Bookahneer’s Geekwatch: First Beta Weekend Event Reports

I’ve seen countless people write about their experiences and share screenshots (not always in public places, so I’m not going to be able to link to all of them). If I start linking to them now, how many will be disappointed that I forgot them? Oh well, I’ll risk this and add that if you have written about your experiences or just showed screenshots, please leave a comment with the link here, so I can add it (if you’ve written several ones, I’ll just link to your website instead). :)

The first beta weekend event took place from April 27 to April 29. We were there when the servers went live (an hour earlier than anticipated) and we were there when the servers went offline this morning (EU time). We were also there to witness the death of the legendary white bunny! But let’s leave that for a later time. ;) Bookahnerk has also filmed his gameplay and will edit and upload them to our youtube channel at some point. He spent most of his time doing silly things in WvW, though. My own thoughts will follow later, but you can already take a look at The Lion’s Arch Screenshoty Gallery.

So let’s have a look what others have written about the BWE already:

Lion’s Arch – Screenshot gallery

Update May 2014: I made a new post where you can also find pictures of Lion’s Arch with its various holiday decorations.

Update April 2014: Lion’s Arch has seen quite some changes. I did another screenshot gallery of “old Lion’s Arch” before Scarlet’s attacks. You can find it here. During the attacks, I took a few more pictures. After the attack, I went through Lion’s Arch again to capture the ruins of the city. Those ruins are the current state of Lion’s Arch in the game.

Hmm… it reminds me of something.

 I managed to find 26 out of 26 points of interest. I am proud of myself because I even dived through two canals and in the deep water even though I have a phobia. I didn’t meet any aggressive fish which helped – although I was always scared something would attack me when I didn’t look. But oh no, it’s a peaceful area apparently. :)

I took 400 screenshots in just over 24 hours (mostly of Lion’s Arch but there were other regions I visited as well!). I don’t think I’ve ever taken that many in another game. I’m not going to review or write/complain about anything game-related right now because it is the first beta weekend event and I’ll give them one more to sort out the issues (lag, not being able to log in, server crashes, the usual…). I got kicked only once today, by the way. ;)

Anyway, as I said, I explored Lion’s Arch and I present you some of the prettiest screenshots I took. No further commentary, even though I could tell you soooo many things I saw and noticed. But just enjoy the pictures. And if you have questions, ask away! :)

It took me quite some time to take all those screenshots, sort through them and upload them here. However, they’re not just for looking. If you want to use them (e.g., as a desktop wallpaper, for fanart, in your blog,…) feel free to do so – as long as it complies with ArenaNet’s copyright, of course, and you’re not saying it was you who took those screenshots. ;)

Lion’s Arch

We’re having connection and performance issues in the beta at the moment… too bad. But that plus me being really tired, I decided to take Paerocharr (guess her race!) for a stroll through Lion’s Arch. Yes, this will be a game where my “print” button will have to suffer. Poor thing.

Don’t expect any long postings from me during this weekend… ;)

Will ArenaNet kill international guilds with Guild Wars 2?

That’s a question that came up today on Twitter. As you all probably know, Twitter isn’t the best place to talk about or muse such things because of its limited amount of letters that can be sent with each tweet. Especially if tweets go out to several people at the same time (who were all taking part in the conversation) as those people’s usernames count towards the limit of letters. Add that to me tweeting on my mobile phone while being on the train which generally means that I may or may not have an internet connection at the time of sending my tweets. ;)

Anyway, the original tweet came from dalensor and can be found here. I quote: “Never thought that @ArenaNet would kill their international guilds and any chance of world-wide player events in #guildwars2. Dissappoint!”

Before I start ranting, let’s have a look at the facts. Or, well, the bits of information that we already know. Martin Kerstein wrote the latest blog post and gave us information on choosing and transferring worlds.

For this beta weekend event, every player will be able to switch their home world once but we won’t be able to use the guesting feature. That just as a heads-up. Now on to what it will most likely be on the live servers (that is, post-release). When we start with Guild Wars 2, we will choose a home world which can be either EU or US, no matter where we live or which region’s box we bought! We can only play WvW on that home server. We will also be able to use the guesting feature to play PvE on whichever server we want. With one restriction: “…on any world where you have friends”.

And that’s the problem dalensor sees, I assume. Now, I don’t agree with her but at this point, her opinion is as good as mine. Or rather, our assumptions, guesses and gazes into the crystal ball. ;) Even if we had more information, it would be difficult to predict exactly what happens just as we need to wait and see what will happen with being able to join multiple guilds.

Here’s my take on this: I assume that “have friends” means that I need to be on somebody’s friends list and if they play on server Abaddon’s Mouth (for example!), then I can play PvE there, too. If nobody from that server has me on their friends list, then I can’t join that server for PvE. Unless I pay 1800 gems (which you can buy with real money or on the game’s auction house from other players who paid real money for them) and switch my home-world completely to that server (which would let me play PvE as well as WvW there). I don’t think it means “invite-only” which would be a bad idea because then I couldn’t just go to their server (and said friend would have a passive role in that they have me added to their friends list but don’t do anything else) whereas invite-only means they’d have to invite somebody. If so, then her argument that it works for individual visits but not for huge events like “Pink Day in L.A.” certainly makes sense!

But what’s different to the original Guild Wars then and is it really worse? Dalensor’s argument was that events like “Pink Day in L.A.” won’t work anymore. Fortunately for us, Lion’s Arch exists in Guild Wars 2. Hurrah for that! But seriously: Will it work? Or has ArenaNet destroyed this event for Guild Wars 2? I’ve only experienced this event once and from what I saw, it was perfectly organised. I don’t see how the “guesting system” would prevent this event from happening. Yes, they’d need more organisation. But in the current Guild Wars, you can only have X amount of people in one district. Then another one opens. So, we’d have the first district as server Abaddon’s Mouth. Once that is full, people would have to go to Augury Rock. Once that’s full… well, you get my drift. ;) It is more complicated to announce the servers that the hosts will be on as opposed to just counting the districts up from 1. And the hosts would either need to be on that server as their home-world anyway or would need somebody to add them to their friends lists. But why would anybody refuse to add them? And then the hosts would need people to add others to their friends lists that want to join the event on a particular server. As I said, it will definitely be harder to organise because now, you can just hop into the district you like and that’s it.

However, I don’t think ArenaNet is really killing anything with it here. Is it necessary? I don’t think so. Why shouldn’t we be able to jump from server to server if we want to? Bookahnerk brought up the argument of gold-sellers (I can’t link you to it because it happened while we were preparing dinner in the kitchen ^^). But you could add something like diminishing returns. If within 24 hours, you switch a server, you have a cooldown of half an hour before you can switch again. If you switch again, you’ll have a cooldown of 1 hour now, and so on. If you haven’t switched for 24 hours, the cooldown is set back to half an hour. His argument and his idea. But I thought I’d throw it in here because it fits. :)

Let’s get back to WvW and the gem-cost. It will essentially cost real money to switch your home-world (maybe you won’t have to pay it yourself but somebody has to). I assume that this happens because they want people to stay on their home-worlds. Nobody enjoys the so-called “winning team joiners” who just run to those servers that have organised PvP which makes them win and want to enjoy those victories without having to do anything themselves. On the other hand, nobody wants people leaving their server just because they had some bad luck in PvP either. Then there’s always the good old “server pride”. If we could switch instantly with no repercussions etc., then we probably would switch a lot more often and wouldn’t be able to feel any pride for the server that we’ve been fighting with so long. Is it necessary to add the hurdle of “real money”? Who knows… all I know is that this is the standard in MMORPGs with the exception of Rift, I think, who do not charge money for that service.

And finally, there’s “international guilds”. If they choose on home-world, then there’s no problem. Everybody can join US or EU servers. So if your guild’s on another region, feel free to join them! However, this is Guild Wars 2 we’re talking about. The game that offers us unlimited guilds. How does that work? In our case, we already decided to join die Drachenreiter for our WvW in Guild Wars 2. We’ve played with them in Warhammer Online and really enjoyed our time, so we figured we’d finally meet them again in Guild Wars 2 and have a great time together! And if we want to run through dungeons, dynamic events etc. with others, we can always guest on their server. But if you want to join more than one guild for WvW and those guilds happen to be on different servers, then yes, you’re out of luck or rich if you can/want to afford switching servers every 7 days. I still don’t think they killed anything with it. But in this point, I agree that it might be a big hindrance.

So, dalensor, this is what I think about this topic. It clearly didn’t fit into tiny tweets. ;) And I do hope you’re actually male. Otherwise… sorry! ;) Hopefully, I caught all pronouns and changed them to reflect that you’re not a dude. ^^

And before I could publish my own blog post, demajen posted his.

Diablo 3 beta – or: Why I preordered Torchlight 2 instead

Let me start by saying that I truly enjoyed what I’ve seen about Diablo 3 per se. Neither bookahnerk nor I have found any bugs so far which just seems to be typical for Blizzard. Their betas are usually rather polished already (at least, from what I’ve heard and seen so far). One flaw, however, is that we didn’t see the intro video. I looked for it and then played it and it does help explain a few things. For example, why they’re talking about a fallen star. ;) I hadn’t read too much about Diablo 3 before starting the open beta. I’d seen a few screenshots and read about a few changes but that’s nothing compared to what I’ve read and seen about Guild Wars 2 so far. ;)

What I really liked about Diablo 3 so far is some of the game’s sounds. Not the music (although I like the soundtrack as well) but rather the sounds that are familiar from Diablo 2 like the coins that are dropped from dead mobs. It just adds enough nostalgic flavour. And Deckard Cain, of course! Another thing I really liked were the book cases that you can click on. They usually don’t seem to drop anything at all and if they do, it’s a few coins or a healing potion. However, the animation when clicking on a bookcase shows stuff falling out of the bookcase – including a few scrolls that have red and blue bands around them. Oooh, they look vaguely familiar. If only I knew where I’ve seen them before. ;) Unfortunately, those scrolls aren’t in the game. At a certain point in your storyline, you get a teleport skill that you can use whenever you want. And while there are items that need to be identified, it’s just done by right-clicking and waiting until the cast bar went through. I mentioned the music a few moments ago and if you’re looking for songs that sound like Diablo 2, you have to go play Torchlight (1 and 2) because Matt Uelmen who composed the soundtrack for Diablo and Diablo 2 is working for RunicGames now and has composed the Torchlight 1 and 2 soundtracks. Russell Brower apparently composed the soundtrack for Diablo 3 (among others).

The graphics are similar to Torchlight and not what I would expect from a Diablo game. I actually like the gothic look that Diablo 2 had and I would have preferred to have this graphic style again instead of the more comic-looking style that we have now. I don’t think it’s too bright and colourful but… well, a bit more dark/grey would have been great. ;) Despite its not so good graphics quality (and the too tiny resolution for today’s monitors), I found them fitting for the game as everything seemed more mysterious and serious in a way. I don’t mind WoW’s comic graphics but in Diablo, I’d prefer the old Diablo style. Oh well, it’s not like Diablo 3 really had WoW’s comic style. It’s just closer to it. And at the same time, I don’t mind it at all in Torchlight (or Torchlight 2 for that matter). It’s just the different expectations here based on the previous Diablo game. I did upload a few screenshots and I’m sure that if you’re interested in Diablo 3, you’ve had a look at videos and screenshots, etc. already, so this is nothing new for you. ;)

I’ve played the Demon Hunter class and it was lots of fun. At first, I feared that you really just unlock a new skill every few levels and then choose which ones you want to use but the system is a bit more complex than that. You have your left-click and right-mouseclick skill. You’ll get to choose between four different ones for left-clicking and four different ones for right-clicking. They’re unlocked one after another, depending on your level. Each of those skills can also have one active rune (out of 5 each) which again get unlocked the higher your level is. The different runes give its skill an added effect: more damage, a higher number of enemies hit, longer duration, etc. Then you have four action bar skills which in the demon hunter’s case use a different resource than her mouse-clicking abilities. They work the same way than your mouse-clicking abilities: You can choose out of several ones that you unlock the higher your level gets. And then you unlock 5 runes for each of those skills (also more the higher your level is) and can choose which rune you want for which skill and then you choose which skills you want to use. It seems that there’s no respeccing necessary. You can switch skills around whenever you want. Starting with level 10, you also unlock passive abilities (again, you don’t need to do anything. You unlock the first two with level 10 and choose one. With level 13, you get an additional choice etc. up to 15 different passive skills to choose from at level 50. With level 20 and 30, you get an additional slot for a passive skill which means that you can have three passive skills with level 30. All in all, that’s a lot to choose from! And since you can switch whenever you want (I didn’t see any limits here), you don’t need to be afraid to do something wrong. That was one of the problems I had with Diablo 2. While I loved the game, I was too afraid to mess up and having to start over again, so I ended up just not playing much at all after a while. ;)

The storyline seems interesting and I’d certainly want to find out more and play through the story. The classes also seem interesting even though I’ve only played one so far. I wanted to concentrate on one and see what this game has to offer. If I had decided to buy it, I would have had enough time to figure out which class I want to play.

Unfortunately, and now we come to the one big point that makes me stay away from this game for now, it was rather difficult to actually start playing the beta on Friday. The servers were busy and I didn’t get to play at all. I didn’t even realise the “flaw” in this “logic” here, at first. Yesterday morning, I finally succeeded and got online. I played for a bit and reached level 6. Then it happened: I got disconnected and after half an hour, I got back online… to find myself back at level 5. Yay for rollbacks! I get it, they’re basically stress-testing and things like that can happen. But then it dawned on me: This isn’t an MMO, nor is it an online game. I was playing the single-player game. Once upon a time, those were offline games. Once upon a time, there were no server issues and rollbacks with single-player offline games. I remember clearly how I could play Diablo 2 in my room with no problems even though the internet wasn’t reliable in that room, because I didn’t need the internet for the single-player part!

And this very thing is what will hold me back from buying the game (unless… maybe… its cost is reduced to something like 10€ in the distant future). I want to be able to play single player games whenever I feel like it and not rely on the game servers to be accessible. Especially as I don’t see a reason for why they should do this. Diablo 2 already had the single player part and the coop, the multiplayer and online part. It also had LAN-mode. In that regard, it offered more. But now they took that back and force me to be online all the time even if I just play the “offline” part. And I guess they can’t give me a guarantee that rollbacks won’t happen again or that I’m suddenly disconnected or that I can’t even start the game because I regularly play on weekend evenings when a zillion other players decide to play as well and the servers get overloaded… or maybe I’ll get to stare at a waiting queue until there’s a free spot on the servers for me… to play the single-player game.

We will have one copy of Diablo 3 in this household, though, because I gave bookahnerk a 6 months subscription for a gaming magazine for Christmas and as a special, they added a bonus of our choice (the decision fell on a copy of Diablo 3 once it’s released). And as I said, I’ve really enjoyed the game per se. But I dislike this always-online part of the game enough to not buy the game for 50€ or whatever they want for it on release.

So why did I preorder Torchlight 2 instead? Diablo 3 showed me that I really want a game like Torchlight and Diablo. Torchlight 1 has the problemt that it lacks multiplayer (I don’t use it often but I do like playing with bookahnerk once in a while) and the story… oooh, the story. Not so good. Hopefully, Torchlight 2 will be better. They will have a LAN mode and I can play the game offline. It will also just cost 20€ which is a lot cheaper than Diablo 3. And what I really love is that you have pet companions. Tell me how you can top a ferret companion (watch the video with the pets here)! Of course, the game doesn’t have the gothic graphics. ;) And I do find it odd how often the release date has been pushed back so far. But I’ve only preordered the game, not prepurchased it. So there’s no harm done yet. ;) Of course, there’s also no need for deciding only for one and not the other. If you like both, you can play both. However, I don’t think I would need two such games. Especially if one is considerably more expensive.

I wonder how many other people will decide not to get Diablo 3 because of its policy of forcing you to be online and connected to a server at all times? And how many will not care just because it’s Blizzard and Diablo. In the end, if you do decide to get the game, I think you’ll get a good and solid game… and let’s just hope their servers will be stable (and more stable than Ubisoft’s servers ^^).