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I feel like doing some late spring cleaning today and cover a few different random tidbits I wanted to address. This is going to be more of a train of thought post so feel free to ignore it if this kind of thing bores you.

First I want to get back more into blogging for reasons I tried explaining in this post but it turned into a 3000 words essay so I’ll keep that one for another time. For now, let’s just say I want to talk again about the meta of MMOs but I’d like to be more constructive and talk more about what I’d want to see and less angry ranting.

Second, this blog is going to be a bit less structured. At some point I started worrying too much about hits and this led me to worry more about the format than the actual content. Which is bad… at least for what I want to do. I mean this blog is about opinions and I’m not trying to make money out of it and I’m not secretly applying for a job with it. Not saying that I don’t want to do things right but first content and then I’ll think about the rest.

Third, Wildstar is pretty awesome and I hope it really takes off and reminds everyone that quality is still the most important factor. PS: secretly hoping that Wildstar keeps being great.

Lastly for reasons still unfathomable to me, there are people out there who like my drivel. So for all of you, I hope you’ll keep enjoying this blog.

I have a choice of two or three posts today but I’m going to go with the uplifting one for now. So I’ve been hooked on Wildstar for the better part of this week after a relatively slow first few days thanks to game reviewing obligations. For those new here I do blog semi-professionally with a group for a big french newspaper and the downside of free games is you have to review them.

That said, Wildstar has been growing on me in big ways these past few days. For starter, this game is victim of the classic “give it a few levels” syndrome and it wasn’t until I got to Algoroc that the game really started to shine for me. It’s a weird thing to say about a game dripping with personality but the first few levels/zones were a bit too WoW-esque for me and the lack of abilities made it an exercise in smashing the 1 and 2 keys over and over.

However past that early stage… simply great. I love the active combat model and the fact that every mob has a few things to keep you moving. I also like that there is a point to smart positioning while fighting since it can give you serious advantages and options. I made a warrior and I can’t wait to see how that plays out when tanking. I expect to be kept on my toes big time.

But the big thing so far has really been the community. People are going nuts about housing, about the quests, the dialogue and it’s hard not to get swept up in the collective buzz. On top of that I got into a great guild, Chili and Cornbread, full of bloggers and twitter people and home of a few friends I’ve been hanging with for a long time now. Chat is lively and people are enjoying themselves. It could be the new game honeymoon phase but it feels different this time. I talked last time how Wildstar was made by some of the original WoW team members and there’s a part of me hoping they succeeded in recapturing some of that magic.

I really don’t have a lot of negative to say about the game. Tuning the very early game some would be nice like I was saying earlier but if I had one main gripe it would be sensory overload. This game loves neon, and popups and lots and lots of details which is great but it has caused me sometimes to nearly run away in terror when I get somewhere new. Anytime I get into a new zone I get overwhelmed by all the icons, the neons and I just don’t know where to go or how to start. I guess my main request would be maybe to find a way to make the environment a bit more distinct from all the quests/characters icons/text bubbles.

So here’s to hoping that this game might just be the one and that this damn work day gets over faster so I can run home and play more Wildstar.

Keeping with the theme of 40 man person (go listen to Justice Points ep.47 to get this one) raids, I started thinking about what it would be like to lead one of those these days. I did it way back in 2005 for a few months in Molten Core but back then raiding was a different beast and you could beat most encounters even with half the raid half asleep. As long as you had a few key players in each role, you were good. Plus, people were willing to put up with more militaristic style leadership and I had more time on my hands.

I don’t think I’ll be leading a 40 person anytime soon but I was curious to see what I’d come up with the considerable amount of raid leading I’ve done in WoW in various formats as well as other games since then. Plus, I’ve had to give training to others as part of my job so I’m hoping I learned something out of it that I can apply here.

This post has been going through a few revisions. At first I wanted to explain in detail the ins and outs but it turned into a 2000 words monster and I wasn’t halfway done. So, instead here it is in hopefully way shorter version.

  • Sit down with the leadership and have a good talk about expectations. This has killed me in the past. Before I take charge of any large raid, I want to know how and what the guild leadership and guild at large expects and is ready to do to reach said expectations. I don’t want to make decisions about raid policies without first knowing what is expected of me and the raid.
  • Inside the raid, I am king. With 40 people, I don’t want to have to debate during raids.
  • Have helpers for the invites and for the loot. There’s a surprisingly huge amount of work that goes only into the loot and invites. I don’t want to have to deal with those on top of having to direct a raid.
  • Instructions will be minimal. This is the most important to me. I believe in raid awareness. I believe that raiders should be able to play by themselves without hand holding. They should dodge fires by themselves. Some people like a more detailed plan but it’s not how I learned to play and I believe that raid awareness builds better raiders over time. Plus with 40 people, don’t want to spend 30 minutes explaining stuff before every raid.
  • Raids will start on time! I swear, I will invite pugs over guildies if people are not on time. It was hell with only 10… don’t want to think about 40…

So it’s heavily summarized, but here we are…

A long time ago, close to 10 years now, WoW came out and in short order created a revolution in the world of videogames. If we’re to name industry changing games of the 2000s, WoW will probably be at the top of the list. Now, 10 years later we get Wildstar, a game with many similar features made by a company (Carbine) that was launched by some of the very same people that worked on the original WoW. By their own word, they wanted to create a new MMO without repeating the mistakes they did with vanilla WoW… which is saying a lot considering what happened with WoW.

One huge element that struck me with that statement is that Carbine considers that 40 mans raids were not a mistake. In fact, they want to get back to them because of a few reasons but chief among them, get people working together again.

I had to think long and hard about this one but in the end, I agree.

My history

Way back when Ragnaros was the biggest and meanest thing you could fight, I was playing a little rogue with high hopes but little knowledge in the way of things. Just getting into Molten Core seemed a feat by itself and I spent countless hours grinding reps and mats, begging priests for healz so I could run dungeons and scouring realm and guild forums for opportunities. Through all that I faltered quite a few times before I finally convinced an actual raiding guild to take me in and from there started my hardcore raider career that saw me play 7 hours a day and netted me a realm first kill of C’thun a while later.

Was everything perfect? Hell no. At the time I was complaining about the game taking too much time, about how it sucked that my more casual friends couldn’t join in, about how 40 man raiding was insanity. I even blogged about it on a tiny blog that might still exist somewhere in Internet limbo. Still, despite all of this, that time was the one I had the most fun playing the game for itself.

Why, because there was a sense of belonging that we lost somewhere along the way. As developers and MMOs moved away from long raid, from 40 mans and gave us more and more life of quality upgrades like LFD, the guilds got smaller, the time spent together shorter and it became more and more of a solo affair. Now, you can raid in most MMOs without ever even needing to talk to someone else beyond basic group functions.

I might not be hardcore anymore but…

If I’m being honest, my chances of seeing the inside of a raid in Wildstar are low. Even if I wanted, I cannot do 7 hours a day gaming anymore. Back then I was a graduating student with a single class, now I have a career and obligations outside of gaming. So, I should be supportive of the new MMO formula of always easier access for people like me who have lives outside of gaming.

Thing is, I’ve not been swept away by that way of doing things. I find myself nowadays treating most MMOs as single player experiences that happen to have other players in them. As soon as I complete the current offering of content, my interest dies down instantly and I stop playing like what just happened with FF14.

I miss having a goal to work toward, I miss going after that goal with a group of people. I think that 40 man raiding might just be that huge challenge that will bring players back together. We’ll swear at it, claim it’s insane, too long and just stupid but in the end, we might just do it together.

 

With Wildstar coming out, I know that I’ll be leaving FF14: A realm reborn for a while. Unlike so many other times, I’m not leaving because the game is bad or because I have a list of changes that need to happen. I’m leaving because at this moment, a new MMO to discover is more fun than grinding at endgame in a game I’ve done most of the content for, including the majority of Extreme modes and raid bosses.

While not a perfect game, there are a few things I’m taking out of my time in A Realm Reborn that I wish to see in other games. So here’s in no particular order, my list of features I wish MMO developers will steal.

Difficulty is not related to accessibility.

That’s probably one my biggest discoveries. For years, Blizzard has explained to us that the inclusion of story/normal mode and the lowering of difficulty in instances were to make the entire game accessible to everyone. In a sense, they were right that lowering difficulty does allow for more people to see it and I won’t debate here whether easier or harder makes for a better game experience.

FF14 content is harder than most current MMOs out there. In fact, it’s pretty similar to Burning Crusade in terms of difficulty and even the leveling is not as forgiving as WoW currently is. Does it change how many people see the content? Not as far as we can tell. Did I hear or see anyone complain how difficult content prevented them from seeing what the game has to offer? Never…

What I did hear though when people complained was the age old complains about grinds and finding groups. Difficulty? Never.

So dear developers, don’t equate difficulty with accessibility. Sure extremes can hurt but it doesn’t mean you have to nerf everything for the sake of accessibility. Harder content will still be seen by players if the path to get to it is logical.

Less to no trash can be a good thing in end-game

Realm Reborn endgame is quick… There’s very little trash, sometimes none and bosses can be accessed pretty rapidly. If you know what you’re doing you’re done under an hour, pretty great for farming. If you’re learning the boss, you don’t have to navigate an entire dungeon to get there and everyone is back up and ready pretty fast.

I can hear the Devs talking about story set-up and building atmosphere. You can still do it. The primals themselves are single fights in FF14 but they get set-up for a long time by the main storyline that you have to complete to get to them. So when you do get to them you’re already familiar with the why and how and the atmosphere. And this set-up work even better for the hard and extreme modes because at this point you already know the story and just want the fight so getting to it directly without being subjected to trash and other time sinks you don’t need.

Make us visit and revisit your world!

This is something that WoW did great at the beginning but lost somewhere along the way. MMOs offer the unique opportunity to create living, breathing worlds. When we level, you need to make us travel through it by foot, boat, horse and other crazy contraptions. Don’t allow us to skip part of the world just because it takes time. At least not in the beginning. If I have to go to a lost village in the forbidden woods, I should have to actually travel through those woods and feel like it’s dangerous.

Don’t stop at the leveling part either. By endgame send us back to the zones and make us travel a bit from time to time. Final Fantasy was great at this, every so often I had to go back to an old city or village to meet NPCs, go back to a low-level zone to explore a desert in order to track down a fugitive or what have you. It made the game feel so much more like world and reminded me that there was something out there other than that city hub where I would wait for my group finder.

I’m not saying to drop all manners of travel, especially at endgame. I’m saying to send us out there from time to time.

So here it is, three things I wish developers will steal and that will be included in more MMOs. A Realm Reborn has a reputation for being old school but when you look at this list I realize that what I’d like has nothing to do with being old school, just good ideas.

So I’ll be playing Wildstar soon! A few more days… can’t wait. And I have to say I’m pretty happy that one of my biggest hurdles when it comes to new MMOs won’t be that bad this time.

I’m talking about finding a new guild.

One of the downside of being a long term MMO player who has gone through a number of guilds and play styles, from hardcore to casual, from simple member to guild and raid leader is that you’ve gone through the motions… multiple times. One of the things that annoy me the most now is that initial time in any guild, where you don’t know anyone and have to “prove” yourself, that you’re not an ass or a pervert or a noob or a whatever-else it is this guild doesn’t want.

Worst, since we have experience on what works and doesn’t work in a guild we tend to try to join well-established guilds or new guilds made by groups of experienced players that we know will try to keep the drama to a minimum. The issue though is that said groups want to keep the good thing going and are generally wary of newcomers. So we’re back to the age-old issue of “proving oneself”.

In the last year alone this has caused me to jump game twice. Both times it wasn’t really anyone fault that it didn’t work out in the sense that they didn’t know me and I didn’t really know them. Between gear grinds and having to prove to everyone you actually know what you’re doing it actually killed my interest in the game. I wasn’t playing a game anymore; it felt more like a never-ending job interview. I already have a job, it’s stressful enough as is and I don’t want to have to do interviews to play games.

But on the other side of the spectrum I’ve been in the raid leader shoes and you have to evaluate new people wanting in, whether they’re from outside the guild or a social member wanting to make the switch. The damage if you don’t can be pretty nasty. It’s even worse when it’s a social member because then you expose yourself to a whole slew of new problems and drama. There’s a whole discussion about social membership to be had in there for another time.

So… long detour to say that luckily with Wildstar that shouldn’t be too bad of a problem. The good folks at Chili and Cornbread will allow my rotten husk to hang around with them and I know a lot of these people from over the years all the way back to Eff the Ineffable. Plus there’s some Effers on the Dominion side so I’m covered.

By joining up at game start, I won’t have a gear difference to overcome and we’ll have time to get to know each other as we level. I really want to find that magic again we’ve had back with Eff the Ineffable and I’m hopeful I’ll find it with Chili and Cornbread. Big thanks to them during beta and we’ll be seeing each other in game.

People who have raided with me know that I have very limited patience for bugs in raiding settings. I still have special hatred for some of Swtor raid bugs and now I’m having to deal with a particular one in FF14. My new nemesis is a simple bug related to position updates. Long story short, the game doesn’t update my position fast enough or fails to do so due to some animation and it means I get hit by AoE I’ve already dodged. Up until now this wasn’t a problem because the cast times were long enough or getting hit wasn’t an auto-wipe but Titan Extreme is another beast and I cannot afford to get hit. Luckily I found an explanation for this particular issue and now I’m spreading the knowledge hoping it will help others.

titan aoe

What’s happening

The issue of getting hit by abilities while outside the graphics is simply a disconnect between your position on you PC and the information sent to the server. So, you might have moved on your end but the server is unaware of that, registers a hit and you’re dead.

What’s causing it?

First of all you have to know there’s a delay of 0.3 secs on position updates meaning that the server is most of the time 0.3 secs late in regard to your position. If you suffer from high latency that time can go up and complicate things.

Second, there’s a phenomenom know as animation or ability lock playing against you. This affects casters most of all but everyone is affected by this. Anytime you cast a spell or use an ability there’s a corresponding animation going with it. Until that animation is finished the server won’t update your position. However, you can actualy move when the cast bar finishes, before the animation does meaning that you’ll see casters move at the end of an animation. This can help to get away faster but until the animation is actually over, you are still considered to be at your old position. Why it works like that is unclear but best guess is that this was done to lower server updates loads.

Lastly, movement seems to play a role in this. Many people have reported that they get hit by abilities late after leaving the ability zone, way more than the 0.3 secs update rule. The one common thread to this is that these players kept moving even after leaving the AoE area. While it’s speculation at this point, many people think that the server updates less frequently when characters are on the move. I have personally observed this and I believe it to be true.

How to avoid it?

Try to get the rhythm of the fight so you’re not casting at the beginning of boss abilities to avoid animation locks. Trying to get that one last ability off might result in your death. Don’t cut it too close thinking you’ll have time to get out.

Stop moving as soon as you clear the area. This has been the most reliable way to avoid bad stuff. As far as we know, every time you stop moving you send a signal to the server for an  immediate position update. Since I’ started doing this I have simply stopped getting hit by Weight of the Land which was my bane before.

Patch 2.2 fix?

While I’m not convinced that patch 2.2 will fix this issue completly, there’s an item to reduce the wait time to 0.1 secs on certain fights so that player position is more accurate. This will surely help but it remains to be seen if this will solve the issue.

Hope this helps some people out there!

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