Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Moves into Closed Beta - Leaks

It's early and the morning and you sit down with your cup of joe and open up the internets for your morning browse. You hear a whispering from the corner of the internet about some secret from your favorite upcoming game and curious, you go to the corner to hear the latest gossip. You check out the latest leaked information and immediately you rush to present it to your friends. In part, because you're excited, but also in part because you wanted to be one of the first to show something no one else had seen.

Ladies and Gentlemen: resist.

Guild Wars 2 is currently in a "closed beta" where testers are selected from a large number of volunteers. To me, Closed Beta means the game is mostly laid out but still needs testing to hammer out kinks or changes before being finalized. It's in it's final phases of chiseling before the carving can start to be smoothed. Things that those testers may see one day, may not be there the next depending on feedback.

When one of those testers goes and breaks their NDA for the five seconds of fame they may get for leaking images or video, what you see is simply a work in progress that may never even be seen when the game is live.

When I went to Pax Prime in 2011, I had the opportunity to speak with Matthew Medina thanks to Sarah Witter. I had had the chance to explore the Black Citadel during a demo and we discussed some of the things I had seen in my 40 minutes of exploration. And concerning the Black Citadel, Mr Medina told me: "The city is the Iron Legion's. And like ArenaNet, they are constantly building bigger and better, and scrapping stuff that doesn't work like they want. So in the city you you'll see tons of scraps of stuff around."

In much the same way, ArenaNet is taking ideas and constantly building upon them. Seeing what does and doesn't work and what their testers do and don't like. ArenaNet has always assured us that they're gamers like us and they're listening to us. And so far they've not gone back on any of their promises to us.

So now, as their Closed Beta slowly begins to gain more people and we see more leaks I challenge you all to work with me on a few things.

1. Stay Calm, Don't Panic
One of the most important things. Don't get riled up and angry. Don't make assumptions. Have faith in ArenaNet and pray the testers give feedback.
2. When you see a leaked image, report it to ArenaNet, but do not spread the leak publicly. Be responsible.
It's a very high temptation to be one of the first to have information. But when you spread information that already isn't meant to be shared, you are helping to create what could end up being an angry environment that may turn possible players away from the game. Bad PR based off assumptions that may lead to less people playing the game because one of the last things they heard about was misinformation based off a leak. And when less people buy a free-to-play game, there is less money going towards further development and the success of that game. Nevermind that it may aid in fostering strife within the community and fuel trolls.
3. ArenaNet is not responsible for the actions of a Leaker.
ArenaNet is not a god. They do not know the minds of all the people who signed up for their testing. They do not know you personally. Everyone is just a much a potential leaker as you. Do not point your anger at them when the Leaker breaks NDA. Instead, focus your anger on the Leaker.
4. Never assume leaked information is set in stone.
What you see may not make it live.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Raiding and Guild Wars 2

I participated in a heavy discussion earlier today concerning ‘end games’ and ‘raiding’ and theories on how or if ArenaNet would deal with them in Guild Wars 2. Perhaps I’ve been a little tainted by my years in world of warcraft and in having run a raiding guild for a couple years there, but I’d personally come to believe that raiding or something similar is a deciding factor to me about a game.

I really enjoy large group activities in a game. I like getting a group organized and coordinating battle plans to take down large bosses. And I would assume that in GW2, we’re going to at least be fighting one giant, cranky lizard who just woke up.

Friend “B” believes that GW2 will not have any sort of raid content and that the world events are going to be what we look towards for our ‘end game’ activities once we’re 80. He also suggested that personal stories would be a big part of your ‘end game’ activities.

My issues with this is that these settings are either very small groups or solo play. Which perhaps is aimed more for casual players. And the big group feel comes from the random group play that occurs when players all show up to deal with the events in the area.

And I do think the world events are going to be fantastic! It’s the sort of activity that has become something I look for in games now thanks to enjoying it in my Rift play right now. However, if that is part of a majority of what I’ll have to do at 80 then I feel I would quickly grow bored of it. Just as I would grow bored of the dungeons (especially when the gear incentives will not last as long with gear dropping for me every single time I go in) or perhaps get tired of working through my personal storyline (which I don’t know much about yet).

I just know from my Rifting that to me personally, doing those events are going to only be fun when you have a group of folks doing them with you. And at certain times of day or sometimes not at all, you may find yourself with just you or a handful of you. And that event isn’t going to always be that new and interesting and shiny. And you’ll have played through the scenario a few times. Perhaps how the scenario came about may be slightly different, but overall, it will be the same idea behind it.

Perhaps some sort of loot will come from doing them that will give incentive to participating. But then you either have a grind or something so easy to get that it devalues what you got. –[[ A.D.D. moment: They’ve said that each time your group clears a dungeon that everyone would get one piece of loot. I feel this not only devalues the items, but runs the risk of people getting geared so quickly that once the novelty of a dungeon passes on, finding people willing to join up for it will be very difficult. While loot for everyone is a nice idea, I don’t feel it will pay off in the long-run.]]

PvP was another option brought up. For Guild Wars, player vs player is a huge part of the game. However, for folks like myself who kind of knee jerk away from it, it’s not really something we want to do. Though granted I love the entire world vs world vs world idea. And I keep picturing these epic Lord of the Rings movie clashes. However, again, I’m not that big in pvp and while I may do it a few times for the novelty I don’t picture myself really doing it.

I know ArenaNet is trying to break the MMO standards that have been established. However, if they were to not include some sort of ‘raid’ type activity would they provide something else that could be as organized and fun feeling to me? Will I be able to have an enemy to overcome with a team of friends in some sort of epic, end-all, feeling battle?

Too I wonder if perhaps I have simply gotten so used to the ‘end game’ model that I am unable to really enjoy activities I may not perceive to be what I may feel is the ‘end game?’

There is still so much more information to be released yet and it’s an interesting discussion to me. So I guess, what do you guys think about ‘raid content’ and GW2? If it wasn’t really included, how would you feel about it? Would it perhaps leave you feeling less or more likely to play GW2 (and why)? If some sort of raid content was included, what would you hope to get out of it? Do you have other thoughts on this topic that perhaps I didn’t mention?

Thanks for reading!

PS: I will be representing GuildWars2Live at Pax Prime this August. I shall be at the ArenaNet booth with my fancy new video camera attempting to film everything in HD! Be sure to visit their site or follow them on twitter for upcoming news!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Engineering Like TF2 Babeh!

I’m a fairly recovered WoW addict now. Both my accounts have been canceled and any desire to go back has truly dissolved. Though I am still keeping in touch with less than a handful of folks from the guild.

Right now I’ve joined a community for the upcoming MMO – Guild Wars 2! Since Pax East I’ve been increasingly involved with a friend’s website as a trial streamer. Though I will be representing and filming for them at the upcoming Pax Prime this coming August. I’m very excited about everything I hear about the game. And I’m leaning towards playing an Sylvari Elementalist or the newest introduced class: Engineer!

And when I say Engineer is their newest, I mean the folks at ArenaNet announced it today! And when I saw the announcement and watched the videos I initially felt confused. As at the time, I felt that perhaps the videos were not as well made as previous class preview videos had been made. However, after rewatching them a few times, that confusion was left by the wayside and I instead found myself growing increasingly interested! And I decided that Engineer looked like it could be a really fun class to try to play!

And one of the reasons I feel this way is because of an association my mind brought up and then had encouraged through discussion with a friend in the community concerning how the Engineer of GW2 was kinda like Team Fortress 2!!! And this was so much impressed upon me that I ended up editing together this fan video as well:

Elements that stood out to me that I liked…

Outside of loving the turrets, I also am incredibly fond of the “Jump Shot” ((video can be found here: which reminds me quite a bit of the TF2’s Soldier’s Rocket Jump. And while they didn’t really explain it much, the video leads me to believe that it will be a sort of propulsion move very similar to - if not mirroring - the ability!

Also, I love how the mine, grenade and bombs are working out. Judging by the preview videos, it seems like you can get super creative with their placement if you think ahead on things. Much like the Demo from TF2, I could see one finding a good defensive position and fencing oneself in and then going to town on anything/anyone in one’s field of vision (or letting your turret take care of them hehe)!

Also, before I move on, I wanted to say how much I love the animations for firing the guns! From the two one-handed guns, to the two-handed rifle; I love the movement they’ve got going for both firing and bringing them about. It feels very gunslinger-like to me and gives off a good vibe!

Further thoughts…

I was a little surprised by a few other folks reactions in the community concerning how it felt ‘off’ to them to have this sort of class in the GW2 universe. While perhaps it could be odd seeing the Sylvari wielding metal weapons when they’re a people born from plants, I couldn’t really picture how this couldn’t work out.

Granted I’ve not played Guild Wars nearly as much or as long as some of those who are feeling a bit unhappy about the class, but it seems to me from some of the environments, mobs and existing creations in Guild Wars that the ability to create and be this sort of class was inevitable. Izari covered further thoughts on this at her blog over at Talk Tyria! ((See her post here: Personally, I kind of wonder if it’s just the stigma of the name too. You think of fantasy as being encompassed by mages, warriors, thieves, and the like -- but engineers? While perhaps it’s not quite traditional, I think as the class sits and folks stop balking and start watching, that the class will be as impressive to the nay-sayers as to the ones who like it regardless of preconceived ideas. ^^

In closing…

I’m really looking forward to seeing some sort of game play video in the coming weeks and/or months. I think that would be very telling on how complicated I might expect the class to really be. Already it does seem pretty involved with the possible plotting, the dodging and rolling, combined with trap placement, turret placement, etc etc. Also, it seems like a light armored class - so it will likely be taking some pretty big hits if enemies manage to get too close ((but that was the case with TF2’s Engineer too hehe)).

I’m definitely looking forward to getting more information on this class. (Not to mention hoping for news on the Sylvari!!) Unfortunately though, there is this rumor that we may not even see a beta out until Fall! This means waiting till probably 2012 for this game. THOOOOOOUGH, it can be said that something this epic should be released in the year when the world is doomed to end! Bwahaha

See you guys in another month or so! haha Have a good one!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Anime Recommendation: Bakuman

So a few nights back I was browsing through some anime fansub websites and came across an anime that I had remembered seeing come out a couple months ago but had sort of passed by for ones that had seemed more attractive to me at the time. The anime is called Bakuman, and the brief synopsis seemed interesting enough. High school boy wants to get into the manga drawing business. And I figured it was similar to many other occupational animes.

However, as I started to watch it I nearly turned it off as the opening few minutes nearly drove me off. I had to double check I was watching the right anime! hah But then the 'real' opening song began and I relaxed a bit. Certainly the anime had gotten my attention.

As the anime continued forward, I found myself being drawn into the story a bit. A shy boy with no aspirations named Mashiro has a crush on a shy girl named Azuki. Rather than really pay much attention in class during school he spends time drawing - mostly Azuki from behind. And you get a little bit of foreshadowing as to where his drawing may take him with some slight backstory about his Uncle, who had been a manga artist.

Mashiro watching Azuki from his seat at school...

During the episode Mashiro is distracted and leaves his books at school (the ones he'd had drawings of Azuki in) and has to return to school for it. However, a fellow classmate is there waiting. Takagi is one of the best students in the class and sits in teh back and has been watching Mashiro as he draws. And he blackmails Mashiro a bit into considering drawing manga with him.

And in a fun turn of events, manages to trick Mashiro into going to Azuki's house. I'm not going to spoil what comes next - I want you to find and watch the anime. But a promise gets made and a very endearing romance begins that isn't blatant but is a wonderful undertone to the series.

The main characters are constantly growing as well and gives a real 'slice of life' feel to the anime as well. You get to see Mashiro 'becoming more like a man' as he comes to realize some fairly adult concepts of not giving up, of applying one's self to something even when the first time didn't work out. And too, I've really liked that when failures come, we don't spend episodes wallowing in pity and emoness. Rather, we walk through thoughts with Mashiro and seemingly grow with him.

Overall, by episode 10 I have been completely drawn into the story and am enjoying it greatly. If you are looking for something uplifting and enjoyable, this is probably a very nice anime for you. I give it a big thumbs up myself! =D

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still Alive!

Yo blog! What’s up! I’ve been so wrapped up in drama elsewhere and other things that I’ve failed to really put much into trying to post here. Not to mention trying to establish a real sleeping habit! … but that of course failed. Hah. As it is, I’ve been up since yesterday and its noon now. And if I seem a bit ADD it is likely because of the sever lack of sleep recently.

First off, I am no longer the guild master in the guild I’d been leading for the last two years in World of Warcraft. It was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to decide and actually do. I take things so serious all the time and the game really had become a full time job and an environment where I spent more time as Kaae the Paladin and less time as Dara the Office Peon.

So how this came about… Back in September, shortly after Pax Prime, I talked to my two officers and asked one of them if they’d be willing to be the new GM if I stepped down in a month. I offered to stick around and help out where I could and explained that I wanted to be sure he would have a smooth transition should he accept the roll – something I felt the guild and I hadn’t had when the GMs before me left.

He agreed and I made an official announcement to the guild. And when November came, we officially made the change. There were of course hiccups but they eventually worked out. Only once did I really come out swinging at some folks who were being critical of the new leadership. But I realized that I couldn’t keep doing that because they had to get themselves established. And even now I still struggle with not throwing out my voice to give out some sort of command or two or posting huge ‘walls of text’ that the guild still teases me about – when I think I’m sensing disturbances in the guild force.

But overall, the new leadership is doing what I trusted they would be able to do. And they picked some very excellent additionally officers as well. And all of them have been incredibly nice when I’ve stepped out of line a bit and been a bit of a momma bird.

The only thing still troubling me is that I continue to raid with them. Mostly because I really want to be sure they can raid with more guild members. Fortunately, they’re still attracting people and I have faith that soon they won’t need my holy paladin to heal their raids anymore. And then I can truly be just a social member in the game who can come online and have some fun without worrying about too many ‘responsibilities.’

Oh, and might I add that even with raiding, the stress in my ‘wow life’ has dropped almost completely. I still fuss a bit when folks challenge the leadership decisions and offer lots of ‘perhaps they are thinking this way…” discussions – but I am not going to bed at night wondering if something is going to happen that week that I’m going to have to deal with for the sake of guild peace.

As for other plans… I’ve successfully pulled a ton of time away from wow and put it towards other things. Work of course has picked up more of my time. Though I am still a peon for the office. Photocopying bliss, stuffing a couple hundred envelopes and licking the nasty glue seal closed, and other fun tasks that take many hours to do but cannot always get done by the secretary. It has given me a lot of time to listen to Pandora internet radio or consider the other games I play now in addition to wow.

Minecraft, Chime, DC Universe Online, a little Rift Beta, and a ton of other indie games that I picked up off of steam during their Christmas sales.

Minecraft is probably my favorite right now. I’ve heard it described as a giant sandbox game. It’s like this awesome building block game were you can really create anything out of squares. If you ever go to youtube, just look it up and you’ll see some crazy things folks have made! However, not only do you have this absolutely amazing creative game, but then you have survival modes that mix it up a bit. And you’ll face down spiders, arrow shooting skeletons, zombies, and the most feared mobs: creepers. I may sit down one night and put together a heavier review on this – but as it stands, even in beta – the game sucks away the hours of the day and is fun!

Chime is an indie game that is shared on a few gaming platforms. And to me is this Tetris like, puzzle game. And I kid you not; I can sit there for hours playing it. Basically you are given a ‘map’ that you have to fill with pieces given to you at random. They are different shapes. And you want to put those pieces together in neat big shapes called “quads” for tons of points. Meanwhile you have music playing and pulsing and you will get additionally points depending on how many quads in a run you make. To ‘win’ a round you want to fill up every inch of the ‘map’ – which can be done by creating quads. Then when the music finishes its pass, the solid quad becomes translucent/transparent and you can use the old space to either make a new quad or use the space to complete other quads. GAH I should make a video and post it so you can see it blog!

Next is DC Universe, which I actually picked up on a whim after watching an internet blogger RPing a bit while he played the game. I played City of Heroes/Villains for a few months back in the day and I always enjoyed being a super powered being and this just added the bonus of possibly working along side heroes I recognized and grew up with. Being original, I went with the name “kaae” and created a hero. She’s got plant powers like Poison Ivy and uses some badass dual weapons like Nightwing. The game really reminds me of something like a console game with how you kinda play it. And the way your abilities are set off with the weapons reminds me a lot of the patterned button mashing you did with the old Mortal Combat arcade machines where you’d push like, red button 4 times and then the red button once. However, in this case those buttons are your mouse buttons and you’re clicking them like mad.

The DC stories are also pretty fun to live through as well and if you follow the quests a bit, its surprising how much ‘lore’ they’ve put into the game. More than once I’ve stopped to look at the wiki pages on various archs to see what the comics were like. DC isn’t a game I play a whole ton but it is a fun ‘vacation’ sort of game and being a hero once in a while with a mentor like Wonder Woman is fun. =p

And finally in these last few weeks I’ve gotten involved in the Beta that has been running for Rift. Only the ones for the stress testing they’ve been doing though. I feel I really appreciate this beta actually, compared to what I was seeing with some others not too long ago. The game feels a lot more fleshed out then I was expected after the last one I was in and there seems to be a good balance between those who like and don’t like the game. And of course, the pvp crowds are looking at it and wondering if its something that can turn into an esport.

The game SEEMS a lot like World of Warcaft in many ways. They take a lot of the terminology made familiar by WoW and apply it to pretty much the same things in their own game. But Rift is very fancy looking graphically speaking and they’ve got the RIFT system which still needs some tweaks, but has folks pretty excited as well. I don’t know that I will try to get in with the next beta batch or hold off. Because this is a game I’d be very tempted to simply ‘play’ during beta rather than look for bugs. My impression is definitely positive and I think that while the game likely won’t replace a very established WoW for its millions of players – I think that it could easily take a lot of folks away from the game who really wanted something new and felt they didn’t get that with Cataclysm.

I think perhaps I’ll write some more in depth things further down the road on these games and maybe get some slight movies going to show what they look like. But there you have it blog! Have a good one and let’s keep our fingers crossed that another four months or so don’t pass before I write on you again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV - Thoughts and Impressions

So I purchased Final Fantasy XIV the collector’s edition and it came in the mail a few days ago. I’ve had plenty of time to explore it a bit more beyond the few hours on the open beta.


Don’t get me wrong, I really love the way the battle system has been set up to work. Unfortunately, the servers are taking a beating and things just feel super laggy. From initiating attacks, to healing, to special moves, everything feels sluggish. But dang it is awesome to look at when you’re using everything. From the movement of the character to the attacks – I really am just in love with the graphic feel of the fighting.

It took a bit of getting used to, but its not too bad once I got the hang of how it should work. In order to attack or defend against something, you need to put yourself in fighting stance. This is done by hitting “f.” then you target the mob you want to attack and after gauging its strength compared to you (via a colored dot on its name plate), you want to hit “enter” or one of the attack buttons to bring up your bar with your abilities on it. You then approach the monster and just spam the heck out of your abilities. You can maneuver around it sometimes to get crit hits in, or you can continue standing in front of it. However, make sure you hit “c” to lock onto your target or be sure you’re good about not clicking around the screen or hope you don’t lag yourself and end up on the wrong side of the mob.

Initially, I had a lot of trouble with locking targets. You can’t move with your mouse like you can in WoW and your strafe keys don’t act like they do in WoW either. It all feels like some weird keyboard turning. Though strafing is more keyboard turning on a dime while its normal turning is like, they hit forward while they tried to turn. So my issue with lock was, I’d try to shift about and move with my mouse, only to accidently lose target and target something else while trying to move. And then I’d have to try to retarget the mob while taking damage. It led to some frustrating moments. Blarg. (Lock = “c”) Then sometimes I would realize I couldn’t win the fight I’d picked and I’d try to run. Only I had used “c” and it wouldn’t allow me to run off until I’d released it. I’ve not been killed yet forgetting this, but I’ve had some pretty fantastic close calls.

Other frustrations, is I pictured things would be a bit more solo friendly. And I suppose it has been up to 11 which I currently am on my main specialization. If you could call it that. But I’m already barely handling ‘decent challenge’ monsters and ‘easy’ monsters take a while to kill. It has left me with the impression that this will be much like 11 where you can solo those mobs, but you’ll be grinding them a very long while before you make much headway. Whereas with the group, you’ll be able to pull more, faster, once again. But we’ll see how it goes further into game play.

I am also frustrated that the color system doesn’t really tell you what the real level of the mobs are. I made the mistake of attacking a red “incredibly tough” raptor that was near the starting area and across a bridge. There had been some tiny “easy” monsters a few steps away from it and so I had thought perhaps it would hit a bit harder or be harder to hit, but that I could perhaps handle it. However, the thing one shot me for 4k with a non-special attack (I don’t have 1k health yet).

Death is also kind of a bugger if you’re not planning ahead. They have a system set where you stop at a camp for your guildlevels (daily quests) and check in with this crystal. This crystal has been made your ‘home’ in a sense. So when you die, and if you have no one who can resurrect you, you use ‘return’ and it will put you back at that camp with about 3 min of 50% HP and all sorts of other negatives that will have you huddling by the crystal till you’re ok again. So if you forgot to set it, you were in for a long run back to where you needed to be.

But things I found as I played that I liked was how they have their stamina system with the battles. As a pugilist, I do a lot of fist fighting. Each move will have its own guage that will appear when I mouse over an ability. And part of that bar will have a grayed area representing how much ‘stamina’ that ability will need to be set off. Similar to a rogue in wow really. You don’t have enough stamina, you won’t set off the ability.

Also, I like they kept TP. Like most FF games, you get points for successful attacks that build up throughout the fight that can be spent on special attacks. And what I’ve found fun about some of the attacks that they didn’t have in FF11 is a sort of proc attack that I learned. Where if I evade an enemy attack, and have a certain amount of TP, I can use this particular ability. I don’t dodge nearly as much as I’d like, but when I do, its pretty cool to shoot it off! I’ve also got an attack now that uses both TP and mana! Which I thought was unique.

So its been nice to see them breaking off into some different types of attacks and adding a bit more to the system at this point. From what I understand, as I develop other jobs, I’ll possibly be able to use some of those abilities in whatever class I’m playing. So I’m curious to see how that will work out as I begin to branch into those.

Level System

FF14 has a really interesting leveling system. To take from one of their promo vids: you can level horizontally and vertically. And this is facilitated by leveling through weapon skills. Howso?

SE really doesn’t want folks to reach the end game too quickly. They want the game to last longer. And they’ve developed a brilliant time sink that is interesting. Anyone who has played MMOs is probably familiar with THATGUY who can play pretty much all day and reach max level about a month before the rest of the player base.

To this end, SE created a slope system that causes a player’s experience gain to go through ‘fatigue’ that slows the gain the more they get throughout the week. The more hours they put it in on that one job, the less experience they will be gaining – despite the level of monster they may be fighting. The casual player will probably never see this ‘cap’ and fatigue and shall continue his vertical leveling without much notice of anything different. But THATGUY will see a slow halt to his vertical. However, SE doesn’t want to see him run off. So they dangle a carrot.

You cannot keep leveling vertically… but how about horizontally. With each rank of physical level you gain, you get points you can distribute amidst some stats. Also, you can blend together skills from other classes that you’ve been ranking up. So you could… say have a lancer who has the pugilist ability to heal themselves for a couple hundred health every min or so. So ultimately, while you are not growing vertically, your character’s skills are expanding and you are still becoming more powerful.

They try to encourage using this system as well with the easy access to all the rank 1 weapons and tools that you need. Vendors selling them or guilds are all in your starting cities. And once you’ve completed your first guildlevel quests and the first storyline quest from the adventurer’s guild, you’ll probably find yourself with the funds to buy your first couple weapons to test out the other classes. Typically, weapons will go for between 800-1.2k gil depending on the item. With your gathering and crafting tools though, expect to fork out about 2k-2.5k for the two tools you’ll need.

Crafting and Gathering

Again, FF14 takes an interesting approach to these fields of play. And really, that is what you are doing while leveling them. Many games will require to just push a button and wait while the game levels up your professions. In this case, you have to be paying attention and active while you craft. There is some unfortunately RNG involved in some of them. And the learning curve can feel steep for some as well.

In the world of FF14, you collect items from creatures or from gathering, and then you melt them together using elemental crystals you collect from all living things in the world. Crafters have to learn to bend these elemental crystals to their wishes to properly “synthesize” the item they desire. And as a crafter, you are taking up this task.

With crafting, you face a few difficulties. One is just getting the items you need. At this point, the economies of the servers are all getting laid out. So buying from other players is going to be hit and miss with what you want, and then the prices could be way over the top as well. Or you may buy from the vendors, and those are certainly not cheap either.

Your best bet will then be to pick up gathering classes. Now here is some of the interesting side effects of crafting and gathering. For each success you gain a large amount of experience for both your skill rank and your physical rank! And you stand to profit. While you may not participate necessarily in some of the fighting scenarios, you can see the highest levels in the game simply by gathering and crafting!

Something else that makes all of this interesting is, you don’t simply get what you need, sit down, push a button and watch yourself gain skill. No. You have to pay attention and actually interact with what you’re doing. And if you don’t, you may fail your activity and lose all your materials. You’ll still get a small amount of experience, but you’ll get less than a fraction of what you could have had.

In most cases, you can pick up on how the activies are supposed to work pretty quickly. I personally didn’t have too many issues… with the exception of fishing which I think is stupid and not very clear. And the many youtube videos I’ve gone through have just been rambles while people try to do it and who don’t see much success themselves. But someone must get it because I’ve seen some people getting rank 17s recently. Gar!!!

But returning. If you’re going to be a crafter --- save everything and be prepared to drop some money. And be aware too, that as you progress, you’re going to have to branch into other ‘professions’ as well to make the materials you need for crafts of interest to you. Its all no less of a time sink in the end than the leveling. But it is still very entertaining and not as mind numbing as crafting and gathering might be in other games in my experience.

Item Storage and Item Sales

In other games you may see an Auction system that might be put in place where people can deposit their items for a small fee and have them sell and get the money. In this case, I’ve not actually found such a place. However, the Bazaar system is up and running. Unfortunately, you are currently limited to 10 items that you can sell at a time (when your bags can hold up to 80 things).

Gone also is the personal housing as it existed in FF11. In 11, you had a house minded by a moogle. Now, the Adventurers guild hooks you up with a paid servant (that you never actually pay that I’ve seen…) that you can somewhat handpick and even give a nick name too. Then you can place them in town or in the designated bazaar area they have set up in your city. They will not only hold 80 items for you, but they will also hold 10 items in auction for you while you’re out leveling.

They do seem to have a limited number of times they can be summoned in a certain time period however, so you have to be careful about where you call them. But they are now your mobile home bank and bazaar. I do miss the idea of having my own house with fun decorations. But with the amount of running around I’ve been doing in game at this point, the absence isn’t as noticed at this point.

Chat and other things

The game is really lacking in shortcuts I’ve found. And there isn’t really many options to create them from what I’ve seen so far. And many of the official online help has been anything but with figuring out some elements of the game. Such as chat, or emotes. A lot of things I’ve found simply by trial and error or by some heavy google browsing.

Such as… If I’m low on health but am not a healer, do I just stand here and wait for it to slowly regenerate? In 11, you could /rest and you would kneel and regen very quickly. Through a google search, I found that /sit was the new command. And when you sit, you really sit and cannot move. Even if you’re under attack. Instead you must open your command window and use the prompt to stand.

Actually most of your in game interactions with bazaars, npcs, crystals and commands for gathering will be done thanks to prompts that will open the command window on the side of the screen. It’s a bit tedious and I’m not too thrilled with constantly going back and forth with it.

I’m half hoping there is a macro you’ll be able to write out for some of this, though I’ve not yet found it.

As for chat… I picked a server where I knew I had a friend playing and he created a linkshell there. Now, in 11, inviting people could be done simply by trading them a ‘pearl’ to their shell. However, they’ve changed up the system a bit, so you don’t have to trade them to get them in. But you have to be next to them in game and have them targeted in order to invite.

In order to see who is online in the linkshell, I have to open the command window, go down to the linkshell option and then click a button in that window in order to see who is online. It is the same way for any friend or ignor list person I may wish to see and add to. Something I found that also was not covered in any official instruction was how to respond to someone who sends you a private message in game. For a while I was having to “ /t “ in order to talk to friends privately. And sometimes I would mess up and it would come out in an embarrassing emote. But thanks to google, I did find the solution to responding to someone without typing out their entire name over and over.

Conclusion… for now

I’ve still not decided how I feel about the game entirely. There are of course some aggravations. But I’m very fond of other elements. And it is very different than other mmo’s I’ve played, but similar enough to my first to be something I find myself feeling fond about. I shall probably continue playing this casually for a while. Everything is still very interesting and new for me there and I’m really enjoying its change of pace, despite its huge time sink dangers.

I’m sure I’ve missed some points that I meant to cover on this subject, but its early morning now and I mostly couldn’t sleep and needed to tire myself a bit. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Concerning Betas

My friend Izziebot on her blog wrote a pretty interesting article on Betas and those who get into them... which I'll reiterate here really quickly:

1. Gamers don’t respect NDAs
2. Gamers prematurely base their opinions on betas.
3. Gamers don’t test in beta testing.

[[See "The Legend of Beta Part I" ]]

She was concerned for the "Beta" because it felt so many people were getting into them and not contributing information. No feedback on bugs, no feedback on graphical issues, no feedback on random glitches in quests or perhaps cut-scene issues, no feedback on typos.... just plain there to play and have fun. And she felt that perhaps in a few years, companies would stop beta testing because it was more detrimental to their games, rather than helping them. Because those who were unhappy with how the game was would jump to blogs and put out scathing reviews and/or create videos featuring what they felt were terrible issues... And therefore the concern that people were taking what was said and being turned off to the game.

I agree there are folks who will read someone's opinion and jump on their bandwagon without much thought of their own. Unfortunately, there will be people out there who just don't question what they read and take everything as fact. Laziness is laziness.

However, I think that there is a larger crowd out there beyond this more vocal bunch.

Note, I am no number-cruncher. I write based on observation, personal theory and opinion. Do not take my words as fact. Think for yourself!!!


In my time in games, I've always found this freaking parallel between games and the real world. So I look to things like the political situation in the US and some of my experiences there first. I recently participated in Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally on 8/28 at the Lincoln Memorial. Before the event, people felt it was going to be incredibly political. That there would be Obama-bashing, democrat slandering, etc etc. Unfortunately there was a very vocal minority of people within the group going that was like that.

They blogged hatefully, spoke in social websites, and posted videos about how it would be the day to send a political message. It was assumed by probably a huge number of people that it would be a sign waving, anti-political frenzy. But what showed up were normal people with their entire families. Next to no signs anywhere, and a very polite group of folks who showed up to actually honor our service men and women and our nation.

The reaction from the outside was one of surprise. Where was all that hate and slander associated with the group of people? Because the vocal minority was out there all the time, it had seemed that was the type of people we were. But once revealed, it was shown we were a far larger mass of respectful, quiet people.

So my analogy's purpose...

I consider those who blog and create videos that are against a game (that they have been a beta tester for) to be a vocal minority. They seem to be everywhere, constantly ripping on the game, threatening and complaining about what they play through, and just seem totally miserable with what they're seeing. Some of those people honestly believe what they are saying. Some are there because they like the attention they've gotten from being the first to break that NDA or expose that terrible aspect of the game. For some, it is also a question of age. I point to the World of Warcraft beta right now. They don't take in applications for their betas. Rather they randomly select to keep the process "fair." So you will likely get a lot of younger players who are a bit more... socially challenged.

However, from social interactions in beta forums, chat channels and from my own personal experience, I feel I am safe in saying that a majority of those who do get in take what they're doing to a certain extent of seriousness. I look to the Cataclysm beta which a few weeks ago had a broken Feedback button. No one could report in-game about things they were finding. However, what happened was interesting to see. People were taking the time to go to the beta forums for cataclysm and write out bug reports there.

Additionally, you see some fantastic data sharing that goes on there between people who perhaps get stuck where others weren't. Yeah, sometimes you'll find that one kid who sits there crying about something and threatening canceling a preorder and/or their live version of the game they currently play -- but a majority of folks don't go that route and patiently play through and report what they find.

Right now in the live beta version, they have raised the damage modifier of the enemy mobs. It scales pretty high per level they are... especially 83-85 mobs. In some cases, one might argue that you have no choice but to group to do your quests with any sort of speed. There are some folks throwing down their gloves and refusing to keep testing, but there are some who have kept going (like myself) who have tried to adapt to different play styles and kept leveling. From the handful of people on the forum complaining, you'd think there was barely anyone able to get to level 85 with the damage output from the mobs. But I see a lot of 85s. ((And premade 85 characters aren't available to play yet.))

As a side note... I'm not particularly happy with the damage output myself. And I wrote a longish post about it with examples of my gear, the situation I was in, the types of mobs I was struggling to live against, and suggesting rolling down the damage a bit on the feedback thread they told us to visit. To anyone who beta tests, don't withhold your opinion, but be polite with how you give it. Be detailed as to why you feel it is an issue. Don't just sit there and be all "it hits too hard. this sucks. change it or i'm gone." Be constructive and polite with any feedback and suggestion you give and remember if it was you who created it and there was an issue, would you want to have a ton of people verbally ripping on you? No one responds well to threats. Regardless of their position or the assumption they should. "A kind word turns away anger."

Games and Companies

I'm no gaming world expert. My education was in "Graphic Design for Computer Art" and "Animation and Visual Effects." My only qualification could possibly be 'people skills' thanks to leading a guild for a year and a half and being an officer in games spanning from 2003 to now. I do have a few friends who work for game companies, who sometimes drop lines. And I have my Advertising and Copyright classes from my days studying Graphic Design.

One thing that was always stressed to me in my last school was the importance of taking criticism with a grain of salt. I cannot speak for the smaller companies, but I know from my friends in the larger ones that this is something that rings true when delivering a Beta client of a game to a group of folks. And I feel that a company as a whole needs to keep in mind what is in that client. So when people sit and complain about an element of the game that isn't complete that they (the company) are ready with some answer(s) as to what's going on.

i. Information Flow

Information control is important in any game. I point to a not so far away issue with Cataclysm. Blizzard had been pretty tight lipped about the entire game. Perhaps releasing some weird screenshot but not much information. People were getting bored of the current game and were starting to wander away and grow impatient. This created a breeding ground for trouble. A game of interest with little exposure. Yes, it can create a larger interest, but if your game isn't what people have come to believe it to be, you're going to hit a firestorm.

And then that person got in to the Cataclysm files thanks to the friends and family beta. And suddenly everyone was getting into it. Sandboxes, random screenshots, fake servers, it was an explosion. And the masses descended in a feeding frenzy. Until Blizzard stepped up with the NDA hammer and chased those people down.

ii. Beta Player Selection

Now with the closed beta, Blizzard has a few methods going on. First was to give keys to a few from top successful guilds, trusted blog sites, and those well known in the community. Then they offered keys in contests for things like guild essays. Then they had the random draw betas going on. What they did was grab up three types into their beta and created a sort of balance of players similar to what you might see in the live game now. The super serious, the serious-casual, and the casual with the casual. And they in essence took three possible options for their beta testing group.

I think what possibly puts people into that mindset that Beta is for the elite is because for the longest time, people who got into them were either popular in their community or were paid (professional) testers. And even now, you can find websites dedicated to signing up people interested in testing games who will farm them out to companies. This isn't a bad thing to do if you want to really keep your game information from getting out beyond what you want. Its a very controlled testing environment and many companies will employ this method for the protection of the game while they go through early testing.

The next is the essay group or the application group. Back in the day when Lord of the Rings Beta was coming out, I had to fill one of these out to get into it. The questionnaire was fairly straightforward, but had 'personality' questions and the 'why are you interested' question. While you may get some liars and flatters who fill out an application, you will usually get some pretty honest people. And you can tell who are really interested by how they fill out that application as well. Its a good way to keep more of the public involved, giving the environment a more 'real' feel with the type of folks you may encounter. Though perhaps, more tedious for the company who has to sift through all those applications.

Then there is that random draw beta. Many of the company's big shots likely pick this for cost efficiency. They scan your pc to see what you can handle, get your email address and bam, you have been entered in the raffle for a key. You can get all sorts of players this way. Casuals, hard core, serious-casual. Unfortunately with this method you will some who have just tossed in their name for something new to do. Some put theirs in because they're interested and would like to see what the game will be like. Some genuinely want in because they might like the game concept and would like to play a part in seeing it developed successfully. And in all those groups you will have those who, once they're in take it serious and report-report-report, or gripe and whine-whine-whine, or who just show up and then leave quickly thereafter.

I believe a company needs to be sure they are ready for whatever methods they use for their beta player selection. And they need to understand the people they take in. Especially those smaller companies who are just trying to get their first game out. Basically -- while the players need to be responsible, the company will get what they asked for depending on the course they take in their selection.

iii. Content Released

I'm a personal believer that a "beta" is the unchanging core of the game and which might include the elements such as quests, quest rewards, skills, professions if any, extra actives, and really anything the player might touch. Its meant to stress test your servers with more people playing, interacting and doing crazy things. Its meant to play quest files over and over and over to be sure it lasts multiple plays. Its meant to show where you're going and to give opportunity for others to bring up suggestions that may make things better or even change an entire quest line. Its a place where you open yourself to the ideas of your testers and test the window of acceptance from your players about things you think would be cool.

But really, the key is to have that core established and laid out. If you are going to release a beta to a group when that core is unstable, you will raise questions about your companies sanity and the likeliness that the game will actually be decent. This goes back to an earlier point, but communicate with your testers if you are going to throw them into an environment with known bugs. Make ways to aid them if they get stuck and help them while they help you.

Time is your enemy and your friend with betas. It is your enemy because you are putting money into it. It is your friend because the more you have, the better your product will be. Smaller companies will be hurt more by Time than a large one, and perhaps for them, this is one of the most difficult things to conquer. But the more time you can give to making sure your product is solid, the better it will be. And with a beta... If you put your time and effort into it and release it to beta, and you feel confident in what you've set out and know what's in it, you can discount the complainers who come expecting a demo rather than a beta.

iv. Marketing and the Beta

Many companies today use the Beta as a Demo rather than spending the money to create a playable one. Or after a closed beta, they'll create an Open Beta which is really just like a demo. But the moment you remove that NDA on information, you've begun your marketing via your beta players. As stated earlier, what you have released will affect how that marketing goes out. And your time and effort will affect how its sold by your testers.

I have a friend working over at Bioware on their MMO for Star Wars, and he creates many of the videos we'll see for commercials shown for the product. He told me the ESBR rating keeps a lot of information from being shared. However, I could post something and not be restricted as I'm not affiliated with the company etc.

Once an NDA is lifted, players can create videos and a multitude of images that can stir up and create excitement for a game that perhaps a company will not quite be able to do on their own. Not to mention word of mouth, blog posts, comments on social network sites, and videos can all reach places that a company may not be able to necessarily reach (thanks to things like an ESBR).

It should also be noted that anything on the internet is accessible. And when you release something onto the web for play, NDAs or not, people will capture and expose. And having a plan to counter these things is important. Like earlier, how you handle the flow of information is important. Do not go online with your game until you are ready to face this.


I've spent a lot of time on my thoughts concerning betas. Hopefully I didn't bunny trail off too much which I tend to do. I do not ever see Beta Testing stopping. I do think the way they are handled will eventually shift and as the internet continues to grow in sophistication, we'll see more ways to control some of that information as well, like it or not.

The MMO is still young and growing. Its becoming more commonplace for the average person to play one. I do not see death of the beta. I see a growing and perhaps a change. This post was perhaps way too serious and again, a lot of opinion here. But I thank you for reading.

Question everything! Form your own opinions! And have a good one!