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My First WildStar Dungeon Impressions

I was finally able to do one of the dungeons in WildStar.  Thanks to the mentoring system, everyone in our group was scaled down to the appropriate level and we were able to experience this dungeon in all its glory.

For the last two weeks all I’ve heard is how difficult or hard the dungeons are in WildStar.  That statement is a little inaccurate.  Dungeons in WildStar are… exact.  They really aren’t difficult at all if you press the right buttons.  Don’t stand in bad telegraphs (red spots on the floor), interrupt when you need to, and have a decent understanding of your class with appropriate gear and technically… technically… the dungeon should go off without a hitch.

We wiped several times while running through the dungeon despite having level 50s with experience in the place (on both normal and veteran) scaled down to help us.  The cause of every wipe was positioning or not interrupting fast enough.

Veteran dungeons are simply these same places on steroids.  You’ll need to kill fast and be more exact while completing additional objectives.  That is certainly a challenge until you meet the requirements.

To me this is quite different from dungeons I’ve experienced in past games where I felt the difficulty was measured by danger.  For example, in WildStar the difficulty of a boss is interrupting him and staying out of red circles–obeying mechanics.  In EverQuest the difficulty of a dungeon was knowing you COULD die, maybe have a corpse recovery with experience loss, and have to work your way back into the dungeon.  Difficulty in EverQuest was avoiding death with 100% certainty and taking into consideration the dynamics of random “oh crap” moments as well as factoring in other groups. Dungeons were there to give you the experience of playing in rather than playing through, which only added to the danger and difficulty. Slight difference there, maybe somewhat semantics, but to me it really does make a huge difference on how the game plays.

Overall, WildStar’s first dungeon is certainly the most challenging first dungeon I’ve played through in a themepark.  Very straight forward–kill trash, kill boss, obey the mechanics, etc,. but worth doing for anyone looking to experience a taste of what end-game might be like in WildStar.

Back in the Saddle Again: Leveling in WildStar

I’m settling back into my gaming routine now that I have a few weeks of extra time.  I jumped into WildStar last night to finally dig in my heels and level up.  My Warrior gained two levels last night (15-17) and completed a solid chunk of the second zone.  About two hours into playing I started to get really, really burned out on the whole questing thing.  Having 10 quests at a time to run around in circles was actually making me experience motion sickness.  I found a solution!

I asked in guild chat about whether or not the tasks were necessary.  Tasks are like the lowest form of bottom-dwelling quests — they are aptly called tasks. According to one of my guildies I can skip doing the tasks and just focus on the world and zone stories.  I gave it a go for another hour and gained more experience than I had the previous two hours combined.  One of the people in my guild actually leveled entirely 1-50 on just the zone stories and said that the worst thing you’ll experience is the mobs might eventually get 1-2 levels ahead of you.  I’m cool with that!

After I had my fill of questing we formed a group to head into the first adventure.  It went remarkably smooth, but that’s what happens when you bring a level 50 (even if they mentor down) and everyone else has been there before.  My first takeaway: Telegraphs are annoying and I will be turning them off for other players.  My second takeaway: EXP was great and I wish doing this type of grouping to level was the norm — I miss this play-style so, so much.

I think I’m going to shoot for level 20 tonight.  I’ll keep you all posted on how the first official “dungeon” (not adventure) goes and whether or not I’m able to muster up the courage to try tanking.  So far my verdict on WildStar will remain that it’s a well-made themepark capable of holding most for at least 3 months. How accessible and fun the end-game is will determine the rest.

What… is your quest?

Critiquing quests is quickly becoming the norm around here.  Every time a new MMO comes out the first thing I’ll say is how much the questing sucks.  Killing ten rats has become completely cliche, but seriously the extent of questing innovation has been to change what monsters you kill or what they drop — that’s it!  To this very day, even in the upcoming WildStar, my level 20 Engineer was killing 10 oozes.   Why do I do it?  Because the NPC in the camp with the ‘!’ over his head told me he would give me experience.  Why do developers do it?  I could insert a dozen critical remarks.

If I were to suddenly and miraculously have total control over the direction questing would go in all games, here are some of the changes I would make immediately.

Questing ≠ Leveling

I would remove all desire for players to complete quests in order to level up their characters.  Questing would provide great items, epic adventures, and glorious tales to recount.  Any one of those three things are worth more than a thousand levels.  Leveling should be based on your character’s profession.  I’m going to write an entire post on this soon.  Here’s the quick of it: If I’m a warrior who kills things then I should level up by killing things.  If I’m a thief then I should level by stealing.  Worst case scenario, and there’s nothing wrong with this, everyone should level by simply killing monsters.  It sounds simple, but it works.

Questing should be EPIC!

Yes, the overused word ‘epic’ is yet another cliche, but there was a time when this word meant something grand.  The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and the quest for Jboots all share one thing in common: They were anything but easy, short, and unmemorable.  Quests should require effort.  Notice I haven’t made a single mention of ‘time’ as a mechanic.  I think time is a dangerous beast unto itself and an easy pitfall. A long quest can still take a short amount of time.  How involved something is that play into the perception that something is ‘bigger.’

Go on adventures.  See the world.  Truly have to accomplish something to complete that quest.  Even the name ‘quest’ should evoke something.  It’s a QUEST!

Quest Rewards

Quests should never reward a few coins and a sword you’ll use for 10 minutes. Who would go on a ‘QUEST!’ for such a meager offering?  I demand a king’s ransom!  I want that epic glowing mace with the ability to resurrect.  I want the boots that provide me permanent near-spirit of the wolf speeds. I want the items that will radically alter the way I interact with and enjoy the game.  Quest rewards should be character advancements.

Never Design Around Quests

The world in which we play our games should never be designed around quests.  In today’s landscape we see the entire world shaped around hubs offering up dozens of quests.  The world is shaped in order to offer a pathway from one quest hub to the next.  Loot, character advancement, balance, heck — everything is centered around them!  It has become so extreme that once a player reaches max level it’s almost like they have unlocked a completely new game.

Quests should be added after you have a fully-realized world designed to incorporate your lore and goals.  Quests should offer opportunities for players to go places and see things, not lead them by the nose and tell them how to progress through a world.

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...]

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!