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ArcheAge VERY Early Impressions

Trion was gracious enough to grant me access to the alpha test phase of ArcheAge. I’ve had access for two days now and put in somewhere around 5 hours of play.  I’m still -very- early in the game and haven’t even gained access to most of the features I’d like to try the most (ships, housing).

I want to start sharing my impressions, though, because there’s going to be a lot to say about ArcheAge.  Let’s discuss the first few hours of play.

Visuals, Presentation, et al.

ArcheAge is quite beautiful.  You can glean that from watching most videos.  The engine runs well on my computer at maxed out settings with only the slightest hint of slowdown around what I think could be a shadow issue.  From a complete technical novice like myself, the game ‘feels’ well put together and as the end-user I have no technical complaints yet.

Some of the game is still in a language I do not understand — Korean?  Other than language, ArcheAge feels Eastern to me.  Character models all look feminine and ‘pretty’.  Back to how the game ‘feels’, I can ‘feel’ the Eastern influence in the controls and the gameplay.  Playing MMOs for almost 20 years gives one that sense to pick up on these things.  Keep in mind that’s not yet a negative thing by itself. [Read more...]

Random Loot Drops

I’m playing a lot of Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls lately.  The game has truly devolved (or evolved depending on how you look at it) to be all about running Bounties and Rifts to obtain random drops.  That’s really the entire game now, which actually brings it closer to what made Diablo 2 so great.

As boring as that sounds, my enjoyment has gone way up.  I’m putting hours into D3 now, and I feel this overwhelming urge to keep going. That next monster is going to drop my Mask of Jeram.  That next Bloodstone gamble is going to have my sword.  It’ s always that drive to see what drops next that keeps my going.  I am a slave to and worship the RNG.

Maybe there’s a powerful motivator here that can be applied to other games, or has already been applied in the past.  I look back to the days of EverQuest, and I remember camping the Cyclops of Ocean of Tears.  I remember Graev spent 2 days straight camping the Ancient Crocodile hoping that he would drop the pants.  I would camp the Efreeti Lord Djarn to try and get the Golden Efreeti Boots for days.

I like world drops.  I like random loot.  I think I find way more enjoyment obtaining loot in this fashion than I do from questing or earning points to buy things.  There are moments of pure rage when I get the same stinking random hat four times in a row, and still can’t get the one I want, but that’s part of the randomness to it all.   I’m a fan of open-world dungeons where people get into groups and simply fight monsters.  I like slaying monsters with friends in any medium.  Doing it known there’s a chance for a great item I need to drop — all the better.

Thoughts? I know much of today’s modern MMO and gaming scene will disagree.  Is there room for more RNG, more meaningful world drops, more camping, etc., in our games?  I think there’s something there worth investigating.

Healing in The Elder Scrolls Online

My character in ESO is coming along nicely.  I guess you can say I play a “Blood Mage.”  I’m a Nightblade with a Restoration Staff, and I plan to one day become a vampire.  I take the life force from others and siphon it off to heal myself and my allies over time.  I can also lay down some great ‘smart hots’ and ‘aoe hots’ (heal over time) abilities to a group.  Everything I do is based around living longer than the enemy, and killing them in the process.

Honestly, I haven’t spent a lot of time in PvP.  Most of my time is spent PvEing with Graev and enjoying the world.  My healer has been more than capable of all content I’ve encountered.  Graev (tank), our friend as a DPS, a random DPS, and myself cleared all of the 20-23 dungeons (3 of them) yesterday in a marathon session.  All of them were actually pretty easy for me to heal.  The hardest encounters are those with lots of monsters all activating abilities at once.  If people stay out of the red circles, block when they need to block, and play it smart then my spec works great.  I contribute to the DPS and keep everyone alive with moderate effort.

I say moderate effort, but it’s not quite the same as other games.  Healing can be frantic.  I feel almost like a Druid in WoW.  I won’t ever have the direct heals of a Paladin, and I have to keep everyone hotted up.  I don’t stare at hotbars and play wack-a-mole.  I pull out my bow and fire off some shots, cast lots of siphon spells, and contribute to the DPS as much as possible.  I’m enjoying myself.

The dungeons themselves have been pretty decent.  The boss fights are fairly straight forward, and the trash mobs are just enough to give you pause but not enough to feel like you’re wading through trash.  We’ll have to see how the later ones pan out.

My build is still missing 3-4 very key abilities that will make everything I do 10x better.  Part of that involves becoming a vampire, which itself is pretty involved and carries with it a series consequences like you find in previous Elder Scrolls games.  If I can convince Graev, well go into PvP tonight and I’ll be able to bring you more of those impressions.

Overall, I have to say my class choice has been superb thus far.  I can kill things quickly, live almost forever, and bring a ton of group utility. Check out a video of us killing a boss in last night’s dungeon run after the break. [Read more...]

Update on my Landmark Life

keen-landmark-garden

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Landmark.  Yep, I’m still playing!  I’m eagerly awaiting the upcoming patches, though.  Right now the game is still all about gathering some resources and making nice looking things.  Every time I write about Landmark I seem to say the same thing: I can’t make nice looking things.  Nothing has changed, but that’s okay.

Thinking back to the hundreds of hours spent in Minecraft, very little of it was spent making nice looking things.  Most of it was spent making things that do something.  I never cared that my house looked a certain way — I cared that inside was an automatic machine that processed my ore and sorted it into chests.

I look at my little garden I made in Landmark a couple nights ago, and I wished that I could make something that harvested the plants.  Heck, I wish the plants grew.  I like tinkering and decorating, not building.  The difference makes sense to me, and hopefully you get what I’m trying to say.

The near future of Landmark is going to be exciting.  Caves are being added, and that means I can go out and explore.  I hope they move resources underground and introduce rare items. I want to be the guy that finds the rare gems and sells them to the people who have the ability to make them look nice on a bookshelf.  I want to find rare recipes, discover unseen caves, bring back treasures, etc.  All in due time.

Keen-powered-pulverizer

Say hello to MY little friend!

Right now my current project is an underground gnome city.  I’m thinking lots of glowing gems, lights, little houses, etc.  It’ll resemble something between Mekalia and Ak’anon. My hope is that by putting it underground I can rely on the intentional imperfect look to disguise my crude building skills!

I just made a Legendary Powered Pulverizer.  I’m quite proud of the fact that I got it on my first try, and horribly saddened by the fact that it will be gone when they wipe next. :(

In general, I do feel inclined to spend less time in Landmark.  I don’t want to burn out on what’s currently in the game while waiting for more of the types of things I enjoy.  My current plan is to hop in at least 2-3 times a week for an hour or more and just continue working slowly on my little projects.

ESO Bugs and Inventory Management

Keen and I have been putting a lot of time into ESO lately, and have mostly great things to say about it.  The story is engaging and the atmosphere is immersive; however, there are several aspects of the game that we both find to be very frustrating.

kwama-worker

Nope, not that kind of bug.

Bugs

When MMO’s first launch, they usually have a lot of stability and performance issues, but it seems with ESO it is mostly things like broken quests. It is not just a few either. We rarely go a day playing without encountering at least one quest that requires rebooting the game, a creative work-around, /reloadui, or just giving up because the quest is just unable to be completed.

I understand that MMO’s are usually pretty buggy, but the amount of broken content in such an early zone makes it seem like this stuff was barely even play tested. Aside from that, neither of us have run into many performance issues and the game stability has been great so far. So it’s kind of interesting, but aggravating, how things seem to be a little flipped when it comes to bugs.

Another thing that may not be a bug, but is still annoying, is how monster spawn rates seem to be all over the place. Some dungeons won’t spawn monsters very fast at all, while other dungeons and areas will spawn monsters so fast that it’s impossible to keep up. This greatly affects some areas that require you kill everything before the important boss spawns.

World Size and Instancing

I have never liked instancing because it kind of feels like it breaks up part of the immersion of the game. But in the case of ESO, I actually have started to feel like I wish they would instanced the game more. For the most part ZOS did a good job of dividing players into these invisible phases and there is usually a good spread of people around the zone. However, when you get to public dungeons and dark anchors, things start to get very over crowded.

In small numbers, these places can be difficult but very fun and exciting to do. For instance, the other day, Keen and I, along with maybe one or two other people, completed a dark anchor and it was probably one of the funner experiences we had. We also got some pretty good loot from it too! Just today, we attempted another dark anchor, but as soon as it started, what seemed like 20 other people showed up. All of the enemies died super quickly, and by that I mean it was basically impossible to even get a hit off something before it just disintegrated. In the end we didn’t get to loot anything and barely got to contribute at all.

I don’t know how they can fix this problem with dark anchor events, but I imagine they could put a lower cap on public dungeons or something. At least that way you experience the dungeon boss dying before you get there.

Inventory Management

A remarkably large portion of our play time is actually spent managing all of the stuff in our inventory. We constantly have to go back to town to sell and trying to hang on to anything for crafting purposes ends up being a ridiculous juggling act. Earlier today, after we had wrapped up some questing, we spent at least 20 minutes handing items back and forth to each trying to manage our inventory and bank space, while making room for crafting supplies and breaking down items. Requiring real hours to research items seems like a good idea at first, but when you have a backlog of 15 plus pieces, which each require 6 to 12 hours to get rid of, things start to really pile up.  I will say that being able to store it all in your bank helps instead of having to carry it around with you everywhere.

Still Fun Despite the Flaws

I don’t mean to come off incredibly negative, because I’m actually enjoying my time in ESO way more than I have in any MMO in the past several years. These are just some of the larger annoyances that keep rearing up during our play time. All in all, I’d have to say that the good still vastly outweighs the bad, and I’m excited to see more of the game as we continue our adventure through Tamriel. Hopefully there won’t be many more bumps along the way.