Waiting for the next BWE…

I’m definitely looking forward to the next Beta Weekend Event. And in order to get into the right mood already, I’ve uploaded a few more screenshots. Sadly, most of the 600 I have are from Lion’s Arch. So the next time, I’m going to explore other places.

Oh, and in case you haven’t pre-purchased yet (for whatever reason), ArenaNet is handing out lots of beta keys at the moment. Not directly but through fansites. I can’t list them all because I don’t know which sites got them but I’ll try to list as many as I can.


NBI: Time to say goodbye

It’s the last day of May which means that the Newbie Blogger Initiative will be over on midnight. It’s been a very interesting month and I got to read what other bloggers had to share. While I have been around for a long time (more than one year with Nerdy Bookahs and a very long time with a personal blog), I still learned a lot and even heard answers to questions I had never thought of asking myself until now.

Once again, thank you, Syp, for hosting the NBI! I don’t know how long the forums are going to be around but there is so much information for new bloggers. Be sure to check it out!

If you want to have a look at all the new blogs, Syp posted them in his blog today. The same post also lists all the entries we have written about the NBI with lots of advice, rants, etc.

Also, we wanted to add that while we’re not advertising for it, Nerdy Bookahs is open for guest blog entries. If you feel the urge to write something for us, contact us through the different means we offer (you know, G+, Twitter, email) and we can set something up for you (that is, when you want your entry to be posted here. We’re not going to tell you what you need to write, of course).

Now I can only wave and say goodbye to this initiative. If we’ve been able to encourage you to get a blog on your own, we have certainly done a great job. And if we haven’t but you’d actually like to start your own blog, we’re all still here (I’ll take the liberty of speaking for all sponsor blogs now ^^) for further advice, answering questions and maybe even for encouraging you. Just because the NBI ends now doesn’t mean we won’t welcome any more new bloggers! ;)

Edit: I just saw that Syp encouraged us to repost the list. I’m going to concentrate on the new bloggers and will repost this list here now. If you want to have a look at the advice posts, please go visit Syp’s blog (I linked to the entry above). :)

New blogs to check out:

Criticizing Guild Wars 2

DISCLAIMER: If you want to criticize my post, feel free to do so (constructively, of course). However, if you want to do so, please READ it. Especially point 4 and its subject line: I complain about their marketing strategy. I do NOT complain about the skimpy armor. I even say so in the text. Read it, then complain about the actual content and not about what you THINK I wrote. Thank you. :)

First things first, as a regular or even casual reader of our blog, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of the game. But let’s be honest: the game isn’t perfect and I know it never will be a perfect game. Why? Several reasons. For one, no game is ever perfect. They’re too complex to get them bug-free and especially MMORPGs evolve and get content added, mechanics changed, etc. All of that means plenty of risks for adding new bugs. But even when not looking at bugs, there just can’t be a perfect game out there simply because there are too many players who all like and dislike different aspects. Some won’t accept a game without PVP in every region, others need their weekly raid evenings, and so on. That means that we will always have people argue about a game and its (lack of) perfection. And it also means that the probability of a game company developing a game in exactly the way that I want is very slim/non-existing.

Guild Wars 2 is still in beta, so bugs are to be expected. In general, I am always very careful when criticizing games in beta. It is a work in progress, after all, and I wouldn’t want to hurt a game’s – and company’s – reputation by writing something too negative about the game before it’s even been released. On the other hand, if we never speak up and say what we dislike, how are the developers supposed to know what the players think of something? There’s a reason companies have beta tests and ask for feedback.

Having said all that (should my intros be shorter, I wonder…), I’m now going to list a few things about Guild Wars 2 that I know will annoy me – more or less strongly – and that will probably make the game less perfect for me – but not “bad”! That’s a big and important difference.

1) Mystic Chests
Syp over at Massively wrote a good piece about lockboxes in MMOs. To be honest, I was shocked when I saw my first lockbox in Guild Wars 2. I’ve always found it cheap when games had those and it was disappointing to see it appear in this game. While there may not be any “advantage” in there, I still think it’s a terrible way to earn money. What annoys me is the whole gambling part: You never know if spending money on yet another key will result in you getting that special item from the lockbox.

If you ask me, it’s abusing a weakness of us humans when it comes to calculating probabilities. Some spend 50 times 1 dollar trying to get a specific reward and end up empty-handed instead of just buying it for 35 dollars, for example… mostly because there is the probability (albeit a very, very low one) that they might get it on their first try and end up having spent only 1 dollar. And then they spend another dollar, and another and another and at some point, they think that now they have to finally get it, right? And they have already invested so much money that quitting would mean they have simply lost their investment without earning anything.

Bookahnerk has also found an interesting comment about this system on Reddit, where a poster mentioned Lunia and that in this game, you drop keys and need to buy the boxes from the shop. It sounds less tempting this way. After all, you don’t have the “item” wrapped in a box in your inventory already. You only have a key. And if you ever feel like getting a box to use this key, it’s fine. And if not, no harm done because there’s no item rotting in your inventory, just a key. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that it’s technically exactly the same thing. But the perception is a different one. And I’m pretty certain that there’d be less temptation to buy boxes whereas if you have lockboxes drop in your game, your players will probably buy more keys from the shop than they would buy boxes for the dropped keys. We’re curious and can’t calculate probabilities correctly (well, I’m sure a lot of people can but from personal experience, I’d say that this is the minority). In other words: It’s an easy way to earn money. But from where I stand, it’s cheap and dirty.

However, this is me criticizing something I haven’t seen the full scope of so far. We do not yet know enough about what will be in the lockboxes (exclusive items or not), if they will have keys drop in the game, if the lockboxes have a (e.g.) 90% chance of including another key (I think I read somewhere that a player found a key inside together with an item), if we’ll be able to sell the items we find in the lockboxes, etc. I’m just saying I really dislike this general concept, but I am curious how they will handle it specifically.

2) Voice of female norn

Norn are supposed to be really tall. And with that, naturally, comes a deeper voice than we would expect from the average human. If I hear the voice without looking at the screen, it fits and it sounds like a wonderful choice, but once I see the norn’s doll-like face, I’m not so sure anymore. It just doesn’t fit to hear her with such a low voice. But maybe this isn’t a problem with the voice at all but rather with the next point…

3) Idealized female characters

I’ve mentioned it before, to which Kadomi had reacted as well. ArenaNet’s stance can be found in this interview:

Univers-Virtuels: So, at the moment the humans are very young and it’s not possible to make it older as a character, or it will be possible to turn off the make up for woman?
Kristen: I’m not sure, we have some variety in there, but largely we want an idealized beautiful base face, so I think the humans are probably going to remain within a certain spectrum.”

I was happy to see that they have added one face that makes the character look a bit older. Then you can further customize it by changing the look of the nose, mouth, chin, etc. But that is only for the human and it’s only one face. The others still have that certain doll-like look. It’s especially annoying for norn because they’re tough! It seems weird to have them appear with a doll-face. I also don’t like the sound of “idealized beautiful base face”. Yes, this idealization is what we’re seeing in women’s magazines every day. This is what’s called one of the reasons for the rise of eating disorders (in women and men)… I understand that they want to add beautiful faces. I would assume that more people choose those faces than faces that the general public wouldn’t call “pretty”, “beautiful” or something like that. I just do not get why they refuse to add some more regular faces. Especially as the question above was aiming at faces “without that much make-up”. Either way, I will go for the regular face they have added because I find it more believable (ah yes, I know we’re in a fantasy setting, so theoretically everything is possible and thus, believable. But still…). On the other hand, we can see that you can go for some extremes when creating your characters. I’m not sure they would call the nose that you can see in the screenshot “idealized beauty”. But at least, we can reenact Cyrano de Bergerac. ;)

I will most likely play asura and charr as my main characters, so it won’t bother me that much. And I do like having a pretty doll character – but I would really love to have more variety. What is the harm in having an older face (one with wrinkles or just more defined facial features)? After all, they are in the game for the male characters. They have added one face for the female humans, though. So there is still hope we could maybe see something like that for the norn as well. Something that makes them more equal to the choices we have for male characters.

4) Armor and ArenaNet’s marketing strategy

As mentioned above, Kadomi wrote about the faces but in the same entry, she also addresses the “armor issue” which goes hand in hand with the idealized faces (and she says it much better than I will here, so if you’re interested in this topic, go read her blog post about it). Why do they present the female characters in suspenders? A word, by the way, that I only learned now thanks to Guild Wars 2 – that is, the English term for it, of course. What does it tell you about a game that teaches me the English terms of “sexy underwear” (“Reizwäsche” in German, by the way… in case you were wondering). I’m not happy with them presenting this as the typical clothing for some of their classes (mesmer and elementalist most of all) as this is what the characters look like when creating them.

After playing for a bit, I did get to see cloth armor that wasn’t as revealing and they have a system in place that makes it possible for me to merge the better stats of an item onto a piece of clothing that I like. So I’m not annoyed that they have revealing armor in the game. I am annoyed, however, that they presented us only this sexy underwear as armor. And even though there was a large outcry (not just from me, I might add!) in their fanbase, they did not add pictures of different armor in order to show us that when they said we would have choices, they didn’t just mean “a choice between a bra or bikini top”.

5) No scenery screenshots
This is something that makes me grind my teeth and scratch my head. I just don’t get this decision at all. ArenaNet doesn’t want us to take screenshots of the scenery without featuring our own character because they want us to get attached to our character. I love looking at screenshots of the game’s world but I am not interested in looking at some person’s character at the same time. This doesn’t interest me at all. Also, I do get attached to my character and if I want to take a screenshot of “me in Lion’s Arch”, I will do so. But if I want to take a screenshot of “this nice windmill”, then please let me do that without having “me in front of this nice windmill that you can’t see because my dear character is blocking the view”. There is a workaround, by the way. You can either /sleep or /sit and then work with the camera angle to get a screenshot without your character on it. I used /sit for my screenshots and unfortunately, my charr’s horns can be seen in a few of them. Oh well. Most of the time, it works just fine but why do we have to resort to such a workaround in the first place? Guild Wars 1 allowed us to zoom in and I haven’t heard anybody complain about the game and its design because we can do that.

While this workaround is fine for taking screenshots, video makers need to ability to move around without having their own character centered all the time. Machinimas probably won’t work in Guild Wars 2 and that’s just really, really sad if you ask me. There’s a not too old discussion about this on GuildWars2Guru.

And that’s it for today. All in all, it’s not a “list of things gone horribly wrong” or something like that. It’s just some things that bug me and that I wanted to get out of my system. I have to say, however, that the inability of taking screenshots or making videos without having my character in the center is the biggest issue I have here. The other parts probably won’t spoil my general fun in the game (especially the marketing – who cares about that in a year, right?) but taking pretty screenshots is what I really enjoy. I have a ton of screenshots from all sorts of MMOs I’ve ever played or tried out stored on an external hard drive and I’ve taken 640 screenshots in Guild Wars 2 so far and that was after only playing for 4 days! And most of those screenshots are from Lion’s Arch… I can’t wait for doing the same in Hoelbrak, Divinity’s Reach, Black Citadel,… (but next time, I will choose a character without horns! Asura would be perfect… *hint*)

First Impressions: Torchlight 2

It’s been a few days now since I’ve been able to play Torchlight 2 during their beta stress test event. It was also the first time I ever got to play the game (even though I’ve pre-purchased it in the meantime). And now I’ll share with you my impressions about the game! I haven’t actually read much about the game before trying it out (and before pre-purchasing… *cough*). So, I’m definitely not even half as informed about this game than I am about Guild Wars 2.

Before entering the game

When I created my first character, I liked having a few options to choose from (face, hair style, hair colour, gender). Those choices aren’t ground-breaking. But it’s better than nothing and for a non-MMO, it’s enough for me to have such simple choices. In general, I just prefer playing a female character, so I really loved being able to do that. And then – the pets! My absolute favourite part. I really wanted to play with the ferret but when looking at the other pets, I did have a hard time deciding for the ferret and against the others. Also, some of the other pets (like the cat, for example), can have different fur colours which you can choose when creating your character. Unfortunately, the ferret only has one which was surprising because ferrets typically have different fur colours and I was certain we could choose from different ones. Oh well, can’t have everything, right? And maybe it’s just because it’s beta and they’ll add in more later (although my favourite ferret is the sable-colored one. But there’s still space for more variety. Enough of that, though. There is variety and you have choices.

The opening trailer is… not what I would have expected. It looks a bit “cheap” and doesn’t tell that much about the story or the background of the world which was a bit sad as I would have loved to get more information about the world I was about to enter.

Issues with the game’s settings

The first few minutes of playing the game were really disappointing. The windowed mode doesn’t “stop” above the Windows task bar which means that part of the screen is always behind it. I really don’t like it when games have that. And it’s weird because Torchlight 1 didn’t have that problem. But it’s just a minor annoyance. The major issue comes with the control settings and I’m still not sure what exactly is going wrong here. I need to go into greater detail to explain it: I have a Razer Death Adder mouse, the left-hander edition. Its left and right mouse buttons are switched by default. While I need to use a mouse with my left hand (using my right hand gives me a headache and concentration problems), I use the mouse buttons like a righthander: my left index finger right-clicks and my left middle finger left-clicks. Or, in other words, I use a mouse with my left hand but leave the buttons unswitched. However, since this mouse comes with switched buttons per se, I need to switch them back in the Windows settings. With most games, this isn’t a problem at all (including Torchlight 1). Torchlight 2, however, messes things up. Opening/closing windows works like it usually does (left-clicking the X to close a window, etc.). I had to switch the two mouse buttons in the game’s control settings, though, in order to move around like I did in Torchlight 1 (left-click on the ground to move there) because by default, those controls were switched. Moving items from my inventory to that of my pet, learning spells, etc. is still switched and as far as I know, there was no way to change that. So without changing any settings, the movement and item interaction etc. ignored the Windows settings and used the settings the mouse came with. Opening/closing windows, however, used the settings that I had entered in Windows. It’s confusing and seems unnecessarily complicated! Why not just leave it the way I’ve entered it in Windows? As I said, most other games work fine and I rarely have any issues (League of Legends is another negative example but at least, they’re consistent and everything ignores the Windows setting).

So that was my first evening in the game. I was left disappointed and annoyed because I can’t get used to the switched buttons (that’s why I use them like a right hander does!). The next morning, I had the brilliant idea to switch the movement controls. Once I had done that, the fun with the game started… well, unless I wanted to manage my inventory. But I’ll get used to that. It’s just the movement and skills that were hard to master with the wrong buttons.

Choosing a class

I started with an engineer and it didn’t take long until I found a great item for the embermage. In Torchlight 1, I found countless great items for the alchemist and haven’t played one (yet). The game is telling me something, though, as 90% of the high quality items I have dropped are for the alchemist (which is the mage-like class in Torchlight 1). So when the first really nice item that dropped was for the embermage, I quit the game and created one instead. Oh, that was such a great idea! That class is lots of fun. Maybe a bit too squishy for n00by me (you’ll see in the embedded video) but fun nonetheless. I sticked with the embermage and played her on normal mode. I then created another embermage and played that character on veteran mode until the end of the beta weekend. I didn’t want to spoil the other classes for me. So most of what I’m saying about the game comes from me playing those two embermages, both with frost skills.

What I didn’t like about the game

I had expected the maps to be more open than they are. It did seem like a pre-given road that you’re following. The more I played, the more I realized that this isn’t true. The screenshot shows the paths I had taken already and on the right, it also shows an NPC that I found that way. I don’t think I would have passed him without taking another than the direct route to my quest (there are quest markers on the map showing you where you need to go). So this is just half disliking something. In caves/dungeons, it’s more obvious. I guess I just prefer having completely open maps (like huge fields with nothing in between instead of having mountains road-blocking my way all of the time). I’ve played through the very first (or second?) map three times during the stress test beta weekend and I always saw something I hadn’t seen on my first run through.

The lore and the story aren’t too obvious either. Before Diablo 3 was released, we read up on and watched the cinematics from Diablo 1 and 2 in order to catch up and know what’s happened (Deckard Cain is one of the characters appearing in all three titles, by the way). The story of Torchlight 2 didn’t draw me in after watching the trailer. It took until the fight against General Grell to get into the story a bit more and I am interested in finding out what’s going to happen next. However, there haven’t been any key characters so far that I would recognize again. I had just expected the story to be a lot better than they were in Torchlight 1. Oddly enough, I found the story a lot better in Torchlight 1, at least at the beginning… then it became rather boring because, after all, it was just about going deeper and deeper below the town. I haven’t seen much from the game, though (got to Chillhoof), so I can’t really say if the story is good or not. But that’s why this post is called “first impressions”.

Another thing that disappointed me were the graphics. I had already seen that they’re similar to Torchlight 1 but it seems that they’re exactly the same. I liked them in Torchlight 1, so it’s no big deal. I just thought we would get to see something a bit… well, improved. Although I love the pets and their animations, so that certainly made up for it. On the other hand, of course there had to be at least one female character that doesn’t have enough money to buy decent clothing. No game without them, right? It’s not a reason not to buy a game for me but I’d just like to either not see it in every game I play or have some more men wearing the same armor. You know, equality and all that…

What I liked about the game

Except for the story, the negative things aren’t big. But what about the things I did like? Well, there are many. I really like the customization, as I said above already. The pets are awesome! Cute and functional. You can send them back to town and they automatically sell the items in their inventory. Something new was added as well: They can now also buy healing potions, mana potions, etc. So, you only need to get back to town if you want to hand in a quest or put items into your storage (of which you have one as personal storage and one as shared storage between your characters).

The performance seemed to be great. We could only play online during the stress test beta but it was for testing the login servers, etc. so it made sense. Once the game is released, we will be able to play offline or via LAN. So we won’t have to play online if we don’t want to. That in itself is getting quite rare these days, so it’s worth mentioning and definitely one of the reasons why I don’t feel bad for buying the game. While playing the game during that weekend, I didn’t find any bugs at all. The performance was smooth, there was no lag, nothing ruining my game experience in any way. I am always amazed when a beta – even if it is just a stress test – is as smooth as this one was.

This (video above) made me squeal. It’s just a detail but details like this are needed to bring a world to life. The same with the random NPCs appearing in corners of the world, giving you quests (like the ghost seen in a screenshot above). The NPCs that I fought against were varied, had lots of different skills and I saw my “favorite” made it to Torchlight 2 as well: Mimics. Oh, how I hate them! They’re chests and until you’ve put your greedy fingers on them in order to loot their insides, you do not see a difference between them and regular loot chests. That’s so mean! Especially as they can dish out quite some damage. But it makes the game more fun for me. Is this a real chest? Should I heal up before touching it? There’s other things like bombs, poison, etc. that can damage you when you open a chest or destroy some ancient vase.

The mobs and especially the bosses seemed to scale. I’ve uploaded a video of my fight against Chillhoof. He’s level 17 there. But I’ve seen him with different levels in other people’s videos. Same with the non-boss mobs. More about Chillhoof later… but it is a great thing to see that mobs are scaling. Too bad I don’t have much more information but I have to admit, I just didn’t feel like looking up all the information and reading about it. Sometimes, it’s just nicer to get yourself surprised while playing. I also love that you can choose a difficulty setting when creating a character. Normal mode was okay, but I had the most fun on veteran. True, I died too often on that mode as well… so often, in fact, that I was broke (again, more about that later…). But it was fun! When’s dying in a game ever so much fun? ;) When entering an online game, I could also choose the difficulty setting. I wonder if you can create a character and play it on normal mode but then join an online game with the same character on veteran mode? That would be quite nice as you could change your mind about the difficulty setting in a way.


All in all, I have to say that the game feels like a better Torchlight 1. I’m not sure it’s what I would have expected from a Torchlight 2… it’s closer to a 1,5 (considering, for example, that it seems to be exactly the same graphics). But that’s just a minor detail because it is a fun game! I like Torchlight 1 but I love Torchlight 2. It’s definitely worth its price (20€) and I can’t wait for its release!

As mentioned above, I fought against Chillhoof. This was on veteran mode and my character was below level 18. I would assume she was level 17 but I’m not 100% sure. As you can see, standing in front of those frost attack cone made me die instantly. This video is actually really good as it shows you… how not to do it! I kited Chillhoof in an area that was less than ideal for it. I have seen lots of other videos with players that were much smarter and fought him where you find him – which is a larger round place. They just moved sidewards in a large circle while Chillhoof more or less just turns around further with every attack. Instead, I decided for the headless chicken route, which, let’s face it, is what I always do and it’s never a good idea. If only I could change my playstyle in games (this is also the reason why I favor heavily armored classes). My character also didn’t wear any special items. I had what I had found and what I had gotten from quests during one day of playing her. I have seen videos of characters getting a full frontal attack and they hardly lost any life whereas I was dead instantly. So I assume it’s either the higher level, more hitpoints, better items or all of those. I’m not complaining, though. I sat here laughing while bookahnerk was cheering me on. I don’t mind screwing up and having a less than perfect run. ;)

Now, please excuse me, I’ve got an alchemist to create…

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (May 25, 2012)

Welcome to today’s Bookahneer’s Geekwatch! The place about miscellaneous interesting news related to gaming (will most likely include at least one piece about Guild Wars 2 ^^).

We’ve heard sad news yesterday: 38 studios layed off all their employees yesterday (including all from Big Huge Games). What I found fascinating and encouraging was how fast the hashtag #38jobs appeared. Not long after, a Google document was created listing the various gaming companies that currently have job offers available. That’s what I love about the internet and the sub-communities. People sticking together and helping each other out! Let’s hope those people that are currently without a job will find a new one soon!

The Guild Wars 2 community is as active as ever. Just two examples today: Tilion from DragonSeasonCom gave an interview about their website to Video-Games24.com. Since it’s a Greek website, most of us would probably not understand a single word, so Tilion posted the English translation. Valerian from commentarilies posted a really good piece about the melee mesmer in Guild Wars 2. Yes, I’m biased here because I myself fell in love with that class. Although so far, I prefer a pistol as off-hand weapon. I’ll have to try the other options more, though.

The last week of the Newbie Blogger Initiative is ahead of us. The World’s End Tavern has a list of the new blogs. Have a look at it and maybe you’ll find your favourite new blogger over there!

And last but not least, there’s Because We May starting on May 24 and running till June 1: Independent developers putting their games on sale:

“For the last week of May (May 24 through June 1) our games will be deeply discounted to celebrate online stores that give us control over pricing: The App Store, Google Play, Steam, Desura, IndieVania, and a few others.” (quoted from their website)