Thoughts on the Titanfall “Beta”

I put quotes around Beta because any game that gets a huge public beta, especially this close to release, seems to serve mostly as a promotional tool for a feature-complete product.

Keen has been playing the Titanfall PC beta and I’ve been trying out the Xbox One version, which was the platform I had originally planned on getting the game for. However, now that I’m getting Keen’s old PC, which is a significant upgrade to mine, I’m tempted to get the PC version so that we could play together.  Having only played the Xbox One version I can’t really comment on any differences there might be. Just throwin’ that out there.

titan-and-pilotTitanfall’s acrobatic elements are pretty cool. I think wall-running makes every game better. It’s really easy too since all you seem to need to do is jump alongside a wall. It might be one of these things that is easy to use but harder to master. At the start of a few matches I saw some guys pull several maneuvers to gain a lot of height and distance and get themselves through the top window of a nearby building. They were like ninjas running along the tops of a bamboo forest in one of those martial arts movies.  Another thing that is awesome is how you can mount ledges. More FPS games need to let you mount ledges and climb up.  PC players seem like they would have an easier time with all of the acrobatics since they can jump and turn the camera at the same time. Since the controller has you jump with the face button and control the camera with the right stick you are force to either have very precise and fast movements or claw your hand to move the stick and jump ant the same time.

The actual Titans are fantastic, but it seems to cause Battlefield Vehicle Syndrome. In case you haven’t heard of that, since I just made it up, it’s the feeling that enemy vehicles are incredibly difficult to take down but for some reason whenever you enter one yourself the armor is made out of wet cardboard. I also seem to have some problem aiming with the shoulder mounted rockets since they seem to want to curve perfectly around my target rather than hitting it. Being able to latch onto an enemy Titan and rip its hatch open and fire at its circuits is pretty rad, though. I also like how you can exit your Titan and leave it to guard the outside of a building while you run in to clear it or capture a point.

I’m not totally sure how I feel about the 6v6 player limit. Usually I prefer FPS games that have a lower player limit but by that I usually mean something like 8v8 or 12v12. They’ve also included a few grunt bots in the multiplayer for some some reason. Maybe this is to kind of fill out the matches so they don’t feel dead or perhaps they wanted to make it feel more like a FPS MOBA by adding in some AI creeps. Either way they don’t seem to pose any kind of threat, at least not in the game modes I played.  I also like how when your team loses you can try and make it to an evac point before they kill you off; like it cheapens their win and softens your loss.

There’s a definite Call of Duty meets Brink vibe in Titanfall. It all looks promising, and I think we both enjoy the Beta enough to pick it up.  Production quality is incredibly high; heck, watching your titan grab you and put you in its chest is something you have to experience — it’s amazing.  The features are all there, etc.,  but neither of us are really certain yet if there’s a long-lasting appeal.  Have you tried out Titanfall?  Let us know what you think.

WildStar Ability Mechanics Feedback

WildStar ability mechanics were shown today in a new DevSpeak video.  At the end of the video the devs solicited feedback, so here are my honest thoughts direct at Carbine.  First, let’s watch the video.

I understand the direction.  You want mobile combat where the user feels like they are ‘actively’ participating in combat rather than ‘passively’ commanding their character to use abilities.

In the video I saw a few things that bother me.  First, the ground targeting indicators.  In every fight I saw the floor lit up with different shapes. Every ability looks like it’s an area of effect attack.  Whether it be a cone, a straight shot, an arc, etc., it all looks spammy to me.  Ever play Hi-Rez Studios’ MOBA called Smite?  The combat looks exactly the same. I’m not saying that’s bad, but something about it gives me a janky vibe… spaztactics, as I call them.

Second, I hate combat devolved into nothing but running around trying to skill-shot.  I can’t remember which MMO it was, but everyone just ran around in circles spamming their instant cast abilities.  The battlefield looked like a game of bumper cars.  Heck, even GW2 was ridiculous with people rolling around dodging attacks (maybe it was GW2 I’m thinking about?). What are you doing to avoid your combat becoming nothing but instant cast circle strafing?

And lastly, I’m worried about it becoming spammy.  You  specifically mention rapid taps, and reacting different to abilities.  Is this a game I need to drink a gallon of Mount Dew before playing, or can I expect some degree of ‘give me a second to think about what abilities I want to use rather than mash them all’?

Those are my concerns. Readers, please feel free to share yours.

FFXIV Early Impressions

We’re two days in to Phase 4 (Open Beta) for FFXIV, and it’s time to start sharing thoughts on features, mechanics, how the game is faring, and whether or not we’re having fun.

ffxiv blackmageClass/Job System
I am loving this approach.  I just switch my weapon, and I turn into that class.  It’s like logging off and logging into an alt, but I get to keep my character’s identity.  I’ve been leveling a Conjuror with Graev’ Lancer.  We want to stick close together, so it’s awesome that when one of us can’t play we simply swap over to another class and go have fun.  Being able to keep abilities from the other classes is like a sudden boost to the depth of the game.  I can play a Conjuror and pick up buffs, then swap to a Gladiator but have the ability to use those spells.  This means much later down the line players will want to combine classes to maximize their potential. Awesome system with tons of gameplay built in.

ffxiv fate

Lots of people doing a FATE and not one hitch or drop in frames.

Performance
Performance is shocking.  It doesn’t freeze or hitch at all.  “It’s like magic,” said Graev as he waded through hundreds of people in Gridania.  Graev is on a 6 year old rig, and albeit he has lower frames than I do on my 3.5 year old system, neither of us see a decrease in performance with other players on the screen.  There are TONS of people playing, and all of them are visible since I haven’t once seen a lobbied zone.  Square Enix did something here right in a big, big way.  I want whatever they’ve done here to provide ridiculously good performance, and good looking visuals, to be used in every MMO ever developed again.

FFXIV GroupingQuesting
Hrmm. For the most part, I don’t like it.  Most of the quests are in the ‘kill 5 squirrels’ category, with a lot of ‘Go click this basket of fish then talk to me’ mixed in.  I’m glad these can be done once, and that any other class I play will have to do FATEs (public quests), dungeons, or grind experience chains.

Story
The story quests, albeit hard to understand since I never played 1.0 or really any FF games, are better now that I know what’s going on.  Some of them have been like the side-quests (blah) but some have cutscenes and really do break up the gameplay nicely.  One of my biggest gripes, however, is that you can’t go into these in a group.  You have to disband every time and do it alone.

Launch (beta?) Issues
The worst issue – BY FAR – is how they’ve handled servers.  Instead of queues, they’ve simply locked servers so that no new characters can be created.  That completely screws people out of playing with their friends.  We have at least six people trying to get onto Leviathan to play with us in our guild, but they can’t until Square decides to stop opening new servers and just let people queue. I didn’t get to play on Friday at all because I was 1 second (literally) behind Graev pressing ‘Play’ and the server locked me out. I know that all of these issues will be gone in a few weeks, but that doesn’t make them suck any less.

Overall
There’s still a lot more info to come.  Graev and I are about to run the first dungeons.  I’ve only begun to dive into the crafting.  I hate the questing, but I love the combat.  I feel like at times I do spam the Stone spell, but that’s because I don’t have any other abilities yet.  I would rather use the same ability than have to spam 20 different ones.  The subtle things like the experience bonus for going on a killing streak, the way my character’s eyes follow his target, the way the world feels full of people (maybe not to subtle), and just overall traditional feel of the game give me a very optimistic view of FFXIV’s future.

This is sooo much better than FFXIV 1.0, and I hope it stays that way.  Tons more info to come.  Stay with us!

FFXIV Pre-order Code and Launch Details

FFXIV Pre-OrderFFXIV launches into the final phase of beta on the 16th for previous testers, and the 17th for everyone else.  Characters created during this beta phase will carry over to launch, so as you can imagine people are considering this the soft launch.  There’s just one problem: I have no idea where to enter my FFXIV pre-order code!  I think I found an email amazon sent me with a “promotional code.”  I assume this is my pre-order code.

I went to the Pre-order page, but sure enough it just wants to email me when I’ll be allowed to enter my code.  I assume that’s it? (I’m doing a lot of assuming) I took to Twitter hoping to find more information, and a few people told me to go to the Square Enix Account Section (which I think they refer to as “Service account”).  Sure enough there’s a section under Select Server > FFXIV to redeem a code but it is currently unavailable.

Being totally confused about how a launch will work has to be one of the worst feelings, especially if you’re like me and want to jump in the game the second it becomes available.  I’ll just have to live with it for now, unless any of you can help clarify the details for me.

To add to the confusion, we had to figure out that Graev apparently doesn’t qualify for early access to the game.  He pre-ordered the collectors edition of the original FFXIV but all that means is he gets 2 free weeks and doesn’t have to rebuy the game.  I guess playing in the head-start is reserved for “legacy” members who played the original for 3+ months.  I don’t get why he can get the game for free, 2 weeks play free, but not the head-start.  Now we’re left trying to figure out if we can pre-order off Amazon then cancel the pre-order yet retain the head-start key.  Thoughts?

On to the details I know!  Our gaming community will be playing FFXIV.  We have somewhere between 12-15 people ready to go already, and we know we’ll be growing even more after launch.  If you’re interested in joining our Free Company (Guild) then head over to our forums to enlist.  The leadership for our FFXIV chapter is hard at work already planning ways to bring players together to have fun and get the most out of time spent playing.

I hope I can figure out a way to get Graev into the head-start, and that the rest of this beta and launch go smoothly.  Do us a favor and share any details you find about redeeming codes, and be sure to share any tricks to help get Graev some head-start access.

Green Man Gaming: 25% off FFXIV. Code: GMG25-OGRUH-7SM8H
FFXIV on Amazon: $5 Amazon Credit w/ purchase of digital version.

Beta Fatigue

MMO Beta FatigueI’ve been playing a ton of beta tests these days, and I’m once again reminded of Beta Fatigue or Beta Burnout.  There comes a time during a beta test when I believe playing becomes detrimental to my future enjoyment — to everyone’s enjoyment.  For me, that’s usually the second I realize I’ll lose my character to a wipe.  I become emotionally detached, unable to form any connection to my character or the game.

Yesterday I talked about the newbie experience being one of the best experiences available in a modern MMO.  Ironically, that’s the part of the game the devs keep people testing the longest.  I get why it’s tested so extensively, and I don’t.

I want to experience one of the best parts of the game with fresh eyes, fully attached to the game and my character.  Now, I completely understand that beta tests are optional and I am under absolutely no obligation to opt myself into them… but I suffer from wanting to know what other people know.  I’m naturally curious, and the urge to ‘try before I buy’ dominates my decision.

To further complicate things, some of these games are destined to be 3-monthers. Does part of that 3 months get eaten up by testing time?  You better believe it.

Do developers work harder to limit the number of exposures players have to their content before launch? Do they severely limit testing to a select few, then not wipe once more people get access?  I think there needs to be greater emphasis on true testing and less on utilizing a ‘beta’ for marketing efforts.