The Last Bastion

For the old guard, the happy fools, the dreamers.

Six Months of Guild Wars 2

Posted By on March 25, 2013

I’ve been slacking off big time on writing on this blog. I have a great excuse, though. I’ve also been having a lot of trouble finding motivation to do real life things and take care of my responsibilities. Why? I’m addicted. My favorite hobby and pastime is back, finally, after more than a ten-year lull. I have an MMORPG to call home.

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My first play experience with Guild Wars 2

Posted By on May 3, 2012

I’m having a really difficult time starting this article. Partly because there’s so much I want to say. It’s really hard to sort it out and figure out where to begin. Also because I don’t feel like anything I could possibly say will describe what I’m thinking and feeling very effectively.

The most clear and concise thing I can say about Guild Wars 2 after playing it for roughly 20 hours last weekend is that it’s like the Matrix. You just have to experience it for yourself. If you are even remotely a fan of the MMORPG genre…if the promise of these games excites you in the least…whether your relatively new to the genre or an old-school fan like me…you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. Open your mind the best you can to some very new ideas, and jump in. I’m willing to bet that you will be pleasantly surprised, no matter how high or low your expectations going in…and in this genre, that’s really saying something.

The second thing I’ll say is that the game lives up to the descriptions. This might not sound significant, until you realize that almost no game in this genre in the last decade has done that. It’s actually become so normal for these games to be disappointing, to be dramatically less, cleverly short-cut, or more shallow versions of their marketing, that players just automatically translate everything they hear and read. It’s like getting a cheeseburger at McDonald’s. You see the picture on the menu, but you know that the real thing looks nothing like that, and you’re so used to that fact that it doesn’t even bother you. You just automatically swap the awesome, juicy, 4-inch-thick fantasy for the squashed, greesy reality in your head, and order it with full knowledge of what you are getting.

Guild Wars 2 provides pretty much exactly what’s in the picture on the menu.

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Review

Posted By on April 1, 2012

Well, I’ve been playing the game for about fifty hours now, so I suppose it’s about time I wrote up what I think. For 38 Studios, Reckoning is their debut title, and is supposed to make the all-important first impression of the quality, creativity, depth, and fun we can expect from their games. They also want to introduce everyone to the world, history, and characters that might show up again in future games.

It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a single-player role-playing game (SPRPG from now on). After playing a few MMORPGs, I find it really difficult to feel the same kind of immersion and sense of a living virtual world when I’m all by myself in a single-player game. I also tend to find the modern SPRPGs to be overly complex, and the learning curve too steep to be fun. With the amount of depth and scope that people expect from games these days, it can be very challenging to still make them accessible and intuitive.

To start this review with the above in mind, I’ll say this: I’m really enjoying the game. I’m feeling immersed, I’m losing myself for hours at a time, and after 50 hours of meandering around the world of Amalur, I still feel like logging in and playing. That’s probably the highest praise I could give to any game…It’s fun and I want to play more.

Of course, no game is perfect…read on to see my take on the positive and negative elements that make up this intriguing first title from 38 Studios.

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Guild Wars 2 – I’m back on the wagon.

Posted By on April 1, 2012

Or is it “off the wagon”? I can never remember how that goes.

I’ve had plenty of time now to sit in my corner and think. I’ve talked with a lot of folks I trust, and I’ve taken stock of every opinion I could find on the internet. I’ve also had the benefit of a tiny bit of additional factual information due to beta leaks. In short, I’m in a bit better position to take a sober look at Guild Wars 2 overall…including the massive new appendage we’ve discovered – the cash shop economy.

What I’ve discovered is that my initial reaction was overly emotional and in some ways incorrect. Along with stepping back and getting a better perspective on this particular game, I’ve also spent a week or so now taking a hard look at myself, my interest in video games, and the 12 years I’ve spent following MMORPGs. It’s never easy to question yourself and honestly rethink long-held entrenched opinions…especially for someone as stubborn and outspoken as I tend to be. So where am I now?

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The Trash Loot Economy and Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Posted By on March 22, 2012

I’ve spent a couple days trying to come to terms with ArenaNet’s last blog post. It’s still a work in progress in my mind, and considering the fact that we are still entirely starved of details and specifics, I can’t really come to a final opinion until likely sometime after the game releases. That’s a shame…but I’m perfectly fine with being patient and holding my wallet closed until I decided whether this game box is worth it for me.

Even though I haven’t completely made up my mind about anything, I would like to share some thoughts I’ve had, and also explain a bit about why this gem currency announcement bothers me (and maybe why it bothers others). It’s not an easy concept to understand, let alone explain, so I think a lot of people struggle and get quite frustrated. They know they don’t like it, but WHY?

To start off, here’s sort of the way I’ve come to look at Guild Wars 2. It’s kind of a tale of two games.

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Copernicus – The conspicuous silence of 38 Studios

Posted By on March 19, 2012

Based on quotes from Curt Schilling and a few other developers, we know a few vague things about the upcoming MMORPG from 38 Studios. We have some concept art from several years ago. One of the most interesting pieces of information about the game isn’t something they’ve said, however…it’s what they haven’t said, or shown, or released.

The MMORPG genre has been around for more than a decade. Some of us have been following it for nearly that long. We are the “old guard”…the cranky curmudgeons who have seen it all before. MMORPGs are social games designed in part to build a community. These games tend to involve the player to a much greater degree in the process of ongoing development, and it usually starts well before release. It’s pretty much a fixed template…here’s how you “do” an MMORPG community…

A couple years before release, you announce the name of the game, and you put up a website, a FAQ, and likely some forums. You announce things like a fansite program and provide art… you start releasing screenshots and concept art and tidbits about the systems the game will feature. You start teasing or describing the elements that you feel will make your game different. You run contests, maybe plan get-togethers, and you take part in and encourage speculation and discussion on the details of the game. The reasons for doing all these things seem to make complete sense, it’s just understood at this point and we all accept it’s the way things are done. We’re building a community, laying the groundwork for marketing and beginning the process of building excitement for the product. That’s how you’re supposed to do it.

38 Studios is an MMORPG developer, but “Copernicus” is a codename. We may be less than a year from release, and we still don’t even know the name of the game.

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Selling Trophies

Posted By on March 18, 2012

In terms of justification for selling certain items in a microtransaction shop, I’ve been seeing one argument made more than just about any other. “These items are just cosmetic.”

Now, if the items are just cosmetic, I totally agree. Purely cosmetic items (items with no in-game communal value) are exactly the types of things that can be sold in a shop without issue. The problem is that the argument is often being applied to trophies…and I think a lot of people don’t really understand or notice the difference between something that truly is nothing but different colored pixels, and something that can have very significant value even without any statistical advantage.

I also think it’s really important to recognize that game developers have complete control over what’s valuable in their virtual world. They quite literally control the community value of all items, and I think many times developers don’t recognize how powerful this can be in terms of player satisfaction and the longevity of your game.

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Guild Wars 2 Official forums

Posted By on March 16, 2012

I think official forums are a great idea. I also think that nothing is ever quite as simple as community relations and marketing people would like consumers to believe.

With their latest bog post, ArenaNet announced that GW2 will have official forums, and that they will no longer specifically support certain fansites. They’ve spun it in a very positive light of course, and Martin Kerstein has provided quite a few bold statements about how they are going to handle the community, and moderate these new boards. He and Regina Buenaobra also talked a bit about how the community themselves…the members of the forum…play a large role in how the community turns out.

I’m forced to wonder if they have any idea what they are getting into (they clearly say that they do), and I’m also wondering about ulterior motives. The little pessimist on my shoulder has always been much louder than any of the other voices in my head, and that’s probably because the smug little bastard is correct most of the time.

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Ramblings about Microtransaction Shops

Posted By on March 15, 2012

I’m actually having a tremendously uncomfortable time right now with Guild Wars 2…which is why I’m ranting.

There are a ton of things I love about the design and underlying philosophy of Guild Wars 2, and I’m sure by now those who know me probably think I’m a completely mindless fanboi for the game. I don’t get quite as mindlessly hyped as I used to, but I’m certainly excited to get to play, and potentially would play the game for a long time.

EXCEPT…

Guild Wars 2 will not have a subscription fee. You’ll pay the price of the box and be able to play for free forever. They will have a microtransaction shop, and for the last several years, ArenaNet has maintained their stance that the cash shop would only ever contain cosmetic and non-game-changing items. They said they would never sell power or advantage. I was relatively comfortable with that. Until about a month ago…

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Thoughts on class systems (part 2)

Posted By on February 7, 2012

I talked about some of the differences in implementation of the class systems in Rift and GW2 in my last post. I tried to describe how the systems could be very different, despite having some of the same goals and philosophy behind them. Now let’s talk about something that a lot of people probably don’t even consider when discussing an individual system in an MMORPG…integration or cohesion. How does the system fit in with the rest of the game, how do the various systems work together, compliment each other, and become more than the sum of their parts?

Probably one of the biggest issues with the class system in Rift doesn’t really have to do with the class system at all, at least not directly. It has to do with the fact that they didn’t change enough. Despite some of the issues that cropped up in Rift’s class system, it is still much more free-form and allows a great deal more customization and choice than in some other MMORPGs. The problem is, Trion decided to stick with the traditional fixed “holy trinity” roles in terms of designing their group and raid content. Putting their “loose” class system with those rigid combat / group mechanics basically sucked all the freedom out of the system. I’ll explain…

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