Category Archives: Game Design

Trove: New UI & graphics settings

The latest patch, “Blitz and Glitz Edition“, got released today. It is mostly new costumes (in the shop). But they also added the new UI to the game and some new graphics settings to test out. A few days ago, they had already posted a teaser for the UI and it did get some criticism. So, Avarem asked to test it out first and give feedback then.

Of course, I had to test the changes right away. Not the costumes, as I don’t care too much about costumes in Trove. But I wanted to have a look at the shiny new user interface!

New user interface

Here is the direct comparison. Old on the left, new on the right.

Here is my opinion: The icons seem to be much smaller than before. Looking at it closely, they probably aren’t. I guess because of the rest of the design, they just look small. What I really like is that the shortcuts are now listed above the actual icon which means that the icon itself isn’t hidden by white text. Yet, I am missing two clues that were very important for me when I had just started playing: The display of the “hub” icon (“Press H to get to the main hub”) and the two indicators above the “hub” button indicating whether you’re showing your adventuring skill bar or your crafting skill bar. I do not need those images anymore now, but I clearly remember that they helped me starting out in the game because I could easily see that I had the wrong action bar activated – after seeing that there are two different action bars to begin with thanks to those two icons in the middle. This is no big deal, it’s just something I would like to see there.

One thing I definitely criticize is that the amount of charges left for my healing potion (the “Q” skill) is still not easy to see. Those are 13 charges I have there, not 3.

I like the colours and the general look of the new UI, though. The quest/star bar on the upper right also looks nice, although it wasn’t bad before either. With the new colour, I think it stands out more, though, which could help especially newcomers to notice the star bar up there in the first place.

New UI: Crafting bar

New UI: Crafting bar

The picture above shows the UI with the crafting bar activated. The green background (seen on the icon at the “2” skill) highlights which button you have activated now. So I would place green blocks now with pressing my left mouse button. The “5” skill isn’t too ideal, though. It’s the non-activated grey blocks… I think. No, it’s actually “charcoal”. I’m not sure if it was easier to see before, but I am noticing now that it’s difficult to figure out what colour it is exactly unless you’ve got it highlighted or look in your inventory for the tooltip. Yes, while the skills in the action bar have tooltips when you hover above the icon with your mouse, the crafting bar does not have this feature. Another thing I would like to see.

So, in short: I would really like to see tooltips on the crafting bar as well as an easier to see number of remaining charges for my healing potion. I would also like to see the action bar indicators and the “hub” icon back. Other than that, I’m really happy about the new UI!

When you're in the middle of a fight, the dark red in front of the dark grey background is easy to miss...

When you’re in the middle of a fight, the dark red in front of the dark grey background is easy to miss…

Edited to add: After playing with the new UI, I noticed that I don’t notice my health dropping low with the new UI. The health bar is only half of the sphere now and the red is too dark to be noticed fast since the background is also quite dark. This is, of course, less than ideal. ;)

Graphics changes

“There are now some new graphics settings that are testable for high end users (coming soon to actual video settings near you).
Type /postbloom to test out bloom
Type /postssao to test out ambient occlusion.”

In case you want to test them: You can disable them again by typing “/postbloom off” and “postssao off”.

The Bloom setting:

The Ambient Occlusion setting:

I don’t think there is even one game where I like the bloom setting. I turned it off again after taking the screenshots. But I actually like the ambient occlusion. So far, it also works nicely on my PC, but I stood in the club world, afk while writing this blog post. ;)

The thing is: Those screenshots don’t show that much. Especially with bloom, I actually don’t see a difference and in game, I don’t see that much either. Ambient occlusion, on the other hand, looks very nice in game! On the screenshots, a lot gets lost again. But look closely at the glass house on the left.

Still, I don’t play Trove for its fabulous graphics, so this isn’t important for me either way. The user interface is the much more important change for me and I think I can certainly live with it quite well. :)

Guild Wars 2 vs. Rift vs. Trove: Part 2 (Lore)

GW2 vs Rift vs Trove logo

This is the second part of the blog post series “Guild Wars 2 vs. Rift vs. Trove”. The first part was about “Basic information“. This part now focuses on the lore of the games. Once again, my goal is not to say which game has a better lore. Neither do I want to bore you with lots and lots of tiny details of the story. Instead, I want to give you an overview of what the main story is about and to give you a feeling of the world that you will enter should you decide to pick up the game and play. There will be a comparison, but I will definitely not call any game superior here.

Warning!

As the title and introduction text already suggest, this is a blog post about the lore in those three games. Do not continue reading if you don’t want any story spoilers!

I am now going to start the lore part with the big mystery question:

Does Trove have lore?

trove-logoThe answer isn’t as easy as one may think or hope. Yes, it does have lore, apparently. It just doesn’t really seem like it. The game does not have a consistent world, but rather ever-changing maps which are generated as soon as players enter the map. It has biomes with undead, with pirates, but also with candy-fied enemy NPCs. It has lava, water plasma and chocolate lakes. It even has candy fish! And fish in lava, too. But so far, there is no coherent story part and no real background lore. With the recent revamp of the tutorial, they added lore cubes to it, but those aren’t present in the general world. Those cubes tell a very short story.

The tutorial takes place in the ruins of the Sun Goddess’s temple. Apparently, the Moon had become jealous of her. Something – it says “a great shadow” got released and the only way to save the world was for the Sun Goddess to sacrifice herself.

The main story in Rift when you first enter the game

Rift_Logo_transparentThe lore in Rift is delivered mainly through quests. There is a comic book that came with the original Collector’s Edition, but as far as I know, this is all there is outside of the game. Some more information can be found on the website, like general information on Nightmare Tide, the game’s second expansion and in the lore forum, a sub-section of the official forum. The developers posted a timeline there about the events in Rift back in 2011.

Rift_Lore_Book CollectionApart from quests, you can also “collect” books in Rift which, once collected, you can click on and read through. Of course, those aren’t real books with several hundred pages. But they do give additional lore and they are neatly stores in the collections tab of your character panel.

I actually had to go and read through several postings on various different places to find out more about the lore myself. I’ve known bits but I admit, I’m not the person who always reads the quest texts. :p There are lots and lots of names to memorize when you want to get into the lore and I have always had problems telling the important figures apart (who’s the bad guy, who’s the good guy? And who is the good guy turned bad? ^^). So, I will try to summarize the basic lore as much as possible. Let’s start with the world of Rift as a whole. It consists of several planes of reality. Each plane “belongs” to a certain element. E.g. water, air, but also death and life. The name of the physical world we are on is “Telara” and it is located between those planes. Telara was created by five gods called “The Vigil” who used a material called Sourcestone to do that. The names of the gods are Bahralt, Tavril, Thedeor, Mariel-Taun and Thontic. For this short introduction to the lore, the names aren’t going to be important anymore. I just thought I should add them in case you start playing and come across the names in the game. However, the Vigil aren’t the only gods in this world. In fact, the exact number of gods is unknown. Another group of gods that is known and that caused quite a lot of trouble is called the “Blood Storm“, six dragon gods. Each of them represents a different plane of reality: Regulos (Death), Maelforge (Fire), Laethys (Earth), Greenscale (Life), Crucia (Air) and Akylios (Water). All of them wanted to control Telara and tried to invade it with their legions while also fighting against each other. This gave the inhabitants of Telara and the Vigil the opportunity to eventually fight back. All Blood Storm gods with the exception of Regulos were imprisoned on Telara. Additionally, the Vigil placed a Ward around Telara to protect it from the invading forces from the planes. All could have been peaceful and well now.

So, let me summarize: We’ve got Telara in the middle of the planes now with a Ward made by the creators of Telara, the Vigil, to keep the invaders out.

The bad thing with this Ward is that it’s been getting weaker through the centuries. I mentioned the Sourcestone above already. The Guardians (one of the two factions for player characters in the game) use this to commune with the Vigil. The other faction, the Defiant, use it to build and power their machines. Jostir, king of the Mathosians (the playable human race on Guardian side), died about 25 years before “current game time”. His two sons (Aedraxis and Zareph) fought over the throne. Aedraxis used machines powered with Sourcestone and managed to get a crack into the Ward in the process. Additionally, he was corrupted by Regulos. To put it shortly: With this crack, the Rifts came. Rifts are tears through which the forces from the planes can enter Telara. In game, they are open world events… more on that in the PvE part of this blog post series. Hardly any place is safe from the rifts. I will leave the rest of the story to be told in the game.

The role of your character in this world

You are still following, right? So, Aedraxis was corrupted by Regulos. Longer story short: Regulos is back in action.

You can either play a character in the Guardian or in the Defiant faction – and you are an Ascendant (more on that in a bit). Guardians get their Ascendant status from the Vigil, while Defiants use their sourcestone-powered machines built by Eth  (the human race on Defiant side). The Guardians are strictly against using sourcestone in this way, see it as blasphemous and some also claim it to be the source of their current problems (as sourcestone was used when the Rifts appeared – see above).

Defiant or Guardian - Choose now

Defiant or Guardian – Choose now

Now it’s getting a bit trickier. In the “original timeline”, the Vigil chose people to be Ascendants! They returned them back from the dead to fight against Regulos and his legions. However, only those who believed in them and followed them

Asha Catari

Asha Catari

rigorously got chosen. Asha Catari was not one of them. She did get resurrected by Orphiel, a Defiant who used a source-stone powered machine for this resurrection process. The Guardians fought against the Defiants and wanted to destroy not only their machines, but their whole existence. At the same time, apparently, they failed the fight against Regulos. This is where Defiant players enter the game. All hope is lost, basically. But they are able to resurrect their own Ascendants by using their machines and – this is why telling the lore gets a bit tricky now – they also have a time machine and send you, the player, back in time to before Regulos won the fight.

While your character, being an Ascendant, is basically a “special snowflake” in the world, there are many Ascendants. I don’t like it that much when an MMO treats the story as you are the only and the strongest special person around. Having several special people is much more realistic considering all the other players around you fulfill the same role anyway.

The game has been out for four years now, so of course, a lot of things have happened already. I am not going to write about all of these happenings here, however, because I don’t want to spoil all content for you. This is just the basic and short summary for you to get to know what the main story is all about when you enter the game. If you still want to know more about what has happened since the game’s release, I found a nice little summary in the lore section of the official forum.

The main story in Guild Wars 2 before you first enter the game

GW2_Logo_kl_transparentGuild Wars 2 takes a slightly different approach to delivering the story to its players. There are no traditional quests in the game. Most of the main storyline is delivered by their living world and personal story concept. The personal story starts out differently depending on which race and which options you chose during the character selection screen and also by what you choose at certain points throughout the personal story. It does eventually end the same for every character, though. The personal story is finished at some point and does not continue. Instead, the living world concept took over after the game’s release. The living world so far has seen two “seasons”. Season 1 was only temporary and cannot be played through and experienced anymore now. If you want to know what happened there, you have to rely on outside sources. Season 2 needs to be bought or played through with a player who previously unlocked it. It is similar to quests. You just don’t need to visit a quest giver in the world, but instead, can access each story’s steps in your character panel. This is also where you can find very short summaries of what happened in each story step (both for the personal story as well as for the second season of the living story).

As the name already suggests, Guild Wars 2 is a sequel. The original game, Guild Wars, takes place 250 years prior to where we are in Guild Wars 2. If you want to experience the original story, you can buy the game (3 campaigns and 1 expansion – the campaigns are all “standalone games” and can be played through without owning the others) and play through the story.

Additionally, there are three novels that take place before the main story of Guild Wars 2 starts: Ghosts of Ascalon, Edge of Destiny and Sea of Sorrows. They were written to bridge the time between the original Guild Wars and the sequel.

The world of Guild Wars 2 is called “Tyria“. Do not confuse this Tyria with the other Tyria, the continent. ;) Tyria, the world, is only one among several in the Mists, the “proto-reality that exists between the worlds”.

Tyria, the world, consists of several continents of which Tyria, Cantha and Elona are the major known ones. In the current time, players do not have access to Cantha or Elona and we do not, in fact, know what is going on over there. The land route to Elona has been sealed on Queen Jennah‘s order because of “dark events” going on there. Jennah is the Queen of Kryta and Kryta is one of the regions in Tyria mainly inhabited by humans. Cantha, on the other hand, is cut off from Tyria because of Zhaitan, one of the Elder Dragons (more about those in a bit). With Zhaitan awake and active again, any ship trying to sail to Cantha would be sunk.

So, about those Elder Dragons now – they started to rise about 250 years ago with Primordus being the first. There are six different Elder Dragons in total: Primordus (Fire), Jormag (Ice), Zhaitan (Death and Shadow), Kralkatorrik (Crystal), Mordremoth (Plant and Mind) and a dragon suspected to be in the Unending Ocean. The name of the sixth Elder Dragon is not yet known and since nobody has heard anything, it is assumed that this dragon hasn’t awoken yet.

The Elder Dragons had been asleep for about 11,000 years. Naturally, not much is known about the history in the present time, though the dwarves – now near-extinct and the ones alive are turned to stone – had preserved some knowledge in their legends as did the Jotun. Now they are back and together with their champions and their minions, they destroy everything in their paths – or, even worse, turn every creature into their mindless and will-less minions that fight for them.

One group of adventurers, called “Destiny’s Edge“, was the first to slay one of the Elder Dragon’s champions, the Dragonspwawn. They rose to fame for this heroic deed, but when something went wrong, they – all coming from different racial backgrounds (Asura, Charr, Human, Norn and Sylvari) – could not overcome their partly culturally based distrust for one another, some blamed each other for the death of a beloved former group member and the rest of the group eventually split up. Not long after, your character enters the scene…

The role of your character in this world

Every character enters the world near their racial main city. You begin with a story related to choices you have made during the character creation process. I would say the story is pretty “local”. You certainly do not start out as a hero and throughout the personal story as well as the living story, you gain recognition among the NPCs. In Season 2, you will have some NPCs even calling you “boss”. It is also safe to say that of course, your path will lead you closer to the Elder Dragons and you will play a role in fighting against them.

As you can tell, I’m being deliberately vague here. While I do want to introduce you to the basic lore of the game, I do not want to give you too many spoilers, because I think this would seriously diminish your fun in the game. I will get more into the different races’ in the next piece of this blog post series where we will look at the options available during the character creation process. So, this is all I am going to tell you about your character right now.

If you still want to know more about the history of Tyria, I can recommend the lore videos by WoodenPotatoes.

Conclusion so far

Rift’s strength, if you ask me, is that they also give you the collections to go out there and find all the little lore pieces. Additionally, you can feel the threat everywhere and the open world events make sense. And last but not least, neither faction is the “good” one. Both believe that what they are doing is right.

Guild Wars 2’s strength, on the other hand, is the strong and active community making sure that you can read all about the lore or listen to podcasts telling you about it. The continuous addition of content (up until season 2, at least. At the moment, we’re waiting for the expansion) has moved the main storyline further quickly. There is also lots of information to be found outside of the game including novels and the first game, Guild Wars.

One note about fantasy and steampunk: Even though I mainly mentioned machines in the Rift section, Guild Wars 2 has just as many steampunk elements in it. So if you really cannot stand steampunk in your game lore, neither of those games is a good match for you. Other than that, if you care about lore and want to get into a world full of story, I think both of those games will give you that. Trove, on the other hand, is very, very, very light on lore.

The next blog post will focus on the character creation as well as on the playable races and their background lore.

Rift: Time of Day

Rift just as many other MMOs has a day and night cycle. This change of light is also happening in dimensions. Of course, sometimes you want to set a certain atmosphere and having the day and night cycle interferes with this mood. If this is the case, there are dimension items that set your dimension to a specific time.

Rift_Time of Day items

Time of Day items

Be aware, though, that the item has a limited range, so in big dimensions, you may need to place several of those items. Thankfully, they are very cheap. Most of them are below one gold, the most expensive is well below 2 gold. For comparisons: My low level alt (level 17) has 18 platinum. Just buy the items off the auction house.

Before you go and buy those 24 items just to see which time of the day you actually want, just have a look at the gallery I made. I chose the Guardian faction’s starter dimension “Sanguine Shores” because it is small, free for every Guardian character, you get it when you’re very low level and it has a nice view with the horizon clearly visible and water to reflect the light as well as shadows from tree.

What you can’t see is the sun and the moon in those screenshots. They aren’t always visible, which is also because there are clouds in the sky. But I did get a few screenshots where you can see them above the water which makes for some pretty effects – well, who am I telling this to? I guess you all know what reflections of the sun and the moon can do to a scenery. :p

 

Opinions on Heart of Thorns

There is this draft sitting here in our blog where I listed all the known facts about the upcoming expansion for Guild Wars 2 and where I have already started adding some thoughts. However, I don’t like just shoving something out there only because it’s the one topic everybody talks about right now. I need time to phrase my thoughts – or even actually realize what it is that I am thinking. :p

Since I’ve last worked on that draft, some more information has come out. Additionally, I have read through the transcription of the announcement again and pondered for a bit more. By now, I cannot even tell you what I think of the expansion. I am not hyped. I am not super excited. But I am looking forward to it. How much depends on quite a lot of details.

GW2 Burning Lion's Arch

For one, I am sorry to admit, but I don’t like the combat in Guild Wars 2. Well, some parts of it. I miss being a healer so much! I miss having a clear role in a group (even “support” or “control” would be nice). And I miss actually seeing what the enemy is doing, what I’m doing and what the other players are doing (see the screenshot above ^^). Anyway, what I found is that while I really don’t like combat in Guild Wars 2, I also really love combat in Guild Wars 2! :p It all depends on the context and the setting. I still strongly believe that just with a few small changes, the marionette fight would have been perfect. On the other hand, I really do love playing pvp in Guild Wars 2. There, if you ask me, the combat system makes so much more sense! Especially in sPvP where there are no big zergs. This is where the system shines.

Having said that, I wish for more things to do that do not involve combat in the PvE side of the game. Fishing, archaeology (something from WoW), minions like in Rift (not really a game, but something to click…) or the pet battles in WoW – hey, what about Polymock? Any of these things would make me very happy! Instead, we are going to get the mastery system.

And here is where I need more information.

What we do know about acquiring mastery points is this:

The WvW ability system is a bit of a parallel for what we’re trying to accomplish with masteries, so you can use that as a concept. We want to provide that same concept and evolve it even more with PvE. It’ll complement everything that you’re doing: combat, exploration, lore, building, crafting… all of those components will have elements that are supported by it, with combat being the most important one when you think about true, meaningful progression. (Source)

Exploration and lore have potential, but again “combat being the most important”. So, we’ll see.

The one thing that did get me a bit excited were the guild halls. However, this is also the feature that doesn’t seem to get much coverage at all at the moment. I assume (note: subjective impression here :p) that ArenaNet hasn’t actually implemented much of that feature yet. We do get to see a very short scene of guild halls in the trailer which shows them being built in fast forward mode. I hope that they will be more than our home instances and that they will be meaningul and customizable (again, not like home instances).

I would also be excited about the Revenant, but I have to try out the profession first in order to tell you whether I like it or not. In theory, I should absolutely love the necromancer in Guild Wars 2. I love everything about it – in theory. But once I try to play it, I close the game and walk away from the PC within a few minutes. I don’t know what it is, but I cannot play it.

GW2_Heart of Thorns_Rytlock_Revenant_049

Rytlock using an ability

So there you go. My opinion in a nutshell: It sounds like a solid expansion and has everything that people expect from a “classic expansion” (in Guild Wars 2-style, of course, with no new level cap or new tier of armor), but it has nothing that gets me “over the moon”-excited either – wait, there are two things:

  1.  The soundtrack! The one song we got to hear is amazing!
  2. The world design. The one aspect of Guild Wars 2 where I never ever had anything negative to say. The art team is awesome if you ask me.

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Heart of Thorns: Screenshots

Bilingual entry: English first. Scroll down for the German translation.

I had originally just wanted to take a few screenshots of the announcement video to complement my “opinions” post that I’ve been writing since Saturday. However, that post is still not done, but I ended up with more than 100 screenshots. For your convenience, I already sorted out the boring ones and present to you screenshots of Heart of Thorns showing all the good in-game scenes that we were already allowed to see during the video: Specialisations, the maguuma jungle region, Mursaat, Rytlock as Revenant, the new WvW borderlands map and sPvP area (not sure which one is which, to be honest) and of course, the really short glimpse at the guild halls.

I did not include any pictures of the concept art as I wanted to limit it to in-game pictures which represent a lot better what we are actually going to get. :)

Scroll down below the gallery for the German translation / Scrollt unter die Gallerie für die deutsche Übersetzung.

Deutsche Übersetzung

A new Gechi!

With the recent news that “The Elder Scrolls Online” will switch to a buy-to-play model on March 17, bookahnerk and I decided that we do want to explore that world. I had tried the game in beta and while I loved the world design, I wasn’t sold on the game itself, especially with a monthly subscription fee.

I am quite glad that they decided for the buy-to-play model as opposed to free-to-play. You buy the game and you get everything you need in order to enjoy the game immediately. In our case, we even got two copies that still included codes from the pre-order edition (“explorer packs”, I think) which allow you to play every race in every alliance. Originally, one faction has three specific races. But I wanted to play an Argonian and I wanted to play on the starter island of Daggerfall Covenant. I know it probably won’t matter in the long run, but still, I was very happy that I had that freedom now. Otherwise, I would have made an orc for the time being.

SWG Gechi Trandoshan

But back in Star Wars Galaxies, I fell in love with playable reptile species. No, I never “really” played SWG. I just played their free 2 week trial. And I was very close to buying the game and subscribing, but then decided against it, because it was a rather old game, I only had limited time and did not want to pay for yet another monthly subscription fee. Anyway, the game’s random name generator (or just a general one? I don’t remember if the game had one… ^^) had suggested “Gechi Rosix” and I really liked it.

Skyrim_Gechi

I also had an Argonian in Skyrim, but I did not play that game too much. I just really loved having another reptile as a playable character. Why aren’t there more games offering a race like that? We got tons of furry species (cows, wolves, cats, …), after all.

Anyway, when Elder Scrolls Online was announced, the first thing I did was check whether Argonians were playable. But as I said, I did not buy the game – until two days ago. Media Markt had the game for 15 €, so I immediately ordered two copies and we went to pick them up yesterday. I just checked their website again and they are out of that version. But guess what? You can preorder the “Tamriel Edition” for the super sweet deal of 49,99 €. I actually expected them to sell that “Tamriel Edition” for more than you can probably get the game before the switch, but I did not expect such a high price. If you’re German and want to buy a copy for the cheaper price, it seems that Saturn still has a few copies left!

But back to my Gechi, the argonian templar.

TESO Gechi Argonian I do feel nostalgic, even though the Elder Scrolls universe and the Star Wars one couldn’t be more different. But the character still feels the same!

So, here we go. On to new adventures – for 29 days, at least. After that, there’ll be a 3 week break before Zenimax switches to the no-subscription fee model. :p