Grab-bag of gaming news around the net

There has been some gaming news that got my attention in the last few days. Since I don’t think everybody here is as neurotic as I am in keeping up with these kind of news I thought it might be interesting to point out to a few of them.

First of, the Kelethin City Festival has started over in Everquest 2. That by itself wouldn’t be that interesting considering that City Festivals happen every month. Except that with this we are finally getting Building Blocks themed after the city festival in question. What are Building Blocks? They are exactly what it sounds like, cubes, boards and circles (it looks more like an octagon) that decorators can use to build stuff with and save some much needed item count. It should be appearing on Station Cash too after the festival is over for those who would prefer alternatives to acquire them. Crafted building blocks should be coming with the next Game Update which is scheduled to March if I recall corectly. I just wish there were some triangles in there…. But hey, this is already pretty good considering how long the decorator community has been asking for it and how simple they are, model-wise.

Also, a reminder that the “A Goddess Risen” world event will be ending on February 6th. If you didn’t do it yet you might want to do it now. It is a very short, easy, quest line that will probably appeal to fans of EQ2 lore. It also gives a cool house item, an unique bow and a shield, both that can also be turned into house items.

A few days ago, Good Old Games started selling Thief Gold. For those who don’t know it, it is a classic game which brought a lot of innovations to the FPS genre back in the day. Basically you play a thief (yes, big surprise there) and your mission throughout the levels is to break into places, avoid being detected by guards and steal as much as you can. Nowadays this doesn’t seem like a big deal but back in the days this blew people’s mind. Although the GoG team did an amazing job to get it to run on modern machines it still runs on the monitor resolutions and aspects of its days. Rock, Paper, Shotgun found ways to fix it though so it runs with more modern resolutions and aspect ratios. You can find that fix here.

I admit I didn’t really play Thief besides the first level back in the days. Back then I just saw it as another FPS game, a genre which I despised. Granted it did have a neat premise and gameplay but my hatred for FPS blinded me to its awesomeness. Plus in those days it looked like every frigging game in the future would be a FPS so I was trying to spend whatever time I got in what I believed would be the last non-FPS games ever made. All I can say now is that hindsight is a pain. Anyway, I do intent to rectify that mistake once I get some more time and money.

Speaking of classic games, a while ago there were news that Firaxis would be making their own remake of X-Com. A remake that would be an actual strategy game. Like the original game was. Who woulda think, huh? :p

Anyway, leaving the sarcasm behind, the fine folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun strike again and they did an interesting interview with Jake Solomon, lead designer of Firaxis’ X-Com remake. It will be in 3 parts and you can find part 1 here. Topics covered are how long the development took so far, the challenges of remaking a game that is, rightfully so, considered a sacred cow to many players and other topics. It is a pretty interesting read for anyone who is looking forward on how that one turns out.

Myself I am cautiously excited about it. Firaxis already proved themselves that they can make a damn good job of reinventing a good game and still making it feel right with Civilization V. So they will probably do another fine job with their version of X-Com.

Hm. That should be all for now. Back to your regularly (non-)scheduled ramblings!

Revisiting Lineage 2

Lumilie posing for a screenshotI have the weirdest love-hate relationship with MMORPGs. It is always the same thing. Everything feels perfect, exciting at  the start. Sure there are a few annoyances here and there but there are so many things to do!

Then the annoyances start to pile up, the new shiny game effect starts to wear off and the hatred starts to sink in. Why am I still playing this game? Why am I wasting time and money on something so unfun when those both could be spent on better single player games or other more fulfilling hobbies?

Some time off from the game or event makes me starting to appreciate the game again, the hatred starts to fade and it is back to business as usual. This is a cycle that keeps repeating itself with a game many times until I am so worn out of this that it is time to actually quit.

Of all the MMORPGs I played so far the one I got the most extreme version of these feelings was certainly Lineage 2. Without going on a rant about everything that was wrong while I played it, I will just say it was the game where I experienced first-hand the worst parts of MMORPGs. By that I mean rampant botting and scamming, bullies PKing people who couldn’t defend themselves, illegal RMT basically destroying a game economy and some of the most illogical, idiotic, game mechanics that would make sense only in the twisted mind of some crazy game developer.

Keep in mind this was years ago, in a different time altogether. To give some perspective this was when “The Burning Crusade” was still the latest expansion for World of Warcraft, any Aion information you could get would be in fan sites who would translate stuff from korean sources and before the Kamael race was introduce to Lineage 2. As any MMORPG goes, it changed vastly since then.

Still, you might be asking. If the game was that horrible back then why did I keep playing it? Well, there were a few reasons. First I still find that it has some interesting mechanic concepts. Mainly in terms of classes as each race has their own unique classes that fit with the race’s lore. For instance, Dark Elf classes are all geared towards offense/dark arts, Light Elf classes goes more for defense/light magic, Orc classes more towards physical prowess/mysticism, Dwarven classes being the only ones who could craft anything/better at resource gathering and of course humans having the usual jack-off all trades/middle of the road classes that due to that end up ruling the world.

It is as pretty cool concept though nowadays I am not  sure it works so well for a MMORPG. It is already hard enough to balance a MMORPG with the traditional holy trinity of tank/damage dealer/healer. Making some of those classes biased towards certain things based on their race makes it even more trickier. For a single player game it might actually be something fun for the player that adds replay value.

There is also the  fact that the game was top of the line in terms of MMORPG graphics back then. It still looks pretty good considering all  the time since its release.

Lastly, but not least important, I was lucky to get into a clan with a bunch of good people. The kind of people that would stick with you no matter how tough things were, always willing to help out in any way they could. In a game as brutal as Lineage 2 was back then, this was a blessing.

These factors often made me nostalgic about the game from time to time. Occasionally I would even take their offer to check the game again when they offered some game play days for former subscribers. For the most part though I was pretty much done with the game. The bad parts had scarred me for life. So much that even when the game converted to a free to play model I still ignored it.

For some reason though I decided to give it another look now. I don’t know exactly why. My best guess would be the latest “Choose My Adventure” series at Massively that covered Lineage 2. In a way it felt like the guy was talking about a completely different game. Another reason is probably because I seem to be in the mood to try new game experiences since I am downloading DC Universe Online right now, a game I pretty much ignored so far. Yes, I already played Lineage 2 so it doesn’t count as exactly new but so many things changed since I quit the game that it can just count as that. It is also has enough of its own unique stuff to set it apart from all the World of Warcraft clones that has been plaguing the MMORPG landscape for some years now. So that is another plus on Lineage 2’s favor.

With all that said, is Lineage 2 worth playing now that it is free to play? Or should people just run away for their lives? Honestly, I can’t give an in-depth analysis of the game right now. I wasn’t able to play much so far and due to certain circumstances (which I will be getting at by the end of the post) it will take me another week before I can give a more informed opinion. By then I might even not bother with the game again. So just consider this a first impression of Lineage 2 post free-to-play conversion. If I keep playing the game and find some interesting stuff to talk about I might make further posts. For now this will be the only one about it.

Another caveat is that this is all from the point of view of a carebear player, i.e. someone who avoids PvP like the plague. For those who enjoy PvP, specially open PvP in the style of  Lineage 2 then I am sorry but there isn’t anything I can tell about that side of the game.

Read moreRevisiting Lineage 2

Why I decorate in Everquest 2: The return!

Ah, the insights we get when we are can’t sleep, don’t feel like doing it but we know we must try otherwise we became living zombies. Anyhoo, in a previous post I rambled a lot about why I love decoration in Everquest 2. However as often happens in such endeavors I think my point got lost, even to myself, amidst of all the rambling. It is one of those gut feelings you have but you just don’t know how to put it in words or even explain it to your own self. You just know it is the thing that is right to you. I think I finally got it in a more rational way now. So to avoid losing track of what I am trying to say, let’s do something different this time and delve directly to the point, shall we?

There have been too things that have been bugging me a lot since I got into decoration in Everquest 2. The first is why I have so much trouble with little details and colors in my decorations while to other decorators it seems as natural as speaking? The second is why I care so much about a game’s feature that pretty much the majority of the MMORPG industry and player base doesn’t seem to care about, namely a good housing system? I mean, it is pretty much the only reason I am still playing Everquest 2. Everything else is just my silly obsessive side.

Read moreWhy I decorate in Everquest 2: The return!

My thoughts on Freeport Reborn

I must admit I never saw what the big deal was with Qeynos and Freeport. They always felt to me to be nothing but another piece of generic fantasy. Perhaps it is a question of timing or memories. For one, I never played Everquest 1, so I don’t have any clue how those two cities were back then. For another, I didn’t start back at the game launch. Since back then the only start option was the Isle of Refuge, where the closest to civilization was a small settlement, those two cities with their high stone walls, lots of houses, with some that you could even get for your character to live, probably felt a lot more impressive.

Instead what made me to want to grow roots in the world of Norrath happened due the “Play the Fae” trial. That trial made you begin in the region of the Greater Faydark whose capital, Kelethin, always felt far more fantastical and wondrous than either Freeport or Qeynos ever were. Neriak, who was released around the same time I did the trial, also had  the same qualities to it. And to me those two elements, fantastical and wondrous, are what good fantasy is all about.

Even as time went by those cities never really grew on me. Also as game updates went by it seemed more and more that Qeynos and Freeport were becoming irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, becoming more reactionary to the world events than the ones who set those events in motion. Which is kinda sad considering those two cities were meant to be the super potency of Everquest 2’s world, Norrath. Perhaps that is why the developers deemed necessary to give a much needed revamp to those two. The first to get the love has been Freeport, whose new looks and content has been released just last week as a free game update to all players.

Read moreMy thoughts on Freeport Reborn

Characters “Grandfathered” in Everquest 2

Everquest 2 transition to free-to-play has certainly been a controversial issue among its player base. The latest of the controversies has been the invitation former subscribers received to give the game a try again, as a free to play title, only to find out their old characters were locked because they didn’t buy a character pack or class unlocker.

Well, according to this post in the official forums by SmokeJumper, the current Executive Producer, at least that issue should be gone.

I will just quote the man himself:

*Every* character that was created before 12/06/2011 at 12:01 am will be grandfathered in without race or class restriction. This means that regardless of your membership level, you will be able to play any character created before 12/6 without paying for race- or class-pack unlocks.

For any player that previously subscribed to EQII Live servers, or as a Gold or Platinum member on EQ2X, we will also refund all the class/race pack purchases made after 12/06/2011 at 12:01 am and before the time of this posting (12/08/2011, 4:30pm) so that no one loses any SC due to this change.

Of course, this doesn’t affect new characters created from now onward. If you are playing at Silver or Free membership levels and want to create a *new* character, you’ll still be subject to the regular membership class and race restrictions.

On a personal note, I am really happy with these news. It means I might be able to save some money once I switch my account to a silver membership as I won’t have to pay to unlock my carpenters (or any of my other current characters). I will also be able to resurrect my ogre warlock on my former second account. That is as soon as I can recover my password for it. -_-

It also means less resistance from friends in trying to get them to come back to visit in-game. Mwahahahaha.

Why I love house decoration in Everquest 2

I am pretty sure a lot of  the friends I made in Everquest 2 have been puzzled by my love of house decoration. That or they started thinking it was a good time to back away slowly when I started talking about it. In fact, I even agree to a certain extent that it is pretty sad that nowadays that is my main reason to play Everquest 2. Not so much for my passion for house decoration in a MMORPG, of all places, but because I just don’t enjoy the rest of the game as much. Worse I have yet to find another MMORPG with a more engaging gameplay and house decoration. My hopes right now are on Final Fantasy XIV for that but that seems to be far away in the future…

Anyway, why I love it so much in Everquest 2? To put it simply creativity. If that is so why am I not trying to scratch my creativity itch in another more fulfilling field like… say, writing or painting or something along those lines? Well…. That I don’t know either. I guess this blog does scratch my itch for writing though. I am not sure what kind of itch decoration in a MMORPG scratches.

The next question someone might ask would probably be, why aren’t you doing that in a game whose main purpose is dealing with virtual houses, like The Sims for example. This one is easy. In a MMORPG I am building and decorating a  house for nothing but my own amusement. In a game like The Sims I would have to build to please a virtual twerp so they don’t get sad. In fact I would be spending more  time worrying micro-managing the actions of said virtual twerp so he can get as close to happiness a virtual person can get than about building cool stuff. At least in a MMORPG my biggest worries are with the space I have to work with and the item count.

Of course, none of those answers really, well, answer anything. So I guess we have to dig deeper to see where it all began, what makes it so fun, why more MMORPGs should have decent house systems and why Santa Claus wear red instead of say… purple. Ok, I admit one of those topics won’t be actually covered on this post. But all the others  will!

Read moreWhy I love house decoration in Everquest 2

Thoughts about Final Fantasy XIV class reforms preview and Letter from the Producer Live II

Seems like there were a couple of news around Final Fantasy XIV while I wasn’t looking. The first one is a preview about the class revisions that should be coming with patch 1.20. You can find it here.  As usual for these kind of things, anything in that post can change before the actual patch hits the game and people can post feedback about it on the official forums.

The second bit of news is the second “Letter from the Producer Live” which is pretty much ye olde webcast from the developers but with a fancy title. You can find it here. The video itself is in japanese without any subtitles. However there is an english translation in the form of text in the same posting.

Both give some interesting preview of what should be coming to the game in the near and long term. A lot of it made me pretty excited too as there are some cool additions being added and more much-needed changes to the game. I won’t be commenting on every and each item as it would take a gigantic post for it. I will just do so with the ones I found more interesting.

I will most likely do a hand-on post about all these topics as soon as the patches come. For now, my thoughts about what we know so far.

Read moreThoughts about Final Fantasy XIV class reforms preview and Letter from the Producer Live II

Yet more thoughts about Final Fantasy XIV post patch 1.9

After playing Final Fantasy XIV for quite a bit I found my initial impressions about patch 1.9 changes to be inaccurate. Fortunately it wasn’t inaccurate in a bad way, quite the contrary. I am finding myself getting more and more hooked into the game.

Before getting into all that though, allow me a side note (which is getting too common in my posts….):

Massively is doing a “Choose My Adventure” series with Final Fantasy XIV. If you don’t what that means, it is like a “Let’s Play” where instead of just reading about a players experiences as he/she plays through the game, the readers can vote on what should the player should do before the next post. So if you are curious how Final Fantasy XIV is from the eyes of a newbie starting on the game now, you can start reading it here.

Well, ok, technically that is not the start, it is already the 3rd post with this particular author. The first one was to choose the game (which turned out to be Final Fantasy XIV) and the second was to choose the gender, race and starting town for the character. The post I linked is him actually starting to play the game. :p

Alright, with that done, back to my own experiences with the game….

Read moreYet more thoughts about Final Fantasy XIV post patch 1.9

Interview with Naoki Yoshida at Zam

Yep. Another interview with Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi-p, aka the current producer/director for Final Fantasy XIV.

You can find it here.

Apparently he has been in Square Enix’s North American HQ recently for a small meeting with the local media. So there you have the explanation for two interviews in such a small interval of time.

On this one he goes into a few more details about stuff that will be coming on patch 2.0. In particular, it cleared some doubts I had about the Free Companies. As I guessed they will be pretty much like guilds in other MMORPGs and thankfully there will be no restrictions to who can join them. Well, no restrictions besides whichever the Free Companies leaders decide to impose that is.

The other thing is about the change from the seamless world we have now to one separated by zones. This is something that I am honestly a bit apprehensive as I hate zoning. Nothing kicks me out of being immersed in a game’s world than zoning. Now there are a few cases I can live with zoning. For example, when there is an instanced dungeon. In this case the benefits outweigh any immersion breaking. Or when there is a separation between exterior and interior environments like in the Elder Scrolls games. In those games the interiors are pretty detailed so again it outweighs the bad parts. There are also cases where I will still not like it but will grow a skin thick enough to live with it if the gameplay/content is interesting enough. That was the case with Everquest 2 since  a lot of the zones felt interesting and there were some gameplay ideas I found interesting. Zoning was a small price to pay for it even if I hate it every time the freaking loading screen shows up.

Anyway, I can understand the reasons for the change. Eorzea, Final Fantasy XIV’s world, does certainly look repetitive, lacking some interesting landmarks. Zoning should help with that. Hopefully it should also make it easier for the developers to make new content. Easier to make new content means more new content being produced. Yoshi-P also said in the interview the zoning will be similar to Final Fantasy XI. I never played it so my guess is that it is similar to Everquest 2 which in that case it is something I can live with.

All in all though, I am still pretty confident about Final Fantasy XIV’s future. Like I said before the team has been very transparent with their plans for the game, what they are working on and when those changes will come. So far all that has resulted in changes for the better. I don’t see any of that changing in the near future. Plus they are still giving players two months and another patch before asking players to decide if they want to pay the subscription fee or not. To me that should be plenty of time to decide if I want to stick for the long haul or not.