Category Archives: Game Design

Folk Tale – Is it worth it now?

This week (until May 8), Folk Tale is on sale for 13,79 € on Steam and you may wonder: Is it worth that much money?

For me, games that interest me start being “worth it” below 15 € if they’re new(ish) and below 10 for older games… very old ones below 5. Don’t ask me why, that’s just an arbitrary number that my brain decided is a good anchor.

First things first: Folk Tale is in Early Access on Steam. It has been in development for a very long time (okay, “long” is subjectively used here) which is also because the developers changed the direction of the game and are making it a sandbox game with editors for us players to use and create our own maps and scenarios.

Folk Tale Logo

My readers may remember seeing the topic of “Folk Tale” pop up here from time to time. In fact, it seems that I write about this game about once a year (June 2013, February 2014 part 1 and February 2014 part 2 – and then May 2015 now). The thing is: I actually cannot tell you what has changed in the meantime! I did not have the time to follow its development last year, then I decided to just wait for it to get released and then I got interested in it again this year, but still lacked the time to play with the editor mode. I have been watching the livestreams on Twitch every now and then, but those mostly happen right after I have come home from work and I just cannot concentrate too much at that point and usually just listen to the game’s background music and to the developer’s accent while preparing dinner. :p

Additionally, quite a lot has been added actually and been tweaked with. What I do know is that apart from lots of work on the editor, the old tutorial is gone and a new one is being introduced. You can read more about this in their latest developer blog post.

I have not tried it yet, so I figured when I saw this game is on sale, that I should give the tutorial a try to write about my experience here. You know, just in case you are trying to decide whether to buy it or not and want somebody’s opinion. I am going to warn you, though: My opinion is not meant as a “you should buy it” or “you should not buy it”. Please do not take it as a review or anything of the sort. It’s just my own opinion that you can use to make a judgment of your own if you want to.

The tutorial map has voice over already and it slowly guides you through building a functioning village. I admit, when I first played Folk Tale back in 2013 with the old tutorial I was a bit disappointed. The game I had seen in the tutorial was fine, but when I had first read about the game, I had imagined it to be more similar to Cultures. A gaming series that I will forever hold dear! I spent way too many hours – while studying – playing the game. Okay, maybe Cultures (the first one, not the sequels) was a taaad slow sometimes. ;) Still, I loved the graphics and the game design. So, Folk Tale was good, but did not quite fit that niche. The sandbox direction changed that, though. It feels almost exactly like Cultures and I really love that!

The first thing you do is place a supply waggon, so your villagers have a place to put all their important supplies (the usual: stone, wood, food). After that, you gather a bit of wood and food to get you started. Then you place a woodcutter hut, a fishing hut, a hunter’s lodge and, of course, fields, a windmill and a bakery. Once again, this is exactly what I did in Cultures… or Banished, for that matter.

The soundtrack is really nice to listen to, even for a longer amount of time. I know too many games where the music sounds nice, but the loops are too short and it starts to get on my nerves in no time. With Folk Tale, I can have the game open in the background and just enjoy the songs for a while. Including the birds’ chirping when you’re on a map. ;)

The graphics are more on the comic than on the realistic side and I have to admit, I actually prefer that over the realistic graphics. The voice overs, as far as they are available already, are also really good. Your villagers only have two voices, though: Male and female. I don’t know if more voices will be added.

The economy is in there already with chains like fields, windmill, bakery and well as well as a hunting lodge plus a butcher. Villagers produce and use goods and they can be happy as well as unhappy. If they become too unhappy, they will leave the village leaving you with nobody to work for you.

But building and micromanaging your villagers’ needs is not all there is in this game. It is not like Banished where you focus on building with nothing else. In the tutorial, you are soon introduced to pesky kobolds that you need to fight against with your villagers. So be prepared to train your villagers to defend – and expand – their village! This is another similarity to Cultures where you could train militia as well as equip them with certain items (more so in the sequels than the original Cultures game).

And just after I had typed this and fought against the kobolds successfully, the tutorial asked me to place down a blacksmith. The only problem is: There are apparently more enemies in the fog of war and arrows appeared that shot down my building before it was even built. The resources to build said building were already spent, though. I also then got a message that my villagers were under attack. By clicking on the notification icon, I was taken directly to the action and only saw my villagers walk back towards the centre of the village. I have no idea what attacked them, but thankfully, no villager got seriously harmed either. ;)

With not enough stone, I had to find some and ask a peasant to collect it manually since the tutorial has not yet asked me to build a stonecutter’s lodge. Some people may not like that, but I actually do. This made the tutorial far less boring than some “on the rails” tutorials. On the other hand, if a tutorial goes too fast and overwhelms you with information or if the controls are hard to handle, then I also get frustrated easily if something goes wrong in the tutorial.

Folk Tale_SwampAnyway, this is enough about the tutorial. What else is there to do at the moment? There are a few maps you can choose with indicators of their difficulty (ranging from easy to hard). I have not tried them out, but the swamp one looked interesting, at least. Well, it’s a swamp region where you can settle with your villagers. Not too inviting, but I still liked the look of it.

Right below the “New Game” button, you can find the editors. You still have the map editor that’s been in the game for a longer time already, and then there is the character designer. The latter is funny to watch, especially with voice animations turned on, but other than that, it doesn’t serve a purpose yet, I think.

Folk Tale Location Editor

The Location Editor

The map editor still looks similar to when I last played with it. However, I am completely lost when it comes to the controls in this editor. Thankfully, Games Foundry (the developers) make heavy use of the Steam forums and you can actually find a subforum for this editor there complete with guides etc. Since I already wrote about this part and do not want to read up on the controls again now, I will not write about this again here. But I do feel the need to add that my old post about this editor doesn’t do it any justice anymore, I think. Just by looking at the kits (each kit contains several items you can place that all belong to that kit’s theme), I can already say that a lot of things have been added. When I worked on a map, there were maybe three kits to choose from. Now I counted 33 kits. Some with only a handful items in there, some with more than 100.

Folk Tale WorkbenchOne more feature has been added to the map editor: The workbench! Now this is a feature that I would really love to understand and be able to work with right away! Of course, it took me several minutes now to figure out how to even open this feature. :p As with many other things, there is a guide available from the developers. It is quite easy, actually. You just press “Y” when you’re in the editor. With the workbench, you can create quests and world events, apparently. This will eventually enable all players to create their own maps and missions with goals to reach etc. I am already looking forward to seeing what all the creative people out there will create.

All things considered, I still do not regret having paid money for this game almost two years ago. True, the game is still not finished and yes, I wish it was. :p I am still confident, though, that they will finish this product and that I will enjoy it once it is here, because over the course of the last two years, it has slowly but surely become more and more the game I had at first hoped it would be one day. And once again, the reason why I am confident is that there are constant updates – not just patches that progress the development, but also communication from the developers. You can watch the livestreams on Twitch (or on demand if you missed one) where one of the developers shows you what they are working on and even answers questions that the chat asks (which means that you can ask questions, too!). So if you don’t know whether you want to invest in this game, head over there and watch the videos. You can read through the Folk Tale forums on Steam or read more about the game on the official website.

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.

Guild Wars 2 vs. Rift vs. Trove: Part 3 (Character Creation)

GW2 vs Rift vs Trove logoThis is the third post in the blog post series “Guild Wars 2 vs. Rift vs. Trove”. The title may suggest that at the end of this series, I will tell you which games is the best of the best, … But I will not do that! While the purpose of this series is to compare those games to a certain degree, my goal is to give you a thorough overview to help you figure out which game is the best for what you want from a game. Or maybe just to figure out whether those three games are interesting for you at all, independently of each other.

If you missed the previous postings, you can find them here:
Part 1: Basic information
Part 2: Lore

In this part, we will look at the character creation. I previously already covered it in the “Basic information” post, but I felt it deserves more space than that. I know that some people just hit “randomize” and they are done. If you are one of those, you may want to skip this part. ;) Others, like me, can easily spend hours in the character creation screen.

I will also cover the dreaded “how much does it cost?” question when you want to make changes with your character later on. A topic that I had quickly mentioned in Part 1: Basic information where I covered the payment models of those games. Remember: Trove and Rift are “free to play”, Guild Wars 2 is “buy to play” and all three feature in-game shops which mostly offer cosmetic items. Both Rift and Guild Wars 2 also offer you ways to spend in-game currency in order to get credits/gems (the games’ currencies you usually buy for real money). So, whenever I say that something is only available for “real money”, there are ways to circumvent this, but they usually require quite a lot of in-game currency to do so.

trove-logoTrove’s character creation is both very short and also, 100 % free. So far, there is nothing in the shop at all that would make your basic character look different from others. “Basic” because clothes, weapons, mounts and so on don’t count.

The initial character creation is very simple: You choose a name and off you go. Be careful here: You cannot change your character’s name afterwards! If you are unhappy with it, then you will have to create a new account or live with your choice.

There is no character customization at first, but in the tutorial, you can already find the barbershop. The first one is right behind where you spawn in the tutorial area. My first thought was: Which genius’s idea was that? But then I saw that there is another barbershop right before you exit the tutorial area. And even if you manage to miss both of them, you can easily access them later. In short: You will be able to change the look of your character whenever you want.

Anyway, the character creation is, as I said, rather simple. You can choose to be a lady or a guy, undead, robot, dragon or ghost pirate. When you go with lady or guy, you can choose between a few different skin colour tones. Additionally, there are hair styles, hair colours and eye colours to choose. Changing your appearance does not cost anything, neither in-game currency nor real money.

Once you are out of the tutorial, you can find the barbershop in the main hub (accessed by pressing “H” for a long time) and you can even craft barbershops and put them in your cornerstone and your club world.

Rift_Logo_transparentRift is a traditional MMORPG, so it lets you make a lot more choices than Trove. Character creation in Rift consists of the following steps: Choose a server, a faction, a race and a gender, a calling, a purpose and finally, your look and your name.

Choose a server

Rift_EU shard selection

The EU shards

Yes, unfortunately, Rift is one of those games where your character belongs to one server (called “shard” in Rift). However, good news is that you can play on a friend’s server with just one click and you can even transfer servers for free (yes, seriously!) with only a cooldown period that you’ve got to wait before you can transfer that character again (I think it’s 7 days). US and EU servers are separated. However, in the game’s launcher, you can choose if you want to play on EU or US servers. They are distinct servers (and data centers, I assume), so you cannot transfer a EU character to a US server. But at least, you can play on all servers if you want to! Just go and create a new character on that US server – and don’t forget that you switch between EU and US servers in the launcher (which is also where you can choose the public test realm, by the way, if you want to have a look at the upcoming features of the game)!

On the EU servers, you can choose a German, a French or English PvE servers. There is also one PvP server for EU players, Bloodiron. “Trübkopf” used to be a German PvP server but they were merged with Bloodiron some time ago.

In the US setting, you can choose between PvE servers, one PvE-RP server (Faeblight) and two PvP servers. One of the PvP servers is marked as “Trial Only Server”, no idea what that means… The others are all regular PvE servers with one, Laethys, marked as “Oceanic”.

Choose a faction

Defiant or Guardian - Choose now

Defiant or Guardian – Choose now

The next step is choosing a faction: “Guardians” or “Defiants”. The two factions, Guardians and Defiants, both have their own starting area, but there are no different starting areas between the three different races per faction. I explained a bit about the background story and the two factions in the Lore post. If you want to play a race that does not belong to your favourite faction, here’s good news: You can later change your character’s race (for a fee of 2400 credits) and can thus play any race in either of the factions. Also, on PvE servers, both factions can be in one guild together and play together perfectly. Only the enemy faction’s NPCs react hostile towards you.

Choose a race

On Guardian side, you can choose between three different races: Mathosians, High Elf and dwarf. On Defiant side, you can choose between Eth, Kelari and Bahmi. I will give you a very quick overview over the different races: The Mathosians are humans, as are the Eth. If you like humans, both factions give you that choice. From the Lore post, you may remember King Jostir and his two sons who, while fighting over the throne, caused the Shade War (yes, that’s a very short version of that story). Those were Mathosians. The Eth originally come from the south and are more like nomads nowadays. The Eth and the Mathosians are a bit different in their looks with the Eth giving you some slightly darker skin choices. There are also differences in the hair colours and the hair styles. But honestly, at the end of the day, both races really are just that: humans.

The same can probably be said about the elves. The High Elves are the lighter skinned ones and the Kelari are the… well in this case, the weird ones, I would say. You can’t just choose darker skin colours like you can with the humans on the other faction: The Kelari are actually purple-skinned with mostly pink hair colours. The description of the High Elves sounds like every other fantasy game out there (sorry, just being honest here and “not a fan” of elves as usual): “The oldest of the races of Telara, the High Elves are the protectors of the land. Wise and skilled, their tranquil nature masks a ruthless dedication to the gods.” Then we get the description of the Kelari of which I only quote the first sentence: “The elves of the lost Kelari isles have been tainted by generations of exposure to raw planar magic”. At some point, High Elves and Kelari were one tribe (or whatever you call elves here). That has been long ago and the Kelari split from the High Elves and left. Obviously, because I assume High Elves would never do that. ;) Kelari changed in looks since then, probably because of the planar magic mentioned above.

The two remaining races are nothing alike: Bahmi and Dwarves. Dwarves are just standard dwarves, except that you can give the male ones cool grey and white bushy hair and beards while the female dwarves look much younger, no matter what you choose. The Bahmi are the largest race in the game. If you ask me, the heads of the male Bahmi are a tiny bit too small. They look weird! Just like the Kelari, they mostly have purple skin colours to choose from. Their beards are also much less impressive than those of the dwarves!

So, in short, the Defiants are humans and two purplish races with pointy ears while the Guardians are the typical fantasy races: humans, elves and dwarves.

Choose a class/calling/profession

Rift_Purpose Beastlord

Warrior purpose: Beastlord. The pet changes appearance as it levels up with you.

Next up is choosing a calling (the basic “class” in Rift from which you can still specialize further down). Since I wrote about the available classes in the first part of this blog post series already, I will not get into it again now. However, you do not just choose your calling (just a quick recap: warrior, cleric, mage and rogue are the callings), but you also choose your “purpose”. This is a fancy term to say “the build you will start the game with”. :p For example, as a warrior you get the choices of “Righteous Defender” (a tank build), “Lord of War”, “Overlord” and “Fury” (DPS builds), “Auramancer” (healer build) and “Beastlord” (support build). As you can see, the calling can serve any purpose in the “holy trinity + support”. The same goes for the other four callings. You always get to choose at least one build for every role that is available, e.g., tank. This is a choice to get you started. You will not have to stick with it and you can easily change it later on, so don’t worry about making a “wrong” choice here!

Personalizing the look of your character

The character creation process itself lets you change quite a few things of your character’s look including the standard options of hair style, hair, skin and eye colour, nose, mouth and ear shapes (the latter is especially important for our poiny-eared elvish friends). You cannot change the body type, only the height of your character. You can see the options in the screenshot gallery above.

Then all you need to do is enter a name (one word only, no spaces allowed) and off you go.

How many character slots do I get?

This depends on the “version” of your game. The base game only gives you two character slots per server, but if you want to try out all four callings, you certainly can: Just choose two different servers to do so. The first boxed expansion gave you more character slots. I don’t think they are easily available anymore. But of course, you can also buy more character slots in the game’s shop for 720 credits each (which equals 3,69 € with the smallest credit pack and 2,99 € with the most expensive credit pack you can buy). Each character slot unlocks one extra slot on every available server.

GW2_Logo_kl_transparentCharacter creation in Guild Wars 2 differs a bit, as the game features a “personal story” that accompanies your character from level 1 to 80 (max level in the game). It is basically a quest chain giving you one quest at a time. At certain points up until level 30, the storyline branches depending on which choices you made at the character creation. Altogether, character creation consists of the following steps: You choose a server and a region (US or EU), a race, a gender, a profession, your look, your personal story steps, your starter pet if you chose to play as a ranger (you can get the others  easily later on!) and your name.

Choose a region and a server

In Guild Wars 2, you have to decide for one region in which you will be able to play: EU or US servers. You cannot switch between regions like you can in Rift. You can, of course, buy a second GW2 game and use that to play in the other region, but those two accounts will be independent from each other.

GW2_World Select screenJust like Rift, Guild Wars 2 is separated into servers. A couple of months ago, ArenaNet introduced megaservers (before that, there was the guesting system allowing you to play on another server with your character). This means that when you enter a map (for example, the Asuran city Rata Sum), you will be placed there together with players from all EU servers until the map is full. If more players want to enter Rata Sum, another map will open. When maps have free spaces, different rules apply to determine where you will be placed. For example, the language of your server (in Europe, GW2 has English, French, German and Spanish servers) increases your chances of being put on Rata Sum with others whose home server shares the same language. Guild members are also placed on the same map primarily. There are ways to join your friends on the same map even without having to rely on the automated system.

There is really just one thing where the chosen home server really matters: “world vs. world” (WvW). We will talk about what WvW in the PvP blog post for this series. In short: WvW consists of four maps where players from your home server play against players from two other servers. Megaservers are not in place here! So, if PvP is your thing, choose very wisely (and ask your friends which server they are on if you want to play WvW with them).

Transferring servers is possible, but it costs money. The cost of a server transfer is either 500, 1000 or 1800 gems depending on where the goal server is placed on the WvW ranking. You can also transfer for free if you delete every single character on your account. But we do not want to delete characters, we want to create one!

Choose a race

The next step is choosing a race. There is a much bigger variety here than in Rift, even though there are only five different races to choose from (and 6 in Rift). Also, every race has its own starting zone.

If you prefer humans, then “human” is your top choice (obviously…), followed by Norn who are basically “tall humans” (look-wise). Humans are easy enough to explain: They have the biggest background lore, as back in Guild Wars 1 (the first game ArenaNet made), you could not play any other race but humans. They were put on Tyria by the Gods and consequently fought against the Charr as they were settling on Charr lands. Long and bitter years of war followed. By now, they are at a truce, but it’s not an easy one. The Charr reclaimed their home and are now living in Ascalon again trying to fight against the remaining human ghosts there (longer story…). They’re a “humanoid cat race” that run on all four legs.

Norn are originally from the Shiverpeak Mountains, a snowy and icy region of Tyria. They are about 9 foot tall, very tough and the biggest honor for them is to die in a glorious battle with their legend told about afterwards. The role of the “tiny race” is filled by the Asura (there used to be dwarves in Tyria, but that is also a longer story that you will get to learn about when you play the game). As tiny as they are, as big is their mental brain power and also their ego. They used to live below the ground but were made to flee by one of the Elder Dragon’s champions.

Last but not least, we’ve got the Sylvari: A race that on first glance may fill the “elf role”. Their characters and their culture are nothing like elves, though. In short: Sylvari are born from the “Pale Tree” and are basically this tree’s interpretation of what a human looks like: Sylvari are plants that simply look like humans. The oldest ones have not even reached 30 years of age as they did not bloom from the Pale Tree before that. In other words: They are a very young race that is currently more than ever trying to find out where they belong in this world. I cannot say more about this here as it would contain spoilers. Look for more information on the official wiki if you are curious and don’t mind spoilers before setting foot into the game.

Choose a class/calling/profession

After choosing your race, you get to choose from the professions. Just as the other games, every race and every gender can be every profession. I will not go into the detail of every single profession at this point. There are currently two heavy armor professions (warrior and guardian), three with medium armor (thief, engineer and ranger) and three with light armor (necromancer, mesmer and elementalist). If you’re asking yourself which profession you should choose, I can recommend these posts on Reddit. The author did a great job summarizing the professions!

Personalizing the look of your character

GW2_Nose option

All nose sliders on the left

Just like Rift, you get a lot of different options for choosing hair styles, hair colours, skin colours and so on. Of course, sliders for noses, eyebrows etc. are available as well. You can also change the height of your character – within reason. You cannot make an asura taller than a norn or vice versa. ;) Additionally, you can also choose different body types. Charr can choose different fur patterns as well as different horns. Asura can choose between different skin patterns and different ear shapes (and adjust the size of their ears). Tattoos are available for norn and sylvari get skin patterns and different “glow in the dark” colours. Humans are… humans. They don’t get anything special. You can see a few more options than just the nose slider in the gallery above.

Choose your personal story

Once you are happy with the look of your character, you have to fill in a few “gaps” in statements spoken by your character. I will take the norn guardian as an example.

1. “As a symbol of my dedication, I wear __________” – You can choose between two different kinds of pauldrons or a helmet. These will also unlock the chosen item’s look for your wardrobe for future use, but it has no other effect than that. The items you can choose from are based on which profession you are creating.

2. The second statement is about your character’s personality. You can choose between charm, dignity and ferocity. This is the same for every character you create. Even at launch, this “personality” stat did not mean much and ArenaNet has hidden the display of those stats in one of the last patches. As far as I know, we did not get an explanation on why it was essentially taken out.

3. Now there are three more statements which vary based on the race you have chosen. Your chosen answers will influence the beginning of your personal storyline (until level 30). Don’t worry about what you choose here! Your story will be different from people who chose other answers, but you will not, for example, find out that as a warrior or an elementalist, you should have chosen X over Y to be stronger later on. The personal storyline has no influence on your character’s stats or anything like that. It is purely for entertainment.

Last but not least, you get to choose a character name. Guild Wars 2 lets you add spaces, so you can give your character a surname if you want to. If you want to choose a name that fits to the game’s lore, I can recommend this article for more information.

How many character slots do I get?

After buying the game, you will have five character slots. Since you can only choose one server, there is no switching to different servers to create more characters like you can do in Rift. If you want to play all professions (there are eight), then you need to either delete one of your existing characters and free up that slot or buy another character slot. One character slot costs 800 gems. This is either 10 €/$ or 144 gold (the gem-to-gold ratio is constantly changing, so the price may differ when you’re reading this).

This is it for the basic character creation process in all three games. But sometimes, you change your mind or a game even offers some exclusive looks that were not available during the initial character creation. So, let’s have a look at what you can do here in the three games.

Can I change my character’s look after creating it?

“Yes!” is the answer for all three games here! Trove lets you change your look for free, but it also has the least options to begin with anyway. Since the game’s first “launch” (Alpha, then closed and now open beta), a few new hair styles, skins etc. were introduced, but they are always available in the game’s barbershop for free.

Rift gives you the basic functions (as seen in the paragraph “Personalizing the look of your character” above) for free. Your calling, race, gender, faction and name stay. If you want to change those features, then Rift asks for money. For example, changing your race costs 2400 credits (which is between 10 and 12 € depending on which credit pack you buy). This payment is for one character and one change only. But this is how you can play a race not available for your faction on initial character creation.

You can also pay a one-time fee for features that were not available during initial character creation. There are three bundles with which you unlock the ability to choose every race’s skin colours or hair colours in the game’s barbershop or 4 additional hair styles for every race/gender combination. As those are unlocks, paying for either of those bundles once means you can use that feature as often as you like with every character on your account following the initial purchase.

Guild Wars 2 doesn’t give you any of those functions for free. You need to buy either a self-style hair kit for 250 gems (which is 3,13 € – or 2,50 € per piece if you buy 5 at once) or a total makeover kit  for 350 gems (which is 4,38 € – or 3,50 € per piece if you buy 5 at once). The first one only lets you change the hair colour, the hair style and some extra features for some of the races like the horns for charr and the ears for asura. The total makeover kit lets you change everything that you were able to set during the initial character creation. With both kits, you also get access to exclusive choices like new hair styles, hair colours and eye colours (eye colours only with the total makeover kit). Once you have changed your look, the kit disappears and if you want to change something again, you need to buy another one. ArenaNet also sometimes adds new hair styles, colours and eye colours. Unfortunately, access to those new styles is not available during the initial character creation process. Changing your race is not possible in Guild Wars 2. This is also because of your personal storyline being tied to your race choice which would make a change complicated as those quests would have to be changed as well then.

Conclusion so far

Trove is a class of its own, I think. With the blocky graphics, it is just not possible to have detailed faces and hair styles. But at least, they let you switch the look for free whenever you like.

In case you haven’t been able to tell from my writing, I am not a great fan of parts of the character creation in Rift. Most of all, the races are a bit bland and boring (with the exception of the dwarves, obviously!). Still, it is a solid character creation process with everything necessary available. Guild Wars 2, however, wins when it comes to that part: Several interesting and distinctive races with some solid choices to make and faces that look greatly different from one another.

But as soon as you have created your character and want to make choices later on or access exclusive features, Rift wins again. It lets you make changes for free (or at least, for a one-time fee to unlock the exclusive features) while Guild Wars 2 asks for money every single time. Both the basic and the exclusive options are behind a pay wall, and not a one-time fee either, but a fee you have to pay whenever you want to use one of those features with any of your characters.

If you’re lucky, however, you get the perfect look from the start and then all of this doesn’t matter anyway (or you get a kit out of the RNG boxes with a key that dropped for free – it’s incredibly rare, but it can happen).

Now you probably want to know now what you can actually do in those games with your character, right? We will take a look at the PvE side of the games in the next part of this blog post series.

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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