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Archive for March, 2008

Flashpoint missions – working for the common good?

March 30, 2008 Comments off

Today when playing my ranger in Torden Incline I got a radio call from HQ and when looking at it, it turned out to be a Flashpoint mission. These types of missions had been mentioned before by the Tabula Rasa development team, but I had not quite had a good grasp what it would be all about. So this mission got me curious of course.

The mission was called Predator Hunt and the task was to take out some recon predators (one Alpha and 10 drones) before they were able to complete their sweep through the Rainbow Thicket area.

What was neat here was that this mission was obviously given to a number of players in the area and that players could work for a common goal here without teaming up explicitly. Soon after accepted the mission I saw mission updates on drone being killed, even though I was not close to anyone myself.

During my session in Incline the Flashpoint mission turned up 3 times. Of these three, one failed and the 2 other succeeded. In one of the successful ones I only killed one drone myself, while in the other I killed the bulk of them, including the Alpha. In both cases I got to choose from some good experimental (blue) armor suitable for my level and profession as a reward.

I guess this is pretty much the same idea as the Warhammer Online public quests from what I have heard, although I cannot say I know the details there since I don’t follow that game progression.

Whatever it is called, this is a good idea and I hope to see more of it later.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

The second final ding

March 29, 2008 Comments off

Today my ice/fire dominator Ice Fugeo reached the max level in City of Villains, level 50. It is a special occasion; not because I reached the max level, that has happened before in a couple of MMORPGs. But this is the first time ever that I have reached the upper limit more than once in any MMORPG.

Ice Fuego is my second villain and second dominator to reach the max level, with Sarek being the first one to reach this limit.

Usually I use the built-in video capture in the game when capturing various moments – the few times I remember to do that, i.e. almost never. This time I actually forgot that the built-in functionality existed, so Fraps was used instead…

Categories: MMO Games

City of Heroes/Villains powerset proliferation

March 29, 2008 Comments off

The web site Total Video Games have two articles related to the new powersets that is going to be introduced in Issue 12 for City of Heroes/Villains.

Article 1

Article 2

As a big fan of the Dominator archetype, I will of course create a new dominator to try out the new powersets earth control and electricity manipulation. Together with the new villain epic archetypes, this means at least 3 slots need to be made available.

Both corruptor and blaster options looks a bit interesting to try out also. The masterminds only get a new secondary, which makes sense since this is not about creating entirely new powersets. Their primary powersets are quite unique. Except for perhaps the zombie primary there, I don’t see the storm summoning fit in that well from a character background perspective, but that is just me.

I would like tro try the fiery scrapper option and see how that compares to my fiery brute. While I like the fury game mechanic I am looking for other character options that might work for me to play more on hero side and this could perhaps be an option for that.

While entirely new powersets would also be interesting to play around with (please please, clowns as mastermind primary…) I am glad that they also expand the options through the existing power mechanisms.

Categories: City of Heroes

Communicating with the community

March 26, 2008 Comments off

Recently a discussion on the topic of whether MMORPGs should have official forums or not have popped up again, for example at Common Sense Gamer and The Ancient Gaming Noob and triggered by posts related to Stargate Worlds and Warhammer Online.

In my opinion, the question is a bit larger than whether a game forum has some kind of “offocial” tag to it or not. It is about communication and interaction between the players and the game companies and their people involved in creating these MMORPGs (not just developers in my mind). That may include game forums, but does not have to.

There are two primary goals involved in this community communication:

  1. The game development representatives would ideally like a representative view from the player base about good and bad things in their game, presented in a coherent and to the point manner.
  2. The players want their concerns, pet peeves, hopes and wished addressed by the game development representatives and also be pleasantly surprised.

Neither is going to happen and co-exist completly. What one may wish and strive for is some approximation of these goals that may give either side at least some sense of benefit.

A problem with forums, regardless of their status, is that it is likely to not be a representative view of the player base. It is a vocal minority. A lot of people will not expose their views and opinions to the scutiny of their gaming peers. A larger, silent minority/majority may read forums to try to get useful information that may help with #2 above. Another big group just play the game, maybe check some web sites related to the game.

In order to achieve an approximation of goal #2 for a lot of players, a reasonably good approximation of goal #1 is needed. Official game forums and web sites have been the closest so far and at least something that has worked in the past. As player demographic and market size and type changes, this may no longer be true.

Tabula Rasa took a step here to try to change this; they do not have any single official forum (but still an official web site). Their development representatives are visible in a number of community-driven forums though, it seems a few of them each have taken on some of the major community forums to some extent at least. And also importantly, they have included other alternate means of communication through feedback forms on their official web site – another way to communicate from players to the game representatives. They also have a weekly Feedback Friday entry on their web site where various items are addressed every week, which is also available as a link in the game launcher.

I think the latter is a good feature and is something that easily can reach pretty much every player of the game. Their feedback forms is also a good idea I think, but would be nicer if it were available in-game also in an easily accessible manner. It would also be good to provide some feedback on how it is used back to the players and perhaps presetn some statistics. All to show that is used and can make a difference – assuming that is the case.

I’d love to see the Tabula Rasa people comment on how their approach have worked out for them. Personally I like the type of info they present and the rate of change and updates they do to the game; have their community communication approach helped or hindrered them? For some people (in particular forum players) it may be worse than what they hoped for, but possibly for a number of other players it may be better.

The fact that a number of to-be-released games are considering alternative options do indicate that there is not just happiness and joyfulness for the current norm and there are concerns if they can do better.

There can be only one – the outdated guild/clan interfaces

March 17, 2008 Comments off

In almost every MMORPG one finds on the market today there is one thing they have in common – each character in the game can only be part of one guild/clan/super group. Why? What is the defined purpose of the guild in game? This includes games with very basic interfaces (e.g. Tabula Rasa) to games with quite elaborate interfaces (e.g. Everquest 2).

In real life we have many groups of people which we interact with; family and relatives, collegues at work, friends from university or school, friends from childhood, from various clubs and associations. In short, we exist within a number of different communities, some which may partially be overlapping.

In most cases these communities have a reasonably defined purpose or context. The guilds in the MMORPGs have seldom a clearly defined purpose by the game designers, that is up to its members. Which makes it even more strange that one can only be member of a single of these communities in game.

I would rather see games opening up for many guilds and many types of guilds – perhaps also with different functionality depending on the purpose the members chooses for it. A raid guild perhaps want to have some built-in DKP functionality, some categorization based on character builds. A more mission/quest oriented guild perhaps wants some features to schedule and organize collaboration on various missions/quests. There can be a lot of different functions that are interesting depending on the type of guild the members set up.

Some might argue that building a lot of these interfaces into the game client will be a lot of work and that there still would be an issue with it working together with web sites and external functions that guilds/clans have on their web sites.

So why not skip building any of these interfaces into the game clients entirely? Just provide some web tools for people to access and manage this type of data and then provide a built-in browser to access it.

The community interfaces can be refined and adjusted without updating the game client itself. And more importantly, the tools can be used whether in-game or out of game. They can (hopefully) be reskinned and integrated with any guild web sites.

A rethinking of the purpose of guilds and how to manage and interact with them would be a welcome change from the game companies. Right now there not many ideas there as far as I can tell.

Categories: MMO Games

Back into the wilderness

March 17, 2008 Comments off

Not so long ago I created a Brann/Human hybrid in Tabula Rasa (Brandon Sente), wanting to try this race combination with the sniper profession. Since I already have one of each profession one option was to clone my existing sniper. She does not have any clone credits though and frankly I have played so much in Mires and Plateau lately that I am a bit tired of that.

So I decided to create a new character from scratch again, just like in traditional MMORPGs. It would also be a good time to check out what the first areas were like nowadays – there was some months since I was there last.

The Brann/Human hybrids have a blueish skin colour and the attributes (body, mind, spirit) are distributed differently. A human gains 2 points in each attribute automatically and leave 3 points for the player to distribute. A Brann/Human hybrid gets 2 in body, 1 in mind and 4 in spirit by default and then have 3 points to distribute each level.

My plan here is to put most of the points I can distribute myself into body and a few in mind and let the spirit part grow by itself, at least in the beginning. So far this works well. But I am still a long way to get the actual sniper skills, so it remains to be seen how it works out.

Starting back in Concordia Wilderness again was a nice change of setting. Not so much exploration and sense of discovery though, but enjoyable none the less. This time around I had the benefit of a working Military surplus available and weapons with variying degrees of damage depending their rarity – much easier to get the right weapons at the right level than it was when I played through this initially after release. The money the character earned was generally enough to buy what was needed, so not really any need to funnel contributions from the other existing characters. At least if one excludes the prototype (purple) weapons.

The missions were pretty much the same as I remembered them, with a few exceptions. One of the escort missions did not seem to be there anymore and the 3 devils mission had changed such that each “devil” (Thrax officer) appread at different locations around the lake in Wilderness, making it much easier to complete that mission. I guess they became tired of each other and went in different directions to sulk.

The enemy that caused most trouble among the regular missions was the nasty Xanx spider Arioch. I had only a tinly sliver of health left when I managed to kill him. Strill that was at level 11 and solo, which was much earlier than I had managed before. The added damage from using experimental (blue) weapons probably helped.

All in all I completed all missions (except the Targets of Opportunity) in the Wilderness area pretty much at the same time as I reached level 12 and had not done any of the 3 instances then. Playing through the instances took me a bit into level 14. That was a good level if soloing the instances, all enemies were a few levels below and it was not too difficult. But for a team visit I would have preferred to visit them a bit earlier.

The Caves of Donn instance was the one that had changed the most for me – different support squad assisting me and no Xanx at all in the instance; only Fithik, Miasma and Thrax troops. I think it works better this way.

Next stop Concordia Divide.

My ability/skill points went into firearms and after I picked up soldier branch, also into machine guns and rage. Soon after starting to play in Divide I reach 15 and selected ranger. Now I started putting points into stealth armor. Getting new armor at 15 was not that easy though; the Milirary Surplus did not have much stealth armor at all at 15 and what was there was quite expensive. So I pretty much ended up continuing a bit with some motor assist armor, vendor bought stealth armor and as I got more weapon drops, upgrading the armor when I found a few pieces.

Getting weapons was much easier though, when there was time for an upgrade it was always possible to get some experimental (blue) weapons and reasonably good prices from the surplus.

Playing through Divide worked quite well also and at 19 and only a tiny bit left to 20 I was done will all but Torcastra Prison and killing Splatter. Hunting for Splatter has always been an exercise in patience and running around looking for him took quite a while. But after a fairly long time I did find him near the entrance to the underground area of the Bane facility and started to fire at him. It did not take long time ro realize this was going to be a challenge – I was barely making a dent in his health, or at least it was decreasing quite slowly. The main problem was the other spawns in the area that jumped in – if I took a few seconds to kill them off then Splatter’s health had pretty much regenerated completely again..

Trying to move Splatter’s into a spot where there would not be other spawns was a bit difficult and when I thought I was making some progress he suddenly vanished! I ran around in the neighborhood, but he was not anywhere around there. A bit irritating. Will probably try again either getting a team together or when I get some better weapons to use later.

Started to go into Concordia Palisades, got to 20 and bought new armor. This time it was easier to find some armor to buy at the surplus. Then paid a visit to Torcastra. A difference I noticed here is that the perimeter alarm when reaching the prison area with the mortars was not there anymore. Previously if the alarm was triggered a Stalker would spawn. This time the Stalker was already there from start.

The Stalker did not provide any major problems though. The two most challenging enemies in the instance was the hunter boss that was part of the Forean hybrid mission arc and the Juggernaut parked in front of the prison building.

The trouble with the hunter boss was the reflective armor feature – initally it decreased my armor and health just as quickly as I decreased his. To get a bit of a benefit here I applied a polarity field on him and used my laser machien gun and for safety triggered an armor charger when most of my armor was gone. This was enough to keep my armor and health up long enough to get him killed.

The Juggernaut was the next obstacle. After an initial attempt att firing and trying to stay behind him was not so successful. So I took a gordic knot cut approach to the problem – I just ran past him. Since he did not follow me into the prison the problem was solved somewhat peacefully :)

Currently Brandon is playing in Palisades and enjoying life there. So far I am quite happy with this character and starting from scratch again was a good choice for me – it will take longer to actually get to become a sniper, but I have more fun now on the way and that is what matters.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

Issue 12 sneak peek

March 14, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft has published some info about the coming update for City of Heroes/Villains – Issue 12 Midnight Hour. This was a quite promising read and I am really looking forward to this update.

Finally they will be introducing the villain epic archetypes, i.e. archetypes that are unlocked once you get a villain to max level (50). This is something I have been waiting to see for a good amount of time, since more than 90% of my time in the game is spent on villain side.

Powersets will be adapted and added to existing hero and villain archtypes. No entirely new powersets, but more choice within each archetype. This is quite good I think, making the different types of powersets more uniformly available to the different archetypes on both sides.

There is a story line and new zone also, which it set in ancient Rome it seems. I am interested in seeing how that plot will work out. This also introduces new costume sets with Roman theme. We will probably see some Maximus, Spartacus and similary named characters then…

There is also a revamp of the Hollows zone and various bits and pieces improving the user interface and interaction.

All in all it sounds like a quite promising update. Given the timelines for previous annoucements and when the updates go live, my guess is that we will see this update in late April or May timeframe.

Categories: City of Heroes

From ashes to Atta, from sticks to flames

March 9, 2008 Comments off

The continent of Ligo on Arieki is a generally harsh, vulcanic landscape. However, this changes somewhat when one enters Ashen Desert. The harsh part is still there, but in a different way. Instead of rocks and lava, we have sand and ashes – as the name implies.

Ashen Desert was the focus of attention for my engineer for a while. Contrary to his visit in Ligo Thunderhead, there were plenty of missions from AFS in this area and it also felt mostly a bit easier also, the influx of enemies with a desire so smack humans and hybrids in the head were for the most part a bit less, perhaps they weer taking advantage of some sandy beaches instead. Although to have a beach one would need some liquid, which were largely absent.

Ashen Desert

The area is quite enjoyable and in addition to the Bane troops one can find some of the typical Ariekian fauna, like lashers, beam mantas and a new encounter – the granitour. This one is an armored scorpion-like bug which has an annoyingly effective spit attack.
And then there is the Atta. The last encounter of the Atta was in Torden Incline and many players probably have somewhat mixed feelings towards the Atta. With restances to most types of damage, hurling rocks to knock you back and stun you, screaming and virl attacks they were not the easiest of adversaries.

Add to that the two Atta instances in Torden Plains and Incline – Kardash and Ojasa. While Kardash was somewhat ok to me, I found Ojasa to be the worst instance in the game so far. Not easy to fight, tedious repetetive instance with logn travel times if you died, Ojasa left a few things to be desired.

It was then with a bit of skepsis I took on the Atta-related instance in Ashen Desert, Avernus Outpost. Avernus was an outpost which had been overrun by Atta forces and as there had been evidence of Bane moving around without problem among the Atta, this was also an added concern. Was this going to be another Ojasa?

In fact, I had no need to worry. Avernus Outpost is a quite enjoyable instance, starting off in the remains of the outpost and continuing down into Atta territory. The story does not quite end in this instance, rather it could be considered part one. An advice here, do this instance before the Bane Conscription Facility, another instance in Ashen Desert.

Atta territory down under Avernus

I have been spending quite a bit of time with my engineer in the past weeks and quite enjoyed it. But, I am an altoholic and from time to time I do need to play different characters. So I decided to play a bit with some of my other character also, and continued with my guardian a bit.

Most of my characters in 30-31 range have a mixture of Mires and Plateau missions left in each of these areas, so it felt natural to start with Mires, since this is the lower level one of these two. I had totally forgotten which logos I had picked up before, which bosses I had killed etc with my guardian, so there was a bit of investigation to find out what was left in that area.

I have never completed all missions in Mires before though, mainly due to previous bugs. This time around though it all worked out fine and every mission I could find in the area was dealt with. While I am not too fond of the new “emptiness” of Mires, it was nice to finally do all missions there.

These missions included the Brann hybrid mission arc. I was not sure before whether these missions could be completed more than once, but apparently it is possible. This led to the somewhat frustrating task of getting myself killed by a caretaker. So this time I tried to get killed by some local caretaker bosses, who after the latest update had made a come-back to the area. But it turned out that neather Dedarrlik nor Vilescorn had been authorized to carry the specific viral weapon in question and pissing them off and stripping in front of them did not provide any updates with the mission giver.

Later when I went into the Tahrendra instance I got to a point where I had one caretaker and a Thrax soldier in the vicinity and then tried to get Mr Care Taker to become a bit agitated with me. Unfortuntely Mr Taker was more interested in reviving Mr T Hrax than hurting me, so it took several kills of Mr Hrax and some nasty gestures and insulting language involving Mr Taker’s mom before he finally gave in and gave me the viral dose I needed. Good for him!

Playing the guardian for a bit made me realize that this is probably not a character I will play a lot. While the twirling of the guardian sticks is neat and the sticks/staves do a decent amount of damage when used (the guardian’s signature weapons), it did not feel very exciting on the long run, rather. Perhaps part of it is the handling of the staves, part of it the skill set.

So I switched to my grenadier. This is currently my only hybrid character, a forean/human. The grenadier’s signature weapons, the propellant guns, do not have the immediate advantage than one will see when playing a guardian or a spy withtheir signature weapons. The guns are quite short ranged (10 meters) and typically affect a cone-shaped area. The usefulness of the propellant guns becomes more apparent when one manages to get a couple of the enemies in front of you on that 10 meter range. Then it is blasting the guns towards that group and see their armor and health diminish all at once, pretty much. The machine guns are faster killers for single targets, but for multiple enemies in close formation the propellant guns can be the better choice.

The grenadier also have a number of offensive abilities, often affecting multiple enemies as well. Overall I found the grenadier to lend to a more varied and fun play style for me. While ammunition costs eats up a fair amount of money as a grenadier, I still like that better than the guardian. The grenadier will never end up among the top 10 richest soldiers of fortune and be featured in AFS Cribs, but money is not everything. Although with the business model ofthe AFS, one would think otherwise…

My grenadier, Forrest, also took to do a bit of missions in Mires as well. This included the Brann hybrid mission. For the third time I went with the safe option and let the Caretaker comm officers kill me. They travel in pairs and they generally do not have many other types of Bane around them, so it is relatively easy to get killed by them.

My grenadier had not visited any instances in Mires, so he took a tour to the Fluxite mines. And to my surprise the content had actually changed a bit. More missions were added and some old ones had been modified a bit. More enemies had also been added, in particular more Kael and Nitroglazers. This made the trip through more interesting and fun. Given that the missions now took better advantage of the locations in the instance, I think that they now pretty much have the set of missions they originally intended. What was there before was a stopgap solution where not all content had been completed.

I actually hope that there are more areas like that, including those that I have played through at least once. This means that there will be at least some new/different content when other alts are going through the same areas. More planets and areas are wanted and I hope that a new planet will cover at least a decent amount of parallel areas in the 30+ level space.

But only time will tell.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

The fighting experience

March 7, 2008 Comments off

Tabula Rasa’s Feedback Friday notes for Match 7th brought some changes that will be included in the next update, probably. They encourage people to comment on the changes that are planned.

First is a modification of the experience multiplier. Currently it is possible to get up to 250% of the base experience when fighting enemies, i.e. if the base experience for killing Mr T Hrax is 1000, then one can get up to 2500 for a corresponding kill given the right circumstances. At an earlier point in the beta phase of the game, this multiplier was higher and it was possible to get up to 600% worth of experience.

Now this is reintroduced, but the modifier is different depending on the level of the character – higher modifier at higher levels. Essentially the leveling curve is somewhat flattened.

Added to this is also an ability to “buy” extra experience bonus, add 50% bonus on top of whatever bonus is in place already for 30 minutes. This can be bought with the new control point tokens, which I guess are the same tokens that earlier was discussed to be used for buying respec of attributes or skill/ability points.

This points to incentives for people to engage more in control point battles, which I think is a good thing. This may also indicate that mission-based content have gaps in the current progression.

While I really like to follow the storylines of missions, I still think this is a good thing. More missions would be nice also, but only if there has actually been some effort into making them interesting. If missions end up being just more generic “kill 10 Thrax” type of missions I can very well do without them.

The experience bonus which is received when fighting in a team/squad will now also be more visible. This feels mainly like a psychological change – with the teaming bonues being more visible it gives the player more positive feedback on their progress, making them feel more good about teaming up and thus also encourage teaming a bit more.

For other bits that will be included in the new update we have audio cues that are added for a number of activities. I cannot say I thought that was necessary, but maybe it will help some people. Just as long as it does not get too much to the point of becoming annoying I am fine with it.

A much more welcome change for me is the ability to interrupt reloading of weapons! While I for the most part really like the combat mechanics in the game, one thing that has annoyed me a bit is that weapon/tool switching is not possible while an animation related a used weapon/tools is playing. In particular the reloading of weapons/tools exhibit this somewhat irritating behaviour. There has been countless times where I have been trying to switch to a better suited weapon only to fail doing that because some animation (often a reload) of the current weapon is playing. This should definitely help some with those issues.

Overall, these future changes looks pretty good I think.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

Rikti Invasions of 2008

March 7, 2008 Comments off

Go back a couple of hundred years and the rules of warfare was a bit different from today. That could include a more rigid schedule on when and where to meet up and beat the crap out of each other.

The Rikti seem to have and oldfashioned view here and have announced when they are going to attack the Rogue Isles and Paragon City again throughout the year. Obviously they are somewhat pessimistic or realistic about the outcome, since they have the whole year planned. No quick wins here. Or maybe they just want people to feel safe.

Anyway, each invasion period seem to last for close to a week, starting today. I really like the Rikti invasions, they are generally good fun with intense fighting, clear goals, everyone can join in together and without the need for lengthy commitments.

Kick some Rikti butt!

Categories: City of Heroes
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