RSS

World building, part 2: This town, is coming like a ghost town…

In my last world building post I talked about, amongst other things, better weather & seasonal effects to make the world seem more alive and changeable. Well in this post I want to move from the macro back down the scale and look at towns, cities and other settlements because it’s not just the world that needs to come alive for me but the place I call home too.

My first ever experience of an online, populated city was Nova Albion in Second Life. I rezzed nearish and wandered on down where I was grabbed by the lure of free Linden Dollars in a camping spot (this was before I realised how damaging camping spots are to online worlds, sucking up computing resources for no benefit to the environment). Once I broke free of the camping chair I began to explore the city and was amazed that such a place could exist – it was a city built by and populated by the players, a deal of who I could see around me! Now it was sometime before I realised that vast majority of players were in one or two locations within the city and the rest of it was a well-tended wasteland so at the time this was a hugely exciting to me.

Nova Albion, Second Life's first city...

Nova Albion, Second Life’s first city…

My next experience was of Bree in LOTRO and I still remember riding through the gates and down the cobbled road from Combe for the first time. It was night and I was following a more experience player in my first few hours of playing and I can still feel the excitement swelling inside me, something akin to the first time after passing my driving test my Dad had me follow him onto the motorway – pure nervous adrenaline as I moved from one world to another, it was amazing.

Bree, so small yet so oddly important...

Bree, so small yet so oddly important…

My most recent experience has been in GW2 where I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Divinity’s Reach (such a bloody beautiful name, too). The levels! the architecture! The housing! The scale! Oh my gods I was blown away! It is still the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen in a game but do you know how many times I go there and explore it? Never. I teleport to the bank and teleport back out to the game. I teleport to the Maiden’s Whisper for RP and teleport out again. If I crafted I’d teleport to the crafting station and then out to the game again. The is no reason for me to wander around the city and therefore it could be three or four small rooms and I’d still get the same benefits and that is a crying shame.

Divinity's Reach - full of places you can never reach or explore...

Divinity’s Reach – full of places you can never reach or explore…

Do you know what Nova Albion, Bree & Divinity’s Reach have in common? They are deserts. Wastelands. Ghost towns. People hurry from location to location in an entirely perfunctory manner to get between locations such as bank to auction house or auction house to crafting station in order to complete a necessary task related to the furthering of a step within the game. Taking a helicopter’s eye view of the city over 24 hours you’d see players whizzing back and forth between a small number of locations using the same routes whilst the rest of the city simply lies dormant.

So what to do about this sorry state of affairs, I hear (or at I imagine I hear) you ask?

That’s a good question I have no easy answers to but here’s what I’d like to see in online cities, things I feel would brathe some life into them and make them worth not just visiting again but actually playing in:

  • Player housing throughout. True this was the case in SL and cities there were still deserted but none of these ideas are meant to happen in isolation. I think player housing is important because not only does it give players a reason to be in the city but it also makes them invested in the city. All of the amazing buildings in Divinity’s Reach are unusable with only the occasional one open, but even these are museum displays that can’t be played or interacted with. True there is the home instance of Selma but it’s just that, an instance; a private bubble of the city created for and inhabited by only you – and where is the fun in that? Let players live in the city and make it their own.
  • Events throughout the city all the time. Give the players a reason to be in the city other than crafting, banking or redecorating their house. Player guilds like LOTRO’s Lonley Mountain Band prove that if you put an event on people will come so put events on! Allow players to put events on! For the love of all that is holy, breathe some life into the place and get people dancing! Random small celebrations should happen, Weekly markets with special items, Parades that wind their through the city streets. All night parties right outside your window. Holy days of celebration to the various six Gods. And why not have dungeons in the city? Why not have quests and dynamic events happen there?
  • Let crafters own shops. Let players own a shop that you can visit and where you can buy their goods, whether those have been made or found. True these items could also be sold on the trading post but why not between people? Slap a 15% sales tax on and the gold sink remains. And if the player is out playing then let them hire an NPC to man the shop for them (an even bigger gold sink).
  • Whilst on the subject of NPCs, make them real. Don’t have them standing around waiting to be clicked on but have them wandering the neighbourhood. Have them going in and out of buildings and doing stuff other than waiting. Like exploring a city, listening to NPCs talking is fun the first time but then never again. Hell there is a conversation between two ministers about the Centaur problem going on right now that was going on word for word when I started over a year ago. Why? That conversation hasn’t moved on so it gives the impression neither has the world. NPCs should seem like they really live and work in the city otherwise the city seems like a theme park exhibit.
  • Let the city change at night. Traders should close shop and go home, NPCs should wander off to their families or the pub, parties should start, Seraph patrols increase, curfews enforced, drunken fights break out, arrests made. In short the city should act like a real city and be different at night as it is in the day.

Of course, a lot of this goes for *all* the settlements in the world. All of them need real day & night cycles with NPCs that do more than stand around like idiots awaiting an instruction to sit. Players should be free to live in the countryside if city life is not for them. Merchant caravans should allows player-traders to join them. The whole bloody world should feel more interactive and real and alive and a lot less like a game where you can’t play with all of the pieces.

This is exciting as my home instances gets...

This is exciting as my home instances gets…

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Life in Tyria: Building a better me…

I’ve been messing about with builds lately. It’s not something I’ve done a lot of in the past, I think I was just getting the hang of it when I stopped playing the game in Dec 12 and so I never really got to go deep into the heart of how it affects gameplay experience.

Well now I know, or least I know a little bit more than back in 2012; it affects it a lot and with the coming changes to how we spec out a character it’s only going to become more flexible and powerful and this seems like the perfect time to start tinkering with it.

But let me back up a bit and explain why I’ve been fooling about under the hood. I play an engineer you see and whilst the ‘Engi’ is a fun class to solo with it really is designed to be a strong support class and therefore many of its’ tool kits are most powerful & (possibly only) useful in group situations. I play 99.9% of the time alone. This makes most of the kits and gadgets the Engi has available useless to me, likewise with the traits that back them up, and I find myself relying heavily on turrets to pull aggro from mobs and then lots of dodging and kiting (and healing!) to stay alive long enough to grind the enemy down to a bloody puddle of zero. Yet when I watch my son play his Warrior, a class that has no gadgets but can use more weapons and has access to stronger armour, he can just attack stuff and it dies right there in front of him! Oh I’m so jealous! Here am I, my fingers tying themselves in knots on my G13, my brain screaming DODGE! ROLL! DROP TURRET! GRENAAAAAAADE! DODGGGGGGE! as I dance and wheel around one on-level veteran with my health bubble bouncing up and down like a nervous bride’s nightie, whilst he runs up to a gang of four slightly higher level mobs and casually punches them so hard their bones turn to dust and they shit out gold coins as an apology for disturbing him!*

gw604-MOTION

My son’s warrior speaking to Logan Thanckery and planning to casually kill mobs whilst napping.

So I took to the traits panel and began to play about with my build. I’m level 80, have most skills unlocked, have OK armour & weapons (all rares rather than exotics but the difference is small enough to ignore on the macro scale of getting my arse kicked by a vet undead giant and his small army of big ass zombie grubs) and well -chosen runes and sigils throughout – to be honest a re-trait is all I have left to play with.

In the past, when I first learnt about builds, I speced myself out to be a crack shot with the rifle and increase both my crit chance and crit damage and this worked well for me. Then I read about the flame-truck build and followed that (basically making myself tougher with a flamethrower) but whilst this was good for a while it did not scale up well and became less effective the higher I got. By the time I left the game I had settled on a turret-centric built that made my turrets stronger and ‘tossable’ but in coming back into the game now and finally getting to Orr I’ve found this wasn’t really working for me, especially as the turrets are all but one-shotted as soon as I have them out. So I tried a few new builds with the intention of mixing things up and going crazy in the hopes of finding a cool niche for myself but straight away I was stopped as all the wacko options use the tool kits and gadgets that are more support orientated. Still I tried. I kept a solid 30 points in the explosives line (it saddens me to say that pretty much all Engis you talk to can’t justify breaking the tyranny of the top line here) and moved a full 30 into tools to try and gain some kit swapping, hit-blocking abilities and the final 10 giving me tougher turrets. With this I lost a lot of nice stuff from the previous build such as reduced fall damage and faster running speed but, I reasoned, if it meant the enemy went down faster it was a trade off worth making.

They didn’t. It wasn’t.

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

Why. Wont. You. Just. Bloody. Well. DIE!?

True I discovered a lovely trait where my speed was increased a lot when swapping to grenades, but other than that the Orrian undead remained undead for far longer than I had hoped. It seemed that just like the combo of rifle and grenades, the only traits that help an Engi solo successfully in Tyria are firearms and explosives.

A chat with my guildies helped a little, they convinced me that other weapon options and traits do work, but I think we all agreed they tend to work in group situations so I headed off to the trainer to once again reset and re-build (at a cost of less than 2sp, I can see why Arenanet are about to make this free – it penalises nothing but my time). The upshot is I’ve gone all the way back to something very much like my first build; 30 in explosives, 30 in firearms and a cheeky 10 in inventions to protect me from fall damage. The main difference this time is that my armour, runs and sigils are better chosen to build my strength, toughness & precision rather the healing and condition damage that (I’ve been reliably told) don’t scale well and therefore are wasted. Once more things I shoot at or blow up bursts into flame and dies in a writhing heap at my satisfied (probably dodging, rolling & dancing) feet. Now if only my turrets were better at agroing high level mobs for a decent amount of time I think I’d be pretty happy with my performance. True that my son’s warrior can still punch things into orbit whilst I do the foxtrot with them, but at least I kill them with some style and panache, eh?

Use all the 'nades...

Use all the ‘nades…

* I may be over stating the case for the Warrior. I think they were silver coins and the apology may have been a death gurgle.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Life in Tyria: Big changes are a-coming, starting with traits…

In mid-April Arenanet are releasing their first ever feature only update (I was away for so long I hadn’t realised that they were releasing feature changes along with living story updates) and it’s looking like it’s like it’s going to be huge!

There is a post from Arenanet all about the first changes which are going to overhaul the whole traits system but I really liked the video from Wooden Potatoes which explains in a lot more depth why this is important and how game play might change. I’m looking forward to it but if you are playing GW2, what do you think?

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 21 March, 2014 in Fun, Games, Guild Wars 2

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Life in Tyria: How roleplaying in GW2 works…

It’s been a week since the Crimson Ashes Guild accepted me in on a trial period and in that time I’ve been on a steeeeep learning curve about what RP in GW2 is and how it works. Here’s what I’ve uncovered so far.

As in SL, live RP is just a matter of typing out loud (/s) and emoting (/e) the words, deeds and thoughts of your character whilst remaining totally in character. any out of character stuff is done via private, group or guild chat (/w, /p & /g respectively*). There is a lot of suspension of disbelief as well as a lot of nothing happening to the characters on screen, with all the action being described in chat rather than ‘acted out’ on screen.

With the monster hunt I took part in on Saturday I had expected it to be a group fight against a real in-game monster but the day before I had the opportunity to ask the leader, Craywin, about how this would work. Bloody good job I did otherwise I’d have gone in all guns blazing and looking like a right nutter! No, instead of fighting a real game monster, the ice brood minotaur was imaginary and operated by Craywin, who was also there as Craywin. It worked like this:

  • We met up in game and were from then on in totally IC with all OOC chat behind the scenes.
  • We walked to the location Craywin had in mind for the encounter (along the way taking part in any dynamic events that naturally happen but doing so totally IC).
  • Once at the location Craywin OOCed us to start the encounter. From then on in he was being both player and DM and he emoted the beast’s movements and actions in chat.
  • A marker was used to show the rough position of the beast (in this case a banner) so we could better work out a reply.
  • After each batch of emotes describing the beast’s actions, we could emote our actions and talk/shout out loud to each other IC.
  • The length of each ‘turn’ was not set but quickly found a natural pace.Essentially not too much action and no players saying “I hit it dead in the eye and it dies!”, the DM decides those kinds of things both to keep the experience fair & fun for all but also building to an exciting conclusion.
  • Dice rolls weren’t enforced, it’s up to the players if they want to use them to add an element of chance to the action otherwise it’s much more about a shared trust that all parties work together on a shared narrative.
  • It took about 4 turns to kill the beast which took us 40 mins or so.
  • Afterwards we RPed about the aftermath, healed the wounded, etc, Again, most of this was done with out loud IC chat & /e emotes but there was also some use of positional emotes such as /kneel for bending to a fallen player and /sleep to be that player.

All in all it was both not what I was expecting and exactly what I should have expected. It was great fun. It was back to my teen yaers playing MERP on the kitchen table. It was collaborative story telling. It was roleplaying and it was good. It’s a long time since I’ve been this excited about a game, probably since writing Steal Head if I’m honest and that’s because I get to create the story once more. Hell it’s even made me think about SL again, something I never thought could happen!

*GW2 commands are listed here with the emotes here and a guide from the emotes programmer here.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Roleplaying in Guild Wars 2: Meeting the Family…

I was hoping to have written up a follow up to my ‘Humble Beginnings’ post by now but alas, I need to sleep in between work and playing GW2 :-D

When I last left off I’d met some of the Crimson Ashes Guild in the Maiden’s Whisper and had been invited to an IC meeting with the rest of the Guild at the same place the next day. I only just made it after tearing down the motorway from work, but make it I did and I walked Jurak up into the pub – right past all the Guildies who were watching my with what I can only imagine was bemused pity as I strode on by. Luckily the same player who had met me both the previous night and in the Lomar’s pass camp was on hand to save the day (and my blushes).

gw570

Victoria introduced me to the group, including who I think is the boss, Craywin (although they may have no overall leader, it’s hard to tell) and we all chatted in character for a while. In the end they agreed to give Jurak (and me, lest I forget) a trial period. Jurak was invited him on a beast hunt deep into Svanir held territory whilst I was told that whilst attendance was casual they do expect active participation a couple of times a week, which seems both fair and manageable to me. They came across like a nice, friendly bunch. I’ve not been in many guilds in my gaming life (this is number three) but I’ve always been lucky to pick friendly ones. My only complaint in the past has been the last of a cohesive narrative for the group to exist, something to hang the whole suspension of disbelief on. Yes it’s nice to chat in the guild channel about the game and the wider real world and that is invaluable, but it can’t (for me at least) be all there is. I think that in Crimson Ashes I’ve found something really special – a group with which to grow and share stories.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Roleplaying in Guild Wars 2: Humble Beginnings

It was, I have to say, a weird night in Tyria last night. I started in Divinity’s Reach at the bank where I had logged off the day before in order to sort, recycle, bank & sell the bag load of bumpf I had picked up from a couple of tours of Lion’s Arch. After that I toyed with the idea of TPing back to LA to start all over again but in the end opted for donning my town clothes (the second time I have ever done so since the game started), toggling the run speed to ‘walk’ and heading off to my home instance to see what was happening. Had I thought about it, I could have answered my own question with a big, fat “Nothing!” because the home instance only ever has one real person in it, you. Luckily I mis-remembered the name of the home instance and didn’t read the map carefully enough and headed over to Rurikton which, in hindsight, was a lovely piece of serendipity.

I walked through the old Ascalonian settlers’ quarter half suspecting this wasn’t my home instance and half determined to keep up my frustratingly slow walk through the town and into the next area (which, given the fact I was heading north, would have been Salma, my home instance). As I passed a large building I heard (and saw thanks to faint chat bubbles visible in the air and through walls) NPCs chatting away. They were coming from the large building, which turned out to be the Maiden’s Whisper pub, so I headed in and straight away found it was full of not just NPCs but also players. Standing around. In town clothes. I glanced down at my chat box and saw they were chatting in character and realised I’d blundered into an RP event! Again!

I didn’t recognise anyone from my previous encounter with RPers but what were the chances of that, eh? I tentatively began to RP with the Charr landlord (the pub seems to be open to all so I guess enterprising RPers just RP they own – I do wonder what would happen if two characters were there at the same time and both their RP stories claimed they owned it independently – what would an RP fight like that look like?). It was fun, I bought beer which didn’t exist with money I didn’t really give and talked to the Charr about how he kept a good brew. It was fun. Odd but fun. In a tabletop game it’s a given the beer & money wouldn’t exist but in a richly detailed 3D world I sort of expected they would. In Second Life the bar could give you scripted drink. In LOTRO I’d have to buy a drink and then use it. I *think* that’s the same in GW2 but I’m not sure. So I just stood there and typed /e takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” and the like*.

After a while I grew a little restless and wandered off. I headed to the Salma district and regretted 1.284 seconds after entering as I was remembered that I would be the only person there! What a waste! I have more to say on home areas and instances but that’s for another “World Building…” posts in the future. I turned around and left, heading back to Rurikton abut before I could get there real life interrupted and took me away from the game for an hour or so,

I logged back in after the kids were in bed and took up where I had left off. I walked back to where I thought the pub was but got hopelessly lost. I saw a couple of other non-armoured, non-running players and took them to be RPers but rather than stop them I pressed on. I became aware that the chat window was cycling over with player chats nearby but it was only after a few minutes I began to recognise names. Names I had last seen in the RP session outside Lion’s Arch by the Durmond Priory. Almost at the same time I realised this I received an in game mail which turned out to be from the RPer I’d spoken to during that event and who had promised to get back with details of an in-game, in-character interview – not only that but it was one of the players in the pub I was stood near to at that exact moment! Someone somewhere was leading me down a path and so who am I to refuse them?

I met up with the RPers in the pub, they were a different bunch from the ones earlier in the evening and I think they were all part of the same guild, Crimson Ashes. I was made very welcome and some faltering RP (faltering on my part I hasten to add) took place in which I was gently interviewed to see what kind of player I was. In the end I was invited to a second interview (tonight – must remember! 8pm! Set a reminder with Google Now!) and if I pass that I’ll end up in a RP guild on a probation period. I’m still really unsure what the players do – hopefully it’s more than RPing in pubs as I don’t think that will suit me. Ideally I’d like to run game story content & dungeons with them but in character as well as plan some interesting storylines we can act out in world, but as it stands right now it’s all a bit of a mystery. Still, so was RP in Second Life but I worked that out in the end :D I’ll keep you posted.

Roleplaying in the Maiden's Whisper pub (I'm the blue top).

Roleplaying in the Maiden’s Whisper pub (I’m the blue top).

*The /e means that what appears in the chat window starts with your character’s name so that line would appear as Jurak Gearwright takes a deep drink of the ale “That’s a good brew there, barkeep!” to everyone nearby. I’ve yet to figure out all the conventions of RP but this is a mainstay as far as I can tell. This appears to be a great resource site I have yet to mine for more guidance: http://guildwars2roleplay.wikispaces.com/Roleplay+Guide

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

World building, part 1: Being British, it’s all about the weather…

I had planned this post to be part of a much larger post directed at my dissatisfaction with GW2 and other MMOs but as I drafted and redrafted it in my head it kept changing, its focus shifting and realigning, until I just decided to open a New Post box and see what happened.

World Building part 1. I had no idea that was going to pop out of my fingertips when I started but now I think it’s perfect because the lack of immersion that leads to my feeling of disconnection & dissatisfaction with GW2 is not unique to that game and, in some respects, not the fault of that or any game. So here is my first post in a new series about what I want, desperately in many cases, to see in a game world. They are in no real order – my thinking isn’t always that joined up – but I’m sure common themes will pop up here and there. So, where to start. Well, seeing as I’m British, why not with the weather…

Give me more weather: I want a world where the only choices are not sun or rain (with snow at Xmas), I want weather that goes beyond the binary and into the realms of patterns and even seasons and I want them all to have an impact on the world. Let the rain pool up and cause flooding. Give me hail that damages buildings, lightning storms that start forest fires, heat waves that result in a terrible droughts and mass-herd deaths Give me meteor impacts and plagues of killer locusts! I want ship-sinking typhoons and village-erasing twisters! And what is so wrong with a good old fashioned earthquake? GIVE ME MORE THAN SUN AND RAIN! *pant pant pant*… Actually, earthquakes aren’t weather are they? But they do lead me on to my next point quite nicely.

Why is the land always the same? OK, here in the UK I’m lucky enough to live in a stable & prosperous place and the land hardly every changes. Except it does. all the time. Fields that have been there since my dad was a kid are being turned into housing estates, new railways are wiping villages off the map and cities are eating up towns all the time. The land changes, except in MMOs where, like the seasons and the weather, it’s always the same. A path through the hills and out to the coast that is never blocked by a flood or a landslide is just the same as a corridor in a FPS. I want people (both players and non-players) and the weather (see above) and seasons (below) to change the landscape. Don’t tell me it’s a living world when most of it is pickled in aspic!

And whilst I’m on the topic of seasons, can we please add some? I know that to see a Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter cycle roll past means you are a year older and it is clear that your character is not, but if I can suspend my disbelief that the Simpsons have been the same age for 25 years I can do the same in a game, trust me. The fact you include a day/night cycle indicates there is a passage of time and my head has yet to explode from the fact day after day cycles round and yet nothing seems to change. Put seasons in, make them run in the same way as your day & night time frame (roughly 4 to 6 times faster than normal) and the world will see to be fresh and living instead of some weird West World theme park stuck on one setting forever. And ever. And ever.

I’ll take a break there but in my next post I want to move on to the people in these worlds and the lives they often don’t but really should live. And some stuff about night time as well. Oh god, the night time in games sucks.

One last point before I hit publish and end my lunch break, please don’t imagine I’m having a pop at GW2 or LOTRO or Second Life. I’m simply putting forward my wishlist and no one game is more guilt than another of failing to live up to my vastly inflated sense of expectations. There are probably some very good technical reasons why some of the things I want can’t be done, but that doesn’t stop me wanting them. I have a similar problem with Miranda Kerr and Karlie Kloss.

Another sunny day... how dull.

Another sunny day… how dull.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 479 other followers

%d bloggers like this: