MWO: Pugstomping… It doesn’t exist people!

There has been much talk of pug/pub stomping in Mechwarrior Online lately by pure pug players. Why? The Devs removed the ability for a full premade team of eight to go against puggers quite a few patches ago. Back in the days when you could do that, there really was pugstomping going on. Eight man groups just ran over pugs. Now? It is pretty much only happening in the imagination of some players looking for excuses as to why they lost horribly. That is how I perceive it anyhow. 

Things are pretty balanced in public matches now. Players can only queue with a group 3 other friends maximum, 50% of the team is then  made up of other small groups or individuals. If you are a Lone Wolf and pug exclusively you have an equal chance of being teamed up with or against pure puggers or a small organised group. Statistically speaking, in the long run everybody is on an equal footing. You will win some, lose some, wipe the floor with the opposition occasionally, and get rolled over from time to time.

If you are a group of four people organised and in Teamspeak, you increase your chances of winning, sure, but then you tend to get two idiots, one Rambo, and one AFKer tacked onto your team negating your advantage. If you are an idiot, a Rambo, or an AFKer, chances are every bit as high that you will be teamed up with an organised few people.

So if stats show that everyone is on an even footing, and that the chances of a team of Lone Wolves coming up against a team of 2 X four man premades is very low, why all the crying in the forums as of late? I think what it comes down to is when people lose they just can’t handle the fact that they lost fairly. There has to be some other explanation. It can’t possibly be that they or their team was bad, or that the other team was just simply better on the day. If teaming up with a friend was removed from the game and it was just Lone Wolves vs Lone Wolves you can bet there would be cries of something like “Veteran players should not be allowed to play with new players… it is ruining the game”. In short, people blame everything but themselves.

I play in a large organised unit, but spend maybe 60% of my time pugging. I play full 8 man premade vs 8 man premade. I join public matches solo, with one friend, two friends, and three. I experience all aspects of the current matchmaking system. 90% of the time that I’ve had lopsided losses when pugging it’s been for one reason and one reason only.. the team I played on (and I count myself here) sucked really badly. People scattered to the winds, or milled around the base looking at oneother wondering what to do next, whilst doing absolutely nothing. It wasn’t because we encountered a premade. It was because our team sucked and/or did not work together well.

That is the very nature of public matches boys and girls. You never know what hand you will get dealt. Sometimes you are dealt a royal flush, sometime you are handed a giant shit sandwich and you just have to take a bite. That’s the life of a Lone Wolf. Live it! Love it! Embrace it!

As an aside, and just to illustrate what pubstomping really is, here is a video of a match I played back when pubstomping really did occur. As someone who still plays with these people, I can attest to the fact that nothing of this sort occurs anymore. It just is not possible with matchmaking the way it is now.

SWTOR’s Free to Play: “Y U no encourage me 2 play?!?”


I’ve been out of the SWTOR loop for a little while now, but I’ve been interested to know how the Free to Play option that is coming in will be implemented. We have a decent amount of info about it now, and the question has to be asked, “will this be the first free to play game to fail?” This is, without a doubt, the most restrictive free to play model that there is.

The leveling game is totally free. That is awesome. However, every single aspect of endgame is restricted. You have the ability to play three Flashpoints and three Warzones per week only. You have no access to raids at all. You can buy a “weekly pass” to gain access to these things, but here is the real kicker.. there are restrictions on the gear you can equip. That’s right, if you buy a weekly pass to run a raid and get some shiny purple gear out of it, you can’t actually equip it unless you pay for a license to do so. Already got a max level character in purple gear and want to go the free to play route? You are either going to be playing naked or forking over extra cash to play it. You’re shit out of luck dude!

The best part about SWTOR, is without a doubt the story mode that you experience with leveling. Even it’s worst critics praise this aspect of the game. The fact that this is free and unrestricted (with the exception of character creation restrictions) should do a lot to get new players into the game. Like it did for all of us who purchased the game at launch, the strength of the story will get a lot of people to subscribe for endgame. The problem that arises however is that the reason people unsubscribe from the game has not been addressed (endgame sucks), so people will still be dropping thier subs, and the super restrictive free to play model doesn’t encourage players to stick around at endgame. What we have here is a free to play model that encourages high player churn rate. Suck em in, spit em out, rinse and repeat.

Once you level a character or two to max level you will no longer want to do it anymore and you will be forced into endgame (leveling alts in this game is more tedious than any previous MMO). Once at endgame, why would you continue to play when you are being treated as second class citizen, especially when there are far better FREE alternatives on the market *cough* Guild Wars 2 *cough*.

If SWTOR had gone a free to play route like LOTRO I’d be all over that. I’d be dropping hundreds of dollars in their cash shop, just like I did (and still do) in LOTRO. I was looking forward to doing the same in SWTOR, but with such a restrictive model it will not only lose me as a subscriber (that runs out in Feb 2013), but also as a free to play customer. Rather than get hundreds of dollars from me, Bioware/EA will be getting none. This just leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. I guess it’s back to the Guild Wars 2 cash shop for me…

Subscription Verse Free to Play Features

Free to Play FAQ

MWO Open Beta pushed back… thankfully

The Open Beta for MWO was due to happen a couple of days ago (the 16th) but has been pushed back. I’m sure many people were disappointed by this, but in all seriousness, new people would have been turned off of the game if their first experience was the experience currently on offer.

The last major patch (one week before launch of Open Beta) was an update of the game’s engine (Cryengine 3.4). When you change the game’s engine, you can be sure you are going to introduce some new bugs. Before the engine update the game was pretty stable and ready for open beta. Sure, it was still pretty bare bones (1 game mode, 4 maps, no metagame yet, etc), but it was fun and most of the kinks had been ironed out. After the patch, the game became unplayable for many. It introduced FPS spikes (where your FPS would spike from very high to very low), stuttering, unplayable lag, mechs freezing, mechs “dropping” with zero armour, and a whole bunch of minor issues. It was a giant clusterfuck. They were still going to launch the Open Beta in this state right up until a couple of days before D Day. Luckily community concern and common sense reigned and open beta on the 16th was no more.

So when is Open Beta now? Anyone’s guess. Here is the only official response we have on the topic:
“We have decided to push Open Beta back. We agree that the game’s current state of stability is not allowing us to get the latest experience across to new and veteran players alike. This is a short push back on the date and will depend on the stability and playability of the build.”

In summary, it does indeed suck that Open Beta has been pushed back. There are people eagerly awaiting a chance to play. It is however for the best as if it launched on the 16th it would have done more harm to the game then good.

Mechwarrior Online: NDA lifted; Open Beta to start next week

So, the NDA was lifted a few days ago. Yay! Finally I can speak about all of the cool stuff the game has to offer. I had prepared a 40 minute video that showed and explained  the UI, the Mech Lab, and the Pilot Lab, but then they announced Open Beta was being released on the 16th of October. As that is less than a week away it hardly seemed worth giving everybody a sneak peak of every aspect of the game. Not worth the upload time. So instead, to celebrate the lifting of the NDA, here is some game play footage I took yesterday. It shows the Forrest Colony Map. The view is from my Catapult C1′s cockpit.

The C1 is an indirect fire support mech. It’s job is to keep out of harms way and rain down fiery missiles of death. Not as exciting or as visceral an experience as someone on the battle line, but it is a style of play I enjoy. Hit, move, hide, reappear, rain down death and know that you are totally ruining somebodies day! :)

Guild Wars 2: Old Habits Die Hard

As MMO players we have come to be conditioned into thinking that MMOs work in particular ways and are designed in particular ways. Every MMO is, for the most part, the same game with a few little differences here and there. Some have better features, some do things better or worse than others, some throw in a novelty here and there (story, removal of auto attack, etc), but in essence they are pretty much built on the model made famous by Word  of Warcraft.

Enter Guild Wars 2. This game is so different to the standard MMO model in so many ways, that many people are having a hard time “getting it”. It isn’t just WoW with a new coat of paint. It’s core design philosophy is completely the opposite in fact. A lot of people just cant wrap their head around that. They are not “dumb asses”, as one friend put it. They are just conditioned to approach MMOs in a particular way.

“I’m power leveling!”; “Where are the raids?”; “If I cant heal or tank, how can I help somebody?”; “If there are no tanks, what is the point in having different armor types?”; “This game is the least social and cooperative of any game I’ve ever played!”; These are the kind of comments I’ve heard a lot in the past week and they all stem from our MMO conditioning. These people, in one aspect or another… just don’t get it yet.

We had people hit max level before the game even officially launched. We have people power leveling via crafting (and having their guildies supply them with mats to do so). We’ve got people running “from heart to heart”, treating them like quest givers and then going “I’ve run out of quests for my level! Halp guyz!”. Guys! This is not your standard two game type MMO. In your standard MMO there is the leveling game (“the boring bit”), and there is endgame (the bit everyone wants to do). The focus in other MMOs IS endgame and as such it makes sense to rush to get there. It isn’t the case in GW2. What you are doing as you level is what you are doing at end game. There are not two separate games. It makes no sense to rush to level cap. It gains you no advantage and you skip … well.. the actual game! What’s the point? There is no endgame! There is only THE game!

We have people who can’t get their head around the lack of the trinity (tank/heals/DPS). They see the game as just being a free for all pew pew fest. I can see how they would get that opinion. It certainly feels like that in a crowded event area. That sort of play won’t get you though tough stuff like Exploration Mode dungeons, or competitive PvP though. So if there is no trinity how does cooperation work in the game? How is it not a solo pew pew fest? Carefully timed and coordinated application of boons and conditions are essential. Using combo fields for things like condition removal is essential. This game does not have a tank to protect the group and mitigate its damage. It does not have a healer to keep the tank up.  Instead, everyone must look out for everyone else. People must use their boons & conditions to protect each other and mitigate the damage the group is taking. This requires people to really be on the ball. It requires everyone to have the level of situational awareness that used to be reserved for the tank. It also requires more coordination and cooperation than any other previous MMO. Don’t believe me? Have fun wiping in many of the dungeons then!

The comment that I find most bizarre though is the “together alone” comments. The ones that claim that this isn’t a social or cooperative game. If social and cooperative is defined as people working together as a team to complete tasks, helping one another out,  and enjoying the game together, then this is the most social and cooperative MMO I’ve every played. ArenaNet built a game based on cooperation and community. It’s their foundational principle. It removed everything from the MMO genre that hindered people working together or pitted one player verse another player and then added everything it could think of to encourage people to play together. It worked.

Charr Necro

 People are conditioned to think that unless you are in a party with someone you are not being social or cooperating. Those same people don’t realise that “the party” is itself an artificial constraint against cooperation with others. It is still “our little group” and “them”. ArenaNet has created a game where there is no artificial barriers to cooperation. It shows too. People everywhere are helping their fellow gamers out. Be it rescuing them from taking on one too many mobs, helping them down that elite boss that spawned on their head, resurrecting them from death, helping them clear a path to a resource node, or the like. There is also the regular spontaneous banding together to take on a challenging mob or situation, of course. I challenge anyone to show me another MMO that has this much helpful interaction between it’s players.

 Miss chatting with random strangers? There is nothing to stop you from doing it. All the mechanics for doing so are in the game. Want to form a party with people? You are free to do that too if you wish (yes I am aware that some of the grouping mechanics are not working as intended atm, ie.. busted). This game is no less social or cooperative than any other MMO. I’d argue that it is more so. In the end, it is just done in a way that hasn’t been done before. Some people can’t wrap their head around it. It’s the good ol’ MMO conditioning rearing its head again.

In summary, ArenaNet have created a world for you to explore and enjoy. Don’t rush to level cap. Just explore and get lost in the world. Live it. Have fun doing it. That’s the game. Play the game with an open mind. Forget that it is an MMO. Forget what an MMO is supposed to be. Play it like it is a new genre of game, or your first experience with an MMO. Leave your preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be at the door, and play the game how it actually is. I bet you’ll end up having a ball!

The Secret World. Deja vu… kinda…

Against my better judgment I recently purchased Funcom’s new MMO, “The Secret World”. I had seen the balls up they made with the launch and initial two years of Age of Conan and was not willing to touch another of their games. I really liked the ideas behind The Secret World, but was hesitant to go anywhere near another Funcom MMO. Once bitten twice shy.

I’m happy to say that the game isn’t as bad as I imagined it would have been. It is not anywhere near as good as the fanboys have been making out though. It has a lot of issues, but is also fun in many areas. There are things about the game I  love and things that drive me into a frothing rage. The good and the bad kind of balance each other out though and make, for me anyway, an overwhelming average experience.

Overall, there is a lot that is familiar if you played Age of Conan. It has the same game engine (with the same memory leak), the same launcher, the same game menus, the same bank/auction house/guild bank, the same guild/cabal setup up, the same.. well… you get the point. If you liked the way Age of Conan did things then you’ll like the way it is done in TSW. If you didn’t, then you you’re shit out of luck with TSW :)

 Before going into the good things that the game has to offer, I’m going to outline some of the things that are not so good. First, and I know I’ll get flamed for this, but the game has an unfinished feel to it. Not as bad as Age of Conan did at release, but it is still there. Things that should have been in at launch are being added in the regular updates that Funcom are blowing their own horn about. As an example… character creation. The character customisation in this game is SOOOOO LAME. Very, very few options to be had. They are addressing this with a new patch soon by introducing “plastic surgeons” and the like, where you can further customise the look of your toon. They are touting this as a great new feature. Fuck you Funcom! That is something that should have come right from the get go, and calling it a great new feature is just a sly way of saying “we are now starting to add stuff that should have already been there, we just hope you don’t notice it as being such.” Age of Conan had great creation choices at launch. With the same tech running under the hood of TSW, why would it not be the same with this game?

Now to the bugs. Whilst none of them are game breaking, there are lots of little ones I’ve encountered thus far. They range from the dreaded AoC memory leak, through to the usual bugged quests/mobs and bugged features. Not as bad as AoC had in its first couple of months, but more than I think is acceptable from a AAA MMO at launch. There have been so many instances of these that a new saying has cropped up between myself and the person I am playing the game with. “You’ve been Funcomed”. Usage: whenever you encounter a bug in any game, or something inexplicable happens resulting in a negative effect. Like I said, none of these are game breaking, but there are enough that it becomes very frustrating at times and it definitely takes away from the enjoyment of the game.

My two pet peeves with this game though are the lack of tutorials with the new elements that they have introduced into the MMO genre, and the tendency to discourage group play. As an example of the former, the first time I looked at the skill wheel I was overwhelmed and lost. A feeling that didn’t dissipate quickly. This is compounded by the sheer number of skills that you have access to. I’ve just about finished the Blue Mountains (ie, the third area) and I am STILL discovering things about the skill wheel/skills that I wish I had know right from the start. I’ve made so many mistakes with my skills and build due to lack of knowing just what the fuck was going on. Sure, some of this could have been averted by reading forums or wikis, but one should not have to go to that extent to get a grip with core important mechanics. The skills and skill wheel is not the only instance of this kind of thing, but it serves as a pretty good example.

What do I mean by “discouraging group play”? I mean that there are way too many quests that involve “solo instances”. I understand the need for some of these to exist, particularly in the main story quests. But as someone who is playing through the game with a partner it really does start to feel like we team up to get the quest, get to the quest area, and then go our own separate ways at the interesting parts. It’s a personal flavour thing, but I just don’t like it. In addition to this, many of the quest bugs I’ve encountered seem to bug out when grouped, but not solo. More reasons not to group.

There are other things too that make me rage, but I won’t dwell further on them as I don’t want to give the idea that I hate the game entirely, and I’m sure you are getting the general gist. Oh, actually, just one more example of getting “funcomed” then I’ll call it quits on the negatives. :P  A message from me to Funcom:  ”Fuck you Funcom for billing me (and my friend) for a years Age of Conan subscription when all we did was buy some Funcom points for use in your store.” Grrrrr. Ok… now I’ll leave the negatives alone. :)

 

Whilst there are some things about this game that annoy me even more than Justin Beiber’s voice, there are some things that are really quite awesome. Take the story, for example. There is some really great writing here. Set in a Lovecraftian modern day setting, the overarching story is really interesting, gripping, immersive, and keeps you coming back for more. The characters are memorable and the voice acting is up to snuff.

On the note of voice acting, I was glad to discover that Funcom learned from the mistake it made in Age of Conan. All of the main quests that you do are voice acted and contain cut scenes, not just the starter area. This means you have a consistent feel to the game that enhances immersion, unlike Age of Conan where you had an immersive tutorial area and then were jarringly thrown into the equivalent of a silent film.

The quests in this game are probably one of it’s best features. The investigation quests and sabotage quests are so different to what you would normally see in an MMO. It is very refreshing. The investigation quests in particular involve some really challenging puzzle solving.  Do yourself a favour and don’t go cheat by looking for spoilers on the internet. These quests are truly a joy and are a big part of the fun factor of this game. Hopefully other games learn from this and move away from the “kill 10 rats” quests that the genre has been plagued with.

The biggest innovations in the game though are it’s skill sets, lack of classes, and lack of “levels”. The skill set idea is not totally new; The original Guild Wars did something similar, but TSW takes it to new heights. There is a bewildering amount of skills to choose from. This is both a positive (lots of customisation options) and a negative (it’s unwieldy). From my point of view it is mainly a positive, but I can certainly get on board with the people who point out the negative aspects.

 The lack of any real classes in the game is welcome and innovative. You can pretty much make whatever type of character you want. In the end though, to group with people for dungeons you are going to get slotted into the tank, heal, or DPS rolls, and there are cookie cutter min/max builds for all of these. Once you are at endgame, you can kiss your custom built character goodbye. “LF1M, Tank. Chaos/Sword only please.” Endgame doesn’t interest me however so I am enjoying making something that suits my own personal play style.

Lack of levels is a weird one. I like the idea but it isn’t the reality of the game. Whilst there are no levels in the sense of “level 1 -80″, content is still gated and tuned around how many skill points you have invested. Essentially, this is the same thing under a different name. The levels are still there they are just behind the scenes.

Overall, I am enjoying the game. I am playing it like a single player RPG, but with a friend, and to me that is how the game feels. Like an RPG. This is a good thing from my perspective. In the end though, I think that once I’ve played through the story there will be very little left to keep me around unless new areas/stories are added. If I was reviewing the game I’d probably give it a score of 65%-70%.

TL;DR Average Game. Fun, but with some problems. I don’t regret buying it (or the life time subscription)

River City

In case anybody missed it, the fourth map for Mechwarrior Online was revealed the other day. To comment on it would be to break the NDA, but this video put together by Pirhana Games should give everyone a taste. Looks pretty fricken amazing to me! :)

All Systems Nominal

So, the past couple of months I’ve been AWOL from this blog. Part of this has been because after the blog changed it’s focus from SWTOR to general gaming, a lot of work was required to reorganise everything (almost done btw). The other is that I’ve been in a few closed betas that have been taking all of my spare time. One is the Dust 514 beta.  The other, and the subject of this post, is Mechwarrior Online.

Up until recently we weren’t allowed to say that we were beta testing MWO, but that aspect of the NDA has now been relaxed. Unfortunately though, that is about all we are allowed to say. The NDA has me gagged on everything that is not already in the public domain.

What I can say though is that I have been a longtime fan of the Mechwarrior franchise. I am also an avid PvP’er. When the game is released, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be playing the shit out of it. For as long as I’ve been in the beta (a bit over a month or so now) I’ve played nothing else.

So what is Mechwarrior Online? It’s big internet stompy robots blowing the crap out of other big internet stompy robots. It is essentially a first person shooter/mech sim. Those who have heard it is an MMO have heard wrong. It isn’t one by any sensible definition of that term. It is, however, a slower paced FPS than people have come to expect from the genre. It is less twitch based and more skill/tactics based. The perfect FPS for an old fart like me! The game does have persistent elements in it though. For instance, groups will be able to fight for control of the territory known as the Inner Sphere, and this data will persist between game sessions.

How much will the game cost? Nothing! It is a free to play title; And when I say free to play, it really is free to play. There will be a cash shop of course, and you can become a premium member, but it isn’t a “pay to win” kind of affair. You don’t have to pay in order to compete with those who do. All of the mechs/weapons/ammo available to people paying cash are also available to people paying nothing. Paying real money only helps with lowering grinding (eg XP and in game currency boost) or adding cosmetic items (eg new skins for your mech).

Piranha Games are doing this thing right. They are a great company. They care deeply about the game and the franchise. What is really refreshing though is that they care deeply about the community. It is the only game I’ve seen where the president of the company is actively engaged in the forums, conversing with the punters.

Due to the NDA, I won’t be able to blog about the really meaty stuff of this game. Not just yet anyway. You can rest assured however that I’ll be preparing guides and other good stuff for when the game finally hit’s open beta stage.

A New Hope – Site Changes on the Horizon

This site started out as a SWTOR fan site because I was super excited for the game’s release. I played the shit out of the game once it was released and loved every bit of it. I was so passionate about the game that I had heaps to write about. These days however I am less than enthused. As such, it is very hard to blog about the game. I still enjoy SWTOR, but I don’t play it often enough to have much that is worthwile to say.

 

The way I see it I have three options now. I could remove this site, let it sit here not being updated, or I can extend its scope to inculde other games. I’m going to go with that last option. I’ll still blog about SWTOR when I have something to say, but I’ll also be blogging about other games now too.

Please excuse the mess that the site will be in for a little while as I change things around.

SWTOR… I Just Might Be Over It.

It has been a little while since I’ve updated this blog, and there is a reason for that. It has been a little while since I really played SWTOR. In the beginning, I just took a bit of time out to play Mass Effect 3. I did that, loved it (even the ending!) and enjoyed the multiplayer for a little while. After I got that out of my system I intended to return to SWTOR. The thing is, I just don’t feel like it. I really want to, but the love just doesn’t seem to be there.

I’ve tried loging in a few times but am never on for more than about half an hour. I might do a couple of dailies or try a Warzone and then quit. The past few days I’ve been DC’d from every Warzone I’ve loaded into, after which I’ve just given up and gone to play some other game. I loved this game, love the devs, love the franchise, and hoped to be here for years to come. I still hope to be here for years to come, but it seems unlikely.

When I try and pinpoint what the problem is, I guess it is best summed up as there really is nothing new here. At least at end game. The things that drove me away from other MMO’s exist and are perpetuated in SWTOR. Once you get to level cap, it really is just WoW with glow sticks (albiet with better PvP, and less spoon feeding).

I loved the leveling process. I think the grind from level one through to cap is the best that any game has ever done to date. The Flashpoints are as good as, and in many cases better than, any other MMO’s instanced dungeons. The raiding, whilst not as polished as WoW’s, is far more enjoyable. The PvP is amongst the most balanced I’ve ever experienced. And yet… I’m unsatisfied.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for me to log in.  Why would I run flashpoints more than once when the gear in there is worse than I currently have through running Warzones and doing the odd raid? Why would I log in to do dailies when I’ve already attained enough gold to buy everything I desired in the game? I cant raid anymore  due to the shifts I work. That only leaves PvP (my one true love anyway), but even that has lost it’s interest.

If the only PvP a game has to offer is instanced battles, where everything is controlled (eg numbers, objectives etc), it soon becomes stale. This is how the PvP in SWTOR feels to me… stale. I was hoping for the epic PvP experience I had in post 1.4 patch Warhammer Online. I was hoping for meaningful world PvP. This was supposed to be implemented through Ilum, for starters, with more to come. Ilum PvP was made of total fail. Fail on an epic level to be precise. In addition, planets are organised in such a way as to make world PvP on a PvP server rare rather than common. The PvP is better than WoW, sure. But really, it is just WoW’s battle grounds with a better combat system… yawn…

Ranked Warzones in 1.2 could have been good, but the patch failed to go ahead with them included. I’ve not yet played any WZ’s post 1.2 but if the whiners on the forums are to be believed then things have changed for the worse. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the changed combat maths and how that seems to have contributed to the length of PvP engagments being shortened (3 shotting and such). That combined with increased incentive to quit losing WZ’s (the rewards for losing have been drastically cut) just seems like a lot of no fun ahead.

I’ll give 1.2 a go and see if it really is the Jesus patch. Here’s hoping it is cause where I stand at the moment I don’t know if I can justify continuing to spend my $15 per month.