Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (September 2016)

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchFirst of all, we have Rift and some tiny news about its upcoming expansion “Starfall Prophecy”. We still do not have a date for the expansion’s launch, unfortunately. I speculated about the time range before, but other than that, it’s all guessing. Of course, us players are getting impatient as we would love to hop into the new content right away! But the latest post about it was a definite “no launch date yet”. However, we now know that there will be a beta (since Trion usually does these with Rift, it was to be expected, but confirmation is still nice!) and that news about beta will come “well before we announce a date”.

Thankfully, Guild Wars 2 will launch its next piece of content update “Rising Flames” next Tuesday, so I won’t have to starve for too long with nothing to do (totally ignoring the fact I also just got World of Warcraft’s Legion… :p). I am not hyped as with Guild Wars 2, I strongly prefer not having any expectations and then just enjoying what’s given to me. However, I like that there will be a new map again!

Atlas Reactor Charr Freelancer Rask

Last piece of news from me but most exciting: Atlas Reactor just got a launch date! The game will officially release on October 5. From everything I have seen and experienced, I can tell you that I am confident that this game is ready for release! But you do not need to trust my words here, as you can hop into the game for free already (note that there will be a wipe prior to release!). And from September 15 (wait – that’s today I just realized) until September 25 the game will be in open beta and you will get everything unlocked! The game will be free to play when it launches but certain things are locked until you pay a one-time fee (all heroes, called freelancers here, will be unlocked then, for example).

“Bookahneer’s Geekwatch” is the place where we take a look at all those little pieces of gaming news that have attracted our interest and/or talk about what’s recently been in the spotlight of other fansites.

Revisiting World of Warcraft

WoW Death Knight starter areaWho isn’t back to World of Warcraft? This was the question I asked myself a lot lately when looking at blog posts or tweets. And once I mentioned it to bookahnerk, we were off on nostalgia lane. “Do you remember how…” and all that. We knew we would not go back to WoW ourselves. After all, my last expansion was Mists of Pandaria, which I had bought and levelled my mage a bit right before Rift announced going free to play at which point I immediately dropped WoW. But there was another expansion before Legion which I would have to get. Bookahnerk did not even have Mists of Pandaria. So, in order to only catch up, we would already have to buy three expansions plus the monthly fees.

Only that apparently, Blizzard gifted every account that owns the base game (so not the free trial accounts) every single expansion except for Legion! Once we saw that, we decided to gift ourselves three months of monthly fees and a long trip back to see what has happened, changed, been added to the game. There is one great thing about our WoW corner: It involves a guild. The guild that bookahnerk has been very active in back in Ultima Online. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s been with some of these guys since the early years of Ultima Online! And even though we’ve basically been away since Cataclysm, we are still members of the guild.

So, upon returning we decided to make new characters to get back into the game more easily and asked for invitations for these characters (WoW doesn’t have account-bound guild memberships). A few minutes later, he was on Teamspeak chatting with the guild members. We were welcomed back and I think this is a pretty big part of an MMO. You can leave easily and never look back when you know the people you played with are gone, too. But once you are part of a community, you never really leave, right?

I had chosen to give Death Knight a try. The last time I played, she had two blood, two death and two frost runes and I had to memorize which skill used which runes etc. Now she has six frost runes if she’s frost-specced and the skills do not require different types of runes anymore. Much easier, I have to say. Maybe too easy, but I have never been a fan of resource juggling when playing a character. I much prefer having to know which skills do what (like stuns, roots, damage over time effects and so on) over that.

WoW Death Knight on stolen mount

My main character was a frost mage and when I last played her, I got her to level 88. Mists of Pandaria had a maximum level of 90. Warlords of Draenor added 10 more levels. So I figured I should also level her a bit to see all the new content. The Death Knight is level 60 now, so she’s ready for Burning Crusade, which is the expansion that released back in 2007. :p I remembered most things about my mage, almost all hotkeys and even her macros were still working! It took me a while, however, to remember that frost mage actually has a water elemental. Whoops. All of a sudden, her damage got up a lot! ;) So I guess that was my really n00bish moment getting back into the game.

Now here is something that already annoys me a lot: I had played my Death Knight with a two-handed melee weapon. I love these weapons as long as the combat animations are quite fast. That was the case with the Death Knight. But now I got a message that the system changed and they are now required to fight with two one-handed weapons. No big deal, I thought. And then I remembered that I also started a pandaren monk who fights with a staff. Melee staff-wielders are my favourite when it comes to melee, but hardly any game ever offers you those. Most of the time, it’s casters with a staff in their hands. So I logged on with her and noticed I had mail… yep, Blizzard telling me that melee DPS monks no longer use a staff, but two one-handed weapons. Seriously… -.- That staff was the main reason I rolled a monk! I am not the only one who doesn’t like this change, but that doesn’t really help much. On the other hand, it makes me want to check out the thief in Guild Wars 2 again with her daredevil specialization!

Oh well, I have enough to do with my mage, after all – who yes, is holding a staff in her hands. ;) I am also already looking forward to checking out garrisons and what they are all about. Certainly not housing, though, so Rift won’t lose me any time soon. :p

Otherland MMO – First Impressions

otherland_fir_klBookahnerk had told me about Otherland long before the MMO was in the news as Otherland is one of his favourite books and Tad Williams is one of his favourite authors! This is the main reason this game even caught my attention. We had both watched the gamescom trailer and really liked what we saw there and we really thought it had immense potential.

At some point, I had gotten access to Otherland’s closed beta for a short bit. I was not impressed with the game at all – or else you would have probably seen me write about it here. Some background images were nice, but that’s it. The game had one week of open beta where I had given it a try again and launched on September 8. The business model was a different one at first – I think buy to play? I am actually not too sure about that since I did not follow the game anymore, but now it is free to play. After a rocky start on its first day where it was not available unless you paid, you can just download and play it for free on Steam.

The bad news first: In its current state, I do not recommend the game. I think they need more time to smooth out the game, get rid of bugs and all of that. I had wanted to wait with writing about my impressions until I had gotten out of the tutorial area and had had a better look at the game behind it, but so far, this has not been possible. Lambda Mall is apparently the main hub and the area you enter after exiting the tutorial. During the open beta I could not get there. Where there should have been a portal at the end of the tutorial, there was nothing. Well, the portal was actually there, but I could not click on it or interact with it in any way. According to forum posts, this apparently happened whenever the server that Lambda Mall is on was down, but I could not find any other information on it and I gave up after trying several times.

Today, the game first refused to launch with an error message saying my graphics card does not support something (I didn’t read what it was) even though I’d played successfully before. Right now, I’m in the “verifying” stage but nothing else happens. I first tried it this morning at around 8.30 am*. This means that for more than 8 hours now, I have not been able to access the game. There were a couple of other people in the Steam community hub (and in the official forums) reporting the same issue. I had a look at the official Twitter account and found that there was a tweet on September 1, then another on September 8 to announce the official launch of the game but no other recent tweets. This is not how you handle the launch of an MMORPG! Where is the advertisement, where is the support? The community manager’s last posting in the forum was on September 8, their launch day.

Yes, I get that there may be bugs. And that is okay. There is no MMO that doesn’t have bugs and I don’t remember any MMO’s launch that did not have issues. However, what I do remember is community managers, developers and whoever else was available handling the social media channels and the forums informing players of what was happening and posting ETA times and so on. Here, there is silence. It is also the first weekend after launch and there is nothing but crickets from the developers. As far as I know, the first weekend after an MMO launches is always a very busy one as people try out the game. I would assume the same could potentially happen here since the game is on Steam and that often attracts lots of potential players.

But enough about that for now. There actually is a game somewhere and I can share with you what I have seen and experienced, even though it was not much yet. The game’s character creation is rather fast as there aren’t a lot of things to do. You can choose gender, size (including body proportions – this is nice!), skin colour (e.g. orange), skin pattern and I think that’s it? Some options are locked. But there are no hair styles, no changing of facial features etc.

The game has four different classes. Two are melee/tank (warrior and assassin), two are ranged/heal (energizer and marksman). Nothing too spectacular or exciting if you ask me. You can equip three weapons and switch between these, though. I am not sure yet, but I assume different weapons have different stats and effects. For example, one weapon to tank and one to dish out damage. Other than that, I have not yet seen a way to customize your playstyle further. I also do not know yet how to get new skills as even though I levelled up, nothing happened apart from a message telling me I levelled up. What I did like was that before you lock in your class choice, the game lets you enter a mini tutorial with each class where you can try it with lots of skills unlocked and some easy mobs to hit. Since I am never certain about what class “clicks” for me, I really like this feature! During beta, I had one of the two ranged classes (I think it was the energizer), but did not like it at all. I just stood there, kept my mouse button pressed to shoot repeatedly and hit 1, 2 or 3 depending on cooldowns etc. Now for the game’s release, I chose the warrior which is a lot more fun to play. I got a giant polearm and can just slash everything in range. :p

So far, the story is okay. I have to say that I do not know much about the world of Otherland. You are in a virtual reality and there are a lot of different settings. The giant chess pieces seen in the trailer above are in the tutorial, for example, among a lot of other settings. It is a virtual reality world, after all, so all settings are possible!

I saw the eDNA mentioned in the gamescom trailer above. This feature is certainly in the game as I could extra eDNA from enemies I had killed, but other than an animation and a message that I did collect it, nothing happened. I looked at my inventory, but could not see any indication of this eDNA, so I don’t know where it is or what I can do with it. I guess this would be nice to be explained in the tutorial. Or maybe it gets explained after entering Lambda Mall. My warrior made it there (now in the launch version of the game), but I had to get to bed when I last played, so I could not continue with the story. Another feature I had seen in the trailer was housing. According to a post on Massively back in August 2015, this feature should be in!

Something to be very careful about is the character deletion process. Right next to “create”, there is the “delete” button. I had hit that one during beta but nothing had happened. I logged in with my character (as it hadn’t gotten deleted after all) and played. Then I logged off. When I next logged in again, the character was gone. When I tried to make another character with the same name, it said that the name was already taken. Yeah, thank you? So I made another character. This was during beta and support (via Twitter DM) offered to undelete my character or free up the name for me to use again, so I don’t know if they made any changes. But having the delete button right next to the create button with no further confirmation if you are sure about wanting to delete and then on top of that a delay of when the deletion happens? Not good!

If it hadn’t been for me wanting to write about my impressions, I don’t think I would have continued playing. The combat is rather boring, but I admit that this was mainly my impression when playing the ranged class and it may just not be the right class for me. The graphics are really neat, though! Especially the background images are amazing! What you cannot see in the pictures is that the NPCs are not moving. They are frozen or something. However, some of them aren’t. They stand still just as the others, but as soon as you get too close, they attack you. So, if I had to choose one thing that stood out for me – positively – it’s definitely the look of the world!

What the game did achieve, however, was that we ordered the first Otherland novel in English now. Bookahnerk has read all of them years ago, but only in German. Now it’s time to read the original. And since I’ve never read them at all, it’s a perfect time to start for me. :)

TL;DR: This game gets no recommendation from me at the moment! I don’t think the developers/publishers take the game seriously or else there wouldn’t be such a lack of communication, especially now that the game can’t be accessed by some or all players. However, I do want to find out more about it. And if the game turns out to be as bad as the Steam reviews make it seem to be, I now own the first novel of Otherland in its original English version and will happily just read this book instead. :p

*This was after I got woken up by a stray pigeon that had accessed our flat – but that’s a different and very short story as it flew back outside when I scared it… only that I had been too awake then and decided to get up and try to play Otherland so I could write about my impressions. :p

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Gear and level-advantages in PvP

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for column

Some time ago, I read a topic in the German section of the Black Desert Online forum where a player suggested that the game’s PvP may be better if there were no level-advantages as a higher level gives better stats, for example. He was laughed at by others and called “carebear” for wanting that. Unfortunately, I cannot find the thread anymore – but it would be in German anyway. But this is apparently how PvP should work and it is good this way: If you spend a lot of time in the game, you should have an advantage over those who play less often or are new to the game – other than the already mentioned increased experience and skill in playing your character, of course!

I admit, I am a carebear. I am a huge big carebear! – Why? Because I think that being able to win against somebody who has no chance whatsoever at all, no matter how skilled that player may be, simply because I am higher level and/or have better gear, is a horrible design flaw of PvP in a lot of MMOs. If some new player comes in and has not played the game much but knows how to play so much better than me, then kudos to him! He should be able to win against me. I, on the other hand, should not win simply because I have been playing longer and managed to get my character in better gear. I was just very surprised to see that somebody asking for an even playing field and letting skill and experience decide a battle rather than stronger gear and higher level, is called a carebear. Some people…

Warhammer Online Chicken in Tier 1

Let’s look at other MMOs, though: Warhammer Online, for example, had four different PvP (here called “RvR”, but I’ll continue using PvP to not mix up the terms all the time) tiers and bolstering up. The first tier was for levels 1 to 11. So right from the start, you had your map with PvE zones and PvP zones. If your low level 1 entered the tier 1 PvP zone, it got bolstered up in stats to level 11. It was still weaker than a “real” level 11, but at least, you got much closer to the other player. The best part, however, was when you were too high level for a given tier – in our example, when your character turned level 12 – that you were turned into a chicken which could be one-shot by other players. You regularly had people in chat say: “Okay, that’s it. See you in tier 2” and then you could see the chicken run out of the PvP zone as fast as their little feet could carry them. I do remember some heated discussions about this feature before the game launched but Mark Jacobs stood by that decision. Of course, simply getting downscaled would have been the better option in my opinion, as that would have freed up the whole game to you once you were max. level instead of restricting you only to the highest tier. But I still think the chicken mechanic is better than having high level players repeatedly kill low level players. Especially when you consider that low level players also may be new players which are kind of important to keep in an MMO… ;)

GW2 sPvP with level 2
All specializations are unlocked, even though my character is only level 2. In PvE, you need to work towards unlocking the specializations first

Guild Wars 2’s sPvP (instanced PvP) goes even further: No “artificial” bolstering up, but being at maximum level with exactly the same stats and exactly the same gear as everybody else! When I heard that they were doing it like that, I got pretty excited! Those who have a lot of time (and who are usually the ones with the highest level and the highest gear in other MMOs) are probably also those who get the most practice and as such they will have an advantage over people like me anyway. However, there are also those who do have a lot of time on their hands, who do get a lot of practice and who may turn out to be worse than somebody with less practice but quicker reflexes or whatever the reason. I ask again: Is this bad? Am I a carebear if I say that this is how it should be? That skill should determine the winner of a battle and not the playtime, the level or the gear that a player acquired?

Thankfully, we have so many games around that I think everybody can find a game that does it the way they prefer. So, I know that even though Black Desert Online looks like an interesting game, it is not the game for me. I do prefer Guild Wars 2 where level and gear don’t matter!

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

3 “code bundles” to give away for Atlas Reactor (all codes are gone!)

(Update: All codes are gone!!)

We still have a few codes left for Atlas Reactor and since there is an expiration date attached to them (first Monday in September), of course, we would like to see them get to new owners soon! So this giveaway is a bit different from the ones we usually do. The first three people to comment here stating that they would like the codes will get them.

But first, a short reminder of what these codes are about:

“Atlas Reactor is a turn-based battle arena. It has the obligatory PvP mode, but it also has a nice PvE mode where you can either play against bots with other players or purely with and against NPCs. So even if you like such a game but do not like PvP at all, Atlas Reactor offers you the chance to enjoy it anyway.” (quoting myself here)

If you belong to the first three people, you will get an email with three codes (for this, please make sure to enter a valid email address into the “email” field):

  1. Grey’s Citadel Skin
  2. Two loot matrices (after entering this code, you will receive two loot matrices again once the game has launched as there will be a wipe in between)
  3. A beta code (to be used by yourself or given away to a friend).

One word again about the beta: Everybody can sign up and play the game right away!  However, there are some restrictions. If you buy the game, there are no further restrictions. If you get a beta code, there will also be no restrictions for as long as the beta is taking place!

The end of this giveaway is obviously when three people have commented or when the first Monday of September has come as the codes expire then!