Global Agenda

After more or less randomly coming across Global Agenda after it being offered as a free trial download on Steam, I found myself being quite fond of the game and mechanics – almost made me think back to the golden days of Planetside and the fun I had there.

The game claims to be an MMO-FPS type game, with persistent worlds and skills/experience… the whole standard MMO-progression path, but in reality, it’s as MMO as Guild Wars and other instanced games. Not saying that this is a bad thing really, but I think there are quite a few games that tend to blur the definitions of what the massive aspect is – and I’d consider this in no way as MMO as Planetside once was.

The overall essence of the game is 10v10 combat. For the random masses, people sign up and get thrown into a match with similarly leveled people, with different objectives – and then fight it out. The setting is a futuristic earth, and the invention of jetpacks really impacts the game and making it a whole lot more fun than one would assume initially.

There are 4 different classes in the game, each with a relatively familiar role in such combat, namely Assaults (heavy/tank), Recon (scout/sniper), Medic (healer) and Robotics (misc drones/turrets), and despite being slightly biased as someone who tends to gravitate towards healing in online games, I’ve had tons of fun playing all the different classes – it’s strongly recommended to try out the different classes, as there’s a good chance one of the classes will really appeal to your specific gameplay!

In addition to the PvP elements, there are also some PvE missions for 4 player teams, though the variety here isn’t really all that huge, and I fear that it might put some people off having to run through the PvE missions initially (from level 5 until level 8, when you can start the PvP groups) – despite it being intended as introduction to the class you’re playing and all. If you try this game out, make sure you sit through the 20-30mins it takes to get to level 8 and try out the PvP before you toss it away, after all, that’s what it’s aiming for – 10v10 PvP fights!

Furthermore, for the organized PvP, you have Alliances fighting for control in the Conquest system, I haven’t participated in this yet, but you can see the introduction to Conquest video here!

So, if you’re slacking one day, or want to try another game while waiting for Planetside 2 (or Planetside Next) – head over to Steam or the main Global Agenda site today for a free trial!

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Star Trek Online - Overview, Tips and Review-ish Info

Now that the NDA of the Star Trek Online has been lifted, I’ve had a fair few people ask me some questions about it, and decided it would probably be good to summarize some hints and tips, as well as giving an overview of the general mechanics of the game. The tips and suggestions will include mainly the low level stuff, as you should be able to make your own conclusions after playing for a while.

A slight disclaimer should note that the views expressed here are my own opinions based on roaming around in beta, and only that, opinions. Also, this will be a lot of text, the TL;DR version should be at the bottom. :)

First off, the general setting is – as the name implies – the Star Trek Universe, where you’re roaming around captaining your starship, or leading your away team to boldly go wherever you want! Undertaking missions involving combat and/or exploration for the benefit of the Federation or the Klingon Empire.

The actual game is divided into two different sections, ground and space. When you’re on ground missions, you run around as your avatar, with a squad of 4 others, either your NPC officers or other players. While the space section has you captaining a spaceship roaming around in space.

Space Combat

Probably the most anticipated and fun part of the game is the space part of the game. A typical fight would involve maneuvering around trying to destroy the other ship with phasers and torpedos, making sure to have them in your firing arcs, while at the same time trying to deflect as much damage as possible into your shield, balancing out the shield to the area where you are receiving damage.

The shield mechanic is based on there being 4 different sections on your ship each covered by a portion of your total shield energy, then as attacks come in, your shield will absorb a fair amount of the damage, depleting the energy in that section. At that point you should use skills to channel energy from the other sections over to the damaged one, or simply try to maneuver away so the damaged section is no longer facing the enemy.

The weapons mechanic consists of there being front and rear weapon slots, with each weapon having a different firing arc. The main types of weapons are energy weapons, torpedoes and to a certain extent mines – the energy weapons are usually quick to fire and are relatively decent at sorting out shield, while the torpedoes generally have a longer reload and have extreme amounts of damage to hull when the shield is down.

The choice of weapons determine how you’re going to maneuver around in combat, typically the smaller arc gives the most damage, while the 240degree arc does medium damage, and the 360 arc does less damage. As an example, if you were extremely forward focused, you could put cannons (45degree) and torpedoes (90degree) in your forward slots, and turrets (360degree) in rear slots. If you go with such a setup, you need to adjust your playstyle to ensure that you almost always face the target, while a more balanced setup with 240degree phasers front and rear would have a more flexible setup, being able to deal damage while performing evasive actions.

As an example, the standard setup is forward and rear 240degree phaser beam weapons, and front torpedoes in the second weaponslot. I’d keep the phasers on autofire and try to broadside the other ship, while switching sides or adjusting shield power to compensate for their damage output, until their shields are failing, at which point I try to get them in the frontal view to launch torpedoes for the massive hull damage.

In addition to this, you also have control over where you want to put your power. There are 4 systems in need of power, namely weapons, shields, engines and auxiliary. Increasing power to weapons or auxiliary will increase damage from energy weapons or effectiveness of various utility skills respectively, while increasing power to shields will improve shield regen rates, and engines will increase movement speed. In a typical combat situation, I found it generally preferable to set full power to weapons, remainder to shields and minimal to engines/auxiliary due to the ships usually not being strong enough to break through my shields before I could destroy them.

Another tip when it comes to surviving against stronger ships especially, is that you should quickly identify if they have a ton of torpedoes and/or cannons at their forward arc, typically escorts will have these, if so – try to avoid being in their really strong arc, as that could easily the difference between a destroyed ship and taking minimal damage.

Furthermore, the outcome of battle will be influenced by the use of skills, these are coming either from your character, your ship(type) or your bridge officers.

Bridge Officers and Ships

Bridge Officers are NPCs you recruit or gain as rewards throughout the game with their own special abilities. As you progress in the game, you can also train and promote your own bridge officers, advancing them in rank just like yourself, with the slight exception of them needing to stay at least one rank below you. For each rank they gain, they gain access to another skill.

The different ships available have a set amount of Bridge Officers you can use at the same time, and different grades as well. As an example, the first science vessel you can access (when you reach rank Lt. Commander) has room for two science, one tactical and one engineering officer, however only one of those two science officers can be ranked as Lieutenant (Rank 1, Ensign being Rank 0), while the other has to be ranked as an Ensign still. As a result of this, only one of those officers can use their rank 1 skill, while the other one will have this disabled.

The different ships you can use are divided into three types, Science Vessels (Science Bridge Officers), Cruisers (Engineering Bridge Officers) and Escorts (Tactical Bridge Officers). Cryptic has stated that they’re aiming to fill three different roles in combat with these, and want the Cruisers to fulfill a tanking role, Escorts to perform a damage role and Science Vessels to represent the utility. The main attractions of the different ships are that Escorts are able to mount cannons, are agile and have an extra forward weapon slot, cruisers are slow, have an extra weapon slot and have a ton of hitpoints, while science vessels possess more shields than the rest and have the ability to target subsections of the enemy vessels.

As far as endgame goes, the current final tier ships will allow you to have one Commander (Rank 3) and one Lt. Commander (Rank 2) of the main ship career active, while having a Lieutenant and Ensign of a second career active, and a Lieutenant of a third career active – which career the latter two relate to will depend on which subtype you choose for the final tier ship.

What does this mean? This should be one of the main things to consider when deciding on a ship class. In addition to the special effects for its given class, you will only have Lt Commander and Commander Bridge Officer skills available for the given career for your shiptype available.

Careers and Progression

As mentioned before, there are three different classes or careers in the game, namely Tactical, Science and Engineering. The real impact these careers have on the game is narrowed down to what kind of ground abilities (kits) they can use/equip, and to a certain degree what kind of special skills they receive for use in space.

I’d like to just note that there are people thinking that a certain career means you will be locked to a certain type of ship, which isn’t true at all. As it stands, certain career abilities will favor some ships more than others, but you could also argue that those abilities will complement the other ship classes as well, so it’s really up to personal choice. Note that I’m not 100% sure what the abilities for the different player careers are, as I couldn’t find a list of them, and they seem to appear at random levels.

The progression is a simple leveling system, sort of tucked into the Starfleet ranks. From Lieutenant to Admiral basically involves 50 levels, with a rank up and new ship possibilities every 10 levels.

Each time you complete a mission or defeat some of the higher ranked enemies in the game, you receive an amount of skillpoints. These skillpoints can be used at any time to increase your skills in the skill list. A note here should be that all of the skills are either ground or space skills, and you don’t gain any powers directly from the skills you select, in fact, most of the advanced skills are simply enhancing other skills used by yourself or your bridge officers.

Currency and Missions

The currency in the game is divided into two. First you have the “replicator credit” which you get from “selling” items you find. This will let you “buy” various items from most merchants ingame. Secondly you have merit points, which are awarded at the end of missions and could be seen as faction credits to be spent on various faction perks from Starfleet. In addition to these two, you have a fair amount of commodities you can either buy or trade for, some of which are required to complete certain missions. As an example, to progress in a quest at Deep Space Nine, you need 10 Entertainment Provisions, which are traded for by a nearby merchant, who requires something like 6 Provisions to trade for one Entertainment Provision. The regular provisions are replicated and sold at Starfleet commodity brokers, so you would need to first buy 60 of those provisions, trade them with the shady merchant, and then turn them in to the person who has the quest.

In addition to currency, Cryptic declared that crafting was in-game, which is true according to their definition I suppose. As you travel through the universe, you come across anomalies, which upon examination rewards you with some sort of artifact or other item. Gathering these and giving them, along with an item to a merchant will reward you with an upgraded version of the item, I can’t say it’s quite SWG-crafting, but then again, nothing is. :)

The various missions you can perform are relatively diverse at first, ranging from exploration quests, kill quests, and fairly mixed content. Furthermore, all missions and encounters are scaled to your group size, so you can group up and still receive challenging content, as the game will just spawn more ships or harder enemies for you.

In addition to these you have missions in the form of Fleet Actions which are similar to public quests in Warhammer Online, where a ton of people group up and perform a shared goal. These also seem to mix a bit of space and ground as well, establishing groups as you beam down to perform ground combat.

Ground Combat

Ground combat is exactly what it sounds like, where you run around like most other mmos today, except you have a relatively limited amount of skills on your character. The mechanics are slightly different than what’s “standard” compared to the other mmos out there is that you have an expose/set-up-for-damage system and flanking damage. You want to initially perform an expose attack to render the target immobilized and open for massive damage, almost similar to dropping shields of a starship, and follow up with a damage attack to deal added damage. Furthermore, attacking from the side or the back will deal extra damage, so positioning is key to do the tactical approaches here.

Now, the reason I don’t write too much about ground combat is that I really don’t have too much positive to say about it, I dislike the controls, combat feels very unnatural and there’s an insane amount of latency compared to space combat – I assume the latter one will be fixed soon though. However, after the first few ground combat missions, I just sat there with a sour taste in my mouth whenever I saw these appear, and just wanted to get back into space as quickly as possible. The solution to ground missions was for me to just run into the midst of the enemy and hopefully get killed, then go do something else for a few minutes, while my trusty Bridge Officers killed the remaining enemies and helped me get back up.

Another “flaw” in both the ground and space combat, but much more visible in ground combat, is the utter lack of any death penalty. One of my missions bugged at one point, rendering the level of the boss I was going to kill much much higher than it should be, pretty much unbeatable in a fair fight. However, when he decided to follow me back to my respawn point, things started looking up – except I don’t think the “graveyard zerg” tactic should be one of the more viable ones for defeating tough opponents. Yet, with no death penalty whatsoever, this is unfortunately not only a viable tactic, but a fairly efficient one as well.

Klingon Gameplay and PvP

A separate section is needed here, as the above is mostly generic, but all based on the Starfleet side of the universe. Once you reach Lt. Grade 5 or 6, you receive the option to create a Klingon character. This character will start at Lt. Grade 6 as a member of the Klingon Empire and roam around with his stealthy little Bird of Prey.

I have to admit I didn’t spend a lot of time on my Klingon character, so I can’t go into details on this, but from the little I played, I can tell you there’s a lot of fun to be had with a cloaked ship!

The Klingon progression has been flagged as being very PvP-centric, and I suspect it became quite apparent when one of the first missions I received was to die 25 times in PvP combat.

All the different scenarios were something I didn’t get around to testing, but from what I could see, there’s a wide variety of scenarios and “battlegrounds” to participate in, and the ones I did try were quite a bit of fun, despite me figuring out the hard way how cloaked doesn’t really mean undetectable as I managed to get too close to one of the enemy ships, and received a very timely torpedo barrage before I was able to remove my cloak and raise my shields.

Summary

All in all though, I feel the game as a whole comes off strong despite its flaws. The space combat is quite refreshing, and as you progress to the stages where you gain new ships and more skills, the combat really turns hectic, and it’s increasingly difficult to keep track of all the different angles you need to maintain for weapons, shield values, power balance, positioning to minimize damage and various skills to use.

The concerns are present especially regarding ground combat with away missions, but also in the sense that I feel they may have a case of the diversity and potential for longevity in the game not really showing until you’re quite a while into the game, and as such, it might scare off some people.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep petitioning for Star Trek Online to follow the Starfleet directive prohibiting captains to participate in away missions …

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Aion Early Start

I’ve been quite “busy” having fun in various games and other activities over the summer, and as a result I suspect I didn’t get around to posting things, will see if that can change a bit now though …

I honestly didn’t think I would have the time to post anything at present, as I decided to give Aion a try, after pre-ordering it to get into the beta way back when … it released for pre-orders this sunday, and I’m usually quite occupied when it comes to new MMOs being released, it triggers a rather competitive must-level-asap gene…

Now, the reason for me actually writing here now, is the way NCSoft is handling this lovely launch! Sure, people claim most MMOs are off to a rocky start, but really, the previous two big title MMOs in my book (Warhammer/AoC) both had a fairly decent actual launch, and seeing how Aion already has been running for a year in Asia, there shouldn’t really be any reason for it being dodgy.

The current issue is the fact that servers have insanely long queues to actually get into the game, I came home from work today and immediately queued for login, and found that there was a 4hour 30minute wait ahead of me. I sighed and went around doing other stuff for a while, checking in every now and then to see how things were coming along, then at 5minutes remaining, position 50ish in the queue, the client decided enough was enough, and just froze. Back out and in, why hello there, another 4 hours for you!

I tend to be quite favorable towards developers/gamecompanies when it comes to pretty much any software title. Being a developer myself, I know how messy things can get, and how extremely hard it is to predict issues/bugs and so on, yet, on this occasion I can’t seem to figure out why NCSoft hasn’t launched this smoother.

First off, they knew the amount of people pre-ordering, so they should definitely be able to scale servers accordingly. If that’s not enough, they’re employing the zone-instance approach in-game, which basically lets them have a lot more people on the servers at the same time in the “same” area than most other MMOs, again, if it’s a capacity issue, just spawn more instances! Then, the final straw has to be the fact that they let people pre-register 3 days before actually being able to play. Even if they blatantly ignore the amount of people who have pre-ordered, surely this should be a VERY GOOD indication of how many people would actually want to play the during the early start period!

Now, 2hours and 39minutes remaining, with the launcher still thanking me for my patience, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when the game is officially launched, and the rest of the population who wants to play decides to start playing… also, I can’t help but wonder if any anti-afk type tools are frowned upon, as it’d be quite tempting to just leave the character logged in while at work, to avoid having to spend 80% of the evening in a login queue.

For the record, I’ve managed to play the game for roughly 3 hours in total now, while spending 15 hours in queues!

Oh, and I’ll give the review at a later point, need to hopefully let this slide and give a relatively unbiased review based on the actual in-game features!

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WoW Arena Season 5 and Season 6 - Arena Fun!

I had a break from WoW due to last arena-season being slightly worrying. With last season being the first season at level 80, there was bound to be some sort of imbalance really – but for me it was just too much really. I initially started off with my freshly leveled Paladin and did a few matches right out of the starting blocks really, not having done any PvP with my Paladin before that, and did rather well. A limited skillset with independant skills was really not my idea of having fun in arena though, so I decided to scrap that and level up my Priest to play that instead.

My previous arena history includes grabbing Rival titles from both S3 and S4 with a Priest/Rogue setup, first one with a RL friend, second one with someone I met online. Now, I didn’t actually have someone in mind to play with, as my previous rogue had transfered off to greener pastures, but decided something would show up sooner or later, and just rushleveled Priest up to 80 to start PvPing. It was actually quite refreshing and fun in comparison to the Paladin I played, and, my previous rogue decided to transfer back to once again team up and annihilate the opposition in my battlegroup.

Now, initially things weren’t going all that well, but as we progressed and got slightly better gear – we managed to push through and finally break the 2000rating barrier. However, things just went downhill really…

First off, the skillset of Hunters and Death Knights mainly in combination with Paladins, we would pretty much get properly annihilated if one of these would show up and say “hi!”. Any Hunter-team could mess up several times without being able to lose really, at one point I saw 3 different CC-types on me at the same time from a Hunter/Paladin team, and still we’d barely be able to win that match. I know if we’d screw up our cooldowns like that, we’d struggle with any wins at all really.

Secondly, the weapons and gear for arena was extremely important for success, especially seeing how fresh gear also implies zero resilience, people with the endgame raidgear had an insane advantage over the rest. As someone who really only enjoys the PvP/Arena aspect of the game, neither of us had access to that kind of gear, and was at an immediate disadvantage. It probably didn’t help that I only leveled my Priest *after* playing Paladin in arena for a few weeks and got behind on the gear race even further. As an additional point here, Blizzard had decided to let the raidgear be superior to the top pvp-gear you would be able to get from arena, as such, the dps-classes would mainly want to utilize their raidgear, even if they had access to the arena gear.

As a result of all of this, and after meeting excessive amounts of what people would consider “hard counters” to our setup – where we could really play 100% flawlessly but yet have no chance of winning if they were doing well, we just dropped it, and I ran off to take a break from WoW altogether.

For me, playing 2v2 with my Priest and not playing with a Rogue would just be… something I wouldn’t do to be honest, I’ve just always liked the synergy and relative finesse which you mainly have to use to win. I realize that people who have been properly annihilated by over-raidgeared luckycritting rogues would most likely be whining at this point, but really, when I see the Rogue I’m playing with having to deal with all the different choices possible, the reactions and mainly sneaky tricks in general, I can’t help but feel that it’s not as random as some people will have it. We’ve faced several matches where I see the other rogue just being utterly annihilated by my rogue, despite him not having nowhere near the gear and general damageoutput as the other person if they had been fighting targetdummies. This was one of the things I felt we just had to accept last season, neither of us would get the top gear, and we would just have to start at a slight disadvantage when facing other teams with access to these items.

Now, the new season came in, I was reading up on the patch-notes, and they addressed quite a few of the problems that I felt was making last season quite crappy, namely Hunters had their insane attacks toned down, but the killer is most likely that the manadrain has been toned down to more or less a non-factor. This alone would enable us to have a fighting chance against Hunter teams. Furthermore, I have to admit I’m not all up to speed on what kind of skills the Death Knights use, but I know that I was killed by one at one point who was spamming one attack over and over again, so I’m guessing that quite possibly got toned down a bit. And those were pretty much the nice balancing factors that I felt was “enough” to make me want to give it another go. Then I came to the Priest section, and realized that they’re giving some new utility for Priests as well, increasing the survivability and lasting by so much I had a feeling it’d be a bit too much, but we’d see when the season got going.

One of the new “interesting” things Blizzard did for Season 6 was to start all teams at 0 rating. I assume this was done to sortof make players feel like they were progressing, even if they were eventually going to land up around 1000 rating regardless, and for people in my guild who weren’t at the top of the lists last season, it has been a fairly huge success! The matchmaking system still matches you against your “hidden” rating (which now is a “visible hidden” rating – shown at the end of each match) and gives you points based on the differences in points from the matchmaking rating compared to your teamrating. The rating gain was capped at 47 I believe, and started going down at around 1200, so it would take about 50 wins to get to 1500, and as a result - start looking at the gear rewards.

My other problem with the last season related to gear had also been solved by Blizzard, by letting PvP-weapon/armor-rewards being equal in level to the very endgame content from the PvE part, implying that as people get geared, the gear aspect of the game will more or less fade away, and it’s all down to who can play their classes and combinations best.

After playing for a few days, we were doing fairly well, hanging out around 2000 rating and being quite happy with that really, when the SK-100 (top 100 teams in the world) showed something that made me laugh a bit, apparently in the top 100, almost 50% of the teams were Rogue/Priest! Now, I started thinking about this one, as it’s a fairly crazy thing really. And my theory was that by removing the Hunters from the foodchain, Priests again became the viable healer, Shaman and Paladin healers would go down as they were better against Hunter-teams, but worse against Priest-teams, and adding in the fact that Warriors got buffs and now have the ability to remove the Paladin bubble, those kinds of healers have rapidly dropped below the charts. The entire top player class representation was turned completely around.

I don’t really know what I assumed would happen, I did expect some nerfs to surface soon, but seeing how they let things run wild last season, I expected them to let things calm down for a bit before doing anything quickly, as the top 100 list was nowhere near completed due to the fact that most teams had to start at 0, and not all the top teams would’ve been able to play enough to get “up there”.

But, I guess I was wrong about Blizzard again, and they started their new policy, with “today we’ve patched in these changes …” type announcements, instead of letting things run through the normal patch-cycle. Priests got a few slaps in the face, but, I’m not too concerned about that really. All I see now is that things are starting to look a bit more like they were in S3/S4, with a slightly more balanced field, letting PvPers have as good gear as PvEers, and having a feeling of being able to stand a chance at most combinations we’re up against, yet we’re able to lose horribly in the same matchups if we’re not doing what we should. My favorite types of matches now have actually become the mirror matches where we play other Priest/Rogue teams, more specifically the matches that go on for a good 5+ minutes. I think even if it’s a win or loss there, it’s a fun test for both teams, and they have a great way of going back and forth creating a fair amount of close calls and recoveries.

… of course, those matches will hopefully be a bit more fun tomorrow when we get our first S6 weapons … :) sitting at 2100 rating now before that, and our last rated match was a win against a double undead mirror at ~2450 matchmakingrating, good fun! Hopefully that’s us in a few weeks. :)

 

Ooh, reminds me, I should start recording some matches again, recruited a fair few players last time I recorded arenafights in S3/S4.

WoW Tradeskills

As Paladin hit 80 and things turned out to be fairly stable, I decided that now would be a good time to get tradeskills up and get some of that fluffy stuff I've been waiting for so long!

Turns out, things weren't really that cheap... with the Death Knights coming out in numbers grabbing pretty much all of the raw materials available, prices were somewhere inbetween "extreme" and "insane".

Finally got my Paladin up to 450 Mining and 440 Blacksmithing though, and my Priest up to 440 Enchanting - as well as hooking my Paladin up with the good epic crafted gear in addition to the 440 skill.

The Enchanting is seriously insane when it comes to how much it costs, I cringed everytime I crafted as the points were quite expensive!

All in all, it was a crappy week for my overall bank balance in WoW...

tradeskills

But, now that I'm done with this, I was thinking there wouldn't be any more extreme expenses left in the expansion... that is, till I saw that I really wanted the Nobles Deck... :(

Warhammer Online - Review and Thoughts

Right! I’ve been meaning to write something down about Warhammer Online for quite some time now, and figure I’ve played it enough to write an ickle bit about it.

As I managed to recommend Age of Conan a fair bit early on, as I had only played the first portion of it, that being the portion which was polished… as soon as you left that part of the game, the unfinishedness would kick in. As such, I’ve leveled a fair bit to experience a fair bit of the various aspects of the game this time around! :)

My initial “open beta” impressions weren’t all that, as I’ve written in another post. So, my mindset going into the game probably wasn’t as favorable as it could’ve/should’ve been.

First off, character creation isn’t really too hot, I think both the graphics and customization on character creation is really horrible. I really think more people should try out the City of Heroes character creator to get inspiration. Not saying every game should have something like that, but having more than 5-6 different looks would really help. Then again, with the low quality graphics in there – you’ll just spent a bit of time figuring out which face looks the least silly. :)

The concept of the game here is pretty much faction vs faction warfare in the old Dark Age of Camelot fashion. Each side has 4 different races, each race having 3-4 different classes archetyped into tank, healer, melee damage and ranged damage. Endgame is supposed to be a constant struggle between the two factions where the main goal is to annihilate the opponents city and then live happily ever after!

Upon entering the game and hanging out in the starter area, the game looks fairly much better than you’d expect from the login/creation screen. Characters and mobs look decent and movement is nice and fluid.

It has a standard skill system similar to other such games where you gain skills from a trainer as you level up, there are no ranks on the various skills, as they increase in power as you level. Same goes for the “talent trees”, where you invest points in trees to improve the skills related to that tree, as well as unlocking skills as you go along. An interesting point here is that once you reach a certain skill in the tree, you have to invest a point in actually acquiring the skill – which instead could be used for investing further in the tree right away, creating a nice little tradeoff-situation where you can either choose the skills right away, at the expense of getting another skill a level later.

The combat aspect is fairly standard as far as mmos go, it’s actually most similar to the Lord of the Rings system, and feels in general a lot slower than WoW. I’d like to note that I feel that they’ve managed to implement quite an interesting mechanic in the game when it comes to healing. You have an ‘action point’-pool and a ‘mana-point’-pool, which are used for attacks and heals respectively. The action-points regenerate automatically, whereas the mana only regenerates outside of combat, and is nowhere near full enough to last more than a few seconds. So, they’ve decided that when you spend X points performing an action, it regenerates X points of mana for you to use, meaning if you want to heal as much as possible, you’d need to get some offensive skills into your rotation. This worked out very well for my main character early on, as she was a Melee/Healer hybrid (Disciple), and had similar damage output as the pure melee damage classes, making it one of the more attractive solo classes the game has to offer.

The core concept of the game revolves around the faction warfare, realm vs realm, with the ultimate endgame being sacking the opponents main city. In addition to this there’s Scenarios you can join at any time, that function like a small battleground separated into different level ranges. You’re able to join these scenarios from anywhere in the world, getting a notice when it’s up, jumping right in, fighting, and warping back out to where you were. A very interesting deal here is that all players are leveled up (stat/hp-wise) to a relatively high level upon entering the battleground, so you can pretty much always be useful in a battleground, only thing you’d be lacking are the skills that you would’ve gained in those levels.

The Scenarios are in general fairly fun, and there are quite a few different types you can play, the ones I recall off the top of my head involve capture the flag, bombing runs, item retrieval, holding bases and item carrier. All of these are contested with a 15minute time limit, so it’ll never be a long epic battle, but, rather, just short bursts of fun really!

The other main PvP aspect is the one leading into the endgame, namely World PvP. The world is divided into different zones, where some are designated as PvP battlefields, and include keeps that needs to be captured to progress into the endgame involving the opponents city.

Keeps and keep siege is (surprisingly) quite similar to the way they’re implemented in DAoC with the New Frontier ruleset. Siege engines are needed to get in, and an evil person with the trigger on the burning oil above the door is good fun when you need to keep people out! Speaking of, they’ve added some fun parts when it comes to different siege engines, you can operate different arrow-shooting siege engines in addition to the standard “bash the door”-type.

The PvE/leveling in Warhammer is fairly straightforward and standard, you go from level 1 to 40, killing mobs, doing quests and living the good life. An interesting twist to this is that you get an extreme amount of experience from actually killing players as well, most noticeable while done solo. What Warhammer brings to the table that’s relatively new here, is the existance of “Public Quests”, which involve a short small storyline being played through several stages – in which all players in the area can participate, with different goals at the different stages. At the end of the final stage, if you succeed, all players participating will do a loot-roll and a few people will be fairly happy! Furthermore, participating in these will grant you points which will let you redeem fairly decent prizes, letting even solo players get their share of decent loot.

In addition, there are a *lot* of “Renown Levels”, which basically translates into PvP-levels for your character, as you gain renown experience upon killing other players, participating in scenarios, or helping out with battlefield objectives such as capturing keeps and other strategic locations. These renown levels will unlock better equipment available at Renown Merchants, typically PvP-centered. In the end, these levels remind me of the old Honor system in WoW, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have points-decay.

One of the most awesome and fun parts of the game in my view is the fact that they’ve added a nifty little thing called the Tome of Knowledge! It displays a LOT of information and statistics, such as how many kills you have of every kind of NPC, kills/deaths of/to every class you have. In addition, it tracks all your achievements, which in turn gives you an awesome amount of titles you can have displayed with your character. This alone was making the game so much fun, as the designers have really been QUITE creative to be honest. As an example, I got my title (The Reclusive) which I used for the majority of the game after ignoring 40 people! For a sample of what I’m talking about, have a look at http://warhammeronline.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_achievements

Then, the not-so-good portions! After a while, the scenarios tend to get fairly similar-ish and close to boring. World PvP is fairly situational, not always easy to find some place to fight there, and the contrast to the fast-paced action of the scenarios seem to make it slightly less attractive, even if it’s supposed to be the “main attraction”. The sides are obviously not equally balanced as players can choose whichever side they want, and thus, the larger side will have the advantage in world pvp, but for the renown-gain, the smaller side will have the advantage in scenarios due to shorter load times. And, for me personally, I think I have realized that the Arena format in WoW is what I really want from PvP in a game, more players than the 2v2 and 3v3 setups makes things a bit too much of a “who-can-assist-and-click-the-most-damage-buttons-best” type scenario that the endgame fights turned out to be.

All in all, fun, and worth trying for the experience of at least a bit of difference in the mmo-genre, and the option to jump in to scenario-pvp moments for a rush of fun! However, I don’t see this as much of a WoW-contender in terms of how long people will stay interested.

*Waits for Bioware …*

Warhammer Online Open Beta - EU

(Imported from old blog 2008-09-11)

After a fair few of my friends had decided on actually playing Warhammer Online, I figured I might as well give it a shot, and decided to pre-order this last sunday to play a bit of open beta this week, oh what fun!

First off, I want to point out that I told everyone I talked to that they really should play on US servers instead of EU ones, as Mythic once again has partnered with GOA and have them handling their european version of things. Based on my DAoC experience with GOA, I really didn't feel comfortable with this - as they were basically screwing up at every turn. One of the best "features" they had was that content patches/fixes and so on were released in USA, then 2-3 months later they were released in the EU. This delay was justified by GOA due to the fact that they needed to translate the patch into German and French before they could apply it here.

Little did I know that the translation-team most likely got a new job now, handling the authentication system for pre-orders...

At launch of open beta, the keys were sent out, and all was well, that is, until someone actually tried to enter a key to activate their account, at which point things just stopped working. Now, the registration of accounts and keys are handled in the innovative and oh so userfriendly thingy called "Flash", and for some reason, when you have a large amount of people trying to access this flashy stuff on a webserver where scaling to more than the 2 people who tested it wasn't an issue, things really go bad.

Skip ahead a bit, and we're at monday, I've just received my warhammer online preorder beta key - spent some time downloading (and re-downloading) the client, and I really want to register my account and enter the beta! But no, registrationpage just redirects to the main page, which states that they need all available resources to handle the authentication process, and as such, they've taken down the account creation!

Oh well, no WAR that day, wait one more day, and finally account creation is back up! For some reason, I'm having an issue registering my account, as both email and username is in use, turns out I signed up there ages past, most likely to sign up for the beta myself! Alright, I figure I can probably use that one if I remember my password... time to enter the key and start the WAR! I enter the key, and I'm once again eagerly anticipating the WAR, key validation request has been submitted it says.

I still can't sign in, and this time I read around a bit and find out that they're doing something "smart" for the validation. As it says in the QA...

Q: I put my details in, now what?
A: All you need to do now is to wait for an email from us. This email will either confirm that your validation is complete (in which case you can log in and play) or that there was a problem with your details (in which case you need to go back and resubmit your information).

Q: Why are you doing it this way?
A: To reduce the load on the database server we have an asynchronous system. What this means is that when you put your details in, the system will store it, another system will then check it and confirm the details to you. This means the whole system is much smoother.

Q: How long before the confirmation emails arrive?
A: This will depend but the current turn around seems to vary between 1 and 2 hours, it is possible that some people will be waiting for longer whilst others will get a reply sooner. If you haven't received an email yet, be sure to check your junkmail folders or spam filters.

Alright, I go back to other things for the time being and wait for an email...

Late that evening, about 7 hours after I submitted my key, I got no less than 7 confirmation mails, all saying the same thing, there was an error with my request, seemingly my password didn't quite match what I had entered in ages past back in the day, it told me to doublecheck my details before trying again. Of course, what I'd usually do is just find the login form and try a few times till I find which password I used, but, seeing how they had decided to disable login on the main page, this wasn't possible - and I don't think the 7hours per attempt way is going to fly really.

So, new account, I remember password now, and while waiting - EA has decided to send me another open beta key for some reason, who am I to complain... register my account, and enter the other key now, just in case. Then it's all about the waiting again...

14 hours later, I get 8 confirmation mails telling me that I've entered a key, and need to verify that I actually entered that, click on a link and that's all done! Now, the mail claims "Once you have confirmed your registration by clicking on the button, you can log onto the portal with your login and password, and access the Subscription section to set up your account. You can also log onto the game. The login and password are the same for both the portal and the game." - which really can't be too true, as it's now over 24 hours since I verified my account, and I'm still not able to log onto the game!

I have now registered yet another account for use with my other key, and hoping one of them magically will work at one point, preferably before the game goes live next week...

Now, I'd like to just clarify that this is really only related to the GOA handling of Warhammer Online. There have been no reports of anything even remotely resembling this madness on the US servers. If nothing else, I'm having a great time going "I told you so" to all my friends who didn't belive me regarding GOAs inability to do things right. Only thing so far I'm upset with Mythic for, is the fact that they have the same issue with the patcher that they had with the DAoC login, when you open it, it doesn't have focus - which really makes it annoying for people who just want to type in their login details.

In closing, this really makes me wonder what the non-smooth option GOA had envisioned would look like, and had I known this before I placed my despair order, I would've most likely grabbed the http://www.despair.com/effort.html poster as well... :)

 

Age of Conan

(Imported from old blog 2008-06-23)

I've been considering writing stuff about Conan and how I feel it's doing for quite some time now, but, found another review which would be fairly similar to what I'd write, except he's a bit more cheerful at times. :)

http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/AshGUTZ/062008/1916_Age-of-Conan-My-L1L80-Review

Canceled my subscription today, might reopen it at one point, but... so long, poor 66 Priest of Mitra!

 

WoW - Warlockleveling

(Imported from old blog 2007-09-26)

Just want to post this somewhere, might as well be here! A fluffy way to reach 70 as a Warlock, ending up with a tasty Afflicitiontalented warlock in what I suspect to be the quickest road really.

Talents

  • 10-14 Improved Corruption (5/5)
  • 15-19 Demonic Embrace (5/5)
  • 20-22 Improved Voidwalker (3/3)
  • 23-24 Improved Healthstone (2/2) (anything really...)
  • 25-27 Fel Stamina (3/3)
  • 28-29 Demoic Aegis (2/3)
  • 30 *RESPEC!*
  • - Improved Corruption (5/5)
  • - Suppression (1/5)
  • - Improved Life Tap (2/2)
  • - Soul Siphon (2/2)
  • - Fel Concentration (5/5)
  • - Amplify Curse (1/1)
  • - Grim Reach (2/2)
  • - Nightfall (2/2)
  • - Siphon Life (1/1)
  • 31-31 Shadow Embrace (1/5)
  • 32-34 Suppression (4/5)
  • 35-39 Shadow Mastery (5/5)
  • 40-40 Dark Pact (1/1)
  • 41-44 Contagion (4/5)
  • 45-46 Improved Howl of Terror (2/2)
  • 47-47 Contagion (5/5)
  • 48-48 Suppression (5/5)
  • 49-49 Improved Curse of Agony (1/2)
  • 50-50 Unstable Affliction (1/1)
  • 51-51 Improved Curse of Agony (2/2)
  • 52-56 Demonic Embrace (5/5)
  • 57-59 Empowered Corruption (3/3)
  • 60-62 Improved Imp (3/3)
  • 63-64 Improved Healthstone (2/2)
  • 65-67 Demonic Aegis (3/3)
  • 68-70 Fel Stamina/Intellect (Stamina) (3/3)

Stats/Gear

  • Stamina > whatever up till 30 - stats fairly irrelevant though, don't buy non-wand items!
  • Stamina > Shadow/Spelldamage > whatever from 30-50.
  • Shadow/Spelldamage > Stamina > whatever from 50 -> 70.
  • Pre-30 - Any decent wand you can get your hands on, crafted ones are tasty.
  • Post-60 - Netherweave Armor Set, quite tailored for Warlocks.
  • Other levels, anything with stamina/damage

Quick pointers

  • Void&Agony+Corruption+Wand till 30.
  • Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain&Void 30-39, switch to Succubus at any time here if you feel it's better.
  • Unstable(at50)+Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain&Succubus 40-Outland (58/60)
  • Unstable+Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain+Void Outland-70 (for adds, mobs hit hard here)