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WildStar Paths: Diversity in a Themepark

WildStar’s path system fascinates me.  Paths are almost class-like identities, but they’re not a class.  They represent a playstyle, or how you like to play MMOs. In the lore, your path represents your responsibilities once you reach Nexus.  This is ‘extra’ content for the players to involve themselves in beside the normal ‘leveling content’.  That’s what fascinates me; someone is trying to create

Explorer is for people who want to go out and see the world, Soldier for those who like killin’, Scientists for the nerds who like puzzles and knowledge, and the Settler for people who enjoy socializing and building stuff.  You better believe I am ALL about the Settler.  I can totally identify with JPHiggenbottom from the latest WildStar DevSpeak video.

Types of missions someone of the settler path can enjoy:

EXPANSION: That town ain’t going to improve itself. So step up, strap on a toolbelt, and get to work building things that make everyone’s life a little easier. CIVIL DEFENSE: Town guards can handle the small stuff. But when the biggest, meanest monsters on Nexus come a-knockin’, you’ll step up and save the day!
SUPPLY CACHE: Who has time to sit around and wait for vital supplies to show up on a platter? Put on those boots and bring home the bacon! INFASTRUCTURE:Are you ready for some serious real estate development? Then do your civic duty and build hospitals, taverns, and spaceports for your friends and allies.
PUBLIC SERVICE: Some people just don’t have the grit and backbone to get the job done. Good thing you do. Achieve tasks for the greater good, and get rewarded for it.

 

Constructing beneficial structures for friends and allies sounds awesome.  I’m imagining being able to build quasi-permanent structures that stay for at least as long as I am online.  Ideally they’d be permanent, but I have realistic expectations.  If I can make a structure in a quest hub that will buff other players who come in, and I get rewarded for that… how freaking cool is that?!  Making turrets to defend towns, building taverns for people to stop by and visit, or simply being able to think about the actual act of making things is just really, really appealing to me.

To me, this kind of thing is innovative. I was losing hope, but Carbine Studios is showing that even in a themepark there are ways to tip your hat to different playstyles beyond just killing mobs and running dungeons. Two people may both be Gunslingers, but one might be a Gunslinger Scientists and the other a Gunslinger Explorer. Both players get what they want in a way that appeals to the individual most.  I love the idea, and I am now even more eager to play WildStar.  Now who wants to give me a beta invite?  Please?

Revisiting Rift

Rift Tactician Dovahkeen

My Tactician AOE clearing groups of mobs in Rift.

Last week I shared my thoughts on the Rift F2P conversion slated to arrive in just three weeks. I wanted to jump in and revisit Rift before the change so that I can have up-to-date experience before commenting on how the F2P changes really impact the game.

The Rift team reached out to me to help get me back in and playing on my account.  In a matter of minutes I had my Rogue created and I was slaying mobs in the familiar starting zone.

A lot has changed.  Right from the start players get all of the souls and there are these paths players can choose which sort of templatize the experience for those looking for a hand in choosing souls and talents that will meet their playstyle.  I quickly broke my training wheels and chose a Bard/Tactician combo with a third soul that is probably not going to get a single point.  I haven’t looked up a single guide or walk-through, but looking at the talents I think this will be a great support class.  Feel free to correct me if I’m entirely wrong.

To be quite honest, I hate these starting quests. I’ve done them each a dozen times having Alpha and Beta tested Rift.  I haven’t experienced the second zone and on for the Defiant though, and just before I logged off I finished up Freemarch.  Now I’m ready to continue into content I’ve never seen which is where the fun will start.  Thankfully the rifts and bg’s were a great distraction.

Speaking of battlegrounds (or whatever they are called), my healing topped the charts every time. I was even 4x the healing of other healers carrying my team to victory.  I love being a lowbie healer.

I don’t have a ton to share right now other than my opinion that Rift has gained quite a bit of polish over the years.  Rift has this simple elegance about it that makes it feel more MMO than SWTOR — I recently tried SWTOR as well.  I’m also liking how Trion has made playing with people easier.  Instant adventures, public groups, and several tools to get people matched with others.  I haven’t had a single moment where I felt alone.

More to come as I, hopefully, make my way through the lower levels.  I’d love to see some of the content Elrar showed me during my personal tour with him just before Storm Legion launched.  The great thing about going back to play a themepark MMO several years later is that usually the devs have gone out of their way to make it accessible and easy to enjoy.

Rift F2P

Rift is going free-to-play on June 12th.  To me this was never a question of if Rift would go F2P, but when.  Rift’s numbers are declining as all games do over time.  To be honest, they made it quite a long time for never quite being a true blockbuster success; much longer than most.  EQ lasted forever because it initiated a paradigm shift.  WoW is still doing relatively well for the same reason.  Rift is/was just another good game.

Trion’s big marketing strategy with this F2P transition is to clearly state that players are getting complete AAA MMO experience for free.  You only have to pay for certain things like boosts, mounts, gear, and expansion souls.  All story, all level, all raids — all content is free.

That’s a great strategy, and really the only one I believe can possibly work for a true “AAA F2P” MMO (if such an oxymoron exists).  Let’s look at their execution.

rift free to play

All content in Rift will be completely free.

Subscriptions

Having a sub to Rift gets you boosts.  Whether they’re slowing everything else down like SWTOR, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  As a Patron (their name for a subscriber) you can get bonus mount speed, more reputation, more tokens, more currency, loyalty rewards, and those types of things. It’s the whole “you want to pay money to not be at a disadvantage” trope. Will it be enough to get people to subscribe?  Personally, I don’t see the real benefit.  I’d rather buy these as I want them individually.

Selling Gear

Here’s the big one.

“We will also have gear for sale. Our guidelines for gear on the store are generally as follows: The best gear in the game must be earned and high-level items on the store must also be available to be earned in-game.”

That is vague; I can interpret that to mean you can buy the best gear in the game.  All X are Y but not all Y are X type of logic.  Regardless, it’s pay-to-win unless your definition of winning is to only have the best stuff instantly.  If I can buy the second best stuff right when hit max level, then jump in the next day with the second best gear and start earning the best, that’s winning to me.

This whole conversion is going to do really well for Rift.  I’m absolutely positive that they will see more people playing, and more revenue as a result.  However, F2P is a short-term strategy for MMOs.  Trion forfeits Rift’s credibility and sense of being a genuine AAA game.  Transitioning to F2P will do very well early for the game, but it will expedite the end even if it only makes people consider there being an end, thus that in and of itself diminishing their future possibilities.  Rift’s love group is being served with the realization of the game’s mortality, and I’m confident that the long-run will suffer as a result as those love-group-players lose their desire to stay and start looking for a game without a future dictated by altering design to earn the most money.

I’ll give the game a shot now (I was going to anyway since Raptr gave me 30 days free AND the expansion free…) and maybe give the game a bit of coverage from a ‘how does it play free’ perspective.  That’s precisely what Trion is hoping thousands of people will do.

Why I’m excited for WildStar

WildStar MMO

Over the past few days I’ve had this horrible pit in my stomach caused by an acute lack of MMOs to play.  Looking around to remedy my situation, realizing nothing will currently cure me, and hoping there was something in the future, I turned to a game that I’ve only had slightly visible on my radar: WildStar.

wildstar epic content

WildStar will have episodic, phased, open-world, and undoubtedly instanced PvE.

WildStar isn’t trying to be the next best thing. I don’t get this feeling that the developers are trying to overly-innovate or convince people that WildStar is creating some new reason to enjoy MMOs.  I see a zany unique IP with which the developers are having fun.  All of the videos are just cool — that’s deep, I know.  But seriously, there’s a significant amount of ‘different’ stuff in a ‘cool’ way without really being technically ‘new’.

WildStar will have episodic story content, typical questing, battlegrounds, raids (I read there will be 40-man raids), and supposedly open-world leveling on top of customized content that I think is being handled with phasing. All of these can be fun if done right, but what I’m truly excited for are the Warplots and housing.  Build up a base then taking it into a battle against another guild that has built up a base sounds really fun.  Customizing a house to the level of what’s been shown in WildStar is something I have always loved.

wildstar housing

Amazing housing and base building are the driving force behind my excitement.

I don’t need every MMO to reinvent the wheel, but I demand that every MMO at least try to do something better and different than their competition/predecessors.  With a zany new IP being really driven home by over-the-top stylized gameplay, and what appears to be a team embracing the themepark mechanics in their own way, I think WildStar shows great promise.

To sum it all up, we can analyze what WildStar does right, and what it gets wrong, later.  For now, it just looks fun.

Neverwinter Impressions

Neverwinter officially entered public “open beta” yesterday.  It might as well be called launch because everyone can get in, and characters won’t be deleted.  I jumped in and began my foray into the Sword Coast as a Half-Elf Devoted Cleric.

Neverwinter Sword Coast

The world is traversed by clicking on a new location and instantly traveling there.

I’m disappointed by the gameplay.  Everything feels like it boils down to mass mob slaying.  Everywhere I go there are clusters of 3-5 mobs a level above me that I just nuke down in seconds.  AoE’ing packs of mobs and doing nothing but slaughtering bandits, rats people, skeletons, etc., eventually (read: quickly) gets old.

So far leveling has been a quest grind.  Kill 12 mobs, sample the sludge, go burn some crates, go to this sewer and slaughter your way through it mindlessly until you get to the end then come back for some experience and silver.  Killing the mobs is fun at times; I like the aiming mechanic, although I hate my cleric’s spear spam ability. Playing one of the 2-handed warrior guys was a lot of fun swinging my axe around.  There’s no auto attacking, and everything is ability/click activated. Combat feels solid. really connected, and smooth.  If you can find a class you like I can’t imagine there being many reasons to dislike combat.

Neverwinter MMO

Player-made content, group content, and events make Neverwinter a content-rich experience.

The world is really truncated/disconnected because of the instancing.  That’s not to say it visually looks bad, or that it doesn’t have a nice atmosphere.  All of the zones I’ve been in are really pretty, and the art style is pleasant.  I don’t like being in City 1 or 46, or clicking on a door and teleporting to a location that I wish I could walk to and see a world.

Battlegrounds are average.  I’m not a fan of them in any game, but I think WoW does a better job creating a ‘battleground-like’ experience. Neverwinter isn’t a game you play for PvP.

The cash shop is… well, a cash shop.  There are mounts, bags, potions, clothes, companions, progression items, and the typical F2P offerings.  I don’t have an opinion of the cash shop other than my own personal belief that with a cash shop no game can ever exceed the limitations imposed upon it by having one.

Neverwinter Keen

AoEing mobs on my Cleric.

One feature that I really, really like is the player-made content.  In a game like this, being able to run quests made by other players is a nice touch.  I ran a few quests earlier which had like 10,000+ reviews.  Players can rate the content and even leave a comment.  I think this makes perfect sense for a content-grind game.  The content integrates nicely with Neverwinter, and coming in at 20-30 minutes each (the ones I did) they were a really nice change from the 1-5 minute quests I grind from NPCs.

I can see some fun clearing dungeons with friends, and as I said before the combat is fun, but it feels more like an Action-RPG or a game that shouldn’t be called a MMO.  Suddenly when I think about Neverwinter as a game that isn’t a MMO, I can forgive the disconnected world.  After all, Neverwinter Nights is the same way.  Action-RPG’s are all about slaughtering massive waves of mobs.  But it’s not being marketed as an Action-RPG, and there is an extremely tedious and generic quest grind.

Neverwinter isn’t a horrible game, but I can’t see it being more than a short-term, generic jump-in for free and kill some time game.