Relentless Gamers

Gamers without Remorse

Pretty Little Sith

Pretty Little Sith

New Blog from one of my Guild Mates in SWTOR. Give her some love. 

The Stepchild No One Wants – Raids

When doing some research about Elder Scrolls Online, I came across a bit of information that made me a sad panda. Group size will be limited to 5 people and will not have any kind of organized raid content. 

It seems like it’s the current trend of the MMO market to just not develop raid content. While I can understand that it doesn’t seem like a good source of development time to focus that many resources to developing for a very small portion of the playerbase of your game. The number I hear being thrown around WoW these days is about 5% compete in end-game raid content outside of the raid finder. Not a lot. 

Perhaps I’m biased, but I believe that the key to a successful MMO is to cater to all types of play. Which includes competitive instanced raid content that challenges both the players and the developers to new levels. End game raiders are what challenge developers to make new content that is engaging and challenging. What they learn from those challenges can translate to new content for non-raiders. 

Not only do raiders push developers to make new content, they also help developers identify balance issues. If something is over powered, you can guess that it’s either a hardcore PVP player or a hardcore PVE raider who reports it in the forums and submits a ticket. 

Raiders aren’t just a minority, they’re the top tier of players. They’re a resource to be utilized and not tossed aside. 

Too many games have launched without Raiding or have launched with Raiding as an afterthought. Many of those have gone free to play as a result or haven’t gained the mainstream traction they were hoping.

Wildstar – The Return to Epic Raids

Wildstar has been in development for some time. For some reason, I neglected to pay much attention to it. With the rush of big name MMO launches, expansions, etc it was easy to miss this gem being developed by Carbine Studios.

Lately there’s been a trend in MMOs that has had me disappointed. The elimination of raiding or the reduction of epic encounters. With games like Guild Wars 2 and Neverwinter removing raids from the MMO formula entirely and other games like WoW, Rift and SWTOR all reducing the size of group content to a portion of what it was originally, the epic days of raiding were slowly coming to an end, one game at a time.

Enter Carbine’s Wildstar. Developed by old-school MMO players who cut their teeth on games like DAoC, EQ and other games with truly Epic battles. Wildstar intends to bring back 40 man content to MMOs along side 20 man content. Also, to help avoid raider burnout, every week there will be a different boss mechanic rotated in. Allowing each successive week to be different than the weeks before.

This alone has me interested. From watching the game videos, it’s an action oriented game with dodging and timing being key to success. But unlike GW2, their Telegraph system allows the players to see an effect coming and take action. For good or bad. The Telegraph system places a colored shape on the ground indicating the type of effect and where it will affect. So good effects will have people running to it, and bad will have you moving away from it.

There’s so much more to the game. Too much for me to say here. But feel free to find videos on youtube and check out all the coverage from other sites to help form your own opinion. The beta should be starting up sometime this year, so go sign up at their site!

Guild Wars Endgame Woes

As many of you know from reading this blog, I love Guild Wars 2. The game is beautiful and well designed. However, there was some concern about endgame in it. It seems that those concerns aren’t without merit.

When the game launched, the massive Dynamic Events on Orr and other zones were supposed to be the X to Y replacement for raiding. The ability to experience group content without the exclusivity of raiding. While these were amazing to experience, the events started to feel stale and missing the challenge of raiding.

ArenaNet wanted to bring a new type of endgame to the playing field. Allowing the whole world to be accessible and challenging at max level. Exploring new areas, discovering new vistas and solving jumping puzzles. They didn’t want raids because they were a treadmill of doing content to get gear, to do more content.

After playing for a few months, I find myself growing bored with the endgame they propose. I can only level so many characters (not an altaholic like some) and I can only do so many dungeons or fractals before I miss raid nights.

So why doesn’t ArenaNet want raids? As I mentioned above, they didn’t want a treadmill. But I have to ask, with the design of the 5 man content being that you do Explorables to get tokens to buy good looking gear. You need to run a single dungeon many times to get a full set. That’s a Treadmill. You run Fractals to get to harder content so you can get better (Ascended) gear. So you can do harder content. That’s a treadmill. So why not larger group content?

I believe that if done correctly, it could work well in their game. ArenaNet has designed content to be mostly Horizontal. Gear gained from doing content isn’t any better than any other gear pieces of the same quality earned elsewhere. So crafted gear is just as good as a Dungeon Set. The same idea could apply to Raid content. Skins or tokens would be earned for doing raids, nothing outside of the power level already established elsewhere.

What horizontal progression does for PVE content is make it all relevant. Gaining new gear doesn’t make old content any easier. Only the skill of the group you’re with. So raids that came out months or years ago are still fun and challenging content as the newer content.

So what content should be in raids if GW2 was to include them? Personally, I think side stories should be raid content and major events (say, fighting Jormag himself) would be a world Dynamic Event. Say before the event, Anet released a 10 man raid where a group of heroes uncover the location of Jormag from one of his minions. Because of this, the kingdoms of Tyria have started to move on Jormag in his lair, which is where the world events kick off.

Additionally, I think the fractal design could be a good 10 man setting. Constantly working towards higher and higher level fractals with a larger group of players. This is the very definition of progression, which many of us want in Guild Wars 2.

Will ArenaNet ever include Raids? Possibly. I think they’ve been fairly good at addressing gaps in gameplay that are missing. But they do seem to have a rather distaste for the concept of raiding. Hopefully they would reconsider their position and address it in the GW2 style and change it to fit their game. Without it, many players from other games wont make the move to GW2. Raiders might make a minority of players, ignoring them would be a bad move on ArenaNet’s part.

The Hype Train – SWTOR vs. GW2’s Hype!

There’s a lot of people out there comparing the hype behind SWTOR and GW2. While they both had a lot of attention placed on them before launch and a lot of people really got excited for both, I’ll just tell you now.. the two hype machines were completely different.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: 

Bioware, known for it’s amazing narrative in their single player RPGs such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age and of course Knights of the Old Republic. People were excited about SWTOR for a number of reasons. Mostly because the idea of an KoTOR MMO really sounded amazing. Mostly people had built up the idea of what the game would be like in their head. EA/Bioware did a good job of telling people about their grand ideas throughout the development process. People really couldn’t wait to see this amazing new MMO that promised a true story and choices for your character.

However, here’s where things started to go wrong. EA with it’s massive budget, really pushed the game around launch time. It’s widely thought that they pushed for the game to get released early, and using media to try to get as many buy-ins as possible. Here, they spent millions on advertising for the game. They created a level of hype well above the expectations of those who knew better. So far, at this point, most everyone in the world hadn’t gotten their hands on the game for more than a few hours during one of the few beta weekends.

So we have lots of talk from the Developers about what makes the game great. The beta testers were largely under lock and key from NDAs. So by law, they couldn’t tell people what flaws they saw. By the time the game launched, the media hype had blow so big that people were declaring the game “Game of the Year” (Gamespy) and singing it’s praises.


Guild Wars 2

7 years in the making, ArenaNet had been researching and developing this game. They spent some time talking about their design philosophies and ideas, but mostly they were just working on the game. In fact, there were a few times that the press had to ask “Are you guys still working on Guild Wars 2?”

It wasn’t until late last year that press screenshots and interviews started to happen. Some gameplay footage here and there, but mostly nothing to really call home about. It wasn’t until the press betas that things really started to take off for ArenaNet. When the press got ahold of the game and started playing it, they started talking about it. Showing gameplay videos, telling people about the experience, etc. This got people interested and excited.

It’s important to note this here: ArenaNet didn’t give a press release, scripted reply or otherwise tell the press what they should say. They simply let the game tell the story. Good experiences bred good reviews.

Players got excited about the prospect of a game that has so much promise that they signed up for beta and hoped to be one of the lucky who’ll get to play the game. Once pre-purchase beta weekends went live, people started talking about the game a lot. Again, the press only reported on what their experiences were and players were only talking to others about their experiences. Word of mouth spread fast.

As you can see, there’s a big difference in how GW2 was hyped over SWTOR. SWTOR relied on a media blitz backed by millions of dollars of advertising budgets. Guild Wars 2 didn’t have to do that. They simply allowed people to talk about the game and how great it was. So far, Rift was the only other game that came close, but they too also had a media blitz campaign with their “Not in Azeroth anymore” ads.

Why Rift doesn’t get PVP

Rift recently released their 3 faction combat Conquest. You pick your faction at the time the match starts. It lasts about 1 to 1.5 hours per. Rift, like usual as of late has really dropped the ball on this. And I’d love to hear your thought on this, but I’ll go over my problems with it.

1. Because you pick your faction before each match, players will always queue up for the faction that wins most often. This negates what makes 3 faction PVP so great. It also makes choosing a faction trivial. Personally I think that picking a faction should be meaningful in some way.

2. It uses the Stillmoor Map, largely unmodified. This means that the map isn’t balanced for large-scale PVP. There are certain points that are important to winning that are simply easier for one faction to control. This causes the problem above to get even worse.

3. Because of issues with Marksman Rogues with Vampiric Munitions (passive buff that can be spammed that provides 50% healing debuff and heals the Rogue), it’s extremely unfriendly to virtually anything but a Rogue spamming Fanout at 35 meters over and over again. All other ranged classes must get within the spamout range for 5 meters before they can do any kind of meaningful DPS. Forget being Melee, so Warriors are largely useless, having to respawn often (personally, I just stayed dead until rezzed or until force respawned soaking in Favor and Prestige).

4. The rewards favor massive farm-fests over objectives. So often, the entire match will be one zerg trying to find the other zerg at a portal (Eye of Regulos or Caer Mathos) and farming them back and forth to get a ton of prestige and favor (allowing PVP ranks and gear to grow faster).

5. No solo play. Since you can’t kill an extractor by yourself (not easily, and not worth the time), there’s not much for you to do as a solo player who wants to not follow the zerg running from location to location and capping objectives or farming.

6. Objectives are boring. You’re literally running around capping these “Extractors”  on the map, standing around for the timer to tick down until you capture it, and moving onto the next.

I like that Rift is trying something new for their game, based on player feedback, but I really think Trion has no idea how to balance PVP. It’s literally the most spammy PVP I’ve ever seen.. couple it with really high stat bloat in PVP gear and there’s no meaningful choices. Conquest only magnifies these flaws.

I really want to say that PVP has gotten better since the early days of PVP in Rift. However, I’d be lying. With passive spammable 50% healing debuffs and horrible class balance, PVP in Rift is a hot mess right now. I imagine that anything short of a complete redesign couldn’t fix it at this point. 

If only Trion would take a few queues from ArenaNet and their PVP design. Horizontal scaling, short CC durations, great use of terrain, etc. 

Less than 3 weeks. Then I’m done playing Rift. 

Rift’s Conquest

Being bored over the 4th of July, I decided to give Rift’s new PVP match “Conquest” a try. Having spent over a year playing Rift I’ve spent a good portion of my time doing PVP. Most of what Rift has to offer in PVP is fairly good. Lots of different maps and a few variants for a couple of them.

Conquest brings to the table 3 faction PVP. Something that players have been asking for in a game since Dark Age of Camelot. The match is set in Stillmoor and you pick one of 3 factions when you join. You are fighting alongside people from other Shards both both Defiant and Guardian.

Having only played two matches, I can’t go into the details of how to win, as I didn’t understand the mechanics of the match. I did feel kind of lost and just followed the Zerg around mindlessly capturing globe looking things, I can only assume to help gain points. My faction lost. Apparently this isn’t uncommon for this faction, which makes it sound like there may be some balance issues to work out on Trion’s part.

While I think it’s a nice attraction, and it seems to borrow a lot from WoW’s Wintergrasp and Tol Barad, in that matches happen on a timer. But the comparison for me ends there.

Picking a faction at the beginning of the match to me doesn’t feel right. Because our faction was losing so often, players will wait for the timer to open up the match and spam the winning faction, leaving everyone else to either wait in queue or get “stuck” with the bad faction.

All in all, I felt like it offered Rift players something new and interesting to play with complete with new currency (yet another currency). However, as someone who’s coming back to Rift just to try Conquest, I wasn’t completely impressed. After playing World vs. World in Guild Wars 2, this just felt small and and shoe-horned into the game. The factions didn’t seem to have any lore that felt like it fit in with the game and using an existing zone as a map really made it seem like Trion developed this quickly just to keep players interested in their game rather than play Guild Wars 2.

I’m certain that the bulk of the game’s Devs are working on Storm Legion, so new art and polish may be on hold for Rift until the Expansion comes out, I can only hope that they polish this up for the next version of their game and provide something that really does compete with GW2 in a meaningful way.

Guild Wars 2 Launch Date Announced!

In a surprise post after yesterday’s stress test, ArenaNet announced today that Guild Wars 2 would launch on 8-28-12.

This is sooner than I expected by about a month. The results of the last beta weekend and yesterday’s stress test must have been better than I had thought. With just one more beta weekend before launch, August is a welcome date for many of us waiting for this game. Now we’re just counting down the days until our game goes live!

Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend #2 Review

Like thousands of players around the internet, I engulfed myself into the second beta weekend of Guild Wars 2. This time, I was accompanied by some more friends and my wife. They’ve heard me talking about GW2 for months and heard me raving about the game since the first event. Naturally, they wanted me to shut up, so they decided to try it in order to see what I’m talking about. They all loved it.

I started the weekend playing my Norn Guardian. I ported over to Lion’s Arch and took some time to take in the sights. I ended my Tour of LA by taking a dive off the Skydive.

I went to the Charr area and helped my Wife quest in her zone. I was quite happy with the ability to quest in lower level zones with friends and get decent XP. I was 15 and gained 3 levels before moving on. Not great, but certainly not worthless.

I spent some time on an Elementalist. The feel of the Profession is similar to other “Mages” from other games, but being able to switch to different elements put a nice twist on things. You can literally cast a spell that goes on cooldown, swap elements and hit them with something that synergies with the last spell, etc.

I played a Warrior until 14, and I think I’m in love. I love a good melee class, but the ability to have a viable (and powerful) ranged build was there as well. I was able to kill mobs quickly and effectively, allowing me to level quite fast. I’ll probably be playing this in the next BWE and live.

Some things that still need some love with the game:

  • Gathering: Having to purchase stacks of one-time use tools isn’t a very elegant design. Having them break on you with no warning isn’t a good design. I’d rather spend some coin on a single tool that will last me until the next one is needed.
  • World vs. World: While I loved the battles and the strategy behind it, having a single waypoint to respawn at makes things very boring if you die someplace where it’s hard for others to revive you. Alternatively, I think they could put in Way points that teams can capture that would make for a fun twist on the strategy.

All in all, I had a blast. I really can’t see this game launching any earlier than September. We have at least one more beta weekend for bug testing, then I’d think at least a stress test to ensure those bugs were fixed. Give it about a month between and some time to go to press and get boxes to retailers and that puts this somewhere around September.

My only problem now is.. what do I do until then? Play TERA? I could, but as great as the game has been, it just feels like a poor substitute for GW2. And Diablo 3 gets old fast. Guess I’ll figure it out.

New Site & Looking for Writers

I’m looking for people who want to write for the blog. As the new title implies, I want people who will give an unbiased unremorsful view on games and industry news. If you are interested, drop me a line!