Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (June 30, 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 ^^).

The infamous June 28 came and went, but it finally brought us a release date. Do I need to even repeat it? I’m just going to link to the official announcement (and add: August 28, 2012! Just in case you’ve been offline for too long and actually did miss it). It’s so much earlier than I thought! I was counting on October or November. Now, with some luck, I may even get some time off work because it’s also a few days before my birthday and I could just enjoy the game and my birthday without having to worry about work-related stuff.

There is another Lore Tower Talk on the German fansite Wartower.de. Fortunately for you, English-speaking readers, it’s all in English! And it’s about the Sylvari this time. I haven’t had the time yet to listen to it, but I definitely will do it because all of those Tower Talks have been great so far. If you don’t feel like listening, there is already an English transcript available – and a translation into German if you prefer that.

Yesterday, I finally got around to redesigning our former “Blogroll”. It used to be just a list but that looked boring. Head over to the Recommended Reading page and have a look yourself! There are lots of great blogs and fansites, all about Guild Wars 2 and/or other MMOs. If you want to be listed there, contact us. And if you find that we didn’t include your logo – or caught the wrong one – contact us as well, so we can change that.

We have also had our first guest post yesterday by Joshua about mobile MMOs. If you want to read more from him, head over to his blog.

Last but not least, Werit has been working on Dev Spy which is an aggregator for different games’ developer posts. It currently features games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, etc. He is still improving the website, so leave your feedback there if you have some.

First Impressions: The Secret World

I have tried The Secret World during the last two beta weekend events. This post is not a review. It is about my first impressions of the game and thus, much too incomplete for a review. But just fine as a “first impressions” piece. :)

For once, I had not read up on every available detail before playing the game for the first time. I have also not looked up that much. However, I did use Google a few times to try and figure out a few riddles in the game, including one quest where the quest text told me to do A while I actually had to do B. It happens during a beta, I guess.

The character creation process was quite nice. While I would have liked a few more choices in the way the actual character looks (you know, noses, eyebrows, hair styles, chin size and all that), there was an abundance of clothing to choose from. This is especially important as I haven’t seen a single other piece of clothing drop while playing the game. But as I said, there was lots of stuff to choose from and I spent lots of time in that character creation screen. I assume other clothing options will be available later on and you’ll probably be able to buy more outfits in their store (the game has a monthly sub and a cash shop).

You can choose one of three factions: Dragon, Templar or Illuminati. I had wanted to choose Dragon first but when the time came to make a decision, I decided for Illuminati instead. It’s very nice that when you decide for the faction, you can watch all three “faction trailers” that tell you who they are. I later made another character and chose Dragon this time. They all appear in the same starting area, so if that’s what you’re worried about, then this shouldn’t be your deciding factor. I still liked the atmosphere of Dragons more, though. There is a little starter tutorial zone where you’re introduced to your faction and the characters in there were far more memorable. By the way, I deliberately leave out any story details. ;)

So without talking about the story, let’s move on to the next topic: The sounds. I enjoyed the soundtrack a lot and it was just so fitting to the atmosphere they want to create with their game. If you want to learn more about the atmosphere, watch this trailer about Kingsmouth (which, yes, includes parts about the game’s story), the town you start in. And here you can listen to the game’s main theme. I fell in love with the game right there. Right when I heard this song before even getting into the game. I knew I was intrigued, interested and fascinated. A game that has such a sound… there has to be something about it!

The voice overs in the game are just as brilliant as the music. The voice actors do not sound like they’re reading a script without knowing what it’s all about. It sounded natural and just like people talk to each other (“I looked it up on Google”). However, there is one bad thing and this is one of my main critiques: The graphics and the animations aren’t on par. Instead, they feel dull and a bit stiff. But more about that later.

While the voice overs were great, my own character wasn’t just a bit too quiet – not a single word was spoken by her during any of the cut scenes. No utterance at all. But what’s worse is that I also didn’t hear any sounds coming from her during combat (you know, those sounds you get to hear when your character is hit… “oompf” or whatever – or when he/she hits somebody). Your own character is 100% silent, at all times. Not a single muscle moved in her face while people told her about the bad happenings in the town. Your character is without any expression. While I loved the voice overs and liked the facial expressions of the NPCs during cut scenes, I sat here in front of the PC wondering if my character was just brainless (zombies!) or didn’t care at all. One NPC even made fun of her asking if she’s the “quiet type” because she isn’t speaking.

On to the actual gameplay. I mentioned the stiff animations. I mean, they’re not really bad but they certainly didn’t impress me. The animations during combat/while executing skills didn’t bother me too much, but the lack of facial expressions were a lot worse. All in all, my character really did feel emotin- and lifeless. And what’s with the stiff neck? My character and all of the others around me kept stretching and rubbing their necks. Weird. On top of that, while I liked the lack of levels and the skill-wheel, the combat itself was rather bland. It’s the same old hitting-numbers game that you know from other games. In this case, it seemed to be a choice between ranged physical combat, melee combat and magic combat. Once again, I realized how theoretically, I love magic but when it comes to the actual “fun factor”, I just really love melee (in this case, my Dragon-faction character fought with a katana while my Illuminati-character fought with blood magic which just didn’t excite me much).

What I liked was the lack of “tagging mobs”, at least when it came to boss monters. I didn’t pay attention to regular mobs. For instance, there was a quest that had you follow ravens. They appeared and when you got close, they flew away and you had to follow again. I did it with another player and while we weren’t in a group, we always both got credit for each stage, including the boss at the end. The same happened with another boss at the end of a quest chain where I came to the fight after another player had started. I joined and finished the quest as well in the end. This is something really important for me because it just helps players playing together instead of against each other. I’m surprised how many MMOs haven’t gotten that until today.

The quests were refreshingly different. There were “kill ten rats” quests – who were, in this case, zombies, of course – but there were also riddle quests where you actually had to think. In one case, I found something on the floor… well, to be honest, it belonged to a dead woman. I forgot what it actually was. In the end, it led me to having a device (was it a mobile phone? I really should take notes!) where I had to enter a PIN. I was given a clue and then went to search for it. Again, I’m being deliberately vague here… ooooh, I should have said that earlier! Would have saved me the embarrassment of admitting that I have no idea what device it was… ;) Anyway, I was about to give up, because I’m being impatient, when I saw that the answer had been right in front of me the whole time and I just hadn’t noticed it. Also, it didn’t take me long to see Illuminati-signs everywhere.

I do want to find out what’s happening in Kingsmouth and I want to find out what lays beyond the fog. On the other hand, I grew tired of zombies pretty quickly. I’m not such a big fan of them and the whole horror genre. I enjoy it once in a while, but in small doses, please.

Another thing is that this game could have been a single player game and I doubt I would have noticed a difference. Now I actually really enjoy playing on my own while being able to communicate with others or just randomly bump into them. So it’s not really that much of a deal for me, but it might be for you. On the other hand, I guess we’re not at the point anymore where “MMO” means you are required to group all of the time in order to get anywhere.

TL;DR (or “conclusion” if you prefer that):

I’m not saying it’s a good game. I’m not saying it’s a bad game. But for me, right now, it’s not the game I want to play. Sounds, ambience, voice overs and riddle-quests are things that I really enjoyed. The monthly sub and cash shop on top of it, the lack of animations and the rather dull combat were boring to me. Additionally, while I liked the change of scenery, I’m just not a big enough fan of zombies to justify the monthly sub.

We present the winners (Torchlight Giveaway)

I’ve only prepared half of this post (sans the winners, of course) before the Guild Wars 2 stress test begins. I just like drawing the winners as close to the deadline for entering the giveaway as possible because I always assume that people are watching our blog like a hawk when we have a giveaway… ;)

I’ve also checked the list twice to make sure everything up till now is correct and I have gone through our spam folder. Everything’s ready. All that’s missing is the drawing of the winner…

Before I tell you who has won, I am going through the “statistics”. 33 people participated. One person named two favorite pets, all others named one. The most popular pet is the hawk with 10 votes! I wouldn’t have guessed that, so it was surprising to see. The ferret follows closely as it got 8 1/2 votes. Panther comes third with 5 1/2. Cat (4), wolf (3), bulldog (1) and chakawary (1) followed behind. Nobody chose the papillon. Poor thing. :(

So now that we have the winners of the popularity contest, let’s get on to the winners of this giveaway. All 33 participants entered the Torchlight 2 giveaway. Not really surprising. ;) 16 also entered for Torchlight 1. As previously written, we will first draw the winner for Torchlight 2 and that person cannot win Torchlight 1 as well as we want to see two winners today! ;)

As always, we’re using dice to decide for a winner. The dice theoretically go from 0 to 99. We have neither 0 nor anything above 33, so in those cases, of course, we roll until we get a number that wins. Yes, I know there are random number generators online but I still think this is more fun! Anyway, on to presenting the winners.

Torchlight 2 has won: no. 14 – Congratulations, Ankeus

Torchlight 1 has won: no. 13 – Congratulations, Hyperion

I will contact the winners shortly.

Guild Wars 2: Hoelbrak Screenshot Gallery

With Hoelbrak, the series of screenshot galleries is finished… for now. As soon as they let us into Rata Sum or The Grove, me and my print-hitting finger will be back! ;) Unfortunately, Hoelbrak was also the most boring one for me to go through. As the wiki entry says, Hoelbrak is basically a hunting lodge that became the biggest settlement. When you go into Hoelbrak expecting a settlement, it’s alright, I guess. But I went there after having been to Divinity’s Reach and it was a bit disappointing because the latter is a city/town and Hoelbrak… isn’t. The colours in the sky are still amazing, though. I always love regions like that in MMOs, especially during the summer. ;) All in all, it was a bit too much ice and blue at once for me. Anyway, here it is, the last screenshot gallery (for now!).

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. ;)

GW2: 84 miniatures and their idle animations

Bookahnerk spent the second BWE trying to get as many miniatures as possible. Having a global* trading post helped a lot here. He was able to get almost all of those that were available except for Mini Ragar Shardhammer, Mini Skam Darkhoof and Mini Zojja (*sob* I would have loved to see her!).

Out of the humanoid minis, only a handful are female, by the way. For example, there are 11 male humans, 1 male human ghost and one female human, whose icon shows a man. We have 8 male norn miniatures and one female, Eir. Keep in mind that this is beta and I actually expect about 10 more female human minis and 7 more female norn minis to appear before launch. Everything else would be very weird, especially considering that the minis are really just that: Minis. Miniature versions of the character models that we use for playing ourselves. There’s no new art associated with it, I assume. Also, some minis don’t have proper animations yet. I’m not going to repeat the b-word here. ;) But we can see that the game is not ready yet as there are still things that need to be fixed… details, maybe, but still.

Anyway, it’s great to see how many there already are and I can’t wait to start collecting them all!

* By the way: Is it global or region-restricted (as in: Europe, USA,…)?