Despite protestations about the live event, I did end up running the Scarlet fight a couple more times this past weekend. Maybe it was seeing a lot of other people plow through this even in frustration at the bugs, maybe it was an email sent by ArenaNet’s PR saying that the problems were fixed (are they? Sorta.), or maybe it was just a desire to see the end of the whole shebang. You know how it is, you’ll show up for a TV finale even if you haven’t been the most loyal viewer this season. You’re just curious how it’ll all end.
I lucked out with a very good group on Saturday morning that got through the entire hologram fight with no problem whatsoever (although I had groups after that that could not do it). Still dang long, but actually winning it seemed worth it. There’s a long ending cutscene that had me wondering what I missed, lore-wise — why’s Scarlet drilling? Why does this lady have hiccups? Is big-eyed Charr girl still bugging those eyes out? Does this game honestly need MORE dragons? Who at ArenaNet has a dragon fetish that cannot be satiated? It prompted me to do a little back reading to fill in the gaps. There’s parts of this game’s lore that causes my eyes to glaze over, but enough that seems interesting as well.
Above and beyond the fight, I realized that all of my activities had — without really trying — filled out 12/15 of the meta achievements. A little effort past that and I got the goodie chest, which was certainly nice.
I think I might be done with Lion’s Arch for now, however. I still much prefer to be running around the country side doing vistas/hearts/POIs/waypoints with other characters (mostly my Ranger), so I’ll probably be doing that for a while to come.
(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
It’s time for a new retro game series, and for this one I’m going back to the adventure genre and for the second part of a series I have yet to complete. A few years back I greatly enjoyed Sierra On-Line’s Gabriel Knight, the darker, more voodoo-obsessed cousin of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Even with just pixel art/sprites, it was a disturbing (and gripping) tale that saw a private eye realize his potential as a solver of supernatural crimes.
Since my friend Hoppy has been bugging me just shy of forever to play Gabriel Knight 2, I thought I’d stop putting it off and just do it already. I know very little about GK2, other than it marked when the series switched to full-motion video (FMV), something that the 90s was captivated with for whatever reason (GK3 went to a 3D look, if I recall). Oh, and this has something to do with werewolves. The cover kind of alludes to that anyway. Let’s do it!
So the (non-interactive) prologue gives us our first taste of FMV with a couple of sequences intercut with loud (but good) music and credits. It starts in the 1750s with a guy who’s locking up a room. What’s in the room? Is there a beast within?
So I guess it’s as good of a time as any to comment on full-motion video. As I said, this was very much the product of the 90s. When storage space for games exploded with the advent of CD-ROMs, designers felt unshacked from the bounds of stingy memory storage and went nuts just cramming as much visual goodness as possible. This… wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It was like throwing an Amish kid into a rave; the sudden freedom usually meant disaster in the end.
Now, there were some great products that came out with FMV in them — Myst is probably the most notable example, and perhaps the latter Wing Commander installments — but there were also so many games that were instantly dated and sunk because of it. It was cool at the time to have actual video in video games, but it was hard to program interactivity with it, to make it look natural, and to have acting/directing that was up to at least TV standards. What you didn’t want was for the whole production to end up looking like some cheap, cheezy Saturday afternoon B-movie, which is what happened more often than not (see Night Trap). As with most technologies, the novelty of it wore off and what really mattered was what the team did with it, not that it had it. So will Gabriel Knight 2 sink or swim because of FMV? I’m very interested to find out.
So here’s a bit of that cheesiness that I’m talking about: Melodramatic soap opera music playing as a kid’s worried face is shoehorned into a shot with flames in both the foreground and background. Welcome to hell, I guess? That’s what you get when you wear ruffles, dude.
Mostly my gaming weekend was taken up with Guild Wars 2 and RIFT, just for a change of pace, and while I’ll talk more about GW2′s living story tomorrow, I wanted to at least mention what I’m doing in RIFT.
Because I know I have a weakness for alts and sometimes that weakness actually works against me in returning to a game (so many choices, can’t settle down, give in to despair, quit), I’ve decided that if I’m going to play RIFT, I’m going to see my highest-level character — my cleric — through to the end. It’s been a long while since I abandoned her in the death zones of Storm Legion at level 56, but everything came back to me quite quickly.
Last night I had a great deal of fun doing two things in the game. First, I created a new build that’s a healthy blend of Druid and Justicar. It’s seriously one of the toughest and most flexible builds I’ve made for her, because survivability is dang high, plus she can pull out the greater faerie seer and blast single or multiple targets like crazy. Plus there’s a pull so I don’t have to run up to an enemy to melee — the enemy now comes to me. Felt like I was grappling them in, good times.
The other thing was that I spent a lot of time just randomly exploring. The artifacts in RIFT are a great excuse to go off-roading, because you get rewarded more with finding them the more you go off the beaten path. I turned up six or seven during my parkour adventures diving off buildings, running through thickets, and climbing peaks and overhangs.
I’m keeping it light and fancy-free in the game, but there’s hope that RIFT won’t disappear from my gaming diet, especially with 2.7′s new souls coming up.
On Friday night I was being silly and had some fun with the Guild Wars 2 character creator. I ended up making a Human Thief who had that big bushy beard I admire (why don’t more female models have beards?) and a mohawk. And, what the heck, I made his hair and beard a frosty pink.
Well, now I had a color theme going on, so I spent a good long time thinking of a name. Probably took me 20 minutes to come up with an appropriate punk. What would go well with the color and that profession?
Then I logged in with that character and purchased every shade of pink, heather, coral, and what have you in dyes.
Thus, the legend of Pink Pocket was born.
ALL HAIL PINK POCKET!
I just realized that I never did a follow-up post to the recent poll I put out regarding MMOs and MOBAs that you’ve been playing. We had 468 votes (participants could vote for as many games as they liked). So here’s the top ten, according to you:
- World of Warcraft (52 votes)
- Lord of the Rings Online (41 votes)
- [tie] Guild Wars 2 (39 votes)
- [tie] The Secret World (39 votes)
- The Elder Scrolls Online (36 votes)
- SWTOR (25 votes)
- RIFT (23 votes)
- Neverwinter (21 votes)
- [tie] Final Fantasy XIV (16 votes)
- [tie] WildStar (16 votes)
That’s a pretty solid top ten, no huge surprises. The top 20 went on to include EVE, League of Legends, World of Tanks, Landmark, Star Trek Online, Marvel Heroes, TERA, Trove, DCUO, and Defiance/EverQuest II/MechWarrior Online/PlanetSide 2 (all of those tied for 20th).
(This is part of my journey playing through Ultima VII. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
So what did I think? Ultima VII is a fantastic game. It’s a game that, as I said before, I would have *loved* when I was a teen and MMOs weren’t a thing. I would have gone crazy over such a detailed and explore-happy world. Even today, it’s pretty astounding how much detail Origin packed into U7, to the point where it felt like the game respected the player instead of being condescending toward them.
The graphics are lush, especially if you like the pixel art style, and there’s a huge amount of freedom for players to tackle problems in various ways or take their own paths. Another point in its favor is the mouse-driven interface which is much more of a relief than, say, fiddling with the endless menus in Wasteland.
I also just liked the story, characters, and setting a whole lot more than I had anticipated. Ultima VII doesn’t stumble across worn tropes, but was constantly surprising and really interesting (not to mention hilarious). The world felt alive, mainly due to the daily routines of the characters and various events, and I absorbed a whole lot of it over my few weeks in the game.
But that’s not to say that there weren’t criticisms. I really disliked having every element of the UI hidden, because fiddling with a very small backpack and even smaller icons was really annoying (and you had to do a lot of it), not to mention that I almost never knew what health my characters were at, what their stats were, or even what time it was. The game could have used an on-screen mini-map and I wish I had taken the time to look for a mod to make it a bigger resolution. It feels very claustrophobic as it is.
Ultima VII came across more as an adventure game than a stat-bound RPG, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It made combat superfluous, in my opinion, but I’d rather be talking to people, exploring places, and fiddling with objects anyway.
Sorry to those who probably wanted to see me play this all the way through. I still have the save game and might come back to it one day, but for now I want to move on.
I’ve been doing a few things to spruce up the site as of late. For starters, I’ve updated the podcasts page to include an up-to-date list of all of the Battle Bards episodes we’ve done so far.
I also spent a half-hour yesterday and pruned my blogroll (right-hand side). I do this every few months to try to keep it at least semi-current if you’re looking for other MMO/video game blogs. So I took off the list any blogs that hadn’t updated in the past month or so (a couple of sad deletions but I was overall happy to see just how many of them are still thriving) and I’m in the process of keeping an eye on my feeds to add back in formerly lapsed writers who have come back.
As always, if I don’t have your blog on the list and you’re currently writing, please let me know and I’ll make sure to rectify that ASAP!
For those of you reading this via feeds, I’m including my current blogroll list after the break.
Back when I played SWTOR, I was highly disappointed that the game didn’t have player housing. I mean, it sorta, kinda, technically did in your player ship, but it wasn’t customizable at all on the inside. Eventually you were able to put more functions (mailbox, auction access, etc.) into it, but the look stayed the same.
That was a shame and a missed opportunity, because players spent a lot of time using their ships and it could have been one of the first games to use mobile player housing, so to speak.
So it looks as though SWTOR is going to get player housing for reals now, which, hey, that’s great. We don’t know a lot about the details other than a teaser trailer showing an apartment on Coruscant with a mailbox and a droid and some pretty decorations. At least from this presentation, the assumption that a lot of folks — myself included — are making is that player housing will be on a planet/in an apartment and not on your ship.
If this is the case, I really have to ask why, because I’m not seeing how this works out unless BioWare’s going to be giving a special recall button to go to your house. Your ship is everywhere you go, while a house is not. Players have really wanted to deck out their ship interiors for a while now, so why wasn’t that a focus? What will a planetside house offer to make it significantly more interesting and useful than making ships full-fledged player housing?
Lots of questions do I have.
Last night I hung out in Lion’s Arch to do the whole big finale thing, which initially involved a couple of small events and random wandering. When the three knights were activated, the zerg got into motion and went through them methodically, green, blue, red. They were appropriately lengthy tussles, although they certainly didn’t stack up to the next fight on Scarlet’s drill barge.
The prime hologram fight took just shy of forever as our group kept fighting, kept dying, kept rezzing folks, and kept praying for that health bar to go down. It did die and spawned a reprise of the red-green-blue fights, but by then we had hit the limit of our timer (which I didn’t see) and the whole event failed.
OK, I want to be clear about something: I’m not one of those players who whines when we fail. You need to have the chance to fail for success to mean something. And I don’t even need to be compensated for failing. But what really stewed my prunes is that from everything we did right — killing the three legendary knights and the legendary hologram — we were rewarded with nothing. Just… nothing. It was an hour and a half of fighting that was utterly wasted time. I don’t get why downing a legendary pays out less than a champion — at least then you get a goodie box.
So as far as I’m concerned, Scarlet can rule because I’m not going through all of that again. It’s just not worth it; my time is too precious for what we did right to be rewarded with nothing.
(A check on the forums reveals that the knights should be dropping loot but haven’t been due to a bug. That’s a little bit problematic, no?)