Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything here, so I figured another diatribe .... err, I mean "post" was due.

To those who think I'm going to go ADD and say how Vanguard is the best thing in the world, you're wrong. After the last post I don't think I even played the game for the last day or so of my 10 day trial. The nerfing of the only character class I found really engaging was the last straw. Plus, after I stepped back and /really/ looked at the game, I could easily see how shallow, and fucking boring it all was. About the only thing that was keeping me there was the fact that I hadn't seen any of the world, and I could go explore it all. And after I did a little exploring and found a lot of boring, same looking wilderness, I gave up. The one cool place I found was covered in 10+ level higher mobs that were social, and group only.

Needless to say, I had to fucking run for my life.

I've completely shelved any thoughts about Vanguard. My co-worker Satan hasn't even played it more than a few hours I think. And he was the one person I know who was actually excited about it. Maybe that's why. He got too hyped about it. And the incompleteness of it all, coupled with the fact it's really not all that different or "3rd Gen" let him down.

Besides, he's thoroughly engrossed with EVE Online again.


And that brings me to my next point, EVE.

Like I said before, I reactivated my account just after New Years, and for some reason got bored within a few hours. I never did anything other than login to set skill training for most of the month of January. This last month, I spent some time trying Exploration, and found it very time consuming and inevitably fruitless. My associated skills were far too low to be all that effective, and I didn't know how to properly set up my scan probes.

I still don't really know how to do all that properly, but my skills are much better now. I even have the other Exploration-related skills at a decent level. But I haven't really taken the time to try the whole system out since then. I've been fiddling around with doing some missions, including a fucking /epic/ of a 10 part storyline one. It was my storyline mission (a mission given to you after every 16 regular ones, and it greatly affects factional standings), so I was required to do it, or take the factional penalty. After taking a few days to do the first 9 parts, since doing the missions, and adding looting and salvaging the wrecks to the time made most missions a 2-3 hour affair. A couple were quick courier missions that took no more than 10 mins, but later on they disappeared. The final ones were all combat missions with multiple parts.

Anyway, the last mission had one brutal area or "room" at the end. Large swarms of ships in 3 groups, probably totalling at least 30 ships. And 3-4 of them were Battleships. (FYI: I fly a Battlecruiser, or tougher Cruiser. Battleships are the next step up, and fucking tough.) It was a "running the gauntlet" type of mission. Kill an enemy base, and escape with the girl imprisoned there (somehow she is supposed to survive ). Anyway, the destroying the base part was fine, but as soon as I opened fire, /all/ of the NPC ships targeted me and returned fire. Including the Battleships.

Needless to say, I died before I could grab the "girl" and escape. When I looted the "can" that the girl should have been in, while being pummeled to shit, I found no girl at all. Just two cybernetic implants. In that moment I panicked. That was my downfall. My wonderful Ferox battlecruiser went "poof", a mere second before I could flee.

It took a while for me to calm down (I wasn't mad, more depressed), and let the monetary loss sink in. So I took a break for the day and came back to the game the next day, determined to figure out a way to finish the mission. Besides I had to. It would affect my factional standings. I also wanted to figure out why I hadn't found the girl in the can, only the implants. While perusing the mission briefing, searching for a clue to what I needed to do, or what I had done wrong, I noticed it.

"Mission complete".

I stared at it for a while, lost. At first I thought it was a bug, or perhaps the daily server downtime had affected it. Then I talked to a corp mate and learned the /real reason/. The girl was never there. It was all a trap. And I never needed to loot the can at all. The implants were only there as a bonus, to those willing to risk their ship's destruction.

I was relieved. At least in all this mess my factional standings wouldn't be adversely affected. But I was still out the Ferox, or more precisely, out the insurance money and all the modules and cargo on it. The insurance contract had paid out slightly more than the cost of a new one, so I could go get a new one right away. But then I'd have to buy more insurance, and of course new modules and weapons to equip it with.

Luckily, all the modules I had looted from the previous mission had sold on the market in the mean time, so I was able to cover the cost of insurance plus some. The cost of new modules wasn't all the expensive, considering that I always use the cheap ones. Besides, the expensive ones are usually only better by a small percentage (2-5%), and lower for system requirements. I've never had a problem with running out of ship powergrid or CPU, so I don't really need them.

So I bought a new Ferox, kitted it out with the same mods as I had before, insured it, and was ready to fight again. How much did my wallet balance suffer? Nothing, in the end. I actually hadn't been effected at all, mainly since those mods sold on the market for an insane price. Not too bad for my first ship loss.

/But/, I found out that one of those two implants I looted before dying was worth more than my ship, all it's fittings, /and/ the insurance. Damn .... if I had only warped out a second earlier, I would be laughing.

Oh well ... live and learn I guess.


That's the beauty of EVE I guess. It doesn't hold your hand. It doesn't keep you out of harms way. And it doesn't restrict you like every other game out there.

Wow .... you'd think it must be the best game in the world, eh? No, it's not. It has a lot going for it, but like almost every other game out there, it has it's drawbacks. But I'm still enjoying my time with it.

My other co-worker, Kofi, is also playing it (I think I mentioned that before). He's completely disillusioned with WoW and he didn't even play the Burning Crusade. In fact, he's drawn the ire of many of his RL/online gaming pals because of it. They play WoW /all the time/, and almost nothing else. Whenever we use the Teamspeak server, we have to switch to another channel, otherwise we'll hear them yammering on about WoW or whatnot.

Anyway, Kofi really wants to get our co-worker Satan to team with us and make our own corp. Get something going, as he puts it. Satan already has all his characters (from 2 accounts) in his own corp. I'm not sure how to tell Kofi that I think it's not going to work. I've worked with Satan for quite a while now, and talked about gaming with him a lot on our coffee breaks. He seems like the kind of guy who /prefers/ to play MMOs all on his own. He said he was once in a guild in EQ 1, but something happened and he quit. I'm not sure if that was when he quit the game, or before that. Regardless, he seems quite content to just fiddle around all on his own, doing what he can (hence the two EVE accounts).

But Kofi is an entirely different type of online gamer. He will only play an online game if he can play with people he knows in RL. He doesn't make friends with people in MMOs, shooters, etc. He only teams with his friends, makes guilds with them that are RL friends only, etc. I'm not sure why, but I do remember him saying something like, "Why would I want to team up with some people I don't know in a game?" It's very confusing.

I'm somewhat like Satan, in that I like to be able to do stuff in game at my own pace, but I like to make friends in MMOs/whatnot, as otherwise I'll be all alone when playing them. Unlike Kofi, I don't know /anyone/ in RL who I can play games with. My best friend Inferno has a P.O.S. computer that can't run much of anything. And the other day my extra computer crapped out on him for some bizarre reason. So he can't even come over to game. My other friends either don't play video games much, or only play console games, use a Mac, only play singleplayer games, etc. I have a plethora of cousins (14 in fact), most of which are younger than me, and I'm quite good friends with. You think any of them play online video games? Nope.

Fucking weirdos ....

Anyway, Kofi and I are looking to try out something new in EVE. We've got a couple options, but I don't know if we can get very far with them. All of the major empire building stuff pretty much /requires/ a corporation of at least 20-40 people, so his "RL friends only" rule pretty much fucks us over on that regard.

I'm going to have to get him to change that, somehow. It's obvious, even to him, that he's not going to be able to play online games with his old RL gaming buds anymore. They are too addicted to WoW, and he's not. Besides, they don't even have some of the games we play online. I guess I need to figure out where this idea stems from, in order to get him to change his opinion. I'm betting it's cause his RL friends are all the same age as him, they went to school together, etc., that he's resistant to change, and can't see how that's not going to stay the same forever.

Whatever happens, I hope it's for the best. He's a good guy, and I'd hate him to miss opportunities to enjoy his online gaming, just because he's holding on to some old memories and won't adjust his views.


Let's see ...

In other news, both Smallville and Heroes were great this week. I think for the first time in a while, I was more entertained by Smallville than Heroes. Probably because this last episode was very unlike the "villain of the week" types in the past, and some /major/ plot points came up. It gets me all excited for next week.

As I said before, the extra computer is fucked right now. I'm waiting to see if Kofi can dredge up an old socket 754 AMD motherboard so I can test things out to find the problem. It's either the motherboard, or the CPU. Either way, it's not looking good.

Other than that and some rare fuck up in Battlefield 2142 that unlocked every item in the game for me (effectively giving me all the abilities of a 4 star General type), it's been pretty tame. I think I might go get a new singleplayer game or something. I've got a list of ones I want to try. Need for Speed is getting old (I mean, how many times can you race a car? even if it's on different "tracks"), San Andreas isn't all that appealing anymore (it's gotten old), I'm done with NWN 2 (not playing that again for sure. Too time consuming), and that's it for my SP games.

I thought about reactivating my old CoX account, and I know some people would be thrilled if I did, but I /know/ it'd just bore me in a week or a month, so I'm not going to bother. It's best to stay away, and avoid frustrating myself.


Well, /again/ it's been a long entry, and I think I've been typing for far too long. At least this one was very low on the expletives and didn't involve any real ranting. Hey! Maybe I'm doing better. Guess I should reward myself with a Rye and Coke.

Oh wait ... it's right here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another note about Vanguard:

I got my main character, a Kojani Human Disciple, ie. Melee/Healer type, to level 11 the other day. Went to the next area in Kojan (one of the continents), and began looking for stuff to do. I found 3 quests, quickly finished them in an hour or so, and started looking for more. NPC directs me to next NPC quest giver, ride my horse there (not much faster than walking, BTW), and grab the 3-4 quests I can find. All of them are labelled "Group", except one. But all of them are vs. level 14 mobs. I'm level 11, maybe close to 12. Not good. Most of the mobs are social, and are in groups. Usually one mob or more per group is a 3-dot mob, ie. Group mob, very hard to solo. Effectively, I would have to "grind" random lvl 12 mobs so that I could level up to 13, and maybe attempt to solo the one non-group quest. Or find a team of people and attempt it. Except I have hardly noticed anyone since I hit lvl 10 and left the first area.

Great. Good job Sigil. Way to make me want to play more (not that I was going to buy the game anyway, but nonetheless a poor job).

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. My main character's class got nerfed to shit the other day. During an "emergency patch" in the middle of primetime. What was the emergency? Class balancing, apparently. Almost no bugs were fixed, but 3 classes got nerfed. WTF, Sigil? Are you guys on /crack/? The game is already buggy as hell, and that gets on people's nerves, and you go pull shit like nerfing people's characters? Get the fucking bugs fixed first, dumb-asses.

On top of all that, the "Vanbois" (Vanguard fanboys) have been fairly bitchy as of late, and aren't helping people stick with the game. Their elitist attitudes, and blind faith in Brad McQuaid is pushing some players away from the game. Not a great thing when apparently, Vanguard is the most expensive MMO ever made, even moreso than WoW. And Brad McQ said that they need /at least/ 250,000 players to make the game fiscally viable. In other words, pay off the huge debt they've accumulated. Right now there isn't even 250k /characters/ on all the Vanguard servers, as listed on the Vanguard character stats page. You can even see the alts tied to the same account. Just randomly checking some, I found a lot of people have 3-5 characters on their accounts. And that includes people who played pre-order and cancelled before launch, as well as all the 10 day buddy key people.

Overall, it's not looking good for Sigil and Vanguard. I can see possible financial difficulties in their immediate future. Either that, or Brad and Sigil end up selling the game to Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), their co-publisher, like they did when they made EQ1. I bet people will just /love/ him if he does that again.

I can't wait to see how this turns out, actually. Either way it'll be entertaining. If it succeeds and they fix the bugs, add content, improve performance, and fix pretty much /everything/, the game might just well be one of the best out there. If they don't, it'll be like seeing a train wreck. It's horrible and terrifying .... but you just can't take your eyes off it.


In other news, I'm still fiddling with EVE Online. And when I say "fiddling", I mean logging in, setting my skill training, and logging off to go play something else.

I don't know what it is. I've tried to get myself to play the game. It's right there, waiting for me to click on it. But I just can't get myself to do it. And I don't know why. Maybe it's because I've tried it before, a number of times, and it hasn't managed to hold my attention for more than a month or two, max. Maybe subconsciously, I won't let myself get into the game, cause I think it'll just let me down again. Maybe that's the truth. Or maybe it's just me "jumping to conclusions" like I always do. Maybe it's the ADD some people say I have.

I dunno. When some video games can keep me engrossed in them forever, why is it a game with so much going for it, can't get me to play it, even for an hour at a time?

We'll have to see. If I can't get myself to play EVE after my account expires at the end of this month, I think I need to give the game a "permanent goodbye". Like delete my character. It's worked in the past, to some extent. But with the real-time skill training, it makes it that much harder to even contemplate it. I'd be losing /6-7 months/ of playtime. If I went back, there'd be no way of catching back up. I'd have to play for 6-7 months again, just to get to the same point. It's actually a pretty harsh system when you take a good, hard look at it.

I dunno. Perhaps down the road, I'll find that mystical game that had everything I've wanted in an MMO. I'm not holding my breath though. I'm a pessimist at heart.


Till next time (when I'll probably go on another MMO tangent/rant/expletive laden diatribe ).
The Rev.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

From last time:
Phew ....

I think I dodged a bullet with Vanguard. I'm kind of glad I downloaded the Beta. Gave me some time to see the game with my own two eyes.

And what's more important ... It let me get over that "Wow!/Cool!/" phase and take a hard look at the game.

Well, after talking with my friend at work (Satan) who bought Vanguard, I was curious. He said the difference in performance from Beta to even the Pre-Launch was like night and day. Since the performance issues were so bad it didn't allow me to even try the game much, I figured Vanguard needed another look-see.

Now, if you didn't already know, I'm a cheap bastard. So there was no freaking way I was going to pay to try the game again, especially since the bit I did see wasn't all too exhilarating. I had to find another way in.

Some guy on the MMORPG.com forums decided to have a little quiz to give away his buddy keys. He, like some other people, bought the Collector's Edition of Vanguard, and it comes with 10 buddy keys. It's Sigil's way of trying to get people to bring their friends/guilds over from other games.

So, the guy on the MMORPG.com forums asked some relatively obscure questions, and I figured "What the hell?". It was probably the easiest way to get a second look at Vanguard. The question I got right was actually about some spoofed G.I.Joe cartoon public service announcements. I hadn't seen them before, but the few I watched were /fucking hilarious/. I was laughing myself silly.

Check them out: G.I.Joe PSA Videos


Back to Vanguard.

I got the key from the guy, DLed the Beta client from Fileplanet again (since I'd deleted/uninstalled the thing completely after the Beta. It was almost 20 Gbs!) Took some time, but I DLed it while sleeping so it didn't take long.

After the extraction, install, patch and subsequent defrag, I finally got to try the game again.

Wooooo .....

The game was much more playable, and there was almost zero "hitching" like before. It was so bad in Beta I almost smashed my computer. Fucking brutal. But, happily it was gone. So I finally got to see how Vanguard really plays.

And the word to describe it would be: "meh".

Overall, if you discount the bugs, and performance issues that are still there (though nowhere near as bad), the game isn't all that interesting. I have done god knows how many quests, and not one of them was even /remotely interesting/. All of them have been either, "Go see ", "Take to ", "Kill X of ", or "Collect from ". There hasn't been one quest that had an interesting twist, a special NPC, a twist that I didn't expect, etc. All around it's been /mind-numbingly boring shit/.


Quests aside, I got to see more of the levels, some different classes, different races and their starting areas, and different spheres of levelling.

Let's start with the levels.

I got one character to level 9, and another to almost level 11. He still has 4-5 quests to hand in, and since most XP is from quests, he'll most likely be level 11 in no time. Anyway, some people have said that the game doesn't start until level 10+. I think they are on crack or something. The game has /never started/ for me. I simply played through to see how things were, to explore the different areas, and see if I was wrong about the game.

I'd have to say, aside from SWG (which I exclude because it was a sandbox MMO, and buggy as hell at launch), this has to be /the worst/ game for a newbie experience I have ever played. There is almost no reasoning behind any of it. WoW has the nice little intro when you make a new character, giving the player a hint of the story in the game, and where their character's race stands in the gameworld. Who they hate, like, etc. I think that's one of the best features an MMO could have. Give the player some insight into /why/ they are killing rats and pigs for their skins/tails/eyes/etc. Vanguard has a little text description once your character is ready to play, but that's not the same thing. After almost 11 levels of adventuring, I'd barely seen anything of an overall plot, or even a simple reason why I was doing any of it.

This brings me to my next point: The other spheres of levelling.

I only got to experience the Diplomacy sphere, a minor amount of Crafting, and none of Harvesting. I skipped the last two pretty much cause the Crafting tutorial was fucking boring, and buggy as hell. I skipped Harvesting cause realistically, it's the same fucking thing as in almost every other MMO. 1.) Find a resource and click on it. 2.) Wait. 3.) Collect the materials from it.

The Diplomacy sphere is the best part of the game IMO. It's basically a mini-collectible card game, like Magic: The Gathering, but you use it to talk to NPCs. I'm not sure exactly what you can get with it later on, but for the first 20-something levels (max 150) that I saw, you might get some Diplomacy gear, or crappy items to sell to a vendor NPC ("vendor trash"). You can apparently get a free mount instead of paying for one at level 10, but it's nowhere near as fast, and classes with speed buffs can outrun you. Overall, not so great. And the mount at level 10 is only 12 silver or something. Most adventuring quests I had were for 1s 50c, or something like that. So it's not expensive at all.

Diplomacy is, however, the /best way/ to find out more of the Lore in the game. When you talk to an NPC, you get to read the dialogue between you and them, as it unfolds when you play certain cards. I got to solve a murder case, resolve a dispute between two rival fishing families, and find out that they were fighting because they were being manipulated my some extra-planar beings. It was quite enjoyable. The only problem becomes when you cannot get cards you need, and you can't get past certain quests without them. I had an NPC who I had to "defeat", and she kept using a card I had no equivalent for. So she would keep the conversation going her way all the time, and handily defeat me. It was getting exceedingly frustrating.

But, I have to say, Diplomacy is the best part of the game and I did find it highly enjoyable. Plus, it takes place mostly in cities, so you aren't in danger. It's also a solo-only activity, so you can do something if no one is around to group with. But I'm sure at some point you'd hit an impasse, like I did.


As for different races and classes, I tried a large number of them. Most of the Protective Fighter classes I couldn't stand. They had fucking piss-poor animations, and were slow ass for killing stuff. Mostly it was the animations.

As for the Offensive Fighters, I tried the Rogue, Ranger, Monk and a tiny bit of the Bard. I found the Monk was the most fun, but the Ranger definitely does the most damage. I couldn't stand playing any of them except the Monk, as they all had crappy animations as well.

I tried the Blood Mage and the Disciple for Healers, and I have to say: Vanguard has /the best healers/ of any game I've tried. They were actually /fun/ to play, but that's probably cause the two I tried are the most combat orientated. The Blood Mage is like a Mage/Healer. You cast DoT spells and build "Blood Bond points" , then you can cast instant damage spells and burn Blood points, or cast better Heals (Blood points make Heals do more). It's a pretty good blend of Mage and Healer IMO. I definitely killed mobs a lot quicker than my other characters. /But/, you are a very fragile class, and so it doesn't take much to get you into trouble. Kind of like a Blaster from CoH, but with healing capacity.

The Disciple was the class I liked the best, mostly because the animations were top notch. I don't know why the other classes didn't have animations like the Disciple's, but if they did, things would be a lot better. The Disciple is like a Monk/Healer. You do melee dmg with Monk style weapons (bare hands, staffs, etc.), but you can Heal really well too. Not so much on Buffs, but good Heals all around. Most of the time I was soloing, even the few group mobs I tried, I barely needed to use my Energy (ie. Mana) to cast Healing spells. I could use some of my Abilities instead, and use Jin (something you build up, like Blood points) to heal myself. I used some of my Energy, but for the most part it was always full.

As for the Offensive Mage classes, I tried a couple, but for the most part, I found them too weak for my tastes. The Necromancer could be a potentially good soloer (lots of people say they are), but I found it a lot like a Hunter in WoW or a Mastermind in CoV. I stand back and let the pet do damage, occasionally casting a spell or two. For some reason, I can't stand it. It's like watching paint dry. The other mage classes would be good for grouping, but I'm a soloer first and foremost, so I didn't bother.


The different starting areas are nice and varied, and each has their own feel. Some races start at the same place, but that's a good thing, cause the majority of them are fucking all over the place. So it makes the world seem a whole lot bigger, and a whole lot emptier. Plus it makes teaming up with your friends at the start fucking impossible as you can be /continents apart/ and what's worse, you could be Kill On Sight to your friend's race. It makes it so if people want to team up, they have to pick the same race, or make characters who start at the same place, like Goblins and Orcs.

But overall, the different races are varied enough to make things interesting. Races are restricted to certain classes, and their attribute points are distributed differently each level. Dark Elves are good spellcasters, and not as good as Orcs when it comes to fighters. You could pick some weird class/race combo, but it's not really wise. It only gimps you in the end.


But, after putting a large chunk of time into Vanguard, I'd have to say, without a doubt, it's not really that good of a game. That's not to say it's all bad. Hardly. There are a few thing I /really like/ about it.

The Pros:
  1. Seamless world
  2. Diplomacy
  3. Some of the animations
  4. Better healing classes than most MMOs
  5. Nice environment
  6. The music
  7. Varied classes/new classes
  8. An actual penalty when you die/corpse run (yes, I'm a sadomasochist )
Now that list doesn't make it sound that bad. But let me tell you some of the annoying things.

The Cons:

  1. Animations: Combat, Crafting, Idle, you name it (most of them are fucking horrible)
  2. Lag/Performance/Bugs
  3. Inanimate looking NPCs (everyone looks fake)
  4. Some of the textures (rocks and the water, especially. Some buildings look retarded)
  5. Boring quests
  6. Lack of decent lore
  7. Lack of an overall newbie "goal"
  8. World is "too big" a lot of the time
  9. Names above characters/NPCs heads (looks like 10 yr old font to me)
  10. Chintzy looking UI
  11. Things look "too perfect" (Buildings especially. Too square)
  12. Clunky controls
  13. NPC voices (lacking and sound bizarre/annoying)
Basically, it feels like a game that is a "giant step backwards" for MMOs. They tout that it's the first 3rd generation MMO, that it breaks all the rules, expands the genre. It doesn't do anything new besides Diplomacy. The classes are different, but they mostly conform to the stereotypes of MMO classes: Tank, Healer, Melee Dmg Dealer, Ranged Dmg Dealer. The levelling is old-school, and a lot slower than most MMOs. The graphics may be more advanced, but the artistic style is completely lacking, so everything looks "off". WoW managed create an excellent artistic style and make it far less resource hungry. Style is king. Bump mapping, pixel shadering, and the like don't mean jack shit if what you're looking at is ugly as hell.

Vanguard for the most part feels like Everquest 1 probably was at the beginning. I say "probably was" and "beginning" cause I have never actually played the game just heard about it from others, and I know it's radically changed with the expansions over the years. The game isn't horrible, it's just not great, and it's definitely /not/ what I'm looking for.

And what's funnier, is that Satan (my co-worker), who was all hyped up about the game, and actually bought the pre-order online before playing the Beta, has barely touched it since it went live. I think he's played one character to about level 8. I got to level 9 with my Blood Mage in about 4 hours! And he's been able to play the game since the 26th of January, cause of the Pre-Order headstart. I'm betting he's pretty disappointed with it. I think he even said that he was going to level his characters a little, then let his account lapse. Maybe to pick it up later on. I'm not sure if I heard him right, but since all he mentions is EVE Online when we go for coffee breaks, I'm betting he's not all that into Vanguard.


Well, that was a /fucking brutally long/ entry, so I think I'll go reward myself with some booze. If you actually read all of that, go have one yourself. Hell, even if you didn't, go have one. Just having to put up with the Rev should give you a license to drink all the time.

Next time I'll try and talk about something other than MMOs. Even when I talk about regular video games, I don't get this worked up. There's something definitely wrong with me and MMOs. Maybe the Rye and Coke will help me figure it out.