I must be the worst Eve Online player in the world.
With all the chatter about Eve Online lately, and being a bit bored, I decided to give Eve a whirl. Ironically, two hours after subscribing, my Pandaria beta invite arrived. I did try Eve a couple of years ago, but basically gave up after 5 minutes with the interface. This time I resolved that I would make it further in, and at least get to a different system.
The initial tutorial went mostly well, until I got to a mission requiring me to take some documents to another system three jumps away, that had some new agents. I made it to the destination system, and then realized that I didn't have the documents in my cargo hold. So I had to go all the way back.
When I got back, I just could not figure out how to transfer goods from the station to my cargo hold. After numerous clicking I accidentally clicked the "Quit Mission" button on the Tutorial Agent.
Doing that reset the tutorial missions back to the very beginning. Nonplussed, I set out to do them again. The first mission involves you flying out and picking up a new ship. I did that, and exchanged my slightly-geared ship for a completely new ship. However, the next mission involved shooting pirates. When I did the mission the first time, I got a gun and some ammo. This time, the tutorial insisted that I had already gotten the gun. Which was true, except the gun was mounted on the other ship that I had left out in deep space.
So faced with a mission that involved killing pirates and no gun, I decamped to the new system three jumps away, hoping that one of the agents there had a mission I could do to earn some ISK to buy a gun.
Luckily, one of the agents had an introductory mining mission. She gave me a newbie mining laser and sent me out. Eventually I figured out how to find asteroids. Eve has an interesting relationship between the gameworld and UI. 90% of objects in space can be accessed through the UI. Which is fine and dandy until you need something like asteroids which don't appear on the UI.
But eventually I got that figured out, and mined 1000 units of Concentrated Veldspar and headed back to the station. On the station, I could not finish the mission. After scrutinizing the mission log, it turned out that the Agent wanted 1000 units of Veldspar, not Concentrated Veldspar. Apparently there were two different types of asteroids out there. So I unloaded the Concentrated Veldspar and headed back out, this time to seach the asteroids until I found regular Veldspar. I found some eventually, mined it, and returned back to the station.
And this time, I simply could not figure out how to complete the quest. I think, and I may be wrong, that I was supposed to mine in a specific spot, instead of any random asteroid belt. After much frustration, I clicked the Quit Mission button, hoping it would reset. Instead of resetting, the agent simply went silent and does not offer missions anymore.
I finally managed to do another mission, got some ISK and bought a gun and some ammo. Then I bought more ammo after I jumped into space and could not load the gun, and realized the first ammo was the wrong type.
Finally though, I was able to return to the original tutorial system, complete the tutorial missions and get back to the new system successfully. It only took me two days. Clearly I'm ready for null-sec.
 Though I did eventually figure out a way to load cargo, I'm probably missing something, as this seems like quite a complicated process for something that is done a lot. I imagined you open a window with the station items, then open a window with the cargo hold, and drag and drop. Or possibly an option in the context-sensitive right-click menu. Dragging and dropping onto a tab of a window seems ugly to me.
 This is the biggest lesson I've learned so far in Eve. Never click a Quit Mission or Refuse Mission button. Everything goes badly if you do that.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
I must be the worst Eve Online player in the world.
Friday, March 30, 2012
I got in the Mists of Pandaria Beta with the latest wave of invites. I only played for about half an hour or so late last night. I rolled a pandaren monk and poked around a bit. Here are some quick thoughts:
- On the character screen, classes are shown in high-end armor. Guess what paladins are wearing? That's right, Judgement! I love how Judgement armor has come to symbolize the WoW paladin.
- The monk Chi resource is interesting. It's quite close to rogue combo points, but surprisingly plays quite differently. Fixed, and different, Chi costs for abilities end up making the monk play in a completely different manner. I find it very interesting how one tiny change to the resource system results in a completely different class.
- The initial monk attacks are a chi builder, a punch that costs 1 chi and does more damage if the enemy is over 50%, and a kick which costs 2 chi, is only usable below 35%, and refunds one chi if it kills the enemy. This means that my standard gameplay so far is to float with 2 chi in my pool, alternate the builder and punch, and then finish off the mob with a kick. It's a completely different rhythm than the rogue.
- The monk's use of weapons is also interesting. They stay sheathed most of the item, and are only brought out for specific abilities.
- So far, pandaren are reasonably serious. They aren't a joke race like goblins.
- The other interesting mechanic is abilities with a cooldown but multiple "charges". So far, the only ability like this is Roll. It has a 15 second cooldown, but 2 charges. That means that you can Roll twice in a row, but it then takes 15s for 1 charge to be restored, and another 15s for the second charge to come back. (This description isn't the greatest, but it's very intuitive when you see it.) I think this is an interesting design space to open up, as it allows abilities to used multiple times quickly, but still enforces the cooldown and overall rate of ability use. I'm looking forward to seeing what Blizzard does with this mechanic.
Is there anything else people would like to see discussed or tried out?
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
One of the more exciting Pandaria Beta revelations was the existence of a glyph which allows Demonology warlocks to tank things. Sadly, the hopes and dreams of many warlocks were dashed when Ghostcrawler declared that glyph was more of a fun item, that maybe would allow the warlocks to offtank mobs and maybe emergency tank for a short while.
That reminds me of paladin tanking back in Vanilla and early TBC. A gimmick tank. It made paladins very unhappy, and finally Blizzard gave us full tanking capabilities.
I would go so far as to say that this glyph is a bad idea. Allowing people to think that they might tank, but not actually letting them tank sounds like a recipe for failure.
In my opinion, if Blizzard wants to go down this path, they should embrace it fully. Make Demonology a proper tanking spec, and the Felguard into a pet which enhances your tanking (as opposed to one that tanks for you). I think it might be kind of cool, and would give warlocks an extra bit of differentiation from mages. Mages and warlocks are a bit too similar, and it might be nice to separate them a bit more.
Of course this means a lot more work for Blizzard, adding another tank spec to balance. Not to mention that existing demonology warlocks might be unhappy that they got turned into tanks.
But if Blizzard doesn't want warlocks to properly tank, they should remove the glyph. Half measures are just going to annoy everyone. The experience of early paladin tanks is evidence of this, and Blizzard should really avoid making the same mistake twice.
Monday, March 26, 2012
So the news is that Bioware is looking at revisiting the ending of Mass Effect 3. A lot of people decry this as a lacking "artistic integrity".
Judging by the posts I've read, most of these people haven't actually played through the ending of the ME3. Seriously, read this PC Gamer article featuring other game writers, and tell me how many of them have actually beaten the game in question. Heck, most of them are too busy shilling their own game in their answer. So much for their vaunted artistic integrity.
In any case, there are two points I'd like to make about artistic integrity.
Artists Make Mistakes
Artists are human beings just like the rest of us. That means that they too can make mistakes, even when it comes to their own art. Their choices are not always the best choices. Sometimes, the artist can go back and fix those mistakes. Or, in the case of George Lucas, make new mistakes.
My favorite movie is Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. But the version I adore is not the same version as the one released in movie theaters. It is significantly changed. In fact, Ridley Scott has continued to tinker with the film. He has been fixing his mistakes.
Most mediums don't really allow the artist to easily fix their work. Plays and theater do, and playwrights have often adapted their works after initial runs. Sometimes movies can when new editions are released to take advantage of new mediums. I've read novels where the writer returns to her work (often the first book published) ten or twenty years later and updates it, editing it better, adding a couple scenes, and generally cleaning up and polishing.
Computer games are a medium where it is easy to make changes, to fix mistakes. None of us would blink an eye at a patch that fixed a mechanical imbalance. Why is fixing a story mistake so far beyond the pale?
There is an old story about Winston Churchill and a socialite:
Churchill: "Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?"Mass Effect 3 had such crass marketing ploys as Day-One DLC and a pop up during the ending urging the player to purchase more DLC. Those sorts of stunts already establish exactly what sort of company Bioware is. And it is not exactly one brimming with artistic integrity.
Socialite: "My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course... "
Churchill: "Would you sleep with me for five pounds?"
Socialite: "Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!"
Churchill: "Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”
A company cannot indulge in things like Day-One DLC and expect the audience to take claims of "artistic integrity" seriously. We already know that you're for sale, and we're just haggling about the price.
I regard the ending of Mass Effect 3 as a mistake. Unlike a lot of other artists, the medium Bioware works in offers them the chance to fix that mistake, to improve the work of art. As well, by choosing to indulge in marketing shenanigans, Bioware has already compromised its claims of integrity, and those claims are not likely to be taken seriously by the audience.
From either side, I find the excuse of "artistic integrity" to avoid changes to be very weak. But if Bioware honestly believes that their ending is the best possible ending, that on reflection it was not a mistake, then they should stand by that ending. That choice has consequences, as the audience is free to disagree, and re-evaluate the quality and skill of the artist and the work.
Note: The comment thread may contain spoilers for Mass Effect 3.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
I was in the Beta Weekend for TERA, an upcoming MMO. TERA is a bit of a cross between Asian MMOs and WoW/RIFT/SWTOR. It's still a theme park MMO, but a lot of the sensibilities are more reminiscent of Asian MMOs than Western ones.
TERA's main selling point is that it is more of an "action" MMO. The creature animations "telegraph" their attacks, and you can manually dodge or block the attack. As well, you can chain attacks together in combos, to produce something a little bit closer to an action game than a standard MMO. You don't select a target, but rather attack what's in front of you.
TERA actually does a very good job with this. Combat is rather interesting, and a bit more interactive than standard MMOs. The real standout in TERA is the animations. They are superb.
There are also lots of other nice ideas. For example, harvesting a resource node gives you a small temporary buff for the next few minutes. There's this concept of "stamina" which slowly drains over half an hour or so. You replenish stamina at campfires, and you burn charms to give everyone near the campfire a long-term buff.
However, TERA is pretty shameless. It's the type of MMO where all the female characters wear high heels, and extraordinarily revealing gear. It's actually somewhat impressive at the sheer number of ways TERA's artists can make inappropriate gear.
One race even looks like prepubescent girls, which comes across as rather sketchy. I honestly don't think the developers mean it in a negative way (well, I hope not), as it's paired with another race of furry round badger type animals. But maybe it just loses something in translation. An archetype (lolicon?) which has a specific meaning in Asian culture, but not in Western culture.
As a result of the last two items, the audience TERA seems to attract is rather distasteful. Area chat is rude at best, and downright disgusting at worst. Regardless of the game itself, I would rather not play with those types of people.
Which is a bit of a shame. The game itself has a pretty decent core. The animations are excellent, the classes are interesting and varied, the combat is fun. Some of the subsystems like trading and crafting are a little confusing, and the game likes randomness a little too much. But when I turned off player chat, the game became surprisingly appealing.
Still, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. TERA chose high heels, skimpy armor, and lolicons. And thus they get the audience that is primarily attracted by high heels, skimpy armor, and lolicons.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I decided to go back to RIFT for a little while. When I last left RIFT, I had just levelled a cleric to level 50, the max level. So I've been working on the cleric since then. I've not really bothered with looking up information on the internet, mostly playing the game by itself.
It's an interesting experience, hitting endgame without being plugged into the external community. It is kind of daunting, and probably far from optimal.
Take something as simple as enchants. I have no idea if RIFT has enchants. I checked the AH for item enhancements, and there were enchants, but it looked like only for weapons. I'm not sure if there are enchants from other sources, like factions.
Speaking of factions, I'm earning reputation with them, but I have no idea where the quartermasters are, or even if they sell anything useful.
I've mostly been running dungeons. You need a certain gear level to get into Expert dungeons, and I finally managed that, and have done a few of them. They're more or less like WoW Wrath Heroics. Pretty easy at this point, with a few mechanics you have to watch for. The groups are pretty nice, but it's mostly an AoE fest.
One interesting thing is that the queue time for DPS is actually rather short. I sign up for dungeons as DPS or heals, and I'm about 50/50 on which role I get.
So far, RIFT at 50 is pretty fun. But the experience has illustrated to me just how large the gap between someone who is "informed" about everything, and someone who just relies on in-game hints or advice is.
Monday, March 19, 2012
A lot of Mists of Pandaria information has flooded the internet today. Here at BoK, however, we focus on only the truly vital and important elements for our discerning readers. To wit: Bubble-Hearth is back as a Minor Glyph!
Glyph of Righteous Retreat: During Divine Shield, you can invoke your Hearthstone 50% faster.Ahh, bubble-hearth. How we love thee. Things are looking up for Mists of Pandaria.
Here are the other paladin minor glyphs:
Glyph of the Falling Avenger: You slow fall during Avenging Wrath.Pretty neat. Wings give you slow fall and make you bigger.
Glyph of Winged Vengence: You grow larger during Avenging Wrath.
Glyph of Bladed Judgement: Your Judgement spell depicts an axe or sword instead of a hammer, if you have an axe or sword equipped.Axes and swords are cool, and adds a little customization. As for Fire From the Heavens, we'll have to see the graphic. Judgement and Hammer of Wrath are already flashy, adding fire might be overkill. Or it might be awesome. There is a fine line between the two, especially when it comes to holy fire.
Glyph of Fire From the Heavens: Your Judgement and Hammer of Wrath critical strikes call down fire from the sky.
Glyph of Mounted Kings: Mounting a paladin mount automatically casts Blessing of Kings on you.Mounted Kings is a bit odd. But hey, why not? And it might be good in battlegrounds where you can just mount up and have Kings cast on the raid. Luminous Charger should be awesome. Though paladin chargers already have a bit of glow. But maybe the glow is turned up to 11. Should be good times.
Glyph of the Luminous Charger: Your paladin class mounts glow with Holy Light.
I'm thinking Righteous Retreat, Falling Avenger, and Luminous Charger for my three minor glyphs.
Excellent work by the Mists team. Paladin minor glyphs have been very lackluster up to now, and Blizzard is correcting that with a vengeance.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of Mass Effect 3.
A commenter suggested that I write my own ending for ME3. They may have been tongue-in-cheek, but I'm bored, so here's my ending.
Continued below the jump.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I want to express my displeasure about the ending of Mass Effect 3 to Bioware in the strongest possible terms.
I know, it's not really fair to the SWTOR team. But they got the advantages of the Bioware name when times were good, so now they must live with the downsides of that name.
Edit: Just to clarify, this is me cancelling my SWTOR subscription. In my view, companies like EA will only care if protests have a monetary effect. Outrage on a forum or blog does nothing.
Warning: Some of the comments contain spoilers.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of Mass Effect 3.
99% of Mass Effect 3 is amazing, beautiful, outstanding, and superbly-written. 1% is a horrific travesty. Unfortunately, that 1% is the ending.
(The rest is below the break to avoid spoilers.)
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Zac Hill, who is on the Development Team for Magic: the Gathering, wrote an excellent article the other day: Sculpting Flow and Fiero. It's written from a Magic perspective, but a lot of it applies to games in general.
Flow and fiero are the two emotions evoked by games. From Zac Hill's article, here is the description of flow:
The flow experience is one of the most universally euphoric experiences human beings enjoy. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it as "the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of creative accomplishment and heightened functioning." In fact, he dedicated almost a decade of his life to researching flow. Where can we find it? Why do we enjoy it so much? And what are the secrets to getting more of it?
Csikszentmihalyi found that central to the flow experience were three factors: clear goals, rigidly defined rules of engagement, and the potential for measured improvement in the context of those goals and rules.And the description of fiero:
If flow represents the height of the human capacity to learn—and therefore to triumph—fiero is the payoff that happens once we do that.
According to Dr. McGonigal, fiero is "possibly the most primal rush we can experience." It's the feeling we get when we conquer an obstacle that, for whatever reason, is emotionally important to us. It's the weird and surreal force that leads to touchdown dances, fist-pumps, and the compulsion to scream "GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL" when someone scores in a Premier League football match.
The harder the challenge, the more severe the payoff. We love, after all, to confirm our own narratives of exceptionalism. But the obstacles we overcome must feel genuine. If I've just taught someone Magic, something is wrong with me if I just relish the opportunity to bash in that player's face by playing every match like it's the finals of the Pro Tour. On the other hand, a masterfully sculpted game like the recent Kibler-Finkel semifinals feels like a well-choreographed dance, and the moments where we win such games feel viscerally like they mean something. The root of that meaning is the fiero impulse, which inspires optimism by evincing mastery—and mastery helps us feel capable of meeting the most intense challenges of our lives.An excellent article, and these two concepts seem very important to MMOs. The part that MMOs are struggling with is taking the flow and fiero, which exist on an individual level, and trying to evoke them on the group level.
Monday, March 05, 2012
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Milady wrote an interesting post on the evolution of Bioware's romances on her site Hypercritism. I started to post a response, but then had to think about it some more. It seems to me that the real issue is not so much the writing of romances, so much as it is the underlying companion affection system.
The companion affection system reminds me of valor points in WoW. The connection is probably not obvious, but they're both systems which have been iterated on over time, and which may no longer serve their original purpose.
Think about why Bioware came up with companion affection. What problem was it intended to solve?
In the early Bioware/Black Isle games, your relationship with a companion was really independent of your actions in the game, independent of your character's nature. Really the only thing that mattered was your previous conversations with the character and your progress in the game. Those were the keys which unlocked subsequent conversations.
I think the original idea behind companion affection was that your character's personality--as revealed through her actions in the game--should matter to your companions. A good-aligned character should find it easier to get along with other good-aligned people, and harder with people who share different values. I think this idea makes sense, and is a reasonable behavior to try and simulate.
So Bioware decided on a simple scale. If your character took an action or dialogue a party member agrees with, your affection with that character increases. If they disagree, the affection decreases.
The next hurdle comes when you have more companions that party slots, and the game has roles. If your character fulfills the same combat role as Alistair, you're not going to have him in your party. But that means that Alistair's affection does not change, and so you will never see Alistair's personal storyline.
So Bioware implemented gifts. Gifts allow you to increase the affection of companions you don't adventure with. In The Old Republic, gifts also allow you to increase affection if you don't quest, if you PvP or do space battles or group instances.
But if you think about it, gifts also invalidate the very purpose of the companion system. Your character's personality doesn't matter to the companion any more. Instead you just ply them with gifts until their stories unlock.
What the gifts do is turn the companion affection system from a simulation into a grind. Another xp/rep grind that you fill out for rewards or to unlock content. I bet many players in SWTOR will have all five companions with their affection maxed out.
The other part of this is that players, especially MMO players, don't really like making permanent decisions, especially decisions that close off content. Gifts allow you to circumvent the choices made during leveling. Your choices are no longer permanent.
I think that companion affection systems would work better with two changes. First, no gifts, no ways to circumvent the choices you make in the game. Your companions react to your character as revealed by the choices you make.
Second, changes in companion affection are not restricted to your current companions, but rather occur for all the companions. This means that you can't avoid the loss of affection by using a different conversation. Conversation and decisions trigger a reaction in all characters, so a decision might see a gain in affection for some characters, and a loss for others.
Of course, the downside of this is that you won't see the stories for all the companions. Maybe the companion affection system is entirely unnecessary, and the old way of unlocking stories as the game progresses was just better. Maybe trying to make your character's personality--outside conversations with companions--matter to your companions is not worth the effort, and has too many negative consequences.
Saturday, March 03, 2012
I've been in semi-large guilds for almost all of my MMO tenure. One of the advantages of large guilds is that whenever you log on, there's usually a critical mass of people online. Oh, not enough to raid, but usually enough so that you can start a 5-man, or there's some chat going on, etc.
Is this the case in 10-man guilds? Or do 10-man guilds normally have 5 or fewer people online at non-raid times? Or do 10-mans work best as small teams inside larger guilds?
It seems to me that this is one downside of the push towards smaller raid sizes. Larger raid sizes required larger guilds, making it more likely that one would log into a bustling community at any given time.
Friday, March 02, 2012
In a comment to a previous post, Spinks makes a comment that I think is illustrative of the divide between me and a lot of readers:
You seem to be thinking a lot lately about being able to measure how good someone is at PvE. But it's not going to work when you have one person who is amazing at stuff that involves interacting with the environment/ interrupts etc but can't get the pinpoint timing that you'd need to max dps output, or vice versa. Or someone who is a decent player but gets very very very stressed if they are asked to perform a raid-critical task.
- Maximize DPS output
- Utility Stuff
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Ghostcrawler has posted a Dev Watercooler about upcoming Stat Changes in Mists of Pandaria. Here are some reactions.
No more spell resistance. Pretty much the culmination of many years of moving in this directions. In the beginning everyone had to collect Fire Resistance sets for Ragnaros. Then only the tank had to collect resistance sets. Then maybe only one or two pieces for one or fights. And now none.
I'll kind of miss it, even though it was a lot of running around for a single fight. And then, finally completing your tank's set and watching him leave for another guild was terribly annoying.
Paladins also lose our Resistance Auras. However, Aura Mastery has been changed to reduce elemental damage directly, so we won't see any great change.
Hit and Expertise
I really like the linear nature of increasing hit requirements. Previously, there was a large step between +2 levels and +3 levels, especially for casters. This invariably caused issues with people learning to raid.
I like the consolidation of spell hit and hit into one stat. It's a lot simpler and straightforward. Same with the normalization of Expertise.
Being able to dodge arrows is also a welcome change, and having Hunters being able to use expertise will make gearing them and shaman a bit easier.
Casters using Expertise to reduce spell miss is a little bit weird. But it does give them another stat to play with. It's interesting that there's a slight difference in Hit and Expertise between casters and physical. Casters need a combination of Hit and Expertise that adds up to 15%. Physical needs 7.5% Hit and 7.5% Expertise.
The double roll is actually how The Old Republic handles block. This probably makes block a lot harder to cap out, especially with diminishing returns. It may also devalue block, depending on how it's calculated. If 20% block means that 20% of hits are blocked, compared to 20% of attacks being blocked, that means that as you add more dodge and parry, the number of blocks goes down.
Update: Theck has a really good critique of the new block, with actual math demonstrating the point above.
It's also interesting to note that abilities like Shield of the Righteous now guarantee that the next hit will be blocked.
Resilience is now becoming two stats: a PvP Offense stat and a PvP Defense stat. It's interesting that they are explicitly calling out the stats as a PvP stat. I do hope it cuts down on the number of tanks in PvP gear.
This is somewhat similar to the The Old Republic model, only they use a single stat for both sides. Having two stats might make tuning a little easier. Like if Blizzard wants PvP to speed up, they can reduce the value of defense, or increase the value of offense. Plus it gives two stats to play with for gemming.
The two stats will also be free in terms of cost. But the PvP item will be a slightly lower ilevel than the PvE item. But the PvE item will lack the two PvP stats. So gear will look like this:
90 PvP Offense
90 PvP Defense
So the PvP item is strictly worse in PvE, but is pretty close, and not as bad as PvP stats are today. And the PvE stats lack the Offense and Defense stats to really function well in PvP.
I think the PvE changes are pretty good, smoothing out the game and making it more intuitive, while giving classes more stats to play with. As for the PvP changes, they look good, but we'll see how they turn out.
The problem with PvE/PvP gear is that Blizzard wants the low end to be able to use either armor in either setting, but wants the high end to strictly use the relevant type. That's a pretty hard goal to hit.