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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.

H1Z1 … hmm

h1z1-teaser

SOE just officially revealed (sort of) H1Z1, the game John Smedley hinted at 2 months ago when he said:

 “SWG PLAYERS – OUR NEXT GAME (not announced yet) IS DEDICATED TO YOU. Once we launch it… you can come home now.”

As a former / current SWG super-fan, I think I’m qualified to address how I feel after learning a bit about the game, as well as some of my initial thoughts and ramblings on why SOE is making H1Z1.

H1Z1 & SWG

I don’t get it.  I see DayZ meets Rust in a massively multiplayer persistent world.  Don’t get me wrong… that’s sounds like it can be a fantastic game, but that’s not SWG.  SWG was about building a community and living your life in a galaxy far, far away. H1Z1 is about surviving, hiding in the shadows, and being afraid.  I think, perhaps, the only trait the two will share is a sandbox nature and an involved crafting system.

Why a zombie survival game?

Simple. SOE is targeingt a completely different market.  They were live streaming about Landmark at the exact same time they did this first-look at H1Z1 on someone’s live stream show.  This isn’t for the fans who are hyped up about Landmark, EQ Next, or heck even Planetside.  This isn’t for the people who go to fanfare (SOE Live) or post on message boards.  H1Z1 from the moment they came out of the gate has been aimed directly that that L337 crowd of DayZ gamers – the “bros” of gaming.

I get why they are trying new things.  SOE went for the kiddie market for a while, the F2P Eastern model for a bit, the shooter market, then heavily back to the Fantasy RPG crowd (their roots), and now they want a taste of the growing zombie survival scene.

There’s no accounting for taste

Personally, I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic settings.  I’m also not big on zombies.  I prefer elves, magic, swords, etc. I’m not interested in games where the aforementioned ‘bros’ run around circle strafing and looting your backpack.  I’m not a big fan of FFA PvP, so I would probably play on a PvE server or a ruleset where I have to opt-in when I’m ready.  I’m not big of dark and scary, and I really hate how most post-apoc games are all brown and gross terrain.

H1Z1 may not be the game for me, but I am intrigued by the scope of a game where Smedley claims people can build anything, burn anything, and drive or fly vehicles all over the place.  Put that on a console (like they plan) and maybe this will be a great ‘sit back on the couch for a few hours’ kind of game.

Our First Week in ESO

We just hit level 16 last night in ESO, and I think we are about to finish up the first zone (Stonefall) for the Ebonheart Pact.  I have to say right off the bat here that I am really enjoying myself far more than I expected.  We picked up ESO as sort of a ‘what the heck we’ll give it a try’ kind of deal.  Turns out, ESO does several things better than most MMOs.

Exploration

I haven’t felt rewarded for exploring, or even the drive to explore a zone, in a very long time.  Roaming around the map in ESO is extremely rewarding.  Hidden throughout the zones are lore books to raise your Mages Guild level, Skyshards to give you skill points, and entire quest chains.  These things are all -awesome- and immensely important.  It’s one thing if the rewards for exploration are jumping puzzles — I feel no desire to explore and find those — but something entirely different when you can truly unlock more content you will not find unless you just roam around.

Throughout the map are optional public dungeons (really just caves with monsters), points of interest, these awesome event things that spawn bad guys, hidden quests, mini-world bosses, and even special crafting stations.  Exploring is totally worth your time.

Story

The story so far has been really quite good.  You’ll need a bit of reading comprehension, but if you can keep these fantasy names straight you’ll figure out that everything you’ve done in the first zone all ties together.  All of the NPCs you’ve met along the way seem to be connected, and many of their individual stories are all building up to something bigger.  Graev and I explored off the beaten path and found this awesome little hidden temple ruins that ended up leading to a longer quest chain that sent us back in time and explained a huge portion of what was going on in Stonefall.  Had we not found this quest we would have missed out on the backstory.

ESO is delivering the story in a really passive way.  I think back to the story in SWTOR which was really spoon-fed, forced into questing instances, and just heavy-handed (and not optional).  The story in ESO falls together and is there for you to absorb however much (or little) you want.

Atmosphere

Story and exploration have yielded a fantastic atmosphere.  Tamriel isn’t a sandbox world.  I do not feel the world is quite as free as the original EverQuest, but it’s a happy medium.  I’m usually not a fan of ‘playing through’ a zone mechanics, but ESO makes the experience rewarding and entertaining to the point that I forget all about the themepark nature and just focus on the moment.  This is where the “Elder Scrolls” feel comes in, and Graev has pointed out dozens of references to things he has seen, done, or known about based on past Elder Scrolls games.  Again, it’s well done.

Character Development

Level takes a decent amount of time.  We spent exactly one week getting to level 16 and spent the entire time in one zone.  Leveling our characters hasn’t been a complete walk in the park, and we’ve had to make a lot of choices along the way.  I love how skill points are limited and in high demand. I cherish every point we find, and I think long and hard before allocating them into skills. My choices have actually mattered.

I’m eager to progress and see what comes next.  As we join up with several in-game guilds (like factions) even more possibilities for character development, story, and exploration unfold.  I am very pleased with my experiences thus far in ESO. Let’s see what another week brings!