Wizardry Online–A design review

I thought I would shake things up a little bit.  Since there are a metric butt-ton of review sites out there, I want to start taking a look at the design of the game to see if it’s really worth playing.     As the first of these series of posts, I’m taking a look at Wizardy Online

As per the website, “Wizardry Online is the most hardcore fantasy MMO ever created. The difficulty level is insane. The dungeons are brutal. There is no auto-healing. You will earn your levels. Your crimes taint your soul. Your allies could betray you at any moment. And when you die, you die forever. Are you ready for the challenge?”   Sounds, to me like, holy crap!  a MMO that plays like an RPG!

yeah..    about that…

Wizardry Online has got to be the most effed up design I’ve ever seen in an MMO.    Not just the technical problems (granted the game IS only a few days old, as of this writing) but just the game design itself.   I understand that this is pretty much a jRPG that was converted to the West, but seriously, who in their right mind thought this was a good design in the first place?

Would I recommend this game?   Not really, it make be an interesting time waster; but all and all I believe you’d get bored with in a week or so.   I doubt I’ll put much more time into it, myself.  

Let’s list out the some of the design issues:

02/01/13:

  1. When you try to login you are met with a ’Connecting’ screen.   This, to me, is not the same as being told I’m in queue to log in.  Just telling the user that you are connecting is frustrating because you don’t know what the program is doing.   On top of that,  there is no other feedback besides the words “connecting”, not even scrolling dots or anything to advise you that something is happening behind the scenes.
  2. You can’t change any of the video/audio option until AFTER you have connected to the game!?   Seriously?! 
  3. Can’t have lag if you are making an action game with jumps, which Wizardry Online does.   Being killed by Lag is a serious flaw in the design and proves that the code/servers weren’t  ready to launch. 
  4. Controls don’t need to be this complicated.  It seems in trying to make a ‘realistic RPG’ the design required non-MMO standard and complicated controls.  Which it doesn’t.    Really, who puts emotes on the combat skill bar? 
  5. The ‘Permadeath’ is bit misleading since you can’t really die unless your not paying attention.   When you die, (either from lag or being stupid) you still have 15 minuets to get back to a resurrection statue and be resurrected.   I do not know if  this amount of ‘fix me’ time gets smaller as you level, but nothing so far has shown me that death is really a problem, unless you go AFK for a while to close to a mob spawn point.
  6. Extensive server/code maintenance the first three days of being published is telling me that A) The code wasn’t production ready and rushed.  B) Your Quality Assurance team didn’t do their job or you didn’t listen to them.   I feel bad for your team having to go into crunch mode because management didn’t listen.
  7. Text takes WAY to long to display.   It looks cool, but it gets old after you have waited 5 seconds for text to display that you could have read in half a second.  Waiting for the ‘flashy’ text render to display the text is frustrating.  I want to PLAY, not spend 10 minutes of my session waiting for the text to display.
  8. I must confirm taking a mission, really?   I need to confirm if I want to turn in a mission?  After I’ve already clicked on the NPC to take the mission?    
  9. Bottom line, too many clicks to do anything.     Which also tells me that the game was created in departments that didn’t really talk to each other, could also explain the total lack of QA.

02/02/13

  1. Massive log in lag, people have been reporting being in queue for hours.  I know it’s a new launch.  But there is NO reason for this.   The excuse giving was “we didn’t know it was going to be this popular.”. Seriously?   What that tells me is that no one was watching the net or your forums.  Along with the lack of QA and cohesion of the design, this does NOT give me confidence in the on going management of the game.
  2. English translation lacking in some areas.   For example, using ‘depart’ in the channel selection form.  ‘Depart’ doesn’t even make sense in this context.
  3. So far I’m seeing VERY Cliché story lines.  Being a role-player (Pen and Paper, RPGs, and MMOs for a number of years) I’ve seen these tired stories and missions many times before.   What’s more problematic is that the stories don’t even follow the theme that was set up from the beginning intro movie and newbie missions.    The game into talks about you coming to the town in order to adventure and claim your stake in fame and glory.    Then the game seems to forget that aspect and sends you on standard ‘go kill 10 of these’ missions.
  4. Wizardry Online reminds me MUCH more of the original ‘Bards Tale‘ series more than anything from the Wizardry series.
  5. Because of the into I was disappointed to see a Hub based system.  I was hoping for a sandbox setup, since the whole intro is talking about adventuring being the ‘big’ thing.. and then you can’t adventure or explore.  You do what you’re told.
  6. Seems that every two steps someone stops you to have a char or start a cut scene.  This is very annoying.
  7. Now you can click to fast display text… Sometimes?
  8. As with any MMO, Forced grouping sucks.  No matter what your ‘numbers’’ say,   it is not fun running around with people that don’t know how to play.  Even worse when you’re shoved into your first dungeon and pretty much have no hope of moving forward unless you group or grind for more than a few levels.

1st Dungeon: Caligrase sewers

  1. Long load time even on an empty channel.
  2. Mobs re-spawn way too fast for low levels to make much (to any) progress.  Which means you will spend many hours in ONE area, not getting much XP because you are too weak to move forward and deal with the horribly fast re-spawn rate. Which isn’t much fun.
  3. The Town needs weeded..  seriously.
  4. Would think the inn and equipment vendors would be closer to where they are needed.  Not a map load screen away.    For a town set up to allow adventures to make their mark, why would the most needed vendors be so far away from the gates?
  5. Every time you level you need to click eight times to see what skills you powered up.    TOO many clicks, for no apparent reason.
  6. Use F to interact with everything… except people!?    Consistency doesn’t seem to be one of the primary design ideas.
  7. Report missions.. Not turn in?   I think this is a translation issue.
  8. Camping is almost worthless for mages because it doesn’t really do anything for your mana.   And why do you need to camp when you have a spring to drink from which heals 75% of your health/mana?
  9. Two clicks to return to town is annoying.   The ladder is out of the way and not something you are going to press F on accidently.   
  10. the whole process to Buy/sell items and equipment is very annoying and not thought through and makes the process a complete test of mental strength.
  11. View distance is lacking.  To me, this denotes need for engine update already.  There doesn’t look to be many polys being shown, but everything is bathed in a fog and greyed out like 3 feet away from your character.
  12. What’s up with the shadows?  They Flickr, along with a extreme haziness to everything.  This is not creating atmosphere its hard on the eyes
  13. Server downtime again.. And bad link to the forums from the launch pad.   (wow..)

02/03/13

  1. This patch updated the intro.. Really? So many problems with the game already and you ADD another click to log in!?
  2. Login worked.. Load times are MUCH faster.  Like playable faster.   (though now there is yet another click before you click to log on..)
  3. No help info on what items means.. WTF is the ‘Hardns‘ of an item?   the HARDNESS?   OK, and you couldn’t make the window a little bigger to say ‘hardness’ and a mouse over?
  4. And servers down again…

FUNCOM PARTNERS WITH NVIDIA TO BRING ‘THE SECRET WORLD’ GRAPHICS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Durham, N.C., USA – May 24, 2012 – Funcom, a world-leading independent developer of online games, is thrilled to  announce that it is working closely with NVIDIA for Funcom’s upcoming modern-day massively multiplayer online game ‘The Secret World’.

Funcom’s and NVIDIA’s engineering teams have been working together to make ‘The Secret World’ the most graphically advanced massively multiplayer online game ever to launch on the PC platform. ‘The Secret World’ will feature several cutting-edge DirectX 11 features, such as ground and object tessellation, which makes flat textures appear three-dimensional, thus bringing ordinary objects and surfaces to extraordinarily detailed life. ‘The Secret World’ will also feature full support for NVIDIA 3D Vision® technology for further gaming immersion and increased performance for gamers running dual-GPU configurations utilizing NVIDIA SLI® technology.

NVIDIA will also be launching its online “GPU Analyzer” tool specifically for ‘The Secret World’, which will allow gamers to quickly test their gaming rigs and confirm they have the right hardware for the best possible gaming experience. Funcom and NVIDIA are collaborating on additional virtual events, such as an upcoming Beta Weekend that will potentially allow every registered NVIDIA customer to try out ‘The Secret World’ before launch. With promotion across the NVIDIA.com website, social media channels, newsletters, YouTube and more, Funcom is expecting coverage of the game to exceed more than 100 million impressions.

“We are truly excited to again be working with NVIDIA like we did with our previous title, ‘Age of Conan,’” says Funcom CTO Rui Casais. “By collaborating with NVIDIA engineers, we are making sure we get the absolute most out of our game engine in terms of performance and visual splendor, both of which are tremendously beneficial to anyone playing ‘The Secret World’ with NVIDIA GeForce® GPUs.”

‘The Secret World’ is developed by Funcom and co-published by EA Partners, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), and is consistently mentioned as one of the most anticipated MMOs in development. Funcom has previously reported that over 1,000,000 gamers are registered for the ongoing beta test for ‘The Secret World’.

For more information about the game or how to register for the beta, please visit www.thesecretworld.com . Media assets can be found at ftp.funcom.com/press .

Runes of Magic–Shadowforge coming in 3 weeks…

Chapter V – Fires of Shadowforge

Get ready! The new chapter of Runes of Magic launches in 3 weeks!  With the release of “Runes of Magic Chapter 5 – Fires of Shadowforge” on12/06/2012, RoM is about to get even better.

What’s new?

  • new playable race: the Shadowforge Dwarves
  • 2 new classes: the Champion and the Warlock
  • new starting zone
  • new instances
  • new high-level areas

Get to know the Shadowforge Dwarves and prepare for a showdown against the dastardly villain Maderoth. This could be the battle to end all battles, so dive in and be a part of the action!

Even with the exciting new content of Chapter 5, Runes of Magic will still be completely free to play. If you can’t wait to gear up for the new chapter, start playing RoM right now in your browser – no need to wait: http://browser.runesofmagic.com.

The Elder Scrolls Online: DOA?

I’m trying very hard not to get too excited about this. I have confidence in Bethesda for being able to craft a game worth playing.. but an MMO? This is pretty much a new field for the the company.   Yes it’s set in the world we all know.. just far in the past.  How will this mesh with what’s currently going on?  And this hits on one of my main pet peeves about the Elder Scroll series, the simple fact that eons can go by and nothing changes in technology. 

Really?

Anyway.. ok.. let’s break this down:

1) The game will be set roughly a millennium before the events in Skyrim
And I’m betting the tech hasn’t changed.. will we be able to see some of the ‘dwarf’ tech in use? What about the ruins in Skyrim? Will we be able to    see them in all their glory now?

2) Players will be able to explore all of Tamriel, not just one region like in current Elder Scrolls titles.
Yea!! but with out proper city’s like "OH! this is where Morrowind will be’ it’s not really going to matter.  if anything at least making the city’s/villages LOOK young. We are going to want to see the land that we’ve come to know over the last 5 games and how it’s changed in the time between ES:O and Arena .    [Update]  Well according to the movie shown on the 05/11/ update, YES!  will will see the correct maps!  Down to the height map used in Oblivion!

3) Hot Key Combat
Another good looking over-glorified game of whack-a-mole and I wonder how this makes ES:OL an Elder scrolls game.

4) Class Based leveling, no more skills
So this is an Elder Scrolls MMO how?

5) Mounts are confirmed, flying mounts however will not be included due to lore restrictions (no dragons).
Like there isn’t some mage somewhere trying to figure out how to place wings on a horse.

6) No player housing or NPC romance will be included, but could possibly be added later on.
What?! No housing?! I’m SO thrown off by this. You want to release a MMO for everyone to feel apart of Tamriel and NOT allow them to have home? Not even an instanced version of the housing in skyrim? TOTALLY LAME

7) There will be full voice acting for all NPCs.
Not for long. I can’t remember a game that has full voice for everything the NPC says. Earth and Beyond even tried that and stopped after a few patch’s because of the total PITA it is.

8) The average player will be able to reach the level cap in roughly 120 hours of gameplay.
So that’s about 1/2 a month for a farmer?

9) Mundus Stones will replace Guardian Stones found in Skyrim and will offer various buffs.
Well their be lore as to why there’s the name change?

10) The Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood have been confirmed.
Oh yeah.. THEY get a guild, we can’t get a house…

11) Endgame content will feature heroic dungeons and large-scale raids.
Just like every other MMO.

12) There will be both instanced and public dungeons. Public dungeons are dungeons with only one "instance" meaning everyone who enters will be in the same instance.
Just like quite a few other MMOs.

13) Skills are still based on stamina/mana.
It was stated above that there are no skills… OH.. actions? Just like every other MMO.

14) Sprinting, blocking and interrupts will remain in the game. Blocking still plays a large role, players can block with a shield, 2H Sword or Force Field. Blocking an enemies power attack will still potentially throw them off balance, like in Skyrim.
How can you block if combat isn’t action based?

15)  Traditional aggro mechanics are non-existant, Zenimax Online is promising "player-like" AI. For example, when entering a room in a dungeon you won’t be able to pull a group of mobs back and pick them off, rather they will all react at the sight of you and begin performing their designated role (NPC tanks rush forward, healers and ranged move away from players).

Well a "player-like" AI would be a first, and that could lead to some interesting combat.

17) There will be a finesse system which allows players to execute an ultimate skill. Finesse points are built up by being effective in battle, encouraging players to play smarter.

In other words.. Tokens. SS/DD

18) Questing is "hub-less" unlike games like WoW, it is apparently more like TES, in which players can go anywhere and do whatever piques their interest. This of course will still be limited by level requirements. 
Sure, so you can still go after that lvl50 mud crap?

19) Elder Scrolls Online will use a phasing system, much like WoW.
Well at least they are admitting they looked over WoW’s way or doing things.

20) It’s confirmed that there are "fetch x of y, kill x of y" quests although they are said to be the minority of the quests.
Unlike skyrim?

21) There will be three faction PvP, just like DAoC.
Doesn’t surprise me.

22) Instanced PvP arenas are confirmed.
Doesn’t surprise me, either.

23) Open World PvP and Free-Form PvP will be included and is said to also be similar to DAoC.
Nor here…

24) Siege weapons and destructible terrain are confirmed.
Nope, not a bit of surprise.

25) Endgame PvP will involve players fighting to take control of Cyrodiil, conquer the Imperial City and crown the most accomplished player in your faction the Emperor. That’s right, you can be come the Emperor. The ultimate goal is the Imperial City, however there will be other capture points such as forts, farms, mines, castles etc. (But you can’t own a house) Player-politics are confirmed and are said to be closely related to DAoC and UO. There will be a system in place which will facilitate a players holdings being attacked, allowing players to organically defend their turf without the game enforcing scheduled assaults.

Bottom Line:
Everything I read above states that this was DAoC2 rebranded with the Elder Scrolls name.    Pretty much nothing in here says ‘Elder scrolls’.
Class based VS skill based means you can’t play your toon the way you wish.  It’s an MMO so you know the whole sand box thing is out the window
no matter what’s stated.   Yeah, you might be able to get level 1 quests no matter when you go.. but it’s still a hub since you’d tend to work out of
one city to start with anyway and NOTHING stated about crafting.

We’re seemingly looking at a game that’s a combination of DAoC, WoW, with a little UO for seasoning.     
    DOA?   So far, I believe so.

===================================================================

Update:  05/11/2012:
Well I must admit.. THIS does make me feel better:
http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/05/09/the-origins-of-the-elder-scrolls-online.aspx?cache=busted

It’s an interview with Matt Firor, game director, talking about the effort used to try to re-create the ‘feel’ of the Elder Scrolls series.
At least this does answer some of the questions I had above!