Review: Star wars: Battle Pod

For those that haven’t seen this arcade machine yet, check out the [videos]

Machine wise this is pretty much is a almost sound proof enclosure with a projector using a concave screen with 5.1 sound sound and a fan to move air around you (and to keep the machine from smelling)  along with all the standard hard points to allow the machine to stand up to the riggers of the public.

Game play wise, this is really nothing more than an upgraded version of the [Star Wars Arcade] from Sega.   

Having a screen large enough to see in your peripheral vision was pretty cool, but just a gimmick since none of the action happens on the sides of your vision.   The controls where pretty responsive and something you’d be used to if you’ve ever played an arcade game with a throttle and flight stick.

At 15.8 credits (I played it at my local [Dave and Busters]) I would wait until 1/2 price Wednesdays to even check it out. 

All and all it was a ‘cute’ machine, though I was left feeling very disappointed.  A) it’s a expensive game since you are paying for the experience which isn’t much more then what you would get playing any sit-down game with a shell.  Sega’s ‘Turbo’ would be an [example]
B) It feels like nothing more than an HD update to a game that’s already been in arcades for a while, so not much new their.  and C) Once you beat a level, you need to PAY again in order to continue.    So yeah, you get about 3 minutes of game time and then need to pay the 15.8 credits to continue.   EABOT!   (Eff a bunch of that.)

Getting Started with Unreal Development Kit–Book review

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a post requesting a review of a new book coming out ‘Getting Started with UDK’ by John P. Doran from Packt Publishing.   In the post it was stated that this book was geared to those that have never touched the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) before or even had experience using the Unreal Editor.    This is right up my alley, for I am (still) interested in creating my own games and do have some experience in creating levels for Unreal Tournament.

This 140 page book can be either downloaded (PDF, Kindle, among other formats)  or as a printed copy and shipped to your door.   Within those 140 pages you are treated to the wisdom of the authors knowledge of the unreal engine. 

The book then outlines creating a Tower Defense style of game from the humble beginnings of how to construct new geometry to how to use Kismet to visually design action sequences.   Each section of the book builds upon the last, adding more content and information and reads like a cook book with simple, easy to follow, instructions.

If you are looking for an intro into designing First/3rd person style of games, this would be a great addition to your library, and at ~$13 bucks you can’t go wrong!

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…

Guild Wars 2 a review…

I have been playing Guild Wars 2 for about 1 1/2 weeks now, and am having more fun in this game than I have had in all of my years in World of Warcraft.  I cannot explain it, but the game’s mechanics are so different and so refreshing, other games just seem to pale in comparison.

The game is not made up of the typical MMO formula of quest hubs (in which you move through the world by going from quest hub to quest hub, collecting a bunch of quests, completing the quests, turning in the quests, and moving on to the next quest hub).  As you explore the world of Tyria (the setting of Guild Wars 2), you encounter what is known as "heart quests", in which you perform a number of actions for an NPC in the area. As soon as you enter the area, the quest is assigned to you automatically.  Once you complete the quest, you receive the reward in your in-game mail (which can be accessed anywhere in the world).  Heart quest givers are also karma vendors… as you gain karma completing events, you can buy items from each of the karma vendors.  Items available from karma vendors are typically better armor, better weapons, or hard to find crafting materials.

As you explore the world and complete heart quests, Dynamic Events spawn near the heart quests.  Dynamic events are group based events that require the cooperation of multiple people to complete the event.  The more people involved in the event, the harder the event becomes.  There is no need to accept the quest or form a group… you are automatically assigned the related event quest.  If you participate, you receive a reward. 

This brings up one of the nicest facets of Guild Wars 2 – this game encourages cooperation.  There is no such thing as kill stealing.  If you help kill a monster, you get experience and can loot the monster.  Harvesting nodes are instanced, so everyone can gather from the same node.  The game actually encourages people to work together.

Profession skills are all tied to the weapon currently equipped.  Skills are unlocked the more you use a given weapon.  You automatically receive new weapon skills as each one is unlocked.  Swapping weapons equips a new set of skills.  Daggers and swords tend to have close-range skills.  Staffs are typically AOE based skills.  And sceptors are typically range based skills.

Add in skill points (challenges that give you skills points to unlock utility skills that are in addition to your profession based skills), vistas (locations in the world in which you need to figure out how to get to the vista point, which unlocks a beautiful cut scene showing the surrounding area as seen from that vista), scouts (NPCs directing you to interesting activities and quest hearts in the surrounding area), jumping puzzles (attempting to reach an elevated area that contains a chest of goodies), and a really nice community, this game has everything I want and need in an MMO.

I won’t kid you… Guild Wars 2 is a difficult game, and is not something you can face roll through.  You need to dodge – mobs are smart, and will modify their attacks based upon how you react.  Because of this, it tends to attract a more mature and serious gamer community, one that prides itself on helping others and working together towards common goals.

ArenaNet (the developer of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2) takes pride in their creation.  The are quickly working on resolving in-game bugs and issues, and actually listen to their player base. 

I can honestly seeing myself playing Guild Wars 2 for years to come.

– Wayne Fisher