Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Never Going to Dance.

Yeah I just LoTRO Rick Rolled you. That's not the point. What is up with the stiff players in Lord of the Rings? I know that the musicians are busy playing but the audience is just standing around stiff as a board. If this was WoW there would be a bunch of naked night elves shimmying in front of the performance. Does LoTRO have no /dance emote? Or are the players of that game just stick in the muds?

I think I'm coming across as a WoW fanboy in my discussions of these other games, but let the avatars of your average game have more soul and cool than the player, not less.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Tax on My Actions

So I don't think I like the combo system in Age of Conan much. It doesn't feel innovative to me, it just feels like a tax, it's an extra chance for me to fail. Which I usually do. I want to tell my avatar to execute the sweep attack, or the knockback attack, and I want them to do it. I don't want to then have to do a "God of War" style combo to make it happen. Even it's it just one extra button, I have to look at the screen and learn the combination, and often it's too late by then.

To me RPGs have always been a tactical game. I tell my avatar what to do, they get it done. I don't want it to be purely advisory, but neither do I want to have to type in the movements of the sword. Just do the goddamn combo attack.

I played some AV with my warlock after messing around with a barbarian character tonight. Even though I'm so bored with the content of WoW at this point, the systemic elements were so much better. I don't think that it was just familiarity either. I'll still be playing through AoC, just to get a real handle on the game. But I don't see many of the innovations as something that will persist. At least not for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Initial Thoughts on Conan

I'm just using my blog to jot down a bunch of notes on Age of Conan.
  • The "?" that is above the heads of quest givers is kinda sloppy. WoW's feels more focused and in the milieu, now it may have defined the milieu, but still. AoC feels off center and too 3D. It doesn't read interface, it reads like that person has a "?" over their head. For real. No fooling.
  • Why is it that every MMO thinks that when you have 31 powers at your disposal you only need 10 interface slots to place them? And why do they think that shift-flipping the hot bar is a reasonable substitute for seeing all your abilities, on the screen? Oh well guess I'll wait the three months that it takes them to learn this lesson, every time and add some more slots.
  • It's not obvious where the gripper parts of the windows are. the targets feel insubstantial and non-obvious.
  • The jump on my female stygian necromancer feels spastic and out of character.
  • To be fair, I appreciate the boobage. Though what regulation made you glue on the thong?
  • Again with the animations, I feel stiff and awkward. Swing my hips, swagger a bit. It doesn't give the appearance that my avatar is confident or sexy or even competent.
  • Dead bodies float on the landscape bouncing up and down.
  • The choices I'm making in character building seem to be really trivial, is it more important to have 2 points more recovery or bandage? Do I care?
  • Minor quibble because I'm "That Guy"(tm); why is there an interface metaphor of old books? This is a barbarian game. Something else may have been more appropriate. But again I'm probably in a small group that this ticks off.
  • While typing up notes on my blog you can get jumped, but luckily running away is possible. XP debt seems to be the death penalty.
  • I do like the tutorial being instanced to just me. Letting me screw around by myself is good.
  • The skeleton (animation skeleton, not boney one) is weird so it causes the overhead arrow to often be placed to the side of things. This bugs me that the selection isn't standard.
  • No loot on the monkeys. Disappointing. I know they wouldn't have money, but give me some pelt or something to sell.
  • Ahh talk trees that have no actual choice in them. How I've missed you. Actually no. And since everything is read aloud and breaks my game camera all the useless blather just makes me skip it and get the cut off audio, which further breaks immersion. Either give me a choice or don't, but don't make a talk tree that takes three ways to say one thing.
  • During the talk tree camera, if you have a pet, or if there is another player nearby, you get a nice shot of their back as they're standing there going through the superflous talk trees.
  • There is climbing in the game. Good! The physical feats seem to be ignored in most MMOs. I'd like to see how it affects a party on an adventure though. is it extra treasure that good climbers can get? Less damage? Or will it break up a full party?
  • Don't be afraid as a caster to use your knife, at least at this low level.
  • I like the juxtoposition between classification and color text; "Vile insight" = "Friendly personal spell"
  • The sun tanned people in their brown clothing against the brown building and dirt tend to get lost in the city.
  • And for an alt-aholic like me it really pisses me off about the inability to switch characters without exiting the program.
  • I want to play my assassin now, but I'm so tired and after AoC crashed on exit it's doing a big verification of resources.
  • Ok playing it even though I should clean the house or go to bed.
  • Very twitchy this rogue. That's good. But I almost feel flailing is more appropriate. I'm not sure I like the shield system. I'm paying attention to too many things it feels, maybe I'm just old.
  • At low levels at least Assassin > Necromancer.
My final thoughts on the first playthrough; WoW still has the polish crown, and it seems that the crown is so shiny and sparkley that its value is worth more than a few innovated gameplay ideas. MMO developers invest in your interface and animations.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Hey Webmonkey just relaunched! New mascot and everything. Too bad I don't know that much about the web anymore.
Hey Webmonkey just relaunched! New mascot and everything. Too bad I don't know that much about the web anymore.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Analysis of a Barfight

So the D&D group got together after a couple months of hiatus. A number of things put us off track, I had gotten a new job and was busy with that and looking for an apartment. Our tank had also gotten a new job and had to move out of the area, and our rogue lived up to his class archetype. So once all these real life changes settled we set out trying to get a group together. First order of business was an activity that any MMO player would recognize, we started looking around our group of friends and said those dreaded words "LFM 1 Tank." Luckily our friend Austin who used to play back in the day was interested.

In the last adventure the party was given a choice by King Kaius III, to decide weather they were a patriot first or a cultist first. Most of the players (Vash the cleric of Vol was not there that episode) chose to ally themselves with the king, as they thought the demon hunting missions their patron in the Order of the Emerald Claw was sending them on were getting a bit ridiculous. But since every one of the party didn't enthusiastically swear allegiance to him, he sent them off without time to prepare or talk to anyone else. In comes a heir of Siberys of House Orien to teleport them out to Stormreach for their mission.

Up until that point the party had been routinely cleaving through all who stood in their path. Of late, being evil, they had even begun to ignore cries of immunity by the various dragonmarked pilots and drivers. There had to be some consequence from that, and it came in the form of the Orien wayfairer abandoning them in the middle of an active volcano where a tribe of fire giants lived. This wasn't too bad for the party, fighting monsters is what they do. But the resulting (off camera) trek though the wilderness was harsh, killing two characters (the two that were now gone from the group). Uzuld was disintegrated by a Xen'drik artifact, while Damring was poetically poisoned by drow (he liked using the poison) and dragging him down into Khyber.

That was all back story, now to get to the adventure. First task was to get into Stormreach. The characters are getting up there in power (level 12) and I need to go to some lengths to put some limits on their behavior, especially when they are playing evil anti-heroes. So I used this to establish some facts about the city, it's a corrupt pirate port grown big, ruled over by the Coin Lords, who protect their interests and where one can do most of what they want if they are able to bribe their way about. I placed some Rierdian soldiers stomping around the time searching for something, and paying for their stormtrooper tactics in getting what they want by paying off the guards with crystal after crystal of Siberys shards.

Since we had to introduce a new character I pulled out and oldie but goody. I suggested going to a tavern, the Happiness tavern was an ironically named hive of scum and villainy. Soon after entering the tavern they ended up getting into a fight with the Umbral (drow) Elves that were having a drink there. This was good because it gave a chance to introduce the mechanic I had planned for the upcoming fight, the artifact of good tavern brawling.

The party packs a lot of fire power, which they can unload to pretty much lay waste to any opponent, so having a brawn would quickly turn into a blood bath. So let's have the artifact of good tavern brawling put limits on (but not completely prevent) spells and actions that were not conducive to good brawling. So as a toll for using weapons or spells that dealt leathal damage, or remove opponents from the fight incurred 2d6 of explosive fire damage. This worked out well because it forced most of the party to get creative. Instead of fireballing or scaring enemies souls away, the necromancer was polymorphing himself into a troll and rending, our shifter ranger wasn't pegging people with arrows, he finally got a chance to use those racial abilities and grow his claws out and have them matter.

At first they were put off from even starting a fight, well what really made it work was sending in a group of paladins from the Thrane Argentum. They had come to arrest the patron that was currently talking with the party, Rene Trelloc, who was a scholar of artifacts. The Argentum that the party had dealt with before, and the paladins had recognized some of the magic items that the party was toting about. Now the fight was on. A good old tavern brawl.

What didn't work out so well, and was completely my fault, was how long it took. I was pressed for time in prep and tried to make sure I had all my bases covered. So I made sure that there were more opponents just in case and erred on the encounter balance. I should have made
most of the paladin minions (hey WoTC just published an article on minions today) instead there were just clones of each other, and had huge HP reserves and even the ability to heal themselves. So the fight dragged on a bit more than it should have.

But aside from that the fight went well. Paladins brawling weren't too tough, but with their smite evil class ability they can pack a mean upper right hook, four times a day at least. THe game became an endurance game. Survive the initial onslaught and then remove opponents that still are a threat. The party was able to wall off the Umbral elves that wanted a piece of them (Vash the cleric ate a 2d6 bite from the artifact to segregate them with a blade barrier. And the rest of the party was able to whittle the paladins down one by one.

The rest of the session was role play, with most people involved. I got to use some of my old tropes that I enjoy, such as having rival duplicates of the party that their old mentor hired. They're going to be a fly in the ointment at some point. What I liked best was how one of the players got the reference of where this was all heading. I play my characters from Aundaire as Frence, so the Aundiar disgraced scholar of artifacts, who had a Breland (American) rival who wore a white suit suddenly Austin cried out "Hey it's just like the guy in Indiana Jones" and suddenly it all clicked. The players knew what role they were going to play, and would probably not be grabbing and loose amulets without knowing what they were in for.

So overall, a little slow in bar fight, but enjoyable none the less.