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WildStar and ESO

wildstar-deluxe-editionBefore I go into some WildStar discourse I want to update you all on where Graev and I are at with The Elder Scrolls Online.

We officially cancelled our ESO accounts 20 minutes before the subscription was due.  We debated back and forth the merits of playing a game that we really weren’t feeling a huge urge to log in to.  ESO always felt like a single-player experience for us, yet failed to live up to the single-player experiences of Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim.  Playing simply became too repetitive.  The Thieves guild, Dark Brotherhood, and justice system should have been in at launch.  There should never have been classes at all and instead been skill-based.  There should have been multiple paths to level up your character instead of letting one person do essentially everything yet creating a linear world.   Neither of us feel ESO is a bad game, it just wasn’t worth the money to continue when our desire to log in was… well, zero.  Coming in at 60 hours each, we got our box price and then some.

I’m biting the bullet and picking up WildStar.  This should come as no surprise to the world: Keen buy’s every MMO.   Graev is still on the fence and wants to wait and see if I stick with it.  I commend him for his ability to abstain.

I picked up WildStar on Green Man Gaming and got 20% off using the code: FUSWJT-B1DU64-JBV8UY

The Keen and  Graev Community will be rolling in on a yet to be named server.  If you’re looking for a laid-back and close-knit community feel then check us out.   We’re not the group to join if you want to dominate 40-man raids.  If you want a group of people you can quickly call your best friends and continue to do so for 7+ years later then look no further.

I’m going to roll up a warrior.  I’m still debating what race I want to play.  I’m really disappointed by not being able to play as the Chua.  Why do classes have to be race restricted?  That’s such an annoying system.  After dabbling in all of the classes over the past year, the Warrior just feels the best.  I’ll most likely have an Esper or Spellslinger alt.

My approach to WildStar is going to be moderately casual.  If we end up raiding it’ll be with our community combined with several other guilds in a similar position.  If that means we never see 40-man content oh well.  I don’t care — at all.  If we can do the 20-man stuff that might be neat, at least until it becomes repetitive.

Playing in this open beta has shown me that Carbine has made decent progress.  Animations are better, sounds are night and day what they used to be, and I’m starting to feel in the mood for something a little zany.  They timed their release really, really well.

I’ll have more thoughts for your as I play WildStar.  For now just know that I’ll be diving in head first as always.  I didn’t communicate enough of my ESO experiences, but I do plan to play WildStar and write regular adventure log updates as well as my usual critiques. If nothing else, I think getting my money’s worth out of the box price alone will be doable.

ESO’s Future Updates Look Good (on paper)

Zenimax Online Studios released their roadmap for upcoming future changes to The Elder Scrolls Online.  Graev and I are what you might consider ‘regular’ players.  We put in 3-4 hours a week, explore every corner of every zone, listen to 95% of the quest dialog, level our crafting, and do all of the dungeons.  We aren’t leveling quickly at all; We’re getting close to level 30.  We are guildless and just roaming the world together.  I say all of this to give you a bit of context so that you understand where I’m coming from as I comment on what is coming soon to ESO.

Update 1 containing lots of new “veteran” (end-game) content is coming soon.  I think that’s great, but I won’t see any of it for a long time.  What I care about are these future updates:

  • A system that allows grouped players to see each other even when they’re in different phases
  • A justice system—steal from and kill NPCs and deal with the consequences if you are caught
  • Migration of European Megaserver to our European datacenter.
  • Field of View (FOV) adjustment
  • Armor dyeing and tinting
  • Two new Veteran Dungeons: Crypt of Hearts and City of Ash
  • New region of Craglorn with a new Trial (the Serpent)
  • Increased ability to pick up items in the world
  • Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood storyline and quests.
  • Spellcrafting
  • Horse Racing
  • Dragonstar Arena—similar to Trials, but built for a group of four
  • Improvements to fishing
  • Crafting system improvements
  • Improved Looking for Group system
  • Better NPC facial animations

That’s an awesome list.  I’m mostly looking at the changes that make the game and the world feel more like a traditional ES game.  A justice system, more interaction with the world, and two great guilds coming to the game.  Graev and I are both desperately wanting the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves guild.

ESO hasn’t been entirely peachy.  Graev and I are starting to wonder if the subscription is going to be worth it.  We are both tired of just quest grinding, and the experience is starting to feel slightly flat.  The PvP, despite sounding great and all, hasn’t attracted us at all.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me — is it me?  Maybe it’s the game.  I just don’t feel like going out and zerging, and I feel like the PvP is still an arcade experience.  I can’t explain it.  I just see a lack of purpose and meaning.

Maybe, as I think about it here, DAoC was different because of server communities.  I was on Percival in the realm of Midgard.  We worked our butts off to earn Darkness Falls.  We held keeps and fought with unimaginable fervor to hold our keeps and relics.  It was … it really was epic.  I would stand in a keep with my weapon ready staring off into the snowy tree covered hills waiting to see a speck of movement.  The bloody cry of a scout, “THEY’RE COMING!!!!” would make my face tingle as the blood and adrenaline began to flow and we were ready to die where we stood to ensure there wasn’t even a chance in hell our lands would be taken.  I can’t find that in ESO, so I do not participate in PvP.

I’m okay with a PvE experience.  I’m a bit of carebear now.  I just want ESO’s PvE to reflect what matters to me in a game.  It’s getting there.  I just need it to come quicker.

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…]

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.

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!