Posted in Gaming

Can We #SaveJoystiq and Massively?

JoystiqI titled this post with a question that I don’t have an answer to. Sorry for the disappointment. But I’m sure my own dismay in hearing that AOL may be closing down gaming news sites Joystiq and Massively far outweighs it. I know a lot of other bloggers have picked up on this story, first reported in this re/code article, but I wanted to add my voice to theirs – if nothing else, to continue to spread awareness.

The article was short and to the point. This is, of course, all about money, and this is AOL we’re talking about.

According to numerous sources, AOL is likely to shutter its primary video game site Joystiq, part of an extensive house-cleaning of its underperforming content properties that is taking place over the next weeks. The site, which seems to have about a dozen staffers, was founded in 2004 as an extension of Engadget and as part of Weblogs, which AOL bought in 2005.

I’m somewhat a newer reader of Massively in particular, which I’ve come to rely on for straight-up, solid gaming news. I laud the writers for telling it like it is, which really hit it off with me through various MMO launches last year.

I also really appreciate Justin Olivetti’s Global Chat series, where he shares posts that we gaming bloggers write, and highlights our questions and thoughts for the Massively audience. My posts have been included in this series a few times, the most noticeably and recently here. I can’t tell you what a huge boost it is to a blogger to see your post and thoughts exposed in this way. I don’t know any other large news site that takes the time to do this!

I’m not sure what we can do to save these fantastic sites, but it can’t hurt to spread awareness and lend another voice to the chorus of appreciation and support.  I hope for the best for all the writers involved in giving the gaming community so much of themselves on a daily basis.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, H1Z1, MMORPGs

A Very Primal Weekend: FFXIV, GW2 H1Z1

ramuh

GW2: The Big News

heartofthornsSeems like many folks were caught afire with the confirmation of the new GW2 expansion. I kinda forgot that whole thing was going on (too busy with FFXIV and H1z1), so I got my info from the blogger round-ups. Some things sound interesting to me, such as the new class, sub-classes, expanding on weapons the current classes have.

Some things, like guild halls, are two years too late – our little medium-size guild died after the release of the guild challenges when we discovered the whole system really catered to larger guilds. Just never could put the guild back together after that, and I became too discouraged with the game to keep pouring effort into it.

But there are some things that I’ve heard that I’m not a big fan of. For example, Bhagpuss noted here that:

He placed enormous emphasis on how “challenging” the new maps would be and how group-focused the expansion is.

That’s a double ew for me. I haven’t liked Anet’s definition of “challenging” for quite a while, because usually that just means annoying mechanics that hinders me from having fun (ala the Karkas and the Mordrem). Also, I’m not sure I like the whole “group-focused” thing. If this means we have open-world group goodness, such as the dynamic events we had when the game first released, I’m all for it. If this means forced grouping in the terms of dungeons, no thanks.

No new race and only one zone of jungle are disappointments considering how much GW1 could pack into a single expansion back in the days. Not interested in GvG, WvW or Legendaries.

So overall, I’m in a wait-and-see stance. I may not even pick this up on day one… might wait for reviews, patches and sales.

H1Z1

I used to be a zombie hunter, but then I took an arrow to the head... Only on PVE servers. :)
I used to be a zombie hunter, but then I took an arrow to the head…

Played a bit more in H1Z1 and still echo that it’s very very frustrating trying to regroup with friends after tragedy strikes in this game. We managed to get into the game right after the patch on Friday night, and that meant we finally scored some loot for once. After finding a backpack, knives, hatchets and all sorts of good stuff, I finally felt pretty good about my status in the game.

We were making the long trek to pick up a new fourth member of our group. Climbing a steep cliff, I came face to face with a bear at the top. One swipe of its claw took half my life. I started to run. The bear simply wouldn’t stop chasing no matter what. Eventually, I was able to reconnect with my friends, and they did everything they could to try to take the bear down as it chased me in circles around them. Finally, my stamina gave out and it mauled me to death, then turned and mauled two other members of my group before they could get away.

Okay, so I know this is a survival game. But how fair is it that a bear can kill in two hits and you can never, never run away from it because it simply won’t stop chasing you?

So we lost all we had, got scattered across the map yet again, and spent another 3 hours trying to get our group together again before we could have any meaningful play. By then, all buildings were once again picked over, and with no loot to be found, it became yet another night of fruitless time wasted.

I know they’re putting out patches to fix this. And they need to. Our H1Z1 team didn’t even meet yesterday, and I wonder if their interest is already waning.

FFXIV: Primal Time

I put a lot of time into FFXIV this weekend, continuing through the main story scenarios. While the story and language has its quirks, I still feel this has been some of the best story-oriented gameplay I’ve had in an MMO in a long time.

leviathan
Leviathan Battle

As I get closer to the newer content, it feels like the team really started to hit their stride. There’s much more voice acting. The story knows how to ramp up the tension by building a backdrop of rebellion boiling in the shadows of Ul’dah. On the other hand, the Scions are dealing with primal after primal – some more vicious than others.

We also get a lot of foreshadowing, proving that the team has known where it wanted to take the game’s development for a while. We get the first hint of the new dragon race that will be coming with the expansion, see how Mor Dohna is starting to be built up, and the logic behind the previously released rogue class, which leads to ninja. Very cool!

Moral questions are brought to light in the middle of all this. Beastmen summon primals out of fear of man and desire to be protected. Man, in turn becomes threatened by the primals, and strikes back with violence. Don’t both sides have a right to live in peace? Who is in the right? How is peace ever to be obtained if neither side tries to come to terms with each other?

And me, the Warrior of Light, continues to be put at the lead of the story as a person who stands out above the rest. Even the wisdom of Ramuh judged my character and found the truth. While other primals, such as Leviathan, simply lash out in fury and destruction without desire for understanding.

So I’ve finally beat Leviathan and Ramuh, and currently sit in the middle of the patch 2.3 content. I’m also working hard on getting pieces of my ilvl 100 armor, and slowly accumulating more atma for my weapon upgrade. I feel pretty good about my progress on Zuri, and think that I should be able to catch up with the storyline before the expansion in March.

judgement
Ramuh judges Zuri
Posted in Gaming, H1Z1, MMORPGs

H1Z1: First Impressions & Wishlist

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While I was really turned off by Smed’s attitude (even joking attitude) towards PVEers, and the whole P2W airdrop fiasco was a bit headshaking, I got dragged into H1Z1 anyhow. I really would have rather waited until development was further along (and I could play for free), but my sister got hooked on watching H1Z1 Twitch streams, then bought the game. I knew I was probably doomed because I when my little sister and her hubby pick up something to play, it’s hard for me to stick to my guns and tell them “no.”

SO. I figure if I’m going to play it, I might as well talk about my first two nights on H1Z1.

It’s obviously early access. But at least its early access has a lot more systems in place than Landmark early beta did. There’s zombie (and PVP – depending on your server) fights with various weapons, a crafting system, a survival food/hydration/health system, in-game voice chat by proximity, vehicles, fairly nice atmosphere and… well… that’s the extent of what I’ve seen.

Romero's is my favorite supermarket chain!
Romero’s is my favorite supermarket chain!

We play on a “disgusting PVE carebear” server. I don’t find pleasure in being killed on sight and having to run away from every other player I see. So my experiences will come from that.

Most of what I did on the first night was run and run and run and run and run (seriously, hours of running) just to try to get our randomly-spawned team together in one group. I’m going to be ticked if I die and get sent halfway around the world from my folks. You don’t start with a compass or map (maybe get them later?), so all your team has to go by are the /loc coordinates. And that’s a huge pain.

Thank the devs for berry bushes! Everything was picked over when I did find a POI to try and loot. All I was able to loot all night was berries and sticks. I did what I could with what I had (made a bow and arrows), but it was rather disappointing that there wasn’t a single thing left to find. And man, I really need more inventory space. What my pants pockets and fanny pack can carry is very limited. (How do you carry arrows in your pants?)

Having to switch to the inventory screen to eat berries one at a time is rather annoying. I much prefer the 7D2D method where you can place food and drink on your main inventory bar to use them. That way, you don’t have to take your eyes away from what’s going on around you.

Zombies seemed to spawn mostly around POIs, which was good and bad. Running across country was pretty uneventful. But considering I spent hours doing that just to find my group members, I’d prefer not getting slammed in the face with zombies along the way.

Zombie battle is somewhat clunky right now. I did take a few out with arrows, and was happy to see I sometimes got my arrow back as loot.

I really like the discovery tab and how you can learn new recipes as you find new items in the world. Crafting seems like something I’ll enjoy eventually, though building looks to be contained to these little player shacks I’ve seen sitting around. At least things players make do place in the world in a consistent way.

But for a builder/crafter like me, I don’t see myself sinking anywhere as much time into this as 7D2D. The voxel mining/crafting/building aspect of that game is far more deep and enthralling for me.

At the moment, it seems the most there is to do is run around and try to loot things that are probably already looted. The world itself looks nice, and the ambiance is certainly there. It’s got promise for an early access, but it needs a lot more for those of us who easily get bored by just fighting zombies and looting buildings.

On night two of playing, I did get super lucky to find a backpack after killing a random zombie. It was one in 20-something I killed to find it. Not very good odds. But for as many hours as I’ve put into this game, finding nothing but an empty water bottle and a piece of charcoal in buildings is really off-putting. They need to do something about the lack of loot, especially on PVE servers, because there’s no reason for me to play if I can’t ever find anything to advance with.

What H1Z1 Needs (And Soon)

I hope these things are coming. They need to make it soon.

  • Friends list
  • Grouping feature
  • A way to FIND people in your group (even if you don’t have a map or compass…) I mean, really! I know it’s survival, but it’s an MMO. I want to group with my friends and not spend hours running across the map because all we have to go on are confusing coordinates.
  • A way to eat/drink without going to the inventory screen.

What I’d Love to See in H1Z1 Eventually

I have no idea what they have on the list for the future, as I haven’t read up on this game and its roadmap yet. But here are the things they’ll need to add to hook me to liking it more than its current competitors.

  • Female avatars (I think they’re coming)
  • Character customization
  • Fishing! 🙂
  • Expanded building system. I wanna build a house for my group and decorate it!
  • Farming! 🙂
H1Z1 can be quite atmospheric at times.
H1Z1 can be quite atmospheric at times.
Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Contagion

contagion

Game: Contagion
Played: 11.2 Hours

Back over the Christmas holiday, my sister, who is one of my zombie hunting troop, saw Contagion up on Steam sale. So our team picked up a 4-pack for a little under $5 each. Not too bad of a cost, to be honest.

What is Contagion? It’s a zombie first person shooter game. I won’t say it’s a survival game, because it totally lacks the survival aspects of games like 7D2D or H1Z1. Aside from picking up hard-to-find ammo, weapons and med kits, there isn’t much scavenging to stay alive.

You can play single player, but most of the game takes place on player-hosted servers. Hosting your own server is like jumping through flaming hoops 20 feet over a zombie infested roadway. I managed to get it to work, but then I had trouble logging into my own server. Go figure.

Thankfully, the server selection search (which is somewhat obscure to read) tells you which servers your friends are playing on, so you can easily hop into their game. However, chances are high that you’ll end up playing with lots of other random people, so the experience is pretty much what you’d expect from a public-server FPS game. It varies from getting competent players to the downright crude and annoying. There is also built-in voice chat, which can be a blessing or a curse.

You can choose from different characters before you start a level. But aside from their (often crude) comments, I didn’t really feel a difference between any of them.

There are several different game levels to choose from, and different game types. You can go free-for-all PVP killing, co-op escape mode (where you need to complete objectives and live to escape the level), or extraction (where you have to complete objectives, live to escape the level and escort-mission NPCs as well).

It’s kinda nice that objectives are somewhat randomized when you play. Sometimes a certain door is blocked, changing the route you need to take, or a fire is blocking the way and you need to head through a different building. But overall, you are playing the same few maps over and over… and I never really felt like we made much progress at all. Most the time, about halfway through, all the survivors wiped, causing the game to start over. I’ve actually only see the survivors win twice.

I’m really not a fan of pure FPS, so there was that negative for me in this game. Ammo was way too hard to find, especially when you had a larger group of people to share it with. Melee weapons were so slow that they were not a viable alternative against one zombie, much less a hoard, in any way. Many times, when I died, it we because I was out of ammo and had no way to protect myself. Also, headshots are required to take out zombies… and they are frustratingly difficult to make. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong, but I swear when a zombie is facing me head-on, only two feet away, and I’m shooting it square in the head, I hit something! The game seemed to register what looked like a headshot to me as flying over the zombie’s head way too often, resulting in using up ammo in stupid ways.

Zombie Vision! Rawr!
Zombie Vision! Rawr!

The one cool element of the game was zombie play. When you get attacked by a zombie, you have a chance to become infected. This makes the world blur and shift in really cool ways, and gives you a huge warning that you’re about to turn. When you do turn, you drop all your weapons and ammo, and become a player zombie that can chase down the survivors.

As a zombie, you get zombie vision, which allows you to track survivors by heat map footprints. You can also roar to gather a zombie hoard (up to 15 nearby zombies) that follow you like a school of fish. You can disguise yourself as a regular zombie, too, then shamble your hoard after the survivors, and unleash them upon the unsuspecting living. When all survivors die, the round restarts with everyone as survivors.

That’s pretty fun even though I don’t usually like PVP. I did my share of mauling faces, and took my share of bullets to the head in this game.

Anyhow, do I recommend it? It’s a pretty solid FPS, if you’re into this sort of thing. I heard there’s a large patch coming out for it soon that’s supposed to improve… stuff. I’m not really on top of the game news for this one, sorry.

So you might like it. But I think it’s an acquired taste.

Recommend:

question

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs, The Secret World

MMOs & Story: Accepting Mediocrity

The Michael Bay version of GW2. Do we really want that?
The Michael Bay version of GW2. Do we really want that?

In my previous post about GW2’s “Point of No Return” episode, I explored the issues I had with the plot and character development. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get, though I did expect some people to speak in defense of the game (which is fine). What puzzled me, though, were responses that told me that players really don’t expect a good story from the game, so they aren’t disappointed by what little the game provides.

Bhagpuss states:

Well, I guess because I have really, really low expectations of the storytelling in any video game. In thirty-five years of playing them I can’t recall a single example that goes beyond the standard you might expect in an example of a middling genre narrative in another form and even that would be the exception.

Mostly, video game writing, particularly when it comes to character development, is about on a par with the old Saturday Morning Cartoons. If a character gets two personality traits instead of one that counts for depth.

While The Mystical Mesmer similarly said:

I’ve long since come to terms with ArenaNet’s “variable writing quality.” I guess as a hobbyist writer it’s easier for me to ignore the majority of those fingernails-on-blackboard moments. I’ve been dealing with my issues by iterating on my own fictionalized account of my main character’s involvement in the story until I reach a point where it makes sense. Sometimes that takes a while.

I just want to note that I’m not here to try to tell anyone how to enjoy their game. I was really interested in the fact that these two bloggers, whom I respect as fellow writers, choose to selectively ignore mediocre writing in order to get enjoyment from a game.

Not an MMO, but this game made me really feel!
Not an MMO, but this game made me really feel!

I wonder to myself, though, why? Shouldn’t we, in a time when gaming is becoming a more mainstream form of entertainment, hope to get enjoyment and at least a pretty solid story along with it? If we choose not to expect anything from the story in a game, if we remain content with what we’re given, then why should the writers/developers ever need to strive for better quality writing in MMOs?

I know it can be done with the gaming media. I’ve played plenty of games that have brought me to tears, made me laugh, frightened me, made me truly love the characters, and took me on a wild ride of imagination. I don’t expect award-winning writing in MMOs, but I do think that when a game touts something like a “Living Story” with… you know, the word “Story” being part of the title… that something like a logical story (maybe) would be an important focus.

Being a Professional Writer

I’m not writing this pretending that I’m the best writer in the world (I’m not). I’m also not writing this believing that I know anything about what it means to be a professional story writer on a game development team. But I do know what it is to work daily as a technical writer for a software development team, and I believe that the basic structures and expectations are fairly similar.

When I write something, there are a lot of expectations for my work to not only be factually accurate, but to present information in a way that is customer-friendly and easily understandable, even for a low-end user. I have expectations from the devs, testers, training, support, sales, public relations, my editor, my boss, my boss’s boss… and lastly, most importantly, from the customers themselves.

If I fail to pass the expectation check with any of those people, I don’t just shrug it off and put the writing out there. No. I revise until I get it right. Especially if it’s a customer who has a beef with the content.

That being said, I have to wonder what kind of process MMO writing goes through before it hits the screen. In the case of GW2, they’re pushing to release content so fast that I’m curious the kind of deadlines the writing team faces. Afterall, the writing has to come before art can be fully implemented and voice acting can be recorded.

How does the creative process work? Do the writers have the freedom to write whatever they think works best? Or does someone dictate the overall plot and tell the writers that they have to figure out how to get from point A to point B? Are there reasons the story is the way it is that are out of the writer’s hands?

Where’s the editor in all this? Certainly a full team of professional writers and editors can see illogical plot choices and forced character development… if us gamers can identify these things!

I wish I knew the answers to these questions and where things are getting snagged up. Because I know MMOs can do better.

Story Matters

gw1Again, I’m not looking for award-winning writing in my games. But I know solid writing is out there.

Guild Wars 1. Okay, so it doesn’t have the flashy, up-to-date graphics and amazing explosive cut scenes that GW2 has. But the story (with the exception of the Kormir issues in Nightfall) was overall solid, logical, and made the player character the central heroic focus (especially in Prophecies). I’m not going to say it was perfect, but I rarely had the kind of issues with GW1 plot that I do with GW2. Given the game’s age and the time in which GW1 was released, it really worked to build the gameplay around a strong, central story, which was something I appreciated.

For example, GW2 writers could have looked at Shiro Tagachi to see how to build up a bad guy you feel some sympathy for, yet hate at the same time. Sure, some of the Factions story execution was rough around the edges, but it wasn’t the huge Mary Sue mess you got with Scarlet that left many people just sick of seeing her in every new episode. She became more interesting to me after she was dead, and that’s a problem.

hildibrandFFXIV. You do have to get used to the flamboyant language, but it’s one of the better written MMOs, in my opinion. Of course, you have to deal with the quirks that come with Japanese storytelling, but having been a FF fan for years, this doesn’t bother me. What you do get is a logical plot, decent NPC representation, and a story that knows how to highlight the player character as a very important hero in a world of adventurers.

Once I realized this game doesn’t take itself too seriously, I was okay with what was going on. The addition of side stories, such as the Hildibrand quest lines, are some of the most fun and well-presented cutscenes I’ve experienced in a while. It’s almost like playing through a quirky TV show. Even the holiday quests have a small plot line, which is usually quirky, but quite often has a progression where your character helps an NPC work through an issue or come to an understanding of some sort. That’s something I really appreciate about this game.

secretworldmonsterThe Secret World. When discussing story in MMOs, I can’t leave out one of the obvious champs. The writing is an acquired taste: dark, edgy, experimental… has been known to leave internal shivers in my mind and send me to wikis to learn more. Developing story and a world with amazing NPCs is a central focus in TSW, and it’s the thing that keeps me returning to the game eagerly. It may not be for everyone, but the environments and characters are memorable to me, and I’m more than willing to overlook a rather rough combat system to indulge in the secrets the writers weave through their world.

In Conclusion

We’re seeing a shift in entertainment media, such as television, where a strong story and good character development are becoming recognized and appreciated. I feel this is a good thing. Many indy games see promise in what a strong story foundation brings to their games. And slowly, I think we’re seeing story becoming more important to MMOs, too.

Players aren’t entertained by fetch, kill and fedex quests anymore. Building a living world where player characters matter in the overall big picture is becoming important. I don’t think gamers, or MMO writers, should settle for mediocrity simply because that’s what’s always sorta been. I feel MMOs need to step it up and continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of writing: a balance of solid plot and character development.

Maybe GW2’s living world is a start of something ambitious that just hasn’t quite come together for them yet. It’s the first time I’ve seen an attempt to release fairly regular story elements on such a tight deadline. Maybe quality is suffering because they’re pushing to release content so quickly, which is another argument for why an expansion type release may prove better.

I’m sympathetic to this, but I’ll also call it as I see it. I know if I were the writer on this team, I’d WANT to know what I needed to fix. I wouldn’t be content just to throw forced plot and character development to my customers and call it a story update.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: My Caithe Conundrum

caithethorns

Warning: Spoilers.

Also, I have a feeling this is going to be a long post.

Anyhow, Syn and I decided to finish up all the living story episodes in GW that we hadn’t completed up until now. This included Seeds of Truth and Point of No Return.

The problem with being a writer is that I analyze everything I read, watch and game. Sometimes it’s difficult to just sit down and enjoy something for what it is because, like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard, wonky plot or character development is downright painful.

This happens here where I feel that the writers sacrifice characters, plot and just plain logic to try to build up another character. It’s so forced and makes so little sense that it’s hard to watch.

Checking that Build

One side note.

I mentioned in the comments of my previous post that I wondered if my warrior’s build was out of date, which was the source of frustration when battling in these new scenarios. I checked it out, and actually, the build is still the basic zerker build that is recommended for greatsword warriors. I noticed when I went to fight non-Mordrem enemies – like when I needed to clear out bandits to open a skritt tunnel – I had no issues dispatching them, and actually felt like I was a semi-competent player again.

The moment I had to face down swarms of Mordrem, the frustrations returned. So I guess it’s the Mordrem’s designs, coupled with high density, that are the cause of my frustration. I did a little better this time around, but still saw myself downed more than I’d like to have been.

Thankfully, the final two episodes were story-heavy rather than throwing boss fights at you ever step of the way. The one boss fight we did have, Shadow of the Dragon, was a bit more intuitive than the previous boss fights. Though it still had some gimmicky tactics, we were able to take him down with minimal deaths on our part.

Story Impressions

gw600I want to say that I laud GW2 for what it attempted to do in these final episodes. I think the delivery of the story was well done. I like the idea of seeing into Caithe’s past through memory seeds and reliving things in her shoes. I really enjoyed seeing the early days of the Sylvari – the tension of the “second-born,” the struggle of the first born between each other, and their struggle against the Inquest, who sadly colored Sylvari early experiences with other races.

The first couple of memory sequences are really, really good, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. They are what I think the Living Story should be.

But then, about halfway through, I start really having issues.

The Edge of Destiny

I want to preface this by saying that in the hype a few months before GW2 released, I quelled my excitement by reading the two GW2 novels, which includes The Edge of Destiny. I’m so very glad I did, because I came in knowing a lot more about the world and I was much more forgiving to the stumbles of Destiny’s Edge because of it. I think I understood the depth of the pain and loss the group bore much more deeply than I would if I never read the story.

However, my impressions of all the characters were set by the book. One character that always seemed to conflict between book-version and game-version was Caithe. I may have totally misunderstood her in the book, but she always came off as a strong female character who was independent, confident, clever… but brash and caught up in a detrimental relationship. She may not have always made the right choices, but she seemed to fight with honor and for the right reasons in the end.

I’m just not getting that from the Caithe in the game. And I’m not even talking about her choices in the latest installment of living story, either. I haven’t played much as a Sylvari, but I remember one of my first impressions of game!Caithe in the early levels was that she was disdainfully talking about murdering someone – might have been Sylvari who were Nightmare Court or bordering on Nightmare. I can’t remember the specifics. I just remember being repulsed by how cold and cruel she sounded in the game. My response was, “That’s not the Caithe I knew from the book!”

Caithe’s Love Conundrum

With that out of the way, I want to talk about where I had some major issues with story and character development in Caithe’s final memories. Why this whole story just didn’t work for me and how her character development, rather than becoming something mysterious or long-suffering, just fell flat due to forced attempts to make her what the writers wanted her to be. Even if it didn’t make any sense.

gw602First, as interesting as it was to see young Caithe, I don’t feel this relationship between her and Faolain very strongly. Sure, they share the same love of traveling together, the same burning anger against the foes of the sylvari, the same desire to protect their people, and the same teenage angst when the Pale Tree expects nothing but perfection from her children.

It’s there, but so quickly brushed over, that I just can’t believe that a strong and independent character like Caithe could just blindly follow Faolain to do the things they did without ever once questioning until the very end. Okay, I get they both thought the Inquest had it coming. I agree with that. But when it came to slaughtering innocent centaur tribes, it turned my stomach to play through the scenario. Why would Caithe just blindly rush into this bloodbath when she, herself, could plainly see the centaur were not an enemy?

Well, some might answer “She loves Faolain! She’d defend her love!” Which… might pass… if their relationship was realistically built up in the story. But it wasn’t well developed enough for me to accept that. One “I love you the way you are!” does not a relationship make.

Now, this might seem like it goes against my normal complaints about the other over the top relationship in GW2. True, I don’t like that, either. But I think there’s a balanced way to write a believable relationship of dedication and trust between two characters. I didn’t see it between Caithe and Faolain, though. Certainly not enough for me to believe that Caithe would act out such crimes without questioning her own, or Faolain’s, judgement.

Even when you do love someone, you don’t always agree or follow everything they do without question. Especially not murdering a tribe of creatures you were just moments before talking to peacefully. Not the way that Caithe is normally portrayed as a character -did she suddenly lose all her smarts? It just doesn’t make sense.

At the end, she tried to justify it with a weak, “They attacked first. She was defending herself.” But even Caithe didn’t sound convinced of this when she said it.

Caithe’s Moral Conundrum

I didn’t like the centaur scene, but I could have overlooked it if not for the way the final memory played out. This whole scene was the real kicker.

Okay, so she and Faolain track down their sister Sylvari, Wynne, whom Faolain suspects is hiding information from them. That’s what this thing has been about the whole time – Faolain throwing a temper tantrum that Wynne is hiding something important from the rest of the Sylvari.

When they finally catch up to Wynne and corner her, Wynne refuses to tell them what they want to know.

Faolain’s response: “I’ll just torture it out of her.”

Her own sister. Right. Sounds like a perfectly legit response.

This is the first time Caithe actually stops and tells Faolain that she’s taking it too far. The first argument from Caithe during this whole nasty ordeal. Finally, she stands up for Wynne, who is a sister to her.

But that lasts all of one or two sentences before Faolain goes off to find a instrument of torture anyway, leaving Caithe to watch Wynne. What does Caithe do? Does she try to get her sister out of that mess?

No, they just stay there waiting for Faolain to come back.

Ok.

In the meantime, Wynne convinces Caithe that Faolain is doing the wrong thing and is acting out in desire to gain power. She says that she can’t allow Faolain to know the secret, because Faolain will use it against the Pale Tree.

Then Wynne does something totally illogical. She tells Caithe the terrible secret she’s been hiding from the other Sylvari.

The big secret!
The big secret! Click for spoilers!

Wait. What? Why? Why would she do that? Caithe is obviously close to Faolain. If this information could be the end of their race, and Wynne didn’t trust anyone with it, why tell someone now? And why Caithe? It doesn’t cut it to say “Well, Wynne wanted Caithe to know how dire the situation was.”

This… just didn’t make sense. Especially with what happened next.

Then Wynne tells Caithe that the only way out of this is for Caithe to kill her.

Wait. What? What? Really? How is that the ONLY way out? 

How about Caithe saying: “You know, I see why you kept this a secret. Let me help you escape Faolain, and we can go back to the Pale Tree where we can talk about this. We can get out of here with my super neat shadow flicker magic (that I used to infiltrate the Inquest lab in a previous episode), because I have cool powers like that.”

Or what about Caithe saying: “You’re my sister and I can’t kill you! I may love Faolain, but this is going too far, and I want to help her. There’s two of us and one Faolain. We can subdue her, take her back to the Pale Tree, and figure out what to do from there.”

What Caithe actually does: “Okay! You’re right! Stab! You’re dead!” *sobs uncontrollably*

And why does she do that? Because the writers want…

Caithe: “Oh, I am the poor, tormented character who killed her sister in cold blood, was shunned by the Pale Tree, driven apart from my (supposed) lover… and had to bear the dark secret of our entire race for all this time! This is why I back-stab your party and keep stealing Glint’s egg. I have perfectly good reasons that you can’t possibly understand!”

Right?

Right?

*sigh*

I wish they spent more time thinking about their story and less about making flashy trailers to hype people up…

Oh yeah. This stuff. The Michael Bay GW2. Almost forgot about that.
Oh yeah. This stuff. The Michael Bay GW2. Almost forgot about that.
Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: Catching Up with Tangled Paths

 

intolabrynth

Spoilers Ahead – Though Most Folks Have Probably Already Finished This

After yesterday’s post about GW2, Syn and I decided to pick up where we left off on the Living World storyline last year. This was the early November release of Tangled Paths, which I was already forewarned was short and a fairly frustrating ride. Both proved to be true, and it seemed like a rather paltry addition to the storyline.

Story

Actually, the story only did two things. It established that Caithe can be a creepy stalker and unreliable thief… though I’m not falling for the “she’s a Sylvari, which means we can’t trust her” thing. I’m sure there’s something more there, but they want to plant the seed (pun not intended) of mistrust there.

Then they quickly offed Mr. Master of Peace, who turned out to be just a plot link to introduce the idea that one of Glint’s eggs still exists. Now that the egg has become the most important thing, he’s not really needed anymore, so may as well do away with him to tie up the Zephyrite section of the story. More important things are coming than the misplacement of an entire group of peaceful peoples and the death of their leader and Aspect master. Ah well.

I was actually disappointed when I saw Destiny’s Edge trying to gather back together at the beginning of the scenario… and my character says “Nope! I can’t join you! I got to go off with my pals for this dragon egg!” Man. I’ve been hoping to see Destiny’s Edge back together all this time, and now that they are moving that direction, my character is dissing them for Destiny’s Edge Version 2.0. Bleh.

Gameplay

gw2tangledpaths
No. Go away. No one likes you!

Can I say that I really have come to hate all the Mordrem-type creatures? Give me Risen anyday. At least ALL of them didn’t either yank you around, speed-dive into you, lock you to the ground, bleed you out with these little vines you can hardly see or avoid, and spit pools of poison all over the place.

I guess the idea is to create more challenging and tactical gameplay. But does every little trash mob have to be an annoying fight? Forget trying to melee most of this stuff. Yes, I’m casual and rusty at playing my warrior, but these mechanics don’t make for fun fights for me.

Don’t even start on the whole labyrinth thing… we almost thought it was bugged at the end until we looked up a map to realize we weren’t approaching the center of the maze from the right direction. A maze filled with Mordrem? To annoyingly prolong a tiny sliver of story content? Really guys?

Boss Fight Frustrations

Then come the bosses, which up the frustration level by 200%. We faced two of them during this story, and spent more time trying to raise ourselves from a downed position than actually fighting the boss. If it wasn’t for the NPCs fighting with you (who seem mysteriously immortal lately), we wouldn’t have gotten through these battles.

Yes, there’s a pattern to learn to down the bosses. No, I’m not against learning patterns and finding tactics to down fights. But this has proven, time and again, to be the most annoying thing of the new LW story has introduced this season. An annoying boss fight, often more than one, shoved in your face and gating the story progression.

Syn stated last night that it feels like GW2 is trying to do a poor imitation of FFXIV boss and primal battles. The reason it works for FFXIV is that the battle speed is slower, giving you more time to react to things. GW2’s action battle makes things a hectic mess of red circles, annoying vines yanking you all over the place, and aoe vines bleeding you that you can’t seem to dodge out of. No matter the build, players can only dodge so many times in GW2… and everything seems like it requires break-neck responses to prevent being trampled and torn apart.

Overall

The only up side to this is that I’m continuing to gather pieces of the neat carapace armor as the story progresses. Also, the one Black Lion key I earned from finishing the story netted me a Tome of Knowledge for my mesmer.

I still plan on playing the rest of the LW story, especially since comments and feedback says that it gets better. I am interested in the concept of the Glint egg and possibly having a good dragon on our side. But this installment was undoubtedly my least favorite episode of the story so far.

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

GW2: What It’s Come Down To

gw597

Those who know my extensive history with the Guild Wars series also know that I have a love-hate relationship with GW2. I was (and still am) a strong supporter of GW1. I was a huge supporter of GW2 when the game first launched, and really loved the game for the first 6 months. I played a TON of GW2 during that time, ran several fan Tumblrs, drew fan art, drew GW2 character commissions for other people, and even wrote fanfiction/RP journals. I think that’s the most invested I’ve been in a game other than FFIV.

So, when development of GW2 started going in a direction I couldn’t get behind (about the time when the Living Story started), I really struggled with it for a long time. As a matter of fact, Braxwolf perfectly described my anguish in The Stages of MMO Gameplay post. I found that I simply had very little positive to say about the direction of GW2, so I eventually just stopped blogging about it all together.

I tried to push through it, and picked up my character RP blogs several times hoping to rekindle a fire. A few episodes into the Living Story Season 2, I gave that up for good as well. I like (sorta) the direction that the new LS is going, in that it’s more permanent. But the story itself, even when weaving with lore from GW1, just keeps failing to pull me in. I don’t really care a whole lot about the new crop of NPC friends the story is trying to feature, which is why I think GW2 is trying to go back to pulling in their tried and true characters, like Caithe and Rytlock.

Daily Rewards!
Daily Rewards!

This is good. Only problem is, though I’ve logged in to unlock all the LS episodes (forget me ever paying gems for it, ugh!), I haven’t played any of them since I finished Echoes of the Past. Maybe the story gets more interesting and I’m missing out on something cool? I don’t know.

What I do know is if GW2 doesn’t drum up some major excitement and good feelings in me with whatever this Heart of Thorns thing is supposed to be, I’m just going to keep doing what I have been doing lately. Which is?

Logging in to snag the daily reward.

I don’t have much to say about the way daily achievements have changed, though I know other people either like or dislike them. I stopped doing dailies on a consistent basis a few months after they were released. I liked the idea at the time, but I still think their lack of flexibility and execution leaves much to be desired.

GW2 has been able to lure me in to log in daily to get the new daily reward chests, however. This is mostly because a have a full stable of characters, most of which are still hovering a bit above level 20 (due to the lvl 20 birthday boosters). I don’t have much motivation to level yet another character through content (even though I used to enjoy the leveling and exploration), and still, I’m not sure what the point in having another level 80 really is…. other than dressing up another pretty character.

Despite that, I find myself trying to advance my poor mesmer, SoYa, who has been sitting in the late 40s ever since I logged off in disgust at the changes in the Crown Pavilion. I used to love to run these events because I could take my low level characters in, get upleveled to 80, romp around with the zerg and have a good time leveling them at a decent rate. Since GW2 is moving away from this kind of (fun) content, I haven’t leveled characters at all.

Aw yeah! I worked hard for this! (Not)
Aw yeah! I worked hard for this! (Not)

Until now! The one thing that’s most important to me in the login dailies are the Tomes of Knowledge. If you choose the Chest of Grand Experience at the end of the 28 days, you get a total of 16 free levels, which sent my mesmer quickly to level 60 over the course of those 28 days. Considering I did nothing but log in, I guess I really can’t complain about that! I’m the type of gamer that Anet hates, huh?

I like seeing the new level rewards you get each time a character levels up. However, I feel the new leveling system is way too limiting compared to the old one. It’s really hard to go back to play characters who once had gobs of attribute points and could do neat things even at a low level… who are now limited to using only a fraction of that due to level restrictions.

I remain in a wait-and-see stance for GW2, though my interest has dwindled and I wouldn’t even be logging in if it wasn’t for easy level rewards. I have too many other games that interest me right now for me to continue to be frustrated on the direction a single game is going, no matter how much I used to love it.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: HUGE “Before the Fall” Trailer

One thing that always impressed me about FFXIV was the amount of free content the game releases regularly. At first, I thought it was because they were scrambling to add features that should have been in the original base game. But over a year later, they keep pumping out amazing and diverse patches.

We’ve got dungeons, raids, primal battles, main story content, quests, new classes, new features (chocobo stables, chocobo dyes, ventures, challenge log, housing, glamours, hunts, etc), and of course Hildibrand quests. 🙂 Sorry, GW2, but FFXIV’s patches may not be bi-weekly, but the sheer amount of patch content blows the living story out of the water any day.  And yes, I am aware I’m comparing a B2P with cashshop to a sub game… which only recently got a fluff cash shop…. but still. The amount of patch content we’ve got in FFXIV over the past year could have been an expansion on its own.

I may not always agree on how the devs release all features in FFXIV, but I love how varied content is for all play styles. For example, I’m not a raid or dungeon runner (though that Dark World looks cool), but there’s plenty of main story scenarios, Hildibrand quests and my personal excitement, the Manderville Gold Saucer. I’m sooo there with chocobo racing (it seems to be somewhat Mario Kartish) and the Triple Triad card game! I spent so much time racing and raising chocobos in FF7 and playing card games (I was better at the one in FF9 though) that I know I’m going to be sucked into these mini games. And that’s perfectly great for me!

In fact, there’s so much content coming for the next three patches that they needed a full 10 minuet trailer for it.

Glad to be on board with FFXIV.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

Weekend Review: All About FFXIV

Waiting for rain in Gridania.
Waiting for rain in Gridania.

I’m trying to make good on my goal to finish up the FFXIV end game story… not on one character, but two. Zuri is my original main character whom I play mostly solo. Tai is my alt character that I play duo only when Syn is around. So that means I have to pull double duty to progress my characters in FFXIV.  Yes, I know that you can do everything on one character and that I probably could have just played Zuri with Syn’s character, but it’s not the same (for me) as having a character on the exact same steps of story and quest. So, the only fault for all this is mine, and I’m good with it.

Free Company Building

I’ve made a huge focus on building up our Free Company and recruiting new members since I returned from vacation. This was something the guild leader talked about before Christmas, and something I decided I was going to follow through on… even if that meant I had to swallow my fear of using the shout channel. I’m recruiting for a specific type of player – namely those who are mature, low-drama, casual and don’t mind chatting and helping out other folks.

It’s a little harder to pull in that specific type of player, especially since I’m advertising a guild that’s looking for community, not coil runs. I’ve had some luck, though, and we’ve met a lot of fun and interesting personalities. Some nights, I get no response. Some days, I get lots. I’m pretty much just going to keep doing my thing and hope that recruitment picks up as we get closer to seeing the expansion.

Busting Down Storyline

King Mog defeated again!
King Mog defeated again!

This weekend I concentrated on catching up on the main story with Zuri. She was still stuck on the step where I needed to complete Quarn, and then the two guildhests behind it. Whoever thought it was “fun” to force a random level 35 dungeon and two level 25 and below guildhests into the main story should re-evaluate the meaning of fun. Again, I’d done no guildhests on Zuri before this, so I had to work my way up the list to get to the ones I needed. Thankfully, FC members were there to assist me, and I was able to push past the roadblock that’s been holding me back for months.

I had a bit more trouble with parties completing King Mog than on Tai, but the second group I got shot him down the first time, even with a new tank in the group. So, I’ve finally completed all the content for patch 2.1 and am moving on towards Leviathan! Yay!

I’m also catching up on the past two episodes of the Hildibrand quests that I’ve missed. Always good fun. 🙂

Crafting Fun

I also reached level 40 in fishing this weekend, and went about doing the level 40 job quest, Fishing in the Rain. This made me wait for rain to fall in Gridania before I could fish up the needed raincallers. Thank goodness for the Skywatcher NPCs, or I could have been sitting there waiting for random rain forever. Once the rain started falling, though, I went to town catching those fish. I bought enough worms to just keep on fishing, and I’ve actually sold some stacks of raincallers for a pretty nice profit, considering.

Fishing in the Rain!
Fishing in the Rain!

Working on mining up topsoil for the FC garden, I also reached level 30 miner. I spent some time crafting gathering accessories and trying to regear a bit, now that all of my gatherers are 30+. I know I’ve been very slow in leveling my crafters and gatherers, but I tend to do it whenever I feel like doing it, rather than grinding through it.

Beyond FFXIV

Aside from FFXIV, I also played a bit of Goat Simulator MMO this weekend. I’d like to play it a bit more before reviewing it, but look for a Steam Challenge post on it soon!