier to solo than before. The patch notes include:

* Reduced the health of all outdoor solo monsters outside of the Kaidan area.

Also from one-time experience we went back there as a duo to do an investigation mission since and I found them easy enough to kill as a tank yet our healer found them no easier if I wasn’t with him. This isn’t scientific (we’re games players not game-analysts) but it does feel like the balance of combat has changed – perhaps some builds are stronger and others have been nerfed now? The patch notes include the following of relevance:

* Increased the maximum number of targets AoE abilities can affect to 6.
* Reduced the effectiveness of most AoE abilities (damage, healing, leeching) from a 33% reduction relative to single target abilities to a 50% reduction relative to single target abilities.

We also found Besieged Farmlands (first zone in new area) pretty easy which either means our gear is above the difficulty curve or the nerf has made it easier than we would have otherwise found it pre-patch.

Other changes include a revolution in fast travel. Now we can click on Anima wells on a map to ‘anima-leap’ to them. As a player of Guild Wars 2, FFXIV or similar more modern MMOs this is perfectly normal. As our dps player noted though it does take exploration out of the gameplay as you don’t accidentally find things as you try to take a shortcut across land between objectives. Notably the map also shows all the side-missions before you have discovered them, another ‘nerf’ to exploration. You can switch this off using the map filters.

The Besieged Farmlands zone seems crammed with content and it’s a big zone. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by elements that are layered on by the story-writers onto what could have been a poor copy of Dracula.

Amazing NPC characterisation as per usual

Amazing NPC characterisation as per usual

The stories we’ve peeked into so far in the zone are as excellent as any before. We recently played the final investigation mission back in Egypt (The Binding), which by the way is superlative, with the heavy lore and (possible) plot inspiration from ancient Egyptian history. It was an epic mission indeed, it really embodies the idea of a’quest’ in how many stages and how much thinking is required. Seeing what the devs have done to elaborate on history to create this immersive and detailed gameplay I have to commend their efforts. I think the fact the game is so anchored in our own world just makes it that much easier to feel immersed in the game and to relate to the storylines.

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 10 Comments

Neverwinter: Elemental Evil delayed

Neverwinter has an announcement on the Arc website and game launcher stating that the release of module 6, Elemental Evil, is delayed until April 7th. The stated reason is the need for more testing. I’m happy for them to take their time on this as the game has had its share of serious bugs in content in the past.

It also works out better timing for me not to have Neverwinter back on my plate on March 17th as planned. Admittedly I may not dive straight back into the game when the module does launch but I’ll be keeping an eye on reactions to the new class when it does.

Logging in to do my invokes this morning I thought of The Secret World and Neverwinter and the differences in payment model. I started imagining what Neverwinter would be like under a buy-to-play model – you buy the game and you buy the modules but there’s no lockbox economy based and super-grindy gear enchant upgrades at end-game. That might be quite an interesting variation on the free to play standard the game fits at the moment. Pure fantasy I know, I’m 100% sure Perfect World have no thoughts of changing but I really admire The Secret World’s business model and would prefer to buy well-tested and content-rich modules in any game over keys for random lootboxes!

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter, TSW

Gaming update: spring edition

As I sit in the early spring sunshine, I’m writing a quick update on what I’m playing as I’m wont to do on occasion.

The Secret World

Our levelling trio carries on in this wonderful MMORPG, albeit somewhat sporadically as all three of us seem busier than usual at the moment. The last session this week saw us wrapping up the main storyline in Egypt. My character has a mix of QL 7, 8 & 9 gear now. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re well-equipped enough for the Transylvanian zones to come.

Everquest 2

I’ve lost traction on levelling my shadowknight again. Despite how much I like the game I think the levelling curve is really a bit too punishing, probably because the game makes a lot of assumptions about how veterans play and bases the levelling speed on their likely actions. I’ve read on forums and in guild chat that it’s common enough when an expansion raises the level cap to powerlevel a character via dungeons or other grinding tactics to the new cap just to unlock the account level xp boost. I’ll come back again for the odd session but just haven’t got the urge to power through the mid 90s at the moment.

FFXIV

With the expansion coming in June, I’m feeling a lot more motivated to get one of my characters in Final Fantasy 14 to the level 50 cap in time for the new content release. That means tackling my reluctance at pugging dungeons; I’ll have to take Ayrwen’s advice and find myself a Free Company (i.e. guild). The one problem there is my character is on an US server (Balmung) and there doesn’t seem to be that many EU-time zone guilds around. I’ll be levelling arcanist and thaumaturge to unlock the two other caster jobs – summoner and scholar. That’ll give me a good selection of options of what to play in dungeons while levelling and further on into the expansion.

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, TSW

Liebster awards

Chain letters are something I usually ignore but since I’ve received a nomination from Party Business I feel it would be churlish not to respond. There were some very enjoyable community blogging topics doing the rounds last year and this seems to be the latest in that tradition.

So to my answers:

  1. How did you get started blogging?
    I started back in Feb 2011. I wanted to practice writing on a daily basis and I had already been reading gaming news sites, blogs and forums for nearly two years at that point.
  2. What’s the origin of your blogger’s name?
    Telwyn was a favourite NPC that I created for a multi-GM Forgotten Realms campaign while at Uni. It’s a pseudo-Welsh name inspired by Welsh folklore.
  3.  What’s your favourite MMO character and why?
    That’s a toughie. Probably my healer shaman in WoW because he reminds me of my favourite times in that MMO back in the Wrath and early Cataclysm era when I was doing a lot of group content with friends. He was also a more fleshed out RP character than my others characters in the game and I was always a fan of the Draenei voice/emotes etc.
  4. What was your very first MMO character and why did you choose that race?
    If I’m honest it was some character in SWG but I only played a month and do not remember anything about him. My balance druid in WoW was my main for years, he was a Night Elf because I loved the NElf starter area.
  5. What’s the most fun class you ever played?
    Again a toughie. Probably my mesmer in Guild Wars 2. I liked the idea of surrounding myself with illusionary doubles and phantom warriors of all types. Plus I got to shoot purple laser beams out of my greatsword – what’s not to like?
  6. If you could cut and paste your favorite games into one mega-ultra-super MMO, what would it look like?
    The polish, artwork and group-friendly/public quests from FFXIV but with a more seamless world like LOTRO. I’d rather the gathering was simpler (again like LOTRO) as it makes crafting too intimidating/time-consuming for me to get into. Every MMO should have the functionality of WoW’s altaholic add-on built-in – search all characters inventory and bank without having to swap and change. Oh and all MMOs could do with some proper investigation quests Secret World-style.
  7. You can snap your fingers and visit any city in the world. Where are you?
    Rio de Janeiro, I’ve been once briefly before but I’d go back without hesitation.
  8. You’re on a desert island and only have one album, one movie, and one book. What are they?
    Album would have to be the 1986 London cast recording of Cabaret – it has many associations for me, linking to the love of my life, my years of studying German language & history and a general appreciation of musicals.
    Movie is Star Wars Episode IV – what can I say, it’s pure escapist fantasy from a more innocent era.
    The book would be the True Game by Sheri S. Tepper – excellent 1990s fantasy writing and one of the few books I’ve re-read a few times – it’s the sort of book you find new details in each time you read it.
  9. What ability or skillset do you most admire in others but personally lack?
    Self-confidence. I’m a stereotypical shy/geeky IT man, but that’s a real hindrance in so many walks of life (especially business and as I’m learning also in academia).
  10. Are you a cat or dog person?
    Dog person though I like cats too.
  11. You can learn one language, in addition to those you already know, in a second. What language is it going to be?
    Dutch, just because I’ve always loved the sound of it and will probably never prioritise learning it over more business-relevant languages (like Spanish/German/Mandarin).

I’ll nudge a few of my fellow bloggers in case they’d want to answer the same questions above (feel free to ignore!):

Posted in Gaming | 3 Comments

FFXIV: popping back into Eorzea

I read via Bhagpuss’ blog that this past week was a ‘welcome back’ week to Final Fantasy XIV players who are currently unsubscribed, in part to showcase the new casino-style content patch.

*wakes up after a 6 month sleep*

*wakes up after a 6 month sleep*

 

I thought I was going to log in and try the Manderville Gold Saucer content but as I stood there looking at my character and his various classes I couldn’t resist picking up where I left off with leveling Arcanist. In one pretty lengthy evening session I got him 5 levels in this class, up to level 20 from 15. That meant heading back to Limsa Lominsa (darn it but I have to look the spelling of that place up every time I mention it in a blog!) to the Arcanists’ guild to pickup the class quest (there’s a new one every 5 levels). It’s not pictured here but I’ve just got the upgraded tanking pet so I need to give that a try if I have time for one more go before the free week ends.

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Playing Arcanist is actually rather enjoyable, very reminiscent of playing Warlock in World of Warcraft, I get my combat chocobo and my summoned pet carbuncle and I can drop 4 or 5 different damage-over time spells (some are cross-class) on the enemy while my pets keep it distracted.

I alternated between doing quests I’d thus far ignored while leveling Conjurer/White Mage and doing the repeatable content in the zones I visited – FATEs and Levequests. This is where this reborn MMORPG shines in particular compared to the competition. The combination of repeatable public content, level-sync and high level content mixed in with the leveling zones means that zones are generally lively when ever I’ve logged in. It’s a rare MMORPG that manages to keep the game world feeling inhabited, one that doesn’t fall into the trap of over-concentrating the player base in endgame zones. FFXIV does a great job of this.

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All the FATEs I did had other players already involved or joining after me – I didn’t need to solo one single event. There’s a lot to like although the game isn’t without its flaws. Certainly there’s a lot of clicking to get through dialogue – sometimes I feel like telling NPCs to get on with it! That might be because I’ve been playing The Secret World so much and I’ve gotten used to voiced cut scenes. There’s a fair amount of avoidable attacks in the combat: FFXIV doesn’t claim to be an action combat game but this need for movement makes the lack of a dedicated dodge ability a noticeable omission (WoW has the same issue for me these days).

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The Heavensward expansion comes out in June; the new classes coming with it could well be enough to persuade me to come back for another spell in Eorzea. The graphics for the Astrologian in particular looking very interesting indeed.

 

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming

Keybindings

Murf has a couple of posts about keybindings for MMOs, something that’s actually quite important to me. Nothing annoys me quicker than an MMO thinking there’s something better than the default WASD (plus Q & E) control scheme.

Some of my regular customisations for keyboard and mouse are:

  1. Middle mouse click for autorun
  2. W and D are turn, Q and E are side step (strafe)
  3. Mouse button 4 for interrupt (or oh sugar! button on a healer)
  4. Mouse button 5 is ‘class feature’ button such as stealth
  5. Shift+4 is mount
  6. 1-5 for main attacks/abilities
  7. Ctrl+1-5 for proc abilities or secondary attacks
  8. Print Screen for screenshots

There’s probably more but you get the idea. I have a background of playing FPS games on PC (back in the 1990s mostly) but that has stuck with me always. For me in MMORPGs of all kinds (action, tab target or any combo of the two) I want to move with my WASDQE keys, the mouse is for camera angles, interacting with NPCs/objects and clicking the odd ability.

I’m into keybinding abilities usually as well, so I’ll use number keys,  CTRL+ number, Shift+number and even Alt+number. I prefer games with lots of character abilities to be honest – the trend for simplification and action combat does make me itch for more buttons to press.

Although I have some simple rules that I follow, the various MMOs I play are different enough that I do not have exactly the setup across them. Indeed I don’t even have exactly the same keybindings for different characters. Most of my UI setups evolve organically as I level a character.

Given the amount of time we spend playing these characters, having a flexible and customisable user interface is very important. We spend time fighting monsters, I don’t want to be fighting the default control scheme as well.

Posted in Gaming | 2 Comments

WoW Token

Recently Blizzard announced the WoW Token, an item that can be bought for in-game gold to grant 30 days of game time. It’s a common enough feature of MMORPGs these days; other than the original PLEX in Eve Online, Everquest & Everquest 2 have Krono, Rift has REX, Wildstar even launched with CREDD.

What does this mean for me as an ex-WoW player who has no desire to pay Blizzard a subscription at the moment? Not so much really; the expansion Warlords of Draenor is still a barrier to entry as I’d have no new content to play without buying that. Even the cheapest online stores are selling it for about £23 (~$35) at present so it’s not quite at the “buy it without thinking level yet” (Pandaria is now only £8 by comparison) so maybe in a year or two’s time?

But ignoring the expansion issue I could apparently make use of the new Veteran account status to get back into the game without re-subbing. The quandary with a lot of these ‘gold for gametime’ schemes is that you need a sub to login in order to buy them or receive one as a gift. So you end up paying a month to then be able to play for ‘free’. The Veteran account change means I could log in on any character under level 20, or delete an old one and make a new level 1 character to get past that limitation. With the per-character limit of 10g you’ll definitely not be accumulating enough gold to buy a Token yourself, at least not the first one. But either you or a guild mate or friend could buy one with real money and mail it. Once you’ve consumed it you could then login your normal high level characters and get on with the gold accumulation for the next time.

What effect will all this have on the playerbase in the future? Well one aspect is that of players “un-subbing” when the next content drought hits. Unlike in previous pre-expansion droughts, players who unsub can buy Tokens to keep playing. Maybe the account game time generated will count as subs? If so then the total subscription numbers reported in the publicly released accounts will not dip as far as previous lulls in content. There’ll be an unknown number of Token-ers in the game who continue to play without needing to pay the sub, but who spend a probably significant amount of time every month doing dailies or playing the auction house game to make the needed in-game gold. So Blizzard will keep these players engaged, if they don’t become bored with the gold grind that is. Until we see how much a Token is worth in gold it’s impossible to assess just how grindy that grind will be. Getting that balance right will be important if they want players to remain engaged via this system.  Unlike other similar systems there are a number of restrictions on the Tokens (e.g. can’t be resold) and Blizzard can manipulate the price easily enough to prevent it from crashing or rising too far.

[Bonus edit: I rarely go back to a post later but feel I should add this excellent post by Tremayne on the potential game economy impact of Blizzard’s design choices regarding the token.]

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 4 Comments