The Secret World Beta Weekend 4

If you MMO fans out there have not noticed yet, The Secret World is slowly approaching release and this weekend is the BETA weekend number 4. A little last hurrah in this complex and mysterious world.

There seem’s to be some interesting elements like no levels and no classes. It seem’s to be freeform progression which will open up a lot of dynamic characters. I am very eager to see how it all works.

I cannot say I know how it plays as I signed up like yesterday with everyone else but I will be playing it as soon as it installs and can give some impressions. It’s going for a subscription based model to start it seem’s. Wonder if that will pan out. At any rate sign up for the BETA, give it a shot and let us know what you think.

The Secret World

Finding an MMO for me: Lord of the Rings Online

After my abysmal adventures in Star Trek, I decided to check out some of my old stomping grounds in Lord of the Rings Online. Lord of the Rings Online is a game from Turbine based of course on the novels. You would think that an MMO based in this universe would be a win right? Well maybe, maybe not.

So I first bought this game on release however my subscription did not last overly long as I had a lot of things going on at time. Also I found things to be a bit bland as well. But since then, LOTRO has gone to a free 2 play model. In fact they pretty much innovated the current free 2 play model that is going on out there.

So free 2 play, what does it mean? Well the free 2 play for LOTRO is the original base game all the way to Moria. From there its expansions and quite a few of them too. Now you can buy the expansions digitally or physically but you can also buy them via Turbine points which is their funky currency. They also support the game by having microtransaction via buff’s, classes, mounts, etc. This is done very well. Say I am not ready for the moria expansion, I can hold off till the time is right. You have things that help the gameplay but never anything that will make your character more powerful than the others. Microtransactions here compared to Star Trek Online definitely feel different. With STO you had a minimal of features to select in the base games but tons of other cosmetics, ships, etc that were being sold. In reality it should have been included in the game.

Story-wise LOTRO is based on the books. Now you are probably thinking that we know already what is going to happen and it’s not like you’re the main hero of the story. Now I understand the point of view that the fellowship and Frodo specifically are journeying to destroy the one ring however Turbine has managed to show that there are other heroic tales to tell and that there is more than just the fellowship who have an impact to the world. They have even taken liberties to explore areas mentioned very little throughout the books and make fantastic places to visit. As a roleplayer this is very cool because you don’t want to play a game where you feel your second place.

Creating a character is fairly simple. You have your base races and available classes. The classes are pretty straight forward but one of the more interesting characters IMO is the Minstrel which is as support class primarily. But keep in mind all the classes keep the feel of Middle Earth. This is both good and bad.

I am going to probably say good and bad for a few things. And this is because that while it fits in the concept of the setting, it can feel bland. I also mean this in the context of other game comparisons like World of Warcraft. Where WoW has more cartoonish characters with massive armor, tons of colors, etc; LOTRO has more earth tones and more subtle design elements to the characters. Obviously you will get some much nicer looking armor down the line but in the first levels you will be tough to find really dynamic outfits which might appeal to a large player base.

For the purpose of my time in LOTRO I made a Hobbit Minstrel named Berlond. The first introduction quest line is quite well done. Every race has a particular starting point and their own individual tutorials. Now this was a nice pleasant surprise compared to Star Trek Online. The introduction shows the impending peril caused by the events that are unfolding. Then I was released into the wild that is The Shire.

One thing that LOTRO has going for it is sheer size. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. As for as the eye can see are plains, mountains ,forests, etc. Towns are small, medium or large and there are TONS of quests to do. I mean TONS!!!111 Now while this sounds fantastic this can also be a problem and that is the world feels empty. Sure there are NPC’s everywhere and the occasional player, there is also a lonely feeling like your playing this game all on your own. I suppose depending on your play style this might be super ideal but later for certain quests this can be a problem.

The base game on its own makes you feel like the world is real. Distances feel real in how much time it takes to travel to them. It’s really a thing of beauty but to players from say WoW and most other MMO, this can totally kill you. Eventually you can get a mount which will facilitate things but till that point it’s very grinding in that sense. While I can walk around continents fairly quickly in a competitors MMO, you can take that time and double it just because of the sheer size of the world. I think this is an artistic direction they took or maybe to just make it as realistic as possible. In the end though it hurts the game yet makes it special.

Crafting in LOTRO can in trades of three’s. You typically have two trades say metalworking and jewelery which play off each other but have a third such as farming or cooking which is standalone. However the way the crafting is divided is pretty well thought out but again has disadvantages. Now with your trades you are almost obliged to interact with your kinship (group, guild, etc) to fulfill each others needs as certain materials can only be made by certain trades. Obviously you could try to hit up an auction house however the prices are so inflated it is almost more worth it to make an alt if your really hard pressed for a specific material.

You can see the concept of battering they had with this but I don’t think it panned out with people. Once the population went down from its intiial subscribers and now with a few expansions on their way, people are hanging around the more end game content. So battering with anyone at the initial areas can be very difficult.

Quests are your typical MMO type of quests. Go to x place, deliver y thing and your rewarded with z. Or there is always the favorite kill x number of creatures. It would be interesting to see something new but alas that is not really how it goes. You eventual run into fellowship quests which usually tend to be areas with a lot more dynamic elements to them.

If you’re a fan of PVP well there is something for you and that’s PvMP (Player vs Monster Player). That’s right, you can play as one of the minions of Sauron. Now I only played this at lunch and have not visited since as I have made my rounds on my own as a regular player however I have heard there is a lot more elements to it and makes for a fun addition.

Of course LOTRO has your standard festivals, events, etc but it’s like every other MMO out there. Obviously it’s always set in the mood and is fitting. It never get’s overly outlandish. You can believe that these events are taking place which is nice and a testament to the respect Turbine is giving the license. I also don’t think they have a choice lol

Needless to say LOTRO after all this time has a lot to offer for no money at all. It’s weird to even say that but it has worked for Turbine and I wish every other company would follow suite. They started making F2P popular and revolutionized it. Also I think in some ways probably LOTRO is the most expansive MMO out there of its sheer size. Maybe EVE Online with its universe could compare but I am not sure. And if you do manage to make your way to wanting to buy the latest expansions, there is always the deal of buying Riders of Rohan and getting all previous expansions along with it. That add’s countless more hours for not a bad price at all.

If you’re looking for something casual like I am then this is a real treat. You never feel like you need to be overly committed and the quests can range from quick and fun to more complex. LOTRO is how you make of it. I can argue it can be a lot of fun but on the other hand with how down to earth this game can be and the slow building of events I can understand why people can find it dull and off-putting. It’s not a colorful attention grabber. It’s just what it is and to me that is fun. With the amount of content being released for this game there is no reason not to be playing this considering a good chunk of it is FREE.

So with LOTRO definitely on my to play list, it’s off to see what other MMO we can hop into and give a whirl.

Oh yes and before I forget. If you are on the Brandywine server look for a hobbit named Berlond. More than happy to aid you on quests.

Note: Finding an MMO for me articles and by no ways an in-depth review of a game. This is simply myself playing an intro subscription and playing the game for as long as humanly possible before a subscription ends or till I have a clear view of how the game is.

DC Universe Online: A Heroic Journey

Last January I had the pleasure of jumping into the beta for the DC Universe Online Game. Here are some thoughts and impressions that came to mind. Now mind you my impressions were based on the beta and covered a few levels before my time expired. I wish I could have gotten more gaming done with the time I had however that’s life for you. I really recommend people to try it out. A lot of initial issues you may have heard about have been addressed when retail and the first patch hit. But I was most pleased none the less with what I had seen so read on.

First off this is a superhero MMO obviously which brings us into the world of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a plethora of other DC heroes. But what makes a superhero MMO work. How do we explain such a surge in the hero population in the context of the DC Universe all of a sudden? Well this is done rather interestingly.

If any of you missed out on the opening cinematic for DC Universe Online then I highly suggest you check it out. I was fortunate enough to play this on the PS3 which is a change as it is one of rare MMO to actually make it to a console. I was very curious as to how an MMO would handle on a console. I never played Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 having only played it via PC. I wasn’t sure what to expect at all.

Since I was not fortunate enough to have a disc of the game, I had to download the client followed by the game files. This went relatively quickly having taken only two hours. You get a lovely wallpaper to stare at and unfortunately did not have the chance to download in the background. I think that would have been more handy a feature having to wait two hours.

Once installed your greeted with the cinematic I mentioned before.  We get what looks to be a huge battle going on in a wrecked city. Batman is wearing some sort of armored cowl which struck me as odd, Green Lantern was duking it out with Black Atom, Wonder Woman was kicking all sorts of android ass and we see Green Arrows slumped over body. What the hell is going on?! Wonder Woman even looked a bit older then I imagined. Lex was all armored up and hanging out with some other villainous chick. Finally though he jumps into the fray taking out Wonder Woman with this chicks help. He is wanting someone and that is Superman. Which made me think, where the hell was Superman? Green Lantern was taken out by Black Atom, Flash as well went down and Superman who was floating in front of the sun came down with a vengeance. He literally torched Black Atom and started to rip away at Lex. But the fool had to just check on Wonder Woman whose body was loaded up with Kryptonite and Lex ran Superman through with a Kryptonite tipped spear. Superman mind you looked with he was middle aged. Greying hair and looking more worn down with years of taking crap. This bring us eventually to Lex talking to the major three (Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). Lex has travelled in time back to warn the three that Braniac would conquer all in the end. Lex had also brought robots that took powers from the heroes of that time and unleashed them on the present day saying they would need training for what was coming.

And enter me!! I decided to created a character who was more acrobatic but welded dual pistols. I thought that would be kind of cool. The character creator is very friendly for customizing your hero. You have big, small, powerful looking types and you have various subsets of looks whether it be cyborg, acrobatic, etc. Literally the options are incredible. It reminded me a bit of City of Heroes….only better. I went with an average muscular character who was partially cybernetic but who costumed himself in a futuristic outfit with a helmet to hide his cyborg features. For powers I selected he would be a gadget hero type who was acrobatic and of course had pistols. So I did not really have any special powers but you could say my acrobatics were enhanced more then the average person. The archetype of gadget man is more of a controller type of hero so will be good in crowds so ok, sounds great. And Feroximus was born.

So I had Feroximus was born, into a braniac vessel. I was surrounded by pods of others being enhanced. Oracle (former Batgirl) freed me and helped guide me on my escape. This is obviously the introductory adventure. So let’s get used to how things work. The PS3 remote was very efficient at doing what I needed. Square was my punch (basic attack), triangle my dual weapon power. If I pressed L3 down I could activate my acrobatics. It gave me this cool looking sprint but more then that I was able to grip up walls. I felt very much like Batman at this point. And better yet when I had acrobatics activated and jumped from a height I could hold X to glide down. All of it was pretty intuitive. Going through my menu was a matter of pressing start and L2 or R2 to go through the options. It was very solid thus far. I made my way though the base using my abilities to handle Braniacs android minions. I eventually made my way to the end where I was swarmed by bad guys. I had to knock out four shield generators so Superman could teleport in to help rescue me. So once I did my job, he appeared and helped me sweep up the bad guys.  Now what is really cool is that it was not just Superman owning everyone. You actually felt like you were working together to handle the bad guys so it was a bit of a geek payoff in this respect. Finally when your all done you teleport out to a location of your choosing. So Gotham, Metropolis and….somewhere else I forget. I chose Gotham. Batman seemed more like a mentor for my style so why not.

By this point I am Level 2 and gained a power point. This let me spend a point towards my weapon ability to enhance it or I could open up another weapon utility tree. I was tempted to try staff  but figured let’s try expanding my gun use first. Basically your skills, weapons, whatnot all have a tree like structure much akin to other MMO’s out there. Obviously you need to have the appropriate level as well as the proper points alloted to the previous enhancement on the tree.

I am slightly more buffed, level 2 and now I am in a Gotham City police precinct. Apparently this is a sub JLA headquarters which also contains a teleporter to the main JLA headquarters The Watchtower which is orbiting the earth. I have to admit I was rather lost at the start. I was in a room filled with other players running around, a few police NPC and no real objective aside from Oracle telling me to walk around. You eventually discover your initial surroundings and meet Nightwing, Robin, Commissioner Gordon which I found somewhat odd. I would not have minded meeting one hero there to start but seeing two iconic heroes and the commissioner makes me wonder why they are not out there fighting crime.

Suffice it to say, I got my initial mission from a communication from Batman himself. Scarecrow is on the loose causing havok in the city and I need to investigate and stop him. So out into the vast world I go! And boy is it rather big. My initial mission was right near the starting area which was great and typical. Combat was smooth and refresh rate was quick considering all the noob players like myself. Visually I can see Gotham being like it is represented in the game. Dark, moody and grimy. Scarecrows men have been infecting the city with fear gas so you see people hallucinating, henchmen causing terror and even as you spend time in the gas, you as well will see hallucinations. It’s very well thought out.

After completing roughly four to six mission I am now level 6. I have gained some power points but also skill points. Since I am in gadgets I could put towards things like traps or a special taser weapon. I also had another move for my weapons. The first was I would hold square down and I would dash forward shooting. The other move I would tap square three times and do a fancy combo kick attack. The missions all seem to arrive mostly via email from Batman and send you to an NPC. Sometimes you will run by a green I icon. You can interact at these points and investigate gaining a little clue to some mysteries going around.

Some elements like crafting are non existent. While this may not be a terribly bad thing I would have liked to have some side things to do. I am a gadget sided person so I should be able to create new gadgets to help along. Often crafting is inserted in a game to further draw our time into it trying to farm items but we will need to see how this will pan out later on. I think if there is one feature I would like to see in one superhero game is have a secret identity. Have your little roost with a career that could offer some small income but also offer some side quests that could lead to a new skill. A heroes life especially in DC is not always running around but also about their personal lives and how they divide the duality of hero / Average Joe.

The PS3 visuals are top notch. Everything was detailed and had a comic book feel to it. One surprise I forgot to mention was with my characters acrobatics I was able to climb up buildings and to my enjoyment you can reach the top no matter how high it is. I had even discovered an investigation point on one of the roof tops which was pretty cool. The menu’s were easily navigable however there is no voice chat as of yet and to chat you will need the PS3 chat pad to save yourself some frustration. Network wise I experienced some lag but I think it was due to the fact there are only 2 PVE beta PS3 servers up so hello population. Otherwise network wise it was smooth sailing which is very pleasing as I was also wireless.

Overall I think DC Universe has a very solid foundation. I think what will define it even more is end game progression and the new features it implements. The base foundation is there but as I mentioned I would like to see some sort of crafting going on or a base, apartment to make your home. With the possibility of comic book storylines coming over to DC Universe Online you see that the potential for expansion is huge. So more will come no doubt and patience will be needed but I think it is one of the first Superhero MMO that is really worth sticking by. At any rate in this persons opinion even in the beta state that I played it has thrown the gauntlet down to the other competitors.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Breaks Sales Records

Holy hell!! Cataclysm has been selling like hotcakes. Like 3.3 million hotcakes in 24 hours kind of thing. That’s broken obviously every pc games sales records. Cataclysm for those hiding under rocks turns the World of Warcraft on it’s head by changing all the original areas, adding races and a whole bunch of features. I got me the collectors edition but my wife is holding it ransom till christmas.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Breaks Sales Records

via worldofwarcraft.com

World of Warcraft Debacle 2010!

It seem’s every year we have a company doing something highly questionable but here we are again. So here is the low down folks. Blizzard would like to incorporate their Real ID solution which will first be taking effect for Starcraft 2. Now what this Real ID does is strip you of whatever privacy you had by using your real name for forum posts in an effort to make a close knit community. The selling point is that they want to make a more social atmosphere and have players be more invested into who they play with by betting on they will make relationships that last a long time.

Now I can see the pro of using a real name in the sense that a lot of forum trolls will be silenced as they will be in fear of having something done to them…but is that not also the most scary aspect. When it comes to social media spaces like facebook you have a degree of protection and a system in place if things get awkward however when it comes to video game especially in the MMO arena you tend to have a more combustable atmosphere. A lot of youth are quick to insults and if you ever noticed the WoW forums things tend to degenerate around the third forum post reply.Of course I don’t want to single out youth either as there are unfortunately many older people who lack their mature faculties.

I think in general though there has to be a better way to moderate your forums. I like to call them moderators. Higher more staff to clean up the boards and weed out the trolls. A forum is meant to be used for constructive conversations while allowing the ability to express one’s ideas. Things are meant to be cordial. You cannot obviosuly end trolling but you need to act on what you preech. I think also weeding out false accounts is also another method of regulation. The problem is you have a monster of a game which is insanely accessible and successful but it’s almost outgrown the company itself in a customer support respect.

As a company especially in the MMO arena you have to realize that some people just want to pop on and play. They are there to amuse themselves. They don’t want to be pushed into another person and told to be friends forever. Personally I have found cool people while playing but have yet to forge a relationship where I wanted to continue it outside a game. They are simply my video game buddies.

Time will tell how all this will play out. Maybe it will all smooth itself out. Currently though we have the knee jerk solution with the comunities knee jerk reaction of cancelling accounts.

For the forum post on the World of Warcraft forums click here

For the Battle Net announcement via their forums click here