Valhalla Hills: Impressions from the outside (Blaugust Day 30)

Just a quick warning: I will start with Valhalla Hills and detour to Cultures in the end. :p But there is a very good reason for this: The developers of Valhalla Hills are “Funatics“. The very same Funatics that made the Cultures series. There is only a German wikipedia article, but the table of the games they developed is readable either way. The first Cultures game was released in 2000. The add-on followed in 2001, Cultures 2 came out in 2002, as did Cultures: Northland. The last of the series, 8th Wonder of the World, followed in 2003. The Cultures versions after that were mostly bundles and one new mission if I remember correctly. But let’s not forget about the Settlers games! The guys working on Cultures – and now, Valhalla Hills – are the very same who worked on Settlers II and some of the following Settlers games. Their website also has an “About us” (and it’s in English). If you want to read more, head to their website. :)

Now Funatics is “back” (they were never really gone, it seems, but I thought they were as I hadn’t heard from them) and they are working on “Valhalla Hills“. The game is also already available on Steam Early Access. As the title says, I can only tell you about my impressions from outside the game. I just recently wrote about “backing games” and since it’s in early access, this is a perfect example of a game that I follow, quite intensely even, but that I have not decided to back yet.

They launched on Steam Early Access on August 24, so only a few days ago, and there is already an abundance of information available in German, but not as much in English. I found a handful of videos. The first one I’m embedding here is from the developers talking a bit about the game and showing it in the process.

So in short, it is a game inspired by and thus, in a way also related to the Settlers and Cultures. You have your little vikings and build a village/settlement with them. In this case, they wanted to enter Valhalla, but Odin did not let them in. Now they are trying to prove they are worthy enough to get in there! You cannot directly control your vikings, but you can tell them to build something and so on.

The second video shows… some guy playing and commenting. I don’t know that YouTuber. I just tried to find any reasonable video in English, to be honest and his is what I found. :p

A German Twitch channel was streaming yesterday and the guy there had two of the developers in his stream. Of course, it was German only. They answered several questions, but the most important one for me was about the DLC. I don’t know if they have made the information available on Steam as well by now. I would certainly hope so! The most expensive of the game versions you can buy on Steam comes with “the first DLC for free” whenever they are going to release said DLC. The developers were asked what this DLC will be and they said that they haven’t planned this far ahead yet, but that it’ll be more “expansion-like” and less “here, have another costume, give us 3 € now!”.

While I liked hearing that – and the stream in general – here is why I haven’t bought it yet: I am skeptical of where the game is heading! Quite a lot of things are still “not decided” by the developers, for example.

Don’t get me wrong. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they know what they are doing… The Cultures series is my favourite game series ever and I played these games for so many hours. They were my trustworthy partners while I studied for university. I should probably add here that the Cultures games are rather slow sometimes and you can easily play them while reading texts, making notes, memorizing said notes and so on. :p They brought me the right amount of entertainment and distraction. But from what I have seen so far, it looks as if Cultures is the “better” game (for me). I like that I can choose which of my Vikings does what, especially as I gave them surnames in order to find my Baker, Miller etc. again later. But there is more than that. The graphics of Valhalla Hills remind me of a game made for a tablet or something and I do wonder if we will get as many features as we had in Cultures. How big will the economy be in the end? Will there be bigger maps than the ones we have seen so far? Also, you cannot rotate the camera freely. You can move some way to the left and the right, but you cannot get “behind” the island. Buildings can’t be rotated,…

Of course, those things could turn out to be rather minor and the game could still be great fun. Their FAQ list does not actually help to lift my skepticism, though: No map editor, no free building mode (you can continue playing on a map once you have finished your mission, but that’s it), currently no multiplayer mode – but they are thinking about that one, at least. But here’s the biggest issue: Why should I pay 16 € (20 when it’s not on sale anymore) for a game when I have the full set of Cultures (re-bought it on gog.com a few months ago) and the games all still work flawlessly? A new game should give me more than the previous ones and that is what I’m missing at the moment.

By the way, Cultures is on sale on Steam until August 31: 3,59 € for 8th Wonder and Northland. 1,99 € for each if bought separately. If you prefer gog.com, you can also buy them on there (DRM-free even): Cultures 1 + 2 for 8.79 € (currently not on sale) and Northland and 8th Wonder also for 8.79 € (not on sale). Recommendation? Yes! I know the subject line says “Valhalla Hills” but I just have to write about Cultures at this point. Those games released years ago, so it’s quite safe to say that they are what they are, while the Early Access game could still change in direction. They are old, yes. But they work perfectly on my machine (Windows 7, 64 bit). In fact, while they don’t have a windowed mode, you can choose your monitor’s resolution, at least. Or so I assume since I can choose 1920*1080 and I know that back in the early 2000s, I did not have a monitor with such a large resolution. ;)

In fact, I reinstalled 8th Wonder yesterday and started playing the campaign again. Cultures has a campaign mode, single player maps, a map editor (Valhalla Hills won’t have one as maps are generically created), multiplayer mode,… As I said, those are feature-complete. I also like the soundtrack and the 8th Wonder has a nice setting: There is a dark threat looming. Some children stopped growing for unknown reasons. You arrive on the new land which gets shaken by strange earthquakes and you are asked to help rebuild the Seven Wonders of the World and stop that dark threat. I can’t actually say more about the story, as I never got that far in this game. I’d lost my save games at some point and then didn’t want to continue playing anymore, because I’d been too annoyed with myself. ;) But here I am now, playing Cultures again! So, if this is your kind of game: Go for it! The sale lasts until August 31.

Also, don’t let me keep you from investing in Valhalla Hills. I don’t want to talk bad about an unreleased game that is still in development. I am just sharing with you why I haven’t bought it yet, even though this is the kind of game I should buy without thinking twice (especially as it is from the very same people who gave me Cultures). It is on my wishlist, though, and I am following their development steps to see if it turns out to be a game I want to have. :)

This post is part of Blaugust 2015.

Wildstar Community Event – Blaugust Day 8

Cologne

We had originally planned to go to the Trion party on Thursday evening and I was looking forward to it, especially as they announced the new Primalist calling there. However, then we had received invitations for the Wildstar and Blade & Soul Event. Since we did not know anybody who went to the Trion party, but knew several who were also going to the Wildstar one (Tasha, for example), we decided to head there instead. Also, the food sounded too promising: Korean BBQ – and it lived up to its promise! I definitely need  to find a recipe for that glass noodle salad!

I don’t know how good the Trion party was. I assume it went very well, because they had this great announcement, after all, and what seemed to look like a great location for the party as well (and vintage shuttle busses!). But what I do know is that we had a great time with the guys from NCsoft. The event location was also closer to the gamescom convention center. So, on Thursday morning we drove to a parking deck close to where the community event took place and walked to the gamescom convention center. In my gamescom-post I will show you a picture of the amazing view from the huge bridge that leads to the area where the koelnmesse is located which is where gamescom takes place every year. For now, enjoy the image on the left which shows a church and old colourful tiny houses. As you can probably guess, there are lots of pubs and restaurants in that area. It is also right at the Rhine which makes it even more beautiful!

So, let me show you some more pictures of the view as well as the community event and tell you what happened there. Just a heads-up: No, we were not told when Wildstar will go free to play and we did not receive any other insider information. ;)

Wildstar Community Event

People came in slowly. The event had started at 7.30 pm, but gamescom was open until 8 and I know that at least the guys from Guildnews came a bit later because they still had some appointments late afternoon at gamescom. While the pubs and restaurants aren’t that far away, when you walk, it’s about a 30 minutes walk – which bookahnerk and I had made, because the weather was so good and we just love walking through that part of Cologne. As I said above, the view is amazing! Anyway, on the right you can see a tiny part of the roof terrace of the event. You can also see the barbecue being prepared on the left of that picture, right inside the pavilion.

What we both really liked was seeing how the guys from NCsoft interacted with their guests and that they actually approached us and started conversations. We had quite a nice conversation with Omeed Dariani, the Director of Community and Social at NCsoft West. Of course, one of the topics was Wildstar, but the conversation soon switched to a more general “what is important to make people seriously try out a game and not leave within the first minute”. It was quite interesting to hear about his insights and experiences.

On the pictures, it actually looks like there weren’t that many people present, but the location was so big with the space inside and then the roof terrace, that this is misleading apparently. I had actually thought we had been fewer people than at the GW2 community event on the following day, but was told that there were more at the Wildstar one. I always find it difficult to judge numbers. I am more the “crowded / not-crowded” kind of person. :p So, it was not-crowded at the Wildstar event, but we were quite a lot of people there.

Wildstar Community EventThey had also set up PCs to try out Wildstar and Blade & Soul. We did not try Wildstar because we both own the game anyway. However, we tried out Blade & Soul. For those who don’t know: Blade & Soul is an MMORPG developed by NCsoft which originally released in South Korea in 2012 already. Other Asian countries followed, but no Western version had been released so far. Now they are working on the localization and we will get to play it at some point in Q4 2015. My main problem with the game was that we were thrown into it with premade characters that had a certain level already. I had no idea what to do. The combat seemed fast and action-oriented. The controls were easy and “fluid”, for lack of a better word. I am not sure Blade & Soul is my kind of game, but at least, I wasn’t terribly bored either. :p We both only played for a few minutes, because after all, we don’t go to such an event to play games. It is much more interesting to talk to others, especially those that you usually cannot talk to (like developers) or people who you know from online, but don’t have the chance to meet often.

A quite funny moment was when we realized that we knew Jan, the German community manager for Wildstar, from waaaay back when Warhammer Online was still up and running. He had been writing news about the game at that point and had generally been a very active part of the German Warhammer Online community. The (gaming) world is such a small one sometimes. Too bad we didn’t have the time to get all nostalgic about WAR with him – although at the same time, we did meet another guy who had been actively playing the game a few years ago and we talked to him for a bit.

I actually thought I had taken more pictures of the people there, but it turns out, I didn’t. I do have a few pictures of the view, though, so let me show you those first.

As I said, the food was also really great. We had a buffet and there were lots of really good things on there. My favourite was the Korean glass noodle salad. As I said above, I really wish I had that recipe! We will try to make it ourselves. Bookahnerk is actually quite amazing when it comes to figuring out which spices were used in preparing a dish. I can’t do that, so I just rely on his senses here. I did not think of taking a picture of the food. I was too focused on consuming it instead. ;) But I saw that Guildnews released a short video from that event. It’s in German, but the scenes you can see don’t really need words.

The video starts showing the masses arrive at gamescom on Thursday. Then Alex (the guy you can hear) introduces some people from Guildnews and shows the GW2 Twitch booth. At 3:15, they are on their way to the community event. At 3:50, you can finally see the location. Well, both the food and the location. It is probably much better to imagine what it was like with the video than with my few lousy pictures above.

But hey, even though I always intend to take more pictures, if, at the end of the day, I don’t have that many, it means that I had a great time and enjoyed myself or else I wouldn’t have forgotten to take all those pictures. :p I have said it before, but I will say it once again: Thank you, NCsoft and most of all, Jan, for inviting us! We had an amazing time at the community event and hope to see you again soon!

This post is part of Blaugust 2015.

Foostival 2014: Interview with Ramon

Foostival_Interview with Ramon

Update: Check out the corresponding gem cards giveaway (EU-only). Open until March 31! This is the interview from Foostival with Ramon Domke, the German community manager of Guild Wars 2 (click this link for the Guildnews version and this link for the Wartower one – the videos are identical!). It was done completely in German and even though nothing spectacular was revealed, it is still fun to listen to it and we thought it may be a good idea to translate it and share it with the rest of the community!

On the left, you see Johannes (Lord Walek) from Wartower. The guy on the right is Alex (Sputti) from Guildnews. The one in the middle with the pretty pink shirt is Ramon. Prior to Foostival, they had asked their communities to give them questions they can ask Ramon Domke, who is the German community manager for Guild Wars 2. Alex asked his community for more personal questions, so most of those below are from him.

I decided not to translate everything they said literally. The video is more than one hour long, so I assume you can understand why I didn’t do that. ;) I tried to stay as close as possible to the answers Ramon gave while summarizing and translating them. Sometimes, they are closer to what was said literally. I’ve also added a few comments in ((brackets)) where necessary (like the changes of the reveal dates for the features pack or when I wasn’t sure I got the correct translation).

Ramon starts with the warning that there will be one sentence in three variations that you will be hearing in his replies pretty often (and he assures us, he hates it as much as we do):
1) I can’t say anything about that.
2) We’re not talking about this yet.
3) Nothing is ever off the table.

He tries to answer the questions as best as he can.

1. Loot and reward system: Will there be changes e.g. in dungeons and fractals? Champion runs get better rewards than other things in the game.

He can’t promise which direction the changes will take, but there will be changes. Different content should be rewarded similarly. There is a “loots and rewards” team looking at how different things are rewarded, so changes will definitely come. He can’t say if they’ll be viewed positively or negatively in the beginning.

2. Will there be changes in the skill system or how the enemies behave? So far, damage is more important than anything. Support is more of a burden to the group.

Ramon knows this feedback. They have just released the first information about the features pack and those are the first steps towards this direction where eventually different builds should be equal. On the other hand, with the open world content, they try to implement different game mechanics to make different builds strong.

3. What does Ramon think about the professions’ balance?

He’s not too keen on speed runs or getting the most gold per hour played. He most often plays with friends and can play with less effective builds, but he can understand that there are issues, especially with PUGs where they say “You either have this build or you can’t come!”

4. Are they still working on a solution to limited condition stacks?

There are lots of developers and are trying to find a solution, but the last things they tried out resulted in the server infrastructure to go down. There was too much tracking of e.g. stacks of different lengths. It’s not off the table.

5. New profession/weapon combinations: Are they planning this?

He wouldn’t exclude the possibility of this, but nothing will come in the next weeks or months. There will be the features patch next and then they will continue the living story.

Or more skills per weapon? E.g. switching between/choosing skills?

That is an interesting idea. If they can implement this reasonably, then why not. Either through a different weapon or by giving one weapon more skills. It would maybe be easier to just put in a new weapon.

6. What was the reason for only now giving free retraiting?

They looked at different systems – not only about retraiting. And they thought: Who is disadvantaged the most? When retraiting, then it is the beginners, who don’t have that much gold yet. They need to travel to a city, then retrait and travel back. That’s 10 silvers which is a lot for a beginner. Or you want to try out something. You’re out in the world fighting a veteran, you die and think: What can I do? You can now try different things without having to travel. It’s a much more interesting game now. The answer is: because they want to make the game better and because they grow together with the community.
He gives the example of Guild Wars 1. On the back of the Prophecies box was an example build with a warrior. It was completely ineffective. Developers had put it there as an example build, but the players who brought in new build ideas every day developed the game along.

7. What does he think about the upcoming warrior trait where you get more attack speed with two one-handed weapons ((dual-wield agility)) and if he knows how it stacks with quickness?

He does not know if it stacks. But he is also “such a boring warrior” with two one-handed axes, so he doesn’t haven an issue with this new trait.

8. Is more group-content planned?

Definitely, but it depends on how you define “group-content”. 5-party instanced content? Or “raid-like” in instances with e.g. 20 people. GW2 tries to have lots of content in the open world. Yes, they try to put group content in there. They try not to have it “too zergy”, so that even with a huge group with 150, players can interact and fight together.

9. Will there be more world bosses like Tequatl?

He definitely does not want to exclude that possibility.

10. Are they thinking about putting the bigger bosses that need lots of coordination onto special maps? So that those who do this content don’t disturb those who want to level in that zone.

He refers to the last few bullet points on the April 2014 Feature Pack release and tells us to wait for those to be revealed ((Facilitating Friendly Play Parts 1, 2 and 3 which will be shown April 2 – April 4)). This question will be answered in detail in there.

11. What does Ramon think of the ending of Season 1?

He looks at it like it was a TV series. He doesn’t have a problem with the ending. It’s like a cliffhanger: Lots of the questions that appeared with Flame & Frost have been answered so far, but more and more loose parts appeared and not all of those have been answered. He saw a planning document for season 2 and there are answers to all open questions. In this document, you can also clearly read: “E. is… (name of a person)“. What they learned is that it is important that players can see there is a common thread throughout all parts.

12. In general, how did he like Scarlet?

Scarlet was a bit of a crazy kale. She fulfilled her purpose and even if she wasn’t liked, she still caused emotions.

13. What does ArenaNet think about dungeons with more than 5 players? Maybe making dungeons scalable?

Nothing is off the table, but they’re trying to bring big and interesting encounters to the open world. They want to design this content in a way that people who are just passing by can form a group and do it, but it should also be challenging enough, so players aren’t standing there hitting “1” repeatedly.

14. Will there be more content on Southsun Cove?

He can’t say anything about this ((I assume because he doesn’t know.))

15. There is one armor set ((“Rüstungsset der Genesung” in German which I believe are the Mending gauntlets, greaves, helm in English)) you get as rewards from the personal storyline, but the leggings are missing.

He has no idea!

16. Will there be more possibilities to get ascended armor? E.g. dungeon tokens, karma.

He doesn’t know exactly how, but they are looking at ways to make items available through different means, so players with different playstyles (like people who do WvW or dungeons, …) can also get them. He compares it to the changes in the trait system where new traits can be unlocked by doing specific content or by paying gold. He also refers to the design philosophy they had in mind for Guild Wars 2 that they do not want to force players to play a certain way.

17. Will there be new legendary weapons? And if so, will they be available in the same way than the current legendaries?

They’re thinking about how to handle legendary weapons. They had originally planned to implement the feature of crafting a precursor or doing a scavenger hunt with the feature release. But since they’re now rethinking the whole system with their “loots and rewards” team, they postponed it. But they are looking for ways to reasonably put them in and give players the feeling that they’re slowly but surely working towards their legendary weapon and aren’t dependant on the loot luck from the Mystic Forge. Of course, they are also thinking of possible new legendary weapons. This does not mean there will be new ones, but that they are of course thinking about them.

18. There was also the question if there will be more skins from Guild Wars 1?

He thinks this is possible, especially when it’s about very popular ones. But he doesn’t know if it’s being done.

19. What is Ramon’s favourite zone in Guild Wars 1 and which zone die he like in Guild Wars 1 which doesn’t exist in Guild Wars 2 yet.

He generally likes barren land in MMOs. In Guild Wars 1, he liked the desert areas. For example, the Crystal Desert which looked like a huge desert, even though it wasn’t. He talks about an abandoned temple there and that it looks like there is a statue, but the closer you get, the more it looks like a mirage. Also, the area before you go to Maguuma Jungle, that looks like a desert: He thinks this is beautiful. And in Eye of the North, he says “Longeye’s Ledge” was just great with the atmosphere, the autumny look, the warm sunlight.

20. What is going to happen with Lion’s Arch now?

Lion’s Arch is currently destroyed. It won’t be rebuilt within a day. He doesn’t say what or how it’s going to change.

21. Which update of the Living Story was his favourite?

When it comes to gameplay, Bazaar of the Four Winds. It was fun and he loves Sanctum Sprint. He is also sad that the Aspect Arena is not part of the daily activities. He would also love to see this one again.

22. How far developed is Season 2 of the Living Story?

It’s all planned.

23. Ellen Kiel or Evon Gnashblade?

Ellen Kiel. His bet was on her winning because while the hardcore and Guild Wars 1 players wanted to see the Abaddon fractal, he was sure that the bigger crowd would go with the reduced waypoint costs.

24. Would Scarlet have appeared in the Abaddon fractal as well?

He doesn’t reply to that question.

25. Will there also be something to vote on in Season 2 like the vote between Ellen and Evon?

He doesn’t know that.

26. Will Season 2 see content that is closer to an “expansion”? For example, new regions, new professions, new races.

He says that the question is what you call “something like expansion content”. He says yes, at least, it will go into that direction.

27. Are they working on a continuation of the personal story? And is it possible to combine the personal and the living story?

They are thinking about different possibilities of the personal character progression/story and revisions of current systems, but he can’t say what they are going to do.

28. Will there be more blending of story and game events? As in having more cut scenes in between.

They extended their cinematics department. So he won’t say “no” to this. The recent updates also showed some more cut scenes. They do not plan to use those cut scenes anymore where your character and one other character can be seen on the screen – like in the personal story – and will concentrate more on scenic cut scenes.

29. Are they working on a way to let the player repeat living story? E.g. through fractals?

He would not say “no” and they do hear this feedback very often: Why do you make temporary content that will be lost forever once it’s over? He thinks they are probably looking at how to make replaying it possible.

30. Will we see World 3 of the Super Adventure Box on April 1 and if so, will the story be continued?

Ramon’s reply: “And who would benefit from an April 1 spoiler?”

31. What does Ramon think of the SAB?

He thinks the idea is interesting. He shook his head when he first heard about this. But it’s such an ingenious idea that it works. In general, he is just too bad to do jumping puzzles.

32. What does Ramon think of the tribulation mode of the SAB?

He doesn’t like going from full life to zero without understanding why, so he doesn’t like this mode. But there are different players and everybody likes different content. He is happy that there are people who love the tribulation mode.

33. The next topic is datamining: What do they think about dataminers?

He personally hates dataminers. They destroy the fun for the players and the result is that developers have to think about how to deploy a build, so that hardly no datamining can be done. So, building something over a longer course of time is difficult.

34. There was an “alternative ending sequence” to season 1 of the living story which got revealed by dataminers. Does something like this happen more often at ArenaNet that there are different endings or that different endings are done and the “right” one will be chosen at a later time?

In general, if you look at filmmakers, game developers, authors, this happens frequently to test out different endings: How would this ending affect the rest of my story, etc.? This happens especially when you’re working with several authors. The ending they did is the ending they need.

35. Some complained that almost no new town clothes have been implemented. Will this change?

He refers to the announcements for the feature patch and that some questions will be answered there: Monday. ((Note: This was changed and the date on the website now says “March 25”, so today, the correct answer is “Tuesday”))

36. Could it be implemented that regular armor could be changed to town clothes?

He again refers to their website and the feature patch: Monday. ((Tuesday!))

37. How about a crafting profession that lets you create town clothes?

Monday! ((Tuesday!))

38. Will there be new emotes? Or animations for some existing emotes?

He doesn’t know the answer. It’s currently not talked about, but as usual, nothing is off the table.

39. Would he like more vistas to see more of the world?

He would love to see a “filmmakers kit” where he could basically dock the camera of his character and then make his own vista/film.

40. How many screenshots has he taken?

His screenshots usually tell a story, as he never deletes them. He has no idea how many he has.

41. ((The question if Ramon plays GW2 in his free time is obsolete: Yes, he does!)). So on to the next one: How often/regularly does he play?

He has almost 6000 achievement points. It’s not that much, but not bad either.

42. What is Ramon’s favourite profession and what is his favourite profession/race combination?

He plays sylvari. He would love to play asura, but there is no “change sylvari to asura kit” and he doesn’t want to do everything again. But he really likes asura. He plays all 8 professions. His favourite is engineer. He hasn’t played it that often recently, as he’s playing his necromancer in PvP and WvW more often.

43. Is there a general trend towards one race or profession at ArenaNet?

No. It’s mixed. Everybody has their own favourites.

44. What is his favourite in-game dye for armor?

Thanks to having sylvari, he has a lot of choices when it comes to skin colours and he tries to choose dyes that support that colour. His guardian has an armor that has metal colours (gold, silver, dark bronze). His necro has a very dark green and around the dark green, he has light golden borders and a white shirt below.

45. Are they working on solving some cosmetic issues, especially the warrior shouting of gaining adrenaline when it’s slowly decaying?

He can’t say that. Since it’s not a critical bug, it’s probably low on the list of priorities. More critical things are worked on first.

46. Will there be an expansion of the API that can be used?

They are currently reworking a lot of systems which will render the API useless in some areas at first. Then they will definitely need to rework things to keep the API useable.

47. Has ArenaNet thought about implementing a region lock because people from different time zones could get an advantage over night on EU servers?

They discussed this, but decided against it, because there are players who travel a lot, etc. Or when players from Oceania are on European data centers, etc. They would not want to dictate players where and when to play the game.

48. How did Ramon get to ArenaNet?

He applied. They did not want him back then. 1,5 years later, they called him and asked if he was still interested. And obviously, he was.

49. What is a typical day of a community manager?

A normal day doesn’t exist. As community manager, he is talking to different departments and sits in between everything and tries to coordinate everything. He has to know what’s going on inside the studio and what’s happening outside of the studio. Then he tries to combine this. He gave an example of how they wanted to name something which, unfortunately, was a nazi parole when translated to German. So it is his job to know what will and won’t work in his community.

50. When Ramon sees a suggestion on the forum, does he have to tell the lead community manager about this first or can he tell that to the developers? What’s the hierarchy like?

He is the highest rank for the German-speaking area. He decides what to report to the developers. He also has people who report to him. But he is the one representing the German community. He can forward feedback directly, but they are communicating between the teams and if there is an issue in one region, it’s very often an issue in other regions as well. He gives the example of the Zodiak armor and that in the UK, it was a big issue that it was seen as too sexualized on female characters whereas in other regions, it was mainly seen as too similar to a smurf with the blue colours. ((Also notable in this aspect is that he knows what was being discussed on the Wartower forums – a German fansite)). A lot of his time is spent looking for feedback and reporting about this. He also tries to figure out if, for example, negative feedback comes from a lot of different people or maybe there are a lot of negative postings, but they are from just a handful of people. In the latter case, he still doesn’t disregard the feedback and it is still being added to the list of feedback. Additionally, the communities (on fansites, etc.) differ. Something that’s being discussed in the Wartower forums may not be an issue elsewhere or discussed differently (e.g. the other German fansites, Twitter, Facebook, …). His job is to find out what the whole of the German community thinks and not just parts of it.

51. Do community managers get unlimited gems?

Ramon would love that. They get a certain amount of gems every month, though. He’s saving them currently. But he has also bought gems and says he spent about 80 – 90€ for gems since the game’s release. He tries to stay in the range of what he would pay for a subscription game… around 5 to 10€ for the game.

52. Which Elder Dragon is the most interesting for him?

He doesn’t think he has a ranking. Kralkatorrik is funny, because of his dragon breath and how he corrupted everything with it. Mordremoth and how he influences nature and everything… he generally likes the idea that each Elder Dragon is more or less able to manipulate different elements.

53. Does the Deep Sea dragon, lovingly called Bubbles by the community, have a real name internally?

He thinks he saw the name “Bubbles” on a document. He doesn’t know anything about an official name.

54. If you could tell a part of the Living Story yourself, what would happen in it and which characters would definitely make an appearance?

His reply: “Children are watching.” He mentions Caithe… and adds a “maybe”. Then he stops, laughs and the next question is asked.

55. Somebody said that in the last 1,5 years, there wasn’t much lasting content and an expansion hasn’t been announced yet. What is your position about that?

He would also wish for more content that stays in the world, but he also understands the idea behind the progressing story. He believes that ArenaNet can do it a lot better in season 2. Players should also understand that this is the first time ArenaNet has developed a real open world MMORPG and they are experimenting a lot. Some things don’t work, sometimes they learn a lot and he thinks that they are on a good path and that season 2 will be better.

56. XBox One, PS4, Wii U or PC?

PC and PS4. And Oculus Rift – he really wants one!

57. Are you a fan of Game of Thrones?

Yes.

58. What did you think about “Red Wedding”?

It was not very surprising for him. He is one of the people who read the books. He really liked the atmosphere created by the music, though!

59. ((Here was a spoilery question about Game of Thrones – I deleted it, just to be safe. Also, be careful when watching the video!))

((Here was the spoilery answer to the spoilery question above.))

60. What happened with the Guild Wars 2 ComChat ((it was a chat between people from fansites and Ramon to talk about the game))?

He did not have enough time to do those. He did them when he had time left. They restructured and he has more time now and in fact, after this very interview, they had planned to do another ComChat. He will also try to do it regularly again. Maybe once a month.

61. How does he get his bald head to shine this nicely?

Bloom effect! Go to your graphic cards settings, click on “bloom effect” and you can have such a shiny bald head, too!

62. Last question: The VIP feature in the Chinese version and our Western version.

There are usually content differences between the Western and the Eastern versions (or one being behind in versions). When they said that we would have the same “version”, they meant the content. Content updates will be simultaneously. The builds will not be identical! The Western version has the “buy to play” model where you buy the game and can play it as much as you like. This is the Western version and this will stay the Western version. The version in Asia is different. He ends his reply with: In the history of MMOs there hasn’t been an MMO that started as a free to play or buy to play and then added a subscription. It has always been the other way around.

Trove – Trion Worlds’s newest addition

On Friday, Trion Worlds revealed their newest game, Trove. According to bookahnerk, they had hinted about it a bit before, but I had totally missed it. So far, I’m not 100% sure what to make of it, but I do know that I would love to get my hands on the alpha to test it. I love seeing games develop and grow.

Trove Twitch StreamThe reactions that I saw in the chat during the livestream were pretty mixed. There were people who were extremely excited and other who called “Game X-clone”. I am in the middle, I guess. I am curious and want to see what it’s all about and how it plays while acknowledging that it does seem and look similar to games like Minecraft, Terraria, Cube World, and even the Super Adventure Box from Guild Wars 2. However, I have only played Terraria and the SAB, so I won’t judge the game. Especially since I haven’t played it yet. Besides, a clone well done is better than… nothing. ;) Games are constantly evolving and I think it’s good when developers take a game and change it to make it their own. I personally loved the Diablo clone Torchlight, especially since they added pets that fight with you and that you can send back to town to sell items you found to the NPC (and in Torchlight 2, they can also bring you back items like health potions). Less time wasted, more time actually playing the game. I love that feature!

But back to Trove. JunkiesNation wrote a guide on what we already know about the game. So if you’re curious, head over there.

What I found most intriguing was that they’re planning to regularly reset the worlds. Some things will stay, but the worlds in general will start new. Sounds like this could keep things fresh and they could regularly add new things. I’m not sure how good the promise of weekly updates will work. I am not a fan of developers who put a time pressure on their creativity. Please, take longer if you need to, but then give us something well thought-out instead of things you just pushed out the door because you want to keep to your promised schedule! But I guess before I should worry about that, we should first get our hands on the game. ;) Oh, it’ll be free to play, by the way. We’ll see how that works out in the end as there will be a cash shop and this always makes or breaks a game for me.

You can already sign up for the alpha on the game’s website. They said they will start inviting people in the coming weeks. If you need more information first, you can also watch the Twitch stream where they showed the game for the first time. The part about Trove starts at around 57:00.

Guild Wars 2 at GamesCom 2012

You may remember that we have already written a report on ArenaNet’s booth last year, so of course, we’re going to write another one this year. Last year, we went to GamesCom on two days, Thursday and Saturday, which means that our experiences and observations came from two different days. Saturday is usually the busiest day, but we decided against going there again on a Saturday this year. It was simply too crowded for my liking. And there is no way I am going to do that again. While I don’t panic when I’m within a crowd, it’s not a pleasant feeling either. So we only went on Thursday this year which was just crowded enough to not make me feel uncomfortable.

It feels a bit weird to be writing this report as this year, there wasn’t much to see about the game. Last year, there were several demo stations at their PvE booth and a few more at their PvP booth. But this time, there was not a single demo station available. Our friend, who had also come with us last year, remarked that he was very surprised to hear that as he would have expected them to have a zillion demo stations around, so they could show off their game. The booth that we got to see, however, was a really good concept and a place that all three of us enjoyed.

10:10

We arrived at the booth shortly past 10am. As some of you may know, on Wednesday and Thursday, ArenaNet had announced a password on Twitter and after saying it to one of the staff members, you got a code for an in-game item (a Guild Wars 2 dragon t-shirt). Maybe they were hoping that not too many people would come to get their code. The contrary happened, of course. At around 10.30am on Thursday, they were already out of the codes they had wanted to give out during the morning. We had gotten ours shortly before that and decided to just stay at the lounge and enjoy the scenery. The booth was pretty and the design almost literally screamed “ArenaNet”: It fit perfectly. In the middle of the busy, loud and slowly crowding GamesCom, there was this little oasis with plants, white pebble stones, comfortable stools and a waterfall – or at least, something close to it. Everything was inviting you to stay, relax a bit and converse with the people around you.

We decided it was too early for that as we wanted to see other booths first, so we left and went on to explore GamesCom. As this report is about ArenaNet, I will skip forward to when we returned to their booth.

13:45

In the meantime, ArenaNet had announced that they would give away 100 codes every hour. We were curious and went back to the booth only to see that it was crowded outside and relatively full inside. They had closed the two entrances to the booth already and it looked like about 100 people were inside. Those 100 would be getting the codes at 2pm. Outside there were – roughly estimating – about 300 more people. If you have never been to something like GamesCom, let me tell you that people do queue for the weirdest things for hours. If you ask me queuing for three hours just for an in-game item belonging to a game that is coming out in just 7 days, is not too surprising. But it’s always hard to anticipate what is going to happen and how popular exactly something will be. There were no demo stations, after all, and apart from the two screens showing the trailers, you could not really do or see anything while waiting.

We had actually wanted to meet somebody there at 2 but instead found her outside the convention halls. We could not have gone inside to sit down anyway. At that point, it was disappointing to see that their concept was basically ruined. If you click on the video above, you can see it yourself. Apart from the crowd wanting codes (and I don’t blame them), the neighbours of ArenaNet were really loud (music, shouting, etc.). If you ask me, GamesCom is always too loud with too many games literally screaming for your attention. However, I doubt that ArenaNet had any say in who would be next to them and how loud they would be. We left again after watching them giving the codes away inside, letting those people out and letting the next group in.

18:30

At around 6.30pm, we returned for the last time. At that point, not that many people were left, especially as they had stopped offering codes. But in general, a lot of visitors had already left (it was open from 10am to 8pm that day). The ArenaNet booth wasn’t empty, though, but we could finally grab some seats, sit down, enjoy the scenery of the booth and talk to Stéphane (one of the two French Community Managers) and Ramon (the new German Community Manager). Finally, we felt that we got to enjoy the booth in the way that ArenaNet had intended. Of course, it wasn’t their fault in the morning as we had just not been in the mood to sit down only minutes after arriving. Anyway, we had a great talk about Guild Wars 2 and MMOs in general with Stéphane. An hour later, it was time to go, so we would not have to leave with the rest of the GamesCom visitors and get stuck on the parking lot.

What we had been able to see during our three visits was that once again, even without demo stations and developers present, ArenaNet’s and NCsoft’s staff members were there and they did not just stand around in a corner watching their fans. They were in the middle, interacting, talking, answering questions (as far as they could, I would assume ^^) and were a part of it. If they had not worn their special Guild Wars 2 t-shirts, you wouldn’t have known they weren’t just fans like everybody else.

21:00

In the evening, we were invited to their Meet&Greet. At first, we decided to just sit down in a corner and watch. My feet were aching (and I even got an inflammation in my left foot. Aaah, the sacrifices I endure for online games… ^^), so I was happy to sit. But it was a bit boring. I didn’t mind the company – that is, my boyfriend and a friend, but I can see them so often and talking to others would have been nice as well. Unfortunately, I am too shy to just go to people and ask them who they are. Fortunately, Kronos from Onlinewelten, whom I had met during EU Fan Day in Brighton, spotted me and came over. Just a few minutes later, we were in their corner of the room (where lots of other people from Onlinewelten were sitting) and I was talking to his girlfriend about basically everything but Guild Wars 2, with the exception of the shape of our future sylvaris’ ears. Very important decision, of course.

ArenaNet was very generous as they had a raffle where they gave away 4 Collector’s Editions, 2 cardboard standups, several keyboards and computer mice. Sadly, neither of us won anything. That wasn’t bad at all, though, as we had not gone there for the loot and, more importantly, somebody else from the Onlinewelten community had won one of the CEs and seeing his shocked face together with him mumbling “I have never won anything…!” was priceless. :)

I also finally got to talk a bit with Ramon. Only a few minutes, but that’s okay because the community managers were very busy with all of us around, trying to talk to everybody and, of course, organizing the event. But yeah, we’ve got a very nice new German Community Manager!

Another highlight of the evening was that one guy, also a proud winner of a Collector’s Edition, who came to us to tell us that he loves our blog. I was walking on clouds and because of that, forgot to ask for his name. Oh well, in case you read this, feel free to contact us and tell us who you are! ;) It’s always great to get feedback from readers and hear that what you are doing is liked by others.

This was just a short summary of the evening. I don’t think it’d be interesting to repeat every little detail because most of what happened was conversations with other people. We once again got to know other German fans of the game and/or writers for fansites and it’s always great to do that if you ask me. As I said earlier to Stéphane, I have the tendency to jump in and out of games and get bored with them quickly once I understand the rules. What keeps me in a game is the community, the people I get to know and the friendships that form in the long run. Guild Wars 2 may just be a game but it manages to connect people from all over the world and that is something fantastic. Being at gatherings like this always shows me exactly what it is that I love most about ArenaNet: Their care for the community and their constant effort to provide an environment where it’s easy for us to connect and get to know each other better.

Last but not least, if you have managed to read until now, let me give you a little hint: We brought something back with us (not the game!) and we do not intend to keep it… ;)