I didn’t attend this year’s Game Convention in Leipzig, mainly because I am too damn lazy to drag my nerd ass out of my parents’ basement, unless absolutely neccessary. Thanks to teh Interwebs, I rarely have to.
Age of Conan
There’s a video of siege gameplay. It looks like something that potentially could be fun if Funcom manage to reduce lag and turn it into less of a chaotic brawl. Then we have PvE dungeon footage that very much fails to impress.
And finally, there are some very mixed first impressions by gamers:
Just came back from GC and I must say I pretty much expected something else. [...] Honestly I’m trying not to be too negative, but what I’ve seen is not a game needing a polish, but a game which really needs way more time.
Imagine playing “Tekken” and having to select a combo through a drop-down menu each and every time before you can even attempt to pull it off through the proper movement and button combinations…
Oh, and boobs!! Nice, yes, but I suspect that 90% of AoC’s population will be “female” and that’s kind of gay.
Warhammer: Age of Reckoning
EA Mythic revealed some leet infoz on Elves. I’m not horribly interested in playing an Elf because I’m too insecure in my sexuality. The always entertaining Brit Paul Barnett recycles some jokes we’ve heard before (Elves are like British posh people, Dark Elves are like British posh people on drugs yadda yadda yadda).
He added a new twist to his Darf Elves characterization, implying that they were also like Americans, by noting that ”they move around in enormous war machines carrying thousands of soldiers with enormous weapons of destruction, all across the world, wherever they want, and they invade places” and “they do whatever they want, no one can stop them, they’re rich“.
Another relevant piece of information bestowed upon us by Paul Barnett is that the game designer who created the female-only Witch Elf class is a “sad individual, who lives with his mother, and has no girlfriend. As a result, every skill he gave the Witch Elf is, in his mind, the evil powers of women“.
You can download a video of the presentation here. It’s only 500mb, too.
Looks like Vanguard Game Update #2 was patched to live servers about a week ago. It’s the first patch since SOE took over Sigil and fired more than half of the staff. After reading the patch notes, I’m glad I cancelled my subscription. What a letdown. Let’s have a look at the major changes and new features:
Guild Halls?! Who cares? Most guilds have either imploded of left the game a long time ago. Only few people ever cared about housing in Vanguard to begin with. Who needs a pointless house in some god-forsaken corner of the world, much less a guild hall? They have been wasting development ressources on THIS? Is this a joke?
The Brotherhood system allows players to share EXP as long as they’re within 5 levels from each other. A feature like this has been promised since beta but it comes at a time when it should have been very, very low on the priority list and that makes it another major head scratcher. A pointless feature and a waste of time. It’s not even as cool as EQ2′s mentoring system which allows higher level players to scale themselves down to a lower level.
Part of Vanguard’s initial “Vision” was that Bind on Equip / Bind on Pick-up mechanics would be used in moderation. It was a bad idea. EverQuest could get away with this because the rate at which items entered the world was extremely low. With the rate at which items enter the world in VG, BOE/BOP is a neccessity but it is yet another change that makes the game even more similar to its competitors. From what I’ve heard, they made most “rare” items not just BoE but BoP, which is extremely harsh. No self-respecting 40+ character would use anything but rares, so item trade has been effectively eliminated at the high-end. Wow.
Vanguard finally gets a useful LFG system with LFM functionality and the ability to specify which content you want to do. Players have been begging for a better LFG tool since beta 2 and I find it inexcusable that it took them until 8 months after release to implement something that is a basic neccessity for a grouping-centered game.
Rest Experience… oh, man. The last thing Vanguard needs is players reaching level 50 even faster. There is virtually nothing to do at 50 except some badly designed and frustrating grind/collect shit from the generic content assemby line. I’m not sure what to make of this. Not only does it sound like yet another “me too” feature but I never saw the leveling curve in VG as much of a problem. Yes, it was slower than in EQ2 and certainly WoW but that’s not why about 4/5 subscribers have quit the game. This new feature doesn’t help anything.
The second major change to items is the introduction of item level requirements. The Equipment Expertise system was canned and items now have a fixed minumum level like in WoW, supposedly because EE was too confusing for new players. Yeah, right. Like Vanguard has “new players”. It’s a fucking shame. EE was novel and it worked. Replacing it with static level requirements simply snuffs another element of choice and uniqueness out of the game. With Vanguard’s item system being in such a pathetic shape, one wonders if they don’t have anything better to do than changing item mechanics that work perfectly well.
Crash fixes and optimizations… a reoccuring item in many Vanguard patch notes but these supposed fixes never seemed to work. From what I’ve heard, hitching is still bad and crashes are still frequent.
There’s more stuff in the full patch notes, some minor features and tons of bug fixes and small changes but that’s it, basically. Not what I expected. Where’s the new and fixed 40+ content? Where is the raid content? Where are the neccessary changes to the frustrating crafting system and its punitive and unfun mechanics? Is there yet a point to Diplomacy? Why didn’t they adress the most glaring character balancing issues? This “game update” certainly isn’t the step forward that Vanguard needs. Questionable changes, worthless features, a few fixes and maybe one or two genuine improvements? Screw it.
At least they finally fixed some of the issues with the rogue class that have been around since beta. Rogues still can’t sneak past mobs even one level higher than them but at least AoE damage, racial abilities and damage shields don’t break Stalk anymore. A very slight damage increase of rogue abilities across the board and some tinkering with cooldown timers. A new ability and a stun that actually is worth using now. Blackjack is now a lull instead of a short mez.
That’s all nice and good but it doesn’t address the problem of rogues being one of the three or so classes that can’t solo worth a damn, having to run screaming like little girls from mobs that virtually all other classes can chain-solo without risk. And fixing the rogue’s broken Vital Strike duration from 12 seconds to 4 seconds is a huge nerf to the class’s group DPS and it’s not like rogues had much to write home about when it comes to usefulness in groups.
If I hadn’t cancelled my subscription weeks ago, I would have done it now. I don’t see the devs addressing any of the issues that made people quit in droves.
After weeks of carebearing in high-sec space, I finally had my first PvP encounter. I got popped in 0.4 space by a gatecamp consisting of 3 battleships, 2 battlecruisers and a speed-pimped cruiser acting as a tackler. A hundred millon ISK worth of equipment down the drain. Oh joy.
The experience was rather anti-climactic - my Drake battlecruiser didn’t even stand a fighting chance. So lesson one here is that EVE isn’t about fairness, it’s about might makes right. Lesson two is that if you’re acting like a retard, you die. From hindsight, I have been acting pretty retarded. I did check the map for recent combat activity but I disregarded clear warning signs, like that lonely red-blinking guy at the jump gate acting as a lookout. Or the containers labeled with clear warnings that there is pirate activity in the region. I guess I was just overly confident because I had entered that particular system several times without any trouble. Lesson three is: don’t be too confident, retard.
Losing 100 million ISK (after insurance pay-out) was a pretty big deal for me. Level 3 missions aren’t all that lucrative and the ship I lost represented a significant time investment. Yet, I found the experience less infuriating than being steamrolled by an Albion zerg every time I poked my nose out of the castle gates in DAoC. There is something inherently attractive about a game in which getting killed has consequences, unlike PvP in DAoC or WoW. This might not come as much of a surprise to seasoned PvPers but I’ve been trodding the Path of the Carebear for most of my MMO life. This is all new to me and I like it.
I’ve also been seeing a few visually more impressive missions than the usual assortment of ship and generic objects in deadspace pockets. Huge wrecks, enormous space stations, dust clouds… I wish there was more content like this. Running missions is dreafully boring. There are too few of them and that makes it every bit as repetitive as grinding always the same mobs in conventional MMORPGs. This isn’t helped by the fact that the missions aren’t particularly challenging.
Nothing I’ve encountered in level 3 missions so far can crack my Drake’s shield tank, and I usually aggro the whole stage and trigger als many waves as early as possible, just to have all the ship wrecks bunched up nicely for easier looting. It’s like playing in god mode, much better than running missions in an actively armor-tanked Gallente drone boat.
The Drake is also one of the most visually appealing ships in the game. It’s shiny, metallic and sleek and not as assymetrical as most other Caldari ships. I find it a bit curious that most spaceships in EVE, a game that is all about spaceships, look like crap. The Gallente Dominix looks literally like a sack of shit. Most Caldari ships look horribly deformed and Minimatar ships are essentially flying trash heaps that, admittedly, have a nice hobo charm to them. I hope that the upcoming graphics engine upgrade improves things but CCP will probably retain the basic design of all ships and some of these are simply beyond redemption.
It’s old news by now: Funcom announced that the release date for Age of Conan was pushed back to March 25th 2008, citing “recent beta feedback” and a “need to polish some aspects of the game even further, especially when it comes to the entry barriers” as reasons for the delay. Huge shocker, I know. Somehow, I suspect that a lack of accessability is not all that might be amiss.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous entry, Funcom haven’t shown jack shit so far. No content, no advanced mechanics - it is astounding how little has been revealed about a game that is so far into developement. Instead, we get treated to retarded little details like the blood being modeled to look like in the movie 300, Zack Snyder’s homo-erotic orgy of violence.
A March 25th release date means that AoC will have to go up against Warhammer. That’s not as bad as Vanguard’s release a mere days away from WoW’s first expansion but it certainly won’t help sales. Unless, of course, I’ve been reading the tea leaves entirely wrong and WAR, not AoC, will turn out to be the unpolished, half-finished turd.
On a related note: check out this AoC screenshot. It’s hideous. Kind of looks like Vanguard, doesn’t it? That reminds me… I’ve been planning to write a blurb on why Vanguard’s graphics suck but I have lost all my screenshots when I temporarily turned into a moron and decided to install Windows Vista. I can probably make due without screenshots but it’s a bummer nevertheless.
AoC has been on my rather short list of MMORPGs to keep tabs on for quite a while. I like FunCom as a company and I have confidence in their ability to innovate. I love the fact that AoC is supposed to be a game for mature audiences. I’m sick and tired of the current trend of making MMOs as unoffensive and politically correct as possible (no religions, demons and angels in Vanguard; the markedly Puritan clothing choices in EQ2 etc.).
Lately, I’ve been getting progressively more worried, though. AoC is supposed to be released in October, a mere 2-3 months from now. And so far, they haven’t shown anything of relevance. A couple of cinematic trailers, some UI footage and a number of short flicks showing some guys whacking a bunch of mobs. That’s basic functionality. Who cares? Let’s see what we have not been shown yet:
FunCom make quite large claims for AoC, don’t they? Every day we’re getting closer to the October 30th release date, with no substantial information released on the very features that are supposed to set AoC apart from the competition, I’m getting more and more convinced that AoC is, in fact, exhibiting the horrible trio of high expectations, overambitious goals and a looming deadline. If that stuff was ready for release in October, they would have shown at least something by now.
FunCom can’t afford to push back the release date too far. Going up against Warhammer in Q1 2008 would be a bad idea, WAR would slaughter this game. On the other hand, FunCom can’t afford to release a half-fnished shell of a game, either. Not after they did it in the past with Anarchy Online and certainly not since Vanguard proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that gamers won’t tolerate it anymore.
Games Convention in Leipzig (Agust 23rd to 26th) will probably be the last opportunity for FunCom to convince the public that AoC will not end up as yet another MMO debacle.