Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fade to Black - Mystic Worlds

Blogging quantity and quality is pretty hard to sustain unless you are a really talented individual. You must be armed with enough learned literacy to get your point across succinctly; as well as creative desire to put to words the topics you feel are most relevant to you and any audience you might think you have. Then you need to do this over and over enough that said audience will take it for granted.

I don't even pretend to think that I am such an individual. I know my quantity is spotty at best and the quality is workmanlike. But Lauren/Saylah/Alysianah/Illianah/Suri of Mystic Worlds is one such individual. Her ability to describe worlds never visited prompted me to try out Wizard 101, a game I still keep installed to this day. She brought her wit and insight to so many posts over the years that we did just take it for granted. Which is why her decision to shut it all down saddens me. But not as much as finding out the real-life details of what prompted her to start blogging in the first place.

I was lucky enough to be in the same guild as Alysianah (that's what I'll always know her as) in WAR. She was one of the first guildies I encountered ingame and on Vent as my (I think level 9) Warrior Priest went on a guild run to get the Shawl of Spring. Her Bright Mage was higher level at the time (level 11 I think) and we ended up running around the Chaos side of Ostland by ourselves before finally joining up with the rest of the guild group. I wrote about it briefly in this post. The memories of this and other Casualties of War events are why I will always remember WAR fondly even if it's a game I doubt I will ever return to.

The final post on Mystic Worlds has comments disabled which is understandable. I felt like I needed to thank Lauren for the many years of quality blogging as well as wishing her the best of luck with any future endeavors. So this post is my way of doing so. Don't be such a stranger, you know where to find my comments page and email.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Abyss Siege HD Videos

Up to now, my enthusiasm for Aion Online has been based on theorycraft. I've read all the information and I've experienced a bit of the low-level content first-hand. I've noted the game engine's superior handling of the number of people needed for mass PVP. I projected this onto what I knew about The Abyss and speculated that epic fights could be had. I just didn't know until these videos exactly how epic they would be.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This is my Gauss Rifle

It seems there is a celebration going on to commemorate the 6th anniversary of Planetside. Anyone who has ever had a paid account was given 45 free days and a whole host of new features were unveiled...including upping the BR cap from 25 to 40. The bad news was, their email notification service failed to notify me about it. Fortunately, I got wind of it in plenty of time to partake in the festivities.

I had played Planetside recently with the fine folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun when they had their contest against two other gaming sites. But I noted back then that my inability to remember which of my accounts held my old PS character resulted in applying the RPS code to the wrong account. So basically, I had to level a character up from scratch. While fun in its own right, I couldn't help but wish I was able to access my BR20 CR5 toon of old.

So what was it like logging on to a character I hadn't played in about 5 years? Pretty strange. The first thing I noticed was triggering all sorts of new certs that proclaimed my tenure. I got a total of 6; one for every year of service. Ironic that I hadn't played the game in most of that time. Digging around the UI looking to see exactly which term of service cert I had, I noticed Planetside now had an achievement system which also allowed you to display the earned badges on your uniform like medals. Pretty neat.

The next thing I noticed was some old stuff was still saved server side. Opening up my locker and looking at the stuff I had stored away like a packrat brought back some fond memories. There were miscellaneous items like captured enemy weapons brought home as trophies of war. I also noted some macros I had made and put on my hotbar were still there even though some of their functionality were not anymore.

It's good to be back. Time to head on out to the war.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fourth and Inches

Aion Online's CB4 comes to a close and I thought I'd post my thoughts on it. I really wanted to level up my Cleric to 25 in order to gate through to the PvPvE content in The Abyss but I wasn't really willing to kill myself over it. I figured I'd see how things developed naturally instead of forcing myself to do stuff I didn't really enjoy.

I got as far as level 23 this weekend. I absolutely could've dinged 25 with a little more effort and with the help of a good guild maybe. But since I was soloing, 23 was as far as I was willing to go. No regrets as I was able to accomplish everything else I wanted to do including doing some more crafting and raising both my gathering skills up over 100.

Level 22 proved to be a watershed level for the Cleric as I spent almost 100k kinah on what must've been 10 new skill books. One of those was a 30 minute self-rez buff further reinforcing the similarity between this class and the WoW Shaman. There was also a great skill called Divine Touch that chained off a basic move which provided some much-needed DPS.

I can't wait for future Beta Events and finally being able to step foot in The Abyss.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Aion Eye Candy HD Videos

Thanks to Mithoron for pointing these pair of videos out to us in this AionSource thread. Taken during the CB2 and CB3 events, some great looking shots of both the Elyos and Asmodean zones. Pump up the HD option for maximum enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

They Call Me Tim

So what's in a name? If you're one that bases class choice on the name rather than doing some actual research, it can be a lot. Case in point my desire to play a Paladin/Warrior Priest type class in Aion. Since there were only two healing subclasses, my choice was obviously limited to Cleric and Enchanter. From just the names alone, the Cleric sounded like what I wanted. Based on knowledge of Cleric classes from previous MMO's, this would obviously be a front-line fighter who could also heal. An Enchanter sounded like some finger-waggling, cantankerous, staff user who would hang out in the back and do whatever it is they do back there.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The revelation started when I grouped with an Enchanter who had a penchant for pulling mobs and meleeing in the front lines even though we had Templars and Gladiators in the group as well. This guy had a shield equipped so I just figured maybe my UI was just giving me the wrong class info. Further research proved my UI and the guy playing his class was working as intended. It turns out Enchanters were designed to be the Paladin/Warrior Priest class and Clerics were the back row finger-wagglers. Enchanters have auras designed to augment the melee abilities of those around them which definitely cements their place in the front lines. They make credible off-tanks in the absence of a Warrior subclass.

I have a feeling that I'll still go with a plate-wearing class in retail but I'll probably roll an Enchanter alt. I think I shall name him Tim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Aion Online Screenshots

As promised, you can go here to see my meager collection of screenshots taken during CB2 and CB3. Believe me when I say that there were quite a few more screenshot-worthy events that I failed in capturing. I'm surprised I even took this many, to be honest, as I'm really not on first-name terms with my Print Scrn button.

Included in the limited play I did of the 20+ zones was a little PVP which was quite unexpected and a nice change of pace. Let's just say if you're trying to run away from the enemy, you better hope there isn't a Priest class nearby. I love having a root on my Cleric.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Third on the Fourth

The third Beta Event for Aion Online is still going on as I post this title. But as I am currently at work and the event will be done by the time I get home, it is effectively over for me. So here are some thoughts about the event which transpired over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in the US.

I had previously planned on trying to level up my gaggle of level 10's to the level cap of 20 imposed by this beta round. But this turned out to be highly optimistic when confronted with the increased leveling curve of 10-20. Even with the additional day added to the usual time frame of these beta events, I was only able to get just my Cleric to 20 in that time. I chose to use the time left after that to grind up my crafting and gathering skills as well as repeatable coin quests which awarded some kick ass weapons and an unexpected bonus later on.

Still undecided on what my main's class will be in retail and the experience in CB3 only added more uncertainty not less. Cleric turned out not to be as Paladin-like as I had hoped but more like a pre-TBC WoW Shaman. I should've picked up on the similarities with the chain-wearing, shield-equipping, healing class that relied on melee for its DPS but had some nukes as well. But it took learning a spell, Summon: Divine Energy I, which gave me a non-mobile pet with a limited duration which spat out some holy fire to augment my DPS. Hmmmm...that sure does look like a totem, all right.

Remember those repeatable coin quests I mentioned earlier? In the Impetusium region of the Altgard zone, there is a repeatable quest that has you killing 22 mobs in order to get 1 coin reward. You can turn in either 2 or 4 of these coins at once to either of two NPC's which gave out random rewards for melee or magic classes. I opted to turn in 4 coins for my first try to the magic guy as that was what my Cleric was classified as. He rewarded me with a mace I could equip right off the bat, the Mace of Asmodian Army Soldier Level 9 (I really hope they localize the item names a bit more come release). Eager to repeat my fortune, I ground up another 4 coins but was awarded with a spellbook I couldn't equip so I threw that on the auction house for a fair price. I guess I was just lucky the first time and random really is pretty random.

So the unexpected bonus came as I ran to Pandemonium, the capital city, for some errand or other and there was a guy with a quest waiting for me. His first words were that he noticed by my Mace of Asmodian Army Soldier Level 9 that I was ready for this quest. Now I had read something about there being some quests that could only be triggered by wearing a particular set piece somewhere; most likely the loading screen tips. But I had no idea they could lead to important quests like this turned out to be. It was the quest to gain the ability to equip Stigma Stones, which are the equivalent of WoW talents for character customization.

I once again totally failed to take screenshots as usual but I will post my meager collection from the beta events later.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Waiting For AO

With apologies to Samuel Beckett for the post title. Today is the start of another Beta Event for Aion Online. This time the focus will be on the Elyos and Asmodean levels 1-20. Can't wait to get started as I am starting to second-guess (or was that triple-guess) my decision to roll Warrender as a Cleric. I'm a sucker for plate armor and Aion has some end-game designs that would make me regret my choice to roll a Chain-wearing class. Fortunately, I have both a Gladiator and Cleric at 10 that I can level to 20 which should provide more insight into which class would be the right fit for me. Also looking forward to playing more with the Assassin and Spiritmaster as well.

Doing some crafting in LoTRO last night and so glad to get back to a game which has a craft all button. No offense to those who enjoy the crafting in EQ2 but the minigame is really not my cup of tea. I wasn't a big fan of it either in Free Realms. I suppose those who just craft exclusively in EQ2 might appreciate the added involvement but it did nothing for me aside from the initial "well, this is different" moment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Having and Eating Your Cake

NCSoft proved that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too with the announcement yesterday that the US and EU release of Aion Online would be at version 1.5. There isn't a single MMO that has shipped that couldn't have used additional development time for bug fixes and additional content. Even the venerable World of Warcraft. Think WoW at release was pretty good? How about if it released with the stuff that got patched in a year later?

Unfortunately, the real world often dictates that MMO's ship before they are ready for prime time. Companies don't have the luxury of waiting a whole year without a revenue stream just because a product isn't fully polished yet. Look at the recent releases of AoC and WAR, for example. I daresay their user retention rate would've been higher if they had released a year later with the fixes and content that they have now.

Ncsoft got around this problem with the staggered releases. They originally released Aion Online in Korea November of last year and plan to release the US/EU version this September. While staggered releases are nothing new, what is novel about this one is the order and understanding of the different market expectations in the different regions. Rather than release the western version a short time later, they opted to wait until there was enough additional content to satisfy western palates. Pretty crafty there, NCsoft.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Paladin with a Pet

My plans to level my Champion up came to an abrupt halt when I found out about the Captain class in LoTRO. From the descriptions, it seemed to be a Paladin type class...with a pet. Since the two classes I had played the most in my halcyon WoW days were the Warlock and Paladin, the opportunity to try out a class that combined the best features of both could not be ignored. Peanut butter in my chocolate? Hells yeah.

Rather than deleting Warrender, I opted for the comedy name route and rolled an homage to Captain Liberty from the great defunct TV series, The Tick. Turned out someone already had the same idea as that name was already taken so Liberti, the kickass female Captain was born. Too bad I couldn't sneak BatManuel through the lore filters. I had to settle for naming my Herald Manuel once I leveled up enough to gain that ability.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Winged Nazgul Comes "Home"

I'm in the middle of the subscribed month in EQ2 and already my MMO eyes are wandering. It's not the title itself; EQ2 is a polished, accomplished MMO with more features and options than you can shake a stick at. It just doesn't grab me viscerally. I had planned on grabbing the discounted price of the Mines of Moria package for Lord of the Rings Online before the offer was up this month but it turned out I couldn't even wait that long. When my EQ2 Paladin dinged 30, I said enough and started the long process of downloading, installing, and upgrading the LoTRO digital purchase.

First off, I'd just like to say that even with my nom de internet being what it is, I've never seriously given thought to buying and playing LoTRO before now. Sure I checked it out during its Open Beta and there was even a trial sometime last year, but only recently has the "buy" word crossed my mind. It first started when they slashed their subscription price from $15 to $10 a month. Then there was this offer which found its way to my email and lodged itself into my subconsciousness offering the latest expansion and complete game for $10. That it also included a free month's subscription was just too much value to ignore and even if I ended up completely hating it, heck, it was only $10 spent.

Tried rolling a Champion named Warrender on Landroval which is where the Casualties are playing but it came back with a name already taken error. Since this almost never happens for some reason, I can only assume this is my Beta character which I dimly remember creating with that name. A quick check on the forums revealed Brandywine as the most populous so I went with plan B and rolled my Champion on that server.

Damn, this is a beautiful game. I had that reaction with the trial last year and it was the same one after I got my Champion up and rolling this time around. Having the game auto-detect the graphics settings, I was quite pleased when it came back and recommended Very High with DX10. There's a little bit of hitching sometimes since I chose my native monitor resolution of 1680x1050 but not enough to make me want to downgrade any of the options just yet. Really enjoying the eye candy and playing in Tolkien's world so far.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Aion Online Video Walkthrough

Some fine folks from NCSoft West take the time to go over the features of their upcoming MMO, Aion Online. A great introductory video for those who might not know anything about the title. Although there is an option to watch it in HD, that feature is not currently working at the moment. Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Aion Priest 1-10

I started out with my plan in the CB2 event in Aion to roll an Asmodean Cleric when I finally could get on Friday. Despite reading of queues and other horror stories while at work, I was able to get right in after login.

The first thing I did was go through what would eventually become a ritual after creating a new character which was click through the options to make my gaming life easier. I enabled all the extra hotbars, disabled click-to-move, and enabled displaying monster names. The latter option was particularly handy as it meant I didn't have to mouse over and click on every single mob to find the one I needed for a particular quest.

At one point, I was a bit puzzled over my character's inability to equip chain armor and shield as a Cleric. Then I realized he wasn't exactly a Cleric yet and wouldn't be until he Ascended at around level 10. For now, my Priest was stuck with leather armor and no shield. Not that he even needed the extra survivability of the heavier armor. With a HoT that cost a pittance of mana to upkeep, he was a grinding machine with little to no downtime.

There was some definite differences between the Elyos and Asmodea zones. In Elyos, the player starts out as a benign mercenary in the employ of the peasant NPC's. In Asmodae, the player starts out as a warlike raider who has subjugated the peasant NPC's. This tone was reflected in the quest text and content as well. My fears that the zone scenery would reflect such a dark race proved groundless. If anything, there were some areas which looked more bright and colorful than their Elyos counterparts. I think I'll stick with my plans to go Elyos, though. I just can't get over the long, flowing back hair typical of the Asmodean models.

There were some amusing harvesting experiences. The first happened while harvesting some Angelica in the newbie zone - I actually dinged. Yes, that's right; you get XP from harvesting in this game. It's not much (60 XP or so) but every little bit helps especially if you're a gathering fanatic like some folks I know. The other happened after I got my wings at level 10. It's what happens when you pair a limited flight timer with floating resources placed high in the sky. Now I know how Icarus felt.

I'd go on to level 3 more characters to level 10 which was the cap imposed by NCSoft for this beta event. Doing this enabled me to experience the differences at the early levels between the Priest, Mage, Scout, and Warrior archetypes.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Props to those old enough to remember what this image has to do with the title.
Aion Online is getting ready to start another of their Beta Events today. This event is scheduled to run through the weekend and anticipation is pretty high judging by the state of the Beta forums. I have access to this and all upcoming Beta events due to my pre-order and I have to admit I'm starting to feel a little excited about the event myself.
Despite having participated in numerous MMO Betas by now, I still feel the same excitement over a AAA title every time. There will be those that will say participation in Betas will only accelerate the feeling of burnout by the time the game releases. I counter that some of my most lengthy stays in MMO's were titles in which I also participated in their Betas as well. I would even go so far as to say that content in games is not the determining factor for me anymore as to whether it's time to move on or not. I'd say it's the people you meet and play with on a regular basis in MMO's that determines this. A good guild can go a long way towards hiding any perceived deficiencies in a game. For a while, anyways.
I'm still unsure which class to start out with in Aion. I usually go with a Paladin class type; being a heavily-armored melee fighter that can heal covers up a lot of typical newbie mistakes. Initially I thought this would be the Templar class but some research on the forums suggests Cleric might be the class I'm looking for. Hopefully the Betas will provide ample opportunity to mess with various alts and find the perfect fit for me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And the Winner is...

So it seems like the next big thing gaming-wise for me is going to be Aion Online. It's got everything I want in an MMO plus it runs like a champ on my system. For those who might scoff at the choice, I offer a paraphrasing of an old adage about art:

I might not know much, but I know what I like.

The only problem is Aion isn't going to be released until sometime in September which leaves a few months between now and then. I could use that time with a filler MMO but the trouble is deciding on which one. I could go back to AoC or WAR and see if my time away has improved the game any. There's also the freemium choices like Atlantica Online or Wizard 101 if I feel like eschewing the monthly subs. I could even use the time to explore more of Guild Wars or a new title like DDO.

I actually went through the trouble of installing the trials and poking around all the above games before I made my mind up. AoC and WAR still ran like slugs in molasses on my system and there was no way I was going back to those games after experiencing what Aion had to offer. Not even the hype surrounding Land of the Dead was enough to entice me back. The other games were definite contenders when suddenly a dark horse appeared in the form of a Steam sale last Friday.

Everquest II - so now I have a level 22 Paladin on the Antonia Bayle server.

Who would've thought I'd finally get around to giving EQ2 a serious try after all these years. Certainly not me yet even I could not resist the siren call of the Steam sale for $9.95. Even more amazingly, I'm having fun in this game despite my preconceived notions about it. EQ2 always seemed like a game with features I would enjoy but there was something about the art direction that just turned me off. Even with the graphic options turned all the way up, it still couldn't hide character models that all looked like they were beaten severely with ugly sticks. But I've been able to get over that initial distaste to give the game the chance it deserves. So far so good.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Can't see the Forest for the Trees

There's an event currently running in Atlantica Online that celebrates the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. From April 21 to June 16, guilds can build and plant their own cherry blossom trees in their towns for possible added revenue and aesthetics. Unfortunately, after the initial "neato" impression the particle graphics of the cherry blossoms that greet you upon visiting a town soon wears on you. I'm sure June 16 can't come soon enough for some of the regular AO players. I can't even imagine what a newbie's impression would be of these blossoms if he has no idea why every town he visits has these stupid pink blossoms flying around everywhere.

But I'd like to examine the actual mechanics of the cherry tree and appreciate the thought that went into its design. From the wiki entry:
Spring has sprung, so let’s have some fun, like they do in the land of the rising sun! The Sakura Matsuri, or Cherry Blossom Festival, is a highly anticipated time in Japan to get together and view the beautiful scenery of the Cherry Blossom Trees. If you can’t make it to Japan, don’t fret! The Cherry Blossom Trees are now available to view in Atlantica!

From April 21 to June 16, town owners will have the opportunity to build a Cherry Tree. Visitors of towns that have a Cherry Tree will enjoy some very pleasant scenery along with the chance to grab a Cherry Tree Fruit once a day at the cost of 100% will and 200,000 gold (half the gold will go directly to the guild fund). Eating the Cherry Tree Fruit will grant the player an additional 10% increase of experience for two hours. The Cherry Tree can only be guild-crafted and requires building craft to be at level 5 or higher.

Some new items that are required to build the Cherry Tree, such as the Cherry Tree Leaf, Cherry Tree Stem and Cherry Tree Root can be purchased on the market. All new items relating to the Cherry Blossom Festival event will be removed after the event is over.
Guild crafting, town customization, guild revenue, and XP booster all in one tree! That's some impressive multi-tasking.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lack of Content

It's not only MMO's that can be accused of lacking in content. Sometimes, player blogs can run through dry times as well. But I've always been a quality over quantity kind of guy so you won't ever see me posting if I don't feel like I have anything worth posting about. Which is what I've been feeling lately.

I've been running around in Free Realms indulging my inner child. I opined a few weeks back that I didn't feel like a release was likely anytime soon considering the unfinished state of the Beta I was currently in. Then SOE announced it was going to release shortly afterwards which goes to show my knowledge of such things. The fact that they got 1 million registered users so quickly shows that there was an audience salivating over the chance to play this game for real. I'm afraid the unfinished parts I saw in Beta are still gumming up the works of an otherwise polished product.

But even still, it's hard not to have fun with this game if only because there is just a multitude of activities available. Don't feel like questing? Try some minigames or the virtual Trading Card game. Go complete some collections or explore the entirety of the Realms. Speaking of which, this game really caters to Explorer types as there are hidden delights waiting to be discovered beyond every bend.

So I've been pretty casual about my playing time which is definitely the way to go in Free Realms, I think. If I start feeling the grind especially when I'm leveling up a combat job, I'll switch to a different activity. Sometimes, I'll exit the game and go do something else. This would be a huge mark of failure for a typical MMORPG but not so for FR in my opinion. I don't really see myself playing this game long-term. But, for right now, it's a breath of fresh air as I replenish my stores of hardcore in preparation for the Next Big Thing™. Whatever that may be.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday?

April 28 seems to be a good day to launch a MMO. Both City of Heroes and Guild Wars launched on this date and now SOE's Free Realms hopes to join those two titles sometime today.

I celebrated Guild War's impending birthday by buying the Guild Wars Trilogy a few days ago. When this title first came out, it was competing with the then-hot World of Warcraft for my attention. WoW won that first skirmish but I'd kept my eye on this game and its development over the years as something I would really like to try. A Trilogy trial a few months back confirmed this and I was set to buy it then. The lack of a digital distribution option made me change my mind though. I was interested, but apparently not interested enough to go out to a store and buy a copy.

The recent move to Steam for the NCSoft titles renewed my interest and, this time, the Trilogy was available. When I found out they were offering free storage as part of the birthday celebration, that was enough for me. Nothing gets me to impulse buy quicker than if I think I'm getting a good deal. So far so good and am enjoying making my way through another MMO as a clueless newbie.

First Time For Everything

Even being a new father hasn't stopped Syp from rolling out some interesting memes.

First MMO Played?
Planetside - before this game came out I was heavily into First Person Shooters and never really gave regular MMORPG's a second thought.

First Character Class/Role Played?
My Planetside character was a Vanguard-driving, Phoenix-shooting, mine-laying son of a gun.

First MMO Subscribed For More Than A Consecutive Year?
World of Warcraft. I think I missed the one year mark in PS by about a month and I don't remember playing CoH that long before WoW came out and I jumped ship.

First MMO You Fell In Love With?
Planetside, natch.

First Guild You Really Felt Attached To?
Sturmgrenadier in Planetside.

First Character/Game You Leveled To End Cap?
WingedNazgul in Planetside.

First “Wow” Moment In A MMO?
Coordinated outfit ops in Planetside. Nothing like hotdropping from a Galaxy into a tower full of hostiles.

First MMO You Burned Out On?
World of Warcraft.

First MMO You Followed Avidly Prior To Launch?
City of Heroes

First Time You Felt Truly Noobish In A MMO?
Playing the Free Trial of Eve Online.

First MMO You Went Alt-Crazy In?
City of Heroes.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Job Security

I've never been a chef, brawler, race car driver, miner, or ninja in real life. So when I got the chance to try out the Free Realms Beta and dive in, guess which job was the most appealing to me?

Trading Card Game Duelist.

Pretty ironic as it's one I have had plenty of experience with in real life. It's not as if the other jobs don't have their fun moments (well except for race car driving which I apparently stink at) but that the questline and the TCG itself is probably the most polished content currently available in Free Realms. Which is not a knock on the game. It's still pretty early in the Beta process and, despite the lifting of the NDA, I don't see release as being anytime soon. At least, I hope not as there is quite a bit more work that needs to be done before they open this up to the general public.

But I highly recommend any veteran card-floppers out there to check out the TCG in both virtual and real-life versions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clash of the Titans

Atlantica Online was recently patched with a huge content update. Not the housing or 100v100 battle system patch that was recently revealed at this year's GDC. They're still busy working on those items. This patch updated the North American English servers with the content that has been live on the Korean servers for months now. Full patch notes can be found here.

There's quite a number of changes and additions documented on that page but the centerpiece of the update has to be the new Titan server. This enables interaction between characters of different servers. For now, it's only limited to sharing info and PVP but there are future plans to enable trade between the different servers. Future content is also planned which will utilize the unique aspects of this intra-server gathering place.

It's the PVP that has most people excited though, as finally we can find out who is really the best of the best. There is already a Free League ranking system that ranks players according to accumulated fame but there has never been a way to determine how players from different servers would match up against each other. Until now. You can Challenge other players on the Titan server to duels and there will be a weekly Grand Championship held there every Sunday. The rewards for participating and winning this GC are very nice to say the least and I imagine the inaugural event to be held this Sunday will have a very festive air to it. Hope to see you all there!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back in the Beta Saddle Again

After a relatively long drought of not participating in a Beta of any kind, I found myself playing two high-profile ones over the weekend. The Chinese Open Beta of Aion Online and Sony's Free Realms. I got an invite to Free Realms and sneaked into the Chinese Beta through nefarious means.

There's one piece of advice I would like to give to NCSoft: Please change your mind about not having a North American/European English Beta for Aion Online. You might not feel you need one for technical reasons given that this game has already been released in Korea since November of last year and the various other Betas since then. But the buzz surrounding such Betas can't hurt especially given the unique combination of early level gameplay in this title. Seriously, CoH level of character customization, gorgeous graphics and animations based on the Crytek engine, and engaging quests with cutscenes is a potent mix. I don't know if you have enough to keep people around for the endgame and reports are a lot of grinding will be needed to get there in addition to the quests provided. But a NA/EU Beta would hook an awful lot of people for a couple of initial months at least.

As for Free Realms, I can't say a lot about it. SOE has a chance to reach the rest of the world's gaming population that doesn't really think it likes MMO's. Plus it has enough fun activities for jaded MMO vets as well. It will make SOE money but how much depends on how free Free Realms turns out to be.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Atlantica Online - Increasing Benevolence in MMO's

I don't know if I'm the only blogger that keeps a mental list of topics in their heads that they absolutely must cover in their blogs but just don't seem to get around to it. Usually it's something they want to disseminate in order to inform or hopefully spur discussion but also can't be neatly en-capsulized with just a few minutes worth of work. Nay, doing the topic full justice requires going above the call of duty and maybe require screenshots or even...gasp...charts.

So it can be a relief when someone pre-empts you by writing the piece you wanted to write; but doing a much better job at it than you possibly would have. All you have to do now is just link to the article here and your job is done. Let the information dissemination and discussion begin.

I will update the link to point to the blog article when I get the information.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Third Time the Charm

We finally completed the Guild Dungeon, Marksburg Castle, on our third attempt. Our first attempt was a scouting run when I was in my early 70's. It showed we weren't ready to take on such a challenge so early in our guild's life just yet. We knew it but wanted to see what it would be like. I opted to pass on the opportunity as I didn't think I'd be able to contribute that much at my level.

The second try came last week and though we failed, we came awfully close to completing it. Ultimately our lack of planning and execution led to delays which saw the time run out on us just as we were clearing our way to the last level. I was able to contribute more to the effort this time around as a fresh 90 but it still led to some deaths and running back on my part.

This weekend was our third try and this one proved to be the charm. The combination of familiarity as well as the added levels we all had proved to be the deciding factors. Coming in as a 95 really upped my survivability against the mobs that ranged from levels 91-105. I went through the whole run without a single death although the lower level guildies weren't so fortunate.

The dungeon had a gothic/medieval/alice in wonderland feel as we fought our way against a variety of court jesters, palace guards, knights, wizards, and...grandfather clocks??? We actually had around 30 minutes to spare so the run took about an hour and a half. Not a bad way to spend some quality time with your guildies as well as getting some decent loot. Since this Guild Dungeon features prominently in the Dark Archer recruitment questline, I have a feeling I'll be spending more time in here once I turn 100 and become eligible for the quest.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Future Atlantica Content Revealed at GDC09

This year's annual Game Developers Conference was held in San Francisco, CA during the week of March 23-27. The developers of Atlantica Online were on hand to reveal details of future content at a press conference. Initial word came from translations of the Korean website as well as gaming news sources. But information was finally released on the nDoors website yesterday and can be found here.

There's also a flash site that has an introductory video. While the video doesn't show any new content, it does have some pretty nice Atlantica eye candy set to exhilarating music.

Pretty excited about the 100vs100 tactical battle system. If they can make it work, it should make for a pretty unique gaming experience.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gutting the Ghost Ship

While the handful of level 90+ players we have in our guild is not enough to successfully run a high-level Guild Dungeon yet, it did make us an attractive commodity to burgeoning Nations. We kept getting offers to join from a number of them. Our first priority on finding a suitable Nation to join was their ability to run and successfully complete Nation Dungeons. While they would all promise the ability to do so, very few Nations on our server possessed the organization and manpower to actually complete ND's. A secondary consideration was the willingness of the Nation to help us out in completing our Guild Dungeons with the temporary loan of some high-level players.

With this in mind, we decided to join a relatively new Nation. New as in date of creation, but they had plenty of guilds and players that had been around for a while. Most importantly, the leading guild in the Nation had previous experience in successfuly tackling ND's. They were also willing to help us out in the matter of Guild Dungeons. Our guild leader took a vote and the overwhelming majority agreed to join this nation; innocuously named Peaceful.

We barely had time to greet our new Nation-mates in chat before plans got underway to run the Nation Dungeon, Ghost Ship of the Carribean. This was no coincidence as we had been invited to come along on this run beforehand to see exactly what it was we were getting into. Ghost Ship is the first and easiest of the series of Nation Dungeons and it is in here that access to the much-coveted Pirate mercenary is determined. Instructions from the Nation leader flowed as groups were assembled and reported in. I have to admit most of it went right over my head and I just focused on the immediate role of my group and what we had to do. I later found an excellent guide to this dungeon here that explained much of what our organizer had to say. Even with my extensive raiding background in WoW, I was impressed at the level of organization needed to succesfully conquer even this most basic of Nation Dungeons.

My guildmates advised me to stock up on Ambrosia and a Blessing Potion but I balked at their high market prices and determined to gut it out on regular food and the buffs provided by my various titles. I did spend some gold completing my level 90 armor set so I didn't look so mismatched. Finally the preparations were done, we were able to zone in, and I got my first look at the zone. I wish I would've taken some screenshots but I was so focused on making this a successful run that I didn't dare take the time to sightsee. Maybe next time. It was very much Pirates of the Carribean themed with mobs ranging from octopuses to crusty crustaceans to pirate ghosts. The end boss was none other than Davy Jones himself. We traveled from the ghost town to its docks where we boarded the famed Ghost Ship itself and scoured it decks clean of all the mobs.

One of the features I love about raiding in Atlantica Online is that they are timed events. You have 2 hours after starting the Dungeon to finish it. No more banging your head learning an encounter for 8+ hours only to find you still don't have what it takes to beat it. Even after you have a Dungeon on farm status, the times are saved so beating a previous record can be motivation for some guilds. My group quickly fell into a groove as we fought the mobs we were tasked with clearing. There were a couple of tricky pulls as sometimes we bit off more than we could chew but my groupmates were able to cover for my underpowered self. My thanks go out to my guildmates, fateii and Clematis, who were in my group for this inaugural ND run.

Looking at our progress compared to the timer counting down, it became obvious that we were going to successfully complete the ND unless something went horribly wrong. I probably stayed up for the event longer than I wanted to but there was no way I was missing out on the successful conclusion. When the success banner and music flashed on the screen, a collective cheer went up in Nation chat.

What a great way to lure prospective guilds to your Nation. Treat them to a great ND run and the phat lootz from same. Now, you're never going to get rid of us.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nations in Atlantica Online

Having a 50 player cap for guilds can be problematic when it comes to getting the numbers to run endgame content. Except for the most hardcore of guilds, you will usually have a wide range of levels and playing times. Getting enough high-levels together at a certain time for a Guild Dungeon might not happen right away.

This is where Nations and Nation Dungeons come in. Nations are alliances of up to 10 guilds and the Nation Dungeons are endgame challenges which scale in difficulty. If Guild Dungeons can be run with a maximum of 50 players, Nation Dungeons can be run with a theoretical max of 500 players. Access to the B grade mercenaries (currently the highest grade in the game) relies on drops that can sometimes only be found in Nation Dungeons. So if you want a Spartan, Pirate, or Elementalist in your formation, you would be wise to seek out a Nation that has access to and can successfully run Nation Dungeons. Once you join a Nation, you gain access to Nation chat and can share info with Nation members as easily as with guild members.

The leader of a level 30 guild can go to the Caesar NPC in Rome and start his own nation for a fee based on the number of starting guilds. The roster of 10 allowable guilds allows for a wide variety of member guilds and the Nation leader has to seek out like-minded guilds with a decent amount of high-level players in order to grow his Nation. There's a considerable amount of diplomacy involved and the reputations of players and guilds go a long way towards convincing others to join your fledgeling empire.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guilds in Atlantica Online

It shouldn't come as a shock to most readers of this blog that being in a good guild can lead to more positive experiences in a MMORPG. We all have our different ideas of what makes a perfect guild and also what the ideal guild activities would be. Guilds come in different shapes, sizes, and compositions but I daresay most of us feel more comfortable with a smallish but close group of people rather than being an anonymous cog in a giant-size superguild. On the other hand, smaller guilds rarely get the chance to engage in end-game activities which usually require a goodly number of players to complete.

At level 20, any player can go to a guild office in any town to create their own guild for a fee of 20,000 gold. Like WAR and EQ2, there is a guild level system that determines the maximum size, number of officers, permanent guild buffs, and susceptibility to deletion by inactivity. Guilds are eventually capped at 50 members. This is the reason why you see so many guilds listed when you use the Guild Ads feature. Anyone who has ever been in a guild before will know this number will not take long to reach especially with multiple alts per guild member. This cap on guild size, rather than being onerous, leads to a more intimate atmosphere in my opinion.

Guild levels are gained through regular player XP and activities. But guilds also generate guild points which can fuel a large number of guild activities. Guild points are generated by many means: individual players completing guild or town quests, Training Center, Guild Dungeons, guild crafting, and player attendance. These guild points can be spent by the guild leader at the Pointry NPC in Rome for Guild Dungeon keys or rare crafting supplies. They can be converted at a loss into Guild Operation books which can be used to add guild points. These books are usually sold on the market to beef up the selling guild's coffers and the buying guild's stock of guild points. Lastly, guild points are used to bid on and retain control of the towns in Atlantica Online.

For the guild leader, having control of a town leads to a SimCity-like minigame. You can set the fees that town agencies charge the players that make use of them in your town. Different towns charge different rates for using services like the Market, Bank, or Travel Agency. If you find the town you are in is charging you a rate you would rather not pay, your best bet is to port to Rome where the minimum is always the going rate. You can also build and place buildings to attract and keep satisfied the NPC population that dwells in it. Funds generated from service fees and taxes on the NPC population go directly into the guild funds so owning a town can be quite lucrative for a guild. Some towns even allow access to exclusive Guild or Nation dungeons for the guild that controls it. As you can imagine, there can be a lot of competition for the finite amount of towns amongst the numerous guilds on the same server.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

For Pony!

My guild, Hunters on the Argos server, gifted me with a couple of surprises recently. The first is pictured above. There's several ways to score this particular mount but the most common way is by spending some real cash on the Item Mall for a Mount Box. For around $10, you can buy the box for a chance at a rare mount. The vast majority of the time, however, you will end up getting this pictured mount which comes with no stats and a 10% movement bonus. Like most Item Mall purchases, the mount can then be sold or traded ingame as desired. Currently, this particular mount is going for around 20 million gold on our server.

Now I had enough gold to throw away on this mount and, ordinarily, I would've paid the market price for the convenience as in other games. But Atlantica Online isn't like other games in that it comes with the highly convenient auto-move feature which takes much of the drudgery away of traveling from place to place. Drudgery that mounts with increased movement speeds used to alleviate. Happily, there are other reasons to get mounts in this game aside from aesthetics; most will come with stats that will increase you main character's survivability immensely. So I was saving up my gold for one such mount when my guild leader surprised me by giving me this one bought with our guild funds. Many thanks for the fine gift and now I don't have to look like a complete noob running around everywhere on foot.

The other surprise was their announcement that I had been promoted to guild officer. I was a little surprised in that I had only been playing this game for a few months and still considered myself an AO noob. But I guess my attitude and regular playing schedule impressed the ones who had to make the decision. Either that or there was nobody else that wanted the job. Since I am now on the cusp of level 87 and the AO endgame, I decided to accept to have some influence over upcoming decisions on how to move our guild into the endgame.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

VINPC's of Atlantica Online

Atlantica Online doesn't have the standard vendor you can sell your trash drops to. Probably because there is no such thing as a trash drop in this game, per se. Every single item is useful in some way with the items most often associated as trash in other games being used in some crafting recipe somewhere. Sure, there are NPC's stationed outside the newbie starter towns that will buy anything off you for a flat 10g price but you can get much more than that if you are patient and place your items on the Market for others to buy.

This doesn't mean there is a lack of NPC's to interact with in order to acquire more wealth and power. In fact, you will become very familiar with these NPC's as you play the game. Which is more than you can say about anonymous regeant vendor #43 in WoW. The following is a short, but by no means complete, list of these NPC's.

Name: Livingstone
Can Be Found: Outside of Bucharest.
Role: This is the NPC stalker and the guy to come to when you don't know where a particular NPC can be found at the moment. For a 1000g fee, he will give you the whereabouts of every other NPC of note in the game. Very handy for tracking those NPC's that like to wander around.

Name: Goncourt
Can Be Found: Wandering Around
Role: Converts useless books into boxes which can hold more useful books or more useless books you can then trade back to him. The fee depends on what you are trying to convert but for regular skill books it is 1000g. Depending on your luck, he can be a great source of income especially for newbies. Trade useless book for book that sells for several millions on the Market. Profit and repeat.

Name: Howard
Can Be Found: Wandering Around
Role: In your travels, you will sometime come across Cultural Boxes, which contain random Cultural Treasures. Take them to Howard to appraise and, if they turn out to be real, he will offer to buy them off you for 200-400k gold. Take his offer as you won't be able to cash them in anywhere else.

Name: Columbus
Can Be Found: North of Lisbon
Role: Will buy armor and weapons for half the market price from you. The caveats being that he won't buy anything enchanted over +1 and Ghost Warrior level and above. He also has business hours from 9 to 18 ingame time. Check the ingame clock on the lower left hand corner of the UI to see when he's open. Very handy for unloading gear that is currently selling for less than half of the normal market value.

Name: Pointry
Can Be Found: Bazaar in Rome
Role: There are points to be accrued for various activities in this game and he's just the to go to when you want to convert them into something substantial. There's a great Pointry guide to be found here. If you ever find yourself wanting to try this game out, do me a favor and roll on the Argos server. Then set Warrender as your referrer so I can rake in those glorious Referral Points. Muahahahaha!

Name: Volcanus
Can Be Found: Bazaar in Rome
Role: You can improve your gear in two ways. You can use enchanting stones as well as an identical sacrificial copy of the item to be improved or you can go to Volcanus with just your item as well as enhancing stones. The caveat being it's not a guaranteed process like the first method and there is a chance of losing the item in the event of failure. Enhancing, especially with the use of Item Mall-only enhancing stones, is the preferred method of upgrading your equipment to endgame levels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Atlantica Online PVP Video

This video was taken quite a few months ago and the build and strategies involved are outdated. Specifically, Xargrr's Seth Will build has been reduced in potency and the days of Oracles Sething Spears to wreak havoc on the front lines and beyond are gone now. But it does give a taste of what to expect from a typical Free League match.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Atlantica Online PVE Video

Jormungund is a level 107 Shadow Dungeon boss you will need to defeat in order to unlock the Lady Knight mercenary. Shadow Dungeons are designed to be tackled by groups of 2-3 players but it's entirely possible to solo one if you outlevel it by 10 or more levels. This video shows a 3-player party and is a good representation of what the combat in AO typically looks like.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spirit of 76

My character is currently level 76 in Atlantica Online and I'm in the middle of rebuilding my formation. When I turned 70 and became eligible to use the Prophet mercenary, I elected to change my build from a melee-heavy formation to a more flexible one by replacing my 2 Swordsmen and 2 Spearmen for some range/DOT/AOE options with a Witch, Archer, Artilleryman, and the Prophet. At first, this move doesn't make much sense as much of the Prophet's value is being able to buff and heal melee units with their passive Concentrate skill. But I'm counting on this skill to bolster my weaker tanks on the front line.

Joining the Beast Tamer up front to take the place of the Swordsmen are my Exorcist and my Axe main. It remains to be seen if my main will continue to be up front as he's still a bit squishy at this level without any accessories like an armored mount to increase his survivability. I can't wait to level these new mercs up to take them into Free League. My FL ranking took a dive from 10 to 11 as I've been concentrating on PVE to catch these guys up to speed. Depending on how this formation works out for me, I might swap a Swordsman back in to replace either the Archer or, more likely, the Prophet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Atlantica Online Screenshots

By popular Saylah demand, you can find some Atlantica Online screenshots here. Naraka is one of the solo bosses in the main questline. You can also find pics of my first ever winning Arena bet. Arena allows you to bet on NPC teams that face off against each other. Also, the Cute Bunny Suit and fishing seems to be popular in AO.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

10 Tips For Atlantica Online Newbies

Atlantica Online probably has the most extensive ingame tutoring and help systems available in any game that I've played. But even with all that, there are still some tips left to pass on that you won't find so easily in the game. The following is in no particular order with apologies to David Letterman fans.

1) There is no need to beware of strangers bearing gifts. If someone wants to give you a gift of gear or gold, there are no strings attached. AO gives an XP reward based on the gold value of the gift for anyone level 30+ who sends a gift to beginners under level 30. It's totally random who it goes to but thanks are always appreciated.

2) Unless the item is specifically a quest drop, in which case it will have a letter Q on the item icon, you can always buy items needed for quests from the Market. An example is the Basic Training quest from Master Goh which requires you to get him 10 pieces of Rough Leather. Ignore the quest text that says you can get them from the nearby deer. The Market has plenty for you to buy and will save you some time and effort.

3) The Market is what is known as an Auction House in other games. But there is also an Auction in the game as well that functions much like a real auction. Don't get the two confused. If an item says it can't be auctioned, it can still be put on the Market for you to sell.

4) Read your Notes. If the note icon is flashing, chances are you probably want to check out what it has to say. Everything from tips on defeating monsters to email notifications can be found there.

5) Make your Mentor work. If you accept an offer from a player asking to be your Mentor, make sure to put that person through his paces. Mentors receive 200,000 gold upon your reaching level 30. The good ones will have imparted aid in the form of knowledge, monster info, craft info, and even gifts. The really nice ones will give you give you most, if not all, of the 200k to you. If your Mentor is slacking, you can get rid of him from the Mentorship menu.

6) Free League is available at level 1. You can start your climb up the PVP rankings at any time. If you don't mind losing a lot and to higher levels with more mercenaries than you, then FL is a great way to have some fun and earn gold at the same time. The coins you receive from winning and losing can be cashed in right away or held for a rainy day as their value appreciates over time.

7) There are quests that earn you titles and the NPC's that give them out are found outside Athens. More info can be found here. It's best to start working on the titles you are interested in as early as you possibly can.

8) Speaking of which, is a great site in the Wowhead/Allakhazam vein with tons of useful info and utilities about the game. There are also great wikis out there with additional info.

9) Pressing the C key (you might need to try this multiple times) when your mouse is over an item icon will open up the relevant item info giving you details such as what is needed to craft it if it is craftable or which mobs drop them if you have the creature's drop info.

10) You can find out even more tips in this great thread.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Grouping in Atlantica Online

You may think a MMORPG that gives you control of your own self-contained party of tanks, healers, and DPS would be one where you wouldn't have any reason to group up or even be social.

You couldn't be more wrong.

The main storyquest line is a long and ardous chain which is designed to be soloed. Indeed, the bosses you will encounter in this chain can't be fought in groups. But, eventually, you will find yourself with good reasons to venture into the Shadow Dungeons which are instances meant to be tackled in a group. Even though you can control a maximum of 9 characters, wandering monsters will join a fight in progress and you could see yourself in a 9 vs. 27 if you are particularly unlucky. Shadow Dungeons seem to have automatic adds as I've yet to see a fight in there where it was just 9 vs. 9. So grouping for those is the way to go unless you have gold to burn on Bewitching scrolls. Group battles can be really dynamic as it is possible to cross-buff and cross-heal between the different groups. Finding a group is particularly easy due to a Peer chat channel that only reaches those in the same level range as you. This filters out a lot of extraneous info and insures you get level-appropriate advice.

There are also many reasons to join a good guild as soon as possible. Each character has a hotbar that can be equipped with a potion or scroll they can activate with the appropriate function key. F1 and F2 are standard but the F3 key is only available to those who belong to a guild. F4 and F5 is unlocked when your guild controls a city. Monster and craft info can be freely traded between guildies and you gain access to the private guild dungeons and training center. Training centers are a low-level training ground for guild dungeons and are a great option for those guilds that don't have a lot of high-levels needed to run a GD. Guild dungeons are timed levels where you must clear out the different floors and finally the boss for your fat loots. Groups are capped at 3 players per but you can bring as many players and groups as you like for fast and easy runs. There are also Nation dungeons available for those guilds that belong in a Nation. Those high-levels that want to run instances apart from their guild or nation can run Independent Dungeons. Eventually, Nations will want to engage in war against another Nation and group combat takes another interesting twist with open PK 3v3 groups.

One thing to note is that there is absolutely no punishment for grouping in this game and you gain the benefits of grouping (in the form of extra XP) even when the group members are separated by geography and levels. This is known as Long Distance Grouping or LDP for short.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crafting in Atlantica Online

At first glance, the crafting in AO seems to be typical of other MMO's. You have your crafting levels with new recipes available upon reaching some arbitrary level. You gather up the materials and the crafting job constitutes a workload you have to work through to come up with the finished product. As an aside, there are literally no trash drops in this game. Chances are if you don't know what an item does, it is used as an ingredient for some crafting recipe somewhere. This will drive those with packrat mentalities bonkers as they come to grips with the limited inventory space. After you gather up the necessary mats and go through the steps to define your job and workload, you will then find out where Atlantica Online diverges from the norm.

Your crafting progress is fueled by the XP you get from killing stuff.

Sure, you could get an auto-craft license on the market or as a reward for a quest chain you get in your 40's. This license will allow you to craft in the traditional way without having to kill anything and is a great option for those crafters unable or unwilling to engage in combat. But it really is faster and more efficient to craft the other way. The process seems a little strange at first and not a bit counter-intuitive but, eventually, you get used to it and will appreciate the fact that you’re not tied to a forge or sewing table if you want to make something. Guild officers can even set up guild crafting jobs where the huge workload is shared by everyone in the guild and their kills contribute to its progress, provided they aren't doing their own personal crafting. You can learn as many crafting skills as you want and there are a huge variety to choose from. Everything from weapons, armor, food, potions, buildings for your towns, skill books, and even licenses needed can be crafted. I'd say that short of special items only available from the item mall or special quest rewards, everything found in this game can be crafted. The only limitations being that it takes some effort and quite a lot of gold in order to level up your tradeskills. There are even plans to introduce end-game gear that is crafting-only; a move that hasn't met with universal acclaim.

That's not the only new wrinkle to crafting in this game. You gain crafting levels (up to a max of 100) by gaining craft XP. Once you gain enough XP to go to the next level, you will then need to be trained up before you actually gain the new level. It's even possible to gain enough XP to gain several levels at one time. Training can be done by finding the appropriate NPC or a player high enough to train you. For example, you can begin to train others at level 11 and can train those levels 11 and below. The same goes for levels 21, 51, and so forth. Training takes a huge chunk of Will which limits how often you can do it but the trainer gets a crafting XP reward as well for doing this which can be a great way to level up your crafting on the cheap.

There are other ways to gain crafting XP. There's the normal way of personal crafting jobs but you can also gain it through the guild crafting jobs as well. When the job finishes, it awards crafting XP to those guildies who contributed to the progress. You also get XP from dismantling gear into materials you can then use to create new crafting jobs. Teaching others also gains you crafting XP as mentioned already. These alternate methods are a great way to level your crafting without having to shell out for expensive materials. For example, I was able to level up my Machine skill from 0-12 purely from the XP I got from one guild crafting job (admittedly it was a huge one) without having to scrounge up so much as one lugnut or whatever it is they need to make things from that craft.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Combat in Atlantica Online

When creating your character, one of the first choices is the type of weapon your character will wield. This is equivalent to choosing your character class in other MMO's as the choice locks you into a set of skills you can learn and starting stats. The choices are sword, spear, axe, staff, gun, cannon and bow. With the most recent patch, two new weapons were added: instrument and power-saw with power-saw only available if you already have another main leveled to 100. Each class except for the new additions are roughly equal to the D class mercenaries that share their weapon type and they can learn all the skills available to that mercenary as well as main-only skills. For example, Staff mains can learn the healing spell Blessing of Life like Shamans but they can also learn the main-only skill Evanescent Scud which is an AOE attack. You can find a great page summarizing the different main character stats and abilities here.

Your very first quest in the game will have you hiring 2 mercenaries to aid you in your travels. At level 10 you will have an additional 4 mercenaries and gain the ability to add an additional one every 10 levels afterwards. At level 50, you will reach the maximum of 8 mercenaries available to be used in your formation. The starting D class mercs can be hired from a hiring NPC or you can find them wandering around and ply them with gifts to convince them to join your party. The ones later on will only be gotten from braving tough shadow dungeon quests or paying the exorbitant market prices for their summoning marble. Each mercenary brings something different to your group and much of the fun in this game is deciding exactly what the composition should be to maximize all the synergies between your units. This means every player is a self-contained holy trinity of tank, healer, and DPS and you won't ever find a LF1M - NEED HEALER in this game. This also means that if your side doesn't focus fire in PVP, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Muwing has another great page summarizing the different mercenaries here.

One of the first things you will notice in combat are the huge numbers over each unit in your party. These numbers tell you how many Action Points that unit has. AP is important in that it controls how many actions a unit can do over the course of a fight. Each main and mercenary has a different AP recharge rate which determines AP gain per turn. During the first turn, only one unit can act and that one is determined by whoever has the highest AP that initial turn. Since the recharge rate is random within a certain range, this can be any unit but the ones with the most steady range of recharge like Swordsmen usually will act first. After the first turn, 5 units can act with the same restriction; however, it is now possible for units to pass their turn to another one that isn't scheduled to act this turn. As long as the desired unit to act has 100 or more AP, the passing unit can choose the Guard option for a cost of 50 AP and pass their turn on. You might need to choose Guard on several units before the desired one is finally selected to be able to act.

You can tell which units can act that turn as they will have green rings around their feet. The unit currently being selected to act will have the green ring completely filled in. It takes a while to get the hang of if you're not used to this style of combat but it won't be long until you are ordering your units around and grinding PVE mobs with zen efficiency. There are boss mobs that will keep you on your toes and maybe even get you to change your strategy up in order to beat them. And PVP becomes almost chess-like as you and your opponent try to get past each other's defenses.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Atlantica Online - What Would Bartle Think?

If you're a fan of customizing your character avatar to your exact specifications so that its unique look stands out from the crowd, Atlantica Online is not for you. The character creation options limit you to a small number of faces which look pretty similar anyways. The standardized armor system doesn't help either and you will find a number of clones hanging around the leveling areas.

If you are an explorer who just has to find out what is up that trail and behind the babbling brook, I can tell you right now there's nothing there for you to find. Everything can be found on your handy map/mini-map. Even supposedly hidden treasure chests.

If you love your fluff and cool pets that follow you around; sadly, AO is virtually fluff-free. What little there is usually purchased from the Item Mall. Even the usual vanity stuff like mounts, outfits, and titles have stats elevating them to the status of useful items.

But for everyone else, Atlantica Online has something that is sure to appeal to them. For the socializers, there are comprehensive guild and mentor/apprenticeship systems. They can communicate to peers of their level in the peer channel globally and will always be rewarded handsomely for lending a helping hand.

The killers will have their hands full with a combat system that plays more like speed chess than the usual hotbar mashing. There's plenty of PVE mobs to grind and when you get tired of those, there is a full-featured PVP league system (Free League) and weekly tournaments. If you are in a guild which belongs to an alliance of Nations, you might even find yourself embroiled in open PK called Wars.

The achievers will think they've died and gone to heaven as there are plenty of bars to ding. Level cap is 120 and there are also the 8 other mercenaries in your formation to level from scratch. Roughly 90% of all items found in the game can be crafted and there's many different crafting skills that you can learn. The aforementioned Free League also sets another bar to conquer as you PVP your way from rank 18 all the way to the top number 1 spot.

So go get your Bartle quiz done and see if AO is right for you. You really can't go wrong with the price of admission.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Atlantica Online

This is a post that I've been meaning to write for some time now but have been putting off. But seeing the negative posts recently on some of the blogs I frequent, I thought I'd balance them out with a positive one.

I have to admit my first impression of this game wasn't a favorable one. I went in, as is my wont, having no previous knowledge of the title except that it was a F2P MMO of Asian design (I would later find out the developers are Korean). This explained the light anime graphic influence and the bad text translations to English. Neither of which were exactly endearing to me. The turn-based combat system was a pretty novel idea for a MMORPG but past experience has taught me I'm fairly bad at those types of games. Adding a timer to such a system certainly didn't help either. Instead of the typical MMO single character model, AO has you controlling up to 9 characters at once in a fight. These other characters are mercenaries that you can recruit or are given to you as a quest reward. About the only thing that impressed me right off the bat was the auto-move system. It was one of those now why don't more games use this feature moments. I would later have many more of those moments after spending some time with Atlantica Online.

So the game languished forgotten on my hard drive until I read this post and this post on Syncaine's blog. Wow, that certainly sounds interesting...what game was that again? Oh right, I already have that installed. Maybe I should take another look and see for myself some of these novel features he's talking about. I decided to do some research and find out more about this game. This led to a decision to reroll which wasn't that hard to make considering my original character was only around level 10 I believe. I began to get the hang of the combat system and I started to appreciate some of the unique features AO had to offer. The auto-move and enchanting system were just the tip of the iceberg. People actually are rewarded for being nice to noobies. I was bombarded with gifts in the mail containing gold and equipment and offers from strangers to be my mentor. Since I had done my homework, I knew that there weren't any strings attached like there would normally be in other games. Gift-givers get an XP reward based on a percentage of the gift's monetary value and mentors gain mentor points as well as a substantial gold reward after their students turn 30.

You know those other MMO's that seem to want to punish you for grouping for some reason? Not so here. There's no reason not to ever group as everyone gets additional XP as well as small XP books which can be saved up or used at your convenience. This system works even if the party is not in close proximity to each other and is typically known as LDP's or Long Distance Parties. Be careful of leechers and it's best to check with guildies first when doing this. Speaking of guilds, there is comprehensive support for guilds in this game. Guilds can control a town and multiple guilds can band together into alliances called nations. Nations can even go to war with one another which can result in players suddenly being able to attack one another. Other perks for guilds include access to guild dungeons and training centers as well as being able to add buildings to your growing town if you are the guild leader. The rank and file can also help out by convincing wandering NPC's to move to your town, doing town quests, and contributing to the guild crafting by killing mobs. But guild crafting is also a two-way street as everyone gains crafting XP as well just by being around when a guild crafting job is finally done. I've gained levels from different crafting skills without having to scrounge up one scrap of material because of this.

The graphics, especially the landscapes, can be stunning at times and not even the aforementioned auto-move system can detract from this. It actually enhances it, in my opinion, as you have more time to gawk at your surroundings when you don't have to worry about if you're heading in the right direction or not. The setting is a hodge-podge of eras from the real world with Spartans and Vikings fighting at your side along with the steampunk gunpowder might of Gunners, Cannoneers, and Inventors. The world map is very familiar as is the names of the cities and towns within it. Even the familiar is not to be taken for granted as I learned when I fought some camels with bulbous mouths for humps which spat out some deadly cannonballs.

This game's design reminds me a lot of Eve Online without the sandbox. In fact, there is a central storyline quest which will teach you everything you need to know about this game. But, like Eve Online, this game has features that dare to be different from your standard MMO. And all those features are tightly woven to produce a very complex MMO.

You say you want a revolution? Well, are you willing to make some time to play one then? If so, give Atlantica Online a serious try.

Monday, February 9, 2009

So Close...

The current tower I am stuck at in Dragonspyre is called Edrik's Vault. The reason I guessed there were at least seven floors was that I happened to die on my best attempt at the seventh floor. So I now find out in this excellent post from the Wizard 101 Central forums (Great forums I highly recommend BTW to anyone wishing to learn more about this game) that there are indeed 7 floors to this particular tower.

So I died during the last floor.

I had lost all desire to try again after that attempt. But now that I know how close I was I'm probably going to try again to solo this monstrosity. Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tower Power

So it looks like the end of my soloing days in Wizard 101. I had a sneaking suspicion that Dragonspyre was meant to be tackled in groups in my previous post. This was confirmed when I came up against a tower instance that had at least 7 floors from what I had seen so far that would reset completely in the event of failure. 7 floors and 3 potions. I didn't like the math but was determined to try anyways. Even dinging during the middle of one attempt which acted like a fourth potion didn't help. There was no way I was doing this solo.

It got me to thinking more about the intended audience for Wizard 101. It's always amazed me and the more mature players I've grouped with how appealing this game is for adults. The difficulty level seemed way out of proportion for something you would expect a child to enjoy. I now think this wasn't by accident. The first world is easy enough but by the time the player reaches the second world, Krokotopia, the difficulty starts becoming too much for the average child. Who better to seek help from but your parents, then? So Wizard 101 wasn't really designed strictly for either kids or adults to enjoy. But for whole families. The revelation didn't exactly help my situation but it did soothe the rough feelings about it a bit.

I still want to fight that bastard Malistaire so if you have access to Dragonspyre and want to help or need help yourself, let me know. I won't promise to adopt you but I might say some nice things about you in this blog.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes

"According to Jacobs, another way to measure success is to look at the number of servers a game has added in a six-month period. “The corollary to that is if you’ve seen a game consolidate servers, you know it’s in deep, deep trouble — that’s not a healthy sign for an MMO,” he said, citing Sony’s January-released “Pirates of the Burning Sea” as a recent example. “It will be the same for ‘Warhammer.’ Look at us six months out. Look at us six weeks out. If we’re not adding servers, we’re not doing well.”

There's a point in the parable about the Emperor's new clothes where somebody finally has to tell the Emperor to please put some clothes on for the sake of everyone around him. I think we have reached a similar situation now that the EA report has put some hard subscription numbers to WAR for everyone to see.


There will be those who will measure those numbers a success and also those who will measure it a failure. Regardless of what the numbers may mean, can we finally get server merges for those poor beleaguered servers that desperately need them? Success has been measured. Can we now at least put some pants on?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Free to Play - Enjoy it While You May

I'm old enough to remember when TV used to be free. Drinking water as well. I remember thinking why on earth would I ever pay for something I can easily get for free? Heck, there was even a time when free Internet was more than a buzzword and NetZero really did live up to its name. But times change and we either adapt or we play around with the rabbit ear antennas still.

So it really mystifies me when I come across those who dismiss F2P (or Free to Play for us internet-savvy types) so casually out of hand. Yes, the games coming down the pike with this payment model may not be your cup of tea. But you will never know unless you try them. And trying them, get this, won't cost you anything but your time. Games are all about wasting time so I don't even want to hear about time being money.

For those who do find something to their liking, play the heck out of those games. Don't be afraid to throw a few shekels out to the developers. Goodness knows you don't want to assume that someone else is willing to finance this free ride. We all know what happens when we assume. While I'd like to think F2P will be here to stay, the pessimist in me isn't too sure. Only time will tell. Now excuse me while I sip my bottled water and surf the cable channels over my high-speed Internet line.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dragonspyre Ratchets up the Difficulty

One of the first things I noticed after I got my first "kill some wandering street mobs" quest in Dragonspyre was the increased HP's of the average mob. In Mooshu, the typical trash mob would have maybe 675 HP. In Dragonspyre, they tend to have around 1200 HP. This would necessitate a change to my typical deck design which had revolved around abusing Immolate for fun and profit.

Immolate is a Fire spell available as a reward after completing Krokotopia so only primary Fire wizards have access to it. For four pips, it deals 600 fire damage to an enemy and deals 250 fire damage to yourself. I had accumulated enough spell power gear that I was able to knock out around 700 HP's in one successful shot even without any charms or traps to augment the Immolate spell. With my Mooshu sword, 4 pips were almost always available during the second turn and sometimes rarely on the first. So unless the mobs were Fire and thus resistant to Immolate damage, I would face them with a 40 card deck that had 6 copies of Immolate increasing the odds that I would always see one on the first or second turn. Add in Fire protection shields that reduced any Immolate damage by 80% and fire resistant gear for even more fun.

The increased toughness of the random Dragonspyre mobs meant a halt to the Immolate festivities. The damage I was doing to myself would mean that I was just doing the surviving mobs a favor in killing myself. So this relegated Immolate to a closing spell to do the final damage to the last mob and increased the importance of my big-hitters, the 5 and 6 pip spells, Stormzilla and Helephant. This also meant an increase in the time needed to kill the pairs of common street mobs you typically come across when soloing. 1200 HPx2 is nothing to sneeze at especially when both mobs are constantly throwing hexes to reduce your spell's power and shields to reduce your damage. Fizzles are absolutely magnified in Dragonspyre as they go from being momentary nuisances to major time sinks.

The increased HP's are not the only feature of the increased difficulty in Dragonspyre. Tower quests are back which have you running through a gauntlet of floors without any health wisps to top you off between fights. Bosses also have some annoying features like one that has two companions wisps that do nothing but cast every protection shield known to man on the boss mob until you manage to kill them. I'm sure the increased difficulty is there to put the brakes on ardent soloers like myself and to increase the importance of grouping up in the endgame. It's all good if it means I have more time to savor the last 5 levels to cap in this game.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Finished off Mooshu and got to Dragonspyre. I celebrated by going back to Sunken Temple and soloing that annoying instance. So good to finally get that entry out of my logbook. For an encore, I then went and dinged 45. A pretty productive day, I'd say.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

WAR Update Plans

Mythic hinted that a big announcement concerning future WAR content was coming today. They didn't actually say where it would be coming from. The first salvo seems to have been fired by According to this post credited to GOA, it reveals the following revelations:

GOA has announced that a great big "Call to Arms" update for Warhammer Online will go live from March.

Top of the bill are re-instated classes Orc Choppa and Dwarf Slayer. Both are mirrors of one another: berserk, up-close brawlers with little regard for their own safety.

These will be introduced properly in March, but players can get a head start with the new classes by completing a live Bitter Rivals event slightly earlier. This event opens a Chaos-themed Twisting Tower RvR battleground, too.

The other big feature will be a Land of the Dead zone, home to an enormous new Tomb Kings dungeon that Mythic claims to be the spiritual successor to Darkness Falls from previous MMO Dark Age of Camelot. Here, remember, all factions fought openly - albeit after starting from separate corners of the immense underground chasm.

There were also tokens to collect from hellish enemies that could be spent on equipment sold by imps. And the further down players descended the much more difficult life became, culminating in an enormous boss encounter with the Legion - a screen-filling monster made up from thousands of corpses.

The Land of the Dead will be openly contested, then, and whoever controls the area will unlock the numerous public quests and instances associated with the zone.

The Land of the Dead opens fully in June, but realms will need to complete two previous live events for access. The first, Beyond the Sands, has yet to be detailed, but will happen in April.
The second event, Rise of the Tomb Kings, unlocks the Land of the Dead for each faction, and takes place in May.

On top of all this, Mythic will be finally implementing official Warhammer Online forums, adding extra Realm Wars functionality to the website, and offering a free trial versions of the game.

Plus, this Call to Arms update is just the first of the "live expansions" planned for Warhammer Online.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Planetside: Then and Now

Good news. SOE was able to get back to me with the information of which one of my two old accounts has my Planetside character on it. Time has a way with fooling you sometimes so I got curious and dug up the character info page on WingedNazgul. Last logged on over 5 years ago when I left the game for City of Heroes. Back then, I was part of the Sturmgrenadier outfit which was infamous for their recruitment video. If you look real closely, you can see my tag around 3:55 and in other parts of the video. I seem to remember driving some of the Galaxies and Vanguards in some of those shots as well. As an aside, the guy who talks about nuking the tower would go on to be the guild leader for my first ever WoW raiding guild.

Cheesy voice acting and attempts at roleplay aside, the video does do a good job at depicting the level of organization we had in those halcyon days. At the height of the outfit and game's popularity, we had the ability to population lock whole continents (now planets it seems) by ourselves. Everything from teamspeak protocol to battlegroups organized around similar certs was handled with ruthless military efficiency. Sturmgrenadier started out in WWII Online and many of its founding members came from military backgrounds in real life. So it wasn't too much of a stretch to apply familiar doctrines to the new game. It was hardcore and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

When I log on to Planetside now and play, it's a whole different experience. It's a lot more casual now. You find out where your outfit squad is and go join them. If there isn't an outfit squad formed, you can pull up a list of squads and put a request in to join those instead. It's very similar to the open group mechanic in WAR. You get a feel for where the action is by where the majority of squads are operating from. But even if I join a full platoon of squads, there's very little direction given by the squad or platoon leaders. Everyone pretty much does their own thing although the CR5's still try to direct the flow of the war by barking out over global every once in a while.

But, hardcore or casual, the action in Planetside remains the same. Depending on enemy activity, it can range from boredom to frenetic scenes of carnage straight out of the best war movies. I just wish they would take a page out of Wizard 101's book and price their MMO more realistically. At $14.95 a month, I can't just can't see it. But at $9.95 a month, it would definitely make me think about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm Not Dead Yet

Just haven't found anything interesting to write about apparently since I left WAR. I guess I could regale you all with tales of deck construction and synergy in Wizard 101 but I doubt that would excite many of you out there. Or how I fell in love again with the Phoenix Launcher and Gauss Rifle in Planetside. Yes, the Gauss Rifle. That much-maligned instrument of doom. Not as flashy as the Cycler or Pulsar but it gets the job done in the hands of a skilled user.

I had a very productive weekend on the Wizard 101 front. Dinged 35 and got to Mooshu with the help of some great friends, Suri Jadeshade and John Lifesinger. I know it's primarily a kid's game but soloing the instances you need to advance the storyline and move on to the next world is about as tough a challenge as any gaming achievement out there. Having them help me complete the last two instances I needed in Marleybone was a refreshing change of pace but the truth is I would've completed those instances solo if they weren't around and willing to lend a hand. I just wouldn't have blasted through them as fast as I did. Looking back at it, the gauntlet I had to run through would've been brutal to solo and any wrong decision on any single turn would easily have been fatal.

On the Planetside front, I hooked up with the RPS outfit and we went on our first major excursion as an outfit on Saturday. You can read about it here and I took a few screenshots of my own and placed them here. Dinged BR6 and got my first implant to be able to view the enemy's health finally. Juggling the certifications I needed for a viable skillset made me pine for my old BR20 CR5. So I put in a ticket to Sony thinking that they had deleted my old character but it turns out that the account I was using was not my old Planetside account. There are two accounts associated with an old email I was using at that time. Now I just need Sony to figure out which one of them has my old character in case I ever want to re-activate Planetside.

Speaking of which, SOE really needs a better pricing plan for PS. Bundling it up as part of a Station Access pass doesn't work for me as I'm not interested in any of their other games. And paying the normal $14.95 monthly fee for it alone doesn't work either. Sorry, but that's not a lot of value compared to what you can get elsewhere for the same amount. Judging from the player population the past week, Planetside is still a very popular niche game. I would imagine a more creative pricing plan would boost the paying population even more.

As for World of Warcraft, I have barely logged on since I bought the expansion. I just couldn't muster the minimum effort needed to even level my Paladin past 71. Not a good sign and one I took to heart as I cancelled my WoW account yet again. At least I'll have the expansion installed in case I ever decide to return to Azeroth.