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Archive for December, 2008

That is a big boost

December 31, 2008 4 comments

I happened to take a look at XFire statistics for played games and noticed that EVE actually had climbed up to me #2 among MMO-type games, pushing Guild Wars down to the 3rd spot. Looking at the details there is a significant boost in number of hours played, from about 10000 hours per day to something between 30000 and 40000 hours from the middle of December.
xfire_stats1

The number of users playing are still lower than Guild Wars though and people seem to put on average almost 5 hours per day. Is it the winter event or something else? Neither Warhammer Online or Lord of the Rings Online are close to EVEs (or Guild Wars’) numbers when it comes to XFire usage.

Categories: EVE Online

I received a Christmas card…

December 29, 2008 Comments off

..from ArenaNet. A nice card with what I guess is Gwen and 2 Asura in Xmas outfits on the front and a couple of signatures from people at ArenaNet inside.

I have not reason to believe that I am singled out in any way, so I guess they might have randomly selected a number of Guild Wars players and sent them cards. At least I do no think they would send a couple of million cards to everyone.

Either way, I do appreciate the gesture even if it was random. Thank you ArenaNet!

Categories: Guild Wars

The illusion of control

December 28, 2008 2 comments

On the villain side the dominators has been responsible for much of my play time there. It is my favourite archetype in this game. The combination of crowd control and damage dealing has been a very appealing, combined with the domination power. With 6 dominators and a total of 280 levels I have found that an enjoyable archetype to play.

Hero-side it is mainly the Controllers (or trollers for short) that handles the crowd control, but instead of damage dealing they have more support abilities. My highest hero is also a controller and I have had a lot of fun playing her also.

She was created a bit over a year ago and is an illusion/radiation controller (a popular powerset combination). Inspired a bit by a ghost story I heard on a vacation to Iceland, I named the character Frieda and tried to give her the look of a ghostly little girl. The illusion powerset seemed to fit quite well with that character so that choice was easy. Radiation was picked mainly because it seemed to be a useful powerset.

 

Frieda with Phantom Army and Phantasm

Frieda with Phantom Army and Phantasm

The illusion control powerset do have a number of powers that match well with the ghostly theme, from the Spectral Wounds damage power to the various “pets” such as the Phantasm, the Phantom Army and the Spectral Terror. The Phantasm is a ghostly creature which sends blasts to damamge the enemies and sometimes creates a cloned decoy of himself to get enemies to attack the decoy. The Phantom Army is a set of three masked invulnerable characters which can jump in for a short time and output some good damage and attract the anger of the enemies. It is an excellent power to pick up an alpha strike from a group of mobs. Spectral Terror is a screaming ghost which causes fear into enemies in the area.

Frieda is now level 39 and is by far the highest hero I have in the game (compared to at least 10 level 30+ villains, of which 4 are at max level). While the damage doen by Frieda herself is quite miniscule and smaller than any dominator, the “pets” do compensate for that and provide some decent output. In fact I would feel safer trying to handle elite bosses solo with Frieda than any of my dominators, mainly because it is easier not to be the main target of agression. In group, especially large ones I still think I prefer dominators though.

It will be interesting to see what the higher level content on the hero side will provide. I must say that I have found the content to be a bit better when higher levels are gained than on the low level side.

Categories: City of Heroes

Back in Middle Earth – for now

December 27, 2008 8 comments

About a week ago I decided to have a look again at Lord of the Rings Online. This was a game that I pre-ordered and got the founder’s 6 month option for, but stopped playing after 2 months.

What destroyed the game for me then was too much grind elements (resource grind, kill grind), uninspiring quests (too many kill X boars type of quests) and camping/spawn competition for the mobs/resources necessary for that grind.

I did however really like the setting and the mood elements that was part of the environment. While I do have read J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels (and not just Lord of the Rings), I cannot say that I am a Tolkien fan or even a fantasy fan – I read a lot of fantasy in pre-teens and teens, but that stopped later. With the exception of Terry Pratchett the number of fantasy books I have read in the past 20-25 years can probably be counted on my fingers. So I cannot say that the setting fitting with J.R.R. Toolkien’s work has a big impact for my enjoyment of the game. Nice, but not much more than that.

I decided to jump in the game with one of the new classes introduced with the Mines of Moria expansion – the nuker/healer combo of the Rune-keeper and the need to balance each side properly sounded quite interesting to try out.

Read more…

When IP blocks makes more sense…

December 26, 2008 1 comment

..is for a game company that runs “free-to-play” games.

If the company runs “free-to-play” games then it is likely that the majority of the players will not pay anything or very little and thus only cost the company money. The likely minority of players that pay more will more than make up for that though.

But given that players will be either profitable or non-profitable, more players may not necessarily be good for business. Only profitable players are good for business. Which probably means that certain countries and audiences are more interesting than others, depending on their likeliness to pay.
Proximity of servers may be a factor here also, if the service works better for players they might be more willing to pay for stuff.
Maybe the cost to process payments from different countries is also a factor (assuming that there may be differerences here).

Depending on the business model set up with the developers of a game (if the company is only a publisher), there may also be legal restrictions here since the developers want to sell the game to many different publishers for more profit.

Either way, running a “free-to-play” service will likely cause the companies to be selective about who will play the game, still with appearing to be free and open.

The issues with IP blocking for Chronicles of Spellborn has been my 2nd subscription-based game with such issues. The first one was Horizons back in 2003, which blocked me from playing with some game friends in the US.

I have also experienced this with some of the “free-to-play” games, locking me out even if there is no European version.

Given the background and the current games the publishers for Chronicles of Spellborn are operating (Frogster and Acclaim), it probably makes sense for them to do the same thing they might be doing with other games – they are not used to operate subscription-based games where all players are profitable.

I do not think the Spellborn IP block will go away anytime soon. Unless All publishers and Spellborn N.V. all agree on lifting the block (and likely changing the business agreements) nothing will happen in this area. And they will not do anything unless they all see some bad sales numbers and they come to the conclusion that lifting this would help.

Is this an issue we will be plagued with for all smaller games and games with separate developers and publishers which go the “free-to-play” route? What about companies like NCSoft, Blizzard, SOE, Turbine or EA? Will they put in more measures to try to maximize the ratio of profitable players if they publish “free-to-play” games and what measures would that be?

A visit to the Athenaeum

December 23, 2008 1 comment

In Chronicles of Spellborn my trickster has died in combat once. Most of the deaths has been through other means, including game crash, AFK and exploration.

Before the 1.0.1 update I had a crash while running down a street which resulted in both my death and double loss of PEP (from 2 to 0). After the update though I did have another crash in the middle of a combat. I pretty much expected to log back in to a report that I had died and lost some PEP, but it turned out that neither were I dead nor any PEP had been lost! Apparently there has been some improvement that did detect the crash properly and aborted the combat in time. Good work Spellborn!

In my visit to Quarterstone I received a quest to travel to The Athenaeum if I wanted to learn more about the past. This was a bit intriguing so since I were on the Parliament shard I headed towards the Hawksmouth docks to jump on a shard ship. Some domestic issues needed a couple of minutes attention though, so I decided to park my trickster near a guard tower and go AFK, hoping that the guards would provide some protection for the wildlife.
Returning back a couple of minutes later I was greeted with a “You have died” screen… Looking at the combat logs it seemed that something with fangs had taken a couple of bites, enough to provide a terminal condition. Apparently the guards were not much help or did not care. This certainly brought back memories from some older games, were going AFK seldom were safwe anywere except perhaps in cities,e ven in PvE games. This seems to be the case here also. Lesson learned the –PEP way!
Read more…

Touristing in Quarterstone

December 22, 2008 5 comments

After becoming a citizen through high house Rune in Chronicles of Spellborn my travels took me to the shard of Quarterstone. So far I have just done some initial quests and some time running around in the area.

The Oracle district and the temple

The Oracle district and the temple

Quarterstone is pretty much a city shard, with a couple of districts placed around the center area, the Oracle district and the big temple there in the middle.
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Surviving Elona

December 19, 2008 7 comments

A while ago I decided to try out monking a bit in Guild Wars, i.e. the healer role. Monk was pretty much the only profession I had not played yet, so it was time to try it out anyway. It worked reasonably well in beginning and also when Dunkoro and the other monk heroes were added. But to be honest I think it was not possible to split up the responsibilities so well with the heroes. With Dunkoro being a healing monk per default I focused a bit more on the protection monk path when levling up. Around 11-12 I did think of that the monk had not died yet, which was a bit worrysome. Last time I noticed that on a character it died soon after for the first time. But with a monk obtaining the survivor title should be easier than with other professions, at least with some support of other heroes. So I decided to try for real this time to get the Survivor title (i.e. no deaths until max level 20). With some hero support and the fire imp for added fire power in missions/quests the path to the title became easier. Since I had already done the leveling in Elona twice before it also helped to know where potentialy tricky/deadly spots could be in different locations. It was actually not until I had about 90 points left to level 20 that I got into some serious trouble when I ran into multiple mandragor groups popping up in the area and my monk was down to a sliver of health before escaping… Calming down a bit and going to a bit safer area to get the last few points the goal was finally reached and the survivor title in place!

Got the Survivor title

Got the Survivor title

I have no ambition at this point though to go further in the survivor titles (i.e. Legendary Survivor) – reaching level 20 without deaths is good enough for me. Now is the time to focus more on practising monking rather than surviving mainly (although survival helps if you are monking). I am not quite comfortable still with clicking around with the mouse in the party window to select members – I tend to loose track of the mouse pointer sometimes. Playing protection focused monk do seem more interesting in that one should be proactive rather than reactive. But time will tell.

Categories: Guild Wars

The Silence of the Shards

December 17, 2008 7 comments

 

Lately I have played some Chronicles of Spellborn on and off. It is a game that I have a bit of a love/hate situation with.

First of all – I do like the environment and setting. It looks quite nice and the atmosphere is very good. I also do like the combat, although I tend to move between “hey, that was not too bad” and “oh boy, do I suck at this…” in terms of what my combat results feels like.
It is certainly something that takes some practice and probably never going to be any mindless buttonmashing if one wants to be reasonably successful at it.
My guess is that it might work out a bit better with a mouse wheel to select the skill row on the skill deck though, since the fingers on the keyboard is used for moving/strafing/jumping also. But I use a trackball instead of a mouse and the one I got does not have any mouse wheel. I will likely never go back to use a mouse unless I am forced to and I am not yet prepared to try find a trackball with a mouse wheel just for this game.

When it comes to the game in general I think there is one phrase that sums it up: Old School.  With that I mean that in many ways the game feels a bit like a game from a slightly older era, the time when men were men and… 

There is for example no way to see what other players are logged on or playing in the area, no /who command, no /search function or similar. At least not what I have found out and I have seen other people ask for it. There are no fast travel options, you run to wherever you want to go, except when going between shards – then a shard ship is used. Running might get slightly faster if your PEP (Personal Experience Points) is high enough, but not by a huge amount. Minimap does pretty much only show quest NPCs. Quest texts do require reading to figure out what to do often and sometimes are also vague enough that you may need to search though the zone in detail to complete them. There is no auction or cinsignment house function, just a trade chat channel. The characters need to be online to be invited or added to a friend list and for a group invite I think also a visual proximity is required.

Note I do not say that this is bad; in fact I do like some parts of it. But I do worry a bit that the game might be one that will require a lot of time in order to feel that some progress is made. If that will be the case then it might not be the game for me.

I do not know whether these bits and pieces are intentional or if  they intend to change these things later.

So far I have created two characters; one Void Seer (spellcaster) and one Trickster (rogue). For my view of a spellcasting archetype I felt that I did a bit too much melee fighting with my void seer, which was my initial character. So I decided to try out another archetype also. And I do like the trickster better, it feels to me that the skills work out better or are more interesting in comparision to the void seer with the combat mechanics. It is fun to play.

At level 5 is when you select your discipline (trickster and void seer in the cases above) and at level 9 you can do some quests to select a high house to join and become a citizen of the Enclave. Shard ship travel requires citizenship, so unless one wants to stay only on the initial shard (Parliament), one was to select a high house. There are 5 of the high houses; Maul, Rune, Torque, Silver and Shroud. Each house has their own philosophy on how to deal with things and one will have to pick one that feels are in line with how the character should be played. Before selecting a high house one can visit all of them in  a quest (They have their houses in the two initial zones Hawksmouth and Aldenvault) to get some information. Once the choice has been made and the initial house quest has been completed that choice is sealed; no change is possible.

In my case I choose house Rune for my trickster. The quests to become a citizen was pretty straighforward and quick and the fame (xp) was good, gained almost half a level. When the citizenship part was done a quest was offered to head to a different shard, Quarterstone. Getting the chance to travel with a shard ship and also see yet another new area made that an easy choice and I headed off directly.

 

On the way to Quarterstone through the Deadspell storm

On the way to Quarterstone through the Deadspell storm

When onme travels with a shard ship there are two options; travel with the crew or in a cabin on the ship. Travelling in a cabin is safer but more expensive, If you travel with the crew there is a chance for an attack and you have to fight, but costs less. I choose to go with the crew. In this case nothing happened though, after 2 minutes of real time the ship arrived at the Quaterstone docks. At this point I have pretty much just started to explore Quarterstone a bit.

 

Palace District in Quarterstone

Palace District in Quarterstone

A concern that I have and other players as well is that Spellborn feels quite empty. I do not know if the game is empty or how many people are playing it. But the lack of /who command and other means to figure out where people are and find people online at least gives a perception of emptiness. And while it is certainly possible to solo most of the content I think this is a game which really benefits with more group play – mob behaviour, the different combat mecahnics, spawn rates of mobs all contribute to make group play more rewarding.

Also, the whole debacle with the IP blocking and separate publishers for various countries do not help either. Although apparently the IP check is only when you set up the account according to some players, not when you actually play. And for some of the countries which the game is released for you can still not buy the game in any stores.  In the EU forums which is only accessible to those with accounts, there are 6 different forums in total: One Free2Play forum and one subscriber forum for each of the three languages English, French and German.  I do not get this; if one wants to attract free2play players to become subscribers, wouldn’t it be better that they could access and use the forums that the subscribers use also? As it is now the Free2Play forums seems quite empty (at least the English one) which would just emphasize the notion of a game with no players for those trying it out. 

Also there are now 6 universes, 2 for each language (English/International, French and German) and for each language there is a PvE and a PvP universe. Critical mass is important and if the player numbers are low it would have made more sense to put all PvE and all PvP on one universe and have different chat channels for the different languages. They seem to rely almost completely on word of mouth to get more players; but if the players perceive that the universes are empty they will risk driving people away through word of mouth. Perception is eveything; they may have huge populations but if that is not noticeable they could still suffer because of that.

Cyndr became wurm-bait

December 14, 2008 5 comments

Cyndr the Mountainheart spits fire no more.

Lately I have spent time in the Guild Wars Eye of the North expansion with my ritualist, Tarixus. One of the motivators here has been to be able to obtain the Norn ritualist elite armor set; most of the other armor sets did not feel as if there were enough improvement or interesting difference above the regular armor options.

Playing through the three different paths (Ebon Vanguard, Norn and Asuran) were of course quicker this time than previously with my necromancer Selene.

So yesterday I got to the point were Selene is still stuck, the Heart of the Shiverpeaks quest where the final battle is with Cyndr the Mountainheart – a big fire-spitting worm with a very thick carapace for protection, which also tend to regenerate when removed.

Life stealing is one way to bypass the carapace issue and that I had previously tried with Selene, Livia (necromancer hero) and some added monk and ranged ranger damage . Unfortunately these attempts had been futile, partly I think because the hero/henchmen team set-up did not handle the path through the dungeon that well.

This time around it was time to add ritualist spirits into the mix. Spirits bypass armor with their damage and after a peek in the wiki, this seemed to be valid for Cyndr as well.

Normally I have played a mixed build with my ritualist Tarixus, both offensive and defensive skills. But this was now changed to a bit more offensive build.

  • Spirits: Bloodsong, Shadowsong and Pain
  • Ritual Lord to reduce recharge times to summon spirits
  • Painful Bond to increase spirit damage (might not have had any effect on Cyndr through)
  • Spirit Boon Strike to do damage and heal spirits at the same time (did not use it with Cyndr)
  • Spirit’s Gift for condition removal and minor healing

In hindsight not all of this might have been that useful with Cyndr specifically, but might have been more helpful for the journey to Cyndr. For hero support, Dunkoro (monk), Olias (necromancer) and Jin (ranger) was brought along – Olias with some life stealing and Jin with some poison and interrupt skills + added damage.

Henchmen included Mhenlo (heal monk), Lina (protection monk), Aidan (ranger) and Zho (interrupt ranger).

Travelling down to the Heart of the Shiverpeaks and through the dungeon levels was a quite smooth ride and barely any deaths happened. With 3 monks though it should be smooth.

Getting down to Cyndr’s dungeon it was time to test the spirit approach. Cyndr appeared a bit away from the entrance, so the team was left by the entrance and then Tarixus ran in to place out the spirits, with a bit of space between them and close enough for them to attack Cyndr. Then heroes were moved in, placed more or less at the same locations as the spiritsm, with Dunkoro in the middle. Then the rest of the henchmen a bit on the side. Now Tarixus part mainly involved to resummon spirits whenever Cyndr killed them. He did get hit by Cyndr from time to time, as were the others – but never enough to kill in one shot and the damage was healed and handled.

Cyndr’s carapace still held of course, but its health were dropping. When the health was below half and all in the team were still alive and kicking I started to have some hope that this might actually work… And this time I did not get disappointed, Cyndr’s health continued to drop and finally it went down! That was exciting, I have tried and failed a few times fighting Cyndr so it was a good feeling to finally beat him – although not with the original character.

 

Cyndr is down

Cyndr is down

The spirit approach did really work quite well. I had expected more deaths and pain and did not have that much hope that it would work, but still wanted to try and test with spirits. It was good to see that it worked out well.

Next on the agenda will be to fight the Destroyers together with a bunch of stoned dwarves…

Categories: Guild Wars
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