Having a Blast in Portal Knights

Portal Knights

Portal Knights is awesome. It’s a sandbox RPG that reminds me a lot of Minecraft meets action RPG. The trailer will do a far better job than I come at showcasing the breadth of the game’s capabilities. Let’s watch and then I’ll fill you in on a bit of what we’ve experienced thus far.

Think Minecraft where you can break blocks. The “world” is broken up into fractured islands must be rebuilt with portal blocks. Traveling between them leads to different biomes with different monsters, items, resources, etc.

You can build bases/homes/whatever you want. There’s crafting for weapons, spells, armor, etc., too. Classes are Warrior, Mage, or Ranger with their own abilities and gear. Combat is real time but fairly simple.

So far Graev and I have reached level 5. We’re a couple of hours in and have established a little makeshift workshops/home in a level 3 world. We use that as our home and return after adventuring out through other portals. We gather up all our loot then come back to drop it off.

With the worlds each having different resources, we find ourselves bouncing around to gather up enough copper ore and coal. Certain monsters are only on certain worlds too so things like Scales (which are used in lots of weapons we can currently craft) become a hot commodity.

I’m taking some video that I’ll highlight for you guys. Graev and I are really having a lot of fun playing — it’s up to 4-player co-op Local or steam friends.

Portal Knights is available on Steam in early access. They are patching the game fairly often, including adding controller support and soon larger worlds. Totally worth the $14.99 I paid and really shining as a sleeper hit for me. I’m really looking forward to the bigger worlds and upcoming patches.

Stardew Valley is an Amazing Spiritual Successor to Harvest Moon

stardew valley

Stardew Valley released just three days ago and its already spreading like wildfire to anyone and everyone looking to rekindle the experience of playing Harvest Moon. Stardew Valley is an “open-ended country-life RPG” which basically means you run a farm. You’ve just inherited a farm from your grandfather and are faced with reviving a dilapidated old mess of a place. Like Harvest Moon, your farm is a mess and you’ll have to clean it all up. With nothing more than a few old tools and some coin, the choice of how to run the place is left entirely up to you.

I am absolutely in love with this game. I’m not going to review it fully quite yet because I’m only about 5 hours in, but I can already tell you it’s tons of fun and totally worth the $15 I paid on Steam.

From planting crops to upgrading your house, fishing, crafting, learning new recipes, building more structures, raising animals, exploring mines, fighting monsters, convincing people to like you, to even discovering the mysteries of the community center (which involves a Wizard…) there’s so much to do.

Stardew Valley Farm

My biggest complain about all of these open-ended country-life RPGs has to be that I get overwhelmed. I want to do so much. I want to plant the right crops at the right time. I want to make sure I’m working on my relationships with the right girl. I want to get the upgrades to my house at the most opportune moment. I want to make sure I don’t miss out on a festival that comes once a year.

The reason I can’t do it all is because time passes in-game and there’s only so much you can do in a day before you’re out of energy and before it’s time to go to bed. As time progresses, seasons change. As seasons change, certain crops change — the world changes. If I stop thinking about trying to be perfect and simply start working toward a farm then I’m able to quadruple my enjoyment.

While Stardew Valley is currently single-player, multiplayer in the form of coop is supposedly in the works. I don’t know how that will play out, but it’s worth noting. Let me know if you pick it up! I’d love to swap stories and share tips. Definitely expect me to post regular updates on how my farm is progressing!

PvP Should Never Be a Roadblock

Our community had some great discussion on the topic of PvP tonight and I feel a little inspired to write on our conclusions. We really really, really do not like PvP designed to eff (other words were used) up other people’s experience in the game. Let me elaborate. In Albion Online the guilds that own the black zones own the best zones. Contrast that to UO where the “best” guilds (read: largest) could own areas of the map, but people can still go somewhere else and truly not be locked out entirely from something they need or want to do.

No PvP system should ever allow players to completely lock other players out of content essential to their basic gameplay or enjoyment. No PvP system should ever promote players being trolls. If people are PvPing to be trolls, and they’re being successful at it, then the game lacks the basic design elements which would negate players having control of their ability to be trolled. In UO, if I was being killed in a cave then I could go find another cave. Someone could be a troll all they want and I had the control to go somewhere else. If I kept going back then it’s my fault. But take away the options and give me only one cave and suddenly the PvP exists only to be a troll and I have no control over being trolled other than logging out. Logging out is not an acceptable gameplay feature.

PvP should exist as a wing or an extension, and never a roadblock. PvP should not cut people out of PvE or Crafting if they do not participate in PvP or belong to the big guilds who dominate PvP. I have always been a proponent of the philosophy that the best PvP games have the best PvE, and they can and should be completely separate from each other. For example, Dark Age of Camelot. When done right — and not ruined by imbalance — they can even influence each other, but rarely intersect.

One of my continuing complaints about Albion Online is that I can never be the best crafter — ever — if I am not in the biggest guilds. By not being in the biggest guild, I will be destroyed by the PvP roadblock. I will never have the best resources. I will hit a wall. That wall is unacceptable.

Skill Tree Hard Cap & Transport Ox Changes I’d like in Albion Online

I’m having a great time in Albion Online. Our K&G Community Guild has our own island which is built up with higher-tier crafting and refining stations. My own personal island is now level 6/6 with four full farms. We’re starting to identify the strategies we will use at launch to propel ourselves in a great direction.

The more that I play Albion Online, the more I do see the potential for issues down the road with certain mechanics and features. Other features I simply would change to make them better. I’m keeping a running list of changes and would like to share two of my most-wishes for things.

albion-online-skill-tree

Hard Cap the Skill Tree

Everyone can eventually master everything. Just a few months after the launch of closed beta there are already people wearing tier 8 gear, riding the best ox, the best horse, and doing the top-end things in the game. That part is fine, but what do these people do next? They start to master the other trees, and eventually specialization is pointless.

One of Albion Online’s greatest lures for me was the idea that it would take a LONG time to master everything, thus dissuading people from being able to ‘do it all.’ I think that “long time” hasn’t panned out quite as I would have liked.

As an alternative, I’d like a hard cap implemented. Players have to choose which direction to specialize because they would have a finite amount of points. The Learning Point system could be altered such that it’s a pool of points to unlock sections of the tree, and those points would not regenerate.

Another alternative would be to lock people out of sections of the skill tree upon advancing in other areas. For example, the more skill you gain in wearing plate the less you are able to gain in crafting plate.

Rework Transport Oxes

Albion Online Transport OxI’m a gatherer. Essentially all of my guildies have been gatherers for two weeks. All we do is gather materials. We’re weird like that. In UO we were gatherers too. We gather up lots of materials, then we use them to craft. Across our dozens of hours of gathering we have noticed a few annoyances with how transport oxes work.

In order to use a transport ox to lower your weight encumbrance you have to use it like a mount. However, when dismounting you can essentially be so overloaded you can’t even move. When dismounting you are also given a penalty to ability cooldowns so that when dismounting you can’t use any abilities for what feels like 20-30 seconds. This penalty makes sense for normal mounts because of PvP implications. It’s better that way. But for gathering, when dismounting and 500% encumbered unable to move, having a bear eat you sucks.

I propose a system similar to UO’s pack mules. Let the ox follow behind. The ox would be vulnerable to attack from NPCs and players. When it dies, it drops all materials like a player’s corpse. That way the player who is gathering doesn’t have to mount and dismount regularly in order to move about — an act which felt unnatural anyway to have your ox disappear into your pocket then pop out magically. Mounting up for 2 feet to jump node to node also feels unnatural.

These simple changes are just two ways in which the game could radically be altered for the better. I’m eager to see what changes make it in the next patch. The February state of the game looked like a great start.

Albion Online Private Guild Island

Albion online player cities

One of my favorite features in Albion Online has to be the private guild islands. Guilds like ours are absolutely obsessed with crafting. We’ll spend 10 hours a day gathering resources and have a blast. You may recall how our guild played a recently popular UO shard and was the first to not only get a house, but the first to get a second house, and the first to pretty much GM all the crafts. We’re crazy like that.

In Albion Online, we can have our own island away from the chaos of the open-world conflict. Don’t get me wrong, we like the open-world conflict stuff, but losing our guild buildings just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. At least this way we can have a private island to get us started, then move to an open-world city when we feel like we’re ready — if ever.

Albion Online Founders PacksOur island is pretty nice. In just a few days we upgraded the island enough so that everyone who is crafting has the buildings they need to craft here in on our island instead of spending their hard-earned silver back in Queensmarket/town. We plan to do the same thing when the game launches in order to take care of our crafters.

So what’s the downside of a private guild island vs. an open-world city in the red or black zones? Open-world cities have a higher return rate on resources, and they are more conveniently located near higher-tier items. The resource return rate is nice, but not a deal breaker for any of us. It’s certainly not worth having to fight other people to have fun on our own terms.

Just like our guild has done in UO and other games, we’ll be hitting the economy hard at launch. Right now we’re experimenting with all of the crafting to identify what we’re most interested in doing at launch. We’ll also have members more interested in combat, and they’ll get all of their gear from our crafters.

Farming to make all of this happen was definitely quite a lot of work. Definitely on the same level as UO, or more. But there’s nothing quite like working hard to build something of your own. One of our members said it best, “I’m just happy that I have an MMO to play again.”

If you have any questions, I’m happy to help answer them. If you’re interested in playing Albion Online, I highly recommend it. Any gold you spend in beta will be refunded to you at launch, and it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the best sandbox in many, many years. Join us, and we’ll be happy to teach you all we know. 🙂