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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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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.

Is Spellborn released in my area?

December 7, 2008 7 comments

Go back in time about 3 weeks – around that time I thought The Chronicles of Spellborn would be released in 11 countries at November 27th-28th according to the tcos.com web site.

Go back in time about 1 1/2 week – around that time I thought The Chronicles of Spellborn would be released in 3 countries on November 27th and 8 countries on December 5th. The change was due to a slip-up from publisher Mindscape who could not get the game boxes out in time.

Present time: Spellborn was released in Germany on November 27th and in 4 countries (France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands) on December 5th, according to the tcos web site.

There is no mention of the remaining 4 countries for December 5th date; Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. At first I thought, maybe someone slipped up and forgot to mention them since there were no announcements of any delays. And they only mentioned Germany as the country the game was released in the week before, which would be another mistake.

I registered at the eu-players.tcos.com web site and selected to subscribe to the game. Everything works fine up to the point of payment, which on gave a response of “not authorized”. Trying multiple credit cards and different time intervals (1, 3, 6 months) and different browsers all gave the same result.

I could still start my game client (since open beta), get it patched up and play the free2play setting, so I have played a few levels. But actually being able to pay for the game has not been possible.

So maybe the omission of a few countries in the announcement was not a mistake. I try some Swedish web sites that sell games and come up empty-handed, save for one site. I.e. only one of the web sites actually produced some result when searching for Spellborn- and that site listed the game release date as 2nd quarter 2009…

I try to go to the web sites for the alleged publisher Mindscape and search there and also come up empty-handed – no hits at all for Spellborn.

Some games have issues with big launches where the software may be buggy and unstable, or the servers cannot handle the initial load of players.

In this case the game actually seems to work pretty well and at least for the universe I selected to play in, there was no big chunk of players in the starter area. Instead the problems seem to be to actually let people play and pay. And how many of the people in the starter area have paid or will pay for the game?

Hopefully there will be some announcement or correction about the state of our countries up here in Northern Europe and that they may accept my money at some point. But right now it seems I will have to pass on this game for a while.

Spellborn release details and more delays

November 26, 2008 4 comments

Some more details about the somewhat European release is up on the RCOS web site. It seems that November 27th will be the release date for 3 countries, with a fourth country in the day after and an additional 7 countries a week after tha, on December 5th. For anyone that wants to try the downloadable option that will not be available until December 5th.

The delayed release for the 7 countries (Benelux + Scandinavia + Finland) seems to be the fault of publisher Mindscape and which have failed to inform Spellborn people about this delay.I don’t mind waiting another week and I feel sorry for the Spellborn people if the publishers behave like this, covering up their problems until the last minute.

Not a way to build confidence and to some extent Spellborn will take some of the heat for that. This is the first time I recall see that Spellborn actually also points fingers towards the publishers. I think they at this point may be frustrated and perhaps a bit annoyed with a number of issues that may be due to issues at the publishers, but they are taking the heat for it in their forums. I feel sorry for them and hope it will work out better eventually.

Acclaims more European Spellborn territory

November 24, 2008 Comments off

It seems that Acclaim is picking up handling a few more countries for its Spellborn distribution. It is good that someone will handle those countries. But, this is not really for the better unless Acclaim joins the other European publishers in their shared pool of servers for the European countries. And drops any idea of IP blocking, regardless of region.

First peek into Spellborn

November 23, 2008 9 comments

Yesterday and today I have played a bit in the open beta of The Chronicles of Spellborn. As such this is just basically a few first impressions and observations about the game.

Installation was pretty straightforward, client download was a bit more than 3GB and the installer ran fine. Upon loading the game it started up in Windowed mode, 1024×768. The first choice is to select the universe to play in – for the open beta six were available, all international and a 50-50 split for PvP and PvE universes. I choose a PvE universe here.

 

Archetype selection

Archetype selection

Then it was time to create a character. First was the choice of archetype, which is either Warrior, Rogue or Spellcaster.  I started off with a Spellcaster.

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Will Spellborn publisher block you?

November 22, 2008 2 comments

I was reading in the Spellborn forums, including the discussions on the potential blocking of players. While Mirage the PR Manager had said before that no IP blocking would be done by Frogster and Mindscape I read the following from community manager Banshee:

No, you cannot import game and play on European servers. 

If you live in the countries covered by Frogster/Mindscape/French publisher, you can play only on EU servers. If you are not living in those countries, you cannot play on these servers. 

If you live in territories covered by Acclaim, you can play only on Acclaim servers. If you are not living in those countries, you cannot play on these servers. 

If you do not live in either of those countries, you will have to wait till we come up with some solution, but you won’t be able to play neither on EU, neither on Acclaim servers – at least not on 27th of November.

Generally at the moment IP is checked when creating an account (with automatic redirection if IP is not valid). I cannot tell you at the moment how exactly that will work with in-game IP blocks, but likely they will be some measures in place as well.

I can accept that they might want to limit the countries involved in the open beta, since they will probably not use all the server capacity that they will have for release and maybe want to have some better control from where people connect due to that. But this sounds like there is some restriction going to be enforced going live after all.

I can only think of that this is because Spellborn actuallty has four different publishers covering European countries (Frogster, Mindscape, Acclaim and some new French publisher) which is dividing up the map of Europe and elsewhere between themselves, regardless of the concerns of the natives. Maybe their contracts with Spellborn were set up only specific countries were specified and they now have to figure out how to divide the money from any players that are not coming from these countries. And until they have figured that part they will pehaps block players from other countries.

This is quite unfortunate and bad that is an issue raised at such a late stage. I still hope that any blocking now is only temporary and until it is sorted out with the publishers how they will split the money. After that, let anyone play wherever they want.

Anything else may just hurt the game in the end and it is not what Spellborn need.

Spellborn will have open beta

November 21, 2008 Comments off

It seems that there will be an open beta for Chronicles of Spellborn after all, although a fairly short one. It is restricted to the countries for which there asre assigned publishers (Frogster and Mindscape), i.e. German-speaking countries, France, Benelux and Scandinavia+Finland.

Being in one of the “lucky” countries I will certainly spend some time this weekend to try it out.

The uncertaintly and concern about having different publishers and potentially some kind of restrictions or blocking based on where you are located does get a lot of negative comments on the TCOS forums, so I hope they drop the idea entirely or make it reasoably easy to bypass if you want.

A quote from Mirage, PR manager for Spellborn as least give some slight hope.

“For European Territories (except UK) there will NOT be any IP blocking.

Mindscape and Frogster will NOT do any IP blocking.”
Still a concern in Europe what restrictions they may place on UK players, but it at least seems any restrictions put in place by the not-delayed publishers will not be based on IP address.

Spellborn release news again

November 19, 2008 4 comments

There was finally some news about the Acclaim side of the Spellborn release. Unfortunately that says that the release for North America and the other countries and regions that Acclaim is responsible for will have a later release date. This later release date is specified as “January 2009″.

One of the reasons that was given for that Spellborn would be released in late 2008 was that the North American publisher they had signed up had asked for a fair amount of time to be able to prepare for the launch.

In April Spellborn announced they had signed a letter of intent with a MMOG publisher in the US, which would publish the game provided that they were given 6 months time to properly introduce the game to the US audience.

In August it was announced that Acclaim was the US publisher. In September the release date of November 27th was announced. It was confirmed for Europe and they said the intent was to have the game released at the same time in North America (they were waiting for a confirmation from Acclaim).

Now when there is only one week left a new release date is set for the Acclaim version of the game, which is the same version as everywhere else, as said in the announcement for the new release date.

Acclaim have had since April to prepare, that is more than 7 months. The release date has been public information for more than 2 months and probably was communicated with Acclaim before it became public.

My guess is that Acclaim did not really much at all, if anything after signing that letter of intent. They possibly set a web designer to put up a page for the game when they had their press release. Their web page pretty much have been the same since that press release in August.

Maybe they have been pressed for time because they slipped up, but it would have been nice if they actually told people that long before. They certainly will not get my vote of confidence as it is now.

To add to the issues here, since Acclaim will handle UK in Europe this will also be delayed. With entirely different publishers for different regions in Europe and probably no scheme in place between the Acclaim and Frogster (any other publisher also?) this means a number of players may or may not be able to play together since they may be locked out from certain servers:

Regarding German version, it will be multilingual, but it is likely that UK players won’t be allowed to join the servers linked to the non-Acclaim version of the game. We still are gathering details on this and official announcement about it will follow on some later date.
(Quote from community manager Banshee)

This may mean that there will be English versions of the game outside UK, but that there may be problems for people in UK to play with friends in other countries.Some people semmed to guess that they would do IP blocking, but I certainly hope that they won’t do that and perhaps just have different serial codes for those that buy the game. But it would be much more preferable if the publishers could sort out among themselves how to split the income from players rather than let the players take the hit. That would still likely be less complex than the cross-charging telco companies has to deal with.

There is a number of UK people I have played with in different games and I would hate to see that if we would like to play together this may be problematic. And there are also people from other countries in Europe I play and have played with, so there is no obvious choice what to choose from that point of view.

But I think I will start on a non-Acclaim English-speaking server, assuming that can be sorted out with others to play with. Acclaim certainly do not get my vote at the moment.

Spellborn boxes and requirements

November 16, 2008 3 comments

This info was already mentioned by Tipa, but I thought I might put in a babelfished link to the info about the Chronicles of Spellborn info about the boxes on sale, subscription rates, computer requirements etc.

This is only for Frogster-land though, which means German-speaking territories, France and some Asian countries in the case of Spellborn. For UK it will be Acclaim handling it and I guess for the rest of us in the other 40+ counties in Europe I guess it will be which of these three languages we select to play in. I have not seen any info that Frogster would offer any other languages besides German and French.

So for myself I will probably be stuck with Acclaim, which is not so encouraging given the lack of informatiom from them. If Acclaim has some trouble they will probably also focus on the North American market to sort things out in that case, so my guess is that the non-NA side might get less attention. But I guess that probably everyone playing English-speaking server will likely play on the same servers.

If that is the case it it might work out ok, although with the risk that they place maintenace time at a time which will be prime time somewhere else outside NA.

It is hard to tell of course if the problem is with Acclaim or within their interaction with Spellborn NV and/or Frogster Interactive. It is not the only game with potential issues in this area – European players had some problems with GOA who was publishing Warhammer Online here, Codemasters had their share of issues when LOTRO was released in Europe also.  

Time will tell and right now time is another 11 days…

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