Bad News Day

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Goodbye Everquest Next

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Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

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The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

Blade and Soul Impressions

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Change of Plans

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This morning I was all ready and prepared to go on an angry tear about the change to specs in World of Warcraft on Legion Alpha.  Then I thought to myself… my blog has already hosted more than enough “I’m Angry at WoW” posts that I really did not need to add another one to the pile.  I still think the idea is quite possibly the dumbest I have seen yet, but I figure if it does go in… I can either deal with it, or stop playing again and no amount of gnashing of my teeth is going to make a change.  I have next to zero clout when it comes to things like that, so better just to ignore it for the moment and try not to get worked up over it.  In the meantime however I finally was able to pop into Blade and Soul and give the game a proper try.  I talked yesterday about some of my misgivings…. of which there were many, so the game started off on negative footing before I even entered.  Last night my friend Liore mentioned that the newly added servers had no real queues, so as a result I ended up rolling a new version of Squirrelghast on that server.  I am guessing that names are game wide, since I could not create a “Belghast” on Gunma the server I ended up rolling on.  So while I will always probably think of it as Squirrelghast I am guessing technically I am some sort of black fox…  but the tail is so fluffy and curvy that it reminds me of a squirrel.  Also if I was being super pedantic about it… I would be Squirrelgrave since I ultimately had to go with Belgrave for the reboot character.

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The game is shockingly charming… and I say shockingly… because I really did not expect much.  The localization team has done an amazing job of shaping the story into something that I cared about.  I admittedly cannot really remember any of the names, but the opening story arc involves you training at the Hongmoon academy under a guy that I am going to forever call “Dog Grandpa” because he is a Lyn and grandfatherly.  Then a lady with a name that I also don’t remember so I am just going to call her “Evil Bayonetta” comes into the neighborhood and causes a ruckus.  You watch her kill your fellow classmates, and find out that one of them…. that is pretty much exactly like Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach… betrayed you for the special school scrolls.  At this point Dog Grandpa transforms into Akuma from Street Fighter and whipping some ass, until Evil Bayonetta threatens your life…  and he pays his own life and the blade he had been guarding to save you.  At which point you get blasted off of magical sky castle place into the ocean and are found by a village guard captain that also just happens to be a former Hongmoon student.  With this you begin your journey to be the best that ever was… and I am guessing we will travel to other towns… and meet other conspicuous former Hongmoon students that have life lessons to teach us.  The entire game intro really does feel like watching Anime, and while I made up names for people…  it was enjoyable and I did actually have some feels when Dog Grandpa sacrificed himself for my characters life.

Rise of Cricket

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Honestly I have to say the game itself is really rather fun, or at least fun in the same ways that TERA was fun.  The primary difference here is that the quests that you do seem to have some merit to them… rather than just being random grindy nonsense.  The localization team has given the various people you meet, including the random peasants…  personality and humor and it makes going off and fetching five healing salves or slaying 10 blackrams enjoyable.  The mechanics work out really similar to TERA where your left mouse button is used for your resource builder/default attack, and your right mouse button is your resource spender.  Then in addition to that you have various numbered special attacks and openers that you can use during battle, in addition to some quick time events that occur that allow you to for example stomp your enemy when they are knocked down.  The combat feels really fluid and the animations are awesome.  While I don’t normally go for that running on wires nonsense from kung fu movies…. when you sprint with your arms swept back… it just feels nice and when you do the whole glide thing in mid air it is surprisingly addicting.  The game progresses smoothly and most interactions are doing using the F key which serves the purpose of the generic “interaction” key that some other games have.  If you are used to TERA or Neverwinter or an “Action” MMO of the sort… then you should get accustomed to this game rapidly.

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The world itself is gorgeous… and works well.  Sure the textures are not always the best in the world… but the overall presentation “works”.  I think what adds the most to this is the fact that the soundtrack itself is really well woven into the game.  It changes regularly based on area of the world, so when you step foot near the graveyard it suddenly becomes more sinister, and when you are back in town it becomes a happy market tune.  The only nuisance so far is the fact that a number of the areas are instanced, and there is a slight hitch when you zone into them. I am not sure if this is due to server load, or if there will always be this little hitch but it gets frustrating at times.  Some areas are completely seamless, so I am guessing this is mostly happening where there are phasing or in a location where the actors change frequently.  For example the Mayors Office or the Healers building… are instanced… but in both cases I have had several different interactions in those buildings.  Its a quirk and you get used to it, but just something to expect.  There also seems to be quite a bit of delay on waiting for NPCs to load in on your screen when you first arrive in an area, but this is nothing worse than the stuff I am used to dealing with in WoW.

Reservations

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So far I am enjoying myself, but not sure if I am enjoying myself enough to actually spend money.  Nor am I really certain how long I will remain playing.  I was plenty fine with logging out and playing some Warframe after a few hours of gameplay, knowing that I would likely not make it through the queues again that night.  So when you contrast that with a game like Final Fantasy XIV when we played at launch…. and I got so damned angry about the prospect of ever having to log out and fight the login boss again…  that tells you it was enjoyable but nothing world shattering.  There is also a lot of silly bullshit that is happening in the game that is super cringeworthy.  When you first meet the character of Namsoyoo above, you get the impression that she is a very young girl…  then when it pans out for the first time you see her wearing some sort of gauze based dress with insane anti-gravity boobs.  The games bread and butter seems to be gratuitous T&A action in a way not dissimilar from the Dead or Alive franchise.  All of this is sad, because the game and the localization are actually rather good… and don’t really need the oversexed window dressing.  Now I have yet to run into super insidious, but right now it just seems a little much like somewhere the original artists were blushing and going “tee hee hee boobies”.

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The game certainly has some character, and the first time you meet a really important character you get this cool cinematic intro thing….  which unfortunately has these insanely pixelated fonts that send my eye twitching like mad.  I mean I realize that this game has been out since 2012… but we had better computers than that back then right? As far as performance… I am running this at 1080p on my GTX 960 card with pretty much everything cranked up as far as I can tell because their sliders are also somewhat nonsense, and I am getting a smooth 60 fps all of the time with little or no dips, so I am guessing the game will run smoothly on a toaster.  So long as I focus on Squirrelghast I am pretty happy playing the game and being an adorable but super serious blade dancer.  The other big negative right now is that everyone that I know seems to be spread out pretty evenly among the servers.  However the gold spam is so horrible that honestly I am completely oblivious to the fact that chat even exists, so if someone were trying to message me and have conversations I wouldn’t notice.  I have this feeling that Blade and Soul is going to be a very solo experience for me, and one that I will work out of my system in a few weeks, rather than a game I am going to set down roots.  However if you are looking for a pretty fun action based MMO, you might give it a look.  I didn’t expect anything… but enjoyed a couple of hours of running amok in this pretty landscape, and I suspect that if you also go into it with similarly lowered expectations you might enjoy yourself too.

 

Squirrelghast

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Flak Cannon Time

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When it comes to playing Warframe I have quite literally spent almost 99% of my time playing the game…. in a full or partial group.  This greatly colors my feelings about the game, and in truth it has allowed me to play in a super inefficient manner.  Last night we had several group missions and then when Tam went to class and Ashgar went to bed…  it just kinda broke up and never reformed in spite of us having several people there.  Instead of grouping I opted to start working on some of the missions I had not actually unlocked, and I have to say…  I am pretty bad at this game.  At the very least my chosen play style is not exactly a solo friendly play style.  When I am playing my Excalibur with a Bow….  it works great, because I can sneak around and get a bunch of stealth kills.  However last night I was trying to level my Atlas with a Braton…  and the ability to stealth kill anything was non-existent.  In truth I feel like most of the problem is the fact that I have yet to really sort out how I want to mod anything.  At some point I need to spend an entire evening leveling mods, and deciding which ones work best with which weapons.

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On the positive side of things, I did manage to finish up all of the sub components of the Rhino Prime and now simply have to wait the 72 hours crafting time to get it.  I also managed to finish up the Drakgoon Flak Cannon last night, so I spent some time playing with that as well.  I keep calling it a Flak Cannon because it very much reminds me of the Flak Cannon from Quake 3.  At close range it can be fired like a shotgun, but if you charge up the attack it can be fired from a much longer range and still be effective.  I am digging it quite a bit… and managed to have quite a bit of good luck with it running some missions.  I still think that the Strun is probably a better choice for a charge in and sword damage playstyle like I tend to favor, which is something that Ashgar suggested.  For the time being I am having a blast with this weapon…. and yes that pun was intended.  The other thing I did last night was start building a Boltor rifle, to see if I like that as was suggested to me by Scarybooster.  I mean in theory I could have gone shopping for a Boltor prime, but I happened to have all of the crafting mats available to make one without really dipping low in anything.  I guess tonight I will give it a shot and see what I think about it.

Blade and Soul

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Right now the new hotness at least among the blogosphere seems to be Blade and Soul, which just launched this week.  In fact at this moment it seems like unless you are paying for the game, it is highly unlikely that you are going to actually get to play it.  My twitter timeline has been full of folks posting pictures of the insane queue times just trying to log in.  The other big problem that I have seen is that it seems like no one is actually playing on the same server.  I did a few quick queries and it seemed like everyone I know is playing on completely different servers.  I had no real interest in this game prior to launch, and honestly….  there isn’t much about it after launch that interests me.  That said…. since it is a freemium game I have this overwhelming desire to at least give it a shot.  I have to admit I have some pretty severe biases against Korean MMO art styles.  There is just something about the art aesthetic that annoys me…  the cloyingly pretty men, and the insane “Jessica Rabbit” style women…  its just not my thing.

The positive is that there is a Lalafell like race in Blade and Soul so I decided to try and focus instead on the maximum cuteness potential of that.  The problem there is…  it just isn’t as good as a Lalafell.  I created what I am dubbing Squirrelghast on the Old Man Cho server…. simply because I liked the name.  At some point if I end up liking the game I will try and sort out another server to roll on that actually has people I know.  The only negative is that I have yet to get any further than character creation because I end up getting dumped into a massive queue… and decided that I would simply rather play Warframe or Diablo 3.  It is my hope that over the weekend I will be able to get in and give the game a proper try.  The only thing I really know about it from clips is that it seems to be an MMO about the whole flying wire “crouching tiger hidden dragon” style of combat.  These movies never really appealed to me either, because they just felt so over the top silly to see someone calmly flying across the screen.  I’ve heard however that the localization job that Carbine did on this title was really damned good, and much like Final Fantasy XIV they slipped in a ton of cultural references.  If for no reason other than that… I kinda want to play it.  I really love the folks at Carbine and they seem to do a great job with the games under their care, so it is my hope that I will be charmed enough by the localization effort to overlook all the things I don’t care for.