Coming home back to Sweden today I noticed when I checked if thee had been any game updates of the MMOs I play that The Foundry is now live!
I played around with it briefly in the beta, but decided to wait for the live release – which is now here. I loved to make story arc missions in City of Heroes Mission Architect and I am quite curious to see how this feature works out.
Cryptic has put up a nice web page for The Foundry with a trailer, some basic getting started info and also some player made tutorials and highlighted missions.
But before jumping in to create some missions I jumped into the game to see what was already there. I tried some of the player created missions and also signed up as a reviewer. Before missions are released to the general public a mission has to be reviewed and completed a number of times. This is good, both for perhaps finding content that would violate any rules that have been set up, but I think also to give some additional eyes to find issues/bugs with missions and give suggestions.
This is something I think Mission Architect would have benefited from. There were a number of missions available in the game, but not the huge explosion of missions found through Mission Architect. I believe they had not enabled any ability to move mission content from the beta to the live system, so I guess it now would be a matter of people recreating the missions they had started with in beta.
My favourite of the missions I played so far was “When the War Began” – starting as fight/rescue operation to New Australia, which had been invaded by Romulans. Some good humor and fun to play and some of the features included made me quite eager to try to think of some missions to make myself.
It turned out also that this mission is also just the first part of a bigger story arc. There were a couple of these that I saw in the mission list also stories/missions spanning multiple missions in the list.
Another thing that I like about Foundry is also that the missions are available from the same interface as all the other missions and thus just as easy to access. This is another thing I felt Mission Architect could do better – it is more cumbersome to do the MA missions, unless one dedicates specific sessions and agrees with people beforehand to do them.
Anyway, I had justa brief look at it so far on the live system, but I think it is looking good and promising so far!
This weekend my MMO gaming was pretty much focused on space combat – Black Prophecy, Star Trek Online and Battlestar Galactica Online. The “pretty much” part comes from that not all combat in Star Trek Online was in space ;)
Actually a large part of the playtime was with Black Prophecy – the game had now released (in Europe) since I last played it and all characters had been wiped, so it was time to start again. This I did not mind at all – the prologue that you go through at least once with a character is a great introduction to the universe and setting of Black Prophecy.
For our North American friends the game has just got into closed beta – not sure how they handle Asia and Australia and other parts of the world.
Massively recently posted a developer diary with designer Tim Sweeney from Paragaon Studios. The post talks a bit about the new Incarnate system for advancement for max level characters in City of Heroes.
I think this system is a pretty nice one that tires to cater for both casual players as well as the more hardcore ones. In general, each incarnate slot provides some ability or boost. For each slot there are four different choices which allows variations of that ability or boost. For the initial Alpha slot there are four general type of boosts:
- Cardiac – improves (decreases) endurance consumption when using powers
- Spiritual – improves recharge time of powers
- Nerve – improves accuracy of powers
- Musculature – improves damage of powers
For each variant there are also four levels of rarity – common, uncommon, rare and very rare. A more rare items gives higher boosts and/or additional boosts than the less rare ones. But even common incarnate abilities gives a significant improvement in some area.
In addition to this no choice here is eternal; one can swap and change different variations suited for a certain slot as one see fit.
There is also no gating of gaining the components to build these new abilities – certain ways are faster, but it is always possible to get there. A casual and dedicated solo player can get the abilities, but it may take some time. Team play is encouraged, but not enforced, which is how it should be IMHO.
This pattern seems to have been applied for all the different incarnate slots – four different varations for each slot and four levels of rarity and different ways to combine things for the different rarity levels.
I like this system – if I want to get to a certain point quick I would need to think a bit what to play, but otherwise I can almost play whatever suits me and feels fun and I will improve that way also. That is much better I think than to be forced to do certain pieces of content to get anywhere.
However, when I was thinking about the SciFI MMO situation and that I prefer that to fantasy MMOs, I realized that at least for me, it has come true. SciFi is a rather broad term and when looking at what I play, it is only SciFi MMOs really.
- Star Trek Online. Definite space, hi-tech and pyjamas-wear SciFi. I play it perhaps once per week on average and I enjoy it every time.
- Fallen Earth. Post-apocalyptic theme, a bit more low-tech. Had a short break now, but went in again after the 1.8 patch. It has a low intensity pace for me, which is a nice change to some of the other games.
- Black Prophecy. It may be argued if it is an MMO or not, but I do like the dogfight style space combat and the game looks great. I really hope the storyline will continue to develop after the prologue.
- City of Heroes. My eternal MMO additiction. Perhaps borderline what some may consider SciFi, but it definitely fulfills the requirement for fictional science in my book. Best casual team friendly MMO available.
- Champions Online. Does not have the story background and character & faction attraction that I see in City of Heroes, but good for brief visits and some fun combat.
That is not to say I intend to keep it only SciFi-themed. I have made brief visits lately to fantasy side (Guild Wars) and I am looking forward to horror/myth reality theme in The Secret World whenever that is released as well as Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars is a really good fantasy game and Guild Wars 2 of course looks very interesting.
But I am also really curious to see how Blackstar will turn out on Android; will probably get a tablet at some point with Honeycomb (Android 3.0). At that point I might revisit Vendetta Online again also.
This Friday I got my 13th character to max level, in City of Heroes – Wolf Sente, my Arachnos Bane soldier.
Wolf Sente is almost 3 years old now, I think. He was one of the two characters I created when the villain epic archetypes were released. The other one, my arachnos widow Tatiana, reach max level after about a month – very fast for a slow leveler like me. But Wolf has been more normal speed and so now finally reached the max level.
The last two levels were very quick, doing two task/strike forces roughly one hour each. A bit more playtime on Saturday and he now is also alpha slotted and has his first incarnate ability slotted as well.
He has been very fun to play lately, but was not always so. A big part of that problem was my power selection and slotting, which was a bit unfocused. Taking a step back and thinking more about how I wanted to play him and what was available to me I respec:ed him and now got a build which is more fun to play.
At some point I will probably look at my Archnos Widow also and see what I can improve, although she is fairly ok as it is. But it gives a good amount of satisfaction to take a character you have be able to make it noticeably more fun/better than it were before, through different power and slotting choices.
One of the announcements for City of Heroes at Pax East is that the European and North American server lists will merge – i.e. now all server will be available through a common list instead of separate lists for each continent. This is great news!
This will mean more servers to choose from for everyone and hopefully also address the issues with separate chat channels, emails, global handles, everyone can play on the same test servers etc. I am happy to see this happening, although they did not say exactly when this would happen.
In a recent Massively post about Gamigo, it was mentioned that Black Prophecy currently has a European open beta running. This is a game for which I have had hopeful curiosity, tired disappointment and a few things in between, ever since I first heard of the game and wrote something about it.
Now almost 3 years later there was actually an opportunity to try it out. Start the game and as usual the first step is to create a character. The character creator, or perhaps rather the head creator, is fairly sophisticated and there is a lot of tweaking that can be done to your character’s head.
All this tweaking is currently not that useful though – no-one will actually see you. As of now your character is your ship as well, there is no walking outside of the ship – not yet anyway.
Jumping in with your character pretty much gets you right away into the action. A cutscene sets the setting and you then start a gunner on a Sapiens ship helping to fight off an attack. It is pretty good and at the end of that tutorial session, you get promoted to become a pilot and fly your own ship.
You start as a Sapiens. This is the current name for “normal” humans, which currently in the human society is considered second class citizens. The more prominent humans are instead from the two “super-human” factions, the Tyi or the Genides. The Tyi have enhanced themselves through cybernetic means, while the Genides are more into bio-engineering to improve themselves.
These two are the currently playable factions. However, after leaving the initial tuorial section you are still a regular Sapiens. There is a continued story here, which is part of a prologue that sets up the story in more detail.
This prologue is quite good and will continue to build up quite a story with a number of missions. At the end of the prologue you will get a choice to join a faction. After the first character has completed the prologue, later characters do not have to complete it again.
Gameplay is centered around various space stations; with the SPIRE station being the center during the prologue. At these space stations players can dock their ships, perform skill upgrades, craft, buy & sell (NPC) and some other activities. Mission are picked up either from designated NPC mission contacts, or from a general mission terminal at the station. Transport to the area of the mission is then pretty much immediate – just select the area to go to. Many of the missions have their own instances for each player/team that plays them. However, some areas are also shared between players.
The space combat in Black Prophecy has a dogfight style to it; I have not been a big fan of such space combat in other games, but I must say that I quite enjoyed Black Prophecy here – it works quite well and is fun to play. As I have played I have noticed a couple of bugs; primarily some mission content which does not work as intended – sometimes redoing that mission worked fine for it, sometimes not.
Around level 5-6 (depending on how many side missions have been done in addition to the prologue missions) the prologue ends and the player chooses a faction.
As an old Earth & Beyond player, I get some flashbacks when I look at the factions in the game. I would not be surprised if the developers had some inspiration from that game. The Tyi has at least some visual similarities with the Progen in Earth & Beyond, while the Genides kind of fits with the Jenquai from Earth & Beyond – and for the 3rd one the Terran from E&B matches the Sapiens, although they were a bit more equal in Earth & Beyond.
I hte forums some people think it is a bit too buggy still to officially release it. Maybe the concern will be more valid as the levels are increased, but as far as I have played now it has been quite fun, and few it any bugs to consider.
This post is only a quick glimpse of the game and what I have seen so far is promising and fun.
Today when I looked into one of my web-emails, I noticed that I had received an email potentially is a genuine email from Blizzard.
I do get a few scam emails per week from fake Blizzards trying to get my WoW account information – I do not see them anymore, since they end up in the spam folder automatically. But suddenly I see an email that did not end up in spam folder and that also actually seems to know that I have not played World of Warcraft for quite a while – 5+ years and counting.
So it offers 7 days of free game time to try out the game again. I will pass on that.
7 consecutive days is not really much time in practice for me, since I would probably only be able to play a bit during 2-3 days of those at best – if the game download is quick and smooth.
Except for maybe the Dungeon Finder there was not really anything listed that would make me interested in playing this game rather than some other fantasy MMO, but I do find it a bit amusing that they managed to include my email in a marketing campaign. Last time I got an email about returning back was a few years ago, around the time of their first expansion if memory serves me.
Maybe when they get an unlimited or long free trial or follow the footsteps of DDO, LOTRO, Champions or EQ2X will there be a time to see what what the state of the game is.
This week saw a bit of playtime in four MMOs; somewhat short visits for each of them.
City of Heroes
First it has of course been the usual suspect City of Heroes. The past two weeks has mainly been with some of my not-yet-at-max-level characters; a mix of different archeypes which makes for good variation in gameplay. Since a bit before Going Rogue was released I have regularly attended the weekly Rikti Mothership raid on Sundays, but this weekend I passed. The past few weeks there has been so many people that an additional instance of the Rikti War Zone typically had been created because there wer too many people. And in particular the past 2-3 weeks the game performance has been really bad during the raid also; not too fun. So this weekend I passed on that.
The good thing about Earthrise is that the game performance is significantly better than at launch; it is actually playable. The bad thing is that performance is still not good, animations are choppy etc. I had managed to sort out with support so I would get my pre-order armor and my goal was to get enough battle points (= XP in Earthrise) to get my armor skill up to that I could use it. While it has been claimed that Earthrise is supposed to be a sanbox-type game, right now I think that is not true. To get battle points one has to kill mobs and/or do missions that asks you to kill mobs. These can then be assigned to “buy” various skills. Most of the crafting skills have crafting points instead to buy skills with. But to get material to do come crafting with, one has to kill mobs – that is the only way currently (will be other ways later).
Right now the game feels like a grinders dream; if you are happy to grind mobs for hours and hours to progress, go for this game now. And if you get killed, you will drop all uninsured non-mission loot on the spot, free for anyone to grab. Fortunately there are some nice people in the game and I have had people pick up the stuff I dropped and given them back to me.
Despite the shortcoming the combat is fairly ok I think, with good performance it could be fun. And the world looks quite nice; although I think it does feel a bit sterile – it does not feel quite alive. The music played is pretty good, but is general music brought into the game – some of it was Laibach I think, or maybe a Laibach-inspired band.
I decided to cancel my subscription and come back in a couple of months to see how the game was then. However, the information fields for my subscription info said “N/A” in the fields, so I am not sure what that actually means. Choosing Cancel Subscription gave a success message (multiple times if you choose it multiple times), but did not change the status shown. So I do not know what the state actually is in their billing system – no confirmation mails or anything was sent either. Such bad handling is bound to get people a bit upset.
Star Trek Online
I really really like this game! It is story-focused and in addition to the Featured Episodes there are a number of nice story arc missions. I have pretty much avoided most of the generic missions (patrol this and that) and just played the story arc ones. And this has made my playtime a lot more fun in the game.
This weekend I also decided to create a Klingon-side character; so far I have only played Federation side. The content supposedly is still lacking in comparision to the Federation side, but I found the slight difference in tone and objective ( a bit more villainous, so to speak) to be quite fun and so far. And I love the Klingon voice over The target’s shields have failed – I don’t remember how that sounds on the Federation side, but it feels just right on the Klingon side I think.
I also got a bit of time in Guild Wars again; I have barely played it in the past year and it was nice to get back in the game, even if just for a short bit this weekend. One of the new features I tried out was of course to just use heroes in a couple of missions; I also added some slots to bring in some of my other characters in the teams. So far I have slotted two out of three slots, with my necromancer and my Ritualist; they could pretty much be considered my “main” characters in the game. Will see what I do with the third slot.
It has been a while since I have played Guild Wars. There is no particular reason for that, I still really like the game and for fantasy MMO-type game titles, it is probably my favourite. It just has not happened, perhaps because I have prioritized non-fantasy games for a while now.
However, recent announcements about new additions to the game in the form of Embark Beach does trigger a thought that I maybe should play a bit of Guild Wars again, after all. More details can also be found here.
This update is actually mostly a quality of life update for the game, such as quick access to various locations from Embark Beach and vice versa. Another nice feature is that you can have up to 7 heroes in your team now (as opposed to only 3 before). And on top of that, you can use your own characters as heroes as well – if you onluck mercenary hero slots. These slots are unlocked for a fee, but that is something I would definitely buy at least one slot – I would love to bring my own characters along with me in a team. A very neat feature I think.
That is perhaps something another part of NCSoft should take note of – Paragon Studios have received a fair amount of negative feddback from beta players for one of the new Incarnate slots – the Lore slot. The slot allows the player to gain a pet, but the pet is restricted to a few types of Praetorian NPCs. Many seem to have reacted quite negatively to the idea that they would have to pick a Praetorian sidekick, if they want to use this slot.
If Paragon Studios would do something similar that their ArenaNet collegues are doing with the mercenary hero slot, I think many would be a lot happier (I would ;).