Thursday, June 30, 2011

A simple life in Wurm

Over a week ago I decided to try out Wurm, thinking I would not like it. That belief came from the fact that I’ve never played a game without set objectives, so I had no idea if I’d know what to do.

Then I started playing it to prove myself either right or wrong. And, as I’ve described on my first impressions of the game, I was wrong.

Wurm is very different from other games I’ve been playing, starting by this one detail: life is delicate there. You don’t have any sort of overpowered attack to fend off the wild beasts right as you start. You have a sword and a shield, and that’s it. You get hurt, REAL hurt if you want to jump from a cliff. You move slower if walking on grass as opposed to walking on a paved road. Water and food levels will matter while healing from wounds and while working on your crafting.

This lead me to a very basic human survival technique: to seek a group and improve my chances of survival. Joining a village is not about loot or about having a group to raid with, it is about surviving on an easier pace and having a good shelter. And because I love to chat. 



The Hindmania village is a good home, with Fazz and Madlink helping me tons and putting up with my thousands of questions that the wiki won’t answer, not to mention that they make me company while I work for hours to raise the walls of my small home or while I try to improve little pottery jars. So here are some adventures in a short version:

My first kill
There is a little willow forest on a hill near the village, connected by a paved road. As I made my way up there to get a sprout, I am greeted by a giant black bear. Fazz and Madlink came to my rescue, and it’s like a classical MMO, withFazz tanking, me doing horrible DPS and Madlink healing. Innkeeper also helped with providing me with a bow, arrows and a target to train, which I still didn’t have a chance to test against real creatures.




Meeting the community
The local channel can help you talk to people nearby. So far I’ve met one of our neighbors and a passerby seeking tar. I also “helped” this passerby kill a goblin. The community is helpful and friendly as I’ve seen. In the village itself there are plenty of shores to be done, and it is nice to be able to help. Sometimes I will farm the fields, and even had a risky business brushing angry bulls the other day.

I even read the dreaded global chat sometimes, and to my surprise, I’ve seen players enforcing chat rules instead of just breaking them. The help channel is also full of help, and so far I am pretty happy with the community. Next challenge is to read more of the boards, which traditionally in other MMOs I’ve played, tend to be a negative place. But then, while reading Wurm’s official blog, one of the GMs posted about measures to reduce “troll activity”, which ends with this message: “To all of you who think you are too old for a spanking….  Don’t count on it!” Love it :)

My house
Our mayor Beauturkey gave me 6 tiles to build my own place and keep my stuff safe. I decided to make 3 tiles of house and the other 3 to grow a willow tree and to keep a small cart, once I make one, of course. So far all walls are up and the bed is made. Now to work on containers, light and some grass.




Much crafting!
So far I’ve been making pottery containers, many planks of wood for the house project, healing covers, and been farming on two tiles. One thing leads to the other, and while my initial idea was to be able to make my own food, it has expanded to being able to fight monsters I might find while exploring, farming and fishing. And I am sure those will lead me to even more things to do.

It has been fun to play a completely different game. Special thanks to FazzMadlink and Beauturkey for helping me feel welcome in the village, and consequentially, to the game itself.

A long list of games.

Based on Vagabond Sam’s blog post at MMO Voices, I decided to make a list of my “gaming troubles”: the many games I’d like to play, but I’m only one person! So here it goes:

-  Morrowind GOTY: I never finished it, I spent more time exploring and building up alchemy then anything.
-  Oblivion GOTY: same as above, I never finished, I just did a lot of exploring, alchemy and sidequests. My objective for this tittle is to complete all possible side quests before closing all the oblivion portals... just because they are ugly and ruin the landscape! So I'd like to meet the whole world before that.
-  Fable: I never finished the first title for the PC. I never bought it, "it came with my husband" and I still didn't finish it.
-  The Sims 3: I build a lot of houses, but never manage a family for too long. I'll be getting "Ambitions" soon, so that should change. Hopefully! And I also hope you get yours fixed, it is a wonderful game.
-  Age of Wonders 2 Shadow Magic: I am working on both sides of the campaign at the same time, which of course won't help with managing time.
-  Age of Wonders: I never finished the original compaign, so I'd like to go back to that.
-  Sim City 4: I used to have a nice region when I played on my laptop. Then laptop dies, and I'm too lazy to get the cables and try to transfer HD data by myself. Or to affraid to mess things up horribly.

Now for the scary online list, which deserves a little explanation first: most of my MMO years I've spent playing as the typical healer class. After around 6 months without being a "healer", I am starting to miss it! So I've been checking many games to see if I can find an alternative to going back to a subscription game. Those would be WoW where I have a priest, or Rift where I have a chloromancer (love it!!). Anyway, here it goes:

-  Forsaken World: trying to build a healer and eventually make the game work on our second computer and play the game with my husband.
-  Runes of Magic: trying to build a healer, either priest/mage or druid/warden, I am still unsure and just started checking into the game.
-  Everquest 2 Extended: healer! Trying to level a templar to play with my husband's paladin, which are on the same level. Then out second computer decided not to run EQ2 smoothly, so that project is paused.
-  Faxion: also just started checking this one, and the skill system is something NICE. I can make a healer alright, but I can get interesting skills from other classes if I wish to.
-  Ryzom: a sandbox game I've been reading more then trying to play. It seems less rewarding then Wurm, so I've been spending my time on this second one.
-  Wurm: as I've said, been playing this one and having fun. My projects right now are to build containers for my house and learn how to kill goblins. And to learn enough in first aid to be a good healer, of course.
-  Allods: was also checking healer and mages there.
-  APB: I love how I play this game "just for fun" and have no plans at all :)
- Lord of the Rings Online: My hunter is in what I believe to be the first part of Moria. I am finding it amazing, and would play more if I could organize myself better. LotRO is the kind of game I like to play in long sessions, for I find it immersing, not to mention you can get pretty deep into enemy territory. This week I am only doing festival stuff for the cosmetic and house items though.
-  Champions Online: the game is cool and cute, but I just don't have the drive for it right now.
-  Free Realms: I want to test this one, but still no time.
- Global Agenda: another one I'd like to go past the tutorial.
- Black Prophecy: this game kicked my ass, and I'd like more time to learn it. It looks AMAZING, by the way. It makes me sad when I look at the few SWTOR space ship screens.
-  Vindictus: I've played this game until reaching the end of the "second part", a.k.a sent to kill the huge polar bear, but never did it. Time...
-  Family Farm: and indy title that I'd buy if I had less games to play.
-  Audiosurf: another one I tested the demo, loved it, but have too many titles to play first.

THAT should cover what I have installed on my computer. There are many more titles on my "waiting list". And as of entertainment, I've also been practicing my drawing to try and get back to where I left it 10 years ago, when I could draw people (!) and landscapes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Freedom of Speech and Games

As some of you know, I moved to US just recently. This means that a lot of things here are still new to me, which included my very short knowledge regarding rights and law. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Entertainment_Merchants_Association


But I’d like to share this news from yesterday, that now games are considered protected speech, just like books. Children under 18 (a.k.a 16 years old who had an allowance and a car) wouldn’t be able to buy “violent” games before this change without their parents. Now this has changed, and any 11 year old can get his bike and his little credit card and shop away!

Silliness apart, I have no personal problems with the law at all. I believe parents should be the ones supervising this, and not the government.

What it does make me think though, is if games will change with this. Would tittles that otherwise wouldn’t include blood just add litters of it in every action scene? Will Mario bleed now? Will Sonic say “screw this, I’m getting a shotgun!”? Will Pokemon fights end with “Fatalities” like is Mortal Kombat?

Ok, I’m being silly again, and I don’t believe those children friendly games will change, since after all, parents can still say “no” to violent games their children want to play.

But back in Brazil, when Ragnarok online was recently launched, parents demanded a change in the game. There were two cosmetic items related to smoking: a cigarete and a pipe. They were removed, because the company didn’t what the kids playing to go away in face of the parent’s complaints.

Will all this said and written here, what do you guys think? Will games become less shy about including violence? Have you ever thought a game could have been better with less “sugar coated” scenes and that it did it that way because of age restrictions?

Personally, I hope they don’t add extra violence. I like things without litters of blood running around and I cringe at torture scenes in movies.


(Also posted at MMO Voices)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving!

I wasn't really happy with my old blog's name, so I am moving here. Even tried changing to Wordpress or Tumblr, but I missed the freedom of design from Blogger over there. Even though I don't design that much at all.


Imported all posts, now just need to edit them to fit better here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Perfect World Entertainment can be cute

I just read a cute e-mail from PWE congratulating me for reaching level 10 in Forsaken World this past week. It basically kinda directed how to follow the main quest line, which are the side quests color code, and that the main capital city is always a safe haven to go back to and relax. No cash shop propaganda.

I know it is something extremely simple, but I got impressed. It was friendly, and I was really expecting the email would end with “and come by the store for some flavor items to add into your game time”, and then it didn’t. The e-mail did come days after I got level 10, but yet, so cute. Turbine spams me to spend money much more often then PWE and Aeria, and yet, when reading comments on news posts about MMOs, I see a lot of cash-shop hate going for PWE and Aeria titles. In my experience, their cash shops are very non intrusive and unnecessary to have fun with the game, so I am kinda lost where all the hate is coming from. I’ll assume it is just a “cool thing to hate”, and I am thankful for not being “cool”. 

Rusty Hearts and Raiderz both have their closed beta sign ups going on right now if anyone is interested too, by the way. I got into the Rusty Hearts one already because of a PWE survey that offers a closed beta key if you just press a button to say why you haven’t been logging into one of their games lately (in my case, Perfect World). With that key, I also got two “friend” keys, let me know if anyone would like one of those. The picture is unrelated, but it is an awesome gif I just found stored on my computer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Forsaken World First Impressions

With steam's new list of F2P games, I decided to give Perfect World Entertainment's Forsaken World a try. The game runs smoothly on my computer, but it is interesting that you can toggle certain things to help in crowded areas. Much like in Vindictus, you can choose not to view other players or their pets if you have problems in capital cities.



Before even creating, I'd like to warn about deleting a character: it takes 7 days. So if you are first making lots of characters to be able to read the skills like I do, use crappy names, and just when you make your choice use one that you like, since the character waiting those 7 days will have its named locked.

Character creation has its typical options of colors and designs, with the addition of the "date of birth" detail, giving you the choice to pick a zodiac sign for your character. It makes no difference which ones you pick: the zodiac in the game is a way to pray for hourly rewards, that can be buffs, xp or a material reward. Each hour will belong to a sign, and when it matches your own, chances of better rewards will be a bit bigger. So, in the end, it really doesn't matter.

The races are humans, elves, stoneman, dwarves and kindred (vampires). Each race has some racial skills, but as far as I can tell from this early point in the game, they are always some sort of overpowered AOE attack, so I'd say to pick your race by the looks. These racial skills are powered by Soulforce, which you gain when you defeat monsters, filling up a green bar right by your health and mana.

Dwarf female? No, I am Cattie-Brie 
The only gender lock is about the Stonemen but I will include here the dwarves, even though you can be male or female. And this inclusion is because you actually can't be a DWARF female, you get to be a little cute girl. I personally hate that. The guys get to be the stereotypical round dwarf, but their females are just eternally young and cute, looking like children. I have a problem with that. I don’t mind micro dresses and short shorts on ADULT looking characters, but looking like a child and being an adult with too short of a skirt does not go good with me. By the way, Rift made the cutest female dwarves so far, it is possible without being skinny and young, promisse!

I've played through 3 different tutorials, and they pretty much show you the basics of gameplay and an idea of how your solo experience will be: kill 10 rats quests and pick up items quests. Quest text is a little painful to me, since the color of the text is kinda light against a not very eye friendly background. Could be just me. As for the quality of text, I personaly see that the english version was not translated by a native of the english language. There are no grammar errors, but weird ways to use certain expressions. Also, I've found some quests where it seemed that the text didn't fit, and parts are missing. The story is nothing too amazing, but it has its weird moments that keep me reading it.

A point that I love about the quests is that its items get their own bag. I hope all games with quest items copy this one day. Lotro has it in an even better way, that you don't even see the quest item if it is not an readable one. So big thumbs up about that!

The achievement system comes with a lot of game story and collectibles. Or maybe I confused the two. So far I have only played the tutorials and done some quests around the main city, and the achievements/collections get completed without much thought or search.



You don't really need to think about moving, either. I admit it is pure lazy, and kinda weird, but you can auto-route directly to where you have to go. As quests get listed on your right side of the screen, you can simply look for where you have to go, conveniently highlighted in green, click, and go get a drink, talk on the phone or continue doing your nails. I recall Shayia having something like that, maybe Perfect World too, but I can't be certain. I actually like it, but feel so lazy about it. It might get boring later on, but at least I can read while I move right now.

And there are lots of things to read, by the way. The achievements provide the stories as I've mentioned before, and the game also has an encyclopedia, earned after some initial quests, which will answer some basic game questions.

Right at the beginning, you are given a guide that will tell you of some dailies that can be done as a low level character, as well as some daily dungeons. Also, the game has many daily events going on that I couldn't go check yet, but it is good to know that the game is trying to provide lots of things to occupy the players that get bored fast.

Setting up shop and auction houses are both present, which makes me recall a discussion about such options on the Tera's boards. Personally, I like the presence of both, it is nice to enter a town and have all these shops to check. It can be annoying on computer performance and make a clutter in towns too though. Guess it is the nostalgia kicking in from back when I played Ragnarok Online, and Prontera was just filled with shops on all possible corners.

Also from the starting quests you will be given your first combat pet. So all character, no matter your class, will have a little buddy to help in killing. If pets annoy you, just don't summon it. This first quest lets you pick among three, which made me recall playing Pokemon on the Gameboy systems. It is either a wolf, a turtle or a sheep. The quest is repeatable, so you can have all of them in the end, but at least at this point in the game, there are only 2 pet slots available. Pets need to be feed and you can interact with them a little. Didn't really do much about them, so I am unsure what else is possible.
Jobs (crafting) has a point system, and you assign these points gained from doing the "main questline" into which professions you'd like to learn. And there are 15! Every 10 levels you unlock a row of them, and the initial tutorial quests incentive you to get all the first 3 ones available, which is what I did on my first character. Gathering is a typical map track, click to gather it style, with Alchemy and Cooking needing a set of ingredients and a progression bar.

In a first view, the game is entertaining, even though it doesn't bring any groundbreaking news to MMOs. I do have a weak spot for beautiful robes though, and admit: part of the reason I abandoned WoW and my priest in that game was the fact that I looked hideous on my raid and PvE gear. Their stubbornness to not add cosmetic slots and their weird art direction just upset me. So I am more than happy to see games like Forsaken World are doing beautifully with the looks of the character robes.

As for the gameplay, Forsaken World is what I call an "in the mood to kill and repeat" kind of game, and I do get that kind of mood sometimes, so I'll probably keep it and learn a bit more about it in the next weeks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Choosing the best LOTRO account for you

If you ever wondered about playing Lotro but feel uncertain of the F2P limitations/advantages, this link provides a great guide. It also explains the "subscribe for a month" technique, which is how I play this game without spending a dime anymore - or for now, and for many months now.

Games and Creativity

This past weekend I've played much less games then I usually do. Part of that is the fact that there's too many out there and I keep looking for new ones. Too tempting! The other part is that I am going back to another hobby I used to have, which is drawing and painting with watercolors. It all started with me getting a box of my old stuff sent from Brazil, and there they were, my old pencils, and I just had to try and see if I could copy this floral image... and BANG I start remembering lots of things, and where I messed up, and why I messed up in this or that color, and how hard it still is to reproduce light.
While I can copy with an OK quality, my objective is to be able to actually create new images from scratch. Have a live model of some landscape and be able to create totally new things in there. That feeling extends to games a lot with my hunger for customization options.
EQ2 is probably the most complete game in that for me right now. I can play the game's objectives of questing, crafting and killing looking the way I want (given the limitations) and take a break building my house's decoration. LotRO also has good cosmetic options, but they have bigger limitations, such as determined furniture spaces in the houses and less cosmetic options in the outfits. And then, APB is just amazing about customizing clothes and vehicles.
So I decided to check Wurm, see how far the possibilities there can go. It is the first "sandbox" title I've ever played, and the game concept itself, being new, is something that makes me a little divided: I am simply free to do as I wish within the game limits. But after playing so many directed games, that feels a little bit "too free".
But then the game started right for me, with a good tutorial and its funny remarks and sign posts along the way. I love comic relief when it is well done. But most importantly, the game showed me the basics without boring me.
Basically, the game tries to follow your simple steps whenever you want to do anything. To craft, make sure you got the right tool, or if you don't use a tool, make sure to pick the hand you'll be using. Instead of having a list of materials, you got to memorize how to craft the objects, such as a mallet. You will activate your axe to cut down a tree, then cut down logs, then activate a carving knife and carve that log into a shaft, then shape the shaft into the head of the mallet, then back to the fallen log, get another piece, shape it into another shaft, activate that shaft and select the head of the mallet to put it all together. It feels like crafting!
Combat gives you options such as in which direction you are trying to hit your enemy, rather than focus on rolls of buttons with cooldowns. To me this reads as "oh just kill it and be done with it". No animations in for combat yet, so it does feel very dull. Right now, as I check the game, that is fine, since killing is what I'm trying NOT to do, I have dozens of games where I can do that. And I discovered all that while being attacked by a lava fiend loosen in a harbor area. Yeah, was weird, but apparently people imprison these creatures to use as light sources.
The Hindmania village, who has a group on MMO Voices, is simply incredible. Organized and well planned, it is difficult to imagine how it was all conceived. Because that is the point that gets me in drawing: I can copy things just fine, but creating new things is the real challenge, to imagine it first and put it on paper. That is what made me feel most amazed by the Wurm village, that a group of people could have a project and put it to work there. And thank you guys for letting me in :)
I do have a little suggestion for the village though: any chances you could name the streets? Would make it easier if not just plain cute to have this kind of detail.
The final impression after playing just a couple of hours in two days, is that I wish the game was not in 3D. I wish it looked like Ultima Online, but with all that freedom of creation. Or maybe it is just me not used to not being able to zoom out a lot to view better my surroundings. But then that kind of kills the realism they are trying to put on the game, since nobody can really have a bird's view of their own head whenever they wish to.
Anyway, I will keep trying to fulfill my little plan in Wurm: I want to plant things, maybe cook, maybe make healing stuffs. So if I make it to understand how to do all that, I'll probably ask for some space in the village to make a garden. The first person perspective is a challenge though, I am really not used to it.
With that said, does anyone know of other good sandbox games? I've read that Fallen Earth is going F2P, but other than that title and Minecraft (I hate the creepers idea), I don't know of any other sandbox titles. Either that or other games with good customization options will be welcome to my list of "new things to check".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Age of Wonders

EQ2 is not too happy with my husband's computer right now, so I'll be letting him use my PC until we figure out what is going on. So I bought an expansion for an old title and been having fun with it, since it really doesn't need a powerful computer to run.
I used to have Age of Wonders and Age of Wonders 2 back in Brazil, but it got lost during my journey here. But GOG "helped me", and it was even cheaper than last time to get both of those games plus the expansion for Age of Wonders 2, called "Shadow Magic".
Age of Wonders 1
The first game, Age of Wonders, has what I'd call a "delicate" art that appeases me more than the second version of the game. Everything is tiny and each unit has unique art portraits. Difficult to explain, but I just find it more adorable then the second game.
Age of Wonders 2: Shadow Magic
Gameplay-wise, the games are fantasy themed turn-based strategy, like an easier version of Civilization, with less politics and more combat and exploration. The maps are always beautiful and detailed, and while you could simply run after the map's objective without looking around, exploring can reward you special items for your hero/wizard, extra gold and mana, nodes, extra resources and extra units. All of this happens by finding a node, or some ruins where you have to battle monsters and conquer loot, or by finding some independent party which is from your same alignment and is willing to join your cause for a few gold. Or maybe they are from a different alignment and you'll kill them for some xp.
Loot!
To move around the map, each unit has movement points. Some have more than others, and some even have special abilities, such as flight, water walking and mountain climbing. Once all your movements are done, and you did all you could administrating your little cities, it is time to end your turn. Turns can be set up to be simultaneous or each moving on their own turn. I like to have each player with their turn so it is easier to watch what they are doing, when "fog of war" allows, of course.  
Combat is always each with their own turn to move. Movement points are in use here too, as well as the special movements, with highlights to the flying units and the wall climbers having an easy way here to conquer towns and towers with walls. The combat map is not just for cosmetics, since large stones and houses can provide you cover or be an annoyance to your archers and spell casters trying to kill from a safe distance.
Combat in Age of Wonders 1
Combat in Age of Wonders 2
Magic is another big point it the game. Each hero/wizard will have an affinity sphere of magic, which can be either fire, water, air, earth, life and death, with cosmos arriving in AW2. Having an affinity, there are also different sphere points that will allow you to mix some of these schools of magic. So while you can have an affinity with fire and rain fireballs at your enemies, you can add some points in life for healing spells also.
Magic spheres as seen in Age of Wonders 2: SM
Your spellbook is shared between all spellcasters. Spellcasting is a hero skill, and not all of them will have it. In such cases though, you can save up experience points and purchase the skill. To learn new spells you either research or find them for sale while exploring. Research and mana regeneration share a slider, so you can either have more mana per turn or spend less turns on research.
Your spells are separated in Global, Unit and Combat. Global spells can affect the world map and summon creatures: eagles, fire storms and blessings or curses upon whole cities. Unit spells can be cast from the world map or combat to buff  and heal your units, or curse and debuff enemies. And combat spells, as the name suggests, are only available during combat, being damage dealing or debuffing combat area effects.
Spellbook as seen in Age of Wonders 2: Shadow Magic
Being good, neutral or evil is what makes diplomacy useful. You can make peace or war, or even choose to have an allied victory. It can be a relief in some maps where you are surrounded by all sides, and once allied, at least one of the corners you won't need to be watching for attacks anymore. Also gives you a feeling of how multiplayer could go which is a modality of this game that I have never tried. Other then multiplayer, you can even play by... e-mail. I don't think nowadays anyone would have patience for that though!
And example of diplomacy in Age of Wonders 2: Shadow Magic
Each race comes with an alignment already though, so you can't pick to be a nice flower picking orc, sadly. In both games though, there are other races and creatures that you can have or combat no matter your race,  like the summoned creatures, siege engines and priests. 
Each race has different units. Some of them can be a little alike, such as the fact that each race will have a basic foot soldier unit, and an archer, but they'll still have different stats. And then differences just keep growing, like some races being stronger or weaker against certain kinds of magic.
The Races of Age of Wonders 2: Shadow Magic
If you are interested, both games do have demonstrations to download and try to see for yourself what I'm trying to explain here. Also, both editions of the game have active modding communities. AND both games do have map/campaign editors which are shared on that same community, which are their HeavenGames websites.
The games are available at Steam, Impulse and GamersGate also, but I am not sure if there are any price differences when compared to GOG.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Taking a break from elves: my adventures in APB: Reloaded

Most of the games I play are fantasy MMOs. With that said, having a sniper rifle with me and a speeding car is a huge break from killing goblins and orcs!

The first big question was: Criminal or Enforcer? Personally, so far, I prefer to play as an Enforcer. That means I am a cop, with the choice to shoot down criminals or arrest them. Also, killing civilians by mistake will lower my rating, which makes me gain less money while completing missions. It is an extra challenge, since their A.I. to get out of the way is not the best, and probably with the purpose to make life a little more difficult to Enforcers. Also, the idea of pretending to be a criminal is not entertaining to me, though I might try the criminal side later.

Very first impressions were, of course, about the gorgeous character creator. You can be pretty and chubby, or skinny and ugly, or muscular and meanie looking. You'll be able to revisit it later in the game, but it will cost you game-money (not cash). The tutorial covers most things, like equipping you primary and secondary weapons and accessories and how to complete missions. And before you go shooting, remember this: people with names in grey you simply can't hurt in any way. Only those with names in red (enemies) and green (allies) and be hurt by you. So yeah, friendly fire exists, and the punishment for it is quite rough! You become ally/enemy when dispatched for a mission. If there isn't a group/person that matches your skill level, you won't be bothered, but if there is, watch your back, because someone if coming after you. That is called "oposition", and grants more rewards then just completing missions in peace.

Once done with the tutorial, you are asked to pick a district. This will also happen everytime you log into your character. Social is where you do all the fluff related activities, like compose your wardrobe, looks, create symbols and music and customize and buy new cars. It's the "customization mall", and nobody can shoot around here. Just look for the kiosks with the respective symbols. Financial and Waterfront districts are where the action is. I highly recommend accepting the option to automatically group with those around your level of skill. Stay together and try your best not to shoot your own friends or run them over with a car.


 So the game basically works in different maps, and each can hold up to 100 players. I do believe they control it so that it's 50/50 between criminals and enforcers, but while it is not yet full, some maps will show some difference on those numbers.

When you are lucky and get a good team, you'll probably be in a car with another 3 buddies, storming around the city doing missions and taking down your enemies. It's fast paced and easy to sort roles. The city maps are well made, it is easy to find cover and good shooting spots, but they are always reachable from another way. So far, I have not found a "perfect" spot where people simply could not come up with a way to end my sniper happiness. Groups can get pretty big, my record being of 6 people so far, when you call for backup and more people join your team.

Weapons are what I'd call "balanced", but then, this is the very first PvP shooter game I've ever played in my life. And by "balanced" I mean that, even though I can kill an enemy with one shot from the distance with a sniper rifle, I am horrible in short range combat. Then again, my sniper rifle is big and heavy, and I can't sprint while carrying it, just slowly run. I also can't use it from the window of a car. On those occasions I equip my secondary little pistol, which is an easy mouse scroll away, but still in disadvantage  if I just bump with an enemy equipped with a machine gun. Although such situations make me curse out loud, I am happy this kind of balance is present in the game.

The simplicity of the controls are like a vacation from playing EQ2 and LotRO. Shoot, interact, throw grenades, use accessories. I don't need to click anything at all, I use my mouse just to point, shoot and direct my camera. Another great point in APB is the huge amount of it is fun and full of possibilities, and goes beyond an appearance tab, since you can really design what you wish on pieces of clothes and cars.


Even though I am a big noob who can't go past threat level bronze 3, I am happy with this game. It is refreshing to do something I've never done before, having to learn and having all these people much better than me to keep challenging me. The social part of the game is huge, since alone you are nobody and won't stand alive long doing missions. Getting a group automatically is also very easy.

Some people say the game still has lots of hackers and bots, but I sincerely can't tell. Maybe those kids are just plain better than me and I can't tell the difference yet.

Please send in tips and suggestions for this inexperienced shooter player if you have any :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deceiving First Impressions

There are two games that taught me that I just can't judge tittles by videos, screenshots and reviews anymore: "Lord of the Rings Online" and "APB: Reloaded".

The first discovery happened with "LotRO". All images and videos I had seen of it kept turning me down. I thought the combat looked slow, and believed that the theme would make the whole game negatively limited.

 So I never played it, until I found out they had a free trial. I decided to give it a try, because I was curious to see how they had done Middle-Earth, so why not take a look, right?

I made a little hunter, because personally, archer classes are the easier to me to learn a new game. Well, I got hooked in the game. I finished the trial, bought the game, and still play it on the free-to-play model.  And I must add that Moria is one of the most amazing game experiences I've had in a long time (which I didn't finish yet).

I judged the game so wrong from my first impressions and unfounded beliefs!

The same happened to "APB: Reloaded", and this time, I am laughing at my own little ignorance. I'd tell you last week that I don't like shooter games, that I don't enjoy PvP much, that I'd rather not play a game focused on PvP.

But then I recalled things I had read about the game, and the character customization was something that had made me curious, and too little a thing to buy the game to just test it. So there I went, to try "APB: Reloaded". Yeah, I got hooked in the game. I played the whole afternoon, and I plan to keep it.

It is simply silly how much fun I've been having in two games that I had just shoved away. For too long I had used only other people's views of games to choose my next tittles, in fear of losing money. But that doesn't make sense anymore, with so many tittles giving trials, open betas and going free to play. So I wrote this to share this good feeling of being able to actually test the games I hear about, and not just having to rely on information scattered through the internet to judge if a game is worth playing or not.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

EQ2 Extended Starting areas

Back when I started playing EQ2X, I didn't know anyone to ask about which was their favorite starting areas, and why they were preferred. So what I did was to pick the one with the landscape that seemed more interesting: in my case, snow. I saw snow for the first time in my life two years ago, so yeah, it is still amazing to me :)

I won't give spoilers here on the stories, just list some of the comparable rewards and details of each city. City layouts won't matter much if you join a guild with a nice equipped guild hall though, since they generally provide bank and crafting areas all in one place, with portals to your house.

The general start:

You start off right in front of your first quest, marked with a feather on top of the NPC's head. You have to go through the chat balloons to proceed until the quest itself is presented and you get the option to accept or deny. Nearby there will be an extra quest from the Harvesting and Collections guide, to get you started with gathering. Once you complete this quest, which will give you a very big box to put in your bank to help you store your materials, you'll be given the first crafting quest. That will teach you the basics on trade skills, and direct you for further instruction on the nearest "capital" city. All starter areas will have some NPC that will give you instructions. So basically, the tutorial is optional, and the game will just give you that info if you go talk to the NPCs.

New Halas:

This is an area for Good or Neutral characters. New Halas is the major city, which will continue to be neutral no matter if you are Good or Evil, BUT if you are an evil character, NPCs will not want to provide you with services, other than the crafting related ones. That means you'll see all kinds of people here, and be able to visit this "capital" later on, no matter the path you choose at the start of your game.

The city itself is well organized and easy to travel. The bank and the crafting facilities are in the same area as the starter house, though far from the "teleporter globe".

If you hate swimming in MMOs, New Halas might annoy you. You'll be sent to some nearby isles repeatedly. The good point of that is that your swimming skill will go up pretty good. And yes, odd things like swimming, safe fall and even how strong you react to alcohol can be skilled up. The swimming one will let you hold breath longer underwater, and move faster.

The New Halas starter house is the one with the most space and light. You get a huge window and a non animated fireplace (player created fireplaces will have fire options). For pictures, please visit my housing album on MMO Voices. 

The house items awarded you in this area are all about the coldain people. Think barbarians in frozen lands themed furniture. Not my favorite, personally.

Kelethin:

The capital city I hate the most, Kelethin exists between trees, and the buildings are giant accorns. It is a Good only city, so the guards will hit you if you are aligned with an Evil city. For that reason, the city festival happens away from the city itself, so all characters can participate if they wish (I love to think of all the ogres celebrating the fae furniture and cute goodies).

Takes a while to be able to find your way between the many bridges of this city, not to mention the fact that you can fall if you are careless. This is why I hate this one the most, because I still get lost traveling around town. The bank is not exactly close to either the crafting area or the houses, but it still is one of the prettiest cities. There are teleport pads to help you travel around it though.

The starting area and quests are all cute and about defending what is good. There is a bit of cutie voice acting on some quests, and a hidden one not connected to fairies at all. A lot of running around, almost no need to swim, and some climbing.

The starter house is a two room accorn. The rooms are circular, and from what I've heard, that annoys the hell out of some people. It also feels like the smaller house of them all. For some reason, it is my favorite so far. For pictures, please visit my housing album on MMO Voices. 
  
Furniture rewards are my favorite. Everything is cute, with some plants included. And don't let yourself be fooled by the small sized pieces, since you can alter their size.

Gorowyn:

Oddly enough, the dragon-lizard area is the one I find the prettiest. It is just so exotic, in a mix of something oriental, salty, tech and natural. It is the Neutral-Evil city, and like in New Halas, everyone can come in, but they won't really server good characters, just tolerate them.

It is an up and down, going around city, though still easier for me to go around then Kelethin. It has some teleport pads to go from the entrance to the housing and crafting areas, which are very close together with the bank, which is great.

The starting area quests are well organized in different posts and hubs, with lots of voice acting at the start. I am not a big fan of voice acting, but they are not bad. They actually sound like a grumpy dragon-lizard person, I guess. A tip I'll give is to go through the "fisher" guy quests. You'll be directed to him, no problem, but once he tells you of a special fish to be caught, go after it if you wish to have a giant fish mounted at your home. It is a "rare" drop from the fish pools that will start the quest. After some time, you'll get the fish mounted in the mail from completing the quest. Other than that, this area has gryphon posts to travel between islands, so no real swimming and climbing around on this one.

The starter house is a two room, two window, kinda dark house. The rooms are round with sharp edges, kind of like an hexagon. For pictures, please visit my housing album on MMO Voices. 

You are given no furniture while questing in this area though.

Neriak:

Completely underground, it is obvious that R.A. Saltavore's Menzonberranzan city was the inspiration here. It is an Evil only city, with teleporters, but not too difficult to go around on foot if you know which cave you want to go. The crafting area is a claustrophobic little cave, with a bank, but a place I'd rather avoid for the lack of space. It is also far away from the housing area, which is isolated on a side cave of the city, away from the banks also.

The starting area is, in my opinion, the easier of them. All traveling is fast with the safe roads, no need to swim at all, or climb, and the terrain is pretty much smooth and easy to spot what you need to gather and kill.

The starter house is a two room spooky dark stoned building. It is square though, which can be easier to decorate. For pictures, please visit my housing album on MMO Voices. 

The furniture given in this starting area are the most different of them all, and match the dark and evil theme perfectly.

Starter Horses:

Each starter zone will have a quest line that leads to getting a mount. Each mount increases your speed by 25% and looks different from each other. Be aware though that sometimes, if your chosen class has speed buffs, you might be faster on foot than this starter horse.

Kelethin: Tan with green saddle.
New Halas: White with green saddle.
Gorowyn: Brown with red saddle.
Neriak: Dark grey with purple saddle.

There is a nice guide to such quests here, with pictures to each horse, but it is very easy to reach the mount quests by simply completing all the starting quests.

Changing Citizenship:

You can change citizenship through quests. Sometimes there is an actual quest, like when I moved from New Halas to Qeynos, but sometimes it's just some NPC chat and you are changed.

To change alignment, you have to become an Exile. Exiles get their own city while they manage to improve the reputation of their newly chosen citizenship. It is a process I've never done, but I believe this link should prove useful for those interested.

My overall preferences:

After going through all these zones, the one I prefer to go back are Neriak for the easy journey and Kelethin for the cute furniture. All zones have a nice story, though I found Gorowyn more intriguing.

My favorite houses follow the same path, though the fae housing is the one I decided to buy a bigger version. I simply love how you can mesh flowers and other plants in there. Neriak is one of my favorites just because it is a challenge to keep it spooky-looking.

A little tip if you are going to start playing EQ2:

Open your game menu and select Claim. There will be some free stuff for you there, and among them, a cloak that gives you a speed boost. Super useful on the early levels. Limit is one per character, so even if you make dozens of character, they'll always be able to go claim one for themselves.