Tag vanguard

Is That An Elite Harvester Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Tugg Back in Bestine

Tugg Back, being confused in Bestine. Look, a dancing Stormtrooper!

Earlier today on Twitter, some people seemed to react when I mentioned that I planned to do some AFK-mining with my trader in Star Wars Galaxies. I can understand that, doing things AFK are almost the same as botting in other titles. I thought I’d return to the culture of AFK that is present in SWG in a later post, but inspired by Stargrace’s writings on Vanguard, I thought I’d take a look at crafting in Star Wars Galaxies.

Crafting in Vanguard is awesome. Crafting in Star Wars Galaxies is a science, at least for newbies like me. Poking around in it can be pretty fun, but if you’re going to try to make any credits out of it you’re in for a ride. Something I noticed when I decided to take my poor trader out of early retirement a few weeks ago. He went from simply pulling up worthless materials for easy credits to trying to wrap his poor Ithorian head about the finer details of weapon crafting…

Bear with me, because this might get a bit long.

Tugg Back, my budding crafter, was luckily already level 90. I grinded him to cap through the usual means – going for a structure trader, picking up a grind kit of materials and making statues until my eyes bled. It was horrible, took about three hours of insanity, and I don’t ever want to do it again. Sadly, a trader beneath level 90 is more or less worthless to the current community, seeing how old it is, so it was pretty much needed.

Re-speccing him to a munitions trader, putting my expertise points into weapon smithing (our guild city already has an awesome armor shop), I took a look at what I could put together. From the list of weapons I picked the Advanced Laser Rifle. It sounded basic enough, and “advanced” sounded better than the normal laser rifle. For it, I would need a frame, a receiver, a grip, a barrel, a core and an optional scope, stock and elemental chamber. Reasonable enough.

Then I started to take a look at what materials I would need, and that’s kind of where I am right now. In a state of miserable shock, trying to figure out if this project is worth the effort or not. For the frame, receiver and grip I will need some rather easy stuff – link-steel aluminium, non-ferrous metal and polymer. But the full list of stuff I will need to gather is a bit longer…

Rhodium Steel
Duralloy Steel
Duranium Steel
Ryll Amorphous Gemstone
Polysteel Copper
Carbonite Steel
Crystalline Gemstone
Inert Petro Chemical
Reactive Gas
Chromium Aluminium
Green Diamond Crystalline Gemstone
Corellian Deciduous Wood
Varium Carbonite Ore
Phrik Aluminium
Tolium Reactive Gas

This will get me an Advanced Laser Rifle with an acid elemental chamber. Sweet! Just go out and mine the stuff, right? Run up to a Reactive Gas-node and get the good old mining pick out? Oh, no. I’m just getting started.

Tugg Back and harvester

Tugg Back placing an elite harvester... in a swamp!

You see, there is Rhodium Steel and there is Rhodium Steel. Materials in Star Wars Galaxies have stats. A freaking ton of stats. All of them don’t come into play when you’re going to craft something, for most of my stuff I just need to keep my eye on Overall Quality (OQ) and Shock Resistance (SR). But I still need to find the darn materials, and they need to have spawned somewhere in the galaxy in the first place. Different spawn, different stats. Luckily, some brave souls keep updating the list on the wonderful website SWGcraft, so lazy traders like me don’t need to scour every planet to find what they need.

All of the stuff on that list isn’t available at any given time. They might spawn, they might despawn, they might pop up when I least expect it and disappear before I have time to get my harvesters there. And then, of course, there are planets like Mustafar where you can’t even place harvesters so you have to rely on sampling – pulling up small quantities of materials from the ground. Which is where my trader is right now, AFK-mining away to get his hands on some sweet high-statted copper. Yum yum yum. I had plans to AFK-mine that really nice gemstone that had spawned the other day, but of course that was already gone…

Are we done yet? No, we’re not. Here comes the whole “you need money to make money”-thing. Because when you finally have the materials needed, you need to put it together. And to get the best result, you need to pray to the Gods of Chance – you will need to “experiment”. And to make sure that the Gods are smiling in your favor, you need to stack up on crafting gear. Which I surely don’t have right now, and can’t afford anyway. During Empire Day, they hand out a nice bandoleer with a lot of bonus Luck, but that’s about it for me right now.

Tugg relaxing at home

I'm just going to sit here and stare for a bit...

So this is pretty much where I stand right now, confused and scared and excited at the same time. It might sound like I’m complaining. I’m really not. I’m looking forward to getting this project off the ground, slowly building up a nice stock of materials (I haven’t even mentioned things like weapon augmentations…) and trying to put up a small weapons shop in some corner of our guild city. It won’t be the fanciest shop in the world, but I’m going to sell some really nice weapons to my customers. That’s the plan, at least.

Wish me luck. I’m still trying to bend my head around all the concepts at play here. It’s an amazing system, with a nice depth. It’s light years ahead of other titles, and together with Vanguard it has one of the most interesting crafting systems of all time. The only games that come close is Ryzom and in a way EVE Online. And I never managed to get much crafting done in those two…

Or perhaps I’m just making it more complicated in my head than it actually is in reality. Hopefully that’s the case.

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The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Best Developer Friend!

Scott Jennings, aka Lum the Mad, has posted a fun blog entry over at MMORPG.com, with the oh so controversial title How PvP Can Break Your Game. Scott is a great writer and it’s always fun to read his insights into MMO-making. Syncaine, of course, took offense because Scott mentioned Darkfall, and made some stuff up and Tobold took offense that Syncaine took offense and dug up some old arguments that he probably doesn’t believe himself so he could bash Darkfall (again). All very funny, and quite sad at the same time.

No matter, that’s not really the point here – the point is the description of the forum warriors in Scott’s post. For many forum posters on MMO forums, it seems like the developers are the great enemy. They are the evil that plagues their game, shifting game balance and nerfing classes left to right. We see it all over the place, visit any MMO’s official forums and you’ll find them. Often, the subject line is in caps, so you don’t have to look very hard for the posts I’m talking about.

Nerfed!

Arena is doing what now? Where did my class go?

I agree that the developer can be the great enemy, especially when they bring a huge change to a game that you’ve played for ages. When World of Warcraft introduced the arena, and Blizzard tried to make an e-sport of a game where PvP was an afterthought, well…for me, and many like me, the developers were the enemy. They were ruining our home, our world, because of a small, small fraction of their player base.

But sometimes, especially if you’re a player in a smaller MMO, the developers are not your enemy. Usually, they are trying their best to fix a game in order for the game to stay afloat. Sometimes, they should be seen as your buddy, you should try to work with them instead of against them. Sometimes, you should just play nice, thank them for the stuff they are actually able to deliver, and either thank them for their time and leave or hang around and see what happens.

It’s pretty rampant in the Star Wars Galaxies forums, where a thread about the upcoming (and pretty major and cool) Galactic Civil War-update turns into a flamewar about how relevant Light Side Jedis are in PvP. Instead of understanding that the game is actually struggling, with the executives (that don’t care about your petty abilities or PvP survivability) breathing down the devs’ all too exposed necks, and trying to keep the criticism valid and creative, the forums warriors’ arguments tend all to degenerate into “yur idiots lol”. Seriously, it has to stop.

Attack!

Proud Vanguard forum warriors stand united against this horrible...oh, they are only trying to help? What?

What got my blood flowing this time was this thread on the Vanguard forums, as pointed my way by (the always amazing) Dusty. In it, Silius tries to explain to the players that the dev team is low on resources and that they are trying to do as much as possible with the little they have – which includes scrapping some stuff in order to create a better game in the long run. It’s one of the most honest dev posts I’ve seen on a forum in a long time and it’s not every day a dev comes out and says “look, we’re short on cash, please have patience”.

The bitching starts with the first comment. Already on the first page, people start talking about SOE shutting the game down.

This is really not the time to paint the developer, who actually comes out and says more or less exactly what is going on behind the scenes (something many players ask for in most MMOs), as the enemy. It’s the time to pat him on the back, tell him how much you appreciate the game and that you understand that you don’t have all the data, all the numbers, all the logs, all the knowledge. It’s the time to either come up with some creative criticism, enjoy what is on offer or leave the game behind.

It is not a good time for insults. That developer, who probably had to go head to head with the PR-apartment for evening mentioning stuff like having “tried to do more with what [they] have and it has not always panned out”, has just done you a huge favor. But as a forum warrior and a pro-complainer, I suppose it is hard to see it that way.

It makes me sad, to be honest. I feel for the Vanguard devs. They are working on a gem of a game with one of the coolest crafting systems in the industry and an alternative advancement system that at least tried to do something new (diplomacy). They are probably under a lot of pressure, knowing full and well that if they don’t turn the game around, it will go the way of Matrix Online.

And that means that perhaps that special feature that you were looking forward to will get scrapped. Sorry, the new AA system won’t be available soon. Sorry, no new 24 man raids (any idea how hard raids are to design, not to mention code?) until enough bugs have been fixed and new content is in. Sorry.

I feel with you, Silius. A lot of us do. We’re your buddies! A lot of people that are only playing the game and not complaining on the forums love Vanguard. Keep up the good work, keep making hard decisions for the good of the game’s future. We love you for it.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to hug people.

/hug

Update: Beau, of Spouse Aggro, places the blame for Vanguard’s struggle on the community.

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Heading for a galaxy far, far away

As a follow up to my last post, where I asked if Star Wars: Galaxies is actually a bad game, I’ve decided to pick up a new project for DFTM – I’m going to put my mouth where my money is and play through the first free month of a Star Wars: Galaxies subscription. My trial has run out, I didn’t get very far, but using an old retail code I had I now have a full account, including all the expansion packs.

Anioo Gtak, armed and dangerous. Level 7 dangerous, at least.

Anioo G'tak, armed and dangerous. Level 7 dangerous, at least.

Since there’s no interesting MMO coming out until next year, I thought this was as good a time as any. I shall play my bounty hunter and see how far I can get, how interesting the sandbox and leveling/questing mechanics are, and if the game – 6 years after release – still has anything to offer me. And, perhaps, you.

The NGE-fiasco has given Star Wars: Galaxies a terrible reputation, just like Vanguard’s launch blues ruined a lot for that particular title. I really like Vanguard, I think more people should keep an open mind and try it out, and who knows, perhaps the same goes for SWG. Worth a shot.

I’ll start out with a typical fighter class, playing as a Zabrak bounty hunter. It feels like a safe bet, since I have no clue what I’m doing. My character is called Anioo G’tak and I’ll be setting up shop on the Europe-Farstar server. If you see me, or feel like helping me getting accustomed to my new life in a rather confusing MMO, feel free to send me a tell. If not, just send me a friendly message or wave to me on the streets of Mos Eisley!

I’ll keep blogging about other things as well, but I shall try to keep as much focus on this project as possible. Wish me luck, if it turns out that SWG is a big pile of Bantha dung I might need it.

(Just for the record – I’m also one of the cool kids. I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Origins like crazy and I’m totally and madly in love with Torchlight. I’ll leave the more interesting commenting on those titles to great minds like Dusty and Syp for the time being, though.)

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The loneliness of the long distance runner

Having some time to kill today, and since the Aion beta event is over, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and do the trek from Lotus Hold to Tanvu in Vanguard. I guess the word “trek” has a whole different meaning after playing Ryzom, where a “trek” is something fraught with danger and not something usually done solo, but anyway. The run between Lotus Hold and Tanvu, I suppose I should say.

That’s the thing about the world in Vanguard – it’s huge. The area between those two locations would probably have spanned several zones, and several level ranges, in most other games. But not in Vanguard. During the whole journey I didn’t see a mob with a level higher than 12, and that would be some bandits I decided to avoid. I stumbled upon a settlement, a small keep (which housed the teleport between the island LH is on and the one where Tanvu is) and a monastery in the woods occupied by friendly spirits (where I took refuge when my cell phone rang). These places all housed quests for me, the world might be large but it’s not empty, but I decided to press on instead of getting caught up in a new quest chain. I guess I should have picked them up, it would’ve made the whole journey more interesting in one way, but it would also take days instead of the 30 minutes it took now.

I did manage to take a wrong turn at one point, since the main road was covered by some undergrowth, and ended up outside Magi Hold instead. A detour that cost me 10 minutes or so, but I was happy to have found a new place that I’ll hopefully get to revisit at some point. I was really happy when I finally made it to Tanvu. I took a brief tour of the city before I found the horse vendor outside the House of Mirrors. So now, at level 10, I finally have my first mount. I guess I should decide which city to fight for soon, so I can aim for one of the racial mounts, but I will have to do some more research first. Don’t want to let precious time go to waste!

I was also happy to see some other players running around town. While the Isle of Dawn was quite populated, the main land (at least the Kojan main land) has so far been rather barren. Chat is quite silent too. Could be that most players are up on Thestra, but it’s sad to see a large capital city as Tanvu be that empty. One can clearly see that Sigil designed the capital cities to host a whole horde of players, considering their size, and Tanvu is still quite small compared to cities like Bordinar’s Cleft. I doubt they will ever look like Dalaran, or Ironforge back in the day, which is actually quite sad. Vanguard is still a gem, a really cool game, and it’s too bad it never got – and probably never will – the mainstream praise it deserves.

If it is closed, as some people seem to think will happen after SOE closed down Matrix Online, well…I will be a sad Petter, even though I might not even be playing it when that happens. I might be playing Dungeons & Dragons Online for free instead. Probably not, since I’m not a fan of instanced content, but still. I just might.

Now I’m going to go poke one of my rats, since she’s fallen asleep in their food bowl. She might be trying to “protect” it from the new rat I introduced to them today, but somehow I just think she’s a little bit stupid. Cute as hell, yet stupid.

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And then there was E3

I have this love/hate-relationship with E3. First of all, I’ve never been to the expo myself – as a European game journalist you’re at the mercy of whatever budget the publication you work for has. This year we decided to send three people, which included a camera man, and since I was number four on the list I got to stay home and try to cover it from here. Only because you’re not on location you don’t get to slack, so we’ve been working a lot to give our Swedish readers the best E3-coverage we could. And, I must say, we certainly delivered (link in Swedish, of course).

ffxiv

The really big MMO-announcements were lacking from E3 this year, but that’s probably because the major movers have their own events later this year. Who knows if SOE got something big to show at Fan Faire (hopefully Tipa’s “Free Realms-based” EQ3 or something completely different) and Blizzard probably saves the next expansion for World of Warcraft until Blizzcon. Instead, we did get Heroes of Telara, which looks pretty neat. And, of course, Final Fantasy XIV. OK, so that was a pretty major announcement. Shut it, E3 always makes my brain melt a bit. The whole concept of a new FF-MMO, playing on the PS3, sounds freaking awesome to me, so I guess I will have to get back to that in a later post.

Bioware did give us a incredible cinematic trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and even though a cinematic trailer for any game is just that – cinematic – it’s still the best Star Wars-related film produced since, well, 1983. I am almost looking forward to the next trailer as much as the actual game. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I’m looking forward to the game that much, at least not as a MMO. Currently it seems like they could just have done KOTOR3 instead of what they are doing now. If you want to tell a story that bad, go single player instead.

I also know that my RSS-reader is filled with MMO-related posts right now that I haven’t had time to read over the last couple of days (394 posts and counting). I guess I got myself to blame, since I have a tendency to add any MMO-blog I come across to it. So I’m going to get cracking on reading those between Aion beta game sessions. I’ll get back to Aion as well, the beta event they got going right now will only last through the weekend. But first impressions? I love, love the art. The world and the design is what currently make it compelling, since up until now it’s a pretty standard MMO. We’ll see how it develops, hopefully we’ll get to try some nice PvP in the near future.

One thing is for sure – it was really hard to jump from Aion to Vanguard. I’m still enjoying Vanguard, finished the Isle of Dawn-questline with a nice group yesterday, but when it comes to graphics and character design it is certainly lacking. It’s a problem most of SOE’s games suffer from, perhaps with the exception of Star Wars Galaxies where I think the characters do a pretty nice job. Vanguard still got that whole “enormous epic world”-thing going for it and I’ve decided to trek to Tanvu instead of just taking the riftway from Lotus Hold. If the world is there, and you want to experience it, teleporting just doesn’t cut it. I’ll see if I have time for it this week when the Aion server closes.

And I want to level my high elf in Sacred 2 on the 360, finish inFamous, try out Valkyria Chronicles, finish Assassin’s Creed (since AC2 looks great)…and get all the writing I have to do done. It’s official, my life completely revolves around games. This weekend I found a Sega Master System in my wardrobe I forgot I even had. I would sigh at myself if it wasn’t for the fact that I love it. With the personal problems I mentioned a few posts ago slowly getting better, let’s see what we can do with this gaming life of mine. Toodles for now, though!

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Which virtual world to visit this summer?

Summer is coming. Summer means gaming. So does the rest of the year, but still. Which means I need a summer MMO to keep myself busy.

I really did try to give EverQuest II another chance, but after a brief session yesterday I decided to call it quits again. I do enjoy the game on certain levels, the gameplay is fairly solid and the graphics aren’t all that bad (except the character design, which I’m not a big fan of), but I am amazed at how the zoning always gets to me. It really shouldn’t be that big a deal, but I can’t help having to stretch my imagination too far every time I zone – in my head, The Baubleshire and the Forest Ruins aren’t connected in any way, despite the fact that they are right next to each other. The zoning between them completely breaks my immersion, which annoys me to the degree that I have a hard time enjoying the rest of the EQII-experience.

For a weak moment I was considering resubbing to Age of Conan, despite what some people seem to think about Funcom’s latest event screw up, but then I remembered that if there’s one game that has a lot of zoning, it’s AoC. I also did some reading on the official AoC forums and seeing references to the amount of instances of a given zone up at one time, I really decided to skip it. If there is one thing that gets me more than zoning it’s instancing of an open zone (dungeons are exceptions). I even prefer more servers with less people on them than multiple instances of a zone on one server. Just the thought of it makes my skin crawl. It’s a horrible, bad and cheap design solution.

So where does that leave me? Rappelz still won’t co-operate, which really bugs me. A clean install is coming up and some manual patching on top of that should solve my issues, even though it’s really damn annoying that I have to do that just to get the thing running. Champions Online has been delayed until September, but to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed with the press beta. Jumpgate Evolution has been delayed as well, but considering what a train wreck of a MMO NetDevil’s old Auto Assault was, why do I even care to begin with? I’m not very impressed with the ship design and I know I will always expect space MMOs that only has a ship as your avatar to be as cut-throat as EVE Online. Dog fights are cool and all, but I still love the rush of EVE’s PvP fights.

Darkfall? The €42 price tag says “no”. I would love to give it a try, but I can’t for the life of me see myself paying that much money for it. It also seems like the European, and only, server is already populated and entrenched by now. I might consider it if they open up the NA-1 server in June and allow people to transfer off from EU-1, but I would prefer to see a brand new server opening up in Europe instead. Even though the empires are already established in EVE Online, you still have Empire space to keep you safe and cuddly until you dare to leave for low- or null-sec. I’m not 100% sure, since I’ve not tried DF myself, but it seems like it would be harder to start up a brand new, small sized guild compared to getting a corp up and running in EVE.

So, my eyes have once again fallen on Vanguard. There might not be any large-scale politics to get involved in, but it has a massive and epic world filled with places to see and explore. I really liked it when I played it, but since raiding in World of Warcraft got the better of me I cancelled my sub ages ago. I haven’t seen the Isle of Dawn (except the very first parts), I never got past level 20 and since diplomacy has seen a bit of a revamp since I left I’m really aching to see what they’ve done with those quest chains (I really liked diplomacy). I’ve been a bit worried (and still am, in a way) that SOE would leave the game to rot, but the Halls of the Pantheon update was just applied to the live servers which means the devs are keeping themselves busy.

As it stands right now, it’s Vanguard vs a deeper commitment to EVE Online. I love EVE, I always have, always will. But it plays completely different than other MMOs, at least for me. It’s about 10 days until I finished Small Railgun Spec V, then we’ll see if EVE will be my summer MMO. Until then, I think I’ll resub to Vanguard and give Isle of Dawn a spin. After all, Beau seems to be quite impressed with it.

And then there’s that damn Ryzom I just can’t get out of my head…arrrrrgh. I think I’ll go play inFamous for a bit.

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Eurogamer dings level 10…twice

My emo Shadowknight in Everquest II. Yes, I use the alternate models.

My emo Shadowknight in Everquest II. Yes, I use the alternate models.

Eurogamer MMO, which just gets better and better, published what is the first article in their Ten Level Test-series today, where two MMOs and their first ten levels are pitted against each other to see which one comes out on top. It’s a great idea, similar to something I had planned doing myself for Gamereactor (if any of my editors decided to buy into my idea), and it’s great to see other games than the Big Three (World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online and EVE Online) get some time in the spotlight.

First out is Everquest II and Vanguard, two games I’ve been playing myself. Both are SOE-games and both are from the fantasy genre, so it’s quite fitting to see them go up against each other. The write-up is a great laugh, especially the comments about the Ratonga wizard they create in EQII. Almost makes me want to re-roll, but I still have an aversion against small races because of my gnome in World of Warcraft. I’m quite satisfied with staring at crotches in one game, thank you very much…

Oli Welsh has written down the rules for the whole test in his blog, noting that

Ten Level Test isn’t an infallible test of a game’s quality. That’s what reviews are for. While we firmly believe World of Warcraft is the best MMO out there, its first ten levels could quite easily lose in a fight with LOTRO, Warhammer Online – or even Age of Conan. What’s more, a round could be swung by factors that are completely out of control of the game’s designers and support staff; it will work in a game’s favour if we end up in a great group or make a new friend. And then there’s raw luck; a game’s fate could rest on a roll of the dice, a random loot drop.

which I personally find really exciting. This test isn’t based on reviews, it’s purely based on the writer’s experiences during the first ten levels – like a gonzo new games journalism-kind of thing (if you excuse me using the old NGE-term), applied to MMOs. That approach is great for MMO-reporting, considering that the genre is horrible to write traditional reviews about, something most game journos have noticed when they are suddenly faced with the task.

Vanguard? Bugged? I have no clue what you are talking about.

Vanguard? Bugged? I have no clue what you are talking about.

Upcoming matches are Lineage II vs Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars vs Dungeon & Dragons Online and Star Wars Galaxies vs City of Heroes. I’m especially psyched about seeing how D&DO stands up to Guild Wars, as I’ve been considering picking it up just to give it a spin. Guild Wars is a good PvP-game, but I never found it immersive enough to start playing it again, even if I still got it installed on my hard drive.

I am looking forward to see how things develop from here. When the first batch of matches are done, the winners will be pitted against each other for level 10 – 20, until a single game remains. I am happy to see that the winner of the first round is Vanguard, which is a really underrated game that never managed to get over the initial bad reputation it got (even though it was well deserved at first, since it was a buggy piece of crap at launch). It almost makes me want to switch over my current EQII-sub to Vanguard…

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