TSW: scratching the surface of character progression

We’ve been playing the Secret World for some months now, and we’re a good way through the storyline of the game’s original zones. But like any MMORPG there’s been a lot of content since launch so I don’t feel like we’re so far into the game compared to the many higher progression characters we see in the world.

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I’ve unlocked sections here and there on the main ability wheel (pictured) based on what I enjoy playing. Recently we unlocked our first auxiliary weapon, the Rocket Launcher. That provoked a bit of wiki searching  and soon our healer wanted the chaos Quantum Brace. I was a bit undecided what to take although the Flamethrower is the current favourite. As a coincidence we are currently playing through the Transylvanian zones so we already had the right quest to get started on this. It’s a work in progress, I’ll not be rushing this just to get the weapon as following the main story missions is more important to me.

I have spent the skill points and ability points to unlock Flamethrower in advance, better to be ready for when I get the weapon than stuck not able to use it. Otherwise I’ve been working on filling out the wheel, following decks (Paladin and now Soldier) to guide points spending with the bonus of new costumes. The ultimate aim of course is to unlock everything anyway so the exact order of unlocking doesn’t matter that much to me.

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Some time ago we accidentally unlocked the augment system by popping our heads into a scenario (a repeatable dungeon). I’ve not looked at this panel again since unlocking it, honestly there’s enough to do just unlocked the inner and outer skill wheels!

Not long ago TSW rebalanced the leveling content as part of a Enhanced Player Experience revamp. Though I haven’t started a new character to see just how much better the various weapon are explained, I’d say the game could also use a lot clearer info on the order of character progression systems and what should be a focus when. Why do I even have the augment system available yet, shouldn’t it be better locked behind main story progression rather than my having stumbled into the Venetian content via random Agartha exploration? Also the auxiliary weapons are very expensive to develop relative to the normal skill wheel so perhaps some proper info when we get the first would avoid people investing a ton of precious skill/ability points in a weapon they may want to swap out as soon as possible?

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 7 Comments

FFXIV: Summoner progress

I’ve been playing my main class of Summoner in FFXIV again in between duo sessions. After a really lengthy seeming build-up quest chain I’ve done my second titan fight.

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The quality of the storytelling of the main scenario is coming through as there was an unexpected development just afterwards and it made me feel something (I’m deliberately writing obscurely to avoid spoilers – careful in any comments please as I’m bringing a new player through the same story!). Only SWTOR’s class stories have actually managed that in the past, I can’t say I’ve ever been made to feel a strong emotion by many MMORPGs in the past.

As I mentioned in the last post, linked above, I ran the Brayflox’s Longstop for the first time recently also. I simply love the characterisation of goblins in Final Fantasy 14. They’re cute and funny at the same time and I can’t help laughing when I see one.

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The current plot developments has me excited about continuing the main scenario storyline but I’m finally caught up so I actually have to level as I go. It’ll be a bit slower than the last three sessions chain running 15 levels worth!

I also completed my level 35 class quest for Summoner after the titan fight, which gives me the upgraded ‘tank’ pet to use both while questing. I look forward to testing his capabilities compared with the old yellow carbuncle.

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All in all a very satisfying session of Final Fantasy gaming!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 3 Comments

FFXIV: update and the new player perspective

My odyssey in Final Fantasy 14 continues albeit with a shake-up in the nature of my  play sessions due to my husband recently starting the game. On my main job, currently summoner, I’ve just dinged level 34 and am still working on the main scenario quests. The latest barrier to progress, purely because I lacked the time for a longer gaming session, was the Brayflox Longstop dungeon. I’ve now finally given that a go and happily can carry on with the story.

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

The second aspect to my FFXIV gaming is introducing a totally new player to the game, which by chance has absorbed more of my gaming time than normal this last week. Although I remain a ‘newbie’ myself compared to my guild mates who spend most of their time in hard mode dungeons, raids or on hunts (all level 50 activities), it’s nothing compared to the experience of someone who’s really new to the game.

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Why (almost) no voice?

So my husband has asked me why there’s no voice in any cut scenes. It’d not really occured to me and it should have given that I’ve played so much The Secret World recently but most of the copious cut scenes used in the Main Scenario quest series lack voice-over. In fact one of the few instances recently where a quest was voiced I found jarring due to the sudden appearance of unfamiliar voice acting. I guess it’s a cost/translation issue more than a technical one but I do appreciate the fact that our character will seem to answer NPCs back on occasion. We don’t see or hear what our character says and it’s usually done in a context of not needing to know (we’re usually telling an NPC what we’ve been up to). I prefer that to the “mute brooding stranger” role that The Secret World has our character play in every cut scene.

Slightly ‘old school’ quest design

Yes, FFXIV does occasionally send you back and forth between quest-giver and quest location, sometimes it’ll do that more than twice. I’ve written about this in Rift and other games – it’s never a good idea to design quests with so much repetitive travel. At least in FFXIV with the ever-available return or teleport actions you can avoid the ultimate quest design faux-pas of making you fight all the way past a horde of rapidly respawning monsters to a quest objective and then all the way back out again!

Back to Drest ... again ...

Back to Drest … again …

Why can’t you repeat quests?

I don’t really have a good answer for this other than it would make the game too solo-oriented? I’ve chosen to level archer alongside his arcanist but I’ve done most of the quests so far so I have to use hunt logs and FATEs to keep up with his character. Weirdly I seem to gain more experience from some activities than his character does, is it because I’m grouped with a ‘new adventurer’?

His character is marked with the green shoots icon for a new character (see dictionary of FFXIV icons under Player Icons section). I guess it makes sense to not be able to repeat the Main Scenario quests, and we do have guildleves and FATEs as repeatable content so it’s not that big a deal. So far it’s worked ok without repeating quests but keeping a pair of classes (/jobs) in step is important for me so I’m hoping I can keep up with his character until he’s high enough for me to swap back to my main job!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 10 Comments

Neverwinter: invocation changes

An unexpected part of Module 6 was a significant revamp of the invocation system in Neverwinter. Daily invokes and crafting task allocation have been my only acivity in the game for some months now, so was surprised to see a new user interface for invocation when I logged in post patch last week. The details quoted from the patch notes:

Invocation rewards have been updated to better reward players who log in every day, while removing the sting for those who accidentally miss a day or two.
Here is a quick highlight of the changes to Invocation:

  • Celestial Coins no longer disappear if their bearer does not Invoke!
  • The first few Invocations per day can be performed more frequently, and Invocations grow more powerful the more times they’re performed in a given day.
    • After the first Invoke, the player may invoke again after 15 minutes, then 30, and so on.
    • Experience and Astral Diamond rewards increase with each Invocation in the same day.
    • After the final blessing, players are no longer prompted to Invoke until the next day.
  • A new Invocation window shows the player’s current progress in the day’s Invocation path, as well as a preview of the rewards eachtier will provide.
    • The Invocation day resets when daily quests reset, allowing players to begin Invoking anew.
  • The final tier of Invocation allows players to gain a second Celestial Coin in a single day!

As stated in the quote they want players to play for longer in a given session. This makes invocation more of a background activity to longer play sessions than a “once a day” routine for free stuff. The user interface is more complex and the action requires two key presses or a key press and mouse click; even that slight change could get annoying if you’re logging multiple alts in to invoke every day.

What the quote does not explicitly state is that the XP and material rewards are now spread over multiple invokes in order to receive the same net benefits as what used to be the first invoke of the day.

nw_invokenewThe fact that the Celestial coin count doesn’t reset if you miss an invoke is a real plus. Also if you play for hours a day it seems likely you’ll get more rewards overall (four hours I think to get everything in the list above including a second Celestial coin). It might well be good changes overall for active players but for someone like me, who keeps an eye on the game but doesn’t play at the moment, it has lessened the benefits from logging in for that first invoke of the day.

I’ll continue to invoke on my Control Wizard when time permits until he has his purple angel but beyond that I think the game is properly on the shelf until I’ve finished bingeing on Final Fantasy 14.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 3 Comments

Sunk costs in MMORPGs

As part of my academic studies I’ve been reading about sunk costs recently (wikipedia definition) relating to whether prior investments in something affects your rational decisions made about the future. This concept got me thinking about a player’s “investment” in an MMO and how this might impact their willingness to try another or to get as invested in another.

For example World of Warcraft, despite years of speculation over “WoW-killers”, it remains the runaway behemoth of the genre. How much may this be down to the sunk cost for so many players, the years they have spent developing their characters and social groups in that game?

From my own personal experience I’ve not really settled into another game as deeply as I did for 5+ years in WoW. The depth to my gameplay experience for those years was due to a combination of immersion, familiarity, social ties and affection for my characters. Thinking about all the other MMORPGs that I’ve played since I haven’t had all four of those factors to the same level in another game yet. I may feel immersed in a game (TSW), have a good guild (DDO), a strong sense of familiarity in another (LOTRO) or strong affection for a character (e.g. my Asuran Mesmer in GW2) but not all four.

So the more we play a game the easier it is, in many ways, to go back. I’ve read in the last week several “I’m back” posts by other bloggers and these issues come up in their descriptions of fitting back into the game. Do the sunk costs of our gaming time and memories act as a barrier to joining and enjoying other, rival games to the same extent?

Posted in DDO, FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, WoW | 1 Comment

Spontaneity and MMORPGs

In some ways MMORPGs are the enemy of spontaneity. I often feel like playing one game or another on a whim after a day of work. Planning my gaming like a military campaign isn’t my idea of a hobby. Unfortunately the genre, with its frequent patches, enormous downloads and regular periods of downtime isn’t that friendly to spontaneous gaming. Sure if you have a sufficient breadth of interest in multiple games your generally ok for something, but there’s no guarantee a certain game will be available when you want to play it unless you watch for patches and maintenance windows and the like. I’m not even touching in this post the issues around scheduled play and endgame, that’s another topic entirely.

Even inviting friends to play a new MMO can be affected by this as Final Fantasy 14 showed me this week. I knew of course that the download, installation and patching would be more than an evening worth of watching progress bars creep across a screen. I knew also that I would need to help with the positively hostile sign-up process (the worst ever sign up system I’ve come across alongside that of FFXI). So we planned in advance and installed it during the daytime (UK) to get the game installed and patched ready for the evening. Then, surprise! There are new character creation restrictions on busy servers during the evening (there are many forum threads like this about the problem it seems). So that put a delay on playing until the following evening, he was thankfully able to create his character the next morning so we did finally get on but the anticipation of playing a new game together – it being a birthday gift as well was really tarnished by the ‘pre-gameplay’ experience.

This example is nothing new or one restricted to a single game. I remember countless times where my spontaneous decision to try a new game has been thwarted by these issues. I bought DDO many years ago but the patching server was so slow I had to wait till the next evening to try it. More recently I’ve repeated the same mistake with Tera, it was so frustrating to see the patcher progress so slowly. The patching issue isn’t just  a problem with trying a new game of course, it’s also a major pain to try to spontaneously return to an old favourite as you’re likely to have several gigabytes of data to download and install or worse, find that the patcher software has changed so radically that you have to re-download the whole game (hard stare at Allods!).

Server queues are another woe to the spontaneous gamer. If you happen to want to play at peak times you can be in for a rough experience if you’re playing a popular or new title. With Final Fantasy 14 I often have to wait a minute or two to login as I’m on a popular server (Balmung) but so far at least it hasn’t been so bad. I never tried Archage but the story of multi-hour queues to login are familiar to anyone who has followed MMORPG launches over the years. Technology can in part reduce these issues – streaming patchers are a godsend for reducing time sat out of game. Guild Wars 2’s idea of overflow/guest servers at launch meant you could get into a version of the world to play even if it wasn’t your home server’s version.

Posted in DDO, FFXIV, Gaming, LotRO, Tera | 2 Comments

Neverwinter: Elemental Evil launch day

Neverwinter launched Module 6: Elemental Evil on the 7th April, but as is so often the case with MMORPG patches something seemed to have gone wrong initially (27 pages of forum posts documented the issues).

Computer says no

Computer says no

This screenshot was taken at 22:00 GMT+1, approximately four hours after the maintenance period was due to finish. The server came up only ten minutes later but that’s already too late for me to do much before bed.

Given the choice of either a) logging on a level 60 character and trying to work out what has changed (many characters seem to have had partial resets) or b) create a new level 1 Paladin, clearly I went with the easy option…

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I managed to get through the tutorial and go to Protector’s Enclave before logging so I could grab some of the free goodies I get on each character as part of having bought the Guardian of Neverwinter pack. The Greycloak’s Legacy weapon chest didn’t seem to be working for my Paladin – I got an error I already had one of those items yet no mace appeared in my inventory.

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Raise shields!

 

Ability-wise almost immediately I found that there’s no dodge – pressing shift makes you go into a defensive hunch-like stance. You can walk slowly while in this stance. It wasn’t until I left the tutorial that the graphics for this wasn’t displaying properly – out in Protector’s Enclave it summons a blue protective circle around my character. I’ve not played Guardian Fighter in the game, which is the other class lacking a dodge ability – so this is going to an interesting contrast. I wonder what it’ll be like for Paladin healers to have to ‘hunker down’ instead of dodging the red area attacks in boss fights?

My first encounter power - Burning Light

My first encounter power – Burning Light

The basic at-will and encounter powers are all area attacks so this class will probably be a dream to level up – killing groups of monsters will be fun. The second at-will you get is a short-range charge, that’ll help a little against archers and spellcasters I suppose but it will mean a lot of running around after monsters.

He died quicker than I could press PrtScn...

He died quicker than I could press PrtScn…

At the end of the tutorial I was surprised to find that my new daily power Divine Judgement one-shotted the boss monster. That’s never happened before on the five other characters I have so either the rebalancing of power progression for the extra ten levels has broken something at lower levels or Paladin abilities may need some fine tuning still!

I’m not sure when I’ll find time to play Neverwinter at present but the odd session leveling a Paladin will be a nice contrast with FFXIV. There’s also the new module content to play through on one of my level 60s but I think that can wait at least a few weeks as the new zones will likely be a zerg-fest at present.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 6 Comments