Review of Sentinel’s Fate

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this latest expansion and with the latest inclusion of the Battlegrounds is really beginning to make me mad. It seems as if the core gamers that have been with the game for years now, and I have been playing for nearly 5 years, have been jilted.

There really isn’t anything new added by the expansion, that although there are new lands to explore for the most part its just retread of old content. The monsters are the same, the quests are the same, even the silly transportation system is the same.

Albeit there are a few new models for monsters, but 90% of the creatures are highly over-conned and offer little in the way of grind experience or loot. By the second day I learned that my 82nd level guy could solo 88th level mobs? You try that in Kunark and the nearby gravestones will become your best new friend. I remember when TSO came out, my warlock had a hard time killing blue mobs (and these were single and double down). Now, it seems like the mobs are fighting with mittens on.

There is no longer the option, and I say option because it wasn’t for everyone, the ability to grind levels. I was one that just like going out and exploring and grinding mobs. I have found out that even if I fight orange mobs for an entire night, I will yield less than five percent experience: What the Chiz?

The loot is equally unimpressive. I admit that I have T2 armor and a fabled weapon (though not my epic). Everything I have seen either first hand, through the market, or via the chat channels is a joke. Where is the anticipation of finding that next level gear when you know it is pathetic compared to what you already have? I have chests full of gear gained from 86th level quests, that my 82nd level guys will never use. Remember Kunark, when you first got off the docks and the gear there? People were cheering and actively doing the quests to gain it. I find now, players do it to sell or just to get to the next item.

The quests are silly and dumb too — the standard kill 10 of these, as present in other games are even further dumbed down by the fact the mobs are 20 feet away from the quest givers. On top of that, no matter when you do the quests, you get a measly 3 percent experience?

The BATTLEGROUNDS ultimately proves once and for all what we all know is fact: The ShadowKnights are a highly over-powered class that has every ability that every other class has. For those who are unfamiliar with it, they are a plate wearing tank that combines direct damage and AOE (Area of Effect) damage on top of the ability to escape, like thieves, and feign death, like the monk or necro, and heal, like clerics, and AOE, like warlocks, and all in a nice heavy plated platform.

Battlegrounds is an utter shambles with SKs fighting entire raids — Yes, I saw two whole groups trying to bring down 1 SK. In the end, 7 of my team mates were dead and we wasted four or five minutes wrestling with this one toon.

I know some will argue this position, but it is clearly the fact if you look at the numbers of SKs and the top gear ratios they have. Of course there are always exception to the rules, and I have seen other classes do well. I am talking generalities, and not specifically about Jimmy’s Paladin or Cindy’s bad to the bone Troubie.

The battlegrounds tend for me to be a place to go and wait for my timer to respawn me. Cloth wearers have very little chance against an SK.  Our spells are too slow, our roots are a joke, and the DPS of these SKs make it a continuous route for us squishies.

How can we correct this? That is a huge task — but now that they have released it on to live games anything they do will be screamed at by all as NERFS. I would suspect that they are going to nerf the hell out of the battlegrounds or it will be like the arena six months from now — it will be empty!

I am just do disappointed in this latest expansion and the chiz they have placed on long time players.

Troy

EQual Perspectives: Episode 17

Welcome all to the exciting return of EQual Perspective, the podcast that talks about Everquest II. Each episode is hosted by Troy and Karen, with special guest appearances from players and designers.

This week on the show we get caught up on what our characters have been doing in Norrath and then jump right into discussions on the new Battlegrounds expansion, WoE looting, Shards and the tiring grind, and finally talking a bit of Guild talk.

I hope you enjoy the show:

EqualPerspective17

Lotto Let Down

I play on the Kithicor server in Everquest II and for as long as I can remember no one has ever won the Goblin Gambler lotto, until now.  It was up to over 4,500 platinum coins.  Over the last several years I have spent huge gobs on money in the hopes of winning it.

Sadly, my dream has been smashed.  At one point, I did hit 5 out of the 6 numbers and won a measly 50 gold or something.  Now, all of my hopes are dashed.  The pot has been reset to something tiny like 10 platinum and I will not want to play again for a long time.

Its like the real world. Funny thing is even 10 platinum is allot of money to my guys in the game. But you don’t play at 10 plat no more than you play when the super lotto is at a 1 million dollars.  There is a psyche about winning 100 million dollars that is not there at a palty 1,000,000 dollars.

So here I sit depressed on a Sunday night, with my dreams dashed.  Knowing that my guys in Everquest II will enjoy the same fate as me, living on a meager sum of money scraped together each week — Always with the dream of hitting it big one day!

Components vs. Time

A thought struck me as to how over the last several years and generations of MMOs, that have been designed, that we have moved away from component based skills and spells. Our games are now a time controlled set of actions, spells, and skills.

Remember in the days of old, when the mage required malachite to form his pet; or the cleric needed a rare gem to instill a buff on another character? Druids of the past could change the weather with a rare pearl, or a shaman could transform himself into a great bear with daunting battle prowess. Where have those days gone? Perhaps it was an added layer of database management that the designers wanted to get rid of; or perhaps it was thought of as being a bother for the character to maintain inventories of small trinkets, baubles, and rare materials.

At times, I must confess that I grumbled about keeping my bags filled with components, and whined when I ran out of them (often in the most inopportune times). But in retrospect, I often think of the times when I refilled my cache of components and how good I felt with bags of malachite and other rare gems. the feeling of power, knowing I could cast life healing magic with impudence with knowledge of a bag full of rubies and emeralds.

I often wonder, what the game scene would be like with component based skills and spells still in the game. It could control so many aspects of games that seem so out of control today. For example, Vanguard and Everquest II basically put a cabash on buffing non-group members. I really enjoyed that aspect of the game. I loved running around town hitting people with SoW, or hearing the cries for mana and life regeneration (oooh the thought of grabbing some mind candy still brings a smile to my face). With a component based spell-sets one could still control its use, but offer those people rich enough or smart enough to perform such duties. A simple mechanism of a rare or costly gem or component would control such use and offer an additional item from within the game to be harvested and sold on the open market (or purchased from a computer NPC at a hefty pre-defined value).

Time based skills and spells often irk me. You have a whole series of icons on your character tabs that are constantly regenerating — some games are better at telling you their refresh timers than others. In a heated battle or when you want to exemplify your character, that is the time you should be able to use such fantastic spells and skills. Nothing is more irritating then to realize that your special skill has 45 seconds to go before you can trigger it — and in 25 seconds the entire group will perish. Wouldn’t it be better to discard time based skill-sets in favor of components that vary in strength and cost? Would not the player feel in more control of his character with such a system?

In key epic battles would it not be better to allow a character to spam glorious abilities if his character is able to afford it (mind you, we are not talking about real money but ingame currency). Couldn’t a series of components be developed that would give varying powers onto a character, with the cost of such ranging from a few coppers to a few platinum (or whatever game values)?

Of course the argument could be raised that with such time controls lifted, and components used instead that balance could be a concern. As it stands now, balance is often a tough act to perfect. Even in the best thought out games, balance often comes in time. As with component based systems, balance would adjust itself accordingly.

Let us return to the days when we could buff our fellow man, where we had more control over when a spell could be used, when a skill could be implemented. Lets dust off those picks and pans, garnering rare gems and ingredients of earth, fire, and water.

What’s In a Name?

Who thinks up the names of the resources, items, and recipes in MMOs today? I often think that the process is not much more than reaching into a giant bag with names, randomly selected for each topic.

Perhaps its a large body of head-strung developers with such egos that they cannot create logical names and can only agree on the least desirable label. I can only imagine a table of geniuses sitting around trying to think of a harvestable ores….

“How about Iron?” Everyone jeers and sneers at such a common metal.

“That is so gay” echoes a few. “Its logical, for god’s sake!” stammers others.

“How about something fictional, like Edawnite? We can assign our own statistics, properties…”

“Sit down and shut up, god you can be so inane sometimes” a wickedly sardonic programmer shouts.

“How about aluminum?” a peevish looking accountant stammered softly.

“Great! Awesome!!” the cheers ring out loudly in the room.

“But thats not a naturally occurring metal? It takes great science too create aluminum?”

The crowd bursts out into heckling rabuld laughter, “Players won’t care about that. Heh, they aren’t even smart enough to realize it” a over-weight balding game designer snickers as he packs three ho-ho’s into his cavernous hole called a mouth.

In Everquest 2 you have gold that is worthless, yet coins are traded in that ore. In Vanguard you cannot even harvest gold, but pyrite is a treasured metal — even though gold is highly prized in coins and pyrite can be made into ingots.

Would any true warrior, even at first level, even pick up a tin sword? Would a starving halfling even consider consuming a Stewed Coffee Stuffed Griffon Egg? What would a quest think when he rents a room for the night and finds the bed and furniture made out of Balsa wood?

Do developers even understand the difference in wood, stone, and metal? Do they care that their categorizations are supersilious? Its not even that they are creating imaginary substances, which can be imparted with magical or rare propertise. They use real world substances, that makes no sense in the context they are using, and hope players either just ignore the improbability or are not educated enough to realize the impossiblity of such.

One can debate the fact that being a game or an imaginary world, why should the player care about the names assigned to resources or recipes? I can only answer that if we are not to not expect realistic or arguably logical names for things, why not strip all names and physical relationships from the game, giving attributes letter designations (A, B, C, and D); values for the attributes in vauque conditions (poor, average, good, really good, oh super duper good)! Abilties can be referred to the most common classifications such as combat, magic, and art.

I am unsure how the rest of you view such defamations of item categorizations, but to me its just sloppy. More than likely it was a place name put in during design and was just never changed. I find this affront so evident in Everquest II, and its such a shame because the harvesting and crafting system in the game is easy, fun, and enjoyable to all. With so many logical and valuable materials in the world why did they chose the names that they did?

At tier 3 (fighting giants, nasty gnolls, and all sorts of vile denizens of the Thundering Steppe) in Everquest 2 they have Dandelions as the rare root? Dandelions at least in North America are so common that they are considered a weed — now why would someone use a weed for a rare when there are so many thousands of exotic and wonderful roots and plants to select from?

Sony is not the only ones to blame for such idiocy, with Blizzard and others acting just as careless to this whole Name Game. What’s in a name? To me it lends credibility to the game, a sense of immersion and overall enjoyment.

Oh Shineys!!

One must wonder why developers overlook the most simplest way to keep the players happy.  I have never met another gamer, who at least, doesn’t consider swapping a highly buffed piece of equipment with something of lesser quality but with more pizazz.

“Oh Shineys!!” is the call from our group of friends when we see a sparkling flash on the ground or even more so when we find something of inferior magical quality but with a cool graphic.  For those that don’t play Everqest 2 they recently added a inventory tab called Appearance that allows you to put items in mirrored slots to the main inventory that allows you to use the appearance of the item but not the statistics.  Thus, you could wear a purple robe with glowing stars on it that has no statistical bonus, and also wear a robe that is drab and dreary but has a ton of stat and ability bonuses — you would look like you were wearing the purple robe, but gain the advantages of the drab robe that is in your real inventory slots.

In Everquest I, a player can tint his armor to a wide variety of colors.  Of all the stories I hear from old players, that is one of the top suggestions they always seem to wish upon.  Everyone loved to tint armor and clothing to different color.  I know, some often complained that huge ogres in pink armor was a distraction, but overall it was a fun experience — one that always brings a scowl or a smile to a player’s face.  I wasn’t one of the players that had pink armor; I had a green suit for my druid, a jet black set of plate for my ogre warrior, and a deep blood red for my beast master.  It was so cool, and I often wonder why today no developer, such as Everquest 2 or Vanguard, haven’t added that feature — its an instant success.  Vanguard is reaching for straws now to build a community, and here is a solid gold feature they could add which can only value the game more.

Another aspect of equipment that seems to be overlooked by the developers is that they think that having a ton of different type of equipment using the same model is better than having a wide variety of model types but having less statistical and abilities attached to it.  I know for myself, beyond Everquest 2 which utitlizes the Appearance tab, that I would prefer cool looking equipment than blah, plain jane gray gear that may have better bonuses.

There are a number of ways to jazz up the equipment: color, art of models, duotone or tritone (2 or 3 colors) equipment, atmospheric effects (sparkles, glow, animations), and to some lesser extent interesting names or history behind the gear.

I am constantly amazed at the shlock that developers create when it comes to the visual appearance of gear. When they can score a victory if they just make it interesting.  Shiney’s go a long way to pleasing a player — don’t overlook the most simplistic ways to appease the base.

Give me Shineys!!