Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guild Wars 2 - A Look at the Guardian

And so it is that Erianna Steele, of Kryta, who traces her ancestry back to the earliest refugees from Ascalon, and in fact considers herself Ascalonian to this day, has achieved the rank of Warmaster within the vigil, and now joins Trahearne, and others from the various orders, in taking the fight to Zhaitan.  In short, my guardian is level 55, and I thought I might take some time to talk about my impressions of the class so far.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guild Wars 2 WintersDay Event

So Guild Wars 2 Wintersday festival is upon us! And as has become customary for ArenaNet, they have dumped a _ton_ of content in the world, all for us, all for free.  Though I haven't come anywhere close to mastering well, any of the events, I have at least participated in them, so thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hidden Garden - A Design Perspective

So a few weeks ago I posted up a bit of a story on how I stumbled across The Hidden Garden jumping puzzle, and the adventures I had in exploring it and  uncovering its secrets.  But as I moved about the garden, I couldn't help but notice all the little designer touches here and there that made it such an enjoyable experience. I've been a game developer for some 15 years, and though I'm not a content designer by trade, I've spent more than my share of time thinking about and building zones in games.  For Atomic City Adventures, I developed four entire city zones, and then had to think about the best ways to repurpose them in such a way that made sense.  Because Hidden Garden is more than a jumping puzzle - it's almost a mini-zone in and of itself, it makes a great candidate to examine some of the subtle and not-so-subtle methods designers use to assist you through the level.

Let's start with when you first enter the zone.  Hidden Garden has four entrances, each one from a different location within Mount Maelstrom.  All of the entrances are located on the perimeter of the zone.  Regardless of which way you enter the zone, two things immediately stand out.  First, there's a towering hill dominating your view, in the center of the hill.

Second, you can see at least one or two of the other entrances from where you enter the zone.  So already you've been given some direction.  First, the tower in the center of the zone serves as a natural focal point, inviting you to explore it.  You're drawn to it because it's the most prominent feature in your view.  Second, because you can see the other entrances, you can see that regardless of which portal you use to enter the zone, you're going to be presented with the same grand view.

So given the large focal point in before you, you set out to make your way to the top of that hill.  Regardless of which direction you come at it from, you will encounter enemies.  And some of them are possibly veterans.  Now normally you might think yeah, so.. enemies.  All zones have them.  But it's important here, because of the way you found this area.  Because you teleported here from somewhere else, and it's, well, hidden, you might suspect the rules might be a bit different here.  Some jumping puzzles have platforms that disappear.  Some puzzles have wind traps, all sorts of things.  The thing is, the designers do like to change things around a bit for the puzzles, present you with interesting challenges, and right away you are informed that this zone has challenging foes.

So you make your way up the side of the hill, and already there's a couple of little jumps and opportunities for missteps along the way.  Again, you're being informed that you need to watch your step and pay attention to the terrain. About halfway up, you encounter a lone Sylvari sitting on the tree, and just beyond her a chest.

And if you didn't see the chest, well that's okay, because she promptly tells you about it.

Instructions are not the place to be subtle, and the designers know that.  Through her conversation, they pretty much tell you straight up what you need to do.  You need some elemental clusters to open  the chest.

And if that weren't enough, of course you're going to go over and try to open the chest anyway.  And it gives you more information.  You need four elemental cantles to open the chest.  Now, if you're like me, you probably don't know what the hell a cantle is.  But you know that it has something to do with the elements.  And you passed some elementals on the way in.  So at least some of what you need is likely in this zone. And you need four of them. So the first thing you do is to look about for some hint as to where to go next.

And this is key.  This is a crucial point for the designer, because you want the player to feel like they're exploring and finding things on their own, but you don't want them to feel directed, but you also don't want them to feel lost.  And again, the designers hit it perfectly here.  Because if you turn slightly to your left.. from where you are standing, whats this?  Is that a jumping puzzle leading directly away? Why yes, yes it is.

The particular stages of this puzzle are again pretty straightforward.  At each point along the way it's pretty clear where you need to go next.  And while none of it is particularly difficult - for instance nothing is shooting at you, and there's no traps for forces trying to blow you off the leaves like there are for some puzzles, you are afforded some dizzying views that will quicken your pulse as you make your way up.

So you get to the top, and look - there's the Cantle of Light.  It's clearly labeled, and you interact with it, and you receive the first cluster.. cantle.. whatever it is.  You don't really care you just know that you have it.  So once again, now that you have one objective completed, you're going to look for clues on where to go again, and once again, the designers are aware of this.  It's a very small promontory that you're standing on up here, but even in this small space the designers have packed it with clues.

From one side, as you gaze across the incredible vista that you are afforded, observing the beautiful waterfalls, you can clearly see the cantle of water, dancing atop some cliffs below you.  And on the other side, looking across to the other side of the zone, you can clearly see the cantle of wind.  And then finally, and this is most important, from where you gather the Cantle of Light, you can clearly see some diving goggles.  The presence of Diving Goggles is essentially a message from the designers that it's okay to jump from here.  Or at least there's a smaller chance you'll die if you jump from here.  So in just a very small space, you've been told where two of the three remaining cantles are, and how to get down.

Plummeting into the water below, when you go to make your way out, there's only one way out of the pond. And though you don't know it at the time, you've been dropped into a location that is quite close to the fourth cantle - earth.  All you have to do is walk around to the top of the pond, in either direction, and you'll immediately discover some earth elementals, and right next to them you'll see the Cantle of Earth.

Again, none of this is by accident.  The designers have gone to great length to put you in situations where you can discover what you're looking for easily, but without just telling you directly where it is.

So where you go next doesn't matter too much, you've been given clues for both of the remaining cantles.  As you stand there looking up at the very obvious Cantle of Water, you can see an opening in the back of the cliffs below the cantle - behind the waterfalls.  And upon entering, you find yourself in a picturesque grotto, filled with wildlife, giant plants, and sparkling waterfalls.  Now, I have to admit, I didn't pick up on the giant leaves right away.  For whatever reason, unlike mushroom pads, which are clearly designed for jumping pads, the leaves to me seem like something that would give when you stand on it.  But a little bit of experimentation, or perhaps another adventurer chancing by, and you quickly learn that the leaves are the key to this puzzle.

Again, making your way to the top isn't too difficult, and you're given some beautiful views along the way.  At each stage it's pretty clear where to go next, and eventually you emerge at the top.  There is your objective, and another breathtaking view of the zone.

All that remains now is the Cantle of Air.  And you've already learned approximately where it is and on which side of the zone it is.  A bit of exploration on this side of the zone reveals a cave, that invites further investigation.

Now, here the designers get tricky.  They're going to send you a message here, but it might take you a bit to get the message.  Especially if you're a bit dense.. like me.  As you enter the cave, you're immediately set upon by spiders.  So of course, you begin to fight them. And you kill them.  But then more appear.  And then more.  If you continue to fight, you are going to eventually get overwhelmed.  Because here's the message.  The spiders keep coming.  Eventually I got the message, and I fled the cave.  And again, there's a subtle bit of help here.  Just outside the cave is a deep pool, and as soon as you jump into the pool, the spiders immediately drop aggro return to the cave.  And over a short amount of time the spiders will despawn.  So now you're faced with a decision.  Either re-enter the cave, and explore more of it to learn if it's really where you're supposed to go, or to explore more of that portion of the zone, looking for an alternate route.

Well further exploration reveals no obvious ways to make your way up.  So if you run past the spiders, you quickly see the very obvious beginning of the jumping puzzle, and as soon as you make your way up a short ways, the spiders quickly drop aggro and you leave them behind.  So now the intent is clear.  The designers put the spiders there just to make it interesting. They're not there for you to fight, but to give you a sense of urgency to move along the puzzle.  It's important that you've learned this lesson, because further up, along the puzzle, you're going to encounter some more.  And by now, hopefully you know not to try to stand around and fight them, but to get on with the puzzle.

Once again, once you're on the puzzle, the direction on where to go next is pretty clear.  It's worth mentioning that, where jumping puzzles are concerned, this isn't always the case.  Several of them have branching (no pun intended) paths along the way, and some of them require you to detour down one path before you can continue.

Once you emerge at the top, the Cantle of Air is surrounded by air elementals.  This requires you to either kill them off before getting the cantle, or if you have some distraction mechanism, like, say phantasms, you can distract them long enough to perform a smash and grab, grabbing the cantle and then flinging yourself over the cliff to the large pond below - again, placed there specifically for you to land in.  Which is what I did, which is why the only screenshot you see of me getting the Cantle of Light is the one of me plummeting over the cliff with my ill-gotten gains.

And you're done!  With all of the cantles in your possession, all that remains is to make your way back to  the chest, collect your booty, and gain your achievement.  Just watch your step along the way!

So that's that.  I hope you enjoyed looking at the zone through a designer's perspective.  And more importantly, I hope you gain some appreciation for the hard working guys and girls that develop that content. There is almost nothing that happens in these virtual worlds in which we play that happens completely by accident.  That waterfall, that sweeping view, that fortuitous pool at the bottom of that cliff, those spiders you encounter along the way - all are there for a purpose.  And somewhere, someone spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking about just exactly the right way to present that content so that you can enjoy it in the most satisfying of ways.

Wherever you're gaming, I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Game Still Surprises Me

So last night, I sat down to a bit of Guild Wars 2, expecting nothing more than to knock out a few karma hearts, and to advance my way a bit through Mount Maelstrom.  Low key, casual gaming at its best.  Towards the north end of the zone, there was a dynamic event entitled Defeat the Keepers of the Earth, and you had to take out these two veteran Keepers of the Earth, that are just standing around, chillin'.  Now I'm a mesmer - defeating two veterans isn't trivial, but still doable.  But I put out a map call all the same, and sure enough, several people showed up within moments, and we handily defeated the mobs.  Once the mobs were defeated though, a portal showed up behind them, that wasn't there before.  Upon interacting with the portal, you're given the opportunity to pass through it.  When you say yes, it follows up with..

"It could be dangerous.. are you sure?" 

Heck yeah!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Lost Shores - Hits and Misses

So now that the Lost Shores weekend events are coming to a close, I wanted to put up some thoughts on the weekend in general. Unlike some of my peers, I do not by any means consider the event a total fail, as it has been characterized by some. In fact, just the opposite. By far and large I'd consider the event a success. But clearly not everything went according to plan, and plenty of people are writhing their hands in righteous indignation, so lets take a look at what worked, and what didn't.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


 So my mesmer Syrene Harmony, descendant of Kaytte Harmony, she who fought in the War in Kryta, hit level 40 yesterday.  Half way to max level.  I haven't blogged in a bit, but I have been playing plenty, so I thought I might talk a bit about the mesmer class, and my general impressions so far, especially with respect to how it compares to my thief.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye

After the announcement that City of Heroes would be shutting down, the community around the game rallied greatly.  In-game events were held, petitions were created and signed by thousands, and e-mails sent.  It was  a pretty amazing thing to see, and I think even the developers were surprised and quite a bit humbled by the outpouring of support for the game.  Unfortunately, NCSoft did at last, actually issue a reply to the support, and it left no room for interpretation.  City of Heroes was going away.  So this post is really more for myself than anything.  At one time I had four subscriptions to City of Heroes, and I maintained a subscription and VIP status right up until today.  I had so much fun in this game, and for me it has so many memories.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Guild Wars 2 - Pulse Check

So we're a little bit over a month since Guild Wars 2's launch, and though I myself am still absolutely loving the game, and playing at least a little bit just about every night, I thought it might be a good time to do bit of a pulse check on Guild Wars 2.  We've now had plenty of time to get through the honeymoon stage, and for many people the honeymoon was all there was.  And while there is still much to love about Guild Wars 2, as we'll see, it hasn't all necessarily been wine and roses.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rethinking Roles in Guild Wars 2

Last night our not-so-little guild Combat Wombat tackled a number of dungeons.  We put together one group of +40's that ran Caudecus Manor (the second dungeon in the game), and then because we were done so quickly, we ran Twilight Arbor.  And because enough people are now in their mid-thirties, we actually had two groups doing Ascalon Catacombs for the first time.  At one time I counted 16 people on Vent - which for me, is awesome.  It's hard to say how nice it is to be a part of a thriving, fun, like-minded group in the early days of what is sure to be a long-lived, epic MMO.

This morning though, the runs sparked a lively and interesting post-dungeon discussion on what exactly people's roles are on a five man dungeon team.  Do people even have roles - and if so, how can we fulfill them?  One thing I've noticed about Guild Wars 2 is that there is actually a lot more that comes out of Guild Wars 1 than it first appears, and I think one of the things they carried forward is their philosophy towards group roles.  So based on observations from playing the first game, and from what I've experienced in the dungeon runs I've done so far, I wanted to offer up some thoughts on group roles in GW2, intended especially for those that perhaps never played the original game, or only ever dabbled in it, and are coming from a more traditional MMO design like World of Warcraft.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Will Not Go Quietly..

Last friday, quite unexpectedly, Paragon Studios announced that NCSoft had made the decision to terminate the MMO City of Heroes, with servers being shut down by November of this year.  It's hard to express the outright emotional response I felt at learning this news.  Don't get me wrong, any MMO closing down is never a good thing, but over the years plenty of games I've played in, and enjoyed, have come and gone.  But when I learned of this I felt a sense of outright loss.  It made me sit back and really think, and I realized the reason this game's closure is affected me so was that more than any other game, City of Heroes was a part of my family.

Back in '07 or so, my brother-in-law and his wife discovered the game, quite outside of my influence.  They asked if I played, and I told them well of course! My son and I had already been playing, and my daughter - eight at the time - loved to make costumes and played some as well, so we all decided to get together and play.  Even my wife, whom is a complete non-gamer, was cajoled by the rest of us to join in.  So for the better part of a year, every Teusday night, I would make sure that vent was working properly on all four computers in our office, and the four of us would get online, and then be joined by my brother-in-law and his wife over vent - whom lived in Houston some 200 miles away - and the six of us would play together.  Quite often my wife and my sister-in-law would use the time to catch up, chatting away over vent like it was a phone call, completely immune to the seriousness of fight mechanics, or drawing too much aggro - and often making fun of me whenever I tried to admonish anyone into focusing on the fight!  And.. it was okay.  Because City of Heroes was the perfect game for that.  The exact right blend of allowance for casual play, and serious tactics.  We could get on, we play play for an hour or two, the six of us, knock out some missions, and then send the kids to bed.

Even to this day it remained the one game my daughter would regularely ask me to play with her, a request I did my best to accomodate whenever I could.  Even though we didn't play all the time, it's presence was a comfort.  And so when I realized that after November I would never again be able to stand side-by-side with my daughter knee deep in the sewers of Paragon City, battling Circle of Thorns and Vahzilok.. the loss I felt was genuine.  I, and I think many others, had always assumed City of Heroes would be there for us to come back too whenever we wanted.  Well Friday NCSoft reminded us that City of Heroes is a business.  And like any business, subject to being closed immediately and without much warning.

Quite clearly though, I wasn't the only one shocked, and more than a bit upset.  Across the blogosphere there was at first a sense of stunned loss, and then a call to action.  And by today, that call to action has grown, and is continuing to pick up steam.

I don't usually participate in fan or community organized movements.  I'm keenly aware that businesses are businesses, and once a decision has been made, most of the time no amount of fan outcry will change that.  But this is important to me.  And there are some cases where the community did make a difference.  Perhaps this time it's different - perhaps we can show that are making this decision that it does matter, and that there is still money to be made here.  So I'm getting involved, and I hope that perhaps you will too.

Yeah.. but how?

Well you'll be happy to know that it's already extraordinarily well organized!

At the very least, drop over to this location and sign the fan petition showing your support for keeping the gates to the city open!

If you're so inclined, I would encourage you to write to the good folks at NCSoft.  As always, tact and professionalism will be far more effective than nerd rage.  Remember this is a business decision. You can find an extraordinary amount of information in this forum thread.

And this Saturday, the 8th, there's going to be a massive thing in-game, in Atlas Park, at around 4:00pm central.  There's going to be a huge costume contest, and in general I think they just want as many people as possible to show up and show their support.  Details are here, but the short version is come by Atlas Park on Saturday the 8th on the Virtue server.  And remember, if you haven't been by City of Heroes in a few years, the game has a free to play model.  All it will cost you is the time to download the client, and the time to show up in game.

There is a official press release from the Titan Network, and you can check it here.

I'm going to be there.  And I'm signing the petition, and may even write a letter.  It's not much, but I want to be involved in this.  I hope some of you do as well.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Karma Farms

I was going to make this first post-launch blog be the standard "I'm playing Guild Wars 2 and loving it!" blog, but quite frankly, if you're following me in in the most slightest of ways, you already know this.  From screenshots, to dance movies, to previous blogs from the beta, you already know that I think this game is the real deal, and so far, I have no reason to think I won't be staying for quite a long time.

So instead I thought I might make this a relatively shot blog, and make it a PSA of sorts.  One thing you learn pretty quickly as a developer (and as a player) is that in any game where you persistent progression is a part of your game play, players are incredibly good at finding the most ruthlessly efficient means to achieve that progression.  By now, you've already heard about the player that reached level 80 (the game's max level) a mere 32 hours after the game launched.  Well good on 'im.  But not everyone has the luxury of an entire guild feeding you crafting materials to catapult your way into the upper levels, so some players are looking for any edge they can get - including exploits - to easy-mode their way through the game.

And right now, the most egregious of these exploits I've seen so far are the Karma farms.  What's a Karma Farm?  Well from the ones I've seen so far, it's characterized by two things.  First, a dynamic event that repeats with too great of a frequency and at too great of a regularity - or is easily triggered by a player.  Second, the dynamic event includes hordes of mobs that are funneled through a narrowly defined area.  The result?  Players park their characters with their auto-attack enabled and firing at the choke hole.  The event fires, the waves of mobs are exterminated, players rake in money, experience, and karma.  Rinse and repeat. Indefinitely.

There are two karma farms I've come across already.  The first was at the Ulta Metamagicals outpost in Brisbane Highlands.  Players would park themselves in the tiny room with the Asura gate, pointing their auto-attacks at the gate.  You could trigger the event repeatedly, and players would do so, and rake in the experience.  I use the past tense to describe this one because as of this morning, when I went by to check on the gate, no one was there, and the NPC that triggers the event was no longer present.  I'm hopeful this means this one received enough notoriety that ArenaNet has already found and fixed it.

The second I discovered is in Kessex Hills, and as of last night, was still very much active.  This one was at the bridge west of Greyhoof Meadows, where the centaurs are funneled through the gap at the bridge.  There was a pretty big patch overnight, and we have no idea of what all went into the patch, so they might have fixed it.  At least a few people this morning hadn't got the word if they had, as there were already some afk'ers parked with their auto-attacks on.

I bring these to your attention because I want them stopped.  And the best way for them to be stopped is for people to report them.  So I describe exactly where these farms are located because I am hopeful that you will go to these locations, and while standing there, submit a support ticket.  To do so, bring up the Game Menu by hitting escape, choose Support, and then click the little bug tab.  Your location is recorded along with the ticket when it is submitted, which is why it's important to be standing at the location of the Karma farm when you submit.  And yes, I'm aware that some of you might be tempted.

It's quite likely there are plenty more of these in the game, so keep an eye out for them.  If you ever come across a crowd of people standing around firing at nothing at all, it's quite likely you've just come across another Karma Farm.  Wait around, and see if indeed, a dynamic event doesn't fire shortly, and wave upon wave isn't mowed down.  When you see one though - do the right thing.  Participate in the event.  Submit a ticket.   And move on.  These things break the game, and in the end, ultimately do far more harm than good.

Apologies if heavy-handed PSA's aren't your thing.  But I really do love this game, and as a developer, I hate seeing game-breaking exploits like these.  I'm hoping if you are enjoying the game as much as I am, you'll understand!

Until I take another blog break in a week or so, you can find me in Tyria!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Last Guild Wars Post?

The first time I really got a chance to play Guild Wars 2 was that first Beta Weekend Event, back in April.  I was of course aware of the game, had seen some screenies and a little bit of footage, but by far and large had been postponing really digging into it.  It was that weekend event that caught me, hook line and sinker, on the game.  And after the weekend was over, I decided I would boot up Guild Wars 1 again, and renew my effort to get at least a few points in my Hall of Monuments.  I think at the time I had like three - the ones you get for owning all of the expansions.

But I gotta tell you.. it was hard!  I had already become so used to so many of the features in Guild Wars 2, coming back was.. well to be honest it really did feel a bit like stepping back in time.  Being unable to jump (again), the loneliness of the instanced explorable areas, the auto-attacking & movement, the arcane armor crafting mechanics, the complete lack of modern ameneties like mail and auction houses - all of it bespeaks of a game designed seven years ago.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Meet Kerelyn Redfeather

So after completing The War in Kryta last week, I took a few days off from Guild Wars, and spent some time thinking about what I was going to do next.  But starting something new just didn't really appeal to me, and my mind kept wandering back to my Hall of Monuments.  (This is a clear sign of addiction, btw.)  The Oppressor Weapon you get from finishing WoK nets you two more Hall of Monument points, which was a pleasant surprise and a big motivator for pushing through that last tough mission.  Honestly, I never expected to have even one weapon on my Valor Monument, so this was a nice accomplishment.

Of course though.. that left me at an odd 17 points.  No one wants to be at 17 points.. halfway between the solid milestones of 15 and 20, right?  If I added a single hero statue, my Fellowship statue count would be at 10, and that would get me another point.  Well, I could run Remains of Sahlahja a few more times - all I needed was one piece of Ancient Armor Remnant - that couldn't be that hard right?  Wrong.  After running it another six times, three different times with three different characters, I still didn't have a single drop.  So I stopped doing that in frustration. But as luck would have it, at that very moment, a fellow was selling Cloth of the Brotherhood in Kamadan for 5k a piece.  You can use those to upgrade your Eye of the North heroes if you have finished Eye of the North (or at least have access to the Central Transfer Chamber) - which I have!   So I bought four of those, outfitted for of my heroes, and now I have 18 points.  But now what!  With 18 points, I needed just 2 more to get to a nice, even number again, and satisfaction.

After spending way too much time looking at each of the categories, and evaluating what would produce the best results for the least amount of effort - or at least in the most satisfying way - I decided that the Honor Monument would be my best bet.  I currently have two statues - one each for finishing the campaigns of Nightfall and Factions.  If I could get three more statues, I would get a full three points for having a full display, which is five statues.  If I just completed the Prophecies campaign, I would get one statue - Hero of Tyria.  And as I already had most of the missions in Nightfall completed with a Masters score, if I went back and picked up the few that I had missed, I could get another title - Eternal Protector of Elona for a second statue.  But to get that third statue.. I would have to do all the missions in the Prophecies Campaign, and get their bonus accomplishments.  The thing is, the first six of those missions require a prophecies character.  That's right, I would have to create a new character from scratch, in the prophecies campaign, and start working with her.  And this would be a huge disadvantage to finishing it quickly, as I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the hundreds of hours I've put into Kaytte, and more importantly, her extremely well outfitted heroes.  In fact, I'd have no heroes at all!  The only thing I could count on would be having enough money to properly outfit her with armors and weapons as she leveled up, and to buy the skills I've unlocked with other characters.  It was a tough decision.  I spent a solid ten minutes or so considering whether or not it would be worth it.

Of course, you already know what I did.  Meet Kerelyn Redfeather, young ranger from Ascalon, whom was there the day the Charr broke the sky and rained fire and brimstone down upon the country.  So far, things have gone pretty well.  Don't worry, I won't be burdening you with a picture-by-picture account of my journeys.  But I have had a better time of it than I thought I would.  My memories of the Prophecies campaign are mostly negative, formed from several aborted attempts over the years that never saw any character get any further than post-seared Ascalon.  But with strict focus and attention to walkthroughs, I've already accomplished more this weekend than I ever did in any of my previous attempts.  Kerelyn is a bit of an over-achiever, and at level 12, she has already completed all of Old  Ascalon, led the refugees through the Shiverpeaks, through the undead riddled Gates of Kryta, and seen them safely to Lion's Arch.  In game terms, I've completed 7 of the 25 missions that make up the Prophecies campaign.

Now that I'm in Lion's Arch, I feel I might be a bit underleveled (ya think?), so I'm going to do some pickup missions here and there to level up a bit, before continuing with the campaign.  The amazing thing I think is, how possible it is to really make progress in these campaigns when you have a goal and focus.  In pretty much every attempt I'd tried before, I always end up floundering, buried in a miasma of secondary quests, losing sight of the goal, before getting bored and wandering away to something else bright and shiny.  In this attempt, I've done pretty much zero side-quests. I check the wiki before every mission, and if it doesn't have the word Primary next to it, it's a safe bet I skip it.  And a few times along the way, I have done some extra things, just to level up a bit.  But the important thing is - the different thing is - this time I'm keeping my eye firmly on the ball.

Once I get to level 18 or 20, I'll jump over to Eye of the North, and do just enough of that content to get Ogden, Vekk, Jora, and Gwen in my party.  With those four heroes, I should be able to do the Lion's Arch quest to travel to Elona, and do the first mission there, which will add Koss, Duncan, Talkora, and Melonni. Though that isn't even half of the heroes Kaytte has at her disposal, I'm hopeful that mix will give me enough to have an easier time of it as I progress through Prophecies.

And that's what I was up to this past weekend!  Hope you are having fun in whatever game you're currently playing, and of course, I'll see you in Guild Wars 2 in 4 weeks!

Final Note - It turns out I actually could take a non prophecies character all the way back to post-seared Ascalon, and do those first, initial six missions.  The wiki and documentation, such as it is, is not very clear on this.  Regardless, it's too late now!  Committed we are!  Proceed we shall!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Long Time Ago..

So this is going to be (for me) a pretty short piece.  To say that the announcement that Star Wars - The Old Republic is going to a free-to-play tiered pricing business model this fall has put the MMO blogosphere into overdrive would be, I think, an understatement.   I wasn't going to post anything at all on the matter - because everyone seems to pretty much already have their minds made up about the matter.  But after reading comment after comment and more than a few full blown blogs on the matter, I felt compelled to repeat a truth that often seems to be overlooked when it comes to MMO's.  A truth that has to repeated just about every time another large scale subscription based MMO goes free to play.  Here is that truth.

Pretty much every play mechanic in every MMO works better when there are more people.

That is the truth.  Groups form faster, Heroics can be completed, PvP scenarios pop faster, the economy works better, trades can complete, and a whole host of other systems all function better when there are more people playing the game.

So when people make statements like "well if the game wasn't fun for you then its just not going to be fun period regardless of whether or not it's free to play or not", well, by far and large, that just isn't true.  Because, as it turns out, most of the carefully crafted mechanics the designers have put in the game to make it fun, are quite likely not working as they were designed if there are not enough people to use them.  So it's actually quite possible - even probable, that the reason you weren't having any fun in the game is directly related to there not being enough people around playing the game.

Now, don't get me wrong, there may be certain  mechanics that have absolutely nothing to do with player population that you hate, and sure enough, adding all the people in the world isn't going to make that better. If you don't like the way boss fights work, well then you're just not going to like the way boss fights work.  But if, say for instance what you hated was you could never find enough people to get into the flashpoint to even fight the boss, or if say for instance you felt like you were flying around on a deserted planet, because you essentially were, then this game is only going to improve for you.

Reducing the entry barrier to a game to nothing brings people into a game.  Lots of people.  People that quite likely might not play otherwise.  And having more people in the game is going to be more fun for everyone.

This is what I know.  I know Star Wars - The Old Republic was losing subscribers at an astronomical rate. I know that for me personally, the reason I stopped playing was that I felt like I was driving around deserted zones.  I personally am thrilled that the people responsible for the game are taking steps that will hopefully revitalize the player population and bring new people to the game.

I don't know if this will return the game to profitability or not.  What I do know is that I'm looking forward to returning to the game and playing it the way that it was at launch - teeming with people.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The War in Kryta

So it took a bit longer than I had anticipated. It turns out, some of the missions in The War in Kryta are, well, as hard as anything The Eye of the North or Nightfall is going to throw at you. Once again, I found myself scrambling to find the right build for my character, and more importantly, the right makeup of heroes, in order to succeed in many of the missions.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lion's Arch - 250 Years Later

The Lion's Arch of long ago was gone, its only remaining memory consisting of the battlements that survived the great waves from the rising of Orr.  When Zhaitan, the undead Elder Dragon, brought long-sunken Orr back to the surface, all lands surrounding the Sea of Sorrows were awash in great waves.  Lion's Arch was almost utterly destroyed, and it its place was left a swamp of broken ships, snapped trees, and dead creatures.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Third and Final Beta Weekend Event

So this weekend was the third beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2, and in a fortunate alignment of circumstances, I pretty much had the entire weekend to myself.  It is a safe characterization to say that I pretty much feasted on what ArenaNet was serving throughout the weekend.  Now if you've followed my blog at all, you're already aware of how impressed I am with Guilds Wars 2, but if this is your first time to stop by, I would invite you to view my initial thoughts on the game itself here.  I wrote that up after the first weekend event, and my thoughts haven't changed.  In fact if anything they've only been reinforced.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Time of Transition..

So it's beginning to look like I quite likely won't be finishing The War in Kryta after all.  It's not for a lack of wanting to -- but more for a lack of patience - on my part.  The last mission I completed, A Little Help from Above,  required a solid two to three hour block of uninterrupted time to complete.  And it took me four attempts before I got it right.  The next mission, Temple of the Intolerable, seemed like it would be a cake walk, by comparison.  But again, I've attempted it three times already, with well over an hour spent on each attempt, and so far, still haven't got the magic combination of stuff to complete it.  I probably still wouldn't mind so much if the missions were a bit more varied, but each of these missions have boiled down to use the same tactic over and over again without making a mistake until you get to the end.  It's a very old school mission design, and quite frankly I find myself increasingly inpatient with it, especially when there's so much new and exciting stuff on the horizon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Guild Wars, The Secret World, and the Metagame

Whew!  What a busy weekend!  I had really hoped to be done with the War in Kryta by this weekend, but once again the Guild Wars designers have thrown adversity before me, and once again I find myself challenged to figure out the right set of changes and modifications to make to my build, my armor, and my heroes, to overcome this latest challenge.  And the challenge in figuring out exactly how to overcome this latest set of obstacles got me to thinking about metagames again.