Archive for March, 2007|Monthly archive page

A Newbie’s Review of Saga of Ryzom

Sorry I have been absent for a while, but after returning from spring break, I have had a lot of things to deal with that have taken most of my free time, and the rest of my free time has been spent playing MMO’s, in this case, Saga of Ryzom. When I got back, I was feeling very fed up with WoW, so I figured I would try the 14-day free trial of Ryzom. I was intrigued by the fact that it was skill-based, which I have always enjoyed more than gear-based games like WoW. I just think its more of a “get out what you put in” kind of thing, where you don’t necessarily get punished because you have a small guild or can’t raid for 6 hours at a time, and can still progress effectively. Anyways, more about the game. I used the trial for two days, and found that the community, graphics, and skill-based systems were all excellent, so I purchased the full version for one month. Everyone is very mature extremely helpful with questions or missions, which is a point of the game that I feel is not so great. I was lucky enough to talk to a few really good people about the “mainland” who informed me that the missions were nothing like those found on the trial island, which were put there to learn the mechanics of the game.

The missions found in the main part of the game are, for lack of a better word, “bitchwork.” Even the developers say the missions are put in place because the NPC’s don’t want to do it themselves. I think this is a horrible approach to missions, and a lazy one at that. It’s as though they wanted to put the content in and work some missions around this as easily as possible. While the game is very open-ended and you are free to do what you want, I don’t think this should give you the right to put in junk for missions. That said, there are some great elements to this game.

The landscape graphics are excellent, and quite frankly, the most interesting and beautiful of any game that I’ve played. In the zone that I went to begin on the mainland, the ground is lush with swaying plants and trees that really bring it to life. I was a bit disappointed with the creature models, which are rather boring, but I believe this is to cut down on lag when huge battles take place for real-time events, which from what I’ve read occur somewhat frequently.

Another aspect of this game that I really enjoy is the Ryzom Ring that they have recently implemented. While it doesn’t look like it’s even close to it’s potential, the idea behind it is that players can create their own scenario’s, using any type of landscape in the game (desert, forest, jungle, etc.) and implant creatures and NPC’s as they see fit, and allow other players to access these. This is the first type of player-generated content that I have seen in any MMO, so for that I give the developer’s props, but as of now it’s not a very big part of the game, so it will be interesting to see how that develops.

Crafting and harvesting are also very big parts of this game. While I haven’t tried crafting yet, it sounds like every piece of armor or weaponry is crafted, which really helps the economy as money is constantly going to players, rather than just giving it back to the game itself, and really gives players a lot of power. As for the harvesting, I have tried this. It is a very elaborate system, in which materials might blow up in your face as you try to harvest them, and if you harvest too much in a specific area, you may be attacked, which is an excellent way of preventing farming. As you get better, you find ways to harvest more of a material from a source, or to help prevent it from exploding, or to find more a source in an area. This is very well done, so good job on that.

One last area I want to touch on is the community, which is far and away the best I have seen in my MMO experience, which spans eight years and nearly a dozen games now, with the possible exception of Asheron’s Call. Within a day of joining, I had joined a guild who had probably answered 50 questions of varying importance, given me a whole set of new armor, 3000 of these things called catalysts which double your experience earned, and who I just chatted with about totally random things as well. I am looking forward to getting to know these people better, as well as other people on my server (Arispotle I believe).

So there you have my very loose and by no means official review of Ryzom. In a general statement, I am certain that I am going to give this game at least a full month of attention, and make my final decision then as to whether I will keep playing it. In the meantime, I’m also being distracted by Titan Quest, which I recently purchased and have enjoyed playing.

Be back soon.
~Kanthalos

When virtual becomes reality

First off, we’re back! After a lovely vacation, it’s time to get back to the grindstone.

I have known Eakon for about two years. Virtually. We leveled from 30 to 40 together in Stranglethorn Vale. However, through the graces of modern technology and Facebook, we began to chat outside of World of Warcraft as well. Whether AIM or whisper chats, we became good friends over the internet waves. Now we know him as Tireen or Anoss, since he shed Eakon long ago. But, now I just know him as Joseph.

Last Thursday Kanthalos and I met him in real life. Outside of the computer. No WoW names. Nothing. I had thought it would be strange, but it was quite fun! We hung out like old friends, chatted, all sorts of non-WoW things.

Anyway, my point (if there is one), is that gaming is more than just killing things and leveling and getting the “phat lootz.” You can truly make some good friends. Whether just a grinding buddy, or someone you can always count on as a 5th in your group to someone you can tell all about the shitty RL day you’ve had, there are all sorts of friends to make in MMOs.

I don’t suggest running out and meeting a random MMO buddy if you haven’t established that they’re NOT an axe murderer, but getting to meet Joseph was a blast and a unique experience.

~Ana~

The MMO shakes

ad·dic·tion [uhdik-shuhn] –noun
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

As a busy college senior, I’ve had hardly any time to play games. According to my mother, polishing my resume is a lot more important than getting Ana to lvl 70. Psh. So, I’ve been having what I fondly refer to as the “MMO Shakes.” Every time I boot up the laptop, my mouse hovers over the World of Warcraft icon. It’d be so easy to click…so easy. But no, I’ve got a 12 page paper on Henry James to complete. It’s true. MMOs are addictive. I’m going through withdrawals. Every time I see Kanthalos on his account I yearn to play. I weigh running a five man against finishing my portfolio. It’s so tempting.

Why?

MMOs give players near-instant gratification. Log on, step out of your own world and worries, and get absorbed in a new one. Easy.

I’ve found that it’s hard to step back OUT of the world though. It’s easy to log into WoW and say “I’ll get to my RL stuff later…” but logging out is that much harder for me when I’ve got a pile of chores and work waiting for me. It’s tempting to just stay in a world where Early Romantic Literature or Advanced Latin is hovering above my head. And no matter how good my intentions, I don’t give that work all the attention it deserves if I’m grumpy because I had to log off to do it. Maybe it’s just me, but I find MMOs to be highly addictive. No, not in a crack pipe sort of way, but in a way where it’s really easy to forget and push away RL obligations. I don’t get the night sweats and have to take a hit off of the ole’ Ironforge, but I do find myself wishing I was playing games instead of sitting through hours of class.

There is so much that could be said on MMOs and why people find them so easy to get into but so hard to quit. MMOs are psychologically pleasing if the game is doing it’s job. It takes your brain on a journey your body can’t, sends you to remote lands, gives you superhuman abilities, and puts you in touch with millions of others who enjoy the exact same thing. Running a new instance or a 40 man raid gives you such a high. I remember the first time my guild took down Oss. It was a rush like nothing else. To know that your efforts, harmonized with that of 19 others, were successful and necessary in completing a task is a great feeling. It’s not a feeling you get in daily life too often.

World of Warcraft, pre-expansion, was like Warcrack for me. I’d get home from classes, log on, and run a raid every night. If I went out with friends, I’d be thinking about what loot I had probably missed out on, and what content the guild had conquered without me there. It was a habit. My friends didn’t see much of me, my grades suffered, and my apartment began to resemble the pit of despair. So, I had to take a break. No, I wasn’t exactly like Cartman (“Mom! Bathroom!”) but it was bad.

As I’ve backed off of WoW more and more, things are coming into perspective for me. Yes, WoW and many MMOs are addictive (just ask Kanthalos about AC) but they are also a fun alternate universe to explore and conquer. They just need to be used in moderation, like all things in life. It’s hard for me not to log on when I know I’ve got things to do, but WoW is much more fun and rewarding when I do work first and THEN play.

~Anaktoria~

AFK

Kanthalos and Anaktoria will be “AFK” from March 9th to 18th. But then we’ll be back. Promise:)

~Anaktoria~

Ramifications of Burning Crusade on Guilds

Two weeks after Burning Crusade hit shelves, I had leveled my rogue up to 70. While I had a blast leveling and running several of the instances along the way, I wondered what there was to do next. I decided to spend a few days PvPing as well as a few more attaining an exalted reputation with Aldor for the epic sword. I would occasionally run a 5-man instance with my guild-mates (something like 60 active members and 40 of which now have at least one level 70), and have now become attuned to Karazhan. Too bad I won’t be able to run this instance for at least a month. Blizzard, at least in my mind, really did their players a disservice with the way they set up the initial end-game content. By making the first extremely difficult instance for only 10 players, they basically forced guilds to pick their best 12-15 players and use them to learn this instance. From what I have heard and can imagine, it is extremely expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating trying to learn this instance and requires impeccable teamwork, which in turn means that you need to use basically the same team every time you attempt it so that you can progress at a reasonable rate. This in turn means only the officers and the veterans of my guild, which makes sense. They have put in their time and effort for the guild, but what are the other 30-40 of us supposed to do while we wait for them to learn the instance? This isn’t the only issue, however. When the rest of us are trying to get attuned to Karazhan, most of the officers and veterans, the people who have a lot of experience running the earlier instances, are too busy to help out the other members of the guild, making it extremely difficult for them to get attuned, forcing them into pick-up groups that almost undoubtedly end in failure and a hefty repair bill.

Blizzard should have set it up so that you started with the 25-man instances so that a) you were forced to help more of your guild mates get attuned to help you run the instance and b) allowed more of the players in your guild to run it with you, not leaving them out in the cold waiting for their chance to get in. The way it is set up now, it really alienates the “elite” guild members from the “common” guild members, and in my guilds case, has caused several members to leave in frustration, one of which was actually an officer because he didn’t like the way the other members were being treated. I have heard this from three other guilds on my server, so I know that my guild is not alone in this issue.

Hopefully this will all be resolved in a month or two once all the initial hoopla has come and gone with the new instances, but I fear that, while many of the smaller guilds are now excited that they have been catered to, everyone else will really be struggling to try to get all their players into raids and keep them happy.

~Kanthalos

The Most Confusing 15 Minutes of My Life…

…were spent trying to figure out Second Life.

Seriously, whatever I expected was not what I found. It’s a noob’s perspective on it, but it was freaking confusing, clunky, and downright annoying.

I guess the red flag should have went up when a) they offered me in-game money for my credit card number and b) there were furries as a character creation option. Both were equally telling.

After I finally made my character, I was thrust into Second Life’s version of Noob Island. The graphics aren’t great, and I understand why, but it was entirely too clunky. I couldn’t get where I wanted to go very quickly. I couldn’t get my outfit and body how I wanted it with the appearance function. I ran into things. Mainly, I was bored to death. It was a yawner all around. The best part was the tutorial of driving the steam roller over what appeared to be mechanical animals. And the rest of the tutorial? Not very helpful at all.

Now, I wasn’t expecting WoW. I was hoping for something similar to the Sims. And from my very limited time in Second Life, I didn’t see it. I’ll admit, I spent about an hour in Second Life, so I don’t have much to go on. However, what I saw and did in that hour wasn’t enough to make me want to come back and explore any further.

Free games are nice, but this game wasn’t the one for me. If I want a cute, free game I guess I’ll go back to Neopets, despite not being an MMO. If I want a Sims experience I’ll stick to The Sims. Second Life was a let down.

~Anaktoria~

Gold Farmers and WoW – Still Booming?

One of my guild mates and I were talking last night about gold farmers and whether they were still doing good business as of the Burning Crusade. He thought they wouldn’t be, and chose to disagree with him. As you progress to level 70, be it through questing or grinding, chances are, you are going to end up with something like 1800-2000g. You will lose about 200 of that to repairs and food. If you choose to help your guildies out with crafting, that will probably end up costing about 300g depending on whether you can sell some of the stuff that you make. This leaves you with about 1400-1600g for other things. Say you buy one blue that costs 200g, that’s 1300 to make it even. Buy yourself a rare flying mount? That’s only 300g left. That is 300g by the time you are really ready to dig into end-game content. That is not very much, especially if you are on the front line of your guild learning Karazhan, which will take a slede hammer to your piggy bank. Heroic instances? Just as bad, if not worse. OH YEAH, and if you ever want to get somewhere in outland in a direct path? 5000g. The epic flying mount alone is enough to keep gold farmers in business, not to mention jewels, crafting materials, new gear, repairs (especially once we get into epics). While there are current ways of making upwards of 80g an hour, most people don’t have time to simply grind for gold, especially when there are all the new instances to learn, new factions to raise reputation with, and hundreds of other ways to spend your time, in and out of the game.
During the conversation I was having with my guild mate, another one also brought up a really good point whether he was being comedic or not. He said that they are very crafty people, and they will always find ways to make money, and I’m sure this is very true. Don’t look for gold farmers to drop off your servers any time soon.

-Kanthalos

Like, totally…a girl’s impression of WoW characters

I have always loved Barbies…and video games. I got a Gem doll and a Nintendo for Christmas in first grade. So, while I’m a girl, I’m a pretty avid gamer. And I will admit, I do love a pretty character. This makes character creation a big issue for me, especially in World of Warcraft.

Let’s start off with actual creation. When I created my first toon years ago, I was a little surprised at the lack of options. Character realism was not an issue, I’ve always loved Warcraft and the characters looked like the Warcraft-universe. But, the lack of control with the toon really grinded my gears. My main, and original toon, is a female human mage.

Faces first. Nearly every face is similar, unless you count the “elderly face” the “mean face.” All of the other faces can be grouped into the “vapid face” category. Sure, you could add a piercing to personalize it, but that didn’t change much. Hair colors had a little variety, but most of the hairstyles were either a) god awful or b) already being worn by about every other human female.

Besides that, when it came to body shape, I had no choice but to be a busty toned human female. Not exactly a warriors body type, but it worked for a caster. Not that I’d have made a “fat” toon, but I wanted to be able to control some of the important things like height, weight, muscle tone. Things that make your character more personalized would have been great. As a woman, I really don’t care for the gigantic rack nearly every female toon in Azeroth sports. I would have went with a more willowy, less endowed toon if I had the choice. The breast obsession just harks back to the fact that far too many men are the ones deciding what these toons look like. Sure, most of the gamer’s in WoW are men and I’m sure they love big, busty women, but why do they ALL need to be big and busty?

Off of that rapidly growing argument and onto the wardrobe of all of Azeroth. It all looks the same! Even new items look suspiciously like something you had 4 levels ago. They’ve got a great team over there at Blizzard, can’t they pay a little more attention the the item details? The epics are all good, but blues and below tend to look like everything else. Is there any reason for the Illusionist’s robe to look exactly like a mooncloth robe? Couldn’t just add one more robe design? I had worked my butt off to get out of my mooncloth robe and into the Illusionist’s robe just to find out that…they’re the exact same in appearance. Sure, the stats are nice…but back to my Barbie obsession. It’s not enough to make me angry at the game, but it’d be great to see even more detail put into an already detailed world.

As for other character races, I’m a big fan of the Draenei females. They’ve got hooves, horns, and some junk in the trunk and are still bringing sexy back. They blow the Blood Elves right out of the water. I was excited about the elves, and severely disappointed by their execution of the characters. The woman are awkward looking, are in an uncomfortable stance, and look like they’re a size -2. The men look like they’re out of a cheesy romance novel. Not at all what I had wanted. Dwarves and Gnomes are good as is, I like the female dwarves and the gnomes are button cute. It’s those darn Night Elves! They’re alright until the females are seen running around Azeroth butt naked (hello Goldshire Inn) and dancing. As for the undead, trolls, orcs, and tauren, I really love that each class looks so entirely different. They’re different shapes, sizes, colors, etc. I’ve not played much on the Horde side, but I’ve created a toon of each race and really enjoyed my finished product.

Overall, I love World of Warcraft’s unique universe, though it’d be great to have some more character options and a bigger variation in wardrobe. It would be nice to have a way to modify your toon’s look after creation. Seventy levels is a long time to sport the nose ring and pony tail. I’ve played games with much more detailed character creation (City of Villains) and those with less detailed (Guild Wars). WoW falls somewhere in between. Azeroth’s toons sure aren’t Barbies, but they work for me in the long run, even if the lack of options sometimes frustrates me.

~Anaktoria~

Next time: Characters in LotR Online, and EQ2