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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Courtesy of the BBC we get news that Mind Candy, the evil geniuses behind Moshi Monsters, are developing a game called World of Warriors. Because that totally won’t get abbreviated to something that might get it confused with World of Warships, or possibly some other game already on the market.

I hasten to add that anything I may know about Moshi Monsters comes purely from having to sit through the (mercifully short) Moshi Monsters Movie with my two daughters. And from having the Moshi Village app installed on my iPhone. Which was put there by daughter number one and which icon I do not personally ever tap a finger upon.

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I can’t help feeling sorry for ESO. Here’s a game I’m still enjoying playing, and people I know are still enjoying playing the game, and despite rumours to the contrary there’s at least one other blogger out there enjoying the game. It’s been the target of ranty twats on Youtube looking for something to rant about because apparently they’re internet famous for ranting, and people moaning that having a subscription is evil because apparently $15 is more than some can afford for entertainment (seriously? If you can’t spare $15 for entertainment, you better be doing something other than playing a video game all day anyway), but at least it has a regular column devoted to it over at Massively. Their game-specific columns may take developers to task when they fall down on the job, but by and large they’re by people who are enjoying the game, for people enjoying the game, and about the cool things happening in the game.

Oh dear.

That post doesn’t exactly exude love for the game. In fact, I’d categorise it as a hatchet job on Zenimax’s first update. Let’s see… out of 16 paragraphs, the first 6 (or 7) are basically a long complaint that we were promised an update every 4 to 6 weeks, and this one took 7 weeks from launch date to arrive. That’s over a third of the article based on the fact that this update missed a promised (if it can be construed as an iron-clad promise, which nobody with a brain EVER assumes with a hypothetical release schedule) release date by one week. Cry me a river, please, then pop over to Rift or LotRO and check how often their updates come out. Or WoW. Especially WoW.

Then we’ve got a complaint that the new zone would be “frustrating to solo” even if you’re at the level cap. That would be the zone that has been described all along as being designed as tough, end-game group content, “frustrating to solo”. Well I never! I suspect that the groups attempting it would find it “frustrating to group” if it had been made easy to solo.

Next up, three paragraphs bemoaning that some of the content in Craglorn is mechanically identical to fighting Dark Anchors – four waves of enemies, culminating in an open world boss fight. Yup, functionally identical but still a good ruck with enemies galore. Did we really need three paragraphs to complain that they’re not different? Would it have been OK if it was three waves of enemies, or five? And if Larry Everett is going to categorise open world events that draw other players in to help you fight a swarm of enemies as “moments of boredom” than methinks he has a deeper problem, which is that he’s not enjoying playing ESO. In that case, it would be cruel and unusual punishment for Massively to force him to keep writing a column about it. Now, I’m British and we have no problem with cruel and unusual punishment over here, but Massively is run by Americans who have a sissy ass constitution that forbids that sort of thing 😀

We then get three paragraphs grudgingly admitting that some of the content is OK, and possibly even fun, then it’s back to snark as he sums up in the last two paragraphs. Whew! I’d say it’s fair to look at a game warts and all, and ESO definitely has some warts, but that’s the kind of journalism that gives “fair and balanced” a bad name.

As a personal aside, I’m nowhere NEAR visiting Craglorn yet myself, but I appreciate the quality of life changes that the patch brought for all levels, and that don’t even get a mention in the Massively article.

I had an epiphany whilst playing ESO last night. Slow leveller that I am, I’m only just approaching level 30 now after over a month of playing, and I’m tooling around Shadowfen helping Argonians and beating off ravening crocodiles. Or possibly I’ve been helping crocodiles and beating off Argonians, they’re easy to get confused and both are great sources of leather 🙂 I was level 28 at the time, with only one level 28 quest left in my journal and a handful of higher level quests. The main Shadowfen storyline quest’s next step was level 31, so following that I’d obviously outstripped my own ability to level. For a zone that’s supposed to be level 23 to 30, I was in danger of having to move on early, and I could maybe see the point of people who have complained that they ran out of quests and had to grind many of the levels in this game.

Then I looked at the achievement for Shadowfen quests. 29 completed out of 62. Following the main roads and expecting to be led to the action by the main storyline had uncovered less than half the content available to me. I needed to go looking in the places I hadn’t been led to. In fairly short order I found an escaped slave on the run with her mistress’ stolen jewels, aided the lunatic last of his race who fancied himself a king and myself his loyal subject, and helped to heal what was for all intents and purposes a lizard man with Asperger’s Syndrome. There are still over twenty quests out there I haven’t found yet – more than enough to get me past level 30 and on to the next area. I just have to go and find them.

A friend of mine who has played a lot more Skyrim than I ever did was singularly unsurprised by this. I think his exact quote was “It’s the Elder Scrolls, of course you’ve got to explore!” It’s something a bit different for a current generation MMO though (GW2 aside, which also expects you to go search the map for hearts and events). We’ve gone from original EverQuest and DAoC, where you had to talk to each NPC to even find out if they had any quests, to having golden punctuation over the heads of NPCs, to having things neatly ordered into clusters with vector quests that take you on to the next cluster once you’ve done with this one. The thoroughly modern WoW-clone MMO even now designs the landscape around its quest hubs to make for the most efficient flow, with every scrap of the landscape serving the purpose of hosting specific quests and none of it wasted on just being, well, landscape. Those of you with LotRO accounts might want to try touring Breeland and then Southern Mirkwood to see just how far we’ve come in terms of world being designed to serve quest flow.

No doubt having to go out there and search for quests instead of being neatly guided to it is a horrible imposition for some players – if nothing else, it impedes the rush to level cap. There are websites out there, and probably UI add-ons for use in-game, that will guide you to all of the content without having to do any looking for yourself, and I strongly suggest that the players who are having trouble finding enough content to level go use them. For myself, though, I’m happy to splash through the muck seeing what else I can find in my own time. It makes a nice change from being hustled from theme park ride to theme park ride as if by a stern and somewhat harried guide, forever tapping at his watch and reminding me of my next urgent appointment on the fixed golden path towards the fabled “endgame”.

One trend in MMOs these days that pisses me off isn’t the almost total lack of communication in pick up groups – it’s the brusque and impersonal nature of the communication. Characters are referred to by their role of their class, rather than by name.

“Tank pull now”.
“Healer heal FFS!”
“Hunter don’t ninja loot kk?”

I’m blaming this one on two of my favourite bugbears – the hyper-specialisation of WoW and it’s clones, and the locking down of customisation. These days in most games your role in the holy trinity is tightly defined, and all members of the same class are pretty much functionally identical. Why should I be surprised if people I meet in SWTOR call my Sith Lord “Marauder” instead of “Devaine” when he does exactly the same things as the last eight hundred dual-lightsaber-wielding acolytes of the Dark Side?

ESO is a bit different because the customisation hasn’t been locked down at all. The holy trinity roles are there, albeit not as specialised as in WoW (there are no tank abilities to insta-glue all enemies to you infallibly, for example, so everyone has to be able to handle the odd stray mob while the tank holds the most dangerous enemy). CLASS role, however, means nothing in a game where anyone can use any armour or weapon – including the healing staff – and in theory you could build a character using weapon, guild and world skills and never touch any of your class specific lines. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Templar, a Nightblade, a Sorcerer or a Dragonknight, any of these classes can tank, heal, DP{S or conceivably do two or all three of these roles in the same build.

Take my main character. Kian Tremayne is a Templar, a class that has a set of light-based abilities that can smite foes and heal friends. A classic character with those abilities in another game would be a paladin or a priest. Kian, however, is a dual sword wielder with a point blank AoE fire attack as well as melee AoE with his swords, a spell that drains power from nearby enemy corpses to heal him, and sometimes switches to a bow for ranged attacks and casts some quick off-heals. Oh, and he has been known to break out a Van Helsing style crossbow attack that lays waste to daedra (demons) and the undead.

Is a leather armour wearing, vampire hunting blademaster not what you thought of when you heard the class name “Templar”? It doesn’t matter what you expected, because I’m not a generic DPS, and I’m not any old Templar. I’m Kian Tremayne. And whatever Tamriel throws at me, I’ll meet it in my own style. If you call me… call me by my name.