Flummi’s new clothes…

I had originally wanted to show off my mesmer in her new gear yesterday. But it took me a while to figure out what I want. When I had finally decided what gear to get for her (which I’m not going into now, because I do not want to be told that I’m doing it aaaall wrong and should have gone with berserker… :p), I put it on her and Flummi, being the girly girl asura that she is, stomped her foot on the ground and demanded to get something that looks better.

Why is there such a huge distance between her back and her belt in the back of the outfit? It looks weird! I am also not a fan of the front. It’s mostly the belt that doesn’t look good, if you ask me.

Once again I wonder: Why is there no wardrobe/cosmetic outfit system like both Lord of the Rings Online and Rift have them? I don’t think I can ask this question often enough. I want to have outfit slots instead of those silly transmutation crystals! Once again, I had to rely on the good old Hall of Monuments Heritage armor to save the day! The “after” picture shows the WvW armor with HoM chest and pants. Everything else is non-transmuted. I did actually have a look at various other pants, but most of them did not fit with the WvW chest. And when I tried to find a chest and a pants piece that I liked, I figured I should just go the easy HoM route for now.

GW2 Mesmer WvW armor with HoM
Transmuted armor!

She is now waiting for the 6th superior rune of the traveler to arrive. Once it’s here, she can go back outside and explore Tyria. She is just a few percent behind Paerjja when it comes to world exploration… although that still doesn’t say much as both are still in their 60s. ;)

Also, apologies for not having a more interesting topic today. I’ve spent the day in several meetings and my mind is pudding right now. I can’t write anything about the new patch either as our first fractals run is scheduled for Friday. ;)

GW2: Customize with dyes

Dyes: Spring Tide, Indigo, Tungsten
Dyes: Spring Tide, Indigo, Tungsten

One thing that I’m really disappointed with is the limited visual customization of your characters. For example, I bought Flummi a Tiger Charr Backpack. The problem was that I still only had a rare back item. So I spent 5 gold and 5 guild commendations and bought the Guild Assassin Backpack to put the look of the charr backpack on. I liked the look of that one as well, but the charr one was so much cuter. Then April 1 came and with it, the Super Backpack Cover. My problem is that I really love the look of that one as well! But in order to have that look, I would either have to transmute it over the charr (not going to happen!) or buy a second Guild Assassin Backpack… I’m going to do the latter probably. Then I would also want to have the actual look of the Guild Assassin Backpack.

I just don’t think it’s a great design if it means that in order to have more than one look at a time, I have to buy the stats for an item over and over again. lotro_cosmetic outfit slotsI really wish I could move the wardrobe system from Lotro over to Guild Wars 2. This one gives you several slots and you can put items in there that you want to have for their looks. Then in your character panel, you have several cosmetic outfit slots that you can use to put the look of those items in. In the screenshot on the right, you can see the Hauberk of the Mithril Guard. That character isn’t wearing a helmet and the shoes aren’t shown because hobbits don’t wear shoes, after all. ;) With a simple click, you can switch between different looks. You can even enable and disable individual items which can also be seen in the screenshot. Look at the little eyes at the lower right corner of each icon. If the eye is closed, this item’s look is disabled.

The wardrobe slots and the cosmetic outfit slots can be bought in the Turbine shop (including expansions of those slots). So as far as monetization is concerned, it can be used for that as well.

I just like being able to switch whenever I feel like it and Lotro gives me this choice.

Dyes: Butter, Spring Ice, Brick
Dyes: Butter, Spring Ice, Brick

But I’m trying to make the best out of the current situation. I won’t stop saying that I really greatly dislike the current system, but I’ll try to live with it. Instead of switching between different looks (except for the two backpacks for Flummi), I switch between dyes. Once a dye is unlocked for a character, this character can use it as often as you want.

On the other hand, dyes are unlocked per character and with a lot of alts like I have, this is going to be expensive. That’s why I decided to specialize my characters for now until I can, maybe, buy all dyes for all characters. My sylvari ranger left the dream around noon and she loves vibrant bright colours. My sylvari thief loves the night, so he gets all blue dyes. Unfortunately, there aren’t even that many cool blue dyes as far as I could see. My male asura elementalist feels very sophisticated, so white-ish colours it is. He likes pairing that with green hues because he thinks he looks radiant in them. I try to focus on natural metallic dyes (and red) with my asura warrior, but that’s mostly because I don’t think the other colours look too good on her armour. Last but not least, my charr warrior likes pastels as that fits best with her light fur.

Criticizing Guild Wars 2

DISCLAIMER: If you want to criticize my post, feel free to do so (constructively, of course). However, if you want to do so, please READ it. Especially point 4 and its subject line: I complain about their marketing strategy. I do NOT complain about the skimpy armor. I even say so in the text. Read it, then complain about the actual content and not about what you THINK I wrote. Thank you. :)

First things first, as a regular or even casual reader of our blog, you’re well aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of the game. But let’s be honest: the game isn’t perfect and I know it never will be a perfect game. Why? Several reasons. For one, no game is ever perfect. They’re too complex to get them bug-free and especially MMORPGs evolve and get content added, mechanics changed, etc. All of that means plenty of risks for adding new bugs. But even when not looking at bugs, there just can’t be a perfect game out there simply because there are too many players who all like and dislike different aspects. Some won’t accept a game without PVP in every region, others need their weekly raid evenings, and so on. That means that we will always have people argue about a game and its (lack of) perfection. And it also means that the probability of a game company developing a game in exactly the way that I want is very slim/non-existing.

Guild Wars 2 is still in beta, so bugs are to be expected. In general, I am always very careful when criticizing games in beta. It is a work in progress, after all, and I wouldn’t want to hurt a game’s – and company’s – reputation by writing something too negative about the game before it’s even been released. On the other hand, if we never speak up and say what we dislike, how are the developers supposed to know what the players think of something? There’s a reason companies have beta tests and ask for feedback.

Having said all that (should my intros be shorter, I wonder…), I’m now going to list a few things about Guild Wars 2 that I know will annoy me – more or less strongly – and that will probably make the game less perfect for me – but not “bad”! That’s a big and important difference.

1) Mystic Chests
Syp over at Massively wrote a good piece about lockboxes in MMOs. To be honest, I was shocked when I saw my first lockbox in Guild Wars 2. I’ve always found it cheap when games had those and it was disappointing to see it appear in this game. While there may not be any “advantage” in there, I still think it’s a terrible way to earn money. What annoys me is the whole gambling part: You never know if spending money on yet another key will result in you getting that special item from the lockbox.

If you ask me, it’s abusing a weakness of us humans when it comes to calculating probabilities. Some spend 50 times 1 dollar trying to get a specific reward and end up empty-handed instead of just buying it for 35 dollars, for example… mostly because there is the probability (albeit a very, very low one) that they might get it on their first try and end up having spent only 1 dollar. And then they spend another dollar, and another and another and at some point, they think that now they have to finally get it, right? And they have already invested so much money that quitting would mean they have simply lost their investment without earning anything.

Bookahnerk has also found an interesting comment about this system on Reddit, where a poster mentioned Lunia and that in this game, you drop keys and need to buy the boxes from the shop. It sounds less tempting this way. After all, you don’t have the “item” wrapped in a box in your inventory already. You only have a key. And if you ever feel like getting a box to use this key, it’s fine. And if not, no harm done because there’s no item rotting in your inventory, just a key. Yes, I’m aware of the fact that it’s technically exactly the same thing. But the perception is a different one. And I’m pretty certain that there’d be less temptation to buy boxes whereas if you have lockboxes drop in your game, your players will probably buy more keys from the shop than they would buy boxes for the dropped keys. We’re curious and can’t calculate probabilities correctly (well, I’m sure a lot of people can but from personal experience, I’d say that this is the minority). In other words: It’s an easy way to earn money. But from where I stand, it’s cheap and dirty.

However, this is me criticizing something I haven’t seen the full scope of so far. We do not yet know enough about what will be in the lockboxes (exclusive items or not), if they will have keys drop in the game, if the lockboxes have a (e.g.) 90% chance of including another key (I think I read somewhere that a player found a key inside together with an item), if we’ll be able to sell the items we find in the lockboxes, etc. I’m just saying I really dislike this general concept, but I am curious how they will handle it specifically.

2) Voice of female norn

Norn are supposed to be really tall. And with that, naturally, comes a deeper voice than we would expect from the average human. If I hear the voice without looking at the screen, it fits and it sounds like a wonderful choice, but once I see the norn’s doll-like face, I’m not so sure anymore. It just doesn’t fit to hear her with such a low voice. But maybe this isn’t a problem with the voice at all but rather with the next point…

3) Idealized female characters

I’ve mentioned it before, to which Kadomi had reacted as well. ArenaNet’s stance can be found in this interview:

Univers-Virtuels: So, at the moment the humans are very young and it’s not possible to make it older as a character, or it will be possible to turn off the make up for woman?
Kristen: I’m not sure, we have some variety in there, but largely we want an idealized beautiful base face, so I think the humans are probably going to remain within a certain spectrum.”

I was happy to see that they have added one face that makes the character look a bit older. Then you can further customize it by changing the look of the nose, mouth, chin, etc. But that is only for the human and it’s only one face. The others still have that certain doll-like look. It’s especially annoying for norn because they’re tough! It seems weird to have them appear with a doll-face. I also don’t like the sound of “idealized beautiful base face”. Yes, this idealization is what we’re seeing in women’s magazines every day. This is what’s called one of the reasons for the rise of eating disorders (in women and men)… I understand that they want to add beautiful faces. I would assume that more people choose those faces than faces that the general public wouldn’t call “pretty”, “beautiful” or something like that. I just do not get why they refuse to add some more regular faces. Especially as the question above was aiming at faces “without that much make-up”. Either way, I will go for the regular face they have added because I find it more believable (ah yes, I know we’re in a fantasy setting, so theoretically everything is possible and thus, believable. But still…). On the other hand, we can see that you can go for some extremes when creating your characters. I’m not sure they would call the nose that you can see in the screenshot “idealized beauty”. But at least, we can reenact Cyrano de Bergerac. ;)

I will most likely play asura and charr as my main characters, so it won’t bother me that much. And I do like having a pretty doll character – but I would really love to have more variety. What is the harm in having an older face (one with wrinkles or just more defined facial features)? After all, they are in the game for the male characters. They have added one face for the female humans, though. So there is still hope we could maybe see something like that for the norn as well. Something that makes them more equal to the choices we have for male characters.

4) Armor and ArenaNet’s marketing strategy

As mentioned above, Kadomi wrote about the faces but in the same entry, she also addresses the “armor issue” which goes hand in hand with the idealized faces (and she says it much better than I will here, so if you’re interested in this topic, go read her blog post about it). Why do they present the female characters in suspenders? A word, by the way, that I only learned now thanks to Guild Wars 2 – that is, the English term for it, of course. What does it tell you about a game that teaches me the English terms of “sexy underwear” (“Reizwäsche” in German, by the way… in case you were wondering). I’m not happy with them presenting this as the typical clothing for some of their classes (mesmer and elementalist most of all) as this is what the characters look like when creating them.

After playing for a bit, I did get to see cloth armor that wasn’t as revealing and they have a system in place that makes it possible for me to merge the better stats of an item onto a piece of clothing that I like. So I’m not annoyed that they have revealing armor in the game. I am annoyed, however, that they presented us only this sexy underwear as armor. And even though there was a large outcry (not just from me, I might add!) in their fanbase, they did not add pictures of different armor in order to show us that when they said we would have choices, they didn’t just mean “a choice between a bra or bikini top”.

5) No scenery screenshots
This is something that makes me grind my teeth and scratch my head. I just don’t get this decision at all. ArenaNet doesn’t want us to take screenshots of the scenery without featuring our own character because they want us to get attached to our character. I love looking at screenshots of the game’s world but I am not interested in looking at some person’s character at the same time. This doesn’t interest me at all. Also, I do get attached to my character and if I want to take a screenshot of “me in Lion’s Arch”, I will do so. But if I want to take a screenshot of “this nice windmill”, then please let me do that without having “me in front of this nice windmill that you can’t see because my dear character is blocking the view”. There is a workaround, by the way. You can either /sleep or /sit and then work with the camera angle to get a screenshot without your character on it. I used /sit for my screenshots and unfortunately, my charr’s horns can be seen in a few of them. Oh well. Most of the time, it works just fine but why do we have to resort to such a workaround in the first place? Guild Wars 1 allowed us to zoom in and I haven’t heard anybody complain about the game and its design because we can do that.

While this workaround is fine for taking screenshots, video makers need to ability to move around without having their own character centered all the time. Machinimas probably won’t work in Guild Wars 2 and that’s just really, really sad if you ask me. There’s a not too old discussion about this on GuildWars2Guru.

And that’s it for today. All in all, it’s not a “list of things gone horribly wrong” or something like that. It’s just some things that bug me and that I wanted to get out of my system. I have to say, however, that the inability of taking screenshots or making videos without having my character in the center is the biggest issue I have here. The other parts probably won’t spoil my general fun in the game (especially the marketing – who cares about that in a year, right?) but taking pretty screenshots is what I really enjoy. I have a ton of screenshots from all sorts of MMOs I’ve ever played or tried out stored on an external hard drive and I’ve taken 640 screenshots in Guild Wars 2 so far and that was after only playing for 4 days! And most of those screenshots are from Lion’s Arch… I can’t wait for doing the same in Hoelbrak, Divinity’s Reach, Black Citadel,… (but next time, I will choose a character without horns! Asura would be perfect… *hint*)

Rise of Isengard: The good and the bad

This is a “first impressions” posting. ROI hasn’t been out for long and I haven’t seen everything. Please also note that I’m not saying ROI is bad. I’m also not saying it’s good. ;)

Let’s start with the ‘bad things’. Some are my own (subjective) opinion. Other things I’ve seen mentioned on the forums (so still subjective but not my own opinion).

I remember Turbine saying that they’ve increased the level cap to 75 instead of the first planned 70 because they have so much more content that only 5 levels weren’t enough. That raised my expectations – too high as it seems. People already reported that around 74 1/2, they’ve run out of quests. I saw others saying that at some point between 68 and 69, they ran out of quests and the next ones were for 71 – 72 (I’m level 69 and haven’t reached such a point yet). It could be that those players are missing a quest hub (the one up in the north eastern part of the Dunland map, for example). If that’s the case, I’d say it’s not a perfect world design then if you can easily miss a quest hub and then there’s no alternative quest hub for you to go to. On the other hand, some exploring might solve the issue (unless you need a certain quest in order to unlock the quests in that area).

Still, the problem with running out of quests before you reach 75 remains. Berephon replies on the forums: “Questing alone will only get you most of the way through a level. Skirmishes, landscape kills, and other sidebars are expected to maintain the level per division ratio.” – Keep in mind that ROI didn’t add any new skirmishes and no new instances so far (in 3 months, we’ll get the instances that belong to ROI but I think they’re for level 75 and not meant for levelling up). So… we have to go back to old content or grind mobs in order to reach 75? Where is that abundance of content that made them raise the level cap by 10 instead of 5 then? This is something I don’t like at all. It also diminishes replayability. If I want to level my second level 65 character up to 75 by doing quests, it means I’ll have to do all the quests again. The very same quests. There’s no question which quest hubs I want to do and which ones I found boring and would prefer not seeing again. Well, not entirely true. I can choose to do old instances, old skirmishes or Enedwaith. My point, however, is that ROI doesn’t add enough new content alone to reach level 75 AND keep me entertained on an alt. That’s rather sad and I would have preferred 5 additional levels instead of 10.

I’d started in Trum Dreng and did the quests there and I had fun. Then I moved to the Bonevales. It was, especially compared to Trum Dreng, boring. I just wanted to leave again. And I felt fooled when I’d turned in one quest and just a few minutes later, got a quest that asked me to do the very same objectives again. And it wasn’t a ‘daily’ quest either (like the one in Galtrev not long after that). All quests seemed alike (kill X boars, dunlendings or whatever else is on the road… wights were very popular!). The story surrounding those quests didn’t catch my attention either. I advised friends to start with the quests in Bonevales and then move on to Trum Dreng. It’s better to have the worse of the two quest areas first and then move on to one that’s better (in my subjective opinion but it’s one I’ve heard more often from other players as well).

Look at the image on the right. Both of these NPCs are quest givers in Galtrev. Remember that I’m still writing about the bad things of ‘Rise of Isengard’, so please, for now, disregard the fact that they included children and how pretty the pictures are. ;) But imagine the voices those two could have. Are they similar? Probably not, right? In ‘Rise of Isengard’, I hear this one female voice all too often. It became apparent when I had mistaken the little girl for the old woman and only realised my mistake (which explained why the ‘old woman’ was talking about toys) after “zooming in”. It’s not just a case of having the same voice actress speak different characters (like Billy West speaking Fry and Professor Farnsworth – among others – in Futurama, who sound similar but still different). It’s the exact same voice. You can’t hear any difference between those characters and it’s like the whole of Dunland’s female characters are obsessed by the same female demon lending them her voice. ;) That’s sloppy, boring and confusing! And it breaks my immersion. Especially as the voice does sound like it belongs to an older woman and it’s weird having a young woman and a girl speak with the same voice.

There is apparently no new music either. I was under the impression that of course, a new expansion in an MMORPG comes with a new soundtrack. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case (my comparisons are World of Warcraft and Guild Wars who have always added new music so far – and Mines of Moria did come with a new soundtrack as well, didn’t it?). I usually play without music after having heard it for a while, so it doesn’t bother me that much. But I’d turned on the music because I wanted to hear the new songs and it’s a bit sad that there are none.

One thing that I hadn’t realised because I’m playing with the English client is that the localisations for the German and the French client aren’t completed yet. I switched my client to German and had a look at what my warden was wearing. I’m wearing “Pocket TBD” and on the right picture you can see an item I found on the AH called “pocket item (level 66) 1”. The picture on the left shows other items called “cloak of the Dunlands 1”, “light armour of the Dunlands 1” and the great “cloak of the Rohirrim 3”. That is definitely not the actual name but a placeholder. It’s not only for the German client but the same happened to the French version, as a player reports here. Apparently, that is not the only issue with the localisation. The tooltips for the classes weren’t changed which makes it especially hard for minstrels etc. who got lots of their skills changed. Now, thankfully, that’s not an issue for me as I’m playing with the English client. But again, it seems unfinished.

One thing that’s annoyed me rather a lot is the layering. Now, usually, I’m all for it! If the server crashed without layering, then yes, please use this technique and separate the players but let the server live! ^^ It’s just annoying if you’re in front of a mining/wood node, want to collect the ore/wood and all of a sudden: Loading screen…! And the layer you’re in has no node. Boo. Instead, you find yourself facing two hostile mobs. Not exactly what I was hoping for. ;) My character hasn’t died because of it but having loading screens sneak up on you like that is annoying nonetheless. That’s something that players always complain about and why a game like Lotro is loved: No loading screens in the open world! Except that now, we have them. And without a warning, too. *sigh* But that’s probably something that will go away when there aren’t that many players around anymore, I hope.

The thread I linked to above already also mentions another issue: Pit of Iron, the last or one of the last quest hubs, is bugged. I haven’t seen it myself yet but since I’ve seen more people complain about it, I thought I should include it here. It doesn’t have a map and apparently, people get stuck with their character or fall through the floor every so often. Another thread about it is here and here is one wondering why it’s not a ‘known issue’ yet.

I’m not going to write about crafting because I haven’t seen enough to say anything negative about it (or positive. It seems quite the same than before only that it’s a new tier).

Now that I’m done with criticising, let me get to the points that I like about ROI. The obvious part first: The landscape is pretty and pictoresque as usual. “As usual” doesn’t mean, however, that I’m ignoring it. On the contrary. It means that I do the same that I’ve been doing ever since entering the game the first time. I stop and take tons of screenshots. ;) I even managed to choose a few and upload them in case you’re curious and want to have a look:

Rise of Isengard

Photo 11 shows the barber shop. There’s even an NPC sweeping the floor with a broom. They added lots of little details into the towns and villages. Like the dog gnawing on something and barking in between (which confused my dog who tried to find out why another dog was barking in her living-room! ;) ). And something that goes hand-in-hand with the details of the town etc. is how “phasing” works. When I first heard that there’ll be “phasing” in the game, I was excited. I’ve seen it in World of Warcraft (heavily used in Cataclysm) and really loved that! There were huge difference between separate phases and I imagined it would be like that in Rise of Isengard as well. It’s not. It’s a lot more subtle in ROI. For example, there’s an NPC who sends you to do something and once that’s done, they leave/disappear (for whatever reason). Usually, the player sits in front of the PC and just shakes their head… “Yes right. You left…” while still seeing the NPC stand there where they stood before. Not so in Dunland. Thanks to the phasing NPCs appear and disappear depending on your quests. If you’re at a stage where the NPC is gone, you can’t see them anymore. It’s just a tad confusing to see players interact with something that’s not there. ;) I also really enjoyed the stories in most quest hubs (with the exception of Bonevales). I want to know what happened to the little boy! :( (Not going to say anything else, of course. This is not supposed to be a spoiler-ish entry).

I also really love the amount of non-combat quests. It’s refreshing and nice to be doing something else than fighting X mobs all of the time. Now, it might not be that different from collecting X apples, after all, but still. At least, it’s a difference and it’s nice for the atmosphere such quests create.

One thing that seemed to make a lot of people cheer for the expansion was a tiny little change: You can now mount your horse in 2 seconds instead of the previous 5! And de-mounting is instant. The latter was criticised by some because it was nice to see the animation of your character getting off its mount. Still, all in all it’s a good change if you ask me especially when you’re out in the wilds collecting wood or ore.

Last but not least: One thing that made me exceptionally happy is the way the new armour looks. I didn’t care for the raid sets, so I was disappointed until I started questing and saw how the reward items looked. I even decided against an upgrade just to get that great-looking robe that I immediately put into my wardrobe, so my low-level scholar elf can proudly wear it while strolling through Rivendell. The only downside is that I wish there were mooooooore looks. But I’m only level 69, so who knows what else is in store (well… “store” meaning “in game”, not the Lotro shop… I hope ^^). I am seriously thinking about getting more cosmetic slots unlocked and, of course, my wardrobe space isn’t big enough. It probably tells a lot about me and my preferred play style that my favourite things in this game are the scenery, the cosmetic items (and in this case, the regular armour) and the non-combat quests. ;)

All in all, however, I find the expansion rushed. There’s apparently one area that’s bugged, there aren’t quite enough quests to reach level cap unless you started in a non-expansion region with your questing, grinded or did old instances/skirmishes. The German translation is lacking… translation. The instance cluster isn’t even finished yet.

I’m curious to see what the December update brings and how fast they can fix the mistakes, bugs etc. There are, as I’ve said, parts of the expansion that show such a love for detail that I don’t think they really just wanted to rush something to get money without investing anything at all. Why have such pretty art additions (like the new armour items) when you’re only interested in getting as much money as possible from an expansion without investing anything at all? Doesn’t make much sense.

My guess would be that they wanted to have the expansion out of the door before SWTOR (and maybe Diablo 3) was released. Because when a big MMO releases, people will go there and check it out. At the same time, they’d be more unlikely to pay for Lotro’s expansion. “I’ll buy it once I come back to Lotro”. But what about those people who don’t come back? They wouldn’t buy the expansion. But right now, SWTOR isn’t out yet and people need a distraction (or just enjoy their time in Lotro anyway). So they buy the expansion and Turbine wins. Once SWTOR comes out, they’ll go there and whether they’ll come back to Lotro or not, at least Turbine got some money from them. If they had released the expansion in December (together with the instance cluster etc.), they’d not get money from those players at all or for quite some time, at least.

Exploring Dunland

There’s more or less silence in this blog at the moment because I’m busy playing Rise of Isengard (need to enjoy the last few days before I start my new job, after all ^^).

No matter how much I criticize Lotro, one thing is always great and that’s the art in the game! The scenery/atmosphere and the clothes my characters can wear are simply beautiful with Rise of Isengard. Well… okay… maybe with the exception of the hats and helmets. ;)

So, for now I’m leaving you with a picture of my still-level 68 hobbit warden in her new outfit and on an old mount (I hope they’ll add a new one with the fall festival! :) ).