Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (Mai 2016)

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchWhen reading through the Steam community hub of Funatics’s game “Valhalla Hills“, I saw a post by a player saying that Funatics was recently acquired by InnoGames. The post is in German as well as most news postings I found about this happening. However, an English post that I found specifies that Funatics had to close as a company and the team was hired by InnoGames.

Either way, in case you don’t know or don’t remember, Funatics is the company who made the Cultures series. The Cultures games are still among my favourite games I ever played. They were also part of the developing teams around the Settlers games.

But let’s take a look at this acquisition. Funatics is a company that focussed mostly on building/simulation games. InnoGames is a company that makes browser-based and mobile games. I did take a look, but while those browser-based building games usually look nice and all that, but for me, at least those games are hardly ever appealing. Mostly because there is often a cash shop included which lets you speed up your game which is running in “real time” (“wait 15 minutes to harvest X” and so on). Maybe their mobile games are different and I am not doing them enough justice now, but I don’t play on mobile devices. When I am outside of the house, I am working or doing other real life-things and I made a decision at some point to not put a game on my mobile device, because I want to enjoy the outside world. :p

Cultures 8th Wonder of the World

So, while I am of course very happy for each and every team member who does not find themselves without a job, I am sad to know that the company that brought me the Cultures games and who were my “entry back into gaming”, so to say (after playing on the C64 as a kid and on the gameboy as a teenager), is no more. And that the kind of games they will be making from now on will probably be rather far away from what I like to play.

On a positive note: The publisher of Valhalla Hills said that they will try to finish the second DLC for the game, as the special edition you could buy included the first two DLCs free of charge and so far, they have only released one. I got Valhalla Hills and ended up not liking it at all, unfortunately. There’s just nothing of that Cultures charm left. So for me, at least, it doesn’t matter whether they will ever release another DLC or not, but I know I am not “everybody”, so I am still happy to see that they will try to get it out. :)

Something more positive: Civilization VI was announced! This certainly came as a surprise and everything I have read about the game so far sounds great. Especially the part about city districts and being able to see when somebody builds a world wonder. I don’t know yet if I will want the game for the fill price, as there will also be lots more DLCs and I am still not swimming in money. So I might wait for the price to drop a bit, at least.

Now on to the negative part about Civ VI – there always is something negative, right? The graphics. I have seen so many complaints about the graphics so far and to be honest, this was also my first reaction towards them. I guess enough people complained that the art director spoke up and explained why they changed the look of the game.

I think the graphics will grow on me. In fact, I don’t usually mind the graphics much at all, but this style just reminds me of “cheap browser/mobile” games which also makes me think of a “dumbed down” and easy game, so people can play it easily on a tablet etc. But that’s not what Civilization is! So seeing those graphics and having those associations in mind is a bad thing. On the other hand, from all that I have seen so far, it is exactly not what is going to happen to the franchise! There are many things coming that sound amazing and I am looking forward to seeing what else they will reveal. So yes, I am actually quite certain that once I am playing the game, I will not mind those graphics at all. In fact, it may even be easier to see what is going on on the map. Still, those trees… no. Just no. The rest I will get used to, but those trees are awful.

Atlas Reactor Solo game with Rask

Atlas Reactor recently switched from “free to play” to “buy to play”. The main concern people had was that the player base will be too small, as people will not want to blindly buy a game without trying it first. Now Trion Worlds announced their “recruit a friend” programme. If you get referred by somebody, you can try the game for free for three days. If the person you refer buys the game, you get some rewards. In case you do want to give it a try, here is my referral link. I don’t really care about the rewards, but hey, if you want to get three days of a free trial and end up liking the game, I also would not say “no” to those rewards. :p But please note: The game is free to try this weekend anyway! Additionally, the game is still in beta, so everything is subject to change as usual in betas.

“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.

Help! I like too many MMOs…

In the past few weeks, I thought I had finally fallen out of love with Rift. It was to a point where I did not even log in anymore to get my daily artifact (they changed the system now where you get nicer bonuses for logging in, but that’s not why I went back). Then I suddenly felt the urge to continue building in my dimension. I figured that that’s something nice and since I really don’t like this “old-fashioned” combat anymore, I would at least focus on something. But then I found myself out in the newest region, the Planetouched Wilds, playing through a quest chain with bookahnerk. And while the combat really is boring, it’s just great exploring this world! Rift is one of those games with no loading screens between zones – at least those who are on the same “continent”, like in World of Warcraft. There is something amazing about being on top of a mountain and just looking down to see all the players running around or the NPC doing their daily work. In other MMOs, those mountains can’t always be used to climb on because they are there to avoid having to deal with “invisible walls” as they restrict this zone from the next and you can only switch to another zone at specific points which let you enter after a loading screen appears.

Rift Planetouched Wilds

Then poor Guild Wars 2 was on my list of games I would go on “hiatus” for a bit. There has not been any new content in quite some time and while I liked the new maps at first – some of them, at least – it felt repetitive going through the zones over and over again. While the recent patch has not given us new content (and if I interpret them correctly, there won’t be any new content until July?), they did some other much needed changes which revived the game in general for me. You can now play WvW and the Edge of the Mists and get a reward track like they introduced in sPvP. I also completely forgot that you can unlock Hero Challenges in Tyria through playing WvW which means that I can slowly unlock my alts’ elite specializations without having to visit all the PvE challenges. This alone is motivation enough for me to play the game more often again!

This leaves Wildstar and Black Desert Online. My two newest MMO-addictions. Wildstar has amazing combat and I actually prefer it over Guild Wars 2 – well, in some areas, at least. But once my medic hit max level, I actually did not really know what to do in the game. I still have much exploring to do, so that is something, but I still felt… lost. Now that they introduced the new zone, Arcterra, that’s different. I haven’t played much on it yet, but I certainly will! And Black Desert Online – it’s a bit funny, actually. My first character got this quest chain for a mount and that’s all nice, but I switched to playing a Valkyrie instead and I can’t find that quest chain for her and she’s still running around on foot and that’s annoying me enough not to continue playing the game at the moment. I want to go to the bigger town and explore that and play there and quest and level, but I also want to find out where I can get that mount. It’s not even anything great like a noble steed. It’s a donkey. But still, I want it. :(

Wildstar Arcterra

On top of that, I actually don’t have that much time for gaming! I “stole” some and ignored other things that need to be done for a day or two recently (chores mostly :p), but I can’t do that all of the time. So I guess I should decide which games I want to focus on. But they all offer something unique that I want to experience.

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (April 2016)

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchFragmented, the “little brother” of The Repopulation will officially arrive in Steam Early Access soon, on April 26. If you already own The Repopulation, you will get Fragmented for free – or you already got access to it if you registered for pre-steam early access-access. :p Either way, there is still an NDA on the game until after it has launched in Early Access. As such, there is not much known about the game, or rather those who do know are not allowed to say anything. But I would assume that streamers and maybe even some bloggers or gaming websites will release information and/or show off the game as soon as they are allowed to!

What do we officially know is that this game is supposed to serve as a foundation for The Repopulation as the developers had to switch engines and are building the games at the moment. While The Repopulation will eventually be a complex sandbox MMORPG, Fragmented will have a smaller scope. It will still be an online game, though, but also offer the option to play offline or host your own servers. There will be PvP as well as PvE servers and options. Everything that is currently in the game is listed on the Steam page under “About This Game“.

“Everything we have listed in About This Game below are currently implemented and functional in the game.”

If this sounds interesting to you, I would carefully recommend this game. Carefully, of course, as there is always a risk involved with games in Early Access. But so far, everything we have heard and seen from the developers makes me very optimistic that they are dedicated, hard-working and that we will see a finished game one day.

Atlas Reactor has started its Closed Beta. In the last Open Alpha phase, everybody could just sign up and play, but now you need to buy access if you want to play during the Closed Beta. Before anybody asks: Yes, there will be a wipe after Closed Beta, so no progress will be kept during this stage. I have taken a look at the different pre-purchase packages here. Price starts at 10 €, so it’s not too expensive if you want to check out the game during Closed Beta. You will also get that amount in in-game Credits once the game launches. The game itself will be free to play.

Wildstar New Tutorial_Dominion

Fragmented is not the only game making its appearance on Steam. Wildstar finally emerged on there as well. There is no release date listed other than “2016”. We know that they recently tested a new tutorial, so I assume this one will have to be polished and finished first before they start there. It would at least be a very wise move. They already overhauled the character creation procedure which is now a lot more intuitive to handle. So a new tutorial can only be good for the game, too. From what I have seen of the new tutorial on the Public Test Realm, it explains things for people new to MMOs, but more specifically, it explains how Wildstar works. Right after starting your first “test fights”, you are told how enemies are vulnerable for a short time if you interrupted one of their abilities and – and this is something I don’t think I’ve seen in other MMOs so far – you are then taken onto a housing plot and are shown how the housing works in Wildstar (remember: Housing gives you bonuses like rested XP, so even if you don’t care about housing in general, you may want to use it only for those bonuses and features). I only briefly looked at the new tutorial, but so far, it seemed to be well done. Let’s hope that the launch on Steam will bring in more customers, because I really like this game and would hate to see it go the way Vanguard did or Star Wars Galaxies…

“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.

Insights into indie game development

I bought “Gremlins Inc.” in early access and only barely noticed its official launch. Even if I hadn’t noticed it, though, the amount of search hits for “Gremlins Inc. review” would have likely tipped me off. :p I did write a “first impressions” piece and for several days, this blog post was getting quite a lot more hits than usual.

But even if you don’t like this game (digital board games aren’t for everyone), if you’re interested in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of indie game development, this company’s posts are quite interesting! So Gremlins Inc. is made by Charlie Oscar, an indie developer located in Vilnius, Lithuania. What has impressed me a lot so far, other than the game itself (or I wouldn’t have bothered linking to it, obviously :p), is the amount of “behind the scenes” information they have given us.

Gremlins Inc.

For one, I thought it was cute – and understandable, but mostly cute – how they celebrated every milestone in copies sold. In fact, I had seen one of those posts right when I was wondering whether to get the game or not. It made the company look honest and sincere with their customers. It is also refreshing to see that they celebrated those “tiny” milestones when other big companies boast about their “1 million copies sold”. Yes, of course, I would wish for them to sell a lot of copies! Still, there are small companies out there and they are happy about every single sale they make.

A few days ago, I saw them tweet about their game’s localization efforts and found this a very interesting read! Not only for me as their customer, but maybe also for others who are interested in making games and for whom such insights are valuable pieces of information. It wasn’t very surprising to see them come to the conclusion that German and French localizations are a must have, basically. I am German, I know how bad the English of lots of other Germans is. :p But the sheer amount of languages they offer their game in is astonishing and their thoughts and the impact those localizations had is fascinating. They also describe the process of how they worked with translators in different regions.

Today, they added another post about sales and early access. I am not a game designer, but I still found it interesting to get a glimpse into that part of gaming. In short, they come to the conclusion – which fits to what others have already said apparently – that Steam’s Early Access does not fund a game, but it at least gives them some additional money they wouldn’t have otherwise and it lets them create a community already. From my point of view, I would agree. A lot of people are careful about Early Access games – or Kickstarter and the like – because you just don’t have a guarantee that the game will be finished any time soon or ever. I have bought several games in early access now, but I always asked myself first: “Will I have fun playing the game in its current state?” – Only if the answer is “yes”, I buy the game. And I know lots of other people just don’t enjoy a game that still changes or that comes with lots of bugs etc. So those very likely won’t buy such a game.

But back to this post: They also share some insight into costs related to the manpower, rent for the office etc. and that somebody needs to actually run the business or hire and work with lawyers on top of everybody trying to make the game.

So far, they have not turned a profit on the game, but it only released one month ago (on March 11, so yes, exactly one month ago) and I hope they will make quite a few more sales. I know I will buy the original soundtrack when it comes out, because I just love game soundtracks. Not sure about DLCs, though. I am much more picky when it comes to DLCs and their “worth” (thinking of the Tropico ones mostly here). But we’ll see… maybe, if they’re good.

Atlas Reactor: Purchase into the beta or not?

Update May 7, 2016: Trion Worlds has just announced a change in their business model. Atlas Reactor will not be free to play anymore, but buy to play!

We’re going to be discounting the Atlas Pack to $19.99 for a short period of time. We will also be giving many opportunities to try the game before buying. Free weekends (including the weekend of May 13th – 15th), trials, friend referrals, and the Open Beta are all on the horizon.

So, read the following information with care as the whole “unlocking freelancers” part etc. are void. The goodies for Rift, Trove and Defiance are still there, though. :)

***

Open alpha is coming to a close and the closed beta will be open soon – on April 14, to be precise. As is custom for games by now, you can “preorder” or “pre-purchase” the game. Atlas Reactor will eventually be free to play, so you don’t actually have to pay anything for it if you don’t want to or cannot afford the purchase.

But just in case you are wondering about Atlas Reactors’ preorder packages, I thought I’d try to help you make a decision. For the most part, my blog post about my first impressions is still accurate. I still think it’s a “gem” and if the idea of playing a turn-based MOBA-like game sounds intriguing, then I definitely recommend checking it out! The question is now: Do you want to check it out in closed beta or wait until the game’s release?

So let’s have a look at the preorder packages. There are four different ones. The cheapest starts at 10 € (I’m rounding up here), the most expensive costs 100 €. All packages will give you 10 € worth of in-game credits to buy things. So, if you know you want to play the game and if you know you would spend some real money on the game sooner or later anyway, then why not jump in right away and get some extra bonuses on top? At this point, it’s probably also important to note that the ability to upgrade is not yet implemented, but planned. So, if you know you do want to spend some money, but you aren’t sure how much, it’s safe to invest those 10 € now and possibly upgrade later on. This is what bookahnerk and I have chosen, by the way. We know we definitely want to support the game, so we bought those… we would have access to the closed beta anyway, since we already had access during the first alpha.

Other than the in-game credits, there are three different “categories” of bonuses. Number 1 is goodies in the other games developed by Trion. You get “Zuki’s Helmet” in Defiance (cosmetic item, no stats!), you get a “Lil’ PuP Ally” in Trove and you get a sword and a shield skin in Rift. Number 2 is Atlas Reactor goodies like freelancers and skins as well as some boosts. I assume that some of those boosts will be bought with real money/in-game credits only. The same goes for the skins of the freelancers. The freelancers themselves all have both in-game credits as well as currency you get through gaming attached to them, so you will be able to eventually unlock all freelancers just by playing the game. The obvious advantage in these packages is that you can “buy” them right away and save time. The “Trust” package with 100 € is definitely a very committing one and I think the name of the package fits just too well. I would say you should only get it if you really know you will play the game and that you will want to play all the different freelancers – or if you at least know you will definitely want your freelancers to walk around with golden skins. ;)

Number three is tied to “community missions”. By doing these in closed beta, everybody who buys at least the 10 € package will get the community rewards. Those missions are not revealed yet, so we will have to wait until closed beta starts to see what they are and what we will get.

By the way, if you hover over the text lines on the preorder page, you will get more information on what you will be getting.

I was – and still am – tempted to get the upgrade for the 25 € package. The thing is: If they had included Nix, who is my favourite freelancer, or Garrison, who is my no. 2, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. Zuki, Rask and Aurora are not even in my top 5, though. So really, for me it was the question: Do I want to spend 25 € now and get freelancers I don’t really care about – or do I want to spend 10 € now to get the community rewards and the items in the other games (I play all of them, after all) and spend some more money once the game is released to buy some more freelancers… or maybe unlock the freelancers simply by playing and buy GG boosts which give XP bonus to everybody in my match?

So, long post short, I would recommend getting the 10 € preorder package if you like the game enough to know you’ll want to play during the closed beta as you get 10 € worth of in-game credits anyway, or the 25 € package if you like the freelancers that are included. The two more expensive bundles are probably rather for those who want lots of freelancers now or those who really want to show support to Trion for developing a great game.