Tag sandbox

Give Me Variation Or Give Me Death

Terminal mission

Die, stupid flag!

Since I resubscribed to Star Wars Galaxies I’ve only managed to ding 8 levels. What burned me out last time was this obsession about getting to level cap, and I got stuck on doing terminal missions until my brain bled. They are not very fun, trust me. So this time I gave up on that, even though I do look forward to reaching level 90, and I’ve been doing whatever I’ve felt like at any given moment. Such as…

  • Hunting on Kashyyyk. The design of the Wookie planet is a lot different from the other planets I’ve visited so far, and the long quest chains serve to slowly unlock different areas. I’ve so far gathered three different hunting trophies that are now hanging on the walls of my house. I’ve also ordered myself a new mount from a beast master in my guild, since my regular means of transportation are not available in the forest and I have to rely on my really slow (and ugly) cliff-jumper. A crafter in the guild is also buying any hides I might gather, which is a small cash bonus.
  • Decorating my house. Moving stuff around, hanging new paintings and putting some things on display on top of my aquarium. Hanging a huge bantha hunting trophy next to my bed. Dear me, that will give me nightmares.
  • Flying around in space. I’ve been moving up through the space tiers, currently working for Jabba the Hutt. Space is awesome, and I do hope that Bioware will include something similar in The Old Republic. I doubt they will though, unless it’s planned for an expansion in the same way Jump To Lightspeed was for Star Wars Galaxies.
  • Finding random quests. If you don’t count the Legacy Quest-chain, there are no big arrows pointing out where you should go in SWG. You can run into a quest more or less anywhere. If it sounds interesting, and I believe I can pull it off, I’ll accept it and see where it takes me. I got my fancy clone trooper armor that way. I’ve also started to make my way through the Meatlump theme park, investigating the largest criminal gang on Corellia.
  • Taking part in PvP invasions. Sure, I’m only level 55 right now, so I don’t go full PvP and fight other players. But I’ve joined forces together with a couple of guildies and attacked Bestine a couple of times. Epic and a lot of fun, with walkers and stormtroopers everywhere. I haven’t turned off my flag since last time, so I constantly get to fight stormtrooper NPCs while in Mos Eisley.
  • Doing smuggler missions. I respeced from Jedi to smuggler and I don’t regret it at all. Doing smuggler missions for the Underworld faction might not be the most exciting activity in the world, but it’s a nice distraction and adds flavor.

I’m also considering taking my trader out of early retirement, perhaps respecing him to a chef or giving him an instrument and turn him into an entertainer, playing music and buffing others for tips at the Mos Eisley cantina. We’ll have to see about that, so far I haven’t had any money problems. Sooner or later I will, though.

Pew pew in space

Twitch-based pew pew in space. Eat your heart out, landlubber.

What Star Wars Galaxies has taught me this time is how shallow games like World of Warcraft is. I need at least some sandbox elements to stay happy. I haven’t logged into Lord of the Rings Online in the last couple of days and I don’t really feel like doing so either. I have to log into Age of Conan, since I’m reviewing Rise of the Godslayer, but I seriously doubt it would be able to keep me occupied over a long period of time.

Cataclysm, despite all the cool screenshots, has never looked as uninteresting as right now. I know I will never get my friends to play Star Wars Galaxies with me, since they only tend to go back to what they know or only see flaws where I see merits. That’s fair enough. But more than ever I’m quite sure that I want more sandboxes, more immersion. I want Vanguard more than I want Warcraft, I want Galaxies more than I want The Old Republic (of course I’ll play it when it comes out, it does look awesome).

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Does Freedom Need To Come With Such A Price?

Darkfall startup

Get if off! Get it off! Get it...oh, that's the UI.

I decided to take up Aventurine on their $1 for 7 days offer and created a Darkfall account for the US server. After all, I have wanted to give that game a try for a long time and it seemed like a good way of doing it without having to pony up the ridiculous amount of money they charge for it.

Most Darkfall-fans often point out that you will hate the game at first, because the UI and controls are so different from other MMOs. I would like to second that. The UI and controls are not only bad, they are both a piece of stinking dung. They are completely and utterly worthless, like they have been created for the sole purpose of driving new players insane by just being stupid.

I haven’t played much more than one hour of Darkfall in total, rerolling three times because my character looked too silly when I finally got in the game. The one I have now looks pretty cool, a wolf-man pirate ready for some sandbox action. But the game is such a hassle to play, there’s nothing intuitive about it at all. Fighting goblins, looting, harvesting…all a pain to everything my gamer self has learned about design over the course of my gaming career.

I can’t help feeling that the UI is a prototype, that it was built this way to get the game up and running so it could be shown to investors. Then Aventurine ran out of money and didn’t have time to replace it, instead the game kept being designed around that mess. Darkfall-fans, including SynCaine, often say that it is like that for design reasons. I don’t buy it. If it is, it’s at least not good design.

UI setup

My UI after fiddling around with for a while.

While I will keep playing Darkfall for a bit, for despite the glaring flaws of the new player experience and the insane babble in the chat channels the world is quite inviting, I was reminded of my first time in EVE. Three years ago, EVE Online was hardly a very nice place to start out in. The introduction to the game was, just like in Darkfall, a mess. But the cluster was inviting enough for me to hang around, and slowly the designers at CCP have created a better way for new players to get a feel for its potential.

Perhaps Darkfall will go down the same route, perhaps with future patches or expansions Aventurine can dig deep into their own designs and rethink certain aspects of their game. Because seriously, just because it is a full PVP, full loot, warfare-focused MMO doesn’t mean that it has to be designed in a way that would give most intelligent people a headache (I am sure Darkfall has many intelligent players, they just seem to stay away from the chat channels – like in most MMOs, come to think of it…). Or does it? Ryzom can also be quite hard for people to learn. Do “sandbox” and “convoluted controls and game mechanics” go hand in hand?  Do you think that a MMO with mechanics similar to World of Warcraft or Allods Online ever could be the foundation of a good sandbox game?

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Loving The Sandbox, Missing The Fantasy

EVE Online

I pwn noobs in space.

I do love EVE Online, even if some online drama and paranoia over the last week or so made me wonder if I really have the energy to move to 0.0 right now. Application has been processed, roles dropped, assets liquidated and jump clones prepped (more or less) but seeing the true paranoid face of EVE’s political alliances and corps is putting me off.

If I do the move I will end up in one of the most volatile areas of the cluster as well, straight into a war that will probably spiral out of control at some point. With Against All Authorities/U’K moving in on CVA-space in the south (death to the slavers!), Goonswarm losing their territories in Delve (and, well, the alliance itself) and Mostly Harmless fighting ev0ke in the north, the whole stage is set for all out war in more or less all of 0.0 space. It could turn out to be very interesting, and in some ways I want to get in there and get my hands dirty in case the whole madhouse starts crashing down. Then again, nothing might happen. I’m not that updated on the politics as I want to be.

For the record: Against All Authorities is the coolest alliance name in EVE. And no, I have not applied for membership with them.

Anyway, while the wonderful sandbox that is EVE Online is calling to me, I also miss fantasy. Yes, we have way too many fantasy MMOs to choose from, but still I miss it. Dwarves and elves and swords and stuff. I miss Lord of the Rings Online, which I haven’t played in a while. Between EVE, Global Agenda and Star Trek Online, I have enough sci-fi to last me a long time. I want a classic fantasy epic adventure! And no, I do not want World of Warcraft!

Darkfall

I pwn fantasy noobs.

So I’m looking at Darkfall…not to join up with a large guild/alliance, but perhaps settle down in a more tranquil area while the wars rage around me. You can only listen to Beu and SynCaine for that long before you want to give it a try. It also seems like Aventurine have done a lot of work when it comes to ambient things like monster and creature AI.

Of course, guild names like “No daddy not again” and “Genital Asphyxiation” make me dread the community (even though the latter is kinda fun). And yeah, the whole PvP forum warrior gang that seems to infest the game. Imagine, a sandbox fantasy PvP game without the nutcases. What an utopia that would be.

So, anyone with me? Let’s all move to Darkfall, be nice noobs, find ourselves a calm area of the world (ha!) and just…fish. And cry if someone starts ganking us. I practiced in EVE a few days ago, when a Mega had my Brutix as a snack in a low-sec exploration site.

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The Norrathian Museum

If you’ve never played a MMO that includes a lot of sandbox-options, do check out the video below. It’s from Stargrace, who has put a lot of effort into her Norrathian Museum in EverQuest 2. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Be sure to watch at least until she gets to the library, which contains not only books from the game itself, but more than 100 books written by players. Awesome stuff.

I truly hope that MMOs will return to implementing things like this, since it brings so much immersion and personality to a game. Looking forward to seeing more videos of EverQuest 2 from Stargrace, since I don’t enjoy the rest of the game very much myself.

(It seems like YouTube managed to mess up the sound of the video a bit, so it doesn’t synch all the way through. Not a big deal, though.)

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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