Saturday, December 29, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?"
Sunday, November 18, 2012
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
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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
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
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.