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Monthly Archives: June 2012

As reported by Spinks, poor old Battlechicken has been having something of an uphill fight with Bioware after their anti-cheater systems falsely identified her as the sort of low-life in need of a good banning. Fortunately, the whole saga seems to be finally coming to a happy ending, and as usual for Spinks her intelligent and well-argued post has resulted in the sort of intelligent and well-argued comment thread that we lesser bloggers would give our eye teeth for :p

Unfortunately, I have to sympathise with Thade’s position in that comment thread – far, FAR too many of the people who go to the ‘court of internet opinion’ over their allegedly unjust banning either were banned for something which richly deserved it… or weren’t actually banned at all and are trolling for fake outrage (a phenomenon I felt the urge to ramble about nearly half a year ago).

What does this mean in this case? That people who do have the bad luck to be caught up in false positives, like Battlechicken, are not going to get the sympathy they deserve because we’re all sick and tired of the ones who ARE cheating jerks crying wolf about being banned unjustly. Part of me says that in the interests of justice, only those guilty beyond any reasonable doubt should be penalised… but there’s another part of me that says that the consequences of risking letting the guilty go free in this case outweigh the injustice. Allowing hackers, botters and griefers to get away with it results in a worse game experience for everyone, not just the handful who get unjustly punished, and there’s the ‘broken windows’ effect as well; the more the low-lifes are seen to get away with their behaviour, the more acceptable (or even necessary) other players see it to do likewise.

I will say that any disciplinary process should have an appeals process that includes sensible, mature human judgement, and that it should NOT consist of firing off form letter replies. I would also add that in my view, anyone who appeals (either formally or informally via the forums) and is shown that they DID deserve the ban should have their punishment increased to deter them from wasting everyone’s time and trying to game the system.

I took advantage of Bioware’s kind offer of a free transfer for some of my characters to The Red Eclipse, one of the mega-servers they are concentrating players on. My second impression was that it was MUCH livelier than Kellian Jarro had been for a while, with over 240 players in the Imperial Fleet, multiple instances of each war zone running and a steady stream of chat messages with people looking for groups and groups looking for people.

My FIRST impression was that of the four characters I transferred, three had to be renamed because the names were already taken! Tremayne, Seethe and Kian are apparently names that other people beat me to on this server, likewise the Tremayne legacy already exists and has somebody else’s characters in it. So Tremayne the Sith Warrior is now called Richar, Darth Seethe the Sith Assassin now calls herself Darth Rakehell and Kian the Bounty Hunter is operating under a new identity as Macslann the Bounty Hunter (a nod to my original DAoC character, Kian MacSlann). Somehow Imperial Agent Ulfric-draka was able to preserve his cover identity, I would have become seriously paranoid if somebody had snaffled that as well. All four of them are now proud members of the Bantorn legacy, and I’m going to have to take a little while to get used to them. It’s not that I think Richar Bantorn or Darth Rakehell are bad names, they’re just not what I’m accustomed to.

Memo to self for the launch of Guild Wars 2: create character names using the full freedom of nineteen characters including spaces; get in there at head start and reserve my favoured names ASAP; and if someone DOES manage to beat me to any of my favourites, track them down and go all Norn on their ass 🙂

I wanted to like The Secret World. I really did. I love the premise of the setting. I’m a great fan of urban fantasy, and I’d be delighted to see a new MMO that isn’t yet another sword and sorcery world. While The Secret World wasn’t at the top of my agenda, I thought I’d keep an eye on it and maybe pick up a copy a few months down the line, because I’ve got a busy summer ahead of me and to be honest Funcom are nought for two on successful launch days, so I figured it was wiser to stay clear of the teething problems and then take my dive into the world of the Illuminati and the Templars at my own pace.

Then I found a beta key waiting in my inbox yesterday.

So I downloaded about 14 Gb overnight, and tried to play the game this morning. We’ll come back to that word “tried”.

Once the install was complete, I logged in – which took a moment longer than it should have done because the fields to enter my user ID and password weren’t immediately obvious. They aren’t hidden or anything like that, but they are right at the bottom of the screen and sort of blend into the ‘shades of grey’ theme of the screen, so the eye is not immediately drawn to them. A minor niggle – I’m sure my Human Computer Interaction professor back at university would have had something to say about a screen design like that, but it’s not unplayable, just a minor road bump on your way in to the game.

Next, I created a character. I had a choice of three factions to join: the Illuminati, the Templars or the Dragons. Each of which has an intro video. So I fired up all three videos to make my choice. Here’s where my problems started – and I’ll be the first to admit it’s a subjective problem, but fundamentally I just didn’t really want to join any of those factions after hearing their recruiting spiel. The Illuminati are power-brokers, manipulators, shadowy masterminds – they sounded like a really good NPC villain faction, but not something I’d want to pledge allegiance to. The Templars came across as humourless authoritarians with a massive stick up their collective butt, and frankly all I could derive from the Dragons video was “we’re Asian and we like to mess stuff up”. Nothing really drew me to any of these, but in the end I shrugged and went with the Templars and finished creating my character.

After a long cut-scene with some decidedly mediocre voice acting (I think SWTOR has spoiled me for other games) I finally got to take control of my character. Briefly. Then the game crashed, and popped up a window that claimed it was sending a crash report back to Funcom but as far as I can tell did sweet FA apart from locking my PC up until I finally managed to get Task Manager to kill it. So I went off and updated my video drivers, as the error report said something about that, and logged back in. Took a few dozen paces down TSW’s version of a London street, only to crash again. After another unresponsive bug report window, I logged in a third time, dialled the graphics settings down to low, took a couple of steps into a very old-fashioned looking Underground station, clicked on a ‘lore object’… and crashed again. At which point I ran out of patience.

Yes, I know it’s beta. I also know that this game is supposed to be going live in just a few weeks. I can’t help but compare this experience to the much smoother one I had last weekend playing Guild Wars 2, a game that hasn’t even set a release date yet. I haven’t felt this disappointed on first contact with a game since The Matrix Online – and that is not happy company to be in. As things stand, I’m now considerably LESS likely to pick up the game even a few months down the line than I would have been if I hadn’t been invited to this weekend’s beta event. It’s a crying shame, because I really wanted this one to work – but it looks as if once again, Funcom have taken a great-looking IP and thoroughly bolloxed the implementation.

Chris Smith over at Levelcapped is worried that GW2 may be too different from ‘that other MMO’ for players who have been trained by it to be comfortable with. He specifically picks up on the questing/adventuring model – that people who are used to clicking on all the NPCs with golden punctuation over their heads and then methodically working through the resulting to-do list are going to be confused, by the GW2 system, which is more like institutionalised knight-errantry (wander back and forth across the landscape, looking out for opportunities to do good deeds that may arise at any moment). He could just as easily have picked the difference in class roles (no dedicated tanks or healers) or the relationship between melee and ranged DPS (in other MMOs they are completely different roles; in GW2 the smartest way to play a damage dealer may well be to alternate between the two, swapping between high-tempo close melee that does more damage but gets you battered in return before backing off and using a ranged weapon to do lower, steadier damage while you recover before diving in again).

Chris has a point. It was painfully clear from reading the GW2 beta forums that there was a vocal body of players out there who were not ‘getting it’ and were trying to play and judge GW2 by the standards of the more traditional MMOs. I’m not convinced that it’s a majority, or even a sizeable minority, that have this problem – that’s the thing about forums, they never really tell you how extensive a problem or opinion is, all they can do is draw your attention to whichever monkeys are best at flinging faeces around the cage. HOwever, we have to hope that it’s not widespread enough to hurt the game’s chances and its reputation after launch. Because, as I commented over on the original post:

I think we have to hope that GW2 will succeed. If it fails for being “too different from what everyone is used to” so soon after SWTOR has been roundly lambasted for being “too much the same” then every developer in the MMO industry would be justified in throwing their hands in the air, yelling “screw you!” and going off to get much better-paid jobs in the financial services sector instead.

“Devs! My flavour of the month build for class X is as paper to the scissors of class Y’s flavour of the month build! The devs must DO SOMETHING!”

Yeah… such as give the option of other builds? 🙂

Sorry, I’ve just spent half a morning alternating between playing around with my warrior in the GW2 beta (where changing my off-hand weapon and swapping one of my utility skills made for a significant change in fighting style) and browsing various forums, both for GW2 and other games. Listen up, kids. In any game that’s even half-way well designed, “best” is always going to be situational. If the game is one like RIFT or GW2 that lets you swap your abilities around in the field or even (in GW2’s case, by swapping weapon sets) in combat, then there’s very little excuse for not having a response handy when your nemesis shows up.

But if you don’t have that mental flexibility to adapt and overcome, well, maybe that’s what the “skill” in PvP that people keep mentioning is all about?

Turbine have opened up pre-orders for the Lord Of the Rings Online’s next expansion – Riders of Rohan. They’ve firmly staked a claim to a September 5 launch date, which strikes me as pretty brave when Guild Wars 2, some little-known game featuring pandas and (possibly) Rift’s Storm Legion expansion are all hovering out there playing chicken with each other over their respective launches.

In terms of features, I can’t really fault RoR: there’s the expected level cap increase, new landscape “almost twice the size of Moria” which was a good-sized expansion in its own right, mounted combat with war-steeds that you can level up and customise (feels like the legendary weapon system all over again, and hopefully Turbine have learned some lessons on that one) and roving enemy warbands on the landscape that sound suspiciously like Rift’s planar invasions. The “ouch” of the title comes from the pre-order pricing: there are three versions at $40, $50 and $70, and only the $70 version gives the much-longed-for 6th inventory bag as well as an item to add an extra legacy to your legendary weapon of choice and “exclusive Rohan content” leading to a unique skill for your war-steed (note: unique skills with no details specified may well resemble a pig in a poke, this could be anything from a cosmetic or emote skill through to the ‘I win’ Flailing Hooves Of Doom skill).

Apparently the 6th bag and the legendary upgrade will be available in the LotRO store once RoR goes live, so the economical option for lifetime VIPs like myself would be to buy the $40 pre-order and use my stash of Turbine points, or even forgo pre-ordering as I have no character anywhere near Rohan levels (my old characters are still parked at 65, my rebooted Burglar hit 43 yesterday but still has a ways to go). That would be the sensible choice.

On the other hand – dropping the $70 gets me the 6th bag NOW, as well as a new mount and some pretty cosmetic gear for my character and his skirmish soldier. And I’ve spent half of the four day weekend here in the UK up to my eyeballs in design reviews so I reckon I’m allowed to spend some of the overtime money on treating myself. Especially as I still like Turbine as a games company so throwing some money their way feels like I’m encouraging one of the better studios out there.

But I still think that $70 is “ouch!” for an expansion.

Because it just seems RIGHT to finish this whole thing with an Ambassador Kosh quote, and because given the whole horde of links that Syp has rounded up for me to reproduce below, it certainly seems to be burning up a good chunk of the internet 🙂

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