Sunday, July 30, 2006

** Note: My life isn't all about MMOs. With that said ...**

Now that I've tried the trial of the Saga of Ryzom, I can see quite a few things that I don't like about the game. One of the major ones, that I thought I'd be okay with when I started playing, is the lack of quests.

I played Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) for about 8 months, from release till the point Jedi were becoming popular (don't go there). SWG had no quests, albeit a few they kind of "test trialed" with the players, linked to events. The quests were somewhat interesting, but ultimately, they were over quickly, and it took a long time before the next set came out. It wasn't a big deal, as there was lots to explore, and a myriad of possible profession combos to try. There were mission terminals, but they just gave you a target and upon completion, some credits (money). For the most part, I'd just do them to get some XP and more importantly, make money, as I was almost perpetually broke.

Now in the Saga of Ryzom (SoR), there are quests on the mainland and the newbie area. The newbie quests are in chains, they give XP and some loot, as well as dappers (money). But when you go to the mainland, I've heard all they do is give you some faction rating (a wee bit) and dappers (money). Plus, most of them are mindless "Kill X" or Fed-Ex quests. they don't reveal any ongoing story, but some do reveal the backstory of the world of Atys. That sounds cool and all, but from what players have said, they don't even bother with the quests at all. Most people just group up and go kill stuff. And it seems like they do it for XP, but most importantly, for the crafting materials the mobs drop.

There's nothing wrong with grinding for the crafting mats, but for the most part, I'm not interested in crafting. With a game like SoR, unless you really focus on crafting, and finding the best mats, you'll be sub-par at it. Thus, your crafted items will be crappy, and only really good for a few dappers at the NPC vendor. I've always felt crafting was something left to people who want to do it full-time, or at least as a major focus. I've always thought of crafting as something to do /if/ I happen to be bored. Never something I want to do full-time.

So, with Crafting essentially out of the picture as something I want to do in SoR, that leaves the Harvesting, Fighting and Magic trees. Fighting and Magic are a given, so let's go onto Harvesting.

For the most part, harvesting is like SWG harvesting, minus the automated extractors. You roam around, prospecting, looking for materials in the ground. Once you find a spot, you extract it, and begin harvesting. The fact that speed, quality, possible hazardous conditions, and Kami outrage are factors is totally cool. But for the most part it's just you watching your toon dig away endlessly. And finding that exact spot is a major pain in the ass. SWG had a much better system of waypoints and a resource scanner to pinpoint the highest concentration.

Overall, the Harvesting tree is cool, but very boring, and only really good if you need the mats to Craft, or to sell for dappers. You can collect all the mats you need for dappers off of mobs you kill, so Harvesting isn't all that interesting either.

Well, that's /half the game/ I'm not interested in. Let's see how the other half fares.

The Fighting tree is cool, and the animations are top-notch. I really liked the style of the sword/dagger fighting animations. But up to skill level 30 (as high as I got), the abilities are boring as hell. Here's a list:

- Increase Damage
- Accurate Attack
- Bleeding
- Ignore Armour
- Slow

For the most part, you only use Increase Damage and Accurate Attack. Or more precisely, their Stanzas. So your attacks either: 1) do more damage, 2) have a higher chance to hit, or 3) do both. The animations are cool, but the overall effect is boring. Bleeding adds a Damage over Time (DoT), Ignore Armour allows you to ignore the resistance of a foe's armour (I think this is a PvP focused ability, as creatures don't have armour, that I know of), and Slow slows down the enemies attacks. Each one can only be used with types of weapons. Bleed -> slashing, Ignore Armour -> piercing, and Slow -> blunt. I found Bleed did no appreciable damage. Perhaps if you stacked 5 or so on a Boss it would help, but most things are dead in 3-4 hits, a DoT doesn't do much. I never tried the other two, but apparently Slow is the best by far, as it reduces the incoming damage per second (DPS).

Another thing about the Fighting tree that is crappy is the sound effects. My swords hitting stuff sounds like someone getting hit with a wet noodle. More of a slap than a mighty slice or whack. And other times I don't even hear anything. I can hear other people's characters making grunts and stuff while fighting, but my character is oddly silent the whole time. I don't know if my settings were off or something, but it made Fighting not all too interesting.

As for Magic, the spell effects are nicely done, and the sounds are cool, but could be a bit better. You have far more options as a Magic user than a Fighter. A fighter just stands there, using Taunt, and attacking. (Increase Damage .. sooo boring). The Mage can have Acid, Ice and Rot spells (at low levels), or use Fear, Root, Slow Movement, Slow Attacks, Blind, Heal, and a couple others I think I missed. The mage is far more versatile than the fighter, but is more likely to get hit and take damage, as they can only wear Light Armour and they are easier to hit while casting.

I've seen mages kill stuff with one spell, where it would take me 3-4+ hits to kill it with 2 weapons. A 2-handed weapon would most likely be better, but it reduces your chance to dodge. Mages seem a bit overpowered compared to fighters, and I had a far easier time levelling the Magic tree than the Fighting tree. Usually it's the other way around.

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Now that I've covered the 4 skill trees, I can go on to the other aspects of the game that fall somewhat short.

First, the UI is not very good. It's functional, minus the ability to resize the Ability tray, but it's not very pretty to look at, nor can you do a whole lot with it. Other than resize it and move stuff around/make it faded. The built it mp3 player is very nice, but it has no random, no looping, and has to pop out to Windows to bring up the dialog to select files. It's much easier to use Winamp or something similar.

The avatars are not bad, but they do look a bit odd, and the armours/clothing can look rather weird at times. It's more of an exotic look, than realistic, so I guess it's a matter of taste.

The chat UI is crappy at best, far above the shit that is Lineage II, but still not great at all. You can't create any of your own chat tabs, you can't filter the tabs other than the one User one (which is where regular chat is), and tells pop up in the very middle of your screen, taking focus away from whatever had it before. If you were typing in the chat window and a /tell window popped up, you'd wind up typing in that instead. If it's a recurring window, it will pop up back where you moved it, so continuing /tells is okay. There are the chat bubbles above people's heads, so it's not too bad, and works nicely for RP or grouping.

The con (consider) system is very generic at best. Mobs are only rated by colour and stars. The background colour is by gradients of 50, the stars by 10. Bosses are 2 black stars. So a green, 2 star mob is about skill level 20, max. The stars are written like so: 2x* It a very silly system, TBH. Especially when you move your cursor over it
and the tooltip says, "Skill level between 10 and 20". Why don't they just put "10-20" as the con? I don't get it at all.

Aggro creatures are not marked as such either, so unless you know beforehand, get ready to die. Plus, aggro mobs (ie. carnivores) tend to roam in packs, so soloers are easy pickings for them. Some passive mobs (ie. herbivores) are in packs too, and will defend each other. Soloers get ganked again. It is cool to see the carnivore mobs attacking the herbivores, but that's not something that makes the crappy con system all better.

My one big gripe: Soloing. Or the shitty ability to do so. I tried with Magic and Fighting, and all it tends to be is: Kill 3 mobs in less than 30 secs, wait 3 mins for HPs/Sap (mana) to regen. There are no potions, no food/drink, or otherwise no items that could help you regen these points faster. You can't heal yourself at all. You can only use a Self Heal Sap/HP/Stamina/Focus ability once every 2 mins. They are all linked to the same timer, so it takes a while. And most times you need to keep it in case combat goes sour. If you're on a team this is not an issue at all, but I like to have the ability to solo at any point. Some people suggested one could harvest or craft if they couldn't get a team. But those are both boring to me, so there's no point. Someone else said you can just chat in the Region or Universe channels. I was like So you're paying your monthly fee to use a 3D mIRC? RP is a better alternative, but who knows if that's a viable choice, as traveling times may be too long to reach someone. Overall, teaming is a cool aspect, and a good thing for any MMO, as it builds a community of players, and allows people to learn how to effectively group. But when it's almost a requirement to play a game, I say no thanks. There's too many idiots out there, or too few good people to group with. I don't want to spend my time in-game looking for the few good people I can find.

The community of SoR is a very nice, mature bunch though, so there is less likely a chance to be teaming with idiots. Though, like EVE Online, it does seem to have that air of arrogance, which turns me off right away. I hate arrogant people in RL, and can't tolerate them for a second. I've come across a few in my time, and they are the only ones to aggravate me enough that I was /this close/ to beating the fucking shit outta them. I might seem like the unstable type, but for the most part it's just me venting. In RL I'm one of the nicest people you'd ever meet. Anyway, back to the SoR community. They are a generally very helpful bunch, probably because there are sooo few of them, and they seem older than the average WoW player. But there are a few that have that, "If you think this game sucks, you're an idiot. Fuck off, and go play WoW" attitude that pervades the EVE Online forums. It's not something that brings people into the game, and generally puts off those who might be on the fence about subscribing.

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Okay ... this has got too long already, and it's late. I'll finish this tomorrow, if I can.

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