RIFTing with a Guild

•July 24, 2013 • 4 Comments

Ok, so I don’t often write about gaming. In fact, this blog is so little used I bet most of you forgot that it existed.

But I am a gamer, at least casually (don’t judge) and so there is occasionally something I have to say on the topic.

Feeling Lost

It feels like Psyn and I have been drifting through various games over the last year and a half. We used to play WoW pretty solidly for a couple of years, until SWTOR came along and wooed me with fantastic personal story lines. Not long after my smuggler reached max level, Guild Wars 2 was released & the chance to play a pretty game (I have previously said I am drawn to such) without having to pay monthly for it, pulled me in for a while. The world story wasn’t enough to really pull me in longterm and besides being able to be in higher zones, I didn’t really feel like my character progressed as she leveled. A couple of months later the new WoW expansion was released and I wanted to explore all the pretty new zones. Again, it wasn’t long before the charm and freshness wore off and we started dabbling back in the other games that we had played off and on for 18 months (with several months of non-gaming thrown in).

You see, we wanted to play, but had a hard time finding something that really engaged us.

Enter the RIFT Free-to-Play announcement

A little history now. We had played RIFT for about a month after release. In fact, it was the game that inspired my first ever gaming blog post. Since we were subscribed to another game at the time, we decided that would couldn’t afford to be subbed to two at once. We pretty much decided to stick with our other game because that’s where all of our friends were at the time. Besides, as much as I loved chaining rifts the night I spoke of in my first post, when I came back to that lower zone on a new character a few weeks later, I was behind the pack that formed at release and hated it. The zone was pretty empty and when I tried to tackle rifts with the one other person that was on, we were slaughtered. I determined that the rifts and invasions were too imbalanced for someone who prefers to spend their time in leveling zones. We moved on.

So, back to this drifting between games time. I actually hadn’t really paid much attention to the F2P announcement from RIFT. Psyn did, though, and decided to update the game on his computer to see if much had changed. He talked to me about it and I decided to install it on my computer (we had played when I had a previous computer) to give it a go. We had a blast! Apparently we also both had strong cases of beginner’s luck. Psyn looted a purple Gulanite Hellbug mount from the first rift we closed together (I got a pet) and then I picked up an orange Deeps’ Lock Box just outside Sanctum while questing. The orange one can offer the highest level rewards if opened at max level, including epic gear.

Something was definitely different this time around. The zones were packed due to the F2P announcement, but everything also felt so much smoother and balanced. The rifts no longer seemed overpowering to the people available to fight them. They were still definitely a challenge, but we found we could 2-man some rifts and even solo them if we took things slow. The first time we had played, all the soul choices had overwhelmed me. This time I used a premade role and only started deviating from it when I was comfortable. We went mad with crafting and gathering (always a good sign if we’re willing to invest time/energy in these) and just continued to have a fun time.

Social Creatures

I mentioned on Google+ that we were having a fun time with the game and my friend Belghast over at Tales of the Aggronaut invited us to join a chat channel so we could chat while playing. Until this point, we’d pretty much been on our own, the two of us tackling all the things and tearing them up. We are inherently social people, though. The thing that pulls us into a game more than anything is that sense of community and friendship. We were getting a bit lonely. So, we chatted away in the channel whether anyone else was there or not.

But apparently something else was going on with the people whose guild we would eventually join. A group of friends and gamers who had banded together through several games and were existing as a guild within a guild were at a point where a decision would need to be made about where and how they were going to have a permanent home. The overwhelming response was that they wanted their own guild again, even if it meant building it from the ground up. As prospective members, we were asked to vote and we were 100% behind the small but close-knit guild plan. The guild was formed while we were on vacation, but we were quick to join once we were home on Monday night.

What a world of difference the right guild makes

Within minutes of joining the guild and logging in to their mumble server, a large portion of the guild had mentored down to my cleric’s level and were tearing rifts apart for an invasion in Freemarch. Together, we destroyed the guild quest to close 100 rifts and it felt incredible to be a part of something. Could they have closed rifts in higher level zones? Yeah. The rewards would have been the same (thanks to RIFT’s very well balanced mentoring system) but they chose to come hang out with the newbie. Even last night, while playing my higher level (dinged 40 last night!) mage of the opposite faction, a guildie found us and mentored down to clear an invasion in Moonshade (I think that’s the name of the zone).

I suppose what this has taught me is that the people really do make all the difference. Sometimes game features or mechanics push people away. Sometimes it’s just not your cup of tea, like how I felt about TSW. But if two games are created equal (or close to it, because let’s be real, no game is exactly like another) in terms of fun, but one has a community where everyone is out for themselves and another encourages helpful behavior, I know which one I am choosing. Especially if you have a chance to be in the kind of guild I found. It’s a guild where everyone who joins is the friend or family of someone who is already there. It’s a guild where the rules are simple, but if followed leave you with a home, a community and a family instead of just a guild tag. Can the guild accomplish great things together? Of this, I have no doubt. But being a part of close, tight-knit group, whose goal is just to have fun and enjoy the game?

Yeah, this is the home for me.

Whispers

•September 7, 2012 • 2 Comments

Because Jason really liked this one, I’ve decided to share it with all of you:

She couldn’t block them out anymore. Every moment a new whisper assaulted her ears like a warhorn, each louder and more urgent than the next.

Fiona wasn’t sure how or when they started because at first they were soft, quiet undertones that murmured like a gently flowing stream. Constant, but almost soothing in their constancy. She quickly became used to them. They were a conglomeration of unintelligible babbling. If any emotion could be associated with them, she would have said they were cheerful. The tone always lifted her mood and she would find herself smiling for no reason.

That’s when the rest of the village started to whisper about her being touched. Initially, they just smiled and nodded, taking more time to explain things to Fiona than was really needed. They thought she was simple. Fiona would grow impatient with them and snap that she wasn’t an idiot. The tone of the whispers changed, both those of the villagers and the ones that apparently only she heard. The villagers became suspicious of her and the whispers became suspicious of them, catching the young woman who heard both in the middle. She didn’t smile as much anymore.

The whispers no longer soothed Fiona. They made her odd. They made her uncomfortable. They made the children throw rocks. The whispers snarled in retaliation and the children ran from the scowl on her face.

Everything was spiralling out of control. Fiona couldn’t stop the whispers and she couldn’t make things right with the village. She tried to explain past the screaming whispers in her head, but her words only made the mothers huddle their children close as the men fingered the hilts of their knives. Their eyes threatened, so the whispers threatened in return. Volume dropped to a low, angry rumble and it terrified Fiona.

She had no choice. She had to leave or either the whispers or the villagers would kill her. They would crush her between their anger.

Guild Wars 2 – My First 5

•August 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Outside of a few glitches, my early access experience went pretty smoothly. Unlike other launches, I didn’t have to wait in queue to log in, and although other people experienced login issues, I wasn’t one of them. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t playing in the first few hours of the launch. In fact, I didn’t even log in until almost lunchtime on Saturday because my husband and I had been celebrating our anniversary out of town.

The first order of business, of course, was creating my new characters since none of the beta weekend or stress test characters/items/cash carried over into launch. I had a hard time deciding who my Fynralyl would be since I both wanted her to fit my idea of who Fynralyl is as well as be a character I would enjoy playing past more than the first few levels. While I am really interested in most of the professions, I knew that certain ones, especially melee classes like the Thief, wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea so to speak.

My very first Fynralyl was a gnome rogue in the first D&D game I played with my husband. There is a Thief class in Guild Wars 2, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I was very hot/cold with the class and knew I didn’t want to tie up my main name on a class I just wasn’t sure about. So, I started looking at other Fynralyls in my gaming history. More recently, I’ve had a Sith Inquisitor and a Smuggler in SWTOR, as well as my Shaman in WoW that were all named Fynralyl. The Elementalist could stand in for either the Inquisitor or Shaman in different ways, but I still think of the Elementalist as a mage-like character, so knew that wasn’t going to feel right either. Engineer is probably the closest to a Smuggler in GW2, but I had no love for the small amount of time I played one. Engineer was definitely not going to be one of my first five GW2 characters created. I was stumped. I wanted my first character to feel right as Fynralyl because no matter if another class levels faster or gets more playtime, I still think of Fyn as me.

Another first Fynralyl was the very first one I played in an MMO. Not long before Wrath of the Lich King came out, I started playing WoW with my friend (and within a few hours my husband joined in as well). My first Fynralyl, created on a PvP server no less, was a Holy Paladin. Since my friend was a Prot Warrior, we leveled all the way from 1-80 as a team and had a blast doing it. I never switched to another spec. I learned to help DPS with Holy Shock and Judgements, stacking crit to have them count (and score bonus heals). I was Holy and I was a healer, but I wasn’t just a healer.

I was hesitant to try a Guardian in Guild Wars 2 because of the whole melee thing. I’d heard that it was a lot like a pally, but I was still not sure I wanted to have a melee main, despite the fact that my Shaman was Enhancement and I’d leveled another Paladin as Prot (also named Fynralyl, but on a different server), I still didn’t think I would do well with it. And let’s face it, we all want to do well and have fun in a new game. I had played a Guardian for a few minutes during the only beta weekend I was involved in and I remembered liking the mace ability that felt like Consecration. I said, sure… why not! Worst case, I would hate playing it and I’d have to delete and reroll as a new profession.

So, as a nod to the very first Fynralyl, who was a gnome rogue in D&D and to my first MMO Fyn, who was a holy paladin, the first official character I rolled in Guild Wars 2 was Fynralyl, Asura Guardian:

Isn’t she adorable?

Naming and creating my next four were a lot easier. Vystrie, Norn Mesmer:

Kturra, Charr Thief

Nyevnen, Sylvari Elementalist

And finally, Lindria Lorlach, my Human Ranger, who is named after the first character I ever made in D&D, even before I made the name Fynralyl Raydona.

I spent most of the weekend playing on Fynralyl and had a great time. I did, however, have a few gripes that others have likely gone into more detail about. First off, grouping was not working well. A big part of that was the instanced overflow areas. I play MMOs as a way to play with specific people in my life, you know, like my husband. If we didn’t have our timing down, one of us would be in an overflow while the other was in the main map. Someone might then recommend that we not take the “travel” option and stay in overflow. Except this doesn’t work either as there are multiple overflow instances and no way to bounce between them. In fact, we came out of an instanced story that we’d participated in together as a group in a party, and were then put in different overflow instances. It was beyond frustrating. I know that it was a major issue for my friend Anexxia and her guy. I do, however, have every confidence that they’ll adjust it as they get everything ironed out during launch. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Another bone of contention for me is that the Black Lion Trading Post (ie: auction house) was down all weekend. Now, I’m not one who plays the Trading Post to make as much cash as possible, just to have it. I do, however, like selling off excess mats and finished goods so they’re not cluttering my bags or becoming vendor fodder. Not having an outlet meant that not only are my characters strapped for cash, but the single small bank that they all have to share is bursting at the seams. While raw and refined mats each have their own slot in the shared crafting bank, if you exceed the max stack, those items can’t be deposited. Also, any component pieces you make (like settings, rings and hooks for my jewelcrafter) have to go into the main regular bank that only has 30 total slots. Combine this with the finished goods I haven’t been able to unload and my bank already looks like this:

Again, I’m sure they’ll bring the Trading Post up as soon as possible, but this only served to highlight how limited storage really is in the game. If it were just limited storage, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s also the only method to move items between characters unless you have a trustworthy friend to mail items through. Unlearned dyes that I want a specific character to use and crafted weapons, like the dual axes in the above screenshot, have to be stashed somewhere while I wait to get things sorted out. Don’t get me wrong, the shared bank space has its perks, but I think it should be in addition to character specific space. Just like five sisters can’t share a single bathroom without catfights, 30 slots of non-crafting material bank space is enough to start a riot between my five girls.

Even with these couple of gripes I have, I’m still having so much fun playing my new game. Guild Wars 2 is definitely my kind of game. Off I go to explore some more!

TSW & How I Prefer Pretty Games

•August 6, 2012 • 14 Comments

It seems like every one of my gaming posts lately has begun with a disclaimer about screenshots. I was a lot more diligent this weekend, when I tried The Secret World, hitting printscreen quite a few times during character creation, cutscenes and out in the world over the course of Friday and Saturday. Anyone who has already been playing the game at this point is already facepalming on my behalf. Sunday morning (or late afternoon, as the case may be) I got on my computer, fairly well done with the experimenting I wanted to do, ready to sift through my screenshots and upload the gems I would use for this post. I couldn’t find my screenshot folder. I hunted and hunted through every sub-folder related to the game and just couldn’t find it. I asked Psynister to help me look and he couldn’t find it either. I scoured the internet looking for the location and stumbled upon a key piece of information that would have been handy to know before we started the weekend. In TSW, you don’t take pictures with printscreen. It’s F11. Seriously. In every game I had played up to this point, printscreen had been the key to hit if you wanted a screenshot. There had been no exception for me until this weekend. I didn’t even think to check because it had never been an issue before. I had played all I cared to of TSW and really didn’t feel like deleting and rerolling each of the three characters I had made. Defeated, I abandoned the office and sat in the den watching Downton Abbey and playing Chronicles of Albian on my laptop. So, no screenshots for you. Again. Sorry. Never fear, though. Hubby is a glutton for punishment and went back in to grab some screenshots, which you can check out in his post.

A Little History

Gaming, for me, has always been about escaping into another world for a time and I admittedly favor pretty games. When it was time for me to buy my first console and stop borrowing my brother’s, I chose a Sega Dreamcast, mainly because it had the best graphics capabilities at the time. Skies of Arcadia was, and still is, my favorite Dreamcast game. It was later ported over to the Playstation 2, but there was a certain magic about that game in it’s original Dreamcast format. Besides having interesting story, fun combat and innovative three dimensional movement controls, the world was vibrant and enveloping. The artistic styling of the game lent itself to imaginative play because it wasn’t trying for hyper realism. It allowed for an easier suspension of disbelief.

Top of the line graphics compared to today’s games? No, not really. It was incredible for the time, though, and is a great example of the games I choose to play. It was colorful, engaging and as far removed from my day to day life as I could get. It had steampunk elements before steampunk was cool. It made me want to explore everything and I could get lost in the game for hours.

I was not initially interested in The Secret World for several reasons. First off, being set in the modern world, it wasn’t appealing as an escape for me. I definitely prefer games that are set in a different world entirely than the one I’m living in, or at least so far in the past or future that it doesn’t remind me of real world politics and problems. Secondly, the visual style of the game tends toward the hyper realism that turns me off. I prefer to have graphics that are artistic and removed from real life, but no less alive. When graphics tends towards realism, but fall short, I only end up disappointed (more on that later). Finally, I’ve got so many games coming up, that adding another subscription for a game that didn’t reach out and grab me, just wasn’t an option (more on that later as well).

To celebrate six months since the game went live, FunCom announced a free to play weekend with some bonuses for current subscribers. Since I have a lot of friends who absolutely love the game and are entirely drawn in by the story, I decided to take advantage of the free weekend to give it a try. After all, I hadn’t expected to enjoy Guild Wars 2 as much as  I did, and if the story was as good as everyone said it would be, it might be enough for me to look past the parts I found unappealing. Be warned, this game is not my style, so this review may be more critical than you’d like, but it’s an honest critique of my experience. Also, since it’s based on my experience, I will be referencing other games for comparison.

Character Creation

Let’s start off with my deal breaker: Three character slots. Period. There may be an option in game (I didn’t look for it) to buy additional character slots, but it looked to me like you only get three by default across all servers. I am a huge altoholic. I easily have 20+ characters in SWTOR and don’t even get me started on the huge number of characters I played in WoW. I have hit the 50 max characters per account more than once in that game. It strangely makes me appreciate the five character slots you can start with in Guild Wars 2. Still not nearly enough, but it suddenly doesn’t look nearly as stingy. Especially considering a subscription isn’t required for GW2, but it is required for TSW. If I was paying a monthly subscription, I would definitely expect to have more access.

Since I had three slots to play with and there happened to be three societies, I created one of each. All of the swearing in the Illuminati society was a turn-off. Besides not using that much foul language myself, it also reminded me of a kid trying too hard to be “cool”. If it hadn’t been so excessive, I might have been interested in the society itself from a roleplay perspective. I could see myself getting behind the Templar’s cause. It reminded me more of ancient societies and it could be very interesting if they brought in more history. My last character that I created was a Dragon. It’s the one I ended up playing more by default than anything else. It’s not really one to get passionate about. If anything, I was a pawn for them, but content to be so.

Character customization was fairly limited. There is only one race, since it all takes place in the “real” world. Even then, I felt like I was having to work with the same unattractive woman’s face each time. To say I was unimpressed by the options to make my character really look the way I wanted would be an understatement. As far as customization goes, it had by far more options than WoW, a little fewer than SWTOR (if you dont’ count the outfits, which aren’t very exciting either) and far less than GW2. Now, I do understand that there’s a lot more you can do in-game with the outfits, but they’re purely cosmetic and I don’t really play the dressing room game. I think maybe I didn’t care for the character creation because it just isn’t my style. It reminded me of the fairly limited, unexpressive models you find in-game like SIMS. Trying too hard to look “real” they just miss the mark. Again, style issues, but to me they’re important.

Gameplay

Once I got going and started to learn the controls in the game, I found myself enjoying the game more than I thought would. Still not entirely my thing, but I could begin to see how my friends could be such diehard fans. There were a few things that drove me nuts, though. I’m sure I would get used to some of them over time, but I’m not sure the time investment would be worth it to me.

Maybe I’m too much of a traditional RPG player, but I love leveling up. There are no character levels in this game and it drives me a little batty. You still gain experience, but instead of leveling up, once you reach an experience threshold you’re granted skill points or ability points, which you then need to apply to the appropriate interface. While this grants a certain level of flexibility, I feel like there are more drawbacks than advantages to the system. My first response was that I didn’t like not knowing how high leveled (or “skilled” rather) a character was. There is no outward display of the amount of skill or ability points a character had earned. Since the visible gear also doesn’t progress in complexity as you progress through experience thresholds, there really wasn’t a way to tell. While this may not be as important as it would be in a game that has a lot more world PvP, I still felt like it was hindering the sharing of basic information about one’s character. Additionally, as I started to get upgraded gear from missions, I found out that I had to choose to spend skill points in upgrading a gear slot instead of ability. By not having “levels” the game makes gear dependent on “skill” in a specific slot. I hated having to choose between upgrading my skill with my weapon or being able to equip my mission granted gear.

Having limited active missions was also highly frustrating. I would go to pick up a mission and get a message saying that a current mission would be paused while I completed the new one. Given the vast number of missions spread all over the area between various NPC’s my choices were either to accept the quest while pausing something I was already work on or just skip it, because I sure wasn’t going to remember to go back and get it again. Missions also had a tendency to send you all over the map. While I love exploring different areas, I don’t like running through the same graveyard six times to kill zombies, chase ravens, deliver a body part… you get the idea.

After hearing all of my friends rave about the story in TSW, it’s no surprise that it’s the part I liked best. I can definitely see that getting deeper into the story, might draw someone in. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough for me. There were a ton of cutscenes, but even though I enjoy them in other games, I felt disconnected to them in TSW. First off, there was no interaction. One of the things that makes picking up missions in SWTOR so great is the opportunity to interact and engage with the NPC. In TSW, you see your character there, but you say and do almost nothing. Instead of WoW’s wall of text quests, you end up with cutscenes of information deluge. The first few are interesting, but more often than not, I found my eyes glazing and I got sleepy. The story might be fantastic, but the way it was presented did not pull me in. Also, personal gripe: Cutscenes where your character or NPC only have two mouth positions, open and closed, so they look like muppets. If you’re going to put in a ton of cutscenes, please try to make the mouths form the same shape as the words they’re using. It’s not perfect, but at least SWTOR tries.

Visuals

I’ve already touched on this a little bit, but this is probably my biggest negative view of the game. I’m not saying that the graphics are bad, really, because there are some really beautiful things they work in and the amount of detail can be impressive. It just really isn’t my style. Trying to be on the realistic side, but not quite getting there makes it difficult for me to stay engaged. Everytime I see an NPC’s mouth move wrong in a cutscene, it detracts from the experience. As I’ve said before, I play games as an escape from the real world, and the more artistic (sometimes even cartoonish) the visuals are the more interested I am. I love vibrancy and depth of colors. Those are the places I like to be. There may be more engaging areas later in The Secret World, but I don’t know that I would ever reach them.

I guess that’s what it boils down to for me. I like pretty games and this one isn’t my kind of pretty. It might be your kind of pretty (or appealing, enjoyable, etc), but it isn’t mine. While I appreciate the opportunity I had to play the game for free, I can say that the visuals alone would be reason for me not to buy the game, let alone pay a subscription fee. It doesn’t look or feel like I escape that I play to experience.

TL&DR: Tried The Secret World, many gripes, a few positives, but it’s just not pretty enough to pay for.

And since I love pretty games, I’m going to leave you with this, my unofficial personal vista I found in Guild Wars 2 during the recent stress test:

Free to Play

•July 31, 2012 • 8 Comments

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of the Free-to-Play model because it usually translates to Nickel-and-Dime-to-Play-via-Microtransactions model. I know myself. I’m a spender. I could definitely see myself paying more via microtransactions than a subscription. I also hate feeling penned in. The potential of data restrictions on my phone makes me bonkers, so I’ll be paying full price for phones as long as it means I can keep my unlimited data. Monitoring usage or spending is so not something I want to do with my fun time.

With Guild Wars 2 coming up, I had to start rethinking my stance on the issue. In GW2, there is no subscription model. It’s purely a purchase and play game, with the option of buying cosmetic items in the cash shop. I’m not sure yet how much I might be tempted by things in the cash shop of GW2. There’s plenty in the game to enjoy without paying for extras. I’ve been ready to accept this, especially since I think it will be a casual playground for me. I just want to run around in the game and explore all the beautiful world.

Then there was the rumor (now confirmed) that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going free to play (F2P). See, here’s where I had a problem. Usually when a previously subscription based game goes F2P, they completely convert over. You suddenly find yourself in a position of having to pay for things you didn’t have to think about before. This was the last thing I wanted for my current MMO of choice. It would be enough to drive me away.

But EA actually did something smart here. Instead of going pure F2P, like I had feared, they went for a hybrid. Customers can play to level 50 for free (with restrictions) but they can also choose to have a fully unlimited playing opportunity by subscribing (or remaining subscribed) to the game. There’s really a model for just about everyone (I’ll get to the exception shortly). I went from being very anti-F2P, to actually considering taking the F2P model in place of my subscription. All because they didn’t take my subscription away from me. Isn’t it crazy the way that works sometimes? I would have hated it if I didn’t have the option of keeping my subscription, but now I may happily give it up because the F2P model being offered covers most (if not all) of what I want to still enjoy in the game.

I can’t go into the all the details right now because my gaming news access is limited at work, but I will post some links later for those that want more information. However, here’s a brief rundown on the more pertinent details of the news:

Subscription: Remains $14.99 USD/month, and includes all current access, plus priority in login queues and bonus cash shop currency. As far as I can tell, subs lose nothing.

F2P: Unlimited class story content through level 50. Limited access during character creation, limited access to methods of travel, limited number of warzones, flashpoints and space missions each week. Extremely limited Galactic Trade Network access (to hinder F2P credit farmers I assume) and NO OPERATIONS.

Class story is, by far, the most important reason I play SWTOR, so I’m very happy to see that no matter which choice I make, I will be able to enjoy them fully. Character creation restrictions would bother me if I hadn’t already created most of my characters. This would only be an issue if for some reason they decided to retroactively restrict when an account goes F2P. I don’t see this happening, as I had actually been paying for a subscription during the time the characters were created. I’m not sure about limited travel options, but we’ll have to see on that one. As far as warzones, flashpoints and space missions go, I don’t see them as an issue for myself. Besides running new characters once or twice though The Esseles or Black Talon, I avoid all of the above. Limited access to the GTN may be an issue, just because I use it to unload my excess gear and mats. Again, not sure how severely restricted, but we’ll have to see.

By far the biggest limit on F2P accounts with the new model will be the zero access to Operations, which are SWTOR’s version of a raid and the primary endgame content. Now, this isn’t a big deal for me personally, because I’m not big on endgame anyway, but I know that there are many in the community that this will impact. They really only have two choices if Operations are the only thing they’re interested in: Subscribe or don’t play. Now, I don’t think there’s anything to say they couldn’t re-sub for new content, then drop back to a F2P model while waiting for new content. I think a lot of them will do this. However, I think most will just skip it and get their endgame content elsewhere. Again, it doesn’t affect me directly, but I do love to see others happy and excited to play the games I love.

Will I go F2P with SWTOR? I don’t know, yet, but the chances improved greatly today when I was able to find out more about it. I’m looking forward to playing both GW2 and SWTOR over the next few months. There’s also a chance we will pick up the Mists of Pandaria expansion, so being able to drop my 2nd sub (locked into Blizzard’s Annual Pass right now) would definitely be nice. Maybe play with the pandas for a couple of months, then drop that sub too and just play my free games.

Nice to feel like I have options.

Guild Wars 2 – Late to the Party

•July 23, 2012 • 5 Comments

Confession:

I was in the final Guild Wars 2 beta this last weekend and I only took screen shots once (but I always take extras “just in case”! So you get a whole whopping TWO screen shots in this post.) I apologize in advance for the wall of text. I’m not generally a gaming blogger, so taking screen shots was the last thing on my mind. As a rule, I also don’t get involved in very many beta opportunities. I would rather experience and explore everything  when it’s fresh, new and READY.

An Exception to Every Rule:

I’ve seen rumblings about Guild Wars 2 for about half a year. I casually asked my husband what it was all about and he said that based on everything he had seen, it was primarily focused on PvP. If any of you know me at all, you know I do not PvP. So, we both ignored it indefinitely as yet another MMO that wouldn’t be worth our time to try. Neither of us are into trying every single game out there, so we’re very choosy on which ones we give a chance.

Last week, with the final beta weekend coming up, GW2 was being talked about by a lot of our friends on twitter and Psynister brought me into a conversation by saying that since it was a PvP focused game, we wouldn’t be playing it. Now, if any of you know him, you know that he lives, eats, breaths, dreams PvP. I replied that he was making me sound mean and that if he really wanted to try it he could, as long as he didn’t stop playing #SWTOR with me.

That’s when our fabulous twitter friends told us we had it all wrong. While the PvP was exciting to talk about because of the way it’s being done differently, it was far from the main focus. In fact, there would be plenty of PvE things to keep me occupied. We both went very quickly from disinterested to anticipating with everything that we saw or read about the way the game worked. Many of the features we saw seemed tailor-made to our playstyles. That’s when we decided that we needed to check it out and started pestering anyone who would listen about getting beta invites so we could check it out before committing to buying the game.

Disclaimer: While this was certainly our reason for seeking beta access, I want to be clear that both of us are serious about beta testing as well. We weren’t just taking beta slots to check it out, but actively participated in testing. We filled out every survey that popped up and reported several bugs.

Playtime!

After scoring some beta invites (Psynister via twitter, myself via one of my awesome SWTOR guildies) we prepared for a weekend filled with games. Unfortunately for Psynister, his plans were severely cut down because he was busy helping his dad help us by fixing the drywall in our kitchen that is in the middle of an unexpected renovation. I know he’s going to be posting his own opinions from his more limited play time, but here are mine.

It should come as no surprise that I maxed out my five character slots while checking everything out this weekend. In fact, I also deleted and re-rolled one slot, so I made a total of six characters. It was my first and only Guild Wars 2 beta weekend and I had to check as much out as possible to decide if I wanted to buy the game.

Nyevnen, leaf chick

My first character was a Sylvari Elementalist. Love the Elementalist. I think my favorite elements were fire and earth, using a staff. While I think it’s cool that your abilities change depending on what weapon you’re using, it also has some drawbacks (more on that later). As the first racial area that I explored, I really enjoyed it. Initially, it was difficult to find my character’s connection, but I really began to hate the Nightmare Court for what they were doing to corrupt the Sylvari. Also, it was beautiful there!

Ill-fated thief, Fynralyl

My second character was an Asura Thief. Asura as small, cute and a little on the creepy side. I’m not sure why, but their teeth scare me a little. Kind of like a Gizmo that hasn’t turned into a gremlin yet. I mostly got past that by the end of the weekend. I really liked my little thief. The dagger abilities were a lot of fun. I was using a dagger in my main hand and a pistol in the offhand for the first three levels. Then, just as I got a main hand upgrade (a second pistol) I tried to go into my first instanced personal story and crashed to desktop. It was beta afterall. Unfortunately, the crash locked me down pretty hard on that character. Any time I tried to load her, I would get an error related to not finding the affected mission. I opened a ticket for her on my Sylvari and got to work on other characters. Late in the day on Sunday, I tried again and CS had bumped her out of the instance so I excitedly tried her again. And hated it. I didn’t like the abilities of the pistol/pistol combination nearly as much as the dagger/pistol abilities. It made me very sad since I had sold my nice dagger and I simply stopped having fun. Also, my husband had progressed on his Asura Elementalist and I didn’t want to make him come back with downgraded abilities just to help me out. So she was eventually deleted to make room for another character.

Kturra, the short-lived

My third character was a Charr Warrior. I don’t think I got her past level two. She looked cool and what I remember of her abilities, they weren’t bad. I don’t know if it was just that it was late and I was tired or if I was just having a hard time getting into her story, but she just kind of stayed there.

Lindria Lorlach, & her friend Gale

My fourth character was a Human Ranger. I needed a character that had the highest potential of solo play because hubby was working with his dad for most of the weekend and I figured having a pet would help with that. I really liked both the human story as well as the ranger playstyle. She was only one of two characters that passed level 10 (not by much) and I liked being able to swap between her axes and her bow depending on which abilities I needed. This was one case where the differing weapon abilities was a good thing. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the city and the surrounding environs. I also really wanted a chance to flirt with that Seraph leader. Yum. Alas, it was not to be. Lindria is also the only one who had her image captured.

Tree-hugging Lillythe

My fifth character was a Norn Engineer. I really like the depth of the Norn area, even though I didn’t get her very far along. Not a huge fan of the Engineer, though. My perception of the Norn area visually and content in the first few levels, is that it felt like a combination of Dwarf, Tauren and Vrykul from WoW. The best parts of all three. Absolutely loved the hair options when customizing my girl.

Asura take #2, Aelsynia

Remember I said I deleted the Thief? I had to roll another character in her place. This time my Asura was a Guardian and she was a little more cute/less creepy than her predecessor. The Guardian doesn’t have as many damaging abilities, at least in the first few levels, so she felt more like a support character. Her survivability was really good though because she had great combinations of healing and defensive abilities, so it’s a profession I think I may try when it comes to release time.

Other thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed the game visually. One of my favorite things to do was to hunt Vistas, cutscenes that took some figuring to get to, but really showed off the artwork. I also really enjoyed how highly customizable the characters were. I also loved most of the gear (and the ability to change colors to suit my taste)! In fact, that’s why I took the one screen shot that I did. I really loved the bandit costume my Ranger got to wear and was really sad that I didn’t get to keep it. In fact, here’s another picture of it, just because it’s the only other screen shot I got.

Gale likes to rawr at Lindria, in case you couldn’t tell.

I also loved how explorable the world felt. You don’t have to get very far in before you start seeing that you can any of several different paths to continue your leveling experience. I’m looking forward to see everything eventually. For a completionist like me, I felt encouraged to check everything out and tick them off on my map lists. Being rewarded with more than just experience certainly helps.

One thing I had looked forward to, but found annoying was the “sidekick” effect. Designed to allow higher level characters to go back and help lower level friends while still being challenged as if the quests were “at level”, Psynister and I both were really excited to see it in action. It would be perfect for a couple like us that often gets out of sync because one plays a little more than another. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bring you down to the lowest level in the party, but the level of the quest. Since we were both doing all of the hearts, vistas, points of interest and events, we were outpacing the quests around us. We were level 10, but both of our effective levels were 8. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I want to go to a lower level area to relax, farm, etc. This basically takes that aspect away. I wish that it would simply have an on/off switch in the interface, so players could decide when they wanted their effective level reduced or stay overpowered.

Even with the handful of gripes I have, there’s still plenty to interest me in the game, so we’ve decided to buy it. I think it’s going to be a great game and while the story itself isn’t compelling enough to pull me away from SWTOR, it’s going to be a fun playground to mess around in.

TL&DR: Didn’t think I would like GW2, videos got me interested, scored beta invite, I made a lot of characters, had fun on most, think the world is very pretty, will buy the game to explore it all, was disappointed by the effective level reduction feature, but buying the game!

My Men of SWTOR

•April 26, 2012 • 11 Comments

When I was a kid and my mom was a newly divorced young mother of four, she would take pictures of attractive men from magazines and tack them up on the wall in her room. None of it was obscene, but she enjoyed having some eye candy to look at. While my life right now is totally different than hers was at the time (I’m very happily married and have no kids), as a woman, I totally get it.

As a gamer, it takes on a whole other aspect. When I played World of Warcraft, I just could not get myself to play male characters. Every time I created a male character, they were almost guaranteed a sentence to the chopping block. There was Fynnigan (from my Fyn naming convention days), a male Human Warrior, that got rolled at least three times. Then deleted three times. He’s the one I liked the best. There were countless other male characters I created (mainly Death Knights) that only made it a few levels before being stripped of all their gear, their meager amount of silver mailed to another character, then never seen again. I think a huge part of it was that I didn’t roleplay or see that conglomeration of pixels as anything but that… pixels. I didn’t have a character to get into, to see past physical imperfections.

And let’s be honest. Male Humans (and a lot of the other races) just aren’t that nice to look at… or watch run… or watch swing a sword or cast a spell.

Enter Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’ll be the first to admit that Bioware has some awkward movement going on (have you seen the dances? /shudder) in the game. However, they did all kinds of things right with character creation customization options.

Hello gamer eye candy.

For the first time, I’m interested in playing male characters in a game. Most of that has to do with the fact that there’s a story, with fantastic dialogue and opportunities to develop my character’s personality through dialogue choices. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that alone has drawn me into SWTOR more than any other game. So, there I am, sitting at the character customization screen and I realize something else. I can make my character HAWT for extra incentive to play, beyond the story itself.

Thus began my first real foray in playing male characters in online games and I’m going to introduce you to my version of my mother’s Wall of Men. Here are My Men of SWTOR:

#5 Vrassek

So, not only did I create male characters, I created some non-human ones! Since they’re not my favorite, I almost left them out, but I figured it’s only fair to include my two Rattataki men. Vrassek is a little on the mean side and probably a real jerk, but there’s no denying that his intensity could be a fun in the right situations. He currently flings lightning from the shadows when he’s not cauterizing Republic innards with his double-bladed lightsaber on Juyo.
#4 Paxim

And here’s my other Rattataki. He’s also an example of something else I don’t normally do. He’s in the male body type 3. While I love the look (hunky, right?) I can’t help but give him the whole thick-necked, lunk-headed personality. I don’t know why. It just happens. But take a look at those smoldering eyes. Paxim might be a cold-blooded bounty-hunter, wading thick in the scum of Hutta on Sanctum of the Exalted, but he’s got those eyes, so he makes the list.
#3 Vextir

Oh Vex… my bad boy. Vextir is one of the few characters, whose personality really started forming before I ever made a decision in the beginning cutscene. Vextir only cares about two things: credits and more credits. Sure, he’s a little bit of a womanizer, but he’s never really cared. He’s there to do the job and get paid. Until a little slip of a slicer turns his head on Hutta. But that story is just beginning to unfold on Space Slug.
#2 Xinc

Xinc is a rake. There is no other word for it. If Vex is all about the credits, then Xinc is all about the ladies… all of them on Juyo. He thinks he’s debonair and dashing, but it’s really his boyish charm and easy attitude that bring all the girls to his ship. Whatever works right? His current lady? Beryl Thorne on Taris. Not that he has much competition, seeing as the place is swarming with Rakghouls. But don’t tell him that.
#1 Gavin

He’s my favorite. In case you couldn’t tell by the #1 ranking I gave him. As you see from all of the above, a part of me loves the little bit of cruelty, stoicism, bad boy and rake. But that’s the small part of me. When it really comes down to it, I want to know he’s got my back, no matter what. Gavin still looks young, but not boyish. He’s clean-cut, but not a pretty boy. He’s a little weathered despite his youth. He may not be hugely muscled, but he’s solid. That’s what I get from him and why he’s my favorite. He’s busy putting down Separatists in Ord Mantell on Juyo. But when he’s off duty? Let’s just say he’s got some real warmth too.

I mean really, take a look at those eyes. /melts

 
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