Fit The Part: Feeling Like A Hero (Archive)

((This archive post has been edited with new images and  change of sentence content))

Now, it is a rare occasion indeed where I feel so compelled as to let people know what I’m doing in terms of gaming. Because to be quite honest, I doubt any of you care. More often than not, I don’t think about what everyone else is playing. Tobold might be finding the time of his life playing Hello Kitty Online, but it doesn’t mean a lot to me. Syncaine is playing Darkfall? Whatever. Unless you are doing something so amazingly out of this world that you’re actually not even playing an MMO, but are instead locked into the Cyberspace of the internet because you tried to shove a fork into a USB port, I’m probably not interested. Rather, I am reading to hear your theories and thoughts, hopefully something profound. Perhaps it is a bit hypocritical of me to say, since very rarely do I say anything concrete, but I do like to believe that there is something we are trying to convey to people. Using your blog as just a form of twitter without a word count isn’t really all that great. Drop it.

Unless you actually have something you want to say about the game’s mechanics or style, let’s try to keep it real. “I’m having fun” doesn’t help me at all. My sister is still probably having fun playing Web Kinz but I’ll be damned if I think that her having fun on it will equate to me enjoying myself on it. Some men may enjoy wearing high heels or other women’s clothing, but again, that doesn’t mean I want to go and do it. Why are you having fun?

Why do I feel like I’m going to see you again?

Surprise surprise, this does relate to what I was previously saying. As I recall, I do believe Ethec over at Ten Ton Hammer did a post about feeling cool in an MMO (Though, from the sheer length of the newsletter he may very well have a post about existing in the universe). In particular, he said he felt cool grinding in Aion. Now, this had very little relevance to me at the time, because even as an Aion player I never felt particularly special during the grind. In the end its still a grind to me. That said though, I must speak of something far different, for recently I began to look at Champions Online. From the things I heard, I went into the game with a very heavy heart. However, I was amazingly surprised to find that all the words of mediocrity washed away to become instant moments of glee as I finished using Cryptic‘s famous character creator, and popped into the game. Never mind the impressive graphics, but I was amazed at how I just felt a degree of joy that seemed to stomp all over my experience in Aion. And when I became aware of this, I became horribly frustrated.

Was this just the new rush that I felt from playing a new game, why did I enjoy this compared to another game? The cutscenes perhaps? No, they were few and far between. The cheesy voice-acting? Certainly not. And I pounded away as I looked at the game. Perhaps I really enjoyed making a superhero. I did enjoy City of Heroes a fair bit after all, and that did seem to be a logical similarity, and became my conclusion, though I felt sorely unsatisfied with my answer. Only when I looked at the tag of a simple gray enemy as I passed through the tutorial area that suddenly Ethec’s article came to mind that I was able to piece two and two together. And what was the tag of the simple gray enemy you might ask? It only said, “Henchman”. But the concept worked all too perfectly as I pondered on it further. One thing that Cryptic had mastered so perfectly was capturing the feeling of being a hero. The costumes and graphics helped a lot, and the combat was good enough, but I had for ages failed to consider the importance of the categories of enemies. So many games have us fight creatures one at a time, sometimes two, maybe three, unless you are an AOE fighter.

In both the “City Of” Games, as well as Champions, we would fight countless henchmen before meeting the boss. But we would fight these creatures in packs. The base concept of many an Online Role Playing Game of Massively Multiplayer origins involved you fighting one enemy at a time. When has it ever been okay to pull in a Raid? Never, to my knowledge. There is a very precise limit to how many enemies you could fight on par at your level. In both the hero games though, you can take down countless weak henchman on your own, and only does it become a one on one fight as you take on the apparently equal supervillain (Or hero) that stood in your way. By the end of that, I truly felt like a hero, a step above the rest. It may be mostly psychological, but Cryptic struck a gold concept that needn’t remain just in the Super Hero genre. This was briefly touched upon by the early Tabula Rasa until the developers felt that players were burning through enemies too quickly, which would ultimately make content too easy to progress through.

Conclusion: More fodder, more special feelings!

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What’s a Nerdy Bookah?

Really guys, I can’t figure it out. I mean, I get what it means to be nerdy, sure. But what’s a Bookah? Is it even supposed to be capitalized every time? Is it just “bookah”? My first thought is, “Well, I guess its a weird misspelling of ‘booking’.”  But that still doesn’t make a whole lot of a sense. I mean, sure. You can book something. But what’s a nerdy booking? Are they even booking anything?

Maybe I’m not even going in the right direction. Bookahs might actually be some kind of strange animal that no one bothered to put in the dictionary. It could be that these bookahs” are just extremely nerdy. Actually, maybe bookahs are a type of animal that are specially geared toward booking things, does that make sense? Hmm…

….

So…I did a guest post on Mobile MMOs and MMO applications at the Nerdy Bookahs blog. Go check it out.

Riknas, signing off!

MMO Purgatory (Archive)

Now, try not get caught up in the “Hell” part of the diagram, because frankly I have no idea what MMO hell is like (Wait, I take it back, here it is). Or MMO Earth for that matter. While I read a post about Funcom by OpenEdge, I went through a series of flashbacks from previous conversations I had in several MMOs. Although not conversations I necessarily participated, I recall having a familiar reaction every time I saw the familiar phrase. Almost always the conversation had near the exact same phrase, “I’m just staying here until ____ comes out.” For Age of Conan the inserted game was Warhammer. For Warhammer, the next game was Darkfall. In EVE the game was JumpGate: Evolution (RIP). Suffice to say, at this time you can insert Guild Wars 2 as the next game that we’re going to finally make our “real” MMO.

And every time I saw that, my brow furrowed and I mentally sneered at them. It seemed so horribly obnoxious. A planned temporary stay in an MMO? A trial perhaps, but who would be so obnoxious as to lead an MMO on like a woman who wrapped a man around her finger until her real boyfriend came back from vacation. The nerve! The gall! An MMO is designed to go on for years after all, if you didn’t plan on staying for the duration, why be there at all?

That thought stewed with me for some time, and I tried to rationalize it out as best I could, why I must clearly be right despite my own prior MMO hoppings. I would ultimately come to believe it was because of the plan. When I came to a game it was at least with the intent of staying as long as I could. That seemed far more reasonable.

But that could do nothing to satiate the thoughts that nagged at me. It reeked more of naivete than good intentions. What good was it to be part of a persistent world if you weren’t just as persistent in your existence in this world. Only then did it finally dawn on me; I was depressed. Not in terms of existentialism, but I was depressed at the thought that I wouldn’t actually stay with the game forever, and with such futility in mind, why should I even bother? Why should I buy the next shiny new game, if I would only purchase it while wistfully looking at the horizon for the next MMO that was really going to be “the one” this time? It was like playing an MMO after the announcement was made that the servers were shutting down; You were just passing the time.

One could say the point of games was to pass the time, but who actually approaches a game thinking, “I’ll get this much closer to death!” You look forward to actually having fun, not the explicit goal of passing the time. I’ve long since gotten over this, acknowledging that I’m here to have fun with people if I can, and if I’m going to stay for years on end, it will be because I haven’t stopped having fun, NOT for the purpose of feeling more permanent.

Do you ever feel like you lost the fun, waiting for the next big thing?

 

((This archive post has been edited to better relate to the current times.))

iCan’t Wait (Archive)

Hello again Internet, it’s been too long my friend. It’s Riknas again, and I actually have something worthwhile mentioning, unbelievable as it is. While some people say otherwise, it’s a little known fact that Pocket Legends isn’t actually the first Mobile MMORPG (Or MMMORPG, if you will). Rather, the first attempt was Era Of Eidolon. Unfortunately, the game is now deceased. In fact, I only once came across it myself, not even on my cellphone at the time. Instead, I first discovered the main (Now defunct) site which encouraged me to play the game using a drawn cell phone, so what few keyboard buttons I was able to play with would show the corresponding buttons of the phone being pressed. Essentially, it was encouraging me to start clicking on the phone interface, and then to download it to my own phone. At the time, I was disgusted at being forced to do something so silly as playing a game on something other than my computer. Never mind that, when I did, they had the gall to force me to pretend I was playing on a phone!

In retrospect, I regret not playing it more, as the experience literally lasted a matter of minutes before I was dissatisfied with the controls and dropped the game, not even bothering to try putting it on my personal phone. Far from a masterpiece of a game, its a shame to see something so different disappear. Even trying to dig up any mention of the game was remarkably difficult; which just goes to show how quickly the game slipped under the radar, as I was unable to find ANY information about the progress being made in the game, or why it even shut down. Albeit, if there’s no information at all and no one covered it, it’s likely to say it wasn’t able to develop any audience of any kind, which made it all the more tragic. Even the original company, WatAgame has either shut down, or seen radical changes making something called ‘goSupermodel’, which is supposed to be a special community for girls, (Don’t you dare ask me to look at that…though I probably will anyway, as part of a separate entry). In the end, I feel almost responsible for the game’s disappearance because I never gave it a chance myself.

That said, while Pocket Legends isn’t the first to tap into the Mobile audience, it is the first to try making an MMMORPG (sorry, you’re right, it’s too long of an acronym) in 3D. Furthermore, considering the fact we’ve heard of it, that’s a good sign that the game will have at least more longevity than its predecessor. I haven’t looked at it, but considering that it is debuting as both the first MMORPG on both the iPhone and recently released iPad means that both Space Time Studios and Apple will be getting themselves a foothold in a new market. Color me interested, I’ll be investigating this game soon.

This is Riknas, signing off!

Land As Far As The Eye Can Sea (Archive)

Hey guys. You wanna chat? If yes, you probably should go talk to someone, because these paragraphs, although they say a lot, never let you get a word in edgewise (In other news, I’m still not that funny).

Poor humor aside, I’m willing to bet money that if you read this blog you also probably know about Dark Fall’s Sea Expansion . While I applaud them for working on this game so diligently, I’m most interested about the fact that Aventurine is actually letting people sail the seas of Agon. Like it or hate it, you have to at least give Darkfall credit for staying so true to itself. Although I’ve played the game and know that it isn’t quite my thing, every time I see an update on it I feel like there is a crowd of the “cool” people cackling about the fact they’re in the cool game while I go around flapping wings and fighting crime.

Back to the sea though, I must say that water and I don’t get along much anymore. Sure, I drink plenty myself, but after falling asleep in the shower enough, suffering from sea-sickness for nearly every-boat ride I have ever been on, I have learned to be quite wary of it. Quite honestly, I wish I had straight rocker hair like Beau, because I have to completely soak my hair when I get out of bed so that it doesn’t come out as some surreal mohawk.

Imagine it like this, only worse.

But…uh, yeah. I hate water. Despite that, I always feel especially fascinated by it, and I was remarkably disappointed when Pirates of the Burning Sea flopped. In the end, I was underwhelmed by the execution, though I was glad they gave it a try. Never the less, that hardly means my desire to see sea-faring was satiated. I distinctly remember feeling somewhat entertained waiting for the boats during my brief sojourn in WoW. And always I enjoyed get aboard that boat and searching the few rooms in it, and watching the boat go across the water, which would ultimately transfer into a boring loading screen. I almost wished that it just hid the loading screen with just a longer wait aboard the boat. I’m not even saying I want to be captain aboard a bout. More than likely I’d be horrible sailor because I was too busy throwing up overboard, or even worse on the deck or something.

While I’m not going to pound on the devs for not thinking of this or declaring this to be a must in the next MMO, but why don’t we even use boats as a setting anymore? In the same way people wanted to walk aboard their starships in Star Wars Galaxies, and plenty more clamored and begged still to explore more of the ship space in Star Trek Online. Even DDO, with so many instances, nearly all of them are just going through large land masses or dungeons of some kinds. Of all these IPs, and some as vicious as they are, I somewhat doubt that the only thing the ocean is good for, is to be a convenient excuse for a loading screen.

Are there any sort of settings you’d like to see presented more often in your game?

((This Archive post has been edited to better reflect the current market. Other minor changes to improve quality were made.))

Community: You’re Doing It Wrong (Archive)

My father once told me, if I have nothing to say, I should not bother saying anything at all. However, this is also the same person who told me to go play in traffic, so I’ve since decided that his wisdom is as practical as shoving a fork into an electrical outlet. However I suppose I will make a disclaimer in saying the following words are composed of not-nice things, to which some may call, “mean”.

You see dear reader, both you and I are online gamers. As such, we have the inherent good nature of being connected to each other via this online community. This is something that MMOs especially have as one of their major positives. By being part of an MMO, you become inexplicably connected to your community. You connect with the people on the forums, you connect with the people in your guild, the guilds have their coalitions, and you’ve developed a connection tolerance to the people who never shut up in global or zone chat. It’s really quite charming, don’t you think?

It seems only natural that other game companies have been green with envy as they wished they had such a heavily layered community that tries to get so intimately involved with them. Tell me, when was the last time you heard of the players who all partied together as they hopped on with EA and asked about their next MADDEN game? If you can tell me, I’d actually rather you didn’t, and I would encourage you to realize you are the minority, and to note that I hate you. I also request you take your keyboard, place it on the floor, and step on it until the keys stop working.

Obviously game journalists try to talk to developers, it’s part of their job and its something they are very passionate about. But for the most part MMOs and a few exceptions rarely have such strong bonds. This is especially the case where the games are single player. Honestly, how much interaction do you expect to milk out of people playing Assassin’s Creed? And the developers are catching onto the answer: Not much.We are seeing this evidenced primarily by Bioware (And their infamous DLC fueled by Bioware Points , Bungie with their Halo Waypoint, and most recenty Ubisoft pushing forward U Play. With the exception of Bungie, I would say this, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Now am I not against progress (Or whatever you want to call it), fostering brand awareness/loyalty is not a crime, and I could not stop it anymore than I could stop the sun from setting or the wind from blowing, or from Cold Play making the same album over, and over (Yes. That’s my one music joke for the year).

But that doesn’t mean I can’t point out the flaws in their methodology. The first obvious problem, would be the flawed attempts at advertising, which essentially equates to the fact that there aren’t enough. Never while playing Assassins Creed 2 did I learn of “U Play”, instead I was only perplexed by the occasional “U” that popped up on my screen. I then shrugged, assuming it had something to do with one of my achievements, and moved along. Meanwhile, BioWare took a step in the right direction by essentially handing you a free piece of content, to whet (Yes, there is an “H’ in this case) but ultimately falls short in the actual page execution where they insist on letting you buy more than you can actually use. From a design perspective it makes sense to have there ahead of time as a placeholder; someone might even buy more than they need ahead of time! To this, I present an image to illustrate their understanding of PR:

To all, with the exception of the extremely thick, letting you buy more than you can do anything with makes you look bad. Even if you are money grubbing, you’re not supposed to tell me up front. Most importantly, it makes you look like you’re not sure what you’re doing. Both Bioware and Ubisoft try to push out these new ideas with only one game to back it up; it’s agonizingly obvious their testing it out instead of taking a confident move forwards. Perhaps I sympathize too much with typically Asian business ideologies, but implementing an idea with only one thing backing it is horribly uninspiring. Like the 3D Vision technology Nvidia is trying to ram down our throats. Sure, some people want to be on top, but who wants to buy into a technology no one is really using right now? I don’t care how you want to approach it, but I would recommend a stronger show of confidence in a project. One method would be to spearhead it with one new game while seeding in retro-active content for earlier games, though this may be a bit of work logistically speaking. On the other hand, designing games with this in mind sounds far more plausible; Assassins Creed 2 has it, and the latest Splinter Cell will no doubt have it as well, couldn’t you wait for both to come out first to make a better impression?

Come on guys, let’s shape up.

/Rant

Free Play Reviews: Shaiya (Archive)

Shaiya by Aeria Games

Well damn, number nine and we’re still here. Hard to believe it’s already been two months huh? Although some say that people will pay more for better quality, Andras and I will stay here to demand the best of both worlds.

Let’s get right into it then, eh?

The Story

The back-story to Shaiya is a simple one, however it leaves a feeling that you are part of a rather epic battle.

The idea is that after the Nordein people (a large brutish race) were removed from their throne up high in the heavens of by the goddess Etain, the Dumianas (Elves, really) grew angry with her, and actually killed her. As a result, gods fought each other for the control of Teos, plaguing it with monsters.

Eventually, it would come down to two goddess, one representing light, and the other representing darkness, still fighting over the world of Teos. As a result, the Dumianas split into two factions, both siding with the different gods. Those allying themselves with the goddess of light would call themselves Elves (told you), and on the opposing side were the Vail (I don’t care what anyone says, these are just Dark Elves).

As the war raged on, the Nordein returned, calling themselves “Death Eaters” came to the aid of the Vail, and the Humans appeared to ally with the Elves. You must choose who your loyalties lie with, and help bring an end, to this ongoing struggle.

Getting Started

So, now you’re pumped to play right? Let’s get that character set up. But before you do that you need to pick which army to ally with. You can either join the Alliance of Light, (Elves and Humans) or the Union of Fury (Vail((Dark elves)) and Nordein). This sounds important in the beginning, because you can only be on one side per server. But since there’s two servers to choose from, it really isn’t that big a deal. In the end it hardly even matters what side you take, since each race mirrors the other in the classes they use, and their only real difference is in name only.

Humans are mostly like the Nordein, and Elves are similar to the Vail (And vice versa). Although this removes a layer of uniqueness, this makes sure everyone is on even ground.

One thing that is however interesting about the classes is how the classes are set up in description, and is similar to Anarchy Online’s (Also covered in Free Play #5) class system. Although Shaiya doesn’t actually slap a difficulty level on the classes, it does have a set of bars rating the Attack, Defense, Group effectiveness and Solo effectiveness, making it easy to figure out what class suits your play-style best.

Lastly, you must decide what difficult you want to play on.

What?

This goes on the aspect of “interesting” things in the game (Note I didn’t say “good”, just “interesting”). There are four difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Ultimate. On easy mode you double the experience you gain, however you can not learn “Special” skills, and only can reach level thirty. In normal, you go at normal XP gain, but can also reach level fifty, etc etc. Now, you might be thinking, “Well, I’m going to just start on Ultimate and not have to grind through those first three difficulties.” But, of course, you can’t. You must beat Normal to unlock Hard, and hard, to unlock ultimate. I was initially impressed at the concept of “easy” for just helping you dip your foot in the water, but forcing you to go through three more difficulty levels, each at a higher level cap, and slower speed seems cruel.

However, to some it is a pleasant way to extend your full game experience (If you actually enjoy being forced to do that sort of thing, I don’t want to meet you.)

But let’s not be dragged down by that quite yet, it couldn’t hurt to give the game a try can it?

GamePlay/World

Yes, yes it can.

This opening has got to be one of the most disappointing beginnings ever. After a brief in-game tutorial, no matter what race I play, I get some kill-quest to find some strange animal, which happens to be so powerful, that the guards can’t handle it. In the case of my human fighter, apparently they are being overwhelmed by a plague of thief monkeys.

Thief Monkeys? Really? Okay, fine. At least it’s different. So it looks like I’m going to go hunt for them in the forest and then make some gold I guess.

Except that’s not the case either, I walk maybe ten feet outside the town to find that it seems the entire road is covered in these non-hostile monkeys, who just walk back and forth, barely straying from the road if at all. When one is killed, moments later another comes back in a bright light.

…Maybe the guards just couldn’t see the monkeys with those big helmets they have on, yeah?

As I completed quest after quest, all amazingly close to each other, I noticed that they occasionally have timed quests, which I also call “grind quests”. The entire point of these quests is to kill as many enemies of a certain type that you can within sixty minutes and still get back to the quest giver. Usually there is a minimum amount that you need to kill for the reward, but the higher amount of enemies killed, the better the gold reward is. So, that’s kind of interesting, not bad either. However it was on my third timed quest for my Nordein where I realized why all quest enemies are so close to each other.

They don’t give directions.

That’s right, for some inane reason, the developers thought it would be a cool idea if they gave you a marker to find people you owe quests for, but not for where your actual targets are. It then became a painfully long time attack to scour the map for that one type of enemy, because it has to be a specific type of enemy. For instance, kill five Doomfall Sentinels. Not a thing else. Doomfall Warrior? No. Doomfall…Hero? No. Just the sentinels. Now I’m no longer looking to find where the enemies are, but where I left my sanity as I wandered up and down the hills to find those Arachne creatures.

Although in the overall scheme of progression, it can be a pain to get some of these things done, playing the game itself is very nice. The in-game animations are very realistic and fluid, making you feel much more immersed in the game play as you use your double sword to slash your opponent to the side, or bringing down your large two handed axe onto the enemies head. And that’s just using auto-attack. All attacks are well done, and is definitely a step up from World of Warcraft.

PVP

Although the PVE in Shaiya is lacking, the PVP in it is a shining beacon to other games, and can be compared to a more limited form of Lineage 2. Shaiya sports 1500 vs 1500 realm versus realm combat, with  the Union of Fury and Alliance of Light players going head to head for dominance. The winners of these battles are given the blessings of their goddess, empowering them even further. For those who’d rather fight on smaller scales, there is Guild Versus Guild combat, and an Arena for all to compete in.

The combat has a nice combination of number crunching (Distributing points into stats and skill strengths) and fast paced combat, by knowing when to conserve your energy and use your skills, while double tapping the left, right, and back movement keys to avoid getting hit.

Admittedly not many games are good at PVP, but this game really knows what it’s doing in this regard.

The Catch

Aeria Games, like most Asian F2P MMOs, features a Micro-Transaction system to buy in-game items. One special thing about it is that you first must buy “Aeria Game Points”. Aeria points are a universal RMT system that you can utilize in any of Aeria Game Entertainment’s MMOs, so that if you buy an excess, but get tired of one of their games, you can use it in one of their other ones.

The only downside is the one that follows all F2P MMOs is that the paying players can have the upper-hand over the free players, however that can’t be helped, as they’re trying to add incentive to get you to pay. However there is no actual problem that makes it even harder for our fellow cheap-skates.

Conclusion

Shaiya online is mediocre at best if you like PVE content, however it is a great place to go for people who enjoy PVP. If Lineage 2 is starting to burn a hole in your pocket, but you don’t want to give up bashing other players, I’m going to suggest giving Shaiya a shot.

However, if you’re looking to adventure and slay dragons with your friends, look elsewhere.

This is Riknas, and I hope you got some good info from this Free Play Blog.

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((This review was written in the year 2009 and may not be completely faithful to the current state of the game))

Free Play Reviews: Dofus (Archive)

Hey guys, Riknas again, if you didn’t pick up on it from the title, this week I’m covering Dofus by Ankama. Take a seat, and enjoy (Or try, at least.)

The Story

This game takes World of Warcraft’s accessibility to a new level, by giving a simple story that most children could understand, it’s so short it hardly warrants its own section. I don’t even have an excuse why it does have its own, other than “I feel like give it one.”

There is legend of seven elemental eggs, each with great amounts of power, as an adventurer, you seek to collect them, and become a great hero. It’s not much more complex than that. However if you really want to read it, just click here.

That said, if you’re a big fan of huge back-stories and the like, you might want to just turn back now…

Getting Started

Okay, so you’re still reading. If you are, then I would assume that you’re either interested/not-bored by the story, or  you just really like reading what I have to say (If only that were true…).

After booting up the game, if you have not chosen a server to go on, it will automatically choose one for you with priority first on your location, and then on population.

Soon after, it will ask you to choose your gender and class.

The classes all have basic stories behind them(All about as complex as the main story…), and each represent a different race and god.

The twelve races consist of:

Iop’s Heart: The knight character, with decent defense and attack.

Cra’s Range: The archer.

Feca’s Shield: The tank.

Sacrier’s Blood: Your berserker DPS class.

Sadida’s Shoe: A witch class, focusing on using living dolls to attack their enemies.

Osamodas’s Whip: Another summoner class, sending animals to do their bidding.

Enutrof’s Fingers: An adventurer class, focused on weakening enemies to make them easier to fight themselves.

Sram’s Shadow: A rogue class, with emphasis on traps to start combat.

Xelor’s Sandglass: A time wizard (Or something like that…) that has emphasis on preventing the enemy from participating in combat.

Pandawa’s Pint: A warrior class that gets strength from ale (Similar to white-trash like myself), that enables them to carry their allies to safety.

Ecaflip’s Coin: A warrior class that bases everything on chance, giving you the opportunity to do tremendous damage, or actually heal your enemy.

Enirispa’s Hand: A caster class, focusing on buffs to empower their allies and themselves.

After choosing what suits you best (Or picking which furry you like most, you dirty perv) You should feel free to customize your character, once again though, don’t expect anything too elaborate. In this character creation, the biggest change you’ll really have is the gender of your character. The rest you’ll be effecting is the color of your outfit and hair. Yea. I tried thinking of a joke to make about how painfully simple that is, until I realized a week had gone by and I had a dead-line to make.

After that, and a brief cutscene you’ll finally be able to enter the world, where you find yourself in front of a statue of your god, and an Eagle Man who is willing to help explain the world around you. This is also rather brief, and only really explains combat, which is already rather simple. However you also will have a small blue pet called “Boone” that will explain things to you as you go along to explore the world.

GamePlay/World

This game is unique both graphically, and in how you play. You view the world beneath you, looking down on your character Diablo style, as opposed to the traditional MMO where your camera trails directly behind your character. On top of that, the world has a very anime-cartoon ( I don’t know if that can be considered an actual phrase, but I don’t care) look to it. Movement is performed by clicking where you want to be, and your character goes to that location the fastest way possible. The world is heavily instanced, and you travel to different areas by walking onto little compass shaped symbols placed on the edges of the area you’re in.

On top of that, it boasts a unique combat system which is similar to the Xbox 360 (And now PS3) game Enchanted Arms. If you liked that, you’ll probably like this style of play. In Dofus, when you enter combat (Which is performed by walking into hostile NPCs you see) you are sent into an instance of the very instance your in, and the area suddenly becomes a grid, covered in squares. Your enemy is given several starting positions to choose from (Which are marked in red) and you are also given several squares to position yourself in (marked in blue). Once you click the “ready” icon the battle begins. It will (usually) start as your turn, and there is a timer for you to decide what to do. Based on your character type, you’ll like either try and keep a distance from the enemy, or move into attack. Certain character classes can attack from farther away from others.

For example, as you might imagine, an archer will be able to attack from several squares away, where as a swordsman will usually be only able to attack from one or two squares away. As the number of enemies you encounter on the grid increase in the higher levels, you’ll find yourself needing to use more and more strategy, as you decide how to best use your action points (mana/energy). Because your health does not regenerate (unless you level up), you might find yourself constantly trying to weigh the risks of whether or not another fight is a good idea. Of course, you could just find yourself increasingly annoyed, and since you are not introduced to a store to shop at in the Free version, the lack of potions and equipment can have you going back and forth to the health fountain might just make you sick of your miserable existence on the computer.

Crafting is like most traditional MMOs, where you learn to gather and create things with them. The only issue people might have is how specific each crafting skill is when you can only have three professions. For example, Shield smith, Axe Smith, and Sword smith, are all their own professions, and you clearly can’t learn them all without having a gathering skill, so being entirely self-sufficient is out of the way. This isn’t helped by the fact that Free gamers are not allowed to join guilds, and have no access to the markets.

The Catch

I’ve eluded to the catch several times, and I still haven’t even went into all of it. Have you noticed the lack of the PVP section? You know why that is? PVP is just for members, which includes factional warfare. As I said earlier, you also can’t access merchants, or join guilds. You’re stuck in one zone, which is known as Astrub village, and are thus stuck fighting monsters no higher than level 20, and with levels going all the way to 1000, it’s hard not to feel left out. You will also be unable to equip items found outside of the village (though I guess that won’t be too much of a problem if you’re stuck in there…) and are unable to have pets of your own.

Really, the game isn’t actually a Free to Play one, so much as  a game that just happens to offer a free trial/demo.

Conclusion

Dofus is a game different from the traditional MMO, however different isn’t necessarily good. Although easy to install and boot up, the cartoon-like art style tries to appeal to a younger audience, but the game itself may also appeal to fans of turn based games like Enchanted Arms and Final Fantasy.

However, the game isn’t Free Play, so much as it is a discount MMO, at the cost of only 7 dollars a month, or 65 dollars a year (For those who pay up front ). So if you’re curious, give it a try. It won’t cost you a thing, aside from time. But if you’re into MMOs, you probably have plenty of it…

This is Riknas, and I’m signing out, until next time folks…

((This archive post was written in the year 2009, and may not remain faithful to the current game.))

The Mainstream Identity (Archive)

I was listening to the Van Hemlock podcast yesterday, and while I’m sure there’s plenty to said about those guys, that is not my goal for today. Rather, I would like to hyper-focus on a quote that initiated a thought, which ultimately became the blog you are reading (If it’s not the post you’re reading then…well…I don’t know. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, “How?”).

Now, this has no doubt been brought up many times before, and I’m fairly certain, qualified as Jon Shute may be, he was most likely not the person to first mention how the barrage of releases we are seeing are affecting the actual Online Gamer population. Simply put, aside from World of Warcraft, MMOs have been more or less cycling through the same number of people. Massive a population we are, there are still only a finite number of humans, and so naturally there are only a certain number of MMO players. The most well known example of multiple MMOs strangling each other would no doubt be the rivalry that had existed between the Age of Conan and WAR as the two yelled and screamed at each other through the gaming dimensions over who had the grittier game, the better PVP, better IP, larger shoe size…wait…where was I again? Oh yes. Suffice to say, when AoC first came out, there was a dip in the number of WoW players, and AoC swelled. Eventually people flocked out of AoC back to WoW, and when WAR came, again, some people left Conan and Azeroth to visit WAR. Again, some stay, but plenty more were just tourists, who went back to their “Home” game.

The popular term is that these games are just cannibalizing the MMO market without bringing in new players.

The MMO market at its finest.

The “real” face of the MMO Companies

This again, has been applied to many things. There are of course some factors that net a small number of new players (Intellectual Properties, the people who are playing AoC or Lord of the Rings just because they are Tolkien or Howard fans). But these are tiny details that come across as specks in the big picture. Ever since World of Warcraft came out, these games have picked at the more adventurous spirits who just discovered these new and amazing Massively Multiplayer Online Games. This seems to be the cardinal sin that people will always bring up, but I now ask, “So what?” At some point, you really can’t push the numbers, certain interests will attract certain people, and you can make it more accessible, but that doesn’t mean you can make everyone like something. MMOs didn’t go and become mainstream. World of Warcraft just happens to be a mainstream MMO. A genre is not mainstream when a subsect is. You could say Halo is a mainstream FPS, but that doesn’t mean the FPS genre is main stream. What does main stream even mean? To me, it essentially equates to a house hold name. If you say Halo, someone will recognize it. If you say World of Warcraft, someone will recognize it. It is big enough to be a phenomenon, and that is what makes it main stream. Your grandmother probably doesn’t play either, but she’ll nod her head thinking, “So that’s what the kids are doing these days.”

So, when we have all these demographics playing something, (Have you seen all the kinds of people and guilds there are in WoW?) we find niches. At a certain point though, if we somehow expand so much more, they become their own sub-groups that the other players don’t jive with. That’s practically the point of guilds, to gather like-minded folks. Guilds for raiding, PVP, PVE, RP, etc etc. In the end, we’re only going to play with so many. And so you can say fine, that you think WAR and AoC are choking each other, and we’re all just acne on the back of Blizzard, but I’m really not losing any tears only being with Super Hero fans while I’m in Champions Online. No hard feelings to the happy grand father playing the wii, the young girl playing peggle, but we probably wouldn’t be best of buds, because in the end we are on differing spheres of the gaming interest. I could go on and on with more examples and justifications, but I’m long winded as it is. Just give these fledgling MMOs a break, they have enough trouble as it is.

Investigating The Secret World (Part 3)

Alright. Now that we’re at Part Three I’m done giving background,  I’m just going to talk about mostly about the game play and questing in The Secret World. If you want to catch up, just check out Part One and/or Part Two. As I said before, there may be spoilers in these posts.

By the time I got through the starter area, I had a pretty good understanding of the faction I was working for, and each of the NPCs I interacted with were fully-voice acted, and I could ask them a variety of questions such as the state of the secret world, their opinions on the other factions, and themselves. Also, after initially meeting with them you can also check to see if they have any quests. So far, any NPC presented quest would be explained in the form of a cut scene, leading to a switch in perspective for the camera. I would say this does make the quests seem more dramatic than having six other people standing in front of the character with you, and while I wouldn’t say that they blow me away each time, I find the consistency to be a positive improvement compared to what we had in Age Of Conan.

Concept Art: “The Besieged Farmlands”

That said, quests so far rarely feel like the run of the mill quests we have in other MMOs. While it’s possible I may not have gotten in far enough, the closest thing I had to a mundane quest was to lure a group of enemies into a magically protected church. This did in fact consist of me shooting them and then running off, but it was explained to me as a way of testing the magic wards the church had in place. It wasn’t especially complicated, but it was more interesting luring five of them as opposed to merely killing five of them. In another quest, I was supposed to help resupply an isolated town under siege by zombies. Instead of simply marking on my mini map each of the locations, first I had to find a phone book and check the list off addresses there. I would like to point out interacting with the phone book was very thorough, I didn’t just right click it and then have it assigned to my mini map, I actually had the opportunity to look at it; the phone book had actually addresses, phone numbers, and the names of each of the locations. Because I could visit the phone book prior to the quest, this time the important addresses were circled in red. It was only then did my character decide which areas would be best best to investigate. Some areas had supplies, and some had giant monsters waiting to eat off my face. Once I had finished checking out all the buildings I had first circled, my character noticed he did not actually have enough, and I had to find another phone book to figure out what to do next. In another quest, I found myself chasing flocks of ravens and then examining a drawing of a pentagram in order to find the right location to put the raven feathers I had collected to summon a monster.

While the puzzles and concepts I was being introduced to were reasonably simple, from what I can tell there are supposed to become much more complicated: they actually have an in-game browser that connects you to Google so you can do research. I would also like to point out that this browser worked significantly better than the original browser built into EVE Online. Really, this is the first time I’ve ever played a game that outright told me, “You’re not going to figure it all out on your own.”

“Besieged Farmlands” In-Game

Now, let’s talk about the real game play where you kill things. Before you can get to fighting zombies, monsters, and those dirty stick in the mud Templars, you need to pick a weapon (If you’re a Templar, don’t bother. You’re already dead). As you progress through your faction starting area, at some point you will be sent to a trainer that will explain the basics of how combat works. This trainer goes on to explain the fire that you seem to have control over (as mentioned in Part One) is your “anima”. For some reason you are able to project this life energy inside you to be a deadly. As such, the question you have to ask yourself is, “How do I want to control it?” This is supposed to be the defining reason why The Secret World is an RPG progression. Any weapon you choose to use is ultimately a focus object for you to project your anima. You have three categories to choose from, Melee, Ranged, and Magic. These three categories each have three weapons associated with them. Melee is composed of Hammers, Swords, and Fist Weapons. Ranged consists of Shotguns, Dual Pistols, and Assault Rifles. Last, we have Elemental, Blood, and Chaos Magic.  At any one time, you can use two weapons and fourteen abilities associated with them (Seven active abilities, and seven passive abilities). This is explained to you in a video shown via the in-game browser. Let me just say, the announcer manages to make everything sound awesome. He tells you to consider abilities as cards in a collectible card game, and the abilities you choose to use are your “deck”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t actually sound like something to get you pumped. Maybe you think it’s kind of cool, but you wouldn’t go and call it exciting. At least, not if this was being explained by a normal person. The announcer for this manages to say all of it so seriously when he finishes saying, “deck” I think to myself, “Holy crap, this MMO lets me me pick and choose my abilities like its a deck in a collectible card game!” Chances are this guy could convince me that you should only be able to solo in MMOs and that all single player games should be multiplayer only. Really, that guy could get me to buy anything. That said, while all this freedom is well and good, and I may now have a man-crush for the narrator, it doesn’t actually determine whether or not it’s fun.

On the surface, you might think that the combat is more of the same. And to be fair, you can see the similarities to “standard MMO” fighting. However, because you don’t level up through a power tree or a strictly linear system, there is a more strategic mindset for when you start picking abilities you want to learn and use, and the combat itself and feel a bit more fast paced and tactical. Having said that, I think it’s  actually really hard to peg it as “fun” or “not fun”, because it all really depends on how you feel about classic MMO combat. If you think that’s fun (or fun enough), this could either interest you as a step up, or turn you off for being too different. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something different, this might be enough to pique your interest, however to some it might still be too much of the same old thing. Personally, I find the combat to be just different enough to satisfy me.

Overall, I would say that my time spent with The Secret World was pretty enjoyable. Because I have the game pre-ordered and have access to the last beta weekend, you can bet I’ll be talking about this game for a while.

Riknas, signing off!