Archive for the ‘Not-So-Casual Commentary’ Category

Solo and the MOBs …

September 28, 2013

So, yesterday, I mentioned that I’d talk about why being able to solo and group is important to an MMO. This is the post that will talk about it.

To introduce the topic, though, I’m going to talk about one of my major gripes with TOR at the moment: the issue with the MOB population. There are a lot of quests and missions — including the bonus missions — that require you to go into public, shared areas and kill a number of MOBs. This requires that there be, of course, a sufficient number of MOBs for people in general to kill. Which leads to these two problems:

1) If you’re looking for these kills when there are a lot of people on, then you end up fighting with them over the too small number of MOBs available. You can group, but on a highly populated server in peak hours you’re still going to be fighting to get the MOBs you want, especially since some of those who don’t need them for that mission will kill them anyway, either because it gives them XP or because they need to get through them to get into or out of the area for the mission they actually want to finish.

2) If you’re looking for these kills when there aren’t very many people on, or just looking to get through that area after finishing that mission, you end up with a lot of MOBs around that no one is killing. At best, this leaves you having to slog through killing them because you want to get to your mission goal, and at worst it makes it very difficult for you to travel through the area because every time you try to clear a group you get jumped by wandering strongs/elites, or draw two groups at once because they happen to be too close together for your own abilities. So you die a lot.

So, at the extremes of player population in an area, you are either frustrated because you can’t find the MOBs to finish your mission because everyone else has cleaned them out, or you end up frustrated because you have to fight and die to things that you don’t even really need to fight.

Now let’s put this in the context of grouping. If you are forced to group to take on various MOBs or missions, what does someone who happens to be on when no one else is on do? Or what happens later when the server population diminishes and you don’t have a lot of players at that level running around at any time of day? You need a group to progress, but there aren’t enough people available to group. So, either you’re stuck waiting for people to show up to group with, or you try to do it yourself and die a lot, or you have to grind to get high enough levels to be able to do it yourself. None of these are exactly fun.

TOR does it pretty well. There is a lot of content that is group content, which can be fun and gives good XP and item rewards, so there’s a reason for people to do them. That means that, except at really off-peak hours, you’ll probably be able to find a group to run it with you. But you don’t need to do them; you can level up and even get ahead of your mission levels as long as you do all the side missions and, preferably, do all of the bonus missions as well, especially the ones where you have multiple stages and get tonnes of XP for complrting the stages and the final mission itself. So if you want to group, there’s group-oriented content for that, and if you don’t, there’s content that with care and some levelling you can relatively easily do only with your companion.

TOR, then, would have a good model for surviving population loss … if it wasn’t for how they handle MOBS [grin].

It’s Alive, It’s Alive!

September 27, 2013

So, I was browsing the Game Reviews posts on Shamus Young’s site, and looked up a few of the MMOs that he had been playing to see if they were still alive. It turns out that a number of them have gone by the wayside, joining games like Star Wars: Galaxies and [sniff] City of Heroes. But the first MMO I ever played and the game that got me interested in MMOs in the first place is, amazingly, still alive.

Yes, Dark Age of Camelot was the MMO that started all of the MMO playing for me, long, long ago. There are a number of reasons why I liked it, and played it off and on for ages:

1) The theme, or rather the themes. It combined the three mythological/legendary themes that really interested me: Arthurian, Norse, and Celtic. It was just cool to run around in those areas, even if they might not have been fully-realized.

2) The character classes, especially between realms, were interestingly different. Sure, they mapped to roughly the same sort of thing, but played, at least to me, interestingly differently and were, more importantly, thematically different to facilitate my roleplaying desires. This was not only my first MMO, but my first alt-o-hoic MMO.

3) The environment was pretty, and shaped nicely to each theme.

However, I eventually stopped playing it. And the reasons why were:

1) The game was too hard to play solo. Sure, the idea of playing an MMO solo seemed then and still seems now a bit odd, but there are reasons why being able to solo and group are important to an MMO. I think I’ll talk about that a little later. But, suffice it to say, struggling to finish quests solo and not being able to really find groups hurt my enjoyment of the game. CoH was better, and TOR is excellent for me in this regard.

2) The game was an old-school MMO in all ways, including death punishments and armour and crafting and everything. Those games didn’t work well for a casual player, at least in my opinion. TOR and CoH, to me, are far better at that, especially in making it so that you can play for only a couple of hours and feel like you’re making progress.

3) Story, at least outside of RvR perhaps, was a bit lacking. CoH including far more chained quests that told a story, and TOR is all about story.

4) The last time I installed it, it was on my getting out of date system and so was a bit laggy and stuttering for me, which was annoying.

Now that I’m reminded of it, I’m considering playing it again, but TOR already takes up my gaming time so I’m not sure how it would fit. But it is amazing that it’s still alive.

New Nocturnal Pursuits …

May 13, 2013

So, last week I wandered downtown to get some exercise and do some shopping, and ended up picking up a number of new games … including Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Now, it’s well-known that I’m a huge fan of the Persona series, especially Persona 3 and Persona 4. Persona 2 was okay but I just wasn’t that interested in continuing with it, and so moved on to other games (I really should pick it up again at some point). So seeing a brand new copy of the game for the PS2 was something that really caught my attention, especially since with the hockey playoffs being on and my getting into watching Star Trek: TNG and Star Trek: DS9 again it would be nice to have something to play that I can play while watching TV. So Nocturne might fill that role.

Except that, so far at least, it really isn’t the sort of game that can do that, because it suffers from some common flaws that plague JRPGs.

I’ve commented in other places about my tendency to get lost. If you run random encounters like most JRPGs do — as you wander around every so often an encounter shows up and you’re sucked into a fight — then looking for the right way to go becomes incredibly annoying. You wander around for a bit, hit a crossroads, wonder if you’ve taken that one before, start towards it … and get sucked into a fight. Finish the fight, and then try to remember what you were doing. Rinse, repeat. Add in the subgenre of JRPGs that make it difficult in some way to figure out where to go, and those that have save points that are far apart, and you have a recipe for annoyance.

The problem with the fights is always this: either they are simple and so no challenge, or they are actually a challenge. If it’s the former, then they’re just annoying: you get no resources from them, no XP, and they take no thought on your part. They’re boring busywork, there only because the game system generates random encounters that way. Sometimes, however, they’re actually a challenge. Which means that they drain resources — MP, potions, abilities, etc — while all you’re doing is trying to find your way to the end. Which is often an end boss. So you use up the things you’d want to save for the end boss just getting there, and not because the game seems designed to do that but because you have a tendency to get lost wandering around the place.

Nocturne has all of this in spades. The encounters vary between trivial and really hard — in the same section. So sometimes you’re using resources, and sometimes you aren’t. And you can’t predict this in advance, so if you save a medicine because the fight isn’t going to be hard you might find yourself in trouble when it suddenly is hard. The areas are often confusing and have strange barriers, and loop back in on each other. There’s also a wide open city to explore and some of the new events are far away from the others, which also have some strange barriers. Random encounters are frequent, even when you’re just going somewhere. And when you exit a room, the view switches so that it is incredibly easy to end up heading back the exact way you came instead of proceeding down the hall … but you want to enter every room because that way you’ll get all the chests and spirits that you might need to advance the game. Finally, throughout the entire game I have found exactly two save points, both in the hospital … which is on the other side of the city from the park and shopping area that I’m hunting around now. I spent a long time looking for a save point, and then finally had to trek all the way back there, just to save so that I could stop for the night. Getting random encounters all the way.

So far, the story is interesting but seems a bit undeveloped. The intro was interesting but probably told too much about your relationship with your teacher, and when you finally track down one of your friends you get what amounts to a non-interactive cutscene she heads off into demon-infested areas to try to find more survivors. Maybe if I’d said something else things might have changed, but there were no obvious indications of what to say. That was very anti-climactic for such an important scene. So even the story isn’t encouraging me to play it again.

I may give it another try, but with the above annoyances it doesn’t seem like it fits as an evening game, and I already have TOR and ME1 to cover off the games I want to play while there’s nothing good on TV.

From “Meh” to “Crap!” …

April 10, 2013

So, since I was feeling so “Meh” towards Disgaea 2, I decided to start playing Growlanser II. And I enjoyed it a lot more than Disgaea 2, because while the story had humour in it, the game seemed far more focused and consistent in tone than Disgaea 2. I pushed through it a lot and eventually saved after one part where the MC had to do a fight alone and used up all his MP and then headed on to the next battle … which was a massive boss battle. Which I was underlevelled for. So the immediate answer would be to simply level up a little more — as I did for other battles — and then tackle it. Except that about the only way I knew to recharge MP was at an inn … and the game had cut me off from the previous areas and, more importantly, from towns with inns. And I only had one save, and the auto-save had advanced past that point. So, my choices were to restart the game from the beginning or to ditch it. I was tempted to restart — since the game was fun enough — but then something came along that freed up my TV from the thrall of “Dark Shadows”, and so I decided instead to move on to “Mass Effect”. Which I started last night, getting only to the first combat scene with my character based on Helena Cain from the new Battlestar Galactica (whom, I guess, will end up going Renegade as I walk through the series).

So, let me talk a bit about Growlanser II, and compare it a bit to games in the same vein like Disgaea 2 and Record of Agarest War. Unlike the latter two, Growlanser II is based around random encounters to gain XP. So in order to level up, you generally have to walk around a lot to trigger encounters that you can then win to get XP, while in both of the other games you can basically trigger fights as you want them. So, Growlanser II is a bit annoying that way. It’s also annoying that you don’t gain very much XP from winning fights, but from attacking and killing things in the fights. This is actually a fairly nice way to generate XP … except that if you have one character that is better at doing that — Hans was that for me, with rapid attacks that did a lot of damage to weaker characters — they will gain XP a lot faster than anyone else. Add to it that for magic-focused characters for even remotely even fights you aren’t going to put them into the front lines to attack anyone, that means that you need them to cast spells to get XP. But casting spells takes time and uses MP. Which means that you’ll have to go to inns to pay to get that restored. Which is a bit annoying when for the small fights you’re in, you may not need to use spells, but need to just to level characters up. And if the enemies are weaker, the stronger characters might kill them too quickly for the other characters to get attacks off, especially if they have ranged attacks. Unless you just sit them out of the fight, of course. But that might make the fight too hard. So it’s a bit of a conundrum.

That being said, the fights are challenging and will require a knowledge of tactics and a use of the proper equipment without being as overwhelming on it and presenting as overwhelming a set of choices as Record of Agarest War, which is why I was able to proceed so far in it. The story is interesting enough, although it often seems a bit rushed, with major events starting and then ending in a very short period of in-game time. And there are a lot of character interactions to explore that you might miss if you don’t stop to check everything out. But it is interesting enough and certainly moves along quickly enough that you don’t get bored, and it is definitely a game that I will pick up again at some point in the future.

Need Connection …

March 15, 2013

So, the latest version of Sim City requires users to be logged on to the EA servers all the time, supposedly so that you can play it multiplayer. The launch of this has been an absolute disaster. And, in fact, is comparable to the launch of Diablo III, which also went to this model, but seemingly for more reason and the Sim City problems seem to be worse. Essentially, EA makes you log into their servers to play the game, even if you really wanted to play it single player, and at launch their servers couldn’t keep up so people who legitimately bought the game couldn’t play them. This is, of course, only a preview for what will happen when EA decides that it doesn’t want to keep the servers up anymore, likely because they’d rather you buy the next version of Sim City to make them more money.

If the gaming world goes to this model, it will likely drive me out of gaming. I do play some games that require a connection, because I play MMOs. But I accept that because of the nature of the games themselves, even if I tend to solo rather than play with people, and those games provide something that I can’t get anywhere else, even from older games. That’s not the case for a game like Sim City. Without this system, I might have picked it up out of idle curiousity at some point, like I did for Tropico and The Sims. But with this annoyance, I’m not going to, and I’m certainly not going to if it means that in a few years I might not be able to play it anymore.

Just recently, I played Star Wars: Demolition. The game was released in 2000. I also muse continually about playing Star Wars: Rebellion again, which was released in 1998. Do you really think that EA will be running any server for this version of Sim City after 15 years? And yet, I am still likely to want to play the game, if it’s good, in 15 years, just like I’d watch 15 year old movies. A system that takes that away from me in order to stop people from pirating the game is not a system I want to participate in. And just as a note to game companies: I am willing to put a decent amount of disposable income into buying and playing games. You might not want to lose that. Just sayin’.

When is Piracy Wrong?

November 2, 2012

After a long hiatus, the latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

Free for all …

August 20, 2012

The last Not-So-Casual Commentary is up, on TOR going FtP.

The chart of what will be free and what will be pay, at least for far, is here.

Ultimately, I’m going to go for a “wait and see” approach, and decide in January/February if I’m going to continue paying or not. And right now, I’m almost level 45 out of 50 on my Sith Juggernaut. I should be putting up more Ji’ark Diaries but … I’d rather play the game. You understand.

That’s Like, WoW, Man …

August 3, 2012

The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

So far, I like TOR except for the things that it does that I disliked in DCUO and WoW …

I’m Cured!

July 27, 2012

The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

Level 30 on Ji’ark. Maybe I’ll hit level 50 with him …

Working for the Weekend …

July 20, 2012

The latest Not-So-Casual Commentary is up.

True to form, I got stuck on a boss fight and then got distracted by The Old Republic.


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