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Bloodline Champions

Bloodline Champions, developed Published by Funcom and developed by Stunlock Studios, is a PvP arena game currently in some form of mass-invite beta stage.  It plays in a WarCraft 3 almost isometric view where you control a character that looks like a standard hero from what you would see in a DoTA-like setup.   There are four character types: Tank, Healer, Melee, Ranged.  Each champion has a unique set of abilities, but for the most part they play very similar.

The actual gameplay is essentially like what you would expect when you hear the word arena.  Teams start on opposite sides and the goal is to kill each other.  Utilizing your champion’s strengths is obviously important, but it’s also important to find some synergy between all the champions on your team.  Certain combinations of abilities between heroes can have devastating results, such as a well placed stun with an AoE or silence.  One champion that I enjoy playing is Vanguard (tank) who can leap great distances to stun the area where he lands.  I follow that stun up with a reflect shield which stuns the enemies once again when they try to hit me.  If my team pays attention, the damage dealers should have a lot of time to deal damage to stationary targets.

The fights can get very hectic and if you’re not yet familiar with the game you might get frustrated.  The good news is that you can only get better the more you play since each character shares the same hotkeys and it’s essentially the same style of controls for every character.  At the same time, it’s diverse enough with abilities that you can have your beefy tank that soaks up damage and stuns people or your caster dps that aims to kill people from afar.

Controlling the champions is simple.  You move with WASD and activate abilities with Left/Right mouseclicks and Q E R F Spacebar.  For example, to cast a fireball you mouse over an enemy and left click (line of sight mechanics used).  You can also point your mouse over an area and use an ability that might teleport you to that area.   Essentially, every character requires mouse-pointing finesse.  The camera can be locked on your character or you can use a mode that allows you to move your mouse to the edge of the screen and extend your view beyond where your character is to aim ranged abilities further.

Bloodline Champions is like the WoW arenas without the issues of gear or spec balance.  The only two issues you’ll run into are team composition and player skill.  Assuming equal skill on both sides, certain champion combinations will beat others.  If your healer doesn’t heal well (a skill problem) or your dps doesn’t know how to focus fire then you’ll run into the same types of skill disparity you do in any of these DotA/Arena style games.

I see a solid future for the game if they increase the number of heroes, ensure balance, and try to carve out a niche in competitive gaming.  Although they’re different, I already enjoy Bloodline Champs more then League of Legends.  Whether or not decide to purchase the game might depend greatly upon whether or not it stands up to Valve’s DotA.  While I said they’re different, you can’t ignore that they are similar enough.  It’s not like we’re comparing Counter Strike to EverQuest.  This is a game clearly inspired by the Warcraft 3 custom map era like the rest.  If someone has money to spend on one game, how do they decide which to buy?  It’s what pushes someone over the edge that I’m looking for and still can’t quite identify in Bloodline Champions.   I’m anxious to find out where they end up after beta.

Watch a recorded livestream of a match I played this morning after the jump –> [Read more...]

Interesting Stuff

I’ve been browsing the internet over the past few days finding all sorts of things that cause me to stop and think “Hey, that’s interesting”. But the catch is that I can’t justify making an entire blog entry dedicated to this…stuff. So, instead I’m going to make “Interesting Stuff” posts where I list and link to things I found interesting. I might comment briefly on them or I might not. Here is the first installment of Interesting Stuff…

Nintendo apologizes for their E3 Media Briefings – As they should! Hmmph! Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad but it was pretty lackluster and definitely aimed at a bizarre market. Satoru Iwata comes right out and states “If there is any perception that Nintendo is ignoring the core gamers, it’s a misunderstanding and we really want to get rid of that misunderstanding by any means,” Iwata said. “We are sorry about [the E3] media briefings…”

Champions Online Trailer – Lots of gameplay that I think looks incredibly boring.

ESA reveals that E3 will return in 09 – Good. I think E3 is a solid convention and we could use less near-useless fan-service and more serious informative events. Those who dislike the new E3 are either the big cash cows who could afford the old BS or punks looking for free t-shirts and posters.

Funcom stock is tanking – I wonder why?

EA CEO says investors don’t care about quality – DUH! That’s business. It’s not exclusive to EA. It has no bearing on their games. It’s simply the mindset of business. They care about earnings per share. To them your character and what he can do in-game means nothing. However, if the leadership of a company can provide a plan that both leads to quality and profit then everyone can be happy. PS: Players are not investors. We are consumers.

DemiGod Trailer – DotA but better… Where do I sign up?!

WAR Ships Sept. 23 (in stores Sept 24) – Thanks for Squigbert for this one. Looks like further evidence that we are indeed going to be playing WAR by late September.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I think I’m going to like this new mini-feature because I’ll be able to comment on a broader scope of topics much more regularly. By all means link to something you found interesting over the past few days. We’ll see how it goes.

E3: We chat with Eidos/Funcom about Age of Conan

As I mentioned yesterday we had the opportunity to talk with Funcom here at E3 in the Eidos room.  Erling Ellingson sat down for a chat and answered all of our questions which can be read about in an article I’ve written for the vault.

“Age of Conan’s launch was technically fantastic and server uptime was perfect”, said Erling Ellingson as we sat down to have a chat at E3 about how the game is coming along nearly two months after release. He seemed truly sincere in his claims stating again that he feels Age of Conan’s launch was one of the most successful launches ever for a mmorpg save for a few customer services issues that have since been remedied.

When asked what the development team has been focusing on lately Erling said that Funcom is hard at work in the fixing stage for Age of Conan and beginning work on the game’s first expansion – which he was extremely tight lipped about. Attention is focused on resolving the problems that have appeared since launch. Efforts to that end include improvements to City Sieges, which are showing a performance increase of over 300%, resolving other bugs, and continuing to develop the game’s features. [Read the rest of the article including an exclusive announcement at the IGN Vault Network.]

First I want to say that the interview with Erling was a pleasure.  He is a really nice guy and someone that cares about the game.  It’s an awkward feeling interviewing someone for a game that I really do not like, yet at the same time I can respect the developers who put in the time and dedication to make their game how they want it done.

You’ll read this in the writeup but I want to mention that I’m pleased to see Funcom working toward fixing many of the issues with the game.  I asked Erling about the lack of content and itemization issues specifically because they were two of the biggest reasons I stopped playing Age of Conan.  When asked the questions, Erling had the look of complete agreement and acceptance on his face that these ARE issues but ones they’re planning on fixing.  He told us about content they’re adding and their plans to rework the stats system.  Lots of changes are coming to Conan and it’s truly unfortunate that it has taken 2 months after release to begin addressing these issues.  If not for future games snagging my interest Age of Conan might have been a game that lures me back for a resubscription.  (It still might in the future)

I’ve got to get ready to go this morning so I’ll leave it at that.   I’ll be posting about other games tonight.

 

E3 Day 1: Nintendo, Funcom, SoE

Wow!  The first day of E3 is over.  This was a huge day for us that started out at 6am.  We knew that Nintendo would be sending shuttles to the various hotels but we had no idea when they would be coming.  We decided to go down to the lobby just to check and see if the shuttless were there and perhaps grab a bite to eat.  Turns out that when we got down to the lobby that the final shuttles leaving for the event were almost full and ready to pull out.  Missing breakfast sucked but we were able to get our spiffy paper Nintendo wristbands and make it to the Kodak Theater. 

When we got to the Kodak we entered the lobby area where Nintendo has graciously provided sodas, water, and all the hot coffee people could drink… well not really.  The coffee was gone in three minutes and they kept rushing to refill the dispensers.  See?  That’s what you get for having conferences this early on the morning. :P

The conference overall left us with some mixed feelings.   Several games were announced like Animal Crossing City Folk, a new Pokemon game, GTA Chinta Town (DS), Wii Music, Wii Sports Resort, and more Guitar Hero games than I care to count.  We’re going to record a podcast tonight with our detailed thoughts so look for that if you’re interested.

After the Nintendo event we shuttled back to the conference center and had an interview with Funcom.   Yes, you read that right.  Funcom.  I’m not a fan of Age of Conan but meeting the Eidos/Funcom guys was extremely interesting and truly an enjoyable experience.  I’ll be writing a piece for the Vault that should be released very soon.  If you’re an Age of Conan fan you’ll like it.  They offered us free food and free drinks so I can’t really say much bad about them. ;)

After the Funcom interview we had lunch compliments of the nice folks at E3.  Pretty darn good selection of food but the drink selection was lacking with only Lemonade and Iced Tea.  After lunch we went down to the expo showcase pavillion thingy and looked at all the games being promoted.  It was actually rather lackluster.  The room was tiny and the selection of games was definitely far from complete.   Warhammer Online was not being showcased at all yet SOE had Star Wars Galaxies up…. wtf?  (SOE had their games out in force).

The work day ended with a jaunt over to the SOE room where we had guided demonstrations of The Agency and Free Realms.  They had DC Universe on display but Gamespot was hogging the room with their TV cameras.  All they had to show was the trailers that were available online anyway.  SoE was also showing SWG, EQ2(new expansion, blah blah), and their Legends of Norrath Card Game.  Oh, and interestingly we saw John Smedley chillin in the room wearing full business attire.  He stood out like a sore thumb but definitely brought a pressence of power.  Watching the SoE employees squirm while their boss watched them demo the games was entertaining. ;) 

Alright, that’s our first day at E3.  We’ll be giving you guys lots of details on the games either tonight or tomorrow here on our blog and in our pieces for the Vault.  

Final verdict for AoC

Unfortunately our time in Hyboria has come to an end. Graev and I decided this afternoon to cancel our subscriptions and abstain from purchasing Age of Conan. This decision did not come easy, nor was it quick. We have spent hours (and several bottles of pepto bismol) debating the pros and cons of playing the game. In the end we decided that the cons outweighed the pros for us.

We simply could not force ourselves to enjoy the game anymore (yes, we did enjoy it for the first 30 levels). The leveling system is boring and the quests are hauntingly repetitive and lackluster (See previous blog posts this week). Neither of us could feel immersed in the game at all because of the massive use of instancing ala Guild Wars and how detached our characters felt from the world. Tobold put it best when he said that Hyboria lacks that world feeling. Trying to get a mini-game going on our server (One of the more popular servers out there) has been incredibly difficult and mostly a waste of time because of leavers. Looking forward, we can not see a future for ourselves in the end-game PvP in AoC. Sieges are simply too inaccessible due to Funcom’s scheduling system and without sieges the PvP lacks any meaning for us. Lastly, there are a few “little things” that bother us like Funcom leaving the NDA for closed beta up indefinitely, privatizing of the official forums, exploiters being allowed to max out their characters without repercussion, and the worst itemization we have ever seen.

Recommending games to our readers is something we take seriously. We can not recommend Age of Conan at this time. However, that does not mean it’s a bad game. It’s simply not a game for us or one that we would tell our friends to go out and buy.

Since we are not playing the game our AoC podcast is obviously canceled. We apologize to those of you who were looking forward to future episodes. However, our K&G Podcast that covers the gaming industry as a whole will still be recorded and published on a regular basis.

What will we do now? We’re going to continue looking forward to mmorpgs currently in development — the holy grail is out there still waiting to be found. This summer will surely be a difficult one without a mmo but there are plenty of games coming in the next few months and beta’s we are participating in to get us through.

We wish all the best to Funcom and Age of Conan.

NOTE: Comments have been disabled on this post because the fanboys have taken to personal attacks, insults, and trolling.  Find yourselves a new bridge to crawl under, thanks.